Archives For Ferguson

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Second Sunday of Advent – Year B

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

1  YHWH, you have been favorable to your land,

you renewed Jacob’s fortunes.

 2  You carried your people’s waywardness,

you covered all their offenses. Selah

 8  I will listen to what YHWH God will speak,

because he will speak of shalom

   to his people and to those committed to him,

those who must not turn to folly.

 9  Yes, his deliverance is near for people who are in awe of him,

so that his honor may settle in our land.

10 Commitment and truthfulness—they have met;

faithfulness and shalom—they have embraced.

11 Truthfulness—it springs up from the earth;

faithfulness—it has looked down from the heavens.

12 Yes, YHWH—he will give good things;

our land—it will give its increase.

13 Faithfulness—it will walk before him

as he sets his feet on the path.

The psalm for the Second Sunday in Advent is at first blush rather unassuming. It is almost docile. The first two verses roll easily off the lips of someone like me, a white American evangelical protestant male. Indeed, it is easy for me to agree that God has been favorable to the land in which I live and that in Jesus Christ, God has covered all my offenses.

But this only betrays a lazy, superficial reading of the text which ignores the psalm’s historical and cultural contexts. I make the grave error of equating YHWH’s land with my country, of Jacob’s fortunes with my bank account balance, of reducing the offenses of Israel to my own individual sin, errors evangelicals make too often when approaching the Hebrew scriptures. In doing so, I turn the psalm into an affirmation of my individual piety and miss out on the astonishing claims of the psalm for God’s beloved community. Continue Reading…

Stay Woke This Advent

November 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

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It is the first day of Advent; New Year’s Day for the church. Today, we enter into a season marked by waiting and by hope. With great expectation we wait for the promised one, the messiah, Christ, to come and deliver us just as the prophets said he would. After his resurrection, Jesus said he would come again and finish the establishment of his kingdom, so we wait. We wait and we keep watch. To guide our waiting, we look back and remember what it was like to wait for his first coming. We turn again to the manger.

Yet, it’s been a long time since Jesus entered into the world, walked upon it, displayed his power, and testified to his upside down reign. It’s been a long time since he gave us his charge to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the imprisoned, open the eyes of the blind, set the oppressed free, and declare that this is the year of the Lord’s favor. It’s been a long time.

Is he really coming back? He didn’t come back last year, or the year before that. Perhaps he forgot. Perhaps his return is something our far distant descendants will have to deal with. Perhaps we should not worry about such things. Perhaps we should just get on with our lives.

Jesus had something to say about that: Continue Reading…

Choosing Sides in the Exodus

November 29, 2014 — 1 Comment

What can an obscure verse in the exodus story tell white Christians about how to respond to recent events in Ferguson, MO? Why has it functioned as a metaphor to inspire hope to countless generations of oppressed people, Jew and non-Jew alike? What hope does it offer white Christians at this important moment in history?

The story of Israel’s exodus stands as the defining narrative for generations of Israelites. Passover, their most sacred festival, serves as an annual dramatic retelling of God’s liberation of an oppressed people, His people, from cruel enslavement. When, centuries later, the Israelites were exiled under Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian captivity, they retold the exodus narrative with a sense of fervent longing and anticipation that the God who’d once delivered them would be faithful and deliver them again.

Under Greek and Roman rule, the people of Israel again turned to their prophetic tradition for signs that the promised deliverer, one called the “messiah,” was coming to liberate them from foreign dominance. They imagined a bold leader would emerge to overthrow imperial rule, much like Moses had confronted Pharaoh. When the messiah did show up in the person of Jesus, he failed to meet the expectations of the masses. They did not have “eyes to see” or “ears to hear.”

From the earliest days of Christianity, followers of Jesus saw in him a continuance of the work of deliverance God began in the exodus. The exodus story earned a special place among African slaves and their descendants in America. The cry of the Hebrews became their cry. The hope of the Hebrews became their hope.

During the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, the story of the exodus again emerged as a guiding metaphor for black people seeking liberation from an overt system of oppression in the form of segregation laws. Again, the cry of the Hebrews became their cry and the hope of the Hebrews became their hope.

Now, in 2014, America stands at another crossroads of race. The equalities granted under the various acts and laws that emerged from the civil rights movement have proven incomplete. People of color in America in general, and black people specifically, face ongoing oppression from a network of political, legal, social, and cultural systems created long ago by white people to protect the power and privilege of white people. By inheriting this power and privilege, white people today are just as complicit in oppressing people of color as their more overtly racist ancestors were in creating those systems. Racism has become institutionalized, moving beyond the individual’s personal sentiments or religious piety.  Continue Reading…

Black Lives Matter

November 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

Listen, Understand, Act

What does a white, middle-class, cisgendered Protestant American male have to say about being black in America, especially in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury decision? Well, not too much. So, I’m not talking, I’m listening.

There are others with far more insightful and important things to say than I. The best thing I can do is shut up, listen, and amplify the voices that really need to be heard. One of those voices belongs to my friend, Drew Hart.

Drew and I first met when we both worked for the same campus ministry organization in Philadelphia in the early 2000s. We went on a weeks-long tour together, exploring the sites of the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s. I did a lot of listening at that time, too. Since then, Drew has gone on to become a leading scholar in the #Anablacktivist conversation and writes a regular blog for Christian Century, called “Taking Jesus Seriously.”

In October of 2014, the book I edited on faith and fatherhood was published. Drew was one of the first contributors to sign on to the project, and he helped me find other important voices to include in the volume. His essay is a deeply honest exposé on what it is like to be a black Christian father in America, today. I spoke with Drew and received his permission to publish his essay, in its entirety, on this blog. Read it and share; it is timely and important.

Continue Reading…