My heart is still full from one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had in a long time. Last night our predominantly white Centenary United Methodist Church came to worship together with St. Paul United Methodist Church, who are predominantly African American. We had folks from United Methodist Churches in the east Winston Salem area join us. It wasn’t just a joint worship of strangers that share a denominational title. In fact the Holy Spirit showed up in a powerful way and it felt like I was worshipping with family.
It was a beautiful thing to see black and white together, not exactly sure of ourselves but trusting enough to just be together. To gaze on our joint choir and watch as each group learned and sang songs from the other’s traditions. The joy on their face and the incredible sound they produced moved me to by core.
To hear words spoken from young and old voices, black and white voices, clergy and lay voices that named our pain, our broken heartedness, our fears, and our hope in God and in the Body of Christ was powerful. There could have been no better balm for my weary and saddened soul then to sit in God’s presence and lament from the deepest part of my heart with brothers and sisters of like mind.
And we were of like mind. All of us were saddened over the death of black men at the hands of police officers. All of us were saddened over the death of officers in uniform at the hands of black snipers. All of us long for safe spaces to share how we feel about what is going on around us. All of us long for taking some next steps that matter. We just aren’t sure what they are. But we are sure that together, we can help this community of Winston Salem find a better way through this than what our nation has experienced. I’m grateful to Rev. Donald Jenkins and his courage and boldness to partner with us and help us find a better way forward.
I have hope like I haven’t felt in a long time. Politicians won’t solve this for us. But God sure does have a message that we can share that can solve this. And last night I saw a group of people who because of the love and hope that Jesus preached and modeled believe that we can do the same today.
Romans 8:22-28 (Common English Bible)
We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.
In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Grace and Peace,