Still, it continues...
The tragic deaths and continued violence reported daily appear to be creating a numbness in which we are becoming apathetic to the horrible events that destroy lives and community. In an atmosphere of fear and anger we seem to be drifting into a disrespect and defiance of others which may be contributing to an escalation of violence. As social media shares videos of these events we quickly draw conclusions and make statements that are not necessarily helpful to resolving these frightful occurrences.
In light of the most recent deaths in Dallas, I find my thoughts are focused on the the families who are grieving; may they find mercy and understanding. It is my prayer we might behave in such a way as to embrace Jesus' teaching, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy...Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." To be a peacemaker will require patient, yet persistent efforts to embrace and work with those whose life experiences and beliefs are not the same. It will require the slow steps of building trust within each community. I am observing this in Montgomery, Alabama, where our community is working through a similar moment of death and grief.
The Church reminds us the way in which we live in community with others is a spiritual issue. The way we treat others is a spiritual issue. The way in which we respond to others is a spiritual issue. Within each of our respective communities, with all of their differences we relate to our neighbors as the people of God. Jesus responded to the question, "Who is my neighbor?," by telling a story of violence and concluded by asking a question of his own, "Which of these was a neighbor to the one who fell into" violence? The answer was clear, it was the one who risked assisting the one who had been beaten and attacked. Action is required.
I invite each of our churches to pause during their worship services this Sunday in prayer for those who have been impacted most directly from these acts of violence. I would also invite our congregations to consider how we might be engaged in conversation with our community leaders to encourage, support, and build trust as we become partners and peacemakers. Finally, as we remain immersed in the acts of grace, I would ask United Methodists to form small discussion groups for the purpose of entering into conversation about how such grace can be expressed in acts of mercy within our own communities right now.
The prophet Hosea (10:12) called upon the faithful people of God to live in a different way by saying, "Sow righteousness (justice), reap the fruit of unfailing love, and to prepare new ground; for it is time to seek the Lord."
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Paul L. Leeland
Resident Bishop, Alabama-West Florida Conference