Today I begin with the words of my associate pastor Nyahaley Labor:
I can’t breathe! … A young unarmed black man was shot and killed by two white men while out for a jog! I can’t breathe! Another unarmed black man is killed by a white policeman kneeling on his neck.
I am tossing and turning. I am restless and filled with anxiety, and I can’t breathe because I am a mother of a young black man with an African name who is nothing but kind and loving. I can’t breathe because as I write, my son is out, and I don’t know if he is safe.
As a mother of a young black man, I constantly give my son a long lecture each time he gets ready to walk out of the door. These lectures may include anything from dress code, how he speaks, keeping his hands on the steering wheel if stopped by the police, and much more.
One day my son got tired of these daily lectures and said to me, “Mom, I am sorry, I am black and I have an African name and sometimes I may do stupid things but none of which warrants killing me, so I am sorry but I can only be me, and if they want to kill me for being black then so be it.” As harsh as his response sounded, it was the hard truth. I could not deny it.
It is gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, and almost helpless. It is difficult to comprehend, and I truly can’t breathe! We are the body of Christ. A body that represents all colors (black, white, brown); a body that speaks all languages; a body that knows that all lives matter (even black young men); and a body that cares for the weak, the poor and the oppressed.
Therefore, instead of kneeling on a black man’s neck, why not kneel in prayer for healing of the world? Why not kneel in prayer for the oppressed? Why not kneel in prayer for the poor? Why not kneel in prayer for the homeless? for the depressed? for the jobless and those in need? Why not kneel in solidarity for justice?
Tonight, as I kneel in prayer, I kneel for the four policemen who killed George Floyd. I kneel in prayer for the men that killed Ahmaud Arbery. But most importantly, I am kneeling in prayer for George Floyd and his family. I am kneeling in prayer for Ahmaud Arbery and his family. I am kneeling in prayer for the families of all unarmed black men and women killed innocently. I kneel in prayer for justice to be served!
The cry, “I can’t breathe,” keeps echoing in my mind and I wonder where is the justice? Where is the love? Where is the body? And where is the light?
And then from me (David):
In Revelation 5 John sees a seven-sealed scroll that he is told that no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth can unseal. He despairs, until he is told that “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” has conquered; he can open the scroll.
We expect and hear about the victorious Lion, but we see a little tiny lamb standing as if slaughtered. The scene describes how we encounter Jesus. We expected a victorious, conquering hero of a Messiah, but we see the suffering, crucified one.
Today, however, I read this image differently. As I watched the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, a different message emerges.
I see the images of the slaughtered ones – Ahmaud and George … and before them, Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin and Philando Castille … and before them, Emmett Till and Medgar Evars and beyond. I see those images, and I hear the roar of the lion, the voice of rage, the cry for justice.
I hear the lion roaring, “How long, O Lord? How long?”
How long will men die simply because of the color of their skin?
How long will too many of us who are white and reportedly following the Crucified One, how long will we remain silent in the face of injustice?
Perhaps we can stop protesting about wearing masks and keeping social distance – measures meant to protect life.
Perhaps we can start protesting about the systemic racism we participate in that still claims the lives of black men throughout this country.
The cry of the lion echoes in my ears.