Rev. Bryn Smallwood-Garcia
"As I live," says the Lord God, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?" - Ezekiel 33:11
If you've ever returned a rental car, you know this dire warning:
DO NOT BACK UP! SEVERE TIRE DAMAGE!
I've always thought of it as the equal but opposite sign to the one that Dorothy finds at the entry to the Haunted Forest of Oz – the one that the prophet Ezekiel himself could have written:
"I'd turn back if I were you."
Which is it, people of God? Which is it?
As we began our UCC General Synod this summer in the wake of twin Supreme Court decisions – to overturn both the backward-looking Defense of Marriage Act and the forward-looking Voting Rights Act – I didn't know which way to turn—to laugh or to cry.
Debates surrounding immigration reform and the acquittal of George Zimmerman have both polarized and paralyzed our nation. Like the prophet Ezekiel, God's sentinel on the watchtower, I feel like shouting, "Does no one see the deadly tidal wave of xenophobia and racism that I see?"
While our Christian faith invites us to look back into our biblical past for lessons to guide us today, we do not back up by blindly relying on tradition, chanting as our anthem, "We've always done it that way!" But we do go back to our core biblical values: "We are one in Christ" and "Love your neighbor as yourself."
I take hope from God's promise to the prophet Jeremiah (15:19): "Thus says the Lord: 'If you turn back, I will take you back.'"
O God, may we go back as a nation (and as a prophetic national church) just enough to remember your history of overcoming evil with good. And may we vow to never again let fear and violence rule our land. Amen.
Bryn Smallwood-Garcia is Senior Pastor at The Congregational Church of Brookfield (UCC) in Brookfield, CT.