How Long O Lord?

This week Lynn and I were in Atlanta attending an Emory University Board meeting when the news that those responsible for the death of Tyre Nichols were charged. I kept thinking about Tyre’s tragic death after being pulled over for a traffic stop.  I kept thinking about his tragic death at the hands of those whom we expect to protect citizens. I kept thinking about the pain, fear and trauma our Black and Brown brothers and sisters must feel yet again.

Friday, as Lynn and I left Atlanta we drove across Alabama to Mississippi.  Those of us of sufficient age know too well the racial violence of the Deep South. Questions kept haunting me. How is it that Tyre Nichols was beaten to death with brutal precision?  Where did the police learn to do that? Why did the police learn to do that? What training, what discipline, what instruction gave five men the license to torture, hound, and murder a fellow human being? 

Tyre’s mother weeps for her son. 

A four year old child is left fatherless. 

And we are left with questions. Again.

As a United Methodist Christian, perhaps I ask a different set of questions:  Where is God in that grainy video tape? Where is the Prince of Peace in the loss of humanity? What is there left for the Judge of the World when men in uniform appointed themselves judge, jury, and executioner. 

We are not far from the season of Lent when we will walk the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, as we remember the death of Jesus the Christ. We would do well today to remember that we worship a God whose son experienced his own violent death at the hands of a brutal empire. Adorned in our sanctuaries we gaze on the implementation of that death—the cross. Yet I wonder as we gaze upon the shiny gold cross if it is lost on us what a brutal thing crucifixion was. 

I need to be reminded today that we are bold to believe God does not abandon any of us, even in death. We believe that love wins, that God will one day reconcile all of us one to another and to God. We believe that God works even through the worst in our lives. 

The violence we witnessed in the 44 minute video released Friday  reminds us that day is not yet here, that even the God of reconciliation condemns the violence we saw together. 

Fifty-five years ago, the senseless murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis changed America forever.  Yet, here we are, still longing for the beloved community. 

We pray, “How long, O Lord, how long?”  It is the question that lingers the longest. 

Sunday, I will be preaching at Centenary United Methodist Church, one of our historical Black congregations. 

Pray for this congregation as we gather for worship.  Pray for the city of Memphis. Pray for Tyre’s Nichols family.  Pray for police everywhere who everyday are called to make judgements when in the line of duty. Pray that Memphis will become the catalyst for senseless murders to end as we continue to pursue justice for all. 

And after you pray, I call on congregations to become places of healing, hope, and hospitality in the mission fields of communities where they are planted. 

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

Bishop Bill McAlilly