CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: Dropping the Barriers
Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
- Matthew 10:40-42
Back in the early 80's, I worked for a radio station in Miami as a reporter and news producer. We had a slogan at that time that said, “We Walk the walk, we talk the talk, but we doesn’t play no music.” While it was grammatically questionable, the slogan was designed to instantly identify us a news/talk station. It seems fair to use that slogan in church at a time when we are being called to walk with Jesus and to use our voices in a moment when we cannot sing.
The last several months have presented us with a great many challenges. As we are sheltered in place, we continue to be called to care for one another. As a result of untimely deaths, prolonged illnesses and shuttered businesses, it is incumbent upon us to find creative ways to support each other. Our work continues even in the midst of a virus in the land. In fact, there is so much need that we are duty-bound to share our resources with others.
As we seek new opportunities in the midst of this challenge, our nation finds itself also grappling with the cries of its black and brown citizens. The cries went up early on as COVID-19 began ravaging our communities at phenomenal rates. The disparities in our nation bubbled to the surface in terms of lifestyle conditions as we witnessed the disproportionate impact of the virus on an already vulnerable community.
The cries continue as those same communities mourn the losses of black men and women in senseless ways. Some of the soul-stirring weeping is reminiscent of the lament-filled Psalm 13, particularly the lines: "How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?"
In this pivotal moment, it has been extraordinary to see the multicultural response and outpouring of love and concern to these reprehensible acts of violence. People of all colors and ethnicities have taken to the streets to demand an end to the divisiveness that continues to separate us. Those disciples are answering God’s call to welcome everyone into a world where all can feel safe and included.
Jesus says, “whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Jesus is calling us to welcome all into a new era of total equality. A sincere welcome requires that we drop all barriers that preclude us from seeing each other as equals. Full stop!
The rallies and protests around the country, and indeed around the globe, have reignited conversations in every community about what the world would look like if we were all welcome as full-fledged citizens of the world. This would allow us to live into a God-filled world in which all are cared for.
Our Episcopal Church is obliged to be a guiding force in these conversations that will hopefully lead to a paradigm shift in the too-often negative or fearful perceptions of minorities. Sincere welcoming will continue to be elusive until we determine the underlying conditions of the horrible sin of racism. It begins with a historical understanding of how we got to this point. Black people have been a part of the Episcopal Church since the very beginning in the United States. The struggle for full inclusion and a sincere welcome has been the source of a great deal of pain and debate for 400 years. A great deal of racial justice training and conversations have been offered and, of course, there has been some progress. We are not there yet. In the 21st century, inclusion means more than polite discussions that are forgotten after a while. Action is required.
We must do more than talk the talk. When we begin to walk the walk, we shift into a posture of doing the work to create the world we want to have. We begin to follow Jesus in transforming and living into the world that he preached about throughout his ministry.
Jesus is inviting us first to consider how we welcome God into our lives. As God speaks to us, are we listening? As God seeks to have a closer relationship with you, the loved one, is your heart open to hear and receive the message? God sincerely wants to walk this journey with all of God’s people. God welcomes us to be loved unequivocally. Jesus call us to love each other. In John 13:34-35, Jesus said “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” As followers of Jesus and followers of the faith, when we love others as we love ourselves, a sincere welcome is extremely possible.
Sincere welcome from one to another will dramatically lessen the chance that we, as black people, need to feel afraid for our lives as we move around in this country. Sincere welcome will ensure that black and brown people have equal opportunities within our church structure. Sincere welcome will ensure that our stories are told and truly heard by those who too often have hesitated to really listen to the struggle and lived experiences of those who look different from themselves. Listening creates amazing opportunities for understanding, and understanding can lead to change.
Let us boldly declare that in this moment we are going to walk in the way of love to welcome each and every human being. Amen.
The Rev. Kathy Walker is the missioner for black ministries in the Diocese of North Carolina.
Tags: Caminando with Jesus