ST. LUKE'S WEEKLY COMMUNICATION
Monday, July 6
“I Don’t See Color”
This “Happenings” may be the most difficult piece I have ever written. Undoubtedly, it has made me as uncomfortable as anything I have written.
Yes, I said that, “I don’t see color!” What a moment of prideful self-righteousness that was. Then, someone with much greater wisdom than I (my wife) admonished me with, “maybe you should rethink those words.” Having an elevated perception of my egalitarian awareness of race, I was more than a bit taken-aback.
Being a person of self-perceived reason, I bristled, “no, really, I don’t see color!” Adding insult to injury, I proceeded to defend the indefensible. Why? Pride, the greatest inhibitor to self-examination. First, I was not going to admit a faulty truism and secondly, I did not wish to have it implied I could possibly have one iota of racial bias; after all, I am a compassionate humanitarian and Christian to boot... embracing the truth, “all are loved by a creator who created each in His image.”
That was then (not so long ago) and this is now. If I have since learned anything, it is that my depth of understanding for this topic was shallow, under-informed and significantly lacking in lived experience. My beneficent gestures of kindness and charity toward those of color was from an inherent position of privilege (not referring to status or affluence but rather damaging generalizations traceable to color of skin). Lacking awareness, I internalized a sense of bountifulness that was unknowingly cloaked in condescension. Accompanying this was the unwitting reality of unacknowledged bias that comfortably resided within me… clearly attributable to membership in the dominant racial group.
True confession, I see color, I have always seen color and rightfully so! Deceiving myself from this reality diminished my ability to see bias, prejudice and racism that inflicts the lives of individuals of color, every living day. By neutralizing color, I dismissed and trivialized the most significant contributor to bias. By my denial for seeing color, I was denying the effect color had on my behaviors -- ultimately, inhibiting me from digging deeper into the issues surrounding my privilege and the implications that has for persons of color.
At this moment you may be saying, Paul, you are using this as a cathartic moment to assuage 73 years of accumulated guilt. No! If my Lutheran doctrine has taught me anything it is that God’s grace and forgiveness… without exception… is always available. Self-flagellation is not only unbecoming but fruitless. Thankfully, forgiveness is modeled each time I repeat the Lord’s Prayer and better yet it is granted as a “free gift.” Awareness, self-examination and openness to change is what Jesus talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old thoughts and faulty perceptions are gone, and new thoughts and perceptions have begun,” (my slight paraphrase). We are human, “always a work in progress,” valued by God. Our responsibility is to self-examine, acknowledge flaws (sin), ask forgiveness and pray for the wisdom and courage to change... with the Holy Spirits help. Incidentally, all this is imbedded within the liturgy we embrace every time we worship. What a gift!
Through no choice of mine, I became a member of the privileged group. My perceptions of life have that overtone without my awareness. While embracing that reality, I have a responsibility to humbly become aware of the faulty assumptions and practices that keep my brothers and sister of color from experiencing the blessings I take for-granted. I must become an active participant in healing the wounds, righting the wrongs and creating a better world! This is no small task... I have decades of faulty perceptions to alter but there is no better time than the present to begin the process.
The Apostle Paul got it correct. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither ‘Black (slave) nor White (free)’ nor is there male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus,” Galatians 3:28. Jesus is the only one who can rightfully state, He sees no difference... I have not yet arrived! Humbled by my wife’s admonishment, I pray for the humility to serve all my brothers and sisters of color, in love and prayerful informed awareness.
God’s love & peace,
Suggested book reading: White Fragility
Monday, June 29
Being a Healthy Congregation
The New testament speaks of the church as a living system—“the body of Christ.” St. Paul makes it clear that the “body of Christ” is a whole comprised of many parts, yet functioning as one. The various members and services of the congregation interact much as do the cells and organs of the human body with the ongoing interplay of blood circulation, nerve endings, chemical messages, and energy sources. The mark of organic life is the continual struggle of balance and imbalance. If balance fails there is sickness. Gross imbalance spells death. Health, therefore, is the drive for life, what an organism does to preserve itself, how it responds to challenges to its integrity, and how it adopts to changes.
It is always good for the congregation to look for what responses create health and what interactions and relationships foster healthy functioning. This is especially true given what we are experiencing today, the virus, social unrest, economic downturn, and struggle to being the church as we have known it to be in the past. Health is always a multi-functional phenomenon. Looking at a variety of health promoting responses can help the congregation to continue on its pathway to either achieve or maintain health.
In the coming weeks—yet to be determined exactly when—I will enjoy entering into conversations with you about marks of a healthy congregation focuses on what St. Luke’s already does well and areas where focus could invite some changes. In this process we will quickly realize that what keeps congregations healthy can also keep us healthy as human beings.
Normally, this would be happening by our gathering together and having face to face conversations. Now we will need to do this in a different way which is impacting the timing of when we will begin. Know that this will be happening and I am envious of the time we can gather—however that might be—and share insights with each other. Stay tuned.
Monday, June 22
Jesus’ Power Help Us Do Hard Things
There are things in life that can be hard. This looks different for all us. The list can include: hiking a tough trail, training hard for a sport, memorizing lines for a play or musical, having tough conversations with ones we love about tough subjects, opening up about something we are struggling with, supporting someone who is going through tough things, and so much more.
I recently read a quote that said “God does not promise that hard things won't happen, but God promises to be with us through them.” I think this is so true, it is a mystery to me why we live in a world where we experience so many hard things, but it is not a mystery to me that God is with us. Through Jesus we are given the courage and strength to do hard things. We do not do this alone, we are called to help one another and support one another through the ups and the downs of life.
Please know that it is okay to not go through hard things on your own, it is okay to ask for help, and God is with you every step of the journey. We do not “get over” hard things in life, we journey through them and lean on each other and cling to God, who can handle all that we give him.
“Dear Jesus, help me to remember that you are always with me and walk alongside me as I journey through the good and the bad of life. Thank you for your love. Amen”
On the journey together,