When Jesus was crucified he struggled to breathe. His weight shifted from the nails in his feet, to the nails in his wrists as his body fought to stay alive: driven by the physical need to draw breath. As he suffered on the cross he prayed to God the Father: “Forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing” and when he breathed his last, he said, “It is done”, and the curtain in the temple was torn in two.
…a personal reflection by the Reverend Graeme Holdsworth
I have wrestled with a personal reflection on the subject of #BlackLivesMatter for several reasons. The first is that I’m white, and there is a general consensus that white people need to ‘shut up’ and let black voices be heard. Conversely, there is a need for white people to speak out rather than remain quiet in the face of injustice. There is a similar balance to be struck with gender equality: women don’t need men to speak out on their behalf, and yet there is a need for men to make it clear that gender inequality is unacceptable. #Ableism #Ageism #BAME #BlackLivesMatter #Equality #Feminism #LGBTQ #MeToo #MentalHealth … our social media has become filled with the hashtags of the oppressed. I find that the Lamentation of the Psalmist speaks into this situation:
Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”
Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.
The Lord is King for ever and ever;Psalm 10, NIV
the nations will perish from his land.
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.
The Psalmist writes of a yearning for justice, and cries out to God for help. “Why do you stand so far off”? These were the prayers and lamentations of the people of Israel in exile and they find an echo in the voices today of everyone who is abused, imprisoned, powerless and suffering under oppression. Yet to all who suffer, Jesus has encouragement: a divine statement of defiance at the injustice of humanity
Jesus said, “‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”Matthew 5:10-12, NRSV
Jürgen Moltmann, a contemporary German theologian, wrote about righteousness in his book, “The Crucified God”. I’ll paraphrase a quote I really like, “There are two types of righteousness: God’s righteousness. And self-righteousness.” As the President of the United States of America took a Bible and held it awkwardly in front of the cameras, we witnessed an act of self-righteousness. As we remember the last breaths of a dying man, on a cross or under a knee, we witness the world’s need of God’s righteousness.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressedPsalm 103:6, NIV
If you need to pray, I would recommend:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.