I talk a lot about letting go, but it isn’t just any way of letting go. It is not letting go of standards about conduct. It is not about letting go of moral imperatives. It is certainly not about letting go of advances we have made in the acceptance and full inclusion of people who are not white, heterosexual males (who typically have held disproportionate amounts of power in western culture). The letting go of which I speak is simply to trust that God will be God and will lead us to that new kingdom.
When Israel left the bondage of Egypt, they were led into a wilderness. In that wilderness, they faced hunger, thirst and, worst of all, the unknown. They were led by the pillar of cloud by day and watched over by the pillar of fire by night. When the Egyptian pharaoh changed his mind, he sent troops to slaughter them, and when they followed God, they were led to the edge of the sea. What a horrible military strategy. They were doomed either to be killed by the sword or drowned in the sea of despair.
And friends, I think that is where we are in our nation. I grew up just south of Dallas, and I learned to drive in Dallas. The killing of black United States citizens at the hands of law enforcement has broken my heart. And the killing of Dallas police offers has brought me to a place of deeper despair.
It feels very much like we have been led to the edge of the sea with evil at our backs, and we have few options. But while the Israelites sat in their despair at the crossroads of evil and death, God asked them to speak a higher truth. It was a truth that, no matter what we face, the truest thing we can do right now is trust in God.
But to get to that truth, we must speak some other truths we know about our world. We have a legal system that disproportionately ends the lives of black men through death or incarceration. We have institutional racism that marginalizes races other than non-hispanic white. We still have sexism that is alive and well as exemplified by margins in lower wages for women who are performing equal work with equal effectiveness to their male counterparts. We continue, through our churches and our statehouses, to marginalize those whose sexual orientations are anything but heterosexual. We have demonized those who are charged to protect and defend us, and we have created deep divisions in our communities.
So we stand at the sea of despair with evil coming from every other direction. Getting across this sea is treacherous, and our fear of the unknown is a powerful force that drives us to policy and conduct that creates deeper divisions among us. I am convinced right now that God asks us to be truth tellers. We must own up to our sin (both institutional and individual), and then we are asked to leave our bias and our bigotry and our hatred on the shore and follow God into the water … as one people who care deeply for one another, no matter our differences.
And letting go now is as simple as taking that step into the greater truth: our God is a deliverer! Our God is one who parts the waters, and when the waters won’t part, our God then sends us a Christ who teaches us to walk on the water. In this time of despair and fear, I invite you to follow Christ as we take that first step. I invite you to follow the children of Israel … because we know there is hope and fullness of life on the other side.