Culture

Praising God Amid Agonizing Realities

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How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13:1-6


“How long, O Lord?” is the agonizing question that opens Psalm 13, a passage that has been my recent heart’s cry as I agonized over the shooting of another unarmed Black man at the hands of white officers. Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back at point-blank range by Kenosha, WI police officers, leaving him hospitalized and paralyzed. When Blake awoke from the surgery that saved his life but not his ability to walk, he wept and cried into his father’s arms, sobbing, “Why did they shoot me so many times, Dad? Why?”

In the aftermath of the shooting, the brutality and rage flooding across my screen has stirred in me both despair and desperation. How long do we have to endure a duplicitous system that takes lethal action toward an empty-handed Black man while offering gratitude and gifts to white men walking the streets with military-grade weapons and murderous intent?

How long do we have to endure a duplicitous system that takes lethal action toward an empty-handed Black man while offering gratitude and gifts to white men walking the streets with military-grade weapons and murderous intent? Click To Tweet

Jacob Blake and the terrible aftermath of the unraveling of Kenosha wasn’t the only hard thing that happened last week, not even counting the ongoing effects of COVID-19. Hurricane Laura devastated parts of Louisiana, and Black Panther‘s Chadwick Boseman, a hero onscreen and off, shockingly lost his battle with cancer. Last week we also watched the effects of unchecked political and religious power play out in the deplorable saga of the Falwells, whose intoxication with power has made a scandalous and public mockery of our faith.

“How long, O Lord?” has been my prayerful refrain.

What This Moment Requires

This painful moment and this chilling season that we are in demands a faith that displays the tenderness of the Good Shepherd and resolve of the prophets. At Missio Alliance, we take great care in our theological reflection and rightly so. And yet, it is kairos moments such as these that require us to match our theological conviction with tangible action. As I have recently stated to the Missio Alliance community, I believe that the best theologies are rooted in geographies. For many of us, our geographies include streets filled with protests, landscapes filled with fires, seascapes filled with storms, and homes filled with disease. It is in these places that we must reflect on what is ‘good news’; what is the gospel is in these places and in these moments? And we might consider what the gospel demands of our living, our acting, our praying, our protesting, our preaching, our worshipping, and our witnessing in these places.

As Christian leaders, we have to leverage these moments to articulate a gospel that promotes the whole flourishing of all of humanity. Inaction and refusal to engage in dismantling oppressive systems only perpetuate the problems, which is an affront to the way of Jesus. It’s an anti-gospel that affirms partiality toward the powerful and undermines the truth that all of humanity is made in the image of God and thus has inherent dignity.

We have to leverage these moments to articulate a gospel that promotes the whole flourishing of all of humanity. Inaction and refusal to engage in dismantling oppressive systems only perpetuate the problems, which is an affront to… Click To Tweet

Our God Who Welcomes Lament and Praise

A faithful proclamation and demonstration of the gospel in a moment like this also requires us to embody the final verses of Psalm 13. As a result of God’s faithfulness and goodness, even in the face of overwhelming tragedy and persistent injustice, God is worthy to be praised. With determined resolve and persistence that refuses resignation, we hold in tandem the sorrow, grief, and lament of our “how long?” pleas with wholehearted praise to God for who he is and what he has done. God’s faithfulness and love are unending. God is renewing all things. God welcomes the lament and praise of his people.  This is such good news for humanity!

I would ask that you join me in offering the following prayer, for ourselves and for our congregations:

How long, O Lord,
will the Jacob Blakes,
Breonna Taylors,
and George Floyds
Of our country suffer?

Lord, give us perseverance
as we work toward the dismantling
of the oppressive systems
that plague not only our country
but also our congregations.

Give us eyes to see and ears to hear
the ways we’ve been complicit in our silence
in our ignorance, in our denial, in our distrust
of you and of our neighbor.

Remind us of the joy of your salvation.
Help us move from awareness to lament
From lament to repentance,
And from repentance to reparation
In order to faithfully reflect the
justice, beauty, and righteousness
Of your Kingdom.

Amen.

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