Hello St. Paul’s’
February is Black History Month. Every year we set this month aside to look at and celebrate the lives, accomplishments, and contributions of Africans Americans to the American culture. Surely, we have all heard time and again the “I Have a Dream” speech by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he spoke of the dream of the beloved community where “Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro Spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last!””
This speech has always reminded me of the promise of shalom, the reign of God, as written in the book of Isaiah 11:6-7 “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”
This vision of a world where none is prey nor predator, none is victim nor oppressor, and none is harmed or harmful to the other seems so far-fetched from our current reality. It seems like humanity has been locked in an eons long struggle reaching for more power, more wealth, more possessions, more, more, more…almost as if there is never enough. We have killed and destroyed for centuries, robbed and subjugated for millennia, or passively ignore the suffering of those who are pushed to the margins in our societies. We create constructs like racism, tribalism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, etc., that only steer us farther away from each other and away from the promise of Christ for life and life more abundantly for all.
Sometimes the promise of a “new heaven and a new earth” sounds like a fairy tale and only to be achieved after we die. But that is not the promise of Christ to us. The promise of Christ is “Life and life more abundantly (fully lived and actualized) for all people while we live and then in the afterlife. I dare say I belief this was a rather ambitious goal for Jesus given human’s proclivity toward perceived scarcity and fear. But if Christ promises it, then I believe it is possible. Life more abundantly lived, and peace is possible for all persons!
But how will we get there? Lion with lambs…life more abundantly, and all those dreams? How will we move past what we have been taught, what humanity has done for eons, and what is now our lived reality? How do we create shalom – the reign of God’s peace on earth?
May I offer that we must first pause. Take a moment in our busy lives and hear the call off Christ to “come follow me” in all the ways he taught us to love. Then breathe… take a breath and remember that the same breath that fills your lungs was once or will later be breathed by your neighbor next door, around the corner, in the next town, or all the way to the other side of the earth. Then remember, remember that we are intrinsically connected and whatever harms us will eventually harm others and vice versa (covid taught us that so eloquently.) After you have paused, breathed, and remembered, I invite you to respond. Respond to the invitation from Christ to be your brother’s and sister keeper, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to do justice love mercy and walk humbly with your God and let this guide your interactions in the world.
When we practice this and make it a part of our lives, then we will more quickly realize shalom. And then, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Latino History Month, Gay Pride Month, etc., will no longer be necessary because none will be feared harmed, marginalized, or minoritized by the other and peace can reign in our hearts and in our world. But for now, as we strive toward shalom, let us celebrate the triumphs and achievements of African Americans in our country during this Black History Month 2022.
God Bless you
Rev. Andrea Vassell, M.Div