The mission of the church is to proclaim the kingdom of God, values articulated in our baptismal covenant: to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to strive for justice and peace respecting the dignity of every human being. There are times when the church is called to speak clearly to that kingdom’s hope when injustice is rife and discord abounds. Now is such a time.
Some may feel that the role of the church should be reserved for spiritual matters, for the private convictions of faith of the individual. With all love for those who share such views, I challenge us to heed Christ’s call to be the Body of Christ beyond our individual lives and be a people together whose faith is made public to the world around us.
The city of Atlanta is where God calls us to live out our faith in public as a church. Our city is in deep need of healing. Black communities in this city have lived with generational poverty and injustice at disproportionate levels to white communities. Black men, like Rayshard Brooks, have lost their lives far too frequently at the hands of those who were duty bound to protect them. Black boys and girls have significantly lower levels of access to quality education, healthcare and safe neighborhoods to call home. We have to ask why.
Jesus said ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled’. I believe that one of the reasons why our Lord names those who struggle under the heavy yoke of oppression as being blessed is because Christ knows that the church will speak for them and with them. I urge you to make your voices heard. Speak to your elected representatives, to your local chiefs of police, to your school boards, and to your neighbors and colleagues. No doubt there is criminal activity happening in our city that none of us support, yet let us not allow that to detract us from the real work at hand which is to be a community of justice and reconciliation in this place and time.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will preach and teach and we will learn together as a parish not only ways by which we can be Christ’s hands and voice in this city, but also how we can change inside ourselves and reckon with the legacies of sin all of us carry. Racial injustice is not inevitable and it is not God’s intention for creation. There is a more beloved way, and I intend for us to pursue it with love and compassion.