Message for June 7, 2020 – “Equality, Unity and Harmony”
(Based on Lesson: 2Corinthians 13: 11-13)
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Blessed Trinity Sunday Peninsula United Methodist Church! On this day, we celebrate our God as three persons in one God: God, our Creator; Jesus Christ, the Son, our Redeemer; and the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. It was an important tenet of the early Church that there is one sovereign God who reigns over all creation. Each person within the Godhead is an equal part of the Holy Trinity, and they all exist to function together in the unity of perfect harmony.
On Trinity Sunday in the year 2020, this is a very appropriate message for God’s people to receive. For, the equality and unity we find within the Holy Trinity reminds us that it is equality and unity amid diversity that creates an environment from which harmonious relationships can grow.
It was a beautiful April morning, as I drove along Route 5 on my way to a District Meeting. The sky was blue, and the sun glistened and sparkled as it touched upon the mirror-calm surface of the Mohawk River. All was peaceful and calm, and only the slight whoosh of the wind through my open window could be heard. I was excited to be invited to attend this meeting, as we were going to be planning for Annual Conference. All was well in my corner of the world.
When I arrived at the host church, I took a seat beside one of my gal-pals from a neighboring church. We chatted a few minutes to catch up on what our families were “up to,” and then the room quieted. There was going to be an opening speaker. A tall man of color, well-dressed in Khaki slacks and a maroon golf shirt, stepped up to the microphone. He was carrying a briefcase from which he removed some notes that he placed on a stand next to him. This man, we will call Jeff, began with a prayer. He then proceeded to recount the events of his travel to arrive at his destination, our meeting, on that morning. Jeff lived just outside of Saratoga, and he had to pass through that city to reach the church where we were meeting. Jeff drives a BMW, the fruit of his hard labor as a Certified Public Accountant for a local financial firm.
On this morning, Jeff was stopped by a local policeman for “driving sporadically.” When Jeff rolled down his window to speak to the officer, the officer leaned in to take a good look around the inside of his car, and then he sensed the officer attempting to smell for any trace of alcohol on his breath. He was asked to step out of the car, while the officer checked for weapons and reviewed Jeff’s identification. Finally, the officer asked Jeff where he was going so early in the morning, driving through “this section” of town. Jeff explained that he was on his way to give a talk at the Methodist Church in the next town. With that, the officer allowed Jeff to return to his car and proceed.
Amazingly enough, Jeff was our guest speaker to discuss the topic of White Privilege in our American Society. “What I just experienced,” he said, “is the effect of White Privilege on people of color in our country.” Jeff proceeded to muse that most of us white folks in the audience that day did not begin their trip with sirens and a police-stop. Jeff admitted that his BMW was a “cop-magnet,” and that he had been stopped several times in the past. “This should not be!” Jeff continued. White folks have the privilege of going from place to place without the fear of a road-stop when they seem out of place in the area they are traveling. Black folks, like Jeff, do not share that privilege.
Jeff went on to play out many other scenarios where white people are treated one way and folks of color another. One that particularly stuck out to me was that many times when he enters an elevator with white folks, they grab for their wallet or purse—almost instinctively, and step farther away. Then, he is followed around in the store as he walks through the departments. “I am a CPA, not a thief—just an average guy,” Jeff shared. I could not help, as Jeff was speaking, but think back upon my calm and quiet trip to the meeting that day. The issues of racial profiling that Jeff had faced were the farthest thing from my mind. And, had I ever grabbed my purse in an elevator?
Most of us have a hard time imagining the kind of daily struggles many of our brothers and sister of color face in our society today. This is not a story about the days of slavery, or one about life in a community the deep-south, where racial tensions are known to run high. This story happened in Saratoga, New York, in the 21st Century, to a man whose only source of suspicion was the color of his skin.
As a white American in our society today, I have had to come to grips with my status as a person of “privilege.” I grieves me to have to say it, to admit it, but I cannot escape the reality of this fact. Even though I do not want to claim this privilege as a part of my being, the truth is that I cannot take off my whiteness, so I will be white wherever in this world I may go. Therefore, I will carry the privilege of my white skin-color everywhere I go. By the same token, Jeff will be a person of color wherever he goes. He will be stopped, questioned, detained, harassed, and perhaps even worse, many times, solely because he is a person of color. We must name and claim the truth before we can be set free.
As we prayerfully celebrate Trinity Sunday this year, may we earnestly seek ways to eliminate the harmful effects of white privilege from our land. May we remember the lesson that the Holy Trinity teaches—equality, a mutuality of respect and regard for one another, promotes harmony and unity within the body of Christ.
As we repent of our sin, may we also repent of the societal privilege that separates us from our brothers and sisters of color. 2 Chronicles 7:14 states: If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Church, we are in need of healing. Amen.