If you were uncomfortable, sorry, not sorry.

panel 01

Last weekend was a chance for our church to address an issue that is currently making headlines.  And it may have made you uncomfortable.  Sorry, not sorry.

The current unrest and protests in Baltimore are grabbing all the headlines.  But the issue we tried to wrestle with last weekend has been around for a long time.  (We were planning to talk about it long before the Freddie Gray story developed.)  It’s the issue of what the apostle Paul calls, “the dividing wall of hostility.”

Ephesians 2:14

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…

He was referring to the Jew/Gentile dividing wall.  But that’s just one version.  There are dividing walls of culture, of race, of gender, of education, of wealth, of body type, of color, of language, and so on.

Our guest speakers last weekend (Mary Johnson, Dianne Jones, and Rosco Lockhart) shared their own stories of dividing walls.  But many of you could share yours, too.  Our world is fragmented by the dividing walls of hostility.  Those walls are built with bricks of “historically justifiable suspicions.”  Those walls make us feel safe, even comfortable.  It’s much easier to be with people who are “like us.”

The resurrection is a battle cry to tear down the walls.  So when we gather like we did last weekend, we’re going to grab those dividing walls and shake them so hard they start to crumble.  That’s why the conversation often makes us uncomfortable.  It will make all of us uncomfortable.  Except for our heavenly Father, who is cheering wildly for his people!  That’s why I’m not really sorry.

The church, the Body of Christ, is a new community, formed out of those who are being transformed.  We’re called to the work of tearing down dividing walls and creating one new humanity.

Ephesians 2:15-16

His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 

It’s not a call to ignore our differences, but to celebrate them together as expressions of the creative wonders of our God.  As Dianne Jones poignantly asked us, “Who’s sitting at our dinner table?”  Do the people you invite into your life/home always look just like you?

I welcome your contributions to the conversation below. And if you’d be interested in sharing your story at a future event, please let me know.

-Pastor Mark

Posted on April 30, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. David Robinson

    Hey Mark,
    While agree there needs to be a conversation, the conversation came of to me, very one sided. It was a swing and a miss in my opinion.

    • David Robinson

      should have proof read it!!

    • David, thanks for your input. What did you feel was missing from the conversation?

      • David Robinson

        Well Mark, the 3 people you put on stage only gave 1 perspective, not the many that that you said you wanted. That along with the Baltimore question made the conversation one sided. This not just my perspective, others I have talked with felt the same!

    • A conversation about loving everyone no matter what? Sure. Choosing to single out one race for a one-sided “chat”? The opposite of helpful.

    • David, so do I understand that you would have liked to see some other folks up on the stage last weekend?

  2. I recently began attending Seneca Creek, but I will no longer since you massively missed the mark on “The day that changed my relationships”. I was not at all uncomfortable with the intended message that we should love everyone, but I was offended and insulted by you sharing your pulpit with the one black gentlemen who was obviously not a fan of us white folks or the police. Racism is not only a white on black issue. These days it is quite the opposite. Racism is not as simple as someone’s skin color. There are so many other complex factors and it’s certainly not a one-sided 45 minute conversation you can have on a Sunday morning.
    Your white guilt is showing. That makes you part of the problem, not the solution.

    • Lydia, I appreciate your taking time to share your experience. If the conversation came off as only being about one race, I truly apologize for that. It was intended to demonstrate one area out of MANY in which we as the church are called to build relationships based on the resurrection, not on the walls that divide us. (Race, gender, nationality, language, social status, education, wealth, body shapes, etc…the list is endless.)

      I don’t profess to have this all figured out, but I know it’s important for us to work on it. The voices you heard from the stage represent three different people all trying to figure it out. We’re all in progress, right?

      I’d welcome the chance to discuss this with you in person if you’d like.

      • I agree with David, no one should have been on stage. Even if you tried to represent each race, the conversation would still have been a disaster. I also think the Baltimore question was inappropriate in that setting. My husband and others agree.

        Did you know in advance what they were going to say? Regardless, do you not see how offensive some of it was?

        I personally have no need to get together with you to talk about it unless there is a group of folks who want to. At this point, based on this and other experiences with Seneca Creek, I don’t plan to return.

        I think you owe the congregation an apology but I’m not sure how you’d do that without offending the 3 folks that spoke and others.

  3. Hey Mark,
    I am very surprised by the comments on this blog. I thought Sunday’s message was exactly what we all needed. I see what others have commented about being a one sided conversation and being off track, the issue of dividing walls in our world is so huge that you cannot tackle all of them at once. I thought it was smart to choose one wall and use that as a footprint of how we can approach all the other dividing walls we face everyday. I felt it was very empowering to hear testaments from individuals who have lived through major dividing walls.

    This reminded me of a volunteer opportunity I had back in Missouri when I had the opportunity to do overnight lockin focused towards “at risk inner city high school men” which most of the time I ended up being the one white individual. Getting to know the volunteers and kids on a one to one basis God showed me what it was truly like to have the walls broken down.

    We cannot understand what it is like to grow up in someone else’s shoes without getting to know them first.

    When I got home from Church on Sunday I was so excited to share what our Church was doing, and about the message.

    Thank you for continuing to lead our Church, and showing me what it looks like to not be a judging Church, but a loving Christ-like Church.

  4. I, too, felt last week’s message was relevant and effective, despite the time restraints. If this was an all-day conference, we would have had the opportunity to gain several different perspectives, break out into small groups for discussion, and reconvene to discuss “what do we do now?” For those who felt uncomfortable: understand that the discomfort you felt was a good thing! We must be willing to embrace discomfort, because the best growth and enlightenment come from going out of your comfort zone and allowing our hearts to break over what breaks God’s heart. Yes, it will not feel good. Yes, it will stir up your emotions. Yes, you may even feel offended. It does little to take those feelings and aim them at a single person or panel or church, but take what you experienced and apply it to the larger discussion. Did you learn something new? How did that new knowledge shape your worldview, if at all? Did this experience teach you something new about yourself? Realize that any contention with that discomfort says more about yourself than the person who facilitated the experience that created your discomfort.

    The Lord knows that we are a people that often requires tangibility to truly “feel” for our fellow humans. Because of that, I am very glad that you chose to have a panel instead of just speaking about the issue. It puts a “face” to the issue; a living, breathing human being that can, firsthand, tell us their experience and how it made them feel.

  5. A lot to think about I enjoy reading your posts

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