A letter in the wake of the Ferguson indictment decision

But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

                                                                                Mark 13:24-27

Dear friends and colleagues in the Gospel,

We could not know what would come of the grand jury decision rendered last evening. For some, it meant a limited form of  justice; for others, a frustrating dissonance with the truth as they see it. How you see the decision probably depends upon your whole orientation as a human being, but is there more to see?

Mark’s Gospel lesson for this coming Sunday talks about people seeing more than they once were able to see. They see the Son of Man, who gathers the beloved of God, but not until a great cataclysm has occurred, when the powers of the heavens themselves are shaken. I do not take such words as literal predictions. Cataclysmic visions, in biblical times as well as our own, are reflections of actually witnessed events.

The disruption of the order of the world in Mark’s little apocalypse is described as the climax of a time of great suffering, as though the heavens themselves give testimony to the wrongfulness all around, and there is a bursting of the firmament, which is now dissolved, and then, in new clarity, the bearer of God’s incisive truth breaks through with light and a brand new truth.

Beloved, we need a brand new truth! We need something better than a grand jury truth, better than an assumption that real justice can be rendered in a setting where privilege and disadvantage go unremedied and unseen, better than all the efforts to find someone to blame. There is great sorrow for the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, but the greater sorrow is for the many young men who live today in hopelessness, because their future is bleak in the cities of America; and the greater sorrow is neighborhood businesses destroyed by a rage that is nurtured in people convinced that they have no place, and nothing to lose, within the economy of their urban setting; and the greater sorrow includes as well those law enforcement officers who walk fearful in their neighborhoods, because they are assigned to patrol hostile streets where they do not live, that are created by years of social neglect.

First there was a moment of death that became a symbol, then the appearance of regarding it as nothing; then the anger; then the blaming; then the usual official reaction; then the protest and more blaming; then the verdict; then the fire and the looting; then the endless interpretations. Now we need a brand new truth. We need to be a part of it.

“After that suffering…Then they will see… “ May it be so.

Pray this week for two pastors of the United Church of Christ who have been appointed to the Ferguson Commission by the Governor of Missouri: Traci Blackmon, Pastor of Christ the King Church in Florissant, and Starsky Wilson, Pastor of St. John’s Church on North Grand and Executive Director of the Deaconess Foundation. May each of our churches lift them up in prayer this Sunday, and thankfully commission them for this special sacred ministry to which they have been called. They honor us by their faithful witness.

Pray for the young people of Ferguson and other urban neighborhoods, where the dangers of childhood and the alienation of youth are daily challenges to hope.

Pray for the shopkeepers whose life dreams are destroyed by acts of vandalism.

Pray for the residents of neighborhoods made tense and untrusting by social forces beyond their control.

Give thanks for those who are bringing help and comfort in these difficult times – our CHSSM agencies, our parish nurses, our pastors who interpret, march, comfort, preach nonviolence and seek justice, and our friends and neighbors who engage in sacred conversations about race.

This is a day for re-envisioning, for seeing what we could not see before, for gathering with one another from the four winds of our differences, for sharing and volunteering and engaging one another in the ongoing ministry we share.

Rev. Allen Fluent
Acting Conference Minister
Missouri Mid-South Conference UCC