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Reflection on the killing at Emanuel AME Church
It was hard to wake up to the news of the church shooting in Charleston this morning. One more notch on the list of dangerous things to do when black. It is tempting to give in to the belief that good has departed from the world, that nothing we do changes anything, that sin has won. I was reminded today that we can’t think or plan or research or analyze our way out of sin. We must act, commit acts of love, speak words of justice, live lives that change the world.
Today I also received the news that a new baby came into this world last night, June 17 at 9:11 p.m. We have been keeping his parents in our prayers in these last months of anticipation and hope, and now he is here! We rejoice with his parents in this gift. He is a beloved child of God, who will bring belovedness into our world. We know this because of the faith of his parents and the hope of our Christian community.
Sin and blessings are the realities of our world, and we believe in a God who promises that blessings will outweigh and outmaneuver sin and evil. We believe this even when we walk through the valleys of the shadow of death. In times of great joy we remember our call to act for, create, and claim those blessings, not just for ourselves, but for every human being, every living creature, and the earth itself. I am thankful for your witness to this promise and this work, and for baby Longbrake, another player on Team Love.
I offer two reflections for you, the first from scripture, the second from Bishop Lee, as he prepares for the General Convention and his witness as part of Bishops United Against Gun Violence.
May God Bless and keep you, now and always,
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
God did not make death,
And he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them,
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
For righteousness is immortal.
God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.
Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence: An Invitation from Bishop Lee
This is a link to Bishop Lee’s letter which was issued on Wednesday, just before the shooting.
A Reflection by Joshua Longbrake from his blog.
What must I do to get your attention? To get you to speak up? Do I need to pray multiple times a day in a certain position, bowing on my knees or standing on my head? Do I need to go to a specific location? Or are there actions I need to take? Tell me what to do to get you to speak.
Or maybe I don’t need to do anything except listen and look and wait and see.
I was chatting amongst empty pews with Kara, our priest, and Kate and Jason. I preached yesterday (audio here), asking the question Where is God?and pointing out places where the gospel of John speaks to the same question over and over again with audacity and creativity. The question is personal, one I’ve been churning out daily during Lent.
While the four of us were talking after the service there was a sudden roar like thunder from the sacristy (a little room off to the side of the sanctuary). At first I thought the innards of the large organ had collapsed, giant pipes that are built into the wall and which continue through the walls and into a back corner of sacristy. We ran up the center aisle, passed the altar and into that tiny room to see both what had happened and to make sure no one was hurt.
Shelves had collapsed under the weight of what look like giant candlestick holders as large as my arm and made out of thick brass. They had fallen onto a glass table that subsequently shattered. On one of the shelves was also a statue of the virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus.
Kate said, “You asked the question, ‘Where is God?’ and now you’ve found him in the form of this broken baby Jesus. You should probably take him and Mary home.” Kara laughed and nodded and I wondered about signs and the idea of God’s playfulness and the possibility of me making meaning out of events that could be simply chance — but I like to believe the former.
– Joshua Longbrake 9 Mar 2015
Reflection on Ashes-to-Go
I just came in from distributing ashes at the Irving Park CTA station with the Rev. Kara Wagner Sherer and Barbara Cohn, another parishioner from St. John’s Episcopal Church. It was extremely cold, and I feel that some people who might otherwise have stopped were in a rush to get inside the station. Nevertheless, we served probably 30 or 40 people in the hour we were there.
Some people in the Episcopal Church take issue with the concept of Ashes To Go, feeling that it cheapens the faith and gives lazy folks an excuse to skip the solemn Ash Wednesday liturgy. Here is how I think about it:
On this one day in the year, you see people walking around in the business district of Chicago, the great trading post and mercantile hub of North America, putting their Christianity out in the open. Right on their foreheads, where it can’t be missed, they testify: I am a member of the Body of Christ, and I am wearing this reminder of my mortality for all to see.
It is a remarkable thing, to suddenly be aware that all these worker bees, hurrying to the office or to school or to the coffee shop, carry within themselves and profess a spiritual life that we are not normally privileged to witness. I’m not sure that people who work within the confines of the church grasp the impact of seeing this display in the midst of the commercial marketplace. When I worked in the Loop it always struck me profoundly.
At 7 a.m., people haven’t had the chance to go to church yet, to say the prayers and receive the ashes in the usual ceremonial fashion. But the people we met on Irving Park Road under the highway overpass, with the trains roaring overhead, the buses disgorging passengers next to us, and the pigeons flapping around, were available and eager to visibly express their Christianity from the very start of their day’s journey. They didn’t need the priest or the prayers or the liturgical ritual to declare: This is who I am; this is what I believe.
18 February, 2015