Our speakers and mentors reflect on the recent history of events in Ferguson and St. Louis, and the loss of life that triggered an uprising from August of 2014 through the following year; the killing of Mike Brown, Jr. by a police officer.
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” Psalm 46:4-5
Saints, you’re citizens in the city of God. And our God is the river who makes us glad.
He’s in the midst of his diverse people who are scattered around the world.
A.W. Tozer describes God’s presence in our lives as an eternal unbroken, forever flowing continuum. He illustrates this by calling his readers to imagine they’re standing by the bank of a river.
Then he writes, “We glance to our left and see the river coming full out of PAST; we look to the right and see it flowing on into our FUTURE. But we see also that it is flowing through our PRESENT.”
This week remember you’re standing in the presence of our Father. He’s with you and for you. He’s the river whose streams make you glad all the days of your life.
Press on saints, Press on!
Rev. Alex Shipman
All I Know is…
I had just returned from sitting at the feet of our sisters and brothers in Malawi. I left with the intention of pouring out the grace of the gospel my Savior lavished upon me, only to find that my sisters and brothers according to the flesh, were eager to send me away with an overflowing cup of God’s grace, joy and peace. At the very moment my feet met the balmy hardwood floor of my apartment in Philadelphia, I turned on the television only to have all of my senses accosted by the now familiar cries of anguish, pain, and devastation in the wake of another brother lynched by the state.
Brother Michael Brown, Jr. was lynched by the state.
Anger, misery, and despondency supplanted the grace, joy, and peace I had a millisecond prior to seeing Michael Brown’s body left exposed on the hot pavement of the Ferguson street for four-and-a-half hours. Left as a warning to those of us who share the same mahogany flesh, that we too, can meet the same end. The carcasses of animals are given more dignity and honor than the beautiful, Black image-bearing body of Michael Brown. His blood cries out and my soul does, too.
We are one.
When the state broke his precious body, my soul broke deep within me and I’ve never been the same. How can I be? After all, Claudia Rankine taught us that “The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning.” Oh how I long for America to disprove that statement, but the historical receipts and incalculable death toll of Black bodies exclaim in response with a resounding “you right!”
What then shall I say to these things?
All I know is, I cannot unsee his body on Canfield Drive
I cannot unsee the permanence of grief in the eyes of Leslie McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr.
All I know is, I carry the hundreds of men, women, and children—our babies—who were lynched for daring to exist in their God-given Black bodies all the while knowing they were despised for it.
All I know is, we serve the One and True Living God who is the God of hearing and seeing.
All I know is, the Judge of all the earth shall do right.
That’s all I know.
Ferguson taught me how much I didn’t know.
Ferguson taught me how to hear pain.
Ferguson taught me how to humble myself.
Ferguson taught me how to get angry.
Ferguson taught me how to not miss the forest for the trees.
Ferguson taught me how to begin to be an advocate.
Ferguson taught me how to march.
Ferguson altered the course of my life irreversibly. There is no going back now.
Rev. Joel Littlepage
“We don’t need to fear exposure. In fact, like an old school photographer, God develops his people through exposure- exposing our need for grace and exposing unseen depths of his love for us.”
Drop your guard.
You have been wrong about “the other” and so have I. And unfortunately, there are many more mistakes and insensitivities that lie ahead. We are going to screw things up! But how will you react when someone identifies mistakes and confronts you? Are you afraid of a gloriously messy community? Will you settle for a nice, neat, homogeneous community that takes few risks, makes no cross-cultural progress, and offers an overly reductionistic foretaste of the kingdom? In my experience, a defensive posture is usually a cover-up for major error in one’s life. It’s a fear of exposure due to the insecurity and untenability of one’s life or outlook. I know how personally devastating it can be to consider the many ways we have contributed to racial and ethnic tensions and injustices. But this is precisely where grace shines! The grace of God in Jesus Christ enables you to drop your guard because it levels your pretensions of strong performance without dislodging you from his love.
Rev. Russ Whitfield, a letter from 2014
“I’m fighting. And so I want people to know you can’t look at my name, look at my ethnicity, look at the background I grew up in and assume anything about my character, my life, my intelligence.”
Dawn Jones, for Forward Through Ferguson
August 9th, 2014: After I heard the news about Mike Brown, I spoke with a black student of mine and asked how he was doing. He told me, “Because I’m black, most look at me like a ticking time bomb or define me as “bad”. I was heartbroken and fearful for him. I still am.
Rev. Sam Kang
“I am thankful that there is a God in heaven who sits up high but looks down low, who is and always has been the origin and character of justice and mercy. I am thankful that the Sovereign God of the universe is the One who bends the moral arc of the universe toward himself, for in his glory is all the goodness for which we long and hope. I am glad that there is no such thing as “getting away with murder” with Him. No one walks away free from Him who repays except those who knew they needed to be paid for, and here I think of myself, and how thankful I am that Jesus has paid for my sins.”
From Rev. Randy Nabors’ blog, 2014
Ferguson changed my life, not because I didn’t think it would ever happen.
But because so many people who I look up to as leaders in the Evangelical Church never believed it could happen. It happened.
After the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements of the sixties raised awareness to the issues of race, police brutality, and social injustice, it still happened. Now in the “Twenty-teen years” after the Ferguson uprising, after the South Saint Louis and Columbia, Missouri protests again revealed that we as a nation have yet to really understand racism and rage in the United States, it happened. How will we find the answer?
It seems we have had to become spokesmen of Race and Reconciliation, Diversity, Black Trauma, Social Justice, etc etc etc. All I really wanted to do in life was play shortstop for the Cardinals, this is draining. How can we go on?
We need to remember the place where we can find all of the right responses to our questions. Jesus really is the answer. He is Justice, Truth and Love. He is the answer to rage, to racism, to fatigue, to fear.
Looking to Jesus will give us the boldness required to continue demanding justice and speaking truth. It will give us the grace required to continue speaking the truth in love.
Rev. Mike Higgins