To give our office manager, Bridget Ellis, as much time as possible to edit and put together our Sunday morning worship, it is required that we get our individual recordings to her as early in the week as we can. I’ll let you in on a trade secret: I’m recording this on Tuesday.
There are obvious disadvantages to this, however. One is that if an event occurs later in the week that requires a needed response, there’s little or nothing we can do. That is what happened last week after the tragic and needless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, killed at the hand – or should we say the knee – of a police officer, while three other compliant policemen stood by as this crime was committed. You did not hear us mention it in our worship service because it was recorded prior to this occurrence being made public.
So while it may be a bit late – though I doubt it since the anger is still raging – I want to offer a word that I hope will encourage you to be a part of the solution rather than the problem. Though I’ve heard it a number of times, I do think it to be very true: to be silent is to be a part of the problem, and I do not want to be counted in that number. Knowing you, I think you feel the same way.
There’s a sense in which perhaps I should have preached last week’s sermon this week. Do you remember? If you don’t, or if you have not tuned in to participate in Sunday’s Pentecost worship, you can still do so on our Facebook page, YouTube, or website (www.fbcmemphis.org). If you have not done that, let me share this with you… In my sermon, I told about the Risen Christ’s meeting with his frightened disciples in the upper room. What did he say to them? He said, “Shalom, halakem. Peace be with you.” What did he do? He breathed on them, sharing with them his HS.
I said in that sermon, “To put one’s breath into another is the same as putting a bit of one’s self in the other person.”
Following George Floyd’s death, I couldn’t help but be struck – and I do mean struck – by the juxtaposition of this story from scripture and the story from our headlines. Jesus breathed himself, his Spirit, his Soul, into his disciples while that Minneapolis policeman took Mr. Floyd’s breath from him. “I can’t breathe,” he kept saying, “I can’t breathe.”
Sisters and brothers, fellow followers of Jesus the Risen Christ, it is our calling – we are ordered by our Master himself, according to the text from Matthew’s gospel that we have considered today (Matthew 28:16-20) – to share his holy Breath with those we encounter. We are not to take that breath from them, but to put breath into them by our acts of kindness and love. Every act or thought of racism takes the breath from those who are victimized by it. Regardless of color or religious affiliation, culture, or language (remember all the many languages spoken on that first Pentecost?), we are to offer the breath of Christ to everyone we encounter.
If our nation, our world, is ever going to be changed in any way to resemble the One who created it and loves it dearly, we must share our breath especially with those who say to us, “I can’t breathe.” Anything less is not justice, it is not mercy, nor is it Gospel.
Lord have mercy. Come, Lord Jesus, come.