This Sunday we celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven after his resurrection. It is supposed to be a joyful occasion in which the Great Commission is given for the disciples to go out into all the world and preach the Gospel, literally the Good News of Jesus’ teachings. However, the church has far too often taken this command to mean that we must go out and force people into submission to the Gospel. That Good News then becomes a bully club used to attack and subjugate people who do not look like us, think like us, believe like us, or talk like us.
Over the last couple of years we as human beings have been forced to slow down and take time to think. The pandemic gave us time where we could reflect on our lives and the things that matter most to us. For some, it has been a welcome time to change into better people. A time to help others and become more loving, kind, accepting, and generous in our daily lives. For others, it has been a time to become more angry, distant, abusive, and yes, even racist and bigoted.
Why are these two groups of people experiencing the pandemic in vastly different ways? Why has violence, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and hatred increased in our world? The answer is both simple and complex at the same time. It is simple because one needs only to look at the diet of vitriolic posts, videos, news-feeds, and stories that rush by us hour by hour to understand where all that hatred, anger, and violence comes from. Even among ministers it has become a war zone.
We allow ourselves to be drug down to the depths of despair and hopelessness as the days have turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into two and a half years. Many of us have stopped going to church, stopped praying, stopped meditating, stopped reading wholesome materials, and have instead turned to working nonstop, watching the news nonstop, and spending hours on social media. These changes in our daily patterns have feed into a cycle that brings us nothing wholesome and everything to make us angry, hateful, and abusive.
Even as I write this post another shooting has taken place in our nation. This time in an elementary school in Texas. As the numbers vibrate on my watch, my soul begs for a change in our society to end this never-ending cycle of violence. I am tired of seeing the number of dead continue to rise from mass violence, from hateful people unwilling to care for anyone but themselves, and from viruses out of control. As ministers of the Good News we have all begged you to show a little bit of human compassion by getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and limiting close contact with others. And yet, that was too much to ask. And now we face the possibility of yet another pandemic in our world with the monkey-pox virus starting to build up.
My friends and family, I pray it is not too late for us to return to civility, love, kindness, gentleness, and generosity. But in order to do that, we must first work on changing ourselves. We must be willing to change our hearts and minds to be more like the Christ. We must stop looking at those around us as inferior to ourselves. We must accept everyone as equal to ourselves. It is time to stop the violence of looking down on others and viewing ourselves as the only people that matter.
We MUST follow the teaching of the Christ to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Only then can we truly effect change in our world.