Becoming the Solution – In Response to the Dallas Shootings

Proper 10C, July 10,2016

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

Psalm 25: 1-9,Colossians 1: 1-14

Luke 10:25-37

St. Thomas the Apostle

The Rev’d Joy Daley

 

The parable of the Good Samaritan – One of the most famous parables of Jesus, one that is used as an example of what the law is really saying about loving God and neighbor. I have to admit when I realized this was the gospel for today early last week, I thought, “Everybody’s heard it a million times with pretty much the same moral. What more is there to say?” But over the course of this week I find I am no longer tired of this gospel for it has many things to say to us in the hour we are facing.   We see the state of our human family up close and personal. There is no way to be in denial.

It was a peaceful gathering Thursday night as people gathered to express their frustration about the fact that too many young black men are being killed by police.   The ironic thing is, the tension that now naturally exists between law enforcement and the African American community was not the same during the protest. There was a sense of peace and reconciliation, even. In an effort to not increase the tension at the protest, the police did not where their riot protection gear which actually made them more vulnerable. Citizens were standing up for justice and the dignity of every human being and our officers were standing with them protecting their right to do so. This was a step in the right direction. This was a model of what should happen in our country. There is always going to be evil present to insert itself when we start to move in the way of peace and justice, love and hope . That’s what happened Thursday night, so when we look at the parable today in light of what has happened I have to ask the question, “What do we do now?” Who do we choose to be now?” Will we be the Levite who has important things to attend to, the priest who doesn’t want to see any more pain or the Samaritan who goes out of his way to heal the pain? Will we be one or the other or none of the above? The thing is, the bottom line is- in some ways we are all of the above, aren’t we? Part caring, part neglectful, part that wants to run away. How can things change with this mix of good and evil not only in our world, our human agencies, our church but within our very own souls. I believe our world will change when we first own the complexity of our own selves, our resistance to realizing the injustice and passivity that lives within us, right alongside and in between our love and goodness.  Martin Smith in his Lenten meditation book, A Season for the Spirit has a chapter called, The Selves of the Self,” In it he reflects ,

 

If I am to express hospitality of God to all sorts of people who may seem very alien to me then I need to learn to listen to each one of them attentively But how can I pretend to listen carefully to the different people I encounter if I refuse to listen to the different voices within my own heart ? How can I be a reconciler if I shut my ears to the unreconciled conflicts within myself and pretend that I have already arrived at peace.?

 

In order to love our neighbor as ourselves as the parable calls us to do, we must begin with ourselves, take a look within and accept those parts of ourselves that walk past the one in need – the Levite and Priest within and have mercy on these parts of ourselves. Then we can make a decision about how much power we will give them.   It is a place to begin when it may seem so much easier to look outward with our anger. Author Brene Brown points out it is a natural inclination to want to look outward to blame and hate but neither of these things brings us to the peace and justice we all desire. It only drives us further apart so I invite us to look inward first before we look outward.

And then as we look outward, as we seek to live into the ideals of our country of liberty and justice for all and our baptismal vow to respect the dignity of every human being, we must admit that racism is alive and thriving in our country. As our mayor said on Friday, we as a city, a state, and a nation are struggling with racial issues and we have work to do.   We have to find ways to build bridges and to listen to one another’s pain; to realize that we are one family, one Lord one Faith, one Baptism, one God and father of all. We grieve with the Dallas police department and the families of those lost. We grieve the loss of Alton and Philando and for their families. We experience our fear, our sorrow, our outrage today as we consider that in some ways we are all a mixture of Levite, Priest and Samaritan in how we respond to the pain and suffering of others. At the same time, I think we are called to own the fact that this week we are all that person in the ditch, vulnerable and hurt, the one attacked by robbers who have tried to beat the hope out of us of all that we can be and do as God’s people. Whether we are Black or white, whether our first inclination is to say Back the Blue or Black Lives matter or All Lives matter whatever comes to the surface first is not the issue. What matters right now is that we are all in need of care and compassion and love, the kind that can only come from the ultimate Good Samaritan, our good and faithful Shepherd, Jesus Christ. As we worship this morning as one body let us renew our faith in his grace and mercy and in the reality that we are created in God’s own image and likeness and because we are created in this image we are called to live, loving all, as God loves. As Desmond Tutu has said, “God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.”

We are all family and I have to say It was a powerful experience to be a part of the Prayer service at Thanksgiving Square on Friday. Leaders of all religious traditions, all political parties, all races stood together. All affirmed that we cannot let the evil actions of a minority of individuals who have malice in their hearts keep us down, whether they be defined criminals or designated leaders. We must not let these few divide us as God’s people. Representatives of all faiths had wisdom to share that day. Each time someone prayed I would feel a hand on my back and I would reach a hand to one in front of me and beside me. We were all connected. We were one.

We have seen time and time again that in the aftermath of tragedy the reaction is to come together in prayer and sorrow, but my friends that is only step one. It is essential that we pray. We need prayer to strengthen us, to renew us, and to heal us. But prayer is never an end in itself. As Eucharistic Prayer C says, “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only and not for strength for pardon only and not renewal.”       What comes after the prayers are finished, the flowers fade in downtown Dallas and everyone goes back to business as usual? Will we become passive ? Will we, like the priest and Levite in the parable, just keep on walking, convince ourselves once again that if violence isn’t happening here, it isn’t happening at all? or will we let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ that we may worthily serve the world in his name? Will we make the effort to dissolve the divisions within our hearts and between us? If we choose, we can stand together in our diversity and integrity to say. Enough! No more! Today we take a new path!

I believe it is the spirit and charism of this community to not only have compassion in our hearts but to let that compassion flow into the world. I have seen it on a pretty continuous basis since I’ve been here and it is this heart that the world needs now. As a young Black pastor at Thursday night’s Black Lives Matter rally said in his own sadness and struggle, “When we lose our heart, we lose our souls” That is the danger in this country and we know if we are not part of the solution, even if we have no malice, we are still part of the problem. So what do we do now? How do we as a congregation become part of the solution? Some of you are already doing all you can but since there is more work to be done, I believe we need to reflect together, to educate ourselves and we need to act. To this end I have a few suggestions.

  1. 1. On Monday Evening there is a community gathering at the Dallas Children’s Theater on Skillman at 6:30 for people to come together, to listen, to try and build bridges. I plan on attending I hope you will too During the Summer Christian Formation classes haven’t met and hadn’t planned to until September. Next week we will start meeting again Sundays at 9:00 to watch very brief videos from a series provided by the Trinity Institute called , Listen For a Change, Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice 3. We have initiated conversations and connections with 2 sister AME and CME churches in our neighborhood with a recent plan to try and have a Thanksgiving service together Ray and I will continue to reach out to see how we might work together and let you know about opportunities. I invite your collaboration 4. Our Police Department has been stretched to the max. They need our support. Let’s show our gratitude when we can, realizing most of our police officers are truly public servants. Log in to the Dallas Police Department and see what is needed. Let’s make an extra effort to connect with the police officers who often reassure us with their presence in our own parking lot.

Finally, I am so grateful for the ministry of each of you and your commitment to all that is good and holy and true. So we do not lose heart. Christ has shared with us his love and compassion and grace. Let us go and do likewise and in the words of the Talmud “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. We are not obligated to complete the work but neither are we free to abandon it. ” AMEN