Bishop Schnase calls for prayer as Ferguson, Missouri awaits grand jury ruling in shooting death of Michael BrownPosted: November 18, 2014
Bishop Robert Schnase, resident bishop of the Missouri Conference of The United Methodist Church, today issued “a call for prayer” (below) as Ferguson, Missouri waits for the St. Louis County grand jury to decide whether Officer Darren Wilson should stand trial in the August shooting death of Michael Brown. The grand jurors have until January, but a decision could come at any time between now and then.
A CALL FOR PRAYER
I’ve preached twice in recent weeks in St. Louis and as I visited in our churches, the tension is palpable as people await the news from the grand jury in the Michael Brown case. Fear runs deep that there will be more violence. The tragedy has left the community on edge as it copes with the anger, frustration, and mistrust felt by so many people following the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darin Wilson.
The issues involved are far larger than Ferguson, than St. Louis, and than Missouri. The entire country and the whole church need to engage these issues. The focus for law enforcement and the legal processes is on what happened on August 9. But the tragedy forces people of faith to confront a larger question: What happens now? What happens next? What do we learn about ourselves and our communities that will cause us to change so that such events are less likely in the future? What kind of preferred future does God intend for our communities and for our world?
Followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and believers in the God who is the lover of justice must come together for prayer and dialogue to address the deeper and more intransigent issues that have been too long repressed in our communities. These are issues such as racial profiling, mistrust of authority, violence in our communities, underemployment, quality education, fear of one another, white flight, inequalities in our justice system, family breakdown, and under-representation of ethnic officers in law enforcement. There are hard issues and issues that require deep commitments and changes of attitudes, values, and behaviors. These require changes in systems. These require long-term work and a willingness for community and church leaders to stay engaged for the long haul.
In the short-term, the role of the church is to be the purveyor of peace. The sin of racism must be dealt with, but not through violence. Violence rights no wrongs, heals no harms, and leads to no positive change. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
What can United Methodist Christians do?
First, pray. Pray for peace. Our faith finds its roots in the hope for a day when “the lion shall sleep with the lamb.” We serve a Lord who said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” For nearly two thousand years, we have offered “grace and peace” to one another when we gather in Christ’s name. Peace is our hope, our prayer, our yearning, our aim, our end, and it is our gift to the community.
A number of our United Methodist churches in St. Louis and across the conference are already planning prayer vigils on the day the grand jury decision is announced. Other of our churches are working with Metropolitan Congregations United to plan “safe places” for the community to gather for dialogue and to offer support to one another. These churches are also planning to offer a variety of worship experiences and other services needed by the surrounding community.
Second, call upon officials to work for ways so that people can express their frustrations and voice their concerns peacefully. People need a way to participate, to speak out, to gather for mutual support, and we need leaders willing to give room and space for it in a way that reduces the possibility of violence rather than ratcheting up tensions.
Third, support the efforts of two of our United Methodist Churches near Ferguson, Wellspring and The Gathering at Clayton, who are developing extensive plans to be open and available to the community as places of peace and respite. These two churches are collecting supplies and gathering individuals with the needed skills sets to be helpful. Manchester United Methodist Church has volunteered to be the drop-off point for supplies. We are collecting a pool of volunteer pastors to be sent to Wellspring and the Gathering in Clayton to offer support as requested and needed by those two churches. The Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, an interfaith group, has also offered suggestions to area congregations on how they can be helpful.
Along with other religious leaders in Missouri, I renew my call to everyone in Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area to be an instrument of peace amid chaos, a calm voice in the turmoil, a sign of grace when the world needs most the message we offer in Christ.
Yours in Christ, Bishop Robert Schnase, The Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church
Jesus went down to the city of Capernaum in Galilee and taught the people each Sabbath. They were amazed by his teaching because he delivered his message with authority. A man in the synagogue had the spirit of an unclean demon. He screamed, “Hey! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.”
“Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” The demon threw the man down before them, then came out of him without harming him. They were all shaken and said to each other, “What kind of word is this, that he can command unclean spirits with authority and power, and they leave?”
“They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority” (Luke 4:32). What did those gathered in the synagogue on that day hear, feel, or see that would spawn such a comment? Jesus’ authority was evidenced by the creative power he carried in his voice, his touch, and his actions. He had the power to make the deaf hear, the blind see, the captive to be set free. Jesus could “author” deep changes in a person, a group, or a world. That’s authority! On this day spoken of in Luke, chapter 4, Jesus loved a tormented man, and the result was that man gained a right mind. That’s power! That is authority of love!
Jesus’ love is a working love. It is powerful. It authors changes. I don’t have this kind of powerful love. I can, however, come under the authority of Jesus’ love for me and the world he created. I can be “refashioned” and “re-passioned” by Jesus love if I invite it to work on me instead of my working against it.
When I walk into a church that I am appointed to serve, there is not a chance of my love being of the ilk that creates changes of “Biblical proportions.” I don’t have that kind of “authority,” but I sure like to see Jesus’ authoritative love unleashed upon the people I serve and into the world that surrounds me. It is this powerful love that saved me, freed me, changed me and is re-creating me. All I can do is serve this Jesus who is so gracious as to have used His power on me…and then I can get to watch Jesus work!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, bring me under your authority. Mold me. Make me. Use me to your glory for the sake of this world you love….and are changing.
The Rev. Jay Archer
Cookeville District Superintendent-TN Conference
– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY | Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?