A Sunday Prayer

Lord,

We give You thanks for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who lived with integrity and conviction, but also sought to bring people together.

We give You thanks for family members who have sacrificed so much for us because they love us more than themselves.

We give You thanks for first responders who repeatedly put themselves in harms way for people they do not know.

We give You thanks for teachers who give day-in and day-out so that our nation’s children can have a better life and craft a better world.

We give You thanks for the silent saints who simply follow Jesus every day in the midst of whatever it is they are doing.

But most of all, we give You thanks that You are God and nothing that happens in life or death can ever separate us from Your love in Jesus Christ.

We pray this in the strong name of Jesus.

Amen.

Doing Something

You don’t need to do a whole lot of things. You don’t need to impress God because God already loves you. You don’t need to prove how righteous you are because God has taken care of that by Jesus’ death on the cross. You don’t need to win God’s approval because God’s already given it. But you do need to do something. You do need to love God with everything you’ve got. You do need to live every day in response to God’s love. You do need to keep growing deeper in your life as a Jesus’ follower. Why? Doing something to gain God’s love is a dead end; doing it because you have experienced the fullness of God’s love is the way to life. 

Kingdom Reality

The reality of life’s painful moments cannot be ignored or explained away. But Jesus talks about another reality that exists in the midst of your painful realities – the Kingdom of God. While he is clear it is something that will be fully manifested at some point in the future, he also says you can experience this Kingdom reality right now because it already dwells in you. It is not something you construct. Rather it is something you recognize through trusting eyes of faith and claim as your reality. Sure, you’ll still experience how hard life can be. But you can also begin to live in the Kingdom of God right now. So what are you waiting for?

Work to be a Reconciler

Should you behave any differently because of your relationship with your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, than you otherwise would in the midst of these days of deep divide, increasing polarization and a highly partisan presidential campaign? Of course! Live in the Kingdom of God that already is all around you rather than the culture of social media and 24 hour cable news. Seek to understand why people believe what they believe rather than writing them off. And speak the truth in love with deep humility rather than demonizing those who don’t agree with you. Will this change the world? Maybe. But even more importantly, you’ll be responding to the Apostle Paul’s call in 2 Corinthians 5 to be a reconciler rather than yet another divider. 

Understanding Our Implicit Bias is the First Step Toward Vital Conversations

Understanding Our Implicit Bias is the First Step Toward Vital Conversations

conversation

By Rev. Rashim Merriwether

Special Assistant to the Bishop on Ethnic Concerns and Initiatives

“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts… “

-Nikki Giovanni

As we begin to remove bricks from the wall of racism, we are finding that this process is not an easy one, nor is it for the faint of heart. Every brick is mired in over 400 years of slavery, 12 years of reconstruction, 100 years of ‘Jim Crow’ laws, 86 years of redlining, and countless actions of hate that have never been reported. It has been only 39 years since the lynching of Michael Donald, by Klansmen on March 21, 1981 in Mobile, Alabama and 18 years since the racist sundowner signs were removed from 71 North in Rogers, or Hwy 10 in Booneville, Arkansas respectively. 

To pull at each brick, is to reveal the pain, the suffering, the undeniable testimony of victim’s loss. Up until this point, it has all been abstract thoughts, passion-filled comments, and the occasional uncomfortable moment. But now we are taking part in studies, prayer groups, book studies and conversations meant to begin this work at dismantling systemic and systematic racism and people are feeling the pains of growth and understanding.

 The General Commission on Race and Religion (GCORR), was created in 1968, to begin the conversation on systemic and systematic racism, develop and provide resources to equip leadership, clergy and congregations with tools to address the different forms of racism. One of the recent studies offered has been a study on “Implicit Bias, what we don’t think we think.”

Implicit Bias is a study developed through a Harvard initiative; Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility,” is a contributor. Its premise is to begin a conversation in recognizing implicit bias, questioning implicit bias and transforming implicit bias. 

Understanding our individual implicit bias is the beginning of having vital conversations regarding cultural differences and finding intercultural competency, to dismantle policies and practices that prevent conversations and actions focused on institutional, and cultural equity. It is a first step to having deeper discussions on how cultural diversity, ethnic issues and implicit biases translate into words, thoughts, impressions, and belief systems, which leads to actions, and structures. This ultimately forms larger issues such as systemic and systematic racism. As the group collectively immersed itself in varying degrees, one thing became clear, “We were no longer in Kansas anymore.”

With each brick, a new bias is revealed. With each revelation comes the uncomfortability of ownership and responsibility. The weight of history, self-identity, confidence, entitlement, questioning and faith, all align into a perfect wave of anguish, guilt, anxiety and expectation. The knee-jerk reaction is to deflect, deny, minimize or even run from the raw reality of these difficult conversations and the impact of its effects on people of color either known or unknown. Others have become stymied in their actions, petrified over saying the wrong words or making a mistake. Still others will venture into this moment, trying to figure out how or what to do, and in doing so stumble, fumble and sometimes say the wrong words. Feeling the awkwardness of questions relating to the process of self-awareness which has taken hold of the moment, who honestly are concerned about doing the work. To those, I share the words of Nikki Giovanni, who said, 

“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.” 

In other words, as the bricks of racism are removed, there will be some hard and difficult times ahead. Instead of thinking about the strain and tension you face, lean into this moment of vulnerability, and embrace this transforming moment. God does not move within the parameter of our assured actions, or expectations, but in our lack of, so that we and others know that it is by God’s grace, authority, power and love we are transformed. 

Remember God’s word, in John 3:16 which says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

To all who are seizing this moment to lean into the space of vulnerability, I say keep up the good fight. To everyone else, I say, “Heaven is watching…”