Remembering, Not Celebrating.

This time two weeks ago, it had been a month since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. The media – even right here within 20 miles of his death – was just beginning to “cover” the story in earnest. There were a smattering of articles and it was already interesting to see how different papers presented the few details that had been released.

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This time two weeks ago, I was thinking about the opportunities my child will have in life. As a white, middle class, smart kid, college and career are almost a given – barring bad luck with health or something else unforeseen. We have been blessed and are, most days, oblivious to the privilege our social-racial-economic situation affords. But conversations about race, over-zealous neighborhood watch members and hoodies remind me how differently people who live in the same neighborhood can experience life.

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This time two weeks ago, I was in Washington DC. After visiting several other memorials, I was finally standing in front of the 3-4 times larger than life likeness of Martin Luther King, Jr. I followed his gaze across the tidal basin to the Jefferson Memorial and wondered what words of grace he might have offered to the former slaveholder who wrote so eloquently about freedom.

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I read the quotes that had been chosen for the wall behind MLK, and I wondered what words he would have spoken to our current president, had he lived to see Mr. Obama’s inauguration. I wondered what words he would have spoken to Trayvon’s parents. To the parents of so many young men who are stopped and frisked every day in our cities. And to the church – about the sad reality that crime within the African-American community takes the lives of so many black men, whether they die in the streets or spend large portions of their lives in jail.

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It was in the midst of these thoughts that I realized how brilliantly the monument had been designed. The form of MLK was not finished, sort of like the presidents on Mount Rushmore, with his face and part of his body emerging from the stone. This man’s work not completed in his lifetime, it remains unfinished 44 years later. And yet, his face is not downcast. His hands are not hanging limp at his side. There is a determination in his eyes as clear as the word HOPE carved into the stone.

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Today – Good Friday, I think about the deaths that we remember but do not celebrate. I cannot celebrate the death of MLK or any of the women and men who have given their lives in our country and around the world in service of people whose voices are silenced by their prevailing cultures. Nor can I celebrate the death of the Man-God who came to not to die but to give sight to the blind, to set captives free, to bring healing and wholeness to the world. In the process, Jesus gave his life. The disciples must have seen determination as he turned his eyes toward Jerusalem, knowing that death would come for him. Knowing that he would need his followers to continue the work he started.

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Perhaps the crucifix, rather than the empty or draped cross is the better symbol for this day. The man reminds us that this world remains full of death, suffering, shame and pain. That our pain is not beyond the imagination or grasp of God. That we are to be family to one another in the midst of today’s brokenness and fear.

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The words, “It is finished” marked the end of a life, but it is an end that prepares the way for resurrection, rebirth, renewal and re-creation. HOPE

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