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Bishop Park on the death of George Floyd and the expressions of protest

. 3 min read

June 2, 2020

“How long, O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their ravages,
my life from the lions!”
(Psalm 35:17)
 

Dear Beloved Sisters and Brothers
of the Susquehanna Conference,

Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our
Brokenness, and Hope of the World!

My heart is breaking as I write this pastoral letter to you. My heart cries
with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord, will you look on?” My soul is restless
and disturbed. I keep praying, “Show me the way I should go” (Psalm 143:8), as
I pray for people in harm’s way while violent clashes continue and escalate.
Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy!

It is with deep anguish, sorrow, and then righteous anger that I watched in
abject horror, along with millions of people, the slow death of Mr. George Floyd.
We all heard him cry out, “I can’t breathe.” We watched in stunned silence as
he lay constrained and gasped his last breaths under the choking knee.

Today we are confronted by two killers who steal breath. The corona virus
shortens the breath of its victims. Racism chokes the breath, both figuratively
and literally, out of its victims and suffocates righteousness from society.
Life requires breath. Is breathing not a basic right?

The breath of God, however, fills people with renewed life. We remember that
Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John
20:22). This past Sunday, we read in Acts 2 about the Pentecost experience of
those early believers. While they were gathered in a house in Jerusalem, they
heard the rush of a mighty wind and flames like tongues of fire rested upon
each of them. People who had come to the city from many nations were able to
hear, in their own languages, these Spirit-filled believers speak of God’s good
news in Jesus Christ.

This breath of God changed the direction of history. It inaugurated the coming
of the realm of God, a focal message that Jesus frequently proclaimed. It’s
intriguing that the Risen Christ used his forty days between his resurrection
and ascension to speak about the realm of God (Acts 1:3). We are reminded that
Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on
earth as it is in heaven.” The work of building the realm of God continues. Now
we must act with courage and conviction as God’s breath of justice and
righteousness in our time and place.


The miracle of Pentecost was one of both speaking and hearing. We must claim
the miracle of speaking. Those of us who claim Christ’s name cannot stand idly
by and allow racism free rein. We must condemn, boldly and loudly, the sin of
racism. God’s people are to speak up that racism does not have a place in God’s
reign.

We must also claim the miracle of hearing. We must hear the stories and the
truths of victims of racism to whom we have turned a deaf ear. We must learn
their language of suffering, pain, frustration, anger, hope, and resilience. We
must amplify their voices.

I invite you, my sisters and brothers, to a time of prayer for the Pentecost
miracle of the tongues and ears and to repentance. We must fall on our knees
and ask God to open our mouths and ears and ask for God’s forgiveness for our
silence when we should have spoken out and our speaking when we should have
been listening.

We in the Susquehanna Conference are called in our vision and mission to embody
the beloved community of Christ. Martin Luther King Jr. broadened the term
“beloved community” to describe a society in which no one goes hungry or
homeless, racism and bigotry would be overcome by an inclusive spirit of
sisterhood and brotherhood, and love and trust would triumph over fear and
hate.

Beloved communities do not allow racism and prejudice to flourish. Beloved
communities do not accept discrimination and violence against those who are
different because of pigments of skin. Beloved communities do not, through
silence, permit institutional racism. Beloved communities do not allow the
cries of the oppressed to echo unanswered for generations.

As the believers at Pentecost told of God’s deeds of power, so must we raise
our voices to proclaim the good news of God’s justice, righteousness, and
promise of reconciliation and new life for those who turn from wicked ways. Let
us as individuals and as a conference join together and rededicate ourselves to
bringing the beloved community of Christ to fruition so that all may be free
from the chains of hate and fear.

We are the season after Pentecost. It’s about the fresh breath of God that
creates the wind that changes the direction of human destiny toward justice,
reconciliation, and peace. Let the hallowed wind of the Spirit ignite the holy
fire of passion for and commitment and dedication to the vision of the Beloved
Community of Christ, for such a time as this.

“How long, O Lord, will you look on?” As I utter those words, I must ask myself
and each of you, How will we in church hasten the heralding of God’s reign?
Indeed, we are in this together.

With You in Christ’s Ministry,
Jeremiah Park