Monday, August 18, 2014

Litany for Peace

I just wanted to share some prayers from a prayer service for peace at house church last week.  The litany and closing prayer are original.  Let us pray and work for peace.
We are molded, each one of us,
in the image of God,
and within our souls there is a fingerprint
none can erase.
We pray for those who have no regard
for anyone but self,
who put no value on human life.
For nations and individuals who abuse and kill.
We are not called to be judge or jury,
but we are called to be agents of change,
and if the butterfly that flaps its wings
should be our attitude to others
then so be it, Lord,
and may the hurricane this generates
somewhere within the world
reach into the hearts and souls of those
for whom we pray, and reveal to them
how precious are those
for whom they have no love,
and how precious are they
who now bring tears to the eyes of God.
©John Birch

We imagine a world
where the deaths of innocent children are never viewed as inevitable and justifiable.
We imagine a world
with no guns, no bombs, no armies, no soldiers.
We imagine a world
free of violence, exploitation and oppression.
We imagine a world
where every human life is honored and regarded as sacred.
We imagine a world
where selfishness and apathy are no longer the norm and good people are no longer silent.
We imagine a world
where grace, gentleness and compassion are prized much more than money, power and status.
We imagine a world
where the triumph of justice, righteousness and peace become an every day occurrence.

Gracious and loving God to you now we turn.  No other help do we know.  For the violence in our hearts, for the violence in the words we’ve spoken, for the violence done on our behalf aided by our apathy and inaction, forgives us, wash us and convert us.   Help us to continue to dream your dream for the world and give us the courage to spend our lives making your dream a reality.  Send us to our homes in peace and out into your world to make peace.  In the name of Jesus, whose very life was pierced by the violence we seek to end Amen.

Following the Way,
Kevin Vetiac

Friday, August 15, 2014

Michael Brown: When Will They Stop Killing Us?

When I first heard about the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri I had no reaction at all.  I just went numb.  I think my heart was so broken by the death of yet another unarmed black man by the police that it would not allow me to feel anything at all, afraid I would collapse completely under the weight of grief, rage and the sense of helplessness.  I was reading another article about the situation yesterday and I finally broke.  I burst into tears at my desk at work and had to run to the bathroom so I could have a moment to grieve in private.  As a black man I cannot help but ask the following questions.  Why do white people hate us so much?  What did we do to them?  Slavery wasn't enough.  Jim Crow wasn't enough.  Lynching wasn't enough.  Depriving us from economic opportunity and forcing many of us into ghettos is not enough.  Now we must also be shot dead for walking down the street.  When will they stop killing us?

I've heard some people blame the militarization of the police for the shooting of Michael Brown.  Indeed, this is a major problem, but let's not miss the obvious here.  As militarized as the police have become, when's the last time you've heard of an unarmed 18 year-old white teenager being gunned down by the police?  Michael Brown was shot dead for being a black man in a country that is as racist as hell and has been from it's very beginning.  America does not have a race "problem';  America in its very nature is racist and the denial of this reality furthers its perpetuation.  Claims that events like the shooting of Michael Brown are isolated incidents are absolutely absurd.  Was the genocide of the Native Americans an isolated incident?  How about the African slave trade?  The war against Mexico in order to steal land and enlarge the US?  Jim Crow?  Lynching?  The massive rates of incarceration among black people today?  The murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and John Crawford?

Am I to believe that all of these are isolated incidents that are not connected to one another?  Absolutely not!  The shooting of Michael Brown is nothing more than the continuation of the subjugation of people of color this country was founded upon and thrives upon to this day.  A racist country produces racist police.  It's simple to understand.  And until the average white American acknowledges the fact that the very foundation of our nation is built upon the refusal to acknowledge people of color as full human beings, the racism will continue and people of color will continue to pay the price.  Your denial is killing us.

Racism killed Michael Brown.  Racism that refuses to acknowledge people of color as fully human.  Racism that says people of color are to be humiliated, exploited and kept in their place.  Racism that says all black men are dangerous menaces to society who need to be locked up or shot dead.  Racism that tells white people to be afraid of all black people everywhere at all times.  Racism that makes it OK to shoot first and ask questions later.  It is this racism that fuels the American way of life and makes white privilege possible.

As a black man it is absolutely ridiculous and heartbreaking that I need to say the following in 2014, but hear me white America:

I am a person.  Do you get that?  Do you really get that?  I'm fully human just like you.  I am not a target.  I am not a dog that can be shot down in the street for no reason.  I do not exist to serve you or be subordinate to you in any way so don't expect me to be submissive to you.  I'm going to say that again because you really need to hear this white America.  I DO NOT EXIST TO SERVE YOU OR BE SUBORDINATE TO YOU IN ANY WAY.  I am made in the image and likeness of God.  My blackness is not a curse, it is a blessing.  I will never apologize to you for existing, never.

We cannot talk about Michael Brown without talking about race.  A racist country produces racist police.  We cannot confront police brutality without confronting racism.  And we cannot end racism in America without dismantling all of the systems formulated to deny people of color their full humanity.  Until we do this all the police training in the world will not stop the lives of people of color from being sacrificed for the maintenance of white privilege one way or the other.  As a black man in America I must return to the question: When will they stop killing us?

Following the Way,

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Every Breath is a Gift

"The breath you just took is a gift."
Rob Bell

I am becoming aware of the truth of this statement more and more.  It  becomes more difficult to take life for granted when faced with the atrocities taking place in Gaza, Syria and many places around the world.  The thought of innocent children being bombed in their sleep is enough to shake you out of apathy.  At any moment life can be taken from you.  A close friend of mine is in the hospital after a medical emergency that could have easily taken her life.  She is still here and in the midst of sadness and worry about her condition I must be grateful.  I must give thanks that she is still here and I am still here to witness her recovery.

Every breath is a gift, every single one.  Every breath is a manifestation of grace that is at once beautiful and fragile.  Here one moment and gone the next.  We must surrender to this reality if we are to live life well.  Denying our vulnerability does the world no good.  Humility and gratitude are essential to a life well lived.  Realizing the limitations of what we can do for ourselves opens our eyes to see all that is graciously given to us, providing us with opportunities to sink deeper into gratitude.  We can do nothing to earn or deserve the breath of life.  We cannot take life upon ourselves.  It is given to us freely as an act of grace and love.

My favorite part of the creation story in the Bible is Genesis 2:7  "Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."  I love the imagery of God stooping down into the clay and personally breathing life into the first human being.  It's a beautiful illustration that our very being is dependent upon another Source, that life is a gift freely given to be received in gratitude.  Love has called us into being.

When I am tempted to fall into despair because of all the troubles in the world I remind myself that every single breath I take gives me another reason to say thank you.  Every breath is a gift.  What will I do with it?  The powers that be seem invincible and ubiquitous, but certainly I can use my life to make a difference in the lives of others.  The ability to be grateful in a world full of trouble saves us from the paralysis of despair and nudges us to use our gift for purposes far greater than securing our own comfort.  Every now and then stop, be still, take a breath and recognize it for the miraculous gift that it is.  Let everything that you do flow from this realization.

Following the Way,