Sunday, June 7, 2020
Intern Teleen Saunders
“I can’t breathe.” These were the last words of George Floyd on May 25th. By now many of you have seen the video. A breath disrupted became a life disrupted. A community disrupted. A pandemic disrupted. The status quo throughout the world, disrupted. Because George Floyd could not breathe. Let us say his name: George Floyd.
The spring of 2020 has been a series of disruptions starting with Covid-19 creeping across the globe from one person to another. Disrupting Sunday worship, weddings, graduations, livelihoods, and trips to the grocery store. Add to this the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests both peaceful and malicious. Suddenly what was already a tumultuous time has multiplied ten times over affecting everyone differently but affecting everyone, nonetheless. All you have to do is look around. Parishioners consigned to (online worship) their car during worship. Children kept home from school and summer camp. Boarded up stores and restaurants. Social media lighting up with truth, near truth, and down-right falsehoods. The din of helicopters on patrol. Cities on curfew, roads closed, breaking news at every moment. A disruption unlike anything our community has experienced before.
And yet here we are, gathered in the name of the Triune God. The pastor side of me wants to hold your hands and look into your face to see how you are doing. But the preacher side of me knows that this is the closest we will get and I have less than ten minutes to make sense of it all in light of the gospel.
Now perhaps some of you are thinking that current events have become just too political. Perhaps I should just stick to the Bible and leave the politics to the politicians. Well, let me tell you. A wise minister once said to preach with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. And that’s what I intend to do today. After all, that’s what Paul was doing when he wrote this letter to Titus. You have to understand, that these letters of the New Testament were never written to be part of Holy scripture. They were timely, pragmatic, honest letters written to budding communities of Christ, communities that were also facing a time of great disruption.
What we now call Christianity, simply did not exist at the time of Titus. The early movement of Christ followers assumed that all Jewish people would naturally enter into this new covenant through Christ with God. But that’s not what happened. Instead, separate religious movements emerged throughout the ancient world. Some remained faithful to the traditional practices while others started new traditions loosely held together by word of mouth, traveling evangelists, and yes, letters. Moving from the old testament into the new was messy, contentious, and chaotic.
All disruption brings change and change is scary. Look at our fears today. Should I wear a mask or not? Should I go to a protest march? Is it safe to get a haircut? Why is the national guard parked on my street? Can we have communion yet? This disruption in our lives has caused us to reimagine who…we… are. And ironically, the casual letter to Titus is as relevant to us today, as it was for the church in Crete two thousand years ago where Paul reminds the people who they are.
You are people claimed by the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Savior through the waters of baptism and renewed day by day with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now go out and act like it. “So that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone.” What starts as a holy dance between God the creator, Christ the redeemer, and the sustaining Spirit spills into the world upsetting the status quo like never before in an act of what I call, “Holy Disruption”.
Sometimes, we are too quick to call for peace. Sometimes a Holy Disruption is what we need. When the threat of the corona virus recedes, will we, as a society become better people, or will the over 100,000 American deaths be nothing but an inconvenient statistic. Will we not learn that no matter how many walls we build or fingers we point in blame, there is no escaping our shared humanity. When this virus recedes will we take health care workers, teachers, and scientists for granted? Will we stop helping our older neighbors with groceries? Will we stop taking family walks? I hope not. Let us devote ourselves to good works. Let the church of Jesus Christ become Holy Disrupters. Because the same momentum is needed to get us out of our rut of white privilege.
Why did it take a video of George Floyd’s death for so many light skinned people to finally comprehend what black and brown skinned Americans have been experiencing for the past 400 years? It’s not time to sweep the incident under the rug in a rush for peace. It’s time for the church to hold to its identity as Holy Disrupters. To be clear, I am not calling for violence or the malicious destruction of property. Earlier in the letter, Paul himself urges reverent behavior and self-control as he calls out people who profess to know God, but deny God by their actions. Holding up a Bible does not a Christian make. We must forge our identity through our actions. It’s time for white people to listen to their black and brown skinned friends. It’s time to challenge the effects of systemic racism. It’s time to confess, time to pray, and time to change. And change is scary. But we can do this. And we must.
Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one being in eternal relation, so we too exist in relation with all of God’s creation. Holy Disruption sets to make this relationship right. And only then, will there be peace. This is the work of the church. And as Paul says, “these things are excellent and profitable to everyone.”