Proclaim To Your Own Tribe
by Kathye Hamm
This week we heard Jesus sending the twelve apostles to proclaim the message of love, inclusion, challenge to power, and his proclamation of the Reign of God. Did you notice, though, that those disciples were sent not into all the world, as they will be later in the gospel of Matthew, but to the house of Israel. Because sometimes you need to proclaim to your own tribe, in your own house, to your own people while you are also proclaiming the message of love, inclusion, and the reign of God to the ends of the earth.
This month is the anniversary of the racially motivated shooting in Charleston at Mother Emanuel AME church. These past weeks a white terrorist drove a van into a group of people leaving worship at a mosque in London, Nabra Hussein, a Muslim teenage girl was beaten to death on her way to her mosque in Virginia, and the police officer who shot Philando Castile in MN, while he was still sitting in his car with his seatbelt on, was acquitted on all charges.
And there are more that we could mention. But even getting to ‘mentioning’ is frequently the problem. We, as a church, are not often – at least openly – talking about racism in our communities and in our church. And, yes, it exists, even in the church. As Lutherans, it seems to me that we should be uniquely poised, theologically, to have these conversations – we have a deep theology of honesty about the human condition, as well as a deep assurance of God’s grace.
I’m as guilty as anyone of avoidance – as a white, middle-class professional, I don’t experience racism against my body and very existence, so it is all too easy for me to avoid engagement in the conversations about racism. Being a disciple of Jesus, however, means that I cannot do that. God has continued to put people in my life that lovingly and persistently call me to engage with the fact that all of God’s children are not treated equally in the world, and that many people’s lives are at risk just because of the color of their skin.
The most powerful thing we can do for another person, I believe, is to see them – truly see them – for who God has created them to be. To listen to their stories and be present with them in their pain, joy, and challenge. To proclaim publicly in our space of worship and fellowship and service that Black Live Matter. For those of us who are white, that means that we will be uncomfortable in many of these conversations, but when I engage, and listen, and put down my walls of defensiveness, I realize that my small time of discomfort pales in comparison to the day-in-day-out struggle many, if not most, People of Color face.
What a gift we could give to ourselves, our siblings in Christ, and our communities if our congregations were places where the issues of race and prejudice were able to be addressed, and challenged. Where conversations and tears and laughter would lead to deeper conversation and deeper relationship. Where we, as people of the Font and Table, could bear Christ’s redeeming word to a hurting people – some of whom are within our own walls. I get that it’s not an easy or a comfortable place for many of us to go, but when lives of God’s children – our neighbors, friends, relatives, selves – are at stake, how can we not?
The synod’s Racial and Ethnic Mission Strategies Discipling Team is re-tooling and re-vamping and re-gathering. I urge us all to look for events and trainings and conversations that they will be offering, and take part as we are able.
Assistant to the Bishop
September 20, 2017
September 12, 2017
September 05, 2017