Breaking Down the Dividing Walls

Since last Friday, I have been in Oklahoma with my wife standing by the bedside of my mother-in-law, Maxine Mitchell, as she slowly passed away (Monday morning July 15th). It has been a sad time for us as a family; as Jolynn put it, “not for what is, but for what was.” Maxine lived a full life of 89 years. She leaves behind a wonderful daughter, two tremendous grandchildren and one "amazing" great granddaughter. She had a rich and satisfying professional career as a bookkeeper. She served The Lord and His church through various ministries at First United Methodist Church in Seminole, including teaching the kindergarten Sunday School class for some 25 years. As a family we can look back on her life with some pride and sense of fulfillment. And yet, while this has been going on in our lives, the larger story that we as nation have been dealing is the tragedy of the death of Trayvon Martin and the trial (with the subsequent not guilty verdict) of George Zimmerman. The contrast is personally striking. In our family, in our grief, we celebrate a full life. In the larger human family to which we all belong, Trayvon Martin did not have that opportunity. Whatever you think of the verdict, this is a tragedy of the first rank. The life of a child of God has been cut needlessly short. As my fellow Bishop Ken Carter put it: "The toxic brew of economic scarcity, racial profiling, escalating violence and community destabilization is at the heart of the experience." With my colleague bishop, I ask my Anglo friends and all fellow Christ followers to listen to the voices of hurt, pain, lament and even rage that are shared by some of our African- American brothers and sisters. If the Bible is right (and I think it is!), we are all one in Christ Jesus. The pain of one is the pain of all. This experience may, through the teaching presence of the Holy Spirit, become an opportunity to open us up once again to the greater dream for which we rightly pray - "on earth as it is in heaven." A truly great Christian leader and great American shared this dream when he said, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men [people] are created equal.'" This dream is nurtured in the soil of a biblical people who put allegiance to Christ as Lord and Savior, first, above all else. It grows not from impassioned rhetoric or ill-conceived vigilantism, but from the peace and love of Christ. May the love of Christ guide our response. "Now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us." (Ephesians 2:13-14)