This text was in my mind while watching news from Ferguson, and a young protestor was asked what his agenda was, and he said it was for racial justice and they were going to “shake the heavens.” I don’t know if he knew the lectionary readings for the first Sunday of Advent, Year B, but the words were unmistakably there. I pondered the parallels of how the Civil War is our nation’s great cataclysm, and how we struggle still with its legacy. The 90-second deadly encounter between Michael Brown and Officer Daren Wilson has exposed the nation’s conflicted soul once again. If this were a movie instead of real life, we might say that Brown is an ambiguous character who personifies young black men who could go either way, on the one hand enrolled in college and hopeful about the future, and yet he could be sucked into the violence of urban street culture that is amplified for evening news and police shows. There is a ready-made narrative for that side of Michael Brown. The same could be said of Daren Wilson, who presents as Joe Average, not particularly racist, and yet he is surrounded by a militarized police force that looked more ready to go to Fallujah than Ferguson. These two men are as unclear to us the 90 seconds they shared. Like the OJ trial and Rodney King, we may see them through the narratives about race that are already in our mind’s eye.
“Tear Open the Heavens”
Full Sermon here: