“I have a confession to make. These last two weeks I have been really scared. Scared of saying the wrong thing, scared of making others feel uncomfortable, scared of people leaving. Now Marshall and I understand that we won’t always be perfect; but we can promise to do our best, pursue love and seek truth. I’ve had conversations with many of you where you said that we could expect to make mistakes, and that that was okay. Mistakes are learning opportunities and we have a loving and supportive community to help us grow. But I think an important part of making mistakes is taking responsibility and acknowledging any resulting hurt. So, this morning I am standing here before you and I am owning my mistakes. These last two weeks I was scared and I was silent which prevented me from fulfilling my role as an ambassador of Christ. But I promised you that I would pursue love and seek truth. I didn’t speak up last week, but I will today. I promised to learn from my mistakes; this is what I learned.” -Marissa Smith
- In the words of the Vineyards National Leader Phil Strout; “Being against racism and being anti-racist are two different things.” (you can read the full letter here.) It is not enough to not cause harm, or not be part of the problem. Instead we are called to be a healing and reconciling community. We must learn to be welcoming to others, not just open; there is a difference. As a church we don’t want to only speak out against tragedy, mistreatment and death, instead we want to be a body built to uplift minority life.
- We must make listening a priority. Our heart hurts this week as we hear hundreds of people’s stories. Stories of hurt, pain and suffering. Stories of loss. Stories of injustice. People are tired, people are discouraged. It feels like everyone has something to say, but no one to listen to them say it. Isn’t it our job as Christians to listen, to hear other’s stories? Isn’t the point of the gospel to become a part of other’s people stories, people that we normally wouldn’t associate with? Rachel Conner, a vineyard pastor, writes; “Jesus’ gospel was an inclusive one as we see in Acts 10. Jesus’ gospel calls us to solidarity, peacemaking and partnership with each other. This is where the message of the gospel could change the world. Let’s remember Ephesians 2:14-16 “Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. He cancelled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace. He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God.” (you can ready the full letter here.)
It’s hard to listen. It’s easy to tune out, to ignore, to construct a simple, tidy narrative that puts everything in a neat little box that we can file away. We just want to shut it all off and go back to my quiet life. But the family of George Floyd can’t shut it off. The family of De’von Bailey can’t tune it out. The family of Michael Marshall can’t ignore it. Do you know those names? Have you listened to their stories?
Listening to each other matters. We need to be a reconciled reconciling community. This is a Core Value we spoken just a couple months ago; it is hanging up in our front lobby. ‘We are a people of the Kingdom of God who Reconcile others with God and all of creation. Therefore, we are committed to becoming healing communities engaged in the work of reconciliation wherever sin and evil hold sway. We seek to be diverse communities of hope that realize the power of the cross to reconcile what has been separated by sin.’
- As ambassadors of Christ, our words matter. Rich Nathan writes “After all, we claim to believe in Jesus who is the Word of God. And we claim to believe in the Bible, the Word of God written. It matters what we call things… Injustice always mislabels things. We perpetuate injustice whenever we call things by the wrong names.” (you can read the full letter here.) It is an injustice when we call all Muslims ‘terrorists’ or all people of color ‘thugs’ or all protesters ‘rioters.’ Words matter. To quote Phil Strout again, as he sums this idea up so well, “So let us continue to hold high the words of Scripture in our churches, serving our communities as leaders actively modeling what it means to see God’s image in everyone (Gen. 1:27), love our enemies (Matt. 5:44), consider others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), live as peacemakers between people (Matthew 5:9) and to stand in the gap (Ezek. 22:30) as intercessors for our towns, cities, and nation” (you can read the full letter here.)
- Unity is crucial. Everything and I mean everything today is viewed through the lens of partisan politics. Let us be clear. We are not pushing for either a republican or democratic agenda; we do not identify as republican or democratic. We are on the side of Jesus, the side of compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation and love. The only agenda we have is the truth of the gospel. We hope that we can focus more on what we have in common than the things that try to tear us apart. Let us not be so distracted by our political identities that we lose sight of our true identity in Christ. We might not all agree on exactly what to do, but I hope we can agree on the goodness of the heart of God. So for now, we partner with Him in wiping away tears and working to heal the wounds of our brothers and sisters across the nation. Let us be quick to listen to the voiceless, and let every word we speak be that of love and compassion.
The Loveland Vineyard stands with victims of racial injustice. Please prayerfully consider what loving actions God is calling you to do moving forward.
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