Yesterday, I viewed a Father’s Day Service at my church that I will never forget. Usually, one would expect a message about one of the Old Testament Patriarchs, Abraham, Moses, or Jacob. But this Sunday our pastor, Bill Towne, had invited two people from our faith family to sit together and address their two different and unique perspectives of the current racial unrest in our community, country, and world today. One member, Ebony Clark, the Director of Multnomah County Mental Health and Addiction Services, the other, a Portland Police officer, only identified by his first name, Mike.
Pastor Bill’s scripture reference was taken from Psalm 51. It is the passage of scripture following King David’s great sin of adultery and murder. In it, he confesses his sin and pours out his heart in anguish and guilt. Pastor Bill pointed out that David accepted responsibility for all that he had done and then moved to plead for total cleansing, and finally God’s granting of complete restoration.
Both Ebony and Mike were asked what they would want us, as a body of believers, to know about their life experiences and their views, and how has the Holy Spirit been working in their lives through this time.
Ebony, a resident of Lake Oswego, married to a white man, with bi-racial children, admitted her own level of anxiety the first few times she attended our church. “It wasn’t like my small fifty member home church in North Portland. It was huge and I wondered if I belonged.” Little by little she felt the Lord speaking to her and asking her what barriers she had been putting up to keep from fitting in with the others in our body. She realized that she needed to have a voice and become a bridge to bring about change. That’s exactly what she has been doing. She is a part of the Racial Equity team, which was established within our church body a year ago. She is helping all of us to become change-makers.
Mike shared that the Holy Spirit has encouraged him, trained to keep the peace and maintain order, that he should become a good listener, or as he said in his own words, he should “Shut up and listen.” He has selected as his family verse Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV)This is something he is trying to live out every day of his life as a police officer. He also referenced the responsibility we hold as a State and City to right injustices. He believes the saying he has seen around our city, “All lives won’t matter until Black Lives matter.”
Ebony called us to a season of lamenting. “We need to sit in lamenting as a part of sustaining change.”
Today I investigated the word “lament.” We as believers know that the book of Lamentations is a concentrated and intense witness to suffering. It was written out of the suffering experience of the exile of the nation of Israel. But now we have been invited to go deeper into this season of lamenting. Lamenting is defined as grief or sorrow experienced by expressing sorrow especially that associated with an irreparable loss.
Irreparable loss! Something that is impossible to rectify or repair.’ It grieves me to believe this is true of our current situation. Pastor Bill said that believing “people just don’t change,” is an atheist point of view. Why? Because it denies the healing power available to each of us through the redemptive work of Christ Jesus.
Ebony shared what she really wanted us to hear, “I wanted to be seen, to be loved, and for people to educate themselves.” Mike echoed that sentiment and suggested that it would take more than “sticking earbuds in our ears to listen to a book.” That comment made me uncomfortable because that has been the extent of my personal change.
That’s what I’m taking away from this Father’s Day. Change needs to be more than listening to book. It needs to be a time to sit in lament. It needs to be actively listening to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit.