6th Sunday after Pentecost
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
At the time when I got my driver’s license at 16, a neighbor happened to be looking to sell her car. She was quite old, rarely drove, so she had about 200 miles on this ’69 Dodge Dart. This pristine, solid-as-a-tank with a V8 engine, brilliant turquoise car was mine for a mere $250. It got about 10 miles to the gallon. Still, I felt safe in it, and there was plenty of room for friends or to cart my brothers to soccer….
Sometime during my senior year of high school, the youth directors – a couple finishing up seminary, with whom I had become quite close – they were going to visit family and asked me to drive them to the airport. On the way, we were stopped by a traffic light and this Corvette coming from the opposite direction decides to just continue through the red light at speed. A classic Mercedes was already making its way into the intersection, so the Corvette slams into and past the front end, swerves over into my lane bouncing off the back end of my car and shoving its nose into and under the telephone truck idling behind me.
Of course, the entire front of the Corvette’s fiberglass casing was shattered – but all three of the other vehicles involved needed to be towed away … while my tank of a car had only the very corner of the bank bumper bent backward. We could drive away, with no problems, and my friends made their flight (if barely).
I couldn’t believe how all three of the cars were rendered undrivable, while mine seemed invincible. And I thought everything was fine. Until, when driving home, I heard the honk of a horn. My entire body did this thing – an electric zing up my spine, my body shuttering, heart racing. I didn’t really understand it until, the next I was driving I heard the screech of a car and the same sensations ripped through my body. Even when I wasn’t driving and I heard a trash can bang or anything that sounded remotely like the impact of two cars colliding, my hold body resonated with the trauma of having been involved in the car crash.
I mistakenly thought that because I was able to drive away from the crash that everything was fine, that there was no reason for me to be affected by it. So I ignored the fact that I narrowly missed being seriously injured, or worse. It wasn’t until I was retelling the tale to another person who possessed the wisdom and insight to comment, “I’ll bet you felt that in your body the next day!” In fact, my neck was sore, a stich at the base of my neck.
She explained that our bodies will still sustain trauma in such a situation even if there isn’t any direct impact. Once I realized this, and accepted that my body is not a tank of a ’69 Dodge Dart, but a 5’4” organic human thing with a network of nerves and synapses that explode into action when unnaturally jostled – once I allowed myself to admit that I am not impervious to these God-created stress responses, I could recognize when this happened, acknowledge what was happening, breathe through it, and eventually be able to drive without freaking out (unconsciously) every time a car’s horn sounded.
Our bodies carry memory.
There is therefore now no condemnation.
Who hasn’t had something happen to them only to experience it viscerally in your body later on in life?
A dog bit you when you were 5 years old, so any time a dog – no matter the size – approaches, your body stiffens and you can’t quite catch your breath.
Your parents constantly fought, one berating the other for not cleaning the counter well enough, or taking too long to get dinner on the table, so when your partner asks when the meal might be ready your hands begin to tremble and all you feel like doing is punching something… some one… or retreating to a quiet space and shutting the door.
Or maybe it was a classmate who made fun of the way you said a word when reading out loud and the whole class seemed to bubble in waves of giggles, so whenever you speak in front of your coworkers your flesh fairly flashes in shades of crimson.
Our bodies carry our shame.
There is no condemnation.
I had no control over how the car accident unfolded, and my perceived weakness of fear. My car was just sitting there. A child isn’t the cause of a parent’s incivility. The effects of embarrassment can be worked through, but it the real healing happens when there is a community, relationships that actively, intentionally see into the other – that Divine character that only you express – and work together to improve conditions whereby each of you can live into that divine reality God created us to live.
—Without condemnation for something that happened to you, or because of the way you look. (A Korean boy called “chink” – and a comment on this virus that came out of China, in the same breath)
The School That Tried to End Racism
The invitation to acknowledge Racism is an invitation to discipleship.
There is now no condemnation. So, why do we continue to condemn others? Why do we continue to condemn ourselves?
It might lie in the depths, the embeddedness of the trauma that is felt in our bones – in the marrow of our being. The idea that entire people groups could be victim of intentional marginalization, a systematic project of shifting neighborhood markers, so, because of the color of your skin, you have to start the race from farther back.
Ta-Nehisi Coates explains,
“But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth…. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regression all land, with great violence, upon the body.”Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me.
Who are we together? What is our dominant Gospel Discipleship path as a church? A few of us at DUMC have taken the assessment. We are all a little different. As individuals, we can learn from our results, encourage each other and better understand each other’s way of doing ministry.
But to be a church that is alive, activated by the Spiritual Gifts that all of us have, with some more than others – but together! – we need to know. To recognize whatever it is that energizes our community to be the kin-dom of God in Durand. And see how those who aren’t of the dominant type can help us be a more creative whole.
Until then, a few of us are going to work through this book by Resmaa Menakem called, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies.
Here’s an excerpt – a premise of the book:
“When I was a boy I used to watch television with my grandmother. I would sit in the middle of the sofa and she would stretch out over two seats, resting her legs in my lap. She often felt pain in her hands, and she’d ask me to rub them in mine. When I did, her fingers would relax, and she’d smile. Sometimes she’d start to hum melodically, and her voice would make a vibration that reminded me of a cat’s purr.
She wasn’t a large woman, but her hands were surprisingly stout, with broad fingers and thick pads below each thumb. One day I asked her, ‘Grandma, why are your hands like that? They ain’t the same as mine.’
My grandmother turned from the television and looked at me. ‘Boy,’ she said slowly. ‘That’s from picking cotton. They been that way since long before I was your age. I started working in the fields sharecroppin’ when I was four.’
I didn’t understand. I’d helped plant things in the garden a few time, but my own hands were bony and my fingers were narrow. I held my hands next to hers and stared at the difference.
‘Umm hmm,’ she said. ‘The cotton plant has pointed burrs in it. When you reach your hand in, the burrs rip it up. When I first started picking, my hands were all torn and bloody. When I got older, they got thicker and thicker, until I could reach in and pull out the cotton without them bleeding.’
My grandmother died last year. Sometimes I can still feel her warm, thick hands in mine.”Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies
There is therefore now no condemnation…
We would like to commit to sowing seeds in the rich soil together, working the land, the fruits from which we all partake, we all benefit. I do not know what the Spirit of God will show me about myself, my place in this Universe where I breathe in the same atoms that my ancestors breathed, walk the land where your ancestors worked. I certainly cannot tell you what your body carries. But we are made in the image and likeness of God – every one of us carries that Divine spark in our spirit – and in our bodies.
Who are we together? Do you have the courage to explore what that means, with us? To sow the good soil, to hear the Word and listen for true understanding – whatever the message is? So that with intentional Gospel Discipleship we might yield 30, 60, 100 times the fruit we have in our ignorance?
Yes, it’s a dare! I will send out information this week, and the links will be in the sermon post this afternoon. But if you want to make your intentions known ahead of this, please email or text or call.