It's been an interesting week in Somerville, MA, with a local police union organizing to have the #BlackLivesMatter banner removed from Somerville City Hall and replaced with an All Lives Matter banner. The union has complained that the banner suggests that Somerville cops should be blamed for racism. They also say that the Black Lives Matter movement is responsible for the assassinations of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rogue by black men and therefore displaying the banner is wrong.
Last night there was a rally of area police officers at city hall demanding the removal of the banner and there was a much less covered (of course) Black Lives Matter rally called "Setting the Record Straight." Black Lives Matter Cambridge organizers challenged those calling for an All Lives Matter banner to #ProveIt. If you truly believe All Lives Matter, prove it by acting like Black Lives DO Matter. Prove it by fighting against personal and systemic racism that tries to dismiss, oppress, and destroy black lives. It was a powerful message and a true invitation to come together.
At First Church Somerville, our congregation decided to hang a Black Lives Matter banner on the church tower in December 2014. I think for many of us - certainly for me - the phrase Black Lives Matter sounded like something that Jesus would have challenged us to believe and act upon.
As Christians we understand, according to Genesis, that all people are created in the image of God. All of us are God's children. All of us, no matter who we are, are beloved by God. Every life matters. This is what we are created to be. AND as Christians we also understand that the good way God created us to be is not always what we do. We do not always live or act with love toward all the lives in this world.
And so when Jesus came to us to announce what he was here to do, he made his debut introduction, according to Luke chapter 4, by saying:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
In other words, Jesus didn't say All Lives Matter. He didn't say I'm here for the rich, and the captors, and the sighted, and the oppressors. Jesus makes perfectly clear here what the rest of the Gospels describe - that Jesus' ministry and activity in this world will be focused on the people who GOD created to matter, but who the WORLD treats as if they didn't matter.
Jesus showed up for the last, the least, and the lost to help us all correct the sinful idea that God created some of us to be mightier than, greater than, better than others. This is what Jesus means by proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor - It's a time of correction. Only after the correction has been made can we truly proclaim All Lives Matter. But in order to announce the time of correction and the movement toward God's justice, Jesus said then and Jesus says today, Black Lives Matter.
When a rich young ruler came to ask Jesus how to be saved, Jesus asked him about all the commandments - don't murder, lie, cheat, steal. The commandments, Jesus tells us, add up basically to God's original vision for us, a world in which we all love one another and treat one another with respect. The rich ruler tells Jesus he's been following all the rules since he was a kid! And the Bible says that Jesus looked at him and loved him and offered him the next step. You lack one thing, Jesus said, if you want to really get this thing right, take everything you have, give it away to the poor, and then come and follow me.
The rich young ruler came to Jesus hoping for a path to salvation. I know, said the rich young ruler, that All Lives Matter. What else do I have to do? And Jesus said, Prove it. If All Lives Matter, you need to give up some of your privilege and dedicate yourself to acting like Black Lives Matter. That's the path.
We all have a lot of work to do together! Tearing down one another's banners is a sad waste of time and energy that could be dedicated to actually doing the hard work of coming together to make the world a better, more just place. I'm looking forward to continuing to support Black Lives Matter Cambridge and the city of Somerville in this important work!
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Jesus the Imagination
Thoughts and dreams, musings and meditations