All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We are enduring a spring of the deadly outbreaks of three viruses: Covid-19, racism and violence. We’re suffering from over 100,000 deaths of the coronavirus as of today, but are also becoming increasingly aware of the thousands of “silent deaths” of predominantly black and brown persons from a violent society that has never overcome its original sins of white privilege and racism. These sins have shown their face in the past few weeks in the outrageous violent deaths of unarmed black persons, as well as in several other racially fueled and demeaning incidents across our nation. People of good will all over the world are protesting; they are variously ashamed, enraged, and fearful of an uncertain future.
How did we get here?
We are a people of faith. We follow in the footsteps of one who was a member of a subjugated race in a powerful empire, unjustly accused, brutally tortured, and who suffered a grisly death at the hands of political and religious leaders who colluded to prevent his message of peace, justice and salvation from spreading. The world in which we live today is not too different from the world for which our Savior gave his life.
We worship a merciful and compassionate God, who was made manifest to us in the face of Jesus the Christ. After his resurrection, facing the very ones who betrayed him only a few days before, the first words out of his mouth were, “Peace be with you.” Ever since, his followers have vowed to seek and serve Christ in the face of every human being.
More than fifty years after the dream of Martin Luther King for a just, multiracial society of a free people living in peace, where do we go from here?
Here are a few resources to get you started. I invite you to prayerfully and carefully read the excellent statement of the Diocese of Maryland’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the present racial crisis that we’re facing. I also invite you to view and listen to my recent dialogue on racial trauma with a white member of the diocese as we try to demonstrate how to have civil and respectful conversations about race in America.
Representing the diocese, Bishop Ihloff and I will be gathering later this week with other religious leaders in Baltimore to make a public common outdoor witness for justice and peace in this troubling time. Look for more details to come as they unfold, and how you may be able to support this witness.
The Diocesan Truth and Reconciliation Committee will be extending an invitation to the diocese to participate in a dialogue on race and the impact of current events in our country, If not now, when? If not us, who? How long oh Lord, how long? Please stay tuned for more information on a date and time.
The Diocese of Maryland has made great strides in trying to repair the damage of racial injustice in our state and in our world. There is much more work to be done still…stay tuned. Will you join me in this effort for the next several years?
If not now, when? If not us, who?
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland