Charlottesville

Today is a difficult day for Virginia, and for the country–yes, my country. As my friend Jack Holloway writes, “Recently, it has felt very difficult to proclaim hope over the world, let alone believe in this talk of coming glory and freedom. Ours, it seems unavoidable to say, is a dark time…. Our world, more and more, seems hopeless, godless, and meaningless.” I look at my dark hands and wonder, “when, oh Lord? How else can I speak the truth so that it is heard? How else can I love so that others may see you are working in my life?” As I reflect on my feelings, I am reminded of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus says, “turn to them the other cheek also.” Perhaps for me, to turn the other cheek is to speak a word of hope in the midst of violence, hatred, and evil. A Psalm 22 word of hope which first cries, ““Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”

I find this first word in this poem by Langston Hughes, which might as well be a prayer and a sermon.

I looked and I saw
That man they call the Law.
He was coming
Down the street at me!
I had visions in my head
Of being laid out cold and dead,
Or else murdered
By the third degree.

I said, O, Lord, if you can,
Save me from that man!
Don’t let him make a pulp out of me!
But the Lord he was not quick.
The Law raised up his stick
And beat the living hell
Out of me!

Now, I do not understand
Why God don’t protect a man
From police brutality.
Being poor and black,
I’ve no weapon to strike back
So who but the Lord
Can protect me?

We’ll see.

The question, “Who but the Lord can protect me?” resonates with the Psalmist’s prayers not only of deliverance but also of the desperation and despondency that bespeak the reality of being surrounded by enemies and stomped underfoot by those who wield power unjustly. A Christian hope is not some timeless truth that can be plucked from the air willy-nilly; it is a concrete word that speaks to ME and to YOU in the here and now. “Who but the Lord?” is speaking a word in “the August-12-2017-here-and-now.” Who but the Lord will defend us today and fight for us against the white nationalists and their spirit of hate that seek to destroy the imago Dei?

Who but the Lord can save us from the greedy men and women that rule the world? Who but the Lord can save us from the evil men and women who deface and defile God’s beautiful black, brown, and red creation? Who but the Lord can save us from the fear that is being stirred day and night by those who lust for power, control, and domination? Who but the Lord can comfort us? Who but the Lord can vindicate us? Who but the Lord can avenge us? Who but the Lord can strengthen us to stand up for righteousness? Who but the Lord can surprise us saying, “I dwell among you, in the flesh!” “I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly, I will praise you….For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (Psalm 22) Oh Lord, “lead us not into the temptation” to strike back with hate; “but deliver us from the evil” that we are facing today in the United States in an unrelenting way. Surely, we are not alone! “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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