It has been impossible not to hear of several tragic incidents of death of black men during confrontations with police. I have been struck and saddened by the deaths of people I did not know--Michael Brown and Eric Garner and there were others in recent memory as well. Both unarmed men who stepped into situations of tension that spiked so quickly, ending in their deaths. Perhaps they had little or no idea of what was soon going to happen. Surely neither wished to provoke police officers, called to protect public safety, to react so violently.
As well, my heart has ached for the police officers directly involved in with Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner, though I know none of them. Yet, because I am friends with and have been pastor to at least four policemen over many years, I have some idea of what and Who have called those men to their noble vocations that are physically and spiritually dangerous because of temptations and tendencies to lose control.
Surely Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo did not wish for their brief encounters to turn fatal. I am still surer that--despite the differences among those four images of God, their families, their friends--everyone was not satisfied with their worlds as they were living in them. In fact, I am even bold to hope and believe that, as Hebrews 11 tells us about the flawed "heroes of faith," even those four men somehow knew that they "did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better [for them and] us." In other words they were and we still are waiting, in our own also flawed ways.
That is Advent: hoping in the middle of tragedy, violence, misunderstanding, temptation, sin, conflict. We hope, sometimes despite apparent evidence, that God has foreseen something better for everyone. All CRWM people--home staff, career, partner, associate missionaries, volunteers are waiting, hoping. Many of us live and work in places where differences of race and social standing tempt us to increase rather than lessen our differences. Those of us who are white also do well recognize every day what "white privilege" does to all people.
But this IS Advent. So, may all God's people live in this present difficult Advent with deep prayers for racial reconciliation, with hopeful, risky acts of shalom, always remembering with St. Paul that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female"--nor red, yellow, black or white, because we are all one in Christ Jesus. Keep living and praying with our coming Saviour that God's will be done on the places we live and work in God's world as in heaven.