By: Olivia Whitener
Readings: Psalm 105:1-15 42; Numbers 14:10b-24; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
On my bus ride home from our Ash Wednesday service earlier in the month, with ashes on my forehead clearly marking me as a follower of Christ, I looked around and realized that I in no way felt more endangered because of my explicit display of my religion. And I was struck with the religious privilege held in that reflection.
February 10th happened to also mark one year since three beautiful, intelligent, and faithful Muslim young adults were murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by a neighbor who hated their religion. In a statement released by Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, father to Yusor and Razan, and Farris Barakat, brother to Deah, they used these words to encourage our nation in the wake of this tragedy, among others: “We know that we must not fight hate with hate. Instead, we will carry their legacy of love against hate.”
The courage to continue to love and show compassion, in a nation whose sin of bigotry and oppression seems to increase, is remarkable. It is action informed by their faith in a God who calls them to a higher way of being in the world. And it is an example of the faithfulness God expected of the Israelites in the wilderness in our passage in Numbers. It is the calling we have still today as Christians: to repent of a communal sin of hate and refuse to be bystanders.
Working for justice and peace in the world, as we promise to do in our Baptismal liturgy, is difficult and bears a heavy burden at every disappointment. Like the Israelites wandering in a wilderness, we often feel lost and abandoned by a God who promises that we will not “be tested beyond our strength” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The psalmist encourages us to “Seek the Lord and his strength” (105:4a) but sometimes that doesn’t seem like enough.
On this, the 12th day of Lent, our prayer of adoration to God, which we sing in Psalm 105, is not a lighthearted celebration. Like the Easter Sunday that we anticipate during these forty solemn days of Lent, we sing praises to God with heavy hearts, many questions, and a plea for God’s mercy to flow in us and from us.
Lord, You are slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression. May we turn to our neighbors and show them the love you first showed us. Open our hearts to courage, to trust, to forgiveness, and to peace and give us the strength to live out a calling of justice in this world. In the name of Your son, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.