Pastor’s Corner on Pentecost Monday: 38th and Chicago

Thank you, God, that you have never been silent. Thank you for assurance of your sustained plan for our good. I am sorry when I draw back in fear. In those times, remind me of your unceasing presence. Give me courage to boldly tell others, the good news of your love and grace. Amen.

For Pastor’s Corner today I want to take you to the corner of 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis. It’s at this corner in America, where an act of violence that stole life from a fellow Christian named George Floyd, has been transformed into a place of life, love and peace. I have just witnessed George Floyd’s brother, Terrence, visiting and praying at 38th and Chicago, for the first time.

I hope many of you have seen photos of gatherings in that place, the mural to honor George Floyd and the flowers and messages that surround it. I talked to my aunt this morning, who lives down the street, and she was just there, and my colleague and former supervisor showed me this place from the perspective of a neighborhood pastor yesterday via social media. As we have seen so many other more destructive and troubling images of the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, I hope you can hear and see the message of love and peace in that place and a call for justice that actually changes human hearts emanating from that place.

Terrence Floyd is a witness calling out for peace and justice that honors his brother’s memory and name. I am moved by the strength of this family that is grieving more than anyone, to be able to call out for peace, and choose to be witnesses to a message of justice and peace as a powerful response. It would have been easy for him, as it is for any of us, to give into emotions of fear and anger, and the deeper problems of denial and despair in our communities and in our selves. I am grateful for Terrence’s witness and call to action. I hope we all can do the same in our responses and see them as a witness to what God has declared in our ears for so long. That God cares for justice and peace, and calls on all of us to create and protect communities that value all lives, especially those that are not valued by the powers of the world. Jesus calls us to be in opposition to those powers and the pain they cause our neighbors. On the cross, Jesus showed us the brutality of the status quo and empire. Jesus told us to listen to the voices that aren’t heard and those that had less power and to speak for them. That is exactly what Black Lives Matter stands for. So, if you are somehow offended by that term, please rethink that and talk to Jesus about it. See what he says about it. We all seek a way of creating just communities without violence and we want to go beyond George Floyd being another victim of what seems like an untouchable power. Terrence Floyd called on this to be a movement that goes beyond desperate destruction and identifying as victims of these powers. He reminded me and others that there is power and hope that goes beyond that. That’s what Pentecost reminds us. The Spirit brings us that power…to do what we can’t imagine ourselves.

I saw Pentecost in action in police officers and leaders, hearing the language of the protestors and joining them in condemning the action of the four officers in Minneapolis. In our divisive times, someone who watches Fox News and someone who watches MSNBC may as well be speaking in tongues, but perhaps for the first time we heard an almost universal condemnation of the actions of these police officers and a call for justice and reform. I join that call, as something that goes beyond politics. It is about human decency and honoring all human lives that live in fear. Yes, that’s right all lives matter, but in order to see that truly honored we need to call out for justice, for those that do not experience the same value and respect. That’s what Jesus tells Christians they should be doing.

As I heard the voice of Terrence Floyd in that street today, I thought of the Pentecost flames above him and those around him like in the Book of Acts. I know his voice comes from a place of faith, in a time of incredible loss, and I pray that it is understood and heard, especially those that often speak a different language. I want the world to know that faith and witness we share with Terrence is powerful. It is not weak, and if we believe what Jesus says about it, it’s the only hope we need. It’s what whispers in our ears but we are called to sing it from the rooftops. God has declared that all human beings deserve love and Jesus invited us into a Beloved Community where all are valued. God wants us to keep inviting people into that and not assume it is already here or that things are good enough for most people. I hope that today you will find a way to witness to the gift of love and grace you know in Christ, and hear the call to create just communities that honor and value life.

I want you to think of that place I introduced earlier, 38th and Chicago, as a place of Pentecost and an epicenter of the gospel of love, peace and hope in the face of injustice and human failures. Our Lord was crucified and died publicly. Our witness comes from a place of pain. Our Lord called us to listen and care for those that the powerful may ignore. And whether we are witnessing and making calls for justice from our socially distant homes or on the street, we can declare that our Lord grieves the loss of George Floyd, because our Lord knew the pain of a public crucifixion, but the good news is also there, that because our Lord lives, we know that George Floyd lives! These are the promises we declare at baptisms and funerals, and we declare them now for a man who once carried a baptismal font into a church, and died in the closest way to a crucifixion than most of us have ever seen. Jesus lives at 38th and Chicago and in the witness of George Floyd and his brother Terrence. Jesus lives in your hearts and your lives, and that is a powerful work of the Spirit. That is Pentecost.

As you read the daily texts again for today, please think of how the places you know—your home, your neighborhood, your relationships, your church— can become outposts of the gospel witness. How can we reconcile? How can you bring hope? How can we be people of Pentecost, inspired by the Spirit at work in the world to work for reformation, transformation, and reconciliation. As we declare Jesus lives and that he invites each of us into his resurrection, we declare that George Floyd lives, as his name continues to ring as a call for freedom in our communities. Terrence Floyd asked an hour ago to “Keep it ringing”, and I hope we do. From the streets and the rooftops, we say his name, as we name Jesus his brother, and the power of resurrection in the hearts and minds of the world.

Pastor Josh