A Lament - Pastoral Response to Death of George Floyd

by Pastors Aaron, Amy, Kimberly on May 31, 2020

Dear District Church family,

“I can’t breathe.” These last words of George Floyd capture the hurt, the pain, and the cry of so many African Americans and people of color throughout our history as a nation. The death of Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday has once again exposed the injustice and racism in our land. 

It is in moments like these, when it’s hard to find the words, that we should be reminded of the Biblical practice of Lament. Where we cry out to God for justice and change. 

Hear the words of the prophet Isaiah: 

1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right 
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions and seem 
eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: 
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?

            -Isaiah 58:1-3,6

To the African-Americans in our church family, we want you to know that while many of us can’t fully understand your pain, we see your pain, and we grieve with you. 

George Floyd joins a long list of names in recent years (Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, the list goes on), who in recent years have been killed for the color of their skin by those charged with protecting life. 

These tragic stories highlight the inequality and racism that not only exists today but has throughout our history as a nation. Sadly the white church in America has too often been complicit, silent, or lukewarm about racism. Meanwhile we see thousands of young people protesting in the streets in cities across the nation tonight crying out for change. We pray for peace on our streets and we pray that the church will understand these stories and understand this pain.  

We must be reminded today of the biblical truth taught in Genesis 1 that every person is made in the image of God. And we must speak out whenever the beauty of God’s image is ignored. God’s heart is for every person. That is what Pentecost reminds us of. That God’s Spirit is available to all of us, people from every nation on earth. 

There is so much to say or try to say, there is so much to do or try to do, but let us right now focus on mourning. Let us lament. 

Lament is the recognition of death and loss.  To lament is to create emotional space to mourn before God and with others. It is a critical first step in the healing process. Being honest. 
We see the practice of lament throughout the Bible and especially in the Psalms. We see lament in Lamentations, Jeremiah, and with Jesus in Gethsemane.
We need to be reminded that God wants us to come to him in our anger, in our fear, in our loneliness, in our hurt, and in our pain. 

And as we cry out in prayer we can be assured that we have a Savior who is able to empathize with us in our weakness and need.

As we seek to be a church for the city, we must know our context here where God has called us. We must learn the insidious story of racism in the United States and in DC. It is a cancer that affects everything from politics to education to poverty to health care to the criminal justice system. Without an awareness of the most prevalent, underlying issue in our city, we cannot hope to make any significant impact on the very place we claim to be for. More significantly for this current situation, we will fail to understand and empathize with the deep-seated pain, grief, anger, and confusion felt by the African-American community, including many in our own church. 

So what are we to do? While we know that sin, injustice and racism will never be fully eradicated until Christ’s return, we know that we have the responsibility to carry out the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20). We have the responsibility to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Mic 6:8).
So how can we respond? 

1) Pray. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have in our arsenal against the principalities and powers against which we struggle. Ephesians 6 says that our struggle is not against “flesh and blood” but against these principalities and powers. In other words, this is not a fight against specific people, groups of people, political parties, or media outlets. This is a battle in the spiritual realm against Satan and the ways he seeks to rob, steal, destroy, and counter Christ’s mission to seek, save, heal, and unite. On Sunday, May 31st we are doing 24 hours of prayer as a church. We are asking for everyone in our church to sign up for a 30 min slot to pray and lament.  You can sign up here

2) Listen and Learn. If you don’t understand the depth of the emotion felt by people of color in response to racist incidents, take time to listen. Listen to the African-American community, to the Latino community and to the Native community. Listen to the Asian American community who is experiencing a huge spike in racism during this pandemic with hateful comments being made to them. Listen to the AAPI videofrom TDC members that aired last night that includes many of these topics. In humility, genuinely seek to learn, opening your heart and your mind to understanding the experiences of those different than your own. Read the following books: White Awake by Daniel Hill; I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown; and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. 

3) Support Justice Ministries. DC127 and Just Homes were started out of our church to respond to the racial inequality in our city as the body of Christ. Repentance Project is ministry creating resources to better understand the history of slavery and racism and how we can repent as the body of Christ. Arrabon is a ministry that helps to equip the church to have cross-cultural conversations. These are just some of the justice ministries we regularly support financially and serve in leadership with as a church. 

There are so many other things that probably should or could be said, but we felt going into this Pentecost Sunday that we needed to say something. 
Tomorrow we will be pausing our Set / Apart series in I Peter in order to speak a bit into this moment and pray together as a church. We were already prepared to mourn the loss of life from Covid-19 this weekend and now we add this.

These are times we must come together as a community as best we are able given the continued restrictions on physical gatherings. 

We hope you will be able to join us at 10AM at www.districtchurch.org/live 

In unrelenting hope of what Christ has done and promised to do,

With love,
Pastors Aaron, Amy, and Kimberly         


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