Bombs in Seaside and Elizabeth. Thank God no one was hurt. Dumpster bombs in Chelsea. Thank God no one was killed. These incidents are close to home, and some of the highly reactive political rhetoric only ramps up the fear – and a common response is to either seal oneself off in a silo or hide under a rock.
There are other responses – and in the last week I have had the privilege of witnessing and hearing several of them. While in Detroit at our House of Bishops meeting, a group of us had a chance to go to Flint and hear from the mayor, state senate minority leader and the lead local pediatrician – in an Episcopal Church, talk about their solidarity and commitment in the wake of that city's devastating water crisis.
The day before, the bishops were the inaugural audience of a four minute video by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who eloquently and powerfully describes the Jesus movement as "loving, liberating and life-giving." (Watch the Presiding Bishop's video here.)
A bishops writing group put forth a short and compelling statement to the church that draws on the power and persuasion of the Gospel: "Let prophets tell the truth in love. Let reconcilers move boldly into places of division and disagreement. Let evangelists inspire us to tell the story of Jesus in new and compelling ways. Let leaders lead with courage and joy." (Full text, with videos in English and Spanish, available here.)
Each of us has gifts that fall into one of those challenges.
And then I was present at two "Listening Table" gatherings in the diocese (I was remotely connected to a third, which took place while I was in Detroit). Some 200 people from 56 churches across the diocese came to listen to scripture, to each other – and to the Holy Spirit, all of which invited and inspired those who attended to continue the journey, following the guidance and mercy of the living Christ.
In his “I have a dream speech” in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. paraphrased 2 Corinthians 4:8: "to hew out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope."
That is what I see. That is what I see others seeing and how they are responding with life-giving commitments.
And oh sweet Jesus, does it help – and offer a way forward.