In the past few days we have witnessed just how much hatred and anger have been simmering below the surface of America as the still present reality of racism came to a head in Charlottesville, Virginia. It did not take long before questions began to fly. “What will the president (or the governor or the congress) do?” “What will the police do?” And even “What will the church do?”
I find it fascinating that though the church has been marginalized in our culture, it is now called upon to do it’s thing, to do something about what is going on, to appeal to a high authority for reconciliation, justice and peace. Relegated to the margins of community life, we are suddenly needed. A majority of Americans may identify as Christian, yet fewer than a quarter of us actually engage in any kind of worship or other Christian activity in a typical week. Now we are suddenly spoken of as a necessary voice, one that must speak, and one that people ought to listen to.
It’s a good question. What will the church do? Since we are the church, the question easily translates to, “What will we do?”
That’s not an easy question to answer. What can we do? What can we say? What tools do we have in our belt to make a difference? Of course we can speak against racism, hatred, and violence. Yes, we can call people to love their neighbor. We can issue statements condemning some actions and calling for others. But you don’t need to be the church to say any of those things.
I wonder if anyone really want to hear what the church has to say? What do you think? The apostle Paul summed up our message well when he said that we don’t have any fancy, persuasive arguments. We simply proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
Oh. Why did you have to bring Jesus into this? Don’t you know he is an offensive to many, especially those who embrace diverse beliefs? Can’t you bring something a little more inclusive to the table?
Not really. He’s the cornerstone. He’s the wisdom of God. He’s the Alpha and Omega. He’s all we’ve got.
However, consider this. Who ignored the Jewish – Samaritan racial divisions of first century Judea? Who reached out his hand to touch the unclean rejects at the fringes of the community? Who didn’t seem to pay attention to who was Jewish or Greek, free or slave, male or female? Who didn’t engage in endless debates when challenged with questions that began with, “What do you have to say about…?” It was Jesus.
The message of Jesus’ death for sinners has a profound effect on those who accept the truth that Jesus did that for them. Supremacy fades when you understand what Jesus had to go through on the cross for you and for the person sitting next to you and that person you don’t know, but don’t trust because they are different than you. As Paul effectively laid out in the first three chapters of Romans, we’re all in the same boat, it’s sinking fast, and we’ve all got the same Savior. So it is the gospel, it is Christ and Him crucified, that is the key to tearing down walls, repairing the damage, and changing hearts.
What does the church have to say? It’s the same thing we preach, teach and confess every week when we gather around Word and Sacrament: the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
What will the church do? We will do what we always have done. We will gather, we will humble ourselves, we will confess, we will listen, we will proclaim, and we will go to be salt and light.
Lord, if the world is truly listening, give us the boldness to speak. Amen.