It’s been another tough week for race relations in the United States. Shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte have ripped the loose scab off the fresh wounds from earlier in the summer. I have no grand insights on race relations. It’s the pessimism and hopelessness I’m seeing in my congregation and community which bother me. As such, I’m thinking about hope, Jesus, and Jeremiah.
I have an idea how he might have handled this week. I do believe, had he owned a smart phone or computer, his first instinct wouldn’t have been to take to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Jesus didn’t do name and shame. Nowhere in the gospel do you find the parable of the passive aggressive savior, where Our Lord cajoles people into joining the Jesus movement. Jesus never ends a parable with the words, “Just saying.” If Jesus couldn’t meet with people directly, particularly those opposed to his work, he’d wait for the opportunity to arise or create the moment. Jesus says I want to break bread with you not because I disagree with you or I’m opposed to how you think or you represent the most reprehensible elements of society. He says, “I want to come to you because I love you, God loves you, and love is bigger than all of that.” Each parable, story, and encounter returns the hearer to this message: God’s love is at work when you don’t see it, feel it, expect it, or deserve it. You are not disconnected from what God is already doing, simply because we can’t see it, because it’s not on TV, or the we’ve been conditioned to believe the world is about to end. Don’t bet against hope.
Jeremiah was once told to do something hopeless; buy a field in his hometown when the country was about to collapse. God tells Jeremiah and Jesus says to us that hope depends on our investment, with God, in an unseen tomorrow. The received wisdom of the moment is as seductive as it is wrong. There are no more words to say about the shock and horror of America’s racial nightmare. We must live with riots as we must live with the occasional questionable killing of a civilian by police. This is the new normal. A police state or anarchy, what will we be? No, no, no. If we have run out of words then we are only staring blankly into today’s dystopian nightmare. Today is not tomorrow and God owns the future. Good Friday is not Easter Sunday morning.
God is out there, going ahead of you, already at work. When you pray, God is waiting to meet you; you’re not calling upon God to come to you. God is already there, out there, ahead of you, in the mess. We find this in Jeremiah and we see in on the news. You see rioting on television, suffering refugees, or flooding in Louisiana and you ask; where is God? God is right there in the midst of the chaos, already there, at work, ahead of us, trying to do a new thing. What do you think, God waits until the crowds go home and the tear gas fades away? God doesn’t show up when it’s safe. If God waited to move until all the cosmic ducks were in a row, the money was in the bank, and safety was paramount, we would be nowhere. Our churches would be empty and our story unwritten. God moves in the darkness, among the chaos. That is what Genesis says. God came to Jeremiah with that same question and God is also asking us: Do you believe that creation is an ongoing process and what appears hopeless or foolish today will be alive tomorrow? I think it’s a good question; one I’ll keep asking.