A Note from Pastor David
A Miracle of Understanding
Last week we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. Acts 2 tells the story of a miraculous outpouring of God’s Spirit. There was the sound of a mighty wind and vision of fire. Of course, much is made of the miracle of the Gospel being shared in many languages - some call this a miracle of speaking in tongues. Interestingly, it could also be seen as a miracle of hearing: “how is it we hear, each of us, in his own native language?” (Acts 2:8). This miracle of hearing can be said to have birthed the church, to have united different peoples and to have propelled the gospel to the ends of the earth. I think of it as a miracle of listening, not just of hearing, since people had to understand the gospel in order to respond.
Today as the structures, pain and tragedy of racism are being exposed in our country we need another miracle of listening to help build the world the Spirit envisioned at Pentecost. Friends, we who have benefited from the racism in the system of our society need to listen closely to the cries, the pain and the experience of those buried under this toxic ground of racism. For them, the American Dream has been the American Nightmare (Malcom X). We will need to make space to hear the pain of others even as we will need to make space for own growing realization of our contribution to the problem of racism.
My journey down this road of listening began back in 2014 with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. I realized how little I understood the experience of being black in America. My wife started attending a predominantly African American church downtown and building relationships with people there. I participated with her when I could. In addition to listening through these relationships, I began to read about the experience of being black in America. My youngest son was able to suggest books from his classes at Duke. I have miles and miles to go on this journey, but any progress that I have made can be partially attributed to these helpful books:
Austin Channing Brown,
I’m Still Here
- a gentle place for me to start
Ibram X Kendi,
How To Be An AntiRacist
- new and popular book
Between the World and Me
- tougher for me to stomach, but important
Racism Without Racists
- a more academic look at the structures of racism
Also in this journey, the story of the murder of teenager Emmett Till back in 1954 has challenged and changed me. I read a chapter every Thursday before writing my sermons at Trinity University Library in 2018-2019. It was my way to honor his memory.
The Blood of Emmett Till
Finally, for the theologically inclined, I have found
The Cross and the Lynching Tree
by James Cone to be both powerful and disturbing. I realized how my own theology has a decidedly white underpinning. Embarrassingly for me, I had been blind to the ties between the cross of Christ and the lynching trees which stain our history.
Clearly in the Bible, from slavery in Egypt through the book of Revelation, God always hears the cry of the oppressed. May we reflect God’s heart and ears today.