40 Days Broken: Thoughts On Ferguson, Good Friday, and God’s Light

bird

In 4 months, we’ll have a son. A little boy! A bright, lively spirit that I imagine will be loud, adventurous, wild, curious, tender, rebellious, and deeply loved all at once.

8 months ago, another mother lost her son 557 miles from where I live.

In Ferguson, Missouri on a hot August afternoon, Michael Brown was shot by a police officer. Michael: another little boy- a bright, wild, rebellious and deeply loved all at once little boy-was shot at just 18 years old.

Different accounts about what happened to Michael Brown swirled. But somehow, that renewing and truth-telling commandment from God to love your neighbor as yourself was lost in the midst of a police chase after an afternoon convenience store robbery.

Somehow that deep and old commandment from God found Exodus and repeated by Christ in the gospel of Matthew that thou shall not kill… was broken in the midst of a young black man standing with his hands up, OR charging a police officer- who can say? But 12 shots were fired and a mother lost her son 8 months ago.

As I prepare for motherhood my joy and hope builds- but there is still a small whisper that reminds me: mothers are losing their children every day.

Tonight, we reach the end of our 40 day season of remembrance. On Good Friday, we come to the cross: another place where a mother lost her son.

On Good Friday, we are asked to bear witness to this pain.

We are called to go to the foot of the cross with Mary, a mother who lost her son. We are called to stay at the foot of the cross with Michael Brown’s mother as she grieves her son. We are called to go to the foot of the cross with all mothers who have lost children.

Good Friday reminds me that perhaps the world must be broken open first, to let the light in.

It is not difficult to see the broken pieces of the world around us. We live in a world where mothers still lose their sons and where 1 in 9 people go hungry each day worldwide.

We live in a world where 150 million people are homeless or live in refugee camps and temporary housing.

We see these 40 day cycles of brokenness throughout the Bible, and throughout the world today.

In the book of Genesis, God sent rain for 40 days and 40 nights in the great flood of Noah. Water filled the streets and spilled into everything. In 40 days the world was destroyed. (Genesis 7:4).

In the 40 days after Michael Brown was shot, protesters and swat teams swarmed in Ferguson, and tear gas filled the streets- spilling into everything. In 40 days, the shrine to Michael Brown was burned down, and the town was nearly destroyed.

In a world where God’s people were wandering in the desert- homeless and living in refugee camps on their way to the Promised Land… Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God in the book of Exodus. Here he received the 10 commandments that would build the moral backbone of the world.

In a world where 150 million people are wandering- homeless or live in refugee camps, we must remember that during a roughly 40-day fall Habitat for Humanity season in any given city, groups of people construct over 15 houses for families in need, building the backbone of communities.

In 1 Kings, Elijah spent time speaking to God about shifting power, about rising up so that people would be brought back to God. He spent 40 days and 40 nights walking to Mount Horeb and it made a difference. (1 Kings 19:8).

In Selma, Alabama in January 1965, Martin Luther King spent time speaking to God’s people about rising up so that they would gain equality and voting rights. For just over 40 days and 40 nights, the people of Selma planned to walk together to Montgomery and it made a difference.

Through homelessness and wandering, through long walks to Mount Horeb and Montgomery Alabama in search of redemption, through water and tear gas flooding streets, through mothers for generations grieving the death of their children dying out of order… at the foot of the cross and on the streets of Ferguson…

In Lent, we remember that God shows up and brings hope at the moment we are broken open.

Good Friday is a night to remember that God’s work often begins with a death- and rises out of the midst of 40 days of brokenness.

But soon, we will encounter the empty tomb. Soon, we will be reminded that a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome the light.

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4 Things I Hope the Future Church Teaches My Son

baby in church

4 months from today, we will be waiting, moment to moment, for our son to be born. I’ve already started to imagine what he will be like.

I imagine he will love hot sauce, like his dad.

I bet he’ll be a homebody like his mom.

I hope he can sleep through anything like his dad, and I hope he can sing like his mom.

Whoever he is, I hope our son loves The Church. But what will that mean for him?
What will the church teach him if he goes? And, what is it that Christ calls us to be in the world?

As I think about The Church this Holy week, these are the 4 things I hope the future church teaches my son:

1) Do not get swept away by duty, or expectations or the ‘shoulds’ of life, instead, when something speaks deeply to your heart, when something tugs at your soul- follow it, pursue it, and never look back.

When Christ went looking for his disciples, he didn’t look among the religious leaders or outwardly ‘religious’ people- those who were already praying in public or preaching in synagogues. Instead, he went looking for people who still had the ability to dream. He went to the sea shore at dawn, and he encountered young men- probably in their teens or twenties- and he said: ‘drop your nets and follow me.’

With that- these young dreamers dropped their fishing rods. They left behind their duties, their obligations, the jobs that their parents probably said they should do or that their parents expected them to do. Why? Because something deep within them cried out and spoke to their hearts.

I don’t think God wants a world full of people living by the word ‘should’ instead, God wants a world full of people that know how to listen to their hearts.

I believe God desires passionate dreamers. I hope the church teaches this to our son.

2) Allow yourself to be amazed.

Jesus called disciples who were willing to witness the mystery of God and be amazed. The disciples were not convinced that they knew all the answers. Instead, they followed Christ with a spirit of discovery and awe.

Christ cleansed lepers, he restored a girl to life and healed a woman who was bleeding for 12 years. And though his disciples wondered, questioned and examined what they saw- they remained open to the mystery of what God can do.

God wants us all to remain open- not convinced that we know all there is to know about God, but instead, ready to encounter God’s renewing spirit in the world.

I hope the church teaches my son to remain open-minded.

3) Invest in tenderness and service over dominance and power.

My son is coming in to a broken world. Women are abused by their husbands. Wars break out over territory and resources. Children are hungry. The poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer. The planet is slowly dying due to our abuse and negligence toward the environment. Churches all over the place are preaching the gospel of hate, not love…

It’s enough brokenness to make anyone outraged.

Young men are often the ones encouraged to foster aggression, dominance, power, and control in the world. They are encouraged to play with fake weapons and engage in violent video games. They are peer pressured to live dangerously, to appear to be strong, emotionless and sometimes violent.

But Christ models an alternative form of masculinity- a gentle, tender, compassionate approach to living and loving the world.

Followers of Christ are invited to show vulnerability and see the humanity of others- not erase it.

I hope the church teaches my son to be a gentle, compassionate, and grace-filled person.

And finally, most importantly, I hope the church teaches my son this:

4) Everyone you meet is made in the image of God

Every single living, breathing human being is made in the image of God. Everyone you can imagine is loved deeply by God.

And yet, so many churches try to teach their members that there are insiders and outsiders, sinful and saved, good and bad, accepted and reviled…

In Indiana, in the name of God, businesses are righteously excluding people based on their sexual orientation and this must break God’s heart.

I hope the future church teaches my son to love and affirm his neighbors- all of them: gay, straight, Muslim, Jewish, black, white, male, female, transgendered… and more. Every single one- made in the image of God just as they are.

I hope the church teaches my son to love deeply, without reservation. To respect, protect, and advocate for his neighbors who face persecution and exclusion: because this is what Jesus would do.

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