COMMAnts from the Conference Minister – December 2015

Rev. Shari Prestemon“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”                                                                (Luke 3:4-6)

A little over a week ago I marched with approximately 1000 others – including at least a dozen UCC clergy and members – from the 4th Precinct in North Minneapolis to the City Hall downtown. It was the morning after 5 protesters had been shot, and I had a compelling, faith-driven need to be present and offer a witness of love amid festering hatred and anger.

As we marched along, participants called out various refrains of protest responsively. The one that has lingered with me days after that day is this one: “If we don’t get no justice, they don’t get no peace!”

No justice….no peace. Justice and peace have long been understood as two interwoven ideals. The presence of one is not possible without the deep, authentic presence of the other. But these days, both of these seem distant realities. Whether it’s the shooting of Jamar Clark in North Minneapolis and its aftermath, the tragic violence that took place the day after Thanksgiving at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado, or the swirling debates about ISIS and Syrian refugees, our world often evidences a shocking lack of either peace or justice.

It feels like we’re in the thick of a Kairos moment, a moment demanding profound change of all of us. It’s a John the Baptist moment, when the prophetic clarion call pierces the wilderness and invites a bold reversal of what is for the sake of what can and ought to be.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he stood within another of those Kairos moments and said, “But before we reach the majestic shores of the Promised Land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead. We must still face prodigious hilltops of opposition and gigantic mountains of resistance. But with patient and firm determination we will press on until every valley of despair is exalted to new peaks of hope, until every mountain of pride and irrationality is made low by the leveling process of humility and compassion; until the rough places of injustice are transformed into a smooth plane of equality of opportunity; and until the crooked places of prejudice are transformed by the straightening process of bright-eyed wisdom.”

We are in our own “bewildering wilderness”, to be certain. And our path through it is fraught with frustration, missteps, an occasional lack of vision and will, and a whole lot of uncertainty and fear. Yet in this season of Advent we await the Prince of Peace and yearn yet again for all the prophets foretold, for a time when peace will be joined by justice, for a time when all flesh shall see together the abundance of God’s wondrous love. May it be so. May our witness shine brightly.

With Advent Hope,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister authentic,deep
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