“Open my eyes, that I may see, glimpses of truth thou hast for me…”
I wonder how many of us have sung this old hymn and felt a real and honest desire for our eyes to be opened to the truth God has for us. In a dizzying array of information at our fingertips, facts and ‘alternative facts’ to sort through, would we struggle to define what this truth is? Would we wrestle with the way that truth unsettles us, threatens our comforts, upends our sense of identity and the ways of the world? Might we suddenly start seeing truth like Paul describes ‘as if through a glass dimly, but then face-to-face,’ or would it only be apparent in its most blatant and extreme forms, when lit by fire it marches unmistakably in front of us? And if seeing clearly demanded that we behave differently, would we really want our eyes to be opened?
Like millions of others and you, I watched the vile events of the weekend unfold on the streets of Charlottesville with disbelief, my very being sickened by such a brazen display of hatred, of white supremacy, of racism in its most base form. That self-proclaimed Nazis could be openly walking the streets of Virginia in 2017 felt utterly unbelievable. Add to this the grief in the violence and loss of life, and my preacher friends and I were talking throughout the day about this, each sharing our horror over what we were watching. Then Scott reminded us: “let’s not act as if this is the first time we’ve seen racism.”
He’s right, of course. And the fact I felt such disbelief at what unfolded in Charlottesville illustrates my own implicit advantages that come with being a white Christian American. My brothers and sisters who are black, Jewish, immigrant, LGBTQ, or marginalized for any skin-deep reason cannot say the same. When I confessed to you on Sunday that I felt no impetus to forgive the people who hate those God demands that we love, I felt the spirit of conviction again and again by my brown-skinned, Jewish savior. This conviction extends from my heart to my eyes, as I must ask forgiveness from God and God’s beloved children for sins of commission and omission in seeing clearly the pervasive racism all around us. Racism grieves the heart of God, and is directly in conflict with God’s dream for the world.
So in that same spirit of clarity, let me be clear today: First Baptist Church on Fifth condemns loudly racism and hatred in all its forms. We are a beloved community committed to doing our part to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth. We know through scripture and the Spirit that this is a kingdom where all of God’s children are beloved fully, fiercely, freely, and unconditionally. It is a kingdom where in the name of Jesus, good news is brought to the poor, release is given to those held captive, recovery of sight is opened to the blind, freedom is granted the oppressed, and the Lord’s favor blankets us all in liberation, restoration, and reconciliation. In this kingdom, there can be “no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”
May God grant us open eyes, a willingness to see, clarity of conviction, love that casts out fear, and a truth that sets all free.
Together in the work of Love,