Trinity Sunday 2020 June 7
Living God, continue to blast through our defences and dismantle the barriers that keep us distant from You and from each other. Take away our fear and ignorance, and equip us to face the challenges of these times. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.
Reflection: Living in apocalyptic times
We are living in apocalyptic times. Before you get too alarmed, apocalyptic times are not the end times (though it feels like that might be happening, and it might be). Rather the word apocalypse means “the great uncovering”, “the revelation”.
First the coronavirus that alerted us to global interconnection. A sneeze on the other side of the world becomes people on ventilators in hospitals in the UK.
Then the lockdown, and wildlife began to thrive and mountains could be seen for the first time in a generation as smog cleared and the earth began to breathe. We are part of an interdependent creation; our way of life has consequences for all the earth. And because of the number of us and the way we live, we are in the midst of the sixth great mass extinction of species.
Now protesters, mostly peaceful, fill the streets in cities in the US chanting Can’t breathe (the last words of George Floyd) and Don’t shoot (the purported last words of Michael Brown). The protests spread around the world, even to North Tyneside. A belligerent President fuels the flames of hurt and pain of centuries of racial persecution. What is revealed? The legacy of a made up ideology of white supremacy that made slavery possible and enriched the British elite in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The ongoing trauma of what it is like to live in Black skin.
Pull your dictionary off the shelf. Look up the word black. What do you find there? Lacking hue and brightness; absorbing light without reflecting any of the rays composing it; soiled or stained with dirt; gloomy, pessimistic; dismal; harmful; inexcusable; boding ill; sullen or hostile; threatening; without any moral quality or goodness; evil; wicked; indicating censure, disgrace, or liability to punishment; marked by disaster or misfortune; based on the grotesque, morbid or unpleasant aspects of life; undesirable, substandard, potentially dangerous; illegal or underground; deliberately false or intentionally misleading; boycotted.
Now look up white. Of the colour of pure snow; reflecting nearly all the rays of sunlight; decent, honourable or dependable; auspicious or fortunate; morally pure; innocent; without malice; harmless.
White folks think that if we personally don’t discriminate against people with darker skin, we are not racist. The truth is that we live in a racialised world that has racism deeply embedded in the very structures of our lives: our language, the sense of fear or threat we may feel in the presence of unknown individuals with differently hued skin, the implicit bias we are born into and that we benefit from if we are White. When I was a low income young woman with a child looking for a flat in a small city, I knew that I was a desirable tenant. Everyone wanted to rent to me. I was given the benefit of the doubt. I knew then that if my skin were black, it would not be so.
Racism is in the air we breathe, the water we drink. If you are White, you have benefited from it. You have not had to watch your sons grow up knowing they were more likely to be killed by the police or incarcerated for crimes White young men are not jailed for. You have not been rejected for housing or employment because of your skin colour. You have not been made to feel that you are less than human. And now, it turns out, you may even have less chance of being killed by Covid-19.
What to do? We must work to notice it. To listen to the real life experience of Black people. To take their experience seriously. And when we bump up against the racism we’ve been bred to feel, we need to take that seriously and do all that we can to weed it out of ourselves. We need to speak gently and firmly to other White people when we hear racist comments. We need to be as vigilant against the pandemic of racism as we are against Covid-19.
In the beginning, God spoke light into being and said It is good (Genesis 1:4a). Apocalyptic times reveal, shine a light on the human condition. Christ came to reveal that there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). We are baptised into this good news. Christ within us breaks down the barriers of racial fear and hatred. We are one. And we are told to share this good news to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:16-20). Eradicating racism is part of the work of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
These apocalyptic times reveal to us our global interconnection, our interdependence with all creation, and the tragic legacy of the myth of white supremacy. We are forewarned. To return to the status quo will only lead to more pain and destruction.
We have work to do. And we have been given all we need to be able to do it.
We pray in the words of the apostle Paul: Holy One, let us not be conformed to this world, but let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is your will – what is good and acceptable and perfect. By your mercy, accept our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to you, as our worship. Amen. (Romans 12: 1-2)
Hymn Here I am, Lord
(Daniel L. Schutte)
Recording sung by Lucy Cooke
I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand shall save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord,
if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my Word to them.
Whom shall I send?
I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?
And now unto the One who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)