Pentecost in a Time of Pandemonium

May 28, 2020

May 28, 2020

The past two days have reminded us of the chaos, hurt, distrust, and anger, that emerges all too frequently in our communities. The news of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis has shocked and awakened us once again to the injustice still present in our world. My thoughts are focused on the family and friends who are grieving and all who are impacted by the traumatic effects of racism and violence. 

The Church has consistently denounced racial discrimination and violence. As United Methodists shaped in an understanding of God’s grace, we acknowledge the need for complete dependence on God because we recognize the  resistance of too many to see each other as children of God. We confess our sins of racism where some have had privileges and benefits that others have been denied. George Floyd’s death brings all of this to the forefront of our work for a more just society and a more merciful society.

This Sunday, May 31, 2020, the Christian Church celebrates Pentecost at a time when our nation mourns the deaths of more than 100,000 people. We can only imagine the hurt and grief of families whose relationships were cut short by these untimely deaths. The untimely death of George Floyd has added to our national grief. The traditional prayer of the church that God will renew the face of the earth is a timely prayer although some, caught in a moment of anger, grief, and desire for justice, will find it difficult to pray this prayer.

In my private moments of prayer, I find myself asking God to forgive us for the violence and racism that continues to infect our communities like a virus. I pray for the Presence of the Spirit who is our comforter, counselor, and consoler, to direct our speech and behavior in ways that will contribute to greater trust and true integration within our communities. I pray for the peace of the Spirit that will bring our communities healing and new life. I pray for the grace of God to keep us free of fear and revenge. As the Preamble of our United Methodist Social Principles states, “Grateful for God’s forgiving love, in which we live and by which we are judged, and affirming our belief in the inestimable worth of each individual, we renew our commitment to become faithful witnesses to the gospel, not alone to the ends of earth, but also to the depths of our common life and work” (The Book of Discipline 2016). 

There will be many calls for prayer, which I know are already being lifted, and our prayers should lead to action. 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 at this moment will require patient and persistent efforts to embrace and work with those who may not share our same life experiences and beliefs. It will require deliberate and measured steps of building trust within each community. 

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 our differences, we are called to relate to our neighbors as our brothers and sisters, the family 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 by these acts of violence as well as the deaths of more than 100,000 COVID-19 victims. Pray for the peace of our community and for those who work to protect public safety. I would also invite our congregations to consider how we might be engaged in conversations 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 within our congregations and intentional conversations between communities of faith, particularly those of different racial, ethnic make-up than your own for the purpose of entering into conversation about how our involvement 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." This is such a time.  May we lead our communities to live in this “different way.” We pray for Pentecost in a time of Pandemonium.

Grace and Peace,
Bishop Paul L. Leeland
Resident Bishop, Charlotte Area
The United Methodist Church