Ferguson, Missouri, is tragedy, writ small and large. It began with the cascade of events from Aug. 9: petty theft, quickly escalating violence, and the death of a teenager. And from that first tragedy, a human life cut terribly short, seep so many others: Breaking news guaranteed to divide, whichever way the grand jury’s decision had gone. A crowd gathered in mistrust. Police in riot gear. Clouds of tear gas. Gunfire in response. Police cars set ablaze. Windows smashed. Businesses looted. And now we wonder: Can that community live again?
Even before the grand jury’s decision was announced last night, Michael Brown’s family asked for healing, not hatred: “Channel your frustration in ways that will make positive change. Let’s not just make noise; let’s make a difference.” But then came fire and smoke.
Watching the coverage of Ferguson, I’m sure a least some people were asking these two questions: Where is God in all this, and what can we do?
Where is God? God is in the streets of Ferguson. God was weeping with the Brown family as they relived their pain. God was standing with the innocents caught in other people’s violence, calming their fear. And God was standing with the police, calming the fear of those trying to restore order in a broken situation. When we know tragedy, Jesus willingly enters in to help us heal and to point us toward kingdom hope instead.
And that’s the answer to the second question: “What can we do?” We can live in hope. Fr. Marcus has been working with a group of clergy here in Kansas City, modeling prayer and proclamation as the response to discord and division. He and others in the group are organizing an opportunity for people of this city to speak love into tragedy – a dialogue involving community and neighborhood leaders, clergy, educators, police officers, and others who understand that we can, indeed, do something. We can let the Word take flesh in us and engage in holy conversation, allowing fears to be spoken and heard on both sides and looking for ways to build trust and common purpose in our community. That conversation will happen sometime next week.
We can also pray. I ask you to do that, to unite in prayer for reconciliation in our communities and across our nation. Just imagine what might come if we took even a fraction of the energy spent on 24-hour news and social-media commentary, and channeled it into prayer and presence for the healing of division instead.
And we can remember. We can remember that Jesus reigns as king even when we see chaos. We can remember that he is working to reconcile the brokenness around us. Had we not been celebrating the feast of St. Andrew a few days ago, we would have offered this prayer for Christ the King Sunday. It reflects our hope:
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer 236)