From Christianity Today/Leadership Journal, the thoughts of five African-American pastors, including two Covenant pastors: http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2015/june-web-exclusives/grieving-with-charleston.html?paging=off
From Soong-Chan Rah, professor at North Park Seminary: http://sojo.net/blogs/2015/06/19/call-national-lament
From Pastor Liz Verhage, a pastor at Quest Church in Seattle, formerly on staff at Ravenswood Covenant Church (with Phil Staurseth and Pastor Luke) in Chicago: http://eugenecho.com/2015/06/18/after-charleston-an-open-letter-to-white-christians-from-a-white-female-pastor/
From Coby Cable, youth pastor at Quest Church, a friend of Pastor Luke: http://caglejourney.blogspot.com/2015/06/dear-white-christian-it-is-about-race.html
From Austin Channing, on staff at Calvin College, a sister in Christ: http://austinchanning.com/blog/logical-conclusion
Pastor Luke's words from this morning's service:
This past Wednesday night, as I’m sure you are aware, a young man walked into a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and murdered nine of our African-American brothers and sisters as they sat praying and studying God’s word. And I’ve struggled for the past several days with how we should address these horrific events in our worship service. This it is not something that we can simply ignore…it’s all over our news…and furthermore, it’s not something that we should ignore: part of what we do as the Body of Christ is to come together to inquire of God how we might respond to what goes on in our world as the body of Christ.
Now, I don’t claim to have any direct word from God in all of this…I don’t claim to be an expert on the history of race in our country or the issue of racial reconciliation. There are other voices that you should listen to on those issues. But I confess to you that I am tired. I am tired of hearing about mass murders like this, I am tired of hearing about the disparities in the ways that white people and black people receive justice in our country, and I am tired of hearing the ways that our media outlets, our social media memes, and our political and even our religious leaders dismiss or water down the harsh and ugly realities of the evil that is so prevalent in our country and in each one of us.
The debates that have raged over the past several days are over what to call this event: Was it a terror attack, a hate crime, a mass murder? Or what do we say about the perpetrator: Was he mentally ill? And what does that even mean in light of his actions? If you ask me, anybody who would murder even one person is clearly mentally ill. And what does this mean about the question of gun control? Do we need tighter restrictions on who may own guns? Or do we, as some people have suggested, need more weapons out there to protect us from the supposed bad guys?
But friends, it seems to me that such questions only serve to distance us from these events…they serve to make us feel better about ourselves so that we do not have to confront what I believe is the true issue that lies at the heart of this and so many other events and issues that we face as individuals and as a nation: the issue of our failure to recognize and acknowledge the image of God in every single person around us, every person that we meet on the street, every person we sit next to on a bus, our neighbors, our coworkers, those with whom we have ideological and political differences, and even our enemies. All are sacred bearers of God’s image.
And those questions also distract us from the reality that evil is present and among us…and it is in us. We are complicit in it, whether actively or passively. We cannot set evil at a distance and pretend that we have nothing to do with it. We have to confront it. This was not a tragedy that took place…this was an evil. And it was an evil that is embedded in the history of our country and the way that we, collectively as a country, the way that we treat some people as less important, less human, less God’s image, than other people.
Brothers and sisters, as God’s People, we cannot continue to ignore, deny, or dismiss these realities…or these same things will happen again and again. As God’s People, we need to confront the sin within each of us and confront the sins of our nation. But to do so, we need to begin by hearing the voices of those whose experience of life differs from ours. This afternoon, I will be posting several links on our church website and Facebook page…links to articles written by African-American pastors and other leaders, from inside the Covenant church and outside. I encourage you to read these, to listen to their voices as they grapple with these events and with the realities that they face each and every day.
A few days ago there was a hearing in which the families of the victims of the attack confronted the attacker, and the overwhelming message was a message of forgiveness. One of them spoke these words: “God is always greater and because of that, even in horrific conditions, we can still be faithful. Because of faithfulness, we have the capacity to forgive.” Friends, this is the way of Jesus Christ. The African American community of God’s People is showing us the way as they respond to these events…may we be ready to learn from them that they respond to these may we be as faithful to the way of Christ as we seek to understand and confront the evil that is in our midst.
As we enter into a time of singing, as we continue in our worship of God, would you join me in reading this prayer, written by the pastor who was slain on Wednesday night…may these words be our words as we seek to live faithfully as God’s People, confronting the evil in ourselves and in our world.