Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Words for Andre Green's funeral

A 15 year old African-American young man, Andre Green, died this past Sunday after being shot by police officers in Indianapolis.  I am gone from Indianapolis for the month of August.  But if I was there for the funeral which will be held at Broadway on Monday, I might have said this:

The people of Broadway United Methodist Church wish to express their sympathy to the family and friends of Andre Green.  God’s presence and power are made perfect in our weakness and in this moment we know our weakness and grief. 

It is not enough for the mayor, or the chief of police, or city council members, or members of the media and others to pontificate and lecture about responsibility when they show more commitment to the professional young black men who play in Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse then they show to the black young men, native citizens, who live in the shadow of those buildings in neighborhoods not so very far away.  Where is their commitment not only to Bankers Life, but also to Young Men’s Lives?  We know.  Oil Matters.  Bankers Lives Matter.  But where is the evidence that Black Lives Matter too?

So, we do offer our sympathy and our prayers to you today.  But we also offering thanksgiving for the life of Andre Green.  Many will make of him a symbol of either what they love or what they hate - but he is not a symbol.  He is a person.  A human being.  A beloved child of God.  And we are grateful for his life.  Thanks be to God.  .

Often at moments like these the pastors and leaders and members of the congregation offer their prayers and support to the family.  There have been too many funerals of young black men held under this soaring ceiling to have that be enough today.  It is not enough for those of us at Broadway.  It is not enough for the faithful followers of Christ.  It is not enough for this city.

There are guest preachers who have stood in this pulpit on such occasions and said, “it is not about race.”  How could good folks be blind to such obvious truth?  How many funerals have been held in this space of young black men who have died from violence over the last thirty plus years?  Many.  How many funerals have been held in this space for young white men who have died from violence over the last thirty years?  None.  It is about race.  And unless we can begin to talk about this directly, honestly, and courageously with one another, we should not speak at all.  We should let our silence rain down, pour down on us until we are so soaked in the waters of our baptism that we cannot keep silent.

It is not enough to just offer words, or a casserole, or a comforting arm.  It is not enough to offer youth programs, it is not enough to offer tutoring, it is not enough to write editorials, or to even thunder words from our pulpits.

We must love one another and we must organize ourselves to do so.   We must notice each young black man around us and pause and tell that young man what we see.  We must tell the young man the gifts of God we see in his life.  We must point out how much the other people in that young man’s life see and notice the gifts of God in his life.  We must not only TELL that young man how needed he is, we must SHOW that young man how needed he is.  We must listen to the young men, learn from them.  We don’t do that by doing things for them, we do that by opening ourselves to receive their gifts.  By being insistent, willing and eager, even to fail in our efforts to build up what God has put inside the life of that young black man, to both know he is loved and to act on it by receiving the good gift of God in who he is.