Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Over the noon hour on Tuesday, April 20, before we knew a verdict in the Chauvin trial would be announced later that day, a group of us met for a Teaching Tuesdays session to discuss one of the Seven Vital Signs of Parish Health.
Missioner Todd Thomas began our session with a question: “What spiritual practice draws you closest to God?” Our responses varied in all the ways you would expect. One person spoke of spending time in nature; others shared their experiences in small groups, reflecting on Scripture, sharing faith stories, and learning to listen deeply to one another. Still others said that it was in corporate worship that they felt closest to God, something they sorely missed.
Pondering the question, I thought of all the times that I find myself at the edge of my capabilities or strength, when I know my need for God. For when God meets me there, in the gap between who I am and what is being asked of me, I feel close to God–not because of what I am doing, but because God is drawing close to me, enabling me to do what I cannot accomplish on my own.
In his book Deep and Wide, pastor Andy Stanley describes the life experience and practices that God uses to reach us and help us grow as “faith catalysts.” Among the five catalysts Stanley describes is one called pivotal experiences–those events, positive or negative, that mark us, change us to such a degree that we speak of our lives as before and after those crucial events. They aren’t spiritual practices in the sense of our adopting them, but through them we experience God’s grace, and as a result, we draw closer to God and grow in our capacity to love.
Later that day, as the world seemed to stop while we awaited the verdict coming from Minneapolis, it struck me that George Floyd’s murder was such a pivotal circumstance for our nation. While tragically not an isolated event of police killings of Black men, women and children, George Floyd’s murder has become the one to symbolize this historic and ongoing injustice and our response to it.
I wonder how might God be moving toward us through this pivotal circumstance.
We stand at a threshold, for we have the opportunity to help bend the long arc of history toward justice. We begin with reckoning and accountability for the harms we have done or tolerated for too long, and then we walk the slow, painstaking path toward restitution and justice. As with all things, we must begin with ourselves, the institutions in which we have influence, and from which some of us benefit at the disproportionate expense of others. In the Diocese of Washington and the communities we serve, we have work to do.
This work is not for the faint of heart, nor is it something we can accomplish on our own. As Bishop Craig Loya of Minnesota wrote this week:
Mr. Floyd’s murder is a symptom of a deep sickness that infects every one of us, and every institution that makes up the fabric of our common life. One verdict, however momentous, will not heal this sickness that lies deep inside us. If we are to be faithful to the call of the gospel, joining the Spirit’s work of healing and liberation must now form a core part of how we spend the rest of our lives.
. . .This is not about our own good intentions, or noble efforts, or performative wokeness. The healing our world so desperately cries out for can only be done by God, and we can only be on board with what God is doing if we are offering our hearts up for healing moment by moment.
This is our pivotal circumstance. Through it, God is drawing closer to us, inviting us to see ourselves and one another with God’s eyes, and respond with God’s compassion and justice.
It is more than we accomplish on our own. In Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon on the night the verdict was announced, he encouraged us all, quoting Isaiah, to be those who wait for the Lord, in order to walk the long road of justice and not grow faint.
May we dare to believe that God meets us in the gap between who we are and who we are called to become and will show us the way. It is then up to us to follow where God leads.
On Tuesday evening, several of us issued a statement in response to the guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin. Some people were disappointed that we failed to include prayers for Derek Chauvin, and his family. You’re right; many lives have been torn apart by this tragedy, including the Chauvin family. Derek Chauvin is a child of God, and we pray for him and his family.