A Message of Hope from Our General Minister and President.
Good evening on this, the feast of Epiphany. I wish to speak to you about what I believe is the greatest Epiphany the world knows, embodied and incarnated for we who call ourselves Christian in the one we know as Jesus. And that Epiphany is this: love has come and love alone will endure.
Now I speak with both a heavy heart and a hopeful heart. The heavy heart arises from the presence again of persistent evil. The hopeful heart though emerges in its wake because of the presence of the enduring love known most fully in Jesus.
I don’t know when it was in my life that I came to the stark realization that evil was a thing. I’ve never understood it. I can’t find words to explain what it is exactly or why it exists. But I have encountered it often enough to know I would be wise to take it seriously and not pretend it isn’t there.
My life as a person of faith, and my calling as a minister of the gospel, is dedicated to two important things in relation to evil.
First, I feel called to do everything in my power to name evil and confront it. I take very seriously that part of our baptismal vows that reads: “Do you promise, by the grace of God, … to resist the powers of evil.” I made that promise. As a pastor who has baptized many, I have asked others to take that promise. As I say – I take it very seriously.
When the evil of racism destroys the lives of people of color, my baptismal vows ask me to resist it.
When the evil of homophobia leads to the humiliation of our kindred who identify as gay or lesbian or bi or trans or queer, my baptismal vows ask me to resist it.
When the evil of climate change threatens to undo life on this planet as we know it, my baptismal vows ask me to resist it.
I knew in my bones what I was watching today unfold in our Capital was evil. It was present and it was real, embodied in the hearts and minds of white supremacists assembled to inflict terror. I saw that terror in the eyes of our elected leaders hiding under their desks. I saw it in the eyes of a black man wearing guard’s uniform who was being slowly backed up the stairs by white vigilantes who had breached the security lines and clearly had no fear of being arrested or detained. I saw it in the eyes of law officers standing at guard with guns pointed at windows that had been busted out in front of them by an angry and unruly mob. I saw and heard that terror in the voices of the courageous news people who reported about the violence that was being threatened and who also noted there was not a police presence anywhere to be found.
Evil has come to America.
I realize as I say this that the particular evil on display today, that of white supremacy and white terrorism, has been with us throughout our long and sometimes rich and sometimes sordid history.
But it was on full display today.
On a day like this, where the presence of evil is so undeniably present and so maliciously threatened, there can be a tendency to despair. There can be a moment in which we wonder what good is derived from naming evil and resisting it. After all, generations now have resisted the evil we saw acted out today in our nation’s capital and yet it still shows up.
So let me then talk about my second commitment as a disciple of the risen Jesus. It is not just to name and resist evil – it is to proclaim that good news that he embodied. Evil will not win. Evil cannot win. It is love alone that survives.
Today, America woke up to this:
A black man was elected to serve in the Senate representing the deep south State of Georgia.
The violence we are witnessing erupted within an hour of Amy Klobuchar telling us that the state of Arizona will cast its electoral votes not just for the white man Joe Biden, but for the Black and Indian woman Kamala Harris.
And as the violence broke out, in the midst of the terror that was erupting, we learned that the other Senator from the deep south state of Georgia would be the son of Jewish immigrants.
We name it.
We resist it.
And it always returns.
But it doesn’t stop the power of love to overcome it.
Our call tonight is twofold.
First, bear witness to the evil we see. Name it. Name all who align with it. Tell the world what you see and what you hear and resist it with all the power of love you can bring to bear against it. Just as darkness cannot endure when the light is turned on, so evil cannot survive in the presence of love.
The second call is to practice steadfastly the art of a love that leads to justice for all. It is a love of neighbor and a love of creation and a love for children. It is a love for the black and brown bodies ravaged by racism; a love for the female bodies ravaged by misogyny and toxic masculinity; a love for the LGBTQ bodies terrorized by homophobia.
That is our mark as Christians.
Evil is real. Make no mistake about that. But love wins. And we who practice love need not shy away from the evil we confront. Like the saints before us, we face fully into the face of evil and show the strength of a love it cannot conquer.
I close with the words of Julian of Norwich, words I have been repeating since the beginning of the spread of the corona virus: In the spirit of knowing what she did about the power of love to conquer, and from the midst of an evil she saw ravaging the world she knew, she authored these words: All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well.