Rev. Dr. Steven Yagerman
Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24).
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, instructing them to baptize people and teach them to obey his commandments. This obedience is essentially shorthand for the church’s mission, i.e. to begin the reconstruction of human culture on the foundation of love.
Today we see our nation torn asunder by the strife of hatred and racism. This is not new. From the earliest lessons in Genesis, jealousy, envy and hatred have led to fratricide. Jealousy and hatred blind us from seeing the humanity and sacred worth of others. I feel certain that, at least for those nine minutes, Officer Derek Chauvin did not see the humanity of George Floyd. Mr. Floyd was other, he was enemy, he was less than human. Officer Chauvin felt a certain mania that told him he had the power of the deity. It was as if he were intoxicated by hatred and possessed by that spirit of depravity that has been the founding underbelly of our national experience, i.e. racism, that has also manifested itself as genocide. In no way do I mean to imply that such intoxication and possession lessen the culpability of the crime. I am only saying it was an explicit manifestation of something that has been walking our streets and haunting our history since the first slave ships arrived from Africa and Manifest Destiny violently subdued Native Americans.
Where does it stop and where do we go? For those sent out on Trinity Sunday, it starts with the commandment to follow the teachings of Jesus. This has little to do with holding up Bibles or other religious symbols. This means following the dictates of the Christ found in our own baptismal covenant. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to recognize the dignity of every human being. We are to forgive sins and offer reconciliation. We are to continue in the Apostles teaching and fellowship.
For too long the church has been more like an addendum to real life, like a vestigial organ of the body politic. People have learned they could be just as happy without it. However, this is the time where the confidence in secular solutions is shaken. This is the time where the church needs to understand its unique place and voice in the public square. The best slogans and solutions of the protesters are really taken from our sacred scriptures. Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24). This is what people still know to be right and true, they just don’t know where it came from. This is the time for the Church to boldly proclaim a new way of being human.
On this Trinity Sunday, we are not looking for converts to fill up our church and balance our budget. We are looking for people who want to follow The Teacher who leads us to a new way of being human, a community of all peoples and nations, with its economy based on empathic love, radical forgiveness and compassionate recognition and response to all human need.