(From today's sermon)
"In that day,” says the sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun set at noon,
and make the earth dark in the middle of the day.
I will turn your festivals into funerals,
and all your songs into funeral dirges.
I will make everyone wear funeral clothes
and cause every head to be shaved bald.
I will make you mourn as if you had lost your only son;
when it ends it will indeed have been a bitter day".
It is time to go inward, my friends. We all know that this July began with bloodshed, and lots of it:
On July 4, Delrawn Small, an unarmed African American man, was shot and killed by a police officer, in Brooklyn, NY. "I will make you mourn as if you had lost your only son ..."
One day later, July 5, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old African American father of five, was shot in the chest and back by a police officer outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, LA. "I will make you mourn as if you had lost your only son ..."
The next day, July 6, Philando Castile, a Black man, was shot and killed in his car by a police officer outside St. Paul, MN. "I will make you mourn as if you had lost your only son ..."
Two days after that, July 8, five officers were shot and killed and seven others wounded by sniper fire during a protest in Dallas, TX against the recent deadly police shootings. Two civilians were also shot.
"When it ends it will indeed have been a bitter day". That bitter day hasn't ended. It's still very much with us. There is deep pain and fear and anger in our country:
*The pain, fear and anger of the police officers and their families in Dallas and the larger police community;
*The pain, fear and anger of the black community in the face of so many recorded police killings;
*The pain, fear and anger among us.
There is so much pain. There is so much fear. There is so much anger.
It is time to go inward, my friends, for the bloodshed doesn't just highlight our country's problematic history of access to guns and military weapons.
Rather, it highlights the demons in our midst – white supremacy, systemic racism, interpersonal racism, corrupt authorities and a justice system that is broken, as it seems to enable rather than prevent murder and hate.
We are guilty because we have allowed these demons to work for us.
"Black lives matter" ... the name of the movement points to where we as white people have failed:
*It is time to go inward and realize just how blind our white upbringing has made us to people who aren't white.
*It is time to go inward and realize that racism is the original sin of this country, and that we have profited from racism whenever we thought of Black people as "the others" who have to live by our rules.
*It is time to go inward and repent and be ashamed.
*It is time to begin to under-stand (to stand under!) the suffering of Black people.
"I will make you mourn as if you had lost your only son ..." Eventually the point will come that we recognize Delrawn, Alton and Philando as our own kin, so we can mourn their deaths not "as if" but "because" we indeed we have lost three of our sons. But that point won't come until we repent and go inside the fear, pain and anger their families feel and recognize that it is very much like our own.
And after moving inward, we need to move outward and change the way we live with those we think are "the others". When we truly believe that we are one human family, the "us vs. them" stuff falls by the wayside. Then it is time to apologize to the people of color around us. Then it is time to ask Black people to teach us so we might "stand under" their pain.
Then our actions will be prayer made alive. Then it will be true for all of us that "Black lives matter".