This morning each of us asked in worship, as we do most Sundays, “Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God? Do you renounce the evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God? Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?” And, “Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil?” And all the people say, “I renounce them. I do."
Yesterday, evil in all its murderous destruction visited Buffalo, New York, where an 18-year-old with tactical gear and an assault rifle deliberately took the lives of 10 people and seriously injured three more. Eleven of those people were Black. It was clearly a crime motivated by white supremacy and conscious racism. The murderer drove hours, intentionally targeting a grocery store serving a predominantly Black neighborhood. There is no ambiguity in what happened there.
Once again, our common soul is ripped open by the forces of Satan, evil, and sin. Once again, the target is a community that has borne the brunt of systemic social brutality for centuries in this country. Once again, a civilian has used a military style weapon to slaughter our citizens. There is no excuse. There is no excuse for any of us to stand by, to look away, to plead overwhelm or numbness or personal good intentions. This must stop, and the burden of stopping it cannot fall on the Black community.
Renouncing evil and sin does not mean ignoring it. It means rooting it out of our world. It means rooting out, in our country, particular sin that has been concretized and institutionalized in the noxious, satanic notion of white supremacy and the continuing scourge of racism. Renouncing sin means that we refuse to tolerate a level of gun violence that no society that calls itself civilized can justify. Our unexamined motives and our lethal means lead to these crimes again and again. We must act for change.
Will we strive for justice and peace? Strive, and not just shake our heads in disbelief that things will not change unless we change them? Will we seek and serve Christ in all persons, especially those who have unjustly borne this pain? Are we willing to suffer the discomfort of confronting the whole truth, of seeing our whole history, of doing whatever it takes to share the benefits and blessings of this land fairly and equitably? Are we willing to lay down the arms of war and do the hard work of loving one another, of seeing the image of God in faces that look different from ours? To move beyond words and into action?
We have made promises to God and to one another. As we grieve and mourn and comfort the victims of this crime of hate – including all the people who fear daily for the their lives and the lives of their children – each of us must take the initiative to stand between evil and the innocent, end this long nightmare, and bring justice, safety, and peace to the whole people of God. Whatever it takes.
Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
Holy God, fill us with such conviction in the vows and promises we made at our Baptism that we will hear the cries of your children, that we will not run from the bitter weeping, and that we will act as your hands and feet in this world that is so in need of your healing power and love. Amen.
Bishop Jennifer Brooke-Davidson
Bishop Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority