Race, Advent, and Shalom

Since I’ve been spending the past couple of months visiting an Episcopal church, I have really reoriented my life around the church calendar. All Saints Day, Christ the King Sunday, and now the Advent season. Though the holidays often involve a certain amount of stress, I’ve always enjoyed this time of the year. It always seems to feel like a journey of expectation, requiring a little bit of acclimation. The one thing that is really striking me this year is the spirit of peace. If you’ve watched the news lately, most of what you’ve probably seen is the antithesis of peace. After the Ferguson case, Eric Garner’s death, and the C.I.A. torture report that just came out, I’ve sat in front of the TV in tears. You see, these aren’t just stories on a TV in some far off place. These are other human beings with real stories, lives, hopes, dreams, and plans. To be honest, I’ve been angry more than anything else, because my gut just says there’s something horribly wrong with the acceptance of violence and discrimination in our culture.

There’s been this anger and aching in me for justice. For things to be made right. For humans to be treated like people made in the image of God, regardless of the color of their skin, their sexuality, or religion. For violence to cease to be our norm.

A couple of weeks ago one of the lectionary readings was from Isaiah 64. Our rector put a lot of emphasis on verse one as she talked a little bit about the injustices in the world and the righteous yearning for justice.

“If only you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

I found myself nodding my head in agreement as she preached.

That verse has been rolling around in my head and heart over the past few weeks as I’ve sat in front of the news. I’ve sometimes had rather heated conversations about race with my friends and family in response to the recent events.

“If only you would tear open the heavens and come down!” (Notice that there’s an exclamation point at the end of that.)

Advent is the celebration of a peaceable king who DID tear open the heavens and come down. Shalom came down. History has been reoriented around him.

That greeting we say to one another at church each Sunday, “God’s peace,” has taken on a whole new weight for me.

At the end of the day, I think that’s the responsibility for people of faith (regardless of who you believe God is)-- to graciously steward the peace of God, or shalom, and pass it along to each person we come in contact with.