I woke up on this Pentecost morning – hoping for better news in our nation – but that was not to be. The unrest across this nation has continued for almost a week now, with protests and protesters who are urgently seeking justice, being overridden by reports and acts of violence, and rioting. I have wrestled with what to say following the story and videos of the arrest of George Floyd and the report of his death. I have written many times now about my grief and anger in the midst of unjust actions, the sin of racism, the sin of treating people as objects instead of persons of sacred worth. I have wondered: What more can I say?
George Floyd’s death was wrong. The violence being perpetuated in a number of our cities is wrong. The destruction of property – which also destroys even more of the limited job employment opportunities that the pandemic has not yet taken and destroys some of the very service centers and markets where the most marginalized in our communities can get food, shelter, clothing, and medical care – is wrong. Racism is wrong. Violence perpetuated and encouraged against any group of people is wrong. The manipulation of people and gatherings that seek to help give a voice to the marginalized and the disenfranchised by turning protests into destructive riots is wrong. Keeping silent in the midst of all these things is wrong.
I groan with the Spirit of God and all of creation at this moment. All of this that is happening – the disregard for human life – racism – a host of other isms – a pandemic where all people do not have equal access to medical care – systems that continue to act as if some are more valuable or better than others – is not what I believe God had in mind when God’s Spirit swept across what was formless and void and brought forth life. All of this, I believe, is not what God had hoped and prayed for when on that first Pentecost, the barriers were broken and all people were enabled to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ in their own languages, within their own cultures. This was not what God had in mind when God’s Spirit birthed the bringing of people together – creating community in the midst of difference where God’s Spirit was poured out upon all flesh and all could hear a message of hope, of life, and be called to a vision, a vision of working and sharing together – prophesying, dreaming dreams, rejoicing.
And so, I groan. I bring my anger, my frustration, my fears, the injustice I see and the pain I experience and lay it before God, knowing that even as I bring all this to God, God has been grieving, groaning, and lamenting – even before I realized it was right so to do! The Good News is – God is here and God will not stop being here!
Yes, yes, yes – the church is essential! Pentecost birthed the Church so that God’s message, the message that God so loved the world, and all that comes with that message … would continue to be unconditionally shared for all time so that people for all time could find their way to transformation and new life. In these turbulent times, in these uncertain, and anxious times, in these times when perhaps many have forgotten the purpose of why the church exists, Jesus is once again trying to gather us together just as a hen tries to gather its brood under its wings. Please, please, please – would you have it? Will you, will I, allow God’s Spirit to gather us?
God’s Spirit is moving! Christ’s light is present! Will you and I proclaim, testify to the Good News so that the wind of God’s Spirit and the light of Christ might make its way through the cracks – move through the openings no matter how small – to bring us to a new Pentecost experience?
Will you and I allow the Spirit of God to capture us once again and move us to witness and testify in all the languages and ways God is seeking to muster through us, to both hear and proclaim again the Good News of Jesus Christ?
Will we continue in the work and ministry of proclaiming the work of Justice in constructive, life-giving ways? Will we commit ourselves once again to the power of working together, the gift of God’s variety, difference, and color of all the people God created in God’s own image?
And, will we be bold in sharing the hope and the truth of God’s power to transform, redeem, heal, forgive, and bring new life to both individuals and communities? May it be so.
Sandra Steiner Ball
West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church