And this is God’s moment for sending a Spirit. It is time for Pentecost. They were all gathered in one place in Minneapolis, Dallas, Atlanta, San Jose, Chicago and many other places. Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind. Most of those protesters were there for noble and righteous reasons. Over the course of many years, the winds carrying the cries and pleas for racial reconciliation and equality had blown through as countless African American became victims of the manifestations of racial violence. But the wind of the Spirit wasn’t strong enough to stir the hearts of enough people to bring about change in the world.
That wind broke something last week throughout America. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” George Floyd cried out and exhaled the dying breath of another victim of our nation’s original sin, yet sparked a fire that has spread across our country. It was burning cars and shops, shopping carts and tires burned in the streets. The fire, although it is not the right kind of fire, is saying there is something that is not being heard.
When people say something and they feel they aren’t being heard they say it again. Then they say it louder. Then they yell it. If they think they are not being heard they scream. But violence that is born of violence is not acceptable. As the Rev. Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” That fire for racial justice will continue burning until the message is learned.
It is never acceptable to hate and despise others, for any reason whatsoever. It is not ok to hold thought of hatred for others based on skin color, way of life, sexual orientation, personal taste, whatever reason we may hold. It is never acceptable for a supposed leader to stoke the flames with Tweets that are incendiary.
The truth is what we need to hear, not destruction that is born out of violence. Rev. Martin Luther King called for peaceful resistance to the lack of truth and justice in the land. I know that many of the people in those crowds over these past evening were responding to that message. Other were there for their own agenda, and that part of it is wrong. Humanity seems very tired and hurt. When a person or society is “sick and tired” of being “sick and tired,” is time for Pentecost. There comes a time when we actually realize we need to be saved that we need a new Spirit: “Come, Holy Spirit! And renew the face of the earth!”
The necessary truth, the truth that sets us ALL free, ideally leads to willingness to pursue the necessary reforms that our culture so badly needs. We may pray, “Lord, the hatred and violent impulses continue; purify me. Lord, purge my soul of the restlessness and anxiety of this present age that I may heal relationships with those who are different from me. Lord, let me believe in the power of the mighty acts of God which took place in Pentecost … for our streets are burning and it is wrong. People of color are hurting badly and have been for a long time. Send us your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.”
“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” George Floyd spoke for all of us in this dying moment. We pray for the family and loved ones of George Floyd. The life-giving Spirit, the holy breath that was breathed into the first man and woman, breathed into us as we emerged from our mother’s womb, the only breath that brings truth and reconciliation, is being choked off.
Many women and men who give their lives for protecting others are suffering due to the sickness of a few. There is a need for reform on our criminal justice system. The protests were not only about George Floyd. It is a bout dirty water in our cities, lack of quality education, systemic racism and much more. It has finally bubbled over into the streets. Those out there demonstrate against injustice, but many of them are going about in the wrong way. If we want reform, register to vote and vote for those who understand the need to eliminate systemic racism from our government, our businesses, our churches, from Washington to Los Angeles, from Brooklyn to San Jose.
George Floyd was right. We can’t breathe because the Spirit has not yet found receptive hearts and minds willing to exhale our own prejudices and to inhale the Spirit. That Spirit will fortify us to fight that all might know the freedoms and equality that this nation professes, but so often still falls short. Lord, send us your Spirit.