liturgy after charlotteville

The following are the brief remarks I made at Immanuel Church on the Sunday after the White Nationalist rally in Charlotteville, Virginia

I don’t have many words because, frankly, I’m embarrassed and broken hearted. For most of the weekend, as I saw report after report as to what had happened, my emotions went back and forth between sadness and infuriation. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because I have been predicting this stuff for a long time now, but I was still flabbergasted that what I was watching could be happening in my country in the year 2017.

I’m sad because as a pastor now for 33 years, I am watching a church that is, in many ways standing on the sideline silent. I am not talking about Immanuel now so much, but some of my emotions originate with how I have observed how many Christians have reacted to much of the violent unrest in our land. I have observed some white people be quick to respond to BLM’s stuff as divisive, while are strangely quiet now. I’ve been frustrated by white people who say stuff like, “Why don’t Muslim condemn terrorism,” yet are not leveraging their voice about this weekend.

I am only speaking to white people now, now is your chance to do what we’ve wanted and expected others to do. This weekend, we literally had white terrorist parading through an American city with torches (they aren’t even wearing hoods anymore) while in many ways the church remains silent. If we do not speak now, our moral voice will further disappear from the national landscape, a landscape that is in desperate need of an authentic Gospel witness.

Yesterday, my friend and denominational colleague, Liz Verhage wrote in response to the events (and I’ve personalized it), “I just want to say this…as your pastor, as a father, as a white American, and a human being, I reject the evil, hate, and violence being stoked by white nationalists, racists, KKK, and or whatever else it is called today, in Charlottesville this weekend. This is evidence of a profound and historically accepted disease, a spiritual sickness, of powers and principalities that must be called out, named, and resisted, because it always seeks death and is against the Lord Jesus Christ…This is also exhibiting the racist realities and lies that many folks of color see, feel, and fear on a daily basis, it’s now just been given air to breathe and take off its mask.”

So, I am making 4 commitments:

  • I commit to live a life (beyond the “hot takes” and news cycle) that denounces racism in its many forms. This cannot be softened or mitigated. It must be denounced as sin. Any “and, if or buts,” simply continues the toleration of this national evil. I am committed to live my life and use my voice as a reproach against this evil. As the great Apostle Paul wrote, “I will weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice…” Today, I weep once again.
  • I commit to witness to the loving heart of God toward all and the reconciling life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the one who is called our peace and who has broken down every wall. I will seek to live into the Gospel that says all are valuable, all have dignity and all are loved. Church, there is no way out of this outside of loving others. We cannot hate our way to the other side! We say we follow Jesus, but this same Jesus is our peace, our shalom. That peace is for separated peoples, not just racially divided, but people who have dramatically divergent views of what the world should look like. Jesus said it this way, “We are not only to love those that love (or agree) with us, but love our enemies.” We cannot surrender to hate, in any way.
  • I give myself to the dream of the Beloved Community. It is a King phrase – Martin Luther King wrote, “The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.” I am absolutely persuaded that we, as the church hold the key to reconciliation. A community that lives into the ultimate “healed future,” the hope of all things being made new, will not only spark a voracious hunger for God in others but will stand as a prophetic reproach against this systemic sin. It is our song at Immanuel and we will continue to sing it loud and often.
  • Lastly, I commit to pray. Barth said, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” Eugene Peterson said this about prayer:

“…a subversive activity [that] involves a more or less open act of defiance against any claim by the current regime.”

Time of open prayer, followed by…

Prayer:

Leader: Lord Jesus, your Kingdom is good news for a world caught in racial hostility. We ask that you would give us grace for the deep challenges facing our country.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

Leader: Lord, we confess our anger, our deep sadness, and our collective sense of weakness to see this world healed through our own strength.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

Leader: Lord, we honestly confess that our country has a long history of racial oppression, that racism has been a strategy of evil powers and principalities.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

Leader: Lord, we confess that the gospel is good news for the oppressed and the oppressor. Both are raised up. Both are liberated, but in different ways. The oppressed are raised up from the harsh burden of inferiority. The oppressor from the destructive illusion of superiority.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

Leader: Lord, we confess that the gospel is your power to form a new people not identified by dominance and superiority, but by unity in the Spirit.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

Leader: Lord, we ask that you would help us name our part in this country’s story of racial oppression and hostility. Whether we have sinned against others by seeing them as inferior, or whether we have been silent in the face of evil. Forgive us of our sin.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

Leader: Lord we pray for our enemies. For those who have allowed Satanic powers to work through them. Grant them deliverance through your mighty power.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

Leader: Lord, we ask that you would form us to be us peace-makers. May we be people who speak the truth in love as we work for a reconciled world.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

Leader: Lord we commit our lives to you, believing that you are working in the world in spite of destructive powers and principalities. Bring healing to those who are hurt, peace to those who are anxious, and love to those who are fearful. We wait for you, O Lord. Make haste to help us.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

Prayer found at http://www.missioalliance.org/congregational-prayer-churches-charlottesville/

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