Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.
Last Sunday, our worship began with the singing of Psalm 39, "I was mute and silent..." We reflected that there are times, as Barry has recently written, to speak up. And there are times--especially times of worship--when we listen. Isn't it striking that so much of worship is simply listening? And if we gather every Sunday morning to listen, shouldn't that be good practice for the whole week?
The murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbury seem to be sparking a revival of listening. As proof, many of you joined in #blackouttuesday out your instagram feeds yesterday, as an act of listening. There is no love without listening. No change without understanding. And this comes not a moment too soon.
How many countless protests have come before? How many books have been written on systemic racism? How many documentaries have been carefully crafted to lay it out before us? How many times have the darker and poorer people in our nation asked for attention, for an open ear, from the lighter and more wealthy?
Yes, it is a time to listen. To listen to those who were silenced for most of our nation's history. Even as I write this post, I find a strange relief in not having to speak to an issue I really don't understand. I'm glad to listen. But instead of making that general, I thought I'd invite you to make it particular with me. To whom are you listening?
Here's a short list of how we might listen more specifically. I would be glad for any suggestions you want to add to it.
-President Obama's facebook post was a striking example of grace and wisdom, especially if you disagree with most of his political convictions. His focus on local politics is important and refreshing.
-Bryan Stevenson's book Just Mercy is well worth your time. It increased my understanding of what is meant by "systemic racism" and my appreciation for those working every day to pursue Christlike justice.
-Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns is a thorough and well-told account of the great migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North after the Civil War and the ongoing ramifications. I'm only partway through this book, but can still recommend it wholeheartedly.
-"13th" - A documentary available on Netflix, which shows how both sides of the political aisle have contributed to the unjust systems which give rise to what we see around us. The title references the 13th ammendment to the Constitution, which forbade slavery, but not totally: those convicted of crimes were still allowed to be treated as slaves. This is not easy to watch, but it is important.
-Finally, Pastor Charlie Dates preached a powerful sermon last Sunday, "I Can't Breathe!" It will be inserted below. I can't imagine anyone listening to this to be left comfortable or unchallenged or hopeless. "Pentecost keeps us from an old future!"