When Our Words Fail Us

Words fail us. They failed George Floyd. Neither his words nor those of bystanders crying out for the police officer to take the pressure off Mr. Floyd’s neck made any difference. This, of course, is why many are leaving their hope in words behind and running out into the street to do something, anything, all kinds of things both good and bad, in the hope of making a difference.

Words fail us. Calls for calm seem no more effective than have the calls for reform through the years. And many of us feel caught in the middle—possibly because our lives aren’t directly on the line. For the police officers who are trying to uphold a system of justice that many regard as weighted against them, these issues are life and death matters. For people of color who are crying out for equal opportunity, impartial justice, and common decency, these issues are life and death matters. And the majority of us get to safely, if not comfortably, stick to the muddled middle.

God help us. God forgive us. God help us.

Grant us enough concern to care, deeply, about the people who are not safely hanging out in the muddled middle.

Grant us the humility to imagine that we may be a part of the problem and that our perspectives and opinions may need tweaking or even transformation.

Grant us the discomfiting gift of hungering and thirsting for righteousness that we might be blessed as we seek out and engage in actions by which that hunger and thirst is satisfied.

Grant us the gift of living as children of God in this troubled world, that is, the gift of living as peacemakers who work for the God-given dream and promise of shalom to become the reality for all—for, indeed, biblical shalom only becomes a true reality for any of us when every aspect of creation, every person, is living in harmony, blessed and overflowing with blessing for all.

Our words fail us, but God’s Word does not. In a time when the primary concern for many of us has been when we can return to in-person gatherings so we can worship God together, it is worth considering that this may not be God’s primary concern. As God makes clear through the prophet Amos and so many others, there are much greater avenues of worship that God is looking for from us. May this be a time, amid the chaos and trouble of our world, in which we strive to worship God in spirit and in truth-seeking the good of all. Let us hear the Word of the Lord:

I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
    I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

                                                            Amos 5:21-24


(written by Salem’s Senior Pastor Mark Pattie)

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