Misfits on a Mission, Finding Identity in Jesus

Lament for Ahmaud Arbery & Doug Lewis

Hey Roots Family,

Just a few months ago, we were journeying through the season of Lent together with Isaiah 58 framing our thoughts. We focused on how God’s people are called not just to observe personal spiritual practices like fasting which are good, but that our worship of God is to form us into a people who have eyes to see injustice in society and that our love for God is expressed in our love of our neighbors. In that series, we also talked about the critical importance of lament.

Then, during Holy Week we focused on how, at the core of our faith is the conviction that Jesus is reigning as Lord of all people groups right now—that Jesus has won the decisive victory against sin and death and has inaugurated the Kingdom of God among us. And yet we also acknowledge that God’s Kingdom has not yet been fully established. We still await Jesus’s return to make all things right. In this in-between time, we experience both the brilliant light of God’s love filling us and uniting us, but also, at times, we experience the intense darkness of sin and death fracturing us and clinging to this world with their last gasps.

This past week, that darkness showed up again when a video surfaced of the murder of a young black man named Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. Ahmaud was jogging in his neighborhood when two white men claimed he “fit the description” of a suspected burglar, armed themselves to confront him, and shot him to death. While this murder took place on February 23rd, the two white men who murdered Ahmaud were not charged or arrested until this week, after the release of the video led to a massive public outcry.

Beloved, the pain that injustices like this causes our black sisters and brothers is egregious. Year after year, decade after decade, our black sisters and brothers are shown that this society does not value their lives. That their lives are expendable; that their everyday activities are threatening; that their very existence is criminal; that their murders are justifiable.

Here in Saint Paul, Minnesota, this past week an unarmed black man named Doug Lewis was shot and killed by a white driver he rear-ended in a car accident.

Our black family members in Christ are grieving today. Ahmaud’s mother Wanda Cooper-James and Ahmaud’s father Marcus James are grieving today. Doug Lewis’s sister Valerie is grieving today. And Ahmaud and Douglas’s blood cries out for justice as the evil principality and power of Racism continues to cling to this nation and steal lives from their families and communities.

In our own family, these murders has made Osheta and me fear for the safety of our own children. Will they be profiled, prejudged, and attacked? It has made me fear for Osheta’s safety. Will her everyday activities be perceived as dangerous, even criminal? It has also made us angry. Angry at the callous indifference and even murderous hatred in people’s hearts. Angry at the corruption of a police department that would attempt to cover up Ahmaud’s murder. Angry that a white driver would kill someone over a fender-bender. Angry at the deafening silence from some corners of the American church. Angry that more black lives were needlessly cut short by racist violence.

As a local expression of the body of Christ, and as Roots Covenant Church, we are being formed to resist all the powers of evil, including anti-black racism and the evil lie of White Supremacy. As a local expression of the body of Christ, and as Roots Covenant Church, we are an intentionally multiethnic family of Jesus-disciples, who celebrate all the diversity of humanity, and mourn with those who mourn.

I’m grateful for pastoral leaders in the Evangelical Covenant Church like Executive Minister Paul Robinson and Director of Racial Righteousness Dominique Gilliard for helping to teach us how to respond. On Friday they wrote,

Lament, confession, and repentance are spiritual practices that reorient and sustain us amid tragedy. They lead us into the presence of God and help us discern what faithfulness looks like moving forward.

That is why I want to invite us to lament together as a church.