Words and symbols of hate such as the ones spray-painted on the B-Line trail and the ones on the side of the Church in Bean Blossom are a stark reminder that the Church’s witness is critical. When people throw stones and use words that hurt, we can witness to love and compassion. When people turn our places of beauty and safety into chalkboards of hate, we can witness to justice and truth. Each of us is a witness to something. To quote Parker Palmer, “Our lives speak.” To what does your life speak? What does your witness look like?
My life has been dedicated to creating a safe space in which all people can explore the mysteries and beauty of a loving God. Like so many mainline denominations, the Episcopal Church has taken great strides in modeling God's unconditional love. This message is counter to what some believe about God. The more we make this message apparent, the more vulnerable we become. The wielders of the can of spray paint must have known something about the stance of the Episcopal Church, or they wouldn't have left their marks. In speaking our truths, in voicing our opinions, in standing up for what is right, we make ourselves vulnerable. The word for vulnerable comes from a word meaning 'to wound.' I think of all the brave souls who have been brave enough to make known their opinions about justice and equality. They made themselves vulnerable - wound-able.
The wounds made by a can of spray paint can be covered over, but they are impossible to erase.
I'm not sure what the days ahead will be like, but I am sure of this: God reigns. I know that a spirit of Light and Love is stronger than a spirit of darkness and hate. I know that, even when we take a few steps backward, God is always moving us forward, and this forward action involves our activity and participation. We are called to react, not to become reactive. So, we carefully and prayerfully consider our reaction. How do we respond? I recall the words of the prophet Micah who, in his time, was asking God for direction, and who also lived in the midst of trouble and confusion. “What does the Lord require?” Micah asked (Micah 6:8). To what are we called to witness? As it has always been: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. May God give us the wisdom to know when to listen, to know when to speak, and to know when to re-act. May God, even amid our struggles and confusions, bring peace.
This type of peace is more than just words and symbols so easily spray painted on walls and fences. God’s peace is of the heart and spirit - a peace that calls humanity to drop its weapons of swords and symbols and spray-paint. It is a peace that brings humanity to a place of genuine respect and appreciation for that which makes us unique, and for that which makes us the same.