Last Sunday, I preached on Revelation 21:1-5, part of which says “God will wipe every tear from their eyes…” When reading it to the congregation in the wake of this week’s news from Buffalo, New York, I felt the heartbreak in this beautiful expression of God’s compassion for Her Creation as the Divine witnessed Good Friday all over again, this time in Buffalo.
Maybe it was my recent coming out of a powerful retreat with other clergy in Holland, or maybe it was the jet lag, or maybe it was knowing a beloved former companion in ministry now pastors in Buffalo as a woman of color. Maybe it was all of it. Or maybe it was how Spirit has been working on me in recent years more and more to keep my heart open even in the midst of the painful and often violent consequences of human beings being out of touch with love and God and Creation.
Now I know the pattern of human and collective psyche in these events. When our gun saturated culture blends with the cancer of white supremacy in a lost soul, violence and tragedy are the result. The demonic lie of projection can take root in human souls such that violence against another person or group or country becomes a siren song, a tragic temptation, an illusion of solution: “if only we or I could just get rid of or control this ‘other.’” Projecting inner tensions, fears, insecurities, and unresolved trauma onto the "other" and making them an enemy, a dehumanized object, is a lie as old as Cain and Abel and at the core of what keeps humanity alienated, in conflict, and out of step with Divine Love.
And I know Jesus calls us to be conscious of all that is in us and to resist this sin of projection with an image of a plank in our own eye (Matthew 7, Luke 6). This is a spiritual practice.
And there is another spiritual practice here: faithful heartbreak.
Before I move to condemning a perpetrator and complaining about guns or racism or whatever truly misguided value and deeply distorted narrative needs resistance and redirection, I sense I need to feel the heartbreak. Jesus can be my exemplar, weeping for Lazarus in his grave and weeping for Jerusalem. Somehow, I suspect this is part of what keeps us human amidst the inhumanity, that keeps us closer to the Way of Jesus than the way of empire.
The Rev. JT Smiedendorf has been a UCC minister since 2001, serving churches in Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington. He has a particular passion for reclaiming the earthy, embodied, and experiential aspect of Christian spiritual practice. He and his wife Allison are co-founders of The Sanctuary for Sacred Union, an inter-spiritual initiative, and he is currently earning a postgraduate Certificate in Psychedelic Therapies and Research. Read more about JT here.