May 31, 2020
(Acts 2:1-11; John 20:19-23)
Nelson Mandela once said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”
As I took a moment to read the lectionary readings assigned for today and as I read the passage from Acts, I could not help but think of the recent tragedies inflicted on our African American brethren recently. We have seen much in the news in regard to Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and George Floyd. Though these are merely three in a long line the past few years. And then there is Christian Cooper in Central Park with the woman who called the police on him, because he asked her to leash her dog (as required by posted signs). Fortunately, no police brutality there, but an obvious case of racism from the woman, who has since apologized.
Instead of hoping you take your Bible hidden somewhere and knock the dust off of it, and read the Epistle reading, let me simply put the reading here for you:
“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, ‘Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.’”
Now isn’t that interesting! Think about it. In John 14:15-31 Jesus makes it clear He will ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to help us. Then again in John 16:7 and again in John 20:22. (You will have to dig out that Bible and knock the dust off of it for these.)
If Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit came to all these various ethnic people as stated in our reading from Acts, that tells me that not only is the Holy Spirit indiscriminate, but so is Jesus and God the Father whom both send the Holy Spirit. It is obvious, frankly, in my mind at least, that the lesson here is that NO ONE is less than anyone else in the eyes of God!
Racism is a grave sin and illness that this country is inflicted with. We are battling two fronts, with racism on one side and Covid-19 on the other. Neither of the two is being appropriately addressed by those with the political power to make these illnesses go away. In fact, I would say Covid-19 might be getting a slight better focus. However, it isn’t just politicians who are to blame. It isn’t even the police officers who seem to commit what they deem lawful, yet their actions are far from it. No, the blame falls squarely on each of us, especially those of us who are white. Yes, we are all the blame.
Studies show that racism persists in America:
People with “black-sounding names” had to send out 50 percent more job applications than people with “white-sounding names” to get a callback.
A black man is three times more likely to be searched at a traffic stop and six times more likely to go to jail than a white man.
If a black person kills a white person, he or she is twice as likely to receive the death sentence as a white person who kills a black person.
Blacks serve up to 20 percent more time in prison than white people for the same crimes.
Blacks are 38 percent more likely to be sentenced to death than white people for the same crimes.
Let me be clear, there is no room or place for racists in Christianity. There shouldn’t be in any religion or society as a whole.
The Spirit enables followers of Christ—people with beautiful Asian, black, brown, and white skin; with a range of immigration statuses; with different accents—to pursue mutual sacrificial love for one another in the power of the Spirit as the people of God. Christians must walk in love in the power of the Spirit as opposed to the lust of the flesh – which is doing that which is evil or sinful instead of the radical love that Jesus taught!
One way we do this is by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, instead of taking advantage of our freedom to gratify our sinful desires or to serve the demonic forces of evil. As Paul writes in Galatians 5:13–14, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping with this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
This Spirit-empowered love can move willing Christians to speak against and to seek to defeat every form of racism and white supremacy with the supernatural weapon of the Gospel!
Racism is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who willfully live to gratify the sinful desires of racism “will not inherit the kingdom of God” because they reveal they might be still enslaved to the present evil age and to its seductive powers, instead of being freely enslaved to love by the power of the Spirit as those redeemed by Christ and bound for the promised land of new creation.
In an age where racism is on the rise and police brutality and violence is going unchecked, we must stand for a change and not be afraid to hold the politicians and policing agencies accountable in these times. These individuals, in true democracy, work for you and me, not their own agendas. If they will not instill change in a system deeply flawed, then in November we must vote in those who will! Until then, let your voices be heard!
We also must be careful, to not allow ourselves to become like those who inflict pain, or cause violent social unrests like in Minneapolis. This type of action is counter to what Jesus would call us to do. Let us take as our example the great Martin Luther King Jr., who although his protests and speeches caused great potential danger to him and his family and eventually led to his assassination, he had the courage and bravery to protest against discrimination and promote love and truth through the act of Civil Disobedience. Let us be civil, but let us also protest injustice! I am well aware that there are those who feel that peaceful protests hasn’t worked, so maybe rioting is needed, but this is counterintuitive. Two wrongs do not make one right. “Socially destructive,” is how Martin Luther King Jr labeled riots. Violence will not end violence. Only peace, love and accountability will end violence!
I am confident that Jesus would hate racism. We can know this from His parable of the good Samaritan. We can no longer walk on the other side. We must be brave and speak out against hate of any kind!
We may not state it often, surely not enough, but within our denomination, we find racism and intolerance deeply sinful. Ethnicity, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, marriage status, social status, creed, faith, or age are of no concern to us. What we are concerned with, and we all should be concerned with, is one’s walk with God by loving other’s in the example of the radical love of Jesus!
We claim to be a nation as a home of the free and the brave, yet freedom is still being fought. The voice of freedom and equality is a voice like that of our reading from Acts, it is understood by all – or it should be. Let your voices be heard unequivocally for an end to racism and law enforcement’s inappropriate use of force. Speak out and pray up!
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA