It has been a week since an armed mob forced their way into the United States Capitol building. Watching the event unfold on the news that day, I had all the emotions you might expect. Anger, frustration, and fear were palpable as my family talked that day. I heard many people (both on TV, social media and in private conversation) call for peace. This week, I find myself feeling the weight of questions of faith and faithfulness. I have fewer answers than I would like. Yet, often I find that wrestling with uncomfortable questions is itself a faithful act. I hope you will allow me to offer some of my questions to you, my faith community. Perhaps we can find a way to journey forward together.
When the world is in upheaval, the familiarity of the liturgy can be comforting. Yet it is also meant to shape us. This week I’ve been wondering, “what does it mean that the confession for what we have done and what we have left undone always comes before the passing of the peace?” While watching the storming of the Capitol building, I was tempted to find any possible way to distance myself from the rioters. They were people who looked like me (white). They were people who carried symbols that are tied to my faith (the Christian flag, banners extoling Jesus). There is a temptation to say, “they aren’t real Christians.” It is tempting to condemn their actions, thinking that I have nothing to confess. It is tempting to jump straight into calls for peace. Yet I wonder, “What have I left undone?” If Christ can be co-opted to justify violence, if Christ (a middle eastern Jewish man) can be belittled into the mascot of white supremacy, then what has the Church left undone? What must we confess before we can get to the work of spreading Christ’s peace?
We may be tempted to think this is not our problem. That no one who knows our Jesus would ever see him as condoning violence or the dehumanization of anyone. Yet, this event happened. These images will forever live in our imaginations and our history books. Images of the Christian flag along with anti-Semitic shirts. Images of the proud boys (a white supremacist organization) along side images of banners with the name of Jesus. Whether we want these images to go together or not, they are now linked in the public imagination. What do we do with that?
As people of faith, we must also hold these events in the light of scripture. In our gospel readings, we find ourselves between Epiphany and the calling of the disciples. I find myself asking age old questions in light of this particular moment in history. What does it mean that God has a body? That Christ took on flesh? What does it truly mean to follow Jesus, here and now? What will it cost us? What must I leave behind in order to follow Jesus? What cross must I take up?
I have so many more questions. At this point, I don’t have any answers to offer. It’d be foolish to try in the few words I am given here. Yet I still have hope. While the mantra that “this is not who we are,” seems naïve to me, it indicates that this is not who we want to be. It tells me that there may still be sparks of prophetic imagination that can move us to do the work now before us. The work of confession. The work of following. The work of spreading the peace of Christ.
I also find hope in the witness of scripture. God is at work. God can choose imperfect people to do great things. If God can work through liars (like Jacob), or murderers (like Moses) then God can certainly be at work here…now…in people like us. The call to follow Jesus will come to us again this Sunday. Will we answer? Following Jesus may lead us to places we do not want to go. It may lead us into conversations that we do not want to have. Will we follow anyway? I sincerely hope so.
“Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Thank you that you, Oh God, are faithful.
Help us to follow.
Help us to follow in ever more faithful ways.
Shape us, that we might be instruments of your peace, sons and daughters of God.
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When we say “this is not who we are”, we should perhaps instead be saying “this is not who we think we are” or “this is not who we want you to think we are” or “this is not who we want to be”. When the temptation is to look outward and point the finger, it is so uncomfortable when God asks us to look inward!
Thank you for helping me understand my own thoughts. At least I have an idea for the first step for me.
A spot on post today–thank you. You are asking all the right questions. The challenge now is to begin to suggest some answers that are consistent with the “way of Jesus” in the world A Christian in my mind is one who seeks to speak and act in the way of Jesus. Wrestling with the specifics is best done, in my view, in community as we speak and listen to one another
So grateful for this devotion today Sarah. We will keep asking these questions and proposing answers in our communities of faith. It is messy and holy work and I am so grateful to have you as a partner in ministry.
Wow, Sarah, you have articulated for many of us the multitude of questions we didn’t even know we had. Thank you for shining a light on the path leading to Jesus, “healer of our every ill.”