FROM YOUR INTERIM PASTOR JUDY ANDERSON-BAUER
BLACK LIVES MATTER
The Church is active in the world . . . .“For Just Such A Time As This”
“For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish.
Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
For me, it was the “Murder Hornets.”
Frankly, I had been expecting a global pandemic for years now. I knew the history of the 1918 pandemic, so that there was another pandemic always on the horizon wasn’t a total shock. It was always a matter of “when” not “if.”
The civil unrest caused by continued, systemic police brutality towards people of color is long overdue. As Lutherans, we have a unique history with racism, since it was an ELCA Lutheran who murdered the nine Black members of Mother Emmanuel Church five years ago. We grieve the deaths of all those Black and Brown and Indigenous people who have died as a result of our continued, blind devotion to whiteness as a superior attribute. It is past time that we addressed this deep, pervasive sin in our civic lives.
So, those upheavals were not what put me over the top. It was when I heard about “Murder Hornets,” the Giant Asian Hornet, which has recently arrived in North America, that I sort of lost it. The hornet’s sting is described as “excruciating,” it is very aggressive, and it is particularly dangerous to honey bees, which are already in steep and alarming decline.
That’s the point I went to God and said, “Really? REALLY? This is necessary? Now?”
Let me just stop a moment and say – I absolutely DO NOT believe God has caused the Covid-19 pandemic. I also do not believe that God has instigated civil unrest. Nor do I believe that God has sent the Murder Hornet to plague us. I believe the God we know in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ wills for us peace, and health, and love, and life. Period. We are not being punished for anything. This is just part of the way the world works.
However, that does not mean that I can’t go to God in prayer and exasperation with my weary soul and my deep worry about our poor world. Sometimes it has felt more like Egypt in the time of the plagues. I’ve even said that if Lake Superior turns red, I’ll start planning my funeral since I’m a “first born.” (Come on! You have to laugh sometimes. Life is pretty grim lately.)
Here’s what I’ve been hearing from God in my prayers of weariness and worry – “Perhaps you are here for just such a time as this.” We – white, Lutheran, American Christians – are uniquely situated to speak comfort to the plague victims, and to speak truth about our white privilege. Pastor Lenny Duncan, an African American ELCA pastor, has talked about the ELCA as “the whitest denomination.” (His book, “Dear Church,” is a must read. I strongly urge you to read it right now.) We who know the grace of God so well can speak comfort to those ravaged by this pandemic. And we who know the grace of God so well can also demonstrate that we are willing to repent for the sin of racism in our land.
When Esther became queen, she was put in a position of privilege, a position where she had a unique responsibility to speak up and speak out. Her cousin, Mordecai, urged her to speak out for her threatened people. “Who knows?” he says, “Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” I think we are being called – here and now – to also speak up and speak out. Our position of privilege as white people means we need to listen to our Black, Brown, and Indigenous siblings, hear their cries of pain, and move to change things. Our position of privilege as healthy people means we need to move to protect those most vulnerable, and if that means we don’t worship in person so that others can remain well, then so be it.
Always, it is not about us. The Gospel is NEVER about us or about what we want. The Gospel is always about love of God and love of neighbor. Whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus. We move together at the speed we can all travel, caring for the weakest, watching out for the abused, protecting those at risk. That is the Gospel’s call “for just such a time as this.”
I’ll leave you, again this month, with one of my favorite hymns to the right, for your home church time –
In Jesus’ Name,
There is a balm in Gilead,