We have been asked today to preach about Ferguson. We are at fault sometimes for prejudging events and then ignoring them. We may feel Ferguson is too far away. It's not in our backyard so it doesn't concern us. Yet as Paul's letter calls two women, Syntyche and Euodia, into reconciliation so should we feel called to talk about the problem of racism in our own town. Only by doing this in our own neighborhoods will we begin to understand Ferguson.
The invitation is made again and again online this weekend for us to listen to the stories. The invitation has been made for us to walk with people, all we have to do is respond to the invitation or, as is what happened in the parable, others will be chosen to go and to listen and to participate in the hard work we need to start digging into.
Let me tell you some of the stories I have heard since I have moved here to Poplar Bluff. I have a friend who cannot go into the next town unless he is wearing his collar because he is black. There are even places there that will not serve him food because of the color of his skin. There are people at the hospital who refuse to be treated by a doctor of color and so there is a white doctor who takes his patients. There are places where people cannot go in to shop because they are followed around or watched because of their color because they might steal.
We don't deal with any of these issues ourselves. By and large we are never harassed, never judged by the color of our skin as worthy or unworthy to come into a store, to eat at a restaurant, or to feel safe just walking on the street. How many if these stories do you know? Have you even bothered to get to know any of these stories?
We cannot receive the invitation and not show up. We must try and understand the situation if we are ever to understand those who have been marginalized by us because of the color of their skin. The issues are deep and disturbing. The stories if you take the time to hear them will bring you into deeper relationship with those in our community. Only in this way do the bonds of love and friendship grow, so that maybe someday there will not be a place like Ferguson. If we are to set the kingdom on earth as Jesus has been calling us to do we must begin to build it.
The call to this by our Diocese is timely during a weekend based on a holiday celebrating Columbus who came and took land and enslaved others due to the color of their skin. If we want to make a difference we all need to look deeply at all of out history and understand how our not knowing keeps institutionalized racism in place.
Please hold in prayer all the marchers and the police. Pray that peace will rule all hearts and minds. Pray that God's abiding love may be shown to all. Then go and think on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable so we may eventually open our eyes to the kingdom Jesus promises.