Friday, August 22, 2014

Lamenting in Luxury and Laughing at God's Promise

I was in a folding chair sunken into tho the sandy beach of Ocean City when I first read about the murder of a black youth named Mike Brown by a white cop in Ferguson, Missouri.

The beach.

In the comfort and security of family and friends, with our only disturbance being over-zealous young lifeguards and their whistles, I remembered racism is far from dead and the Civil Rights Movement far from over.

I was drinking my coffee on the front porch as I perused articles on my iPhone about increasing persecution and genocide of Christians and other adherents to minority religions in the Middle East, most notably in the mountains of Iraq. I wondered what the earliest Christians would say to them- and us- in the horrific wakes of modern martyrdom?

My porch.

I was at the dining room table and eating dinner with my family as we live-chatted a friend of ours via Facebook messenger. She is a young Orthodox-Jewish woman with two kids and a husband who works in pediatrics outside Gaza, caring for both Palestinian and Israeli war victims. They live nearby Tel Aviv. Our courageous friend shared with us how she lives in daily fear, moving from living room to shelter multiple times each day. It was 2 a.m. Israeli time and she couldn't sleep.

We were eating dinner at our dining room table.

I was on a plane with a group of youth headed back home from Honduras as I reflected on the Child Refugee Crisis. Thousands of unaccompanied children were fleeing Central American countries, like the one I just freely left, in search of safety and security their families could not provide. You can read a glimpse into their experience in Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazrio.

I have been reading it- at home.

I am not sure if the world we live in is becoming increasingly dark and the despairing groans are louder now than in generations past or if our sensitivity to global issues is greater due to social media and the ease of access afforded by modern technology.

It's probaly a combination.

What I do know, my heart aches with intensifying pain every time I turn on the television, scroll through Twitter feeds, or open that news app I am confident will have more bad news than good news to report.

I cry when I talk to friends in Honduras or Tel Aviv. I get angry out of solidarity when I read posts by my black friends, some who are pastors, who shed horrific light on racism that continues to plague our nation, churches, and local police forces.

I lament. A lot. But my lamenting is in luxury and privilege. I grieve in security and safety. I can pick and choose the issues that tug at my heart strings, even post videos of buckets of ice water being dumped on my head, because my life is not in jeopardy.

But the lives of my friends are. My brothers and sisters in the faith, even though I may not know the names of those who call the Iraqi hills and sanctuaries home, do live in fear.

Their laments come from a very different place. They lament in fear and oppression.

The same is true for those in Ferguson, Tel Aviv, and regions surrounding Tegucigalpa.

Maybe that's why I laugh. I don't laugh in joy. I laugh with the cynicism of Sarah- at God's promise.

""And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, 'After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?'" (Genesis 18:10-12)

I wonder, how long, O Lord, will you forget us- them- forever?

I pray God's covenant, one that nudges us towards golobal reconciliation and new creation, would no longer be a mere theological teaching point or carrot dangled in front of grieiving parents who claim Jesus as Lord.

I pray for the day to hasten when our mourning turns to dancing.

I pray for the weapons of war in the Middle East and Missouri to be turned into agricultural tools of the harvest, promoting growth and vegetation versus injustice and segregation.

I pray God's covenantal promises would become our reality. The whole world's lived experience.

I pray for the kingdom Jesus preached about, lived out, and died for the sake of, would be resurrected within each of us and all around us.

I pray our prayers of how long would be transformed into jubilations of about damn time.

But I wonder if God is saying the same to each of us.

How long, O children, will you hate each other forever? Will you forget the image each of you bears and the love each of you have been invited to share?

Will you choose prejudice over conversation, greed over generosity, power over communities and countries where all are welcome as though they have always belonged?

Is God saying to us, this blogger included, it's about damn time?

Because it is.

So as one who laments in luxury, I covenant to commune with those who do not. I commit to learning real stories, researching possibilities for change and transformation, surrounding myself with diverse voices and convictions, and echoing the cries of victims of all forms of violence, marginalization, racism, poverty, oppression, and any and all manifestations of evil near and far.

I am not sure what this will look like or even where to begin, but I know it's time.

It's about damn time.

"Promise-making God, I get Sarah's laughter. It's the sad snicker that covers a cracked heart. Faith withers when life feels wrung dry and past it's best-used-by date. For all who feel life has passed them by and find that faith comes hard, create through your Holy Spirit the laughter of love, the faith that your promies are true, and the hope that in Jesus the best is yet to be. Amen

---from Seeking God's Face by Philip F. Reinders

Relaated Links:

Not as Helpless as We Think. 3 Ways to Stand with Those in Ferguson by Rachel Held Evans

PCUSA Office of Public Witness & Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson on Ferguson and Gun Violence

Good News and Bad News in Honduras

Is There a Nonviolent Response to Isis? (SoJo.Net)