And there was Holy Week and Easter and a mini-super spreader event and the month’s not yet over. This is my explanation for writing only 4 posts in April – until today.
The over stimulation of the past four weeks has required time to process and – as God often does it – my processing time happens in unexpected moments. I was listening to the Jon Stewart podcast with Isabel Wilkerson (you can listen here and I hope you will) and it helped clarify why the world feels heavy inspite of life’s great joys like true love and resurrection and the moving of the Spirit.
As Wilkerson describes the state of our union (the United States), it’s like a 400 year old house that all of us live in together. We’ve noticed that the floors were installed unevenly during construction and the ventilation needs improvement. And the bricks need to be repointed after all these years and the roof definitely leaks. We can ignore all this maintenance but we do so at our peril. In the long run, it’s better for all of us who live in this house to level the flooring and improve the ventilation and repoint the bricks and replace the roof. (These are my words, not Ms. Wilkerson’s.)
The world feels especially heavy when – simplistically speaking – one side wants to spend time banning books instead of assault weapons, one side wants to make it harder to vote instead of easier, one side wants to talk about sexuality in ways that bring more shame and less wholeness. Again, I’m being simplistic and – frankly – political.
In the Stewart podcast there was discussion about The Big Year When We All Experience Something We’ve Never Experienced Before In the United States: in 2045 people with white skin will be outnumbered by people with brown and/or black skin. I believe this is the underlying reason why the world feels so heavy right now. This fact worries White People. And we – White People – are the ones who need to figure out how to fix our house for the benefit of all people.
As our family celebrated the joining of multiple cultures at weddings in India and NYC, it felt like home in a way that would have seemed so foreign to my parents. I believe they would love this family photo and yet it would be a marvel to them.
At the installation of one of our pastors into a new position yesterday, I was struck by the power of those participating in the service. Our Presbytery is blessed with more African American members than any other Presbytery in the world and this installation was led mostly by Women of Color who could indeed run the world. And yet most of our congregations – across my denomination and most denominations – are predominantly White and segregated from people with Brown, Black, and Golden skin.
Again – White People – this is our work to do. If we take seriously what The Reign of God looks like, we must admit that it looks more like the two weddings and one installation I’ve attended this month than most of the weddings and pastoral installations we attend.
This is Good News even though refurbishing an old house can be exhausting. Isabel Wilkerson gets the final word here:
America is an old house. We can never declare the work over. Wind, flood, drought, and human upheavals batter a structure that is already fighting whatever flaws were left unattended in the original foundation. When you live in an old house, you may not want to go into the basement after a storm to see what the rains have wrought. Choose not to look, however, at your own peril. The owner of an old house knows that whatever you are ignoring will never go away. Whatever is lurking will fester whether you choose to look or not. Ignorance is no protection from the consequences of inaction. Whatever you are wishing away will gnaw at you until you gather the courage to face what you would rather not see. (From Caste)
[Note: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s family has made an exhibition of his work available in NYC and we were blessed to attend last week. His work expresses the same thoughts shared by Ms. Wilkerson. More here.]
Wow! The old house metaphor is powerful and applies to the church as well, right? The church has certainly made efforts to maintain and update the old house, but as with a house, that work must be ongoing if it’s not to collapse in the next storm.
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