This has been a difficult time in the life of our Conference as well as in our nation. Recently, in the Illinois South Conference, three beloved pastors died: Rev. John Klueter, Rev. Gretchen Sterrett and Rev. Jerry Amiri. Three beautiful souls. Three beautiful examples of authentically living a Christ-like life. Three persons deeply committed to challenging themselves and others to create a just and compassionate world for all through love and action. It has been a time of giving thanks for their incredible witness as well as a time of acknowledging and wrestling with our shock and grief.
Then over the weekend, as many of us watched in horror, disgust, and sadness as the situation escalated in Charlottesville, Virginia, we once again grieved over the intolerance, violence, hatred, and evil that continues to pervade our world. All of it can cause us to be very weary...overwhelmed...and a bit lost, wondering if we can really make a difference.
Friends, I believe, now more than ever, it is important to remember that our words matter. How we treat others matters. How we choose to respond in the face of loss and tragedy matters. Our lives and how we bear witness to the light and love of Christ matters. Many are watching, listening, and taking notice of what our words and life are saying and teaching about what it means to be a follower of Christ.
In light of the situation in Charlottesville, as a reminder of how much racism and intolerance still exists in the world, I am reminded (as I hope you are too) of the crucial role we in the church play to fully reflect the love of God in Christ Jesus. We are the ones who have been called to teach what the radical, inclusive love of God looks like, what it sounds like, and how the love of God responds in even the most difficult circumstances.
I firmly believe we are not born to hate, but rather, as children of God, we are born to love. We teach others, especially our children, how to accept or deny the diversity of this world.
Let us remember that others are watching and they are paying attention....
to the way we speak about others
to the comments we make when we watch the news
to the jokes we tell
to the labels we use
to what we post on Facebook and social media
to the people we befriend and those we avoid
to the ways we interact or react around people who are different than us.
Many are watching, listening, and taking notice of what our words and life are teaching.
May we, like the pastors and teachers we have recently lost, authentically live Christ-like lives.
May we be deeply committed to challenging ourselves and others to create a just and compassionate world for all through love and action.