I’ve been aching for our nation. It’s been a difficult time of stress, slogan-slinging, protesting, violence and finger-pointing…mostly focusing on racial issues. I’ve said little and prayed a lot, since most people are making pronouncements and casting blame instead of inviting conversation, constructive action or (more importantly) praying and worshiping with each other, seeking God in the midst of our heartache.
Sunday morning I didn’t attend our church. We have a nice church with lots of wonderful folks. Our church looks a lot like our community…mostly white, but we’ve worked hard to welcome and include folks from many backgrounds.
Instead, I went to worship with an AME (African Methodist Episcopal) congregation. We share a common Methodist heritage (I’m from the German side of Methodism). It is located more in the heart of our city. I was the only white person there in the midst of about 100 people. I was warmly welcomed. Throughout the service I got and gave lots of hugs, blessings and greetings from folks. The worship was vibrant, upbeat and enthusiastic. The prayer was powerful. We sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” and recited the Apostle’s Creed.
At one point they played a clip of an MSNBC TV show host focusing on black men who were mistreated or even died in situations involving law enforcement. As a former law enforcement chaplain who ministered to men and women from many ethnic backgrounds who wore badges, it made my heart ache even more. When we lump entire groups of people by their race (black or white or brown or red or yellow) or their profession (law enforcement) and single them out for criticism, judgment or scorn, it only makes things worse. There was some politics in the pastor’s message, but he mainly focused on pointing his people to a God Who is in control…Who can do powerful things when we realize we are not in control and humble ourselves and choose to give Him control of our lives. People responded for prayer…God met people with love, grace and forgiveness like He does wherever people call on His name.
I went to a black church to remind myself that, in spite of the ugliness of sin and it’s effects in our world, we are all created in the image of God, infinitely loved by Him, welcomed into His family when we humble ourselves, ask for forgiveness and find our identity in Him. In Christ, we are one. Our God is color blind…we are all equally loved and valuable to Him.
If we make race, gender or some other quality the most important part of our identity, we’ll always be comparing ourselves to or competing with others. When we make Jesus the source of our lives and identity, we have the common ground to honor, value, love and appreciate each other.
I worshiped with brothers and sisters today. That’s what mattered to me. And…that’s where the hope for a just, peace-full, healthy, holy world is possible. Jesus is the answer to our nation’s (and our world’s) aching heart.