Too many times I choose the less risky path of remaining in the comfort of complacency. As a follower of Jesus, the one who fulfills prophecy, reinterprets the Law of Moses, and shows us the way of the Kingdom of God, one would think I would be among the bold-the risk takers-for I know how the story ends and I recognize that I (we) have a role to play!
But, being an employed, middle-class, white, male, I’m too often soothed by my affiliation with the dominant culture within and beyond the church. Many times I don’t even adequately recognize the moments of truth and dynamics at play that unjustly impact my brothers and sisters in Christ and my cousins by faith. I’m not completely blind to injustice but I also don’t fully see the injustices around me. More accurately, I don’t directly and personally experience the injustices so I’m somewhat numb to them. It’s no excuse, but it’s real.
At the 2017 Hope for the Future Conference, I chose to engage with others in the Black Lives Matter and Mennonite Church USA breakout session. My interest in the Black Lives Matter movement is genuine and I’ve made it a priority in recent years to better educate myself about racial injustice and white supremacy. It’s one of the reasons that I accepted the invitation to participate in the Hope for the Future Conference as part of the white caucus. Hearing the deep pain and raw fear of the people of color around the circle was not surprising to me and I thought I had capacity to listen, hear and hold the pain as part of the group gathered. What did surprise me was the silence in the room when the white people were asked what risks they were ready to take to support the Black Lives Matter movement on a personal, congregational and denominational level. Silence.
It was my lack of response in the moment that has stayed with me. There is a churning within; a stirring of the soul; a troubling of the waters of my being. And I’m glad for it-for this I felt; this I experienced-this too is real.
In the scriptures for today, I imagine the centurion to be from the dominant culture. Life was good for him. It was predictable in that he knew his place and it was certainly a place of privilege. Yet there came a time when he could not manage his household on his own power and position. A member of his household, his highly valued servant, was ill and close to death. What do you suppose it took for him to risk the security of his position in society to reach out to Jesus for healing for this man? I believe it was no small risk, and yet he took it.
My prayer in this Lenten season and beyond is to grow in my risk-taking such that I will be able to better align myself with people marginalized, targeted, and oppressed and use my power and position to call for these sisters, brothers, and cousins to be treated justly.
Yet God’s vision in the Isaiah passage for today goes well beyond people simply being treated justly. We read there of deliverance and saving action from God. How can we work toward less? As followers of Jesus, let us boldly proclaim, through word and action, the Kingdom of God in the here and now.
Scripture passages: Psalm 121; Isaiah 51:4-8; Luke 7:1-10
Originally posted in The Mennonite.
Brian Martin Burkholder serves as university campus pastor and director of campus ministries at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
More Lenten reflections, including daily posts by Daryl Byler, executive director of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, are posted at www.emu.edu/lent