Rev. Chris Pollock
I’ve been on vacation this week. It’s the first vacation I’ve had since we started the new church. While on vacation, I try to unplug; see how far I can get off the grid. It’s important for me to put my burdens down for a bit and rest.
I’ve struggled putting them down this time.
I love my church. I love my city. I think that’s why I’m burdened.
Since I’ve been gone, a lot has happened.
• Pastor Michaele has led us in starting a new sermon series: Praying the Prayer of Jesus. I am glad she is leading us in this. It’s the most important prayer ever prayed.
• New government officials were either elected or re-elected. Some have great new ideas and want to implement policies that help the poor. Most have ideas and policies that lead them to help themselves.
• Kevin Durant has left Oklahoma City. We feel betrayed but there is more to it. We remember when there was nothing in OKC. We felt that we were a “City on the Rise.” Now, we can see that this is the beginning of a chain of dominoes that may fall. This leaves questions, not just for our team but also for our local economy.
• There have been more African American individuals killed at the hands of police officers. Innocent police officers have been the victims of an individual who took justice into his own hands. I’m broken hearted. I’m devastated. I’m speechless. Baton Rouge. St. Paul. Dallas. There’s video footage… again. Our systems are broken. The disadvantaged are crying out. We, who have found protection under the current system, have been silent. We don’t admit our prejudices are real and our fears lead to violent acts. I’ve got friends that are officers. They put their lives on the line. I also have friends that are black and Hispanic. They have been hassled. They wonder #aminext. Both groups live in constant fear.
“Where is God in all of this?!”
I think the answer comes in Jesus’ Prayer: Our Father.
In praying the prayer of Jesus, we are able to call on Our Father. As your pastor, I am asking you to pray this with me. Perhaps you can’t get through the first line before you find yourself mad at Our Father. It’s okay. This is a justified anger. It is an anger God embraces. In your anger pray it anyway.
Our Father is an intimate and revolutionary title. We call upon God for help in days like this. To say Our Father is to say that we acknowledge God’s love for humanity – that #blacklivesmatter to me! By praying this prayer we acknowledge that people of color are God’s children, loved by the Father. Since God is “Our Father” we also acknowledge that these who are losing their lives are “Our brothers.”
We pray the Lord’s Prayer and begin to realize when we do God’s children are invited to align themselves with God’s will and God’s Kingdom. This is revolutionary!
The people of God are invited to embody virtues, virtues of ethics; Kingdom ethics. We are invited into God’s work: a work of mercy and justice. We are invited to speak on behalf of the ill-treated and the oppressed. We are a part of a new revolution. However, we recognize that this revolution does not meet violence with violence; it does not lead to more tyranny. It crushes violence with sacrifice.
We know this because: Our freedom comes through the suffering and death of the Son.
Because we are a community that values multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-racial relationships, we abhor acts of violence from those in power over those who are in vulnerable positions. At the same time, we abhor the violence that comes in retribution.
Paul tells us that Jesus, though he was God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he gave up his divine privileges, took on the form of a servant and made himself nothing. He became obedient to death, even death on a cross…
This non-violent, but just response, is the way of the Messiah.
The Jews of old have much to teach us in this regard. For them:
… the national hope seems to have slipped away; the things we thought were so secure have turned to dust an ashes; yet we cling to the fact that you are our Father, and that fact gives us hope where humanly there is no hope. When will the evil end? When would [we] be free? Most Jews knew in their bones, because they celebrated it at Passover and sang about it in the Psalms, that freedom would come when God gave them the new, final Exodus. Many believed this would happen when the Messiah came. The very first world of the Lord’s Prayer says: Let it be now; and let it be us. Father … Our Father …” (Wright)
To lean on these things: the signing of Kevin Durant, our new elected politicians and the ones that have been reelected, to depend on the base of our local economy, or even the police, for that matter, isutter foolishness. Frankly, professional athletes are greedy, politicians are power hungry, and police are prejudice. These have been our messiahs. We’ve worshiped safety and believe that violence can be redemptive.
We’ve been wrong.
As a church, we stand for justice and do so in non-violent, self-sacrificing ways. We speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We confess our own sins. We reflect on the ways in which we have contributed to these acts. We no longer remain silent when injustice happens. Because God is Our Father, we stand in solidarity with our brothers. Our Father invites us now to do hard things, go to difficult places, and say hard words to those who hang onto prejudice, violence, and racism.
The way of the true Messiah is to pray these words: Our Father. Therefore it becomes our way. In doing this we join with Our Father as the God of love ushers in this new revolution. We need it. We need it today. We need it now. I’m praying with you.
Grace and Peace.
Chris Pollock, Pastor
As we pray to Our Father, we remember those who have been killed this week. These have made national news:
Lorne Ahrens, 48, Texas
Philando Castile, 37, Minnesota
Michael Krol, 40, Texas
Michael Smith, 55, Texas
Alton Sterling, 37, Louisiana
Brent Thompson, 43, Texas
Patrick Zamarripa, 32, Texas
We pray for the families of these who have lost their lives. We also recognize that they represent thousands that have been victims of racism and violence this week but are not “news worthy.” While we might not know their names, Our Father does…
Philippians 2:6-8 (My translation)
N. T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer, 5-6.