June 29, 2020
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Come unto me and rest;
lay down, O weary one, lay down
your head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
so weary, worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting-place,
and he has made me glad.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #611]
The readings for Sunday, July 5, 2020, the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
As promised, I am turning today's Musing over to a guest columnist for a reflection on racial justice. The Rev. David Kamphuis is Pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Hilliard, Ohio. He previously served at Martin Luther Lutheran Church in Youngstown, a majority white church in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. During his time there, he and the congregation made inroads into the community. This story is an excerpt from a sermon he preached recently to his current congregation to give them a glimpse of life in an urban community and how their relationships with police and other institutions of authority are marred by a sense of danger, disrespect, and not being heard.
Stories are compelling. Pastor Kamphuis shared it with his congregation in hopes of beginning conversations on racism and policing. The story has been edited with permission of the author. You can read the sermon in its entirety on Pastor Kamphuis' blog, "
The Fire Escape
"They've got guns drawn on John and they're going to shoot him!"
It started as a normal Sunday. I lay in bed hoping the alarm was wrong. It was not, and there was still a Adult education lesson to prepare so I got up and did the usual routine for getting ready on Sunday morning. Coffee was started, the dogs fed, made a few practice runs of my sermon.
Sunday morning continued as it should. Sunday school happened, people began to arrive for worship, the ushers got to work in the back of the church. I made a quick scan of Facebook. Local news was saying the Taco Bell up the road had been robbed just a half-hour ago. I made a mental note to talk about it at the next Block Watch meeting but thought nothing more of it.
It was about 5 minutes before worship started. I had just started walking back to put on my robe when Ms. Ruth came crying in a loud voice
"They've got guns drawn on John and they're going to shoot him!"
"What? Who is they?" I asked, floundering in the sudden panic that was erupting around me.
"The police, they are right out front!"
The doors to the church were heavy. I pushed them open and saw exactly what Ms. Ruth had described. John was on the ground with one officer standing over him and another officer gun drawn. John was crying as he shouted, "My pastor's right inside, just go ask him."
"Officers, what's going on?" I asked. The officers looked surprised, as if not expecting anyone, let alone someone in full clerical collar, to emerge from the church.
"uh... Father, do you know this man?"
"yeah, it's John" is all I could muster in the moment.
"The Taco Bell was robbed, and we had reports of someone out on the streets in this vicinity."
"Officers," I said, "he walks to church."
The officers gave a quick look at me, as if sizing up whether I was going to leave or stay. I would not leave. Suddenly their demeanor changed. John was carefully picked up off the ground and the gun holstered. One officer started carefully explaining everything.
"I have to put cuffs on you as a precaution," said one officer.
"officer," I said," this man comes to church every Sunday."
"No offense Father, but plenty of church going people get arrested" said the officer who had holstered his gun. I just stared, for in that moment I became truly angry. The other officer gave a small sigh, knowing this was going well.
"We're going to take you to the car and run an ID check. If you have no record things will be fine" said one of the officers to John. The ID check took two minutes, John's record was clear. They took the cuffs off and simply said "thank you for your cooperation."
I put my arm around John and walked him to the church. Sat him next to Ms. Ruth, who was still loudly proclaiming how angry she was.
There are two simple things I wish to say about this story. First, I am convinced that this story would have ended in more violence had someone not stepped outside the church. No one is ever told what would have been so I can offer no proof of this conviction, but I am convinced all the same.
Second, after Sunday was done, and my seething anger reduced to a low simmer, I went about my day. I went in for a rare Monday visit to Church. Monday's were my day off, but I left something in my office. I checked the messages on the answering machine to find phone messages from our white neighbors questioning what I had done. "Are you so sure that black man was innocent?" said one message.
Whatever happened or would have happened it was not just because of the police. It takes a community.
All of what happened to John was simply because he was a black man walking to church. He had no weapon and did not have a criminal record. Yet there was a real possibility he could have been seriously hurt or killed. It is also a story of danger that is fostered, not just by the police, but also by neighbors. The police were called because a neighbor thought he looked suspicious.
Micah 6:8 has been quoted a lot in these times. So much so that it risks becoming stereotypical, but we should listen to the prophet because he lays out a road map for the faith community. Micah 6:8 reads:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God?
What is required of us in this moment? Just three simple things: justice, kindness, humility. Yet the simple things are often the hardest. Instead of brutality and violence, we are called to justice. Instead of uncaring callousness, we are called to kindness. Instead of deaf ears, we are called to walk humbly with our neighbor and God (especially our neighbor in pain).
It was a requirement then. It is a requirement now.
The peace of Christ be with you always,
My electronic meeting schedule this week is as follows:
: Staff meeting.
Northeastern Ohio Conference Deans Meeting
Conference meeting with Richland-Ashland, Southern
Conference of Bishops Weekly Check-in
The Lutheran Center will be closed on Friday, July 3, in observance of the Independence Day Holiday.
Our closing prayer is an adaptation from the United Church of Christ's "Prayers for Racial Justice Sunday," and can be found on the
ELCA Worship Resources
page under the tab of Service of Repentance and Mourning.
O God of unconditional love,
you who show no partiality in respect to people or nations,
we have heard your good news of great joy for all the people,
We hear that good news, and in hearing, believe.
We know that your sanctuary is a house of worship for all people,
with no regard for the color of our skin.
As we worship you, knit us into a people,
a seamless garment of many colors.
May we celebrate our unity, made whole in our diversity.
Forgive us for our inability to let our "old selves" die to the world.
We acknowledge that we participate in structures that are inherently racist,
and yet we do nothing to remedy it.
Show us when we fail when we judge others according to the color of their flesh.
+Bishop Abraham Allende