What a week it has been. I have had so many conversations with parishioners who are concerned and worried. Now is the time for Christians of all traditions to be united, to rise above party politics, continue to protest against injustice, and to seek reconciliation through prayer and acts of charity. One of the great gifts of Saint Thomas Church to the city of New York is to be an oasis of prayer. That is why my heart hangs heavy when I walk past and see our Fifth Avenue doors closed to the public. Many of you have been praying the prayer for the human family from our Prayer Book.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I believe that, as a Christian Community, we are united in that prayer at the moment. I hear how many of you have used these extraordinary times to explore new forms of praying and praying with others.
Some, of course, will say that there should be more radical forms of engagement with the injustices of racism and violence. One of the great marks of a democracy is the ability to protest and to demonstrate peacefully. Many of you, including faith leaders across the nation, were troubled by the scenes of a peaceful demonstration being cleared with the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls a few days ago. My response to that is to pray harder and to listen, as Sr. Promise has urged, with ‘an open ear and an open heart.’ Regardless of how you choose to express your feelings recent events, all of us should remain united in prayer. The COVID-19 Pandemic has not gone away and I also pray that the right to protest does not, unwittingly, create a second surge of this disease. So, we continue to pray for those who are ill, and for those on the front-line – our brave members of the medical services.
During these extraordinary times, I turn to Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.“ (3:27-28)
That hope will lead some to join protesters on our streets and others to stay at home, but all of us are one in Christ Jesus.
Pamela Lewis, our Head Lector and a member of the Vestry, has written an article for the Living Church. You can find this article on its web-based publication Covenant if you click here. In it, Pamela talks about ‘restorative justice’ which is more than just words or even policy change; it brings depth to the concept of justice – the kind of depth we find in the preaching of the prophets; in the protest psalms; and exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ who stretched out his arms of love for us on the Cross.
I end with a quotation that I will be using in my sermon on Trinity Sunday:
“What has felt like an unending season of injustice and anger can be rendered finite only if it is followed by restorative justice, which is eternal, and without which reconciliation and true community is impossible. Because it is informed by and deeply imbedded in the Gospel, whose unchanging message asserts that humanity is made in the image of God, restorative justice differs in significant ways from criminal justice.”
Let us seek that kind of justice which will truly bring St. Paul’s teaching to life.