Overwhelmed and frustrated with so many recent events in our world, and specifically in our city, I sent a text message to my bright lights and dear family in Tennessee, affectionately dubbed “Team Ellis”. Among other things, I wrote: “St. Louis, y’all. St. Louis”
Karen replied: “Girl, our whole world is churning, at home and abroad…Maranatha, Lord Jesus”. And I say amen. This is the prayer of the saints who cry out for renewal. Even as we wonder, ‘how shall we respond, or get involved?’ We know that the force of God’s power is evident in the oneness of the body expressed by gathering together, to worship and to bow before him in intercessory prayer. And to confess that many of us are ambivalent to the pain and violence that churns our world into lumps. It’s messy, and I will be first to admit that I prefer to live amongst the safe and tidy, and to set my sights on things that convince me there is no other way. This is one of countless preferences the Holy Spirit is reversing in me. Only blindness results in a belief that any distance can deliver us from mess, sin and pain. If every person who is washed in Jesus’ blood is also a member of his one body, then we are all in the mess. Together. Our pains and triumphs shared alike.
It is frustrating to have no power. But oh the freedom we have in leaning on the Lord! We cannot win unless he fights, and we stand still. My father addressed his own struggle with not having all the answers in a letter to our church. He ended by saying “please believe that prayer answers trial with triumph” and these words have been an encouragement. To those who breathe destruction upon suffering communities, peaceful protest seems like the most senseless, and thus impossible, response. God’s church takes that impossibility even further. For while we affirm the appeal for justice to civil and political powers, our greatest and most solemn appeal is to a court we have never seen. Our foolishness would have us trust more in a person who is neither a citizen of St. Louis, the US, or of the world.
Those who wish to get involved should appeal the courts as is appropriate. We should stand up and speak out. We should intentionally shop at businesses in Ferguson, praying a blessing on our city and counties with every step we take, dollar we spend, and greeting we share. Wave at the neighbors you pass, and the police officers as well! Saying “hello” is the cool water of kindness that bids people to hope.
Listen to the stories, concerns and resilience of people who live in the Ferguson area, and those who have been through similar situations. Pray for and love those who riot and wreak havoc, but do not be convinced that this anger is born of righteousness. Those who love and care for the Brown family would listen to them and heed them when they call for peace. Those who love their neighborhoods and appreciate the services their local businesses provide would not destroy them, razing them to the ground with no possibility of rebuilding.
By now we have all seen the images of hands lifted in protest, and in peace. And the church of Jesus takes this same action, but we lift our hands in – and unto – the supreme power of God, the only hope for restoration. We do this not only because we admit our own weakness, we do this because we can testify of his strength. “My hands are up” because I know where my help comes from.