Troubled Waters

Troubled Waters

I want to begin by naming the profound injustice, sadness, anger, and pain we are seeing in our country right now because of white supremacy. Since the murder by police of George Floyd on Monday, people have raised their voices to cry out, much like the Hebrews when they were enslaved in Egypt.

I will say I am profoundly sad and immobilized, even. I want to be honest, in the hopes you know you can also be honest. We have to start with where we are, if we are going to really grow and change. And me speaking to you now is an effort to do just that and, I hope, an invitation for all of you, too.

Rev. Sarah and I both felt that it was important today to speak to the sin of white supremacy and the tragedy of racial violence.

First, we are here for you and with you, if you want to process your feelings, pray with someone; if you are looking for educational resources about becoming more anti-racist; if you want to know the best organizations to which you can donate time and money. You can email us, and we will also be setting up a zoom after the service specifically for people who want to discuss what is going on in our country right now.

Second, black lives matter. Full stop. As Christians, we are always called to stand with the oppressed, and the oppression of black and brown people in this country is undeniable. St. Peter’s stands with those who are organizing and advocating for this truth to become a reality in our country, by changing hearts, yes, and also by changing policies. 

As white Christians, we must name that we are called to stand with the oppressed and, yet, by being white, we are, by default, a part of the system of the oppressor. As white people, we recognize we benefit from white supremacy, whether we want to or not – whether we realize it or not. By default we are the oppressor. But it does not have to stay that way. It is our work to dismantle this sinful system. 

As your clergy, we are making a public commitment to put in the work to transform from part of the problem to part of the change – to be actively anti-racist. We believe all Christians must work to dismantle white supremacy. It is not a special interest issue. It is not an option. It is the Gospel. 

In 1967, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned, “So often the contemporary church is a weak ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often is it an arch defender of the status quo…But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth [and I would add the twenty-first] century.”

His words are still hauntingly true. There is no doubt in our minds where Jesus would have spent his time, if he were walking the streets of America today. His eyes would be swollen and red from tear gas; the news would be calling him a rioter and a looter. The Church stands at a fork in the road – will we follow this Jesus? I fear if we do not, we will cease to be the Living Body of Christ. 

Which leads to the final thing we want to say this morning: We do not believe it is any coincidence that today is Pentecost, the day when the earliest disciples were filled with God’s Holy Spirit. When we remember rushing winds, our ears ring with the words, “I can’t breathe.” When we celebrate fire resting on the disciples’ heads and their many words coming together as one, we watch people from all backgrounds unite in the streets and cry out, “No more.” Perhaps, like MLK Jr. Day, Christmas, and Easter, the Church has sanitized this story of the coming of the Holy Spirit. 

When Sarah and I were recording the Acts reading with the children this week, we told them about the flames landing on the disciples’ heads and we said, “But not in a scary way,” and they looked at us like we were crazy. “Why would that be scary? That’s amazing!” Perhaps we – white people, Christians, adults – are the ones who are afraid of the Holy Spirit. Considering what she will ask of us, it makes more sense than most of us may want to admit. Perhaps we need to open our hearts to how much this story asks of us, challenges us, even troubles us. That is God. God loves, always. And one of the ways God loves is by troubling the waters. 

Even when it is difficult, following Christ is a gift. A gift that leads us to the loving, liberating, and life-giving God. Who is very much in our midst right now – if we will look and if we will follow. 

– Revs. Claire and Sarah

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The Rev. Claire Nevin-Field

The Rev. Claire Nevin-Field is the rector of St. Peter's Church.

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