We celebrate Thanksgiving 2014 in a tumultuous moment following the announcement of the Ferguson decision. There are a lot of differing opinions about protests, police and privilege but what is undeniable is that people on all sides are hurting and many of those people are our brothers and sisters in Christ. As members of the same family it is our duty to reach out to all sides, to be in mercy-oriented conversation with one another and to practice the biblical mandate to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Moreover, it is wise to have these conversations in the flesh or over the phone, contexts in which it is harder to trespass the boundaries of respectful dialogue (unlike social media where it seems all too easy for the interactions to degenerate into disrespect).
Today I had a phone conversation with an African American friend for whom I am deeply grateful. He said that in the process of healing race relations in our country we need the church to take us to the next level, to take us past what can merely be legislated. Amen to that. It is time to be the church and manifest the power of the gospel amidst the tensions of our day. I have every confidence that if we will reach out to our brothers and sisters and cultivate genuine relationships characterized by listening, serving and suffering for one another (just as Jesus modeled), God will turn this tragedy into an opportunity for the world to see the power of the gospel. So, to whom will you reach out? To whom will you listen?
I have a very close friend who is a retired NYC detective and now serves as advisor to multiple police departments. Over the years, I have listened and even helped him process through the challenges that come with being a peace officer. Though the issues raised by Ferguson are much larger than policing, it is a reminder that we also need to listen to, pray for and thank our peace officers for the difficult work they do. So, to whom will you reach out? To whom will you listen?
As a (fairly) diverse congregation, we need to take extra care at times like these. Because of our diversity, we’ll probably have different perspectives on what’s happening around us. We could take the easy route and not talk about it. But, as we saw earlier this fall (listen to sermons from 8/17 and 8/31 here), God has a heart for justice and for bringing ethnicities together so we can’t ignore what’s happening around us. These issues aren’t going to go away when Ferguson moves off the news cycle. We need to be engaged for the long haul and we need to be engaged because the gospel often shines brightest in the most difficult issues. So let’s take our time and listen well. Our timeline is not the media’s timeline. Our timeline is God’s timeline. And as we listen well to real people and absorb the issues at hand, let’s long for God to do something special through us. I believe with all my heart that he can.
Pastor Andrew Hoffman