Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
As we approach the great festival of Pentecost, I want to acknowledge the pain of this celebration against the background of one hundred thousand deaths in this country alone, and the mingled unrest and fear surrounding what our media calls “opening up.” There is plenty of grief and uncertainty to go around right now. But I want to draw attention to another plague that continues to dig its claws deep into our national life: the plague of racial inequity and anti-black violence.
The murder of George Floyd by white police officers in Minneapolis a few days ago is plain to all. I am calling on all the congregations in the Diocese of Southern Ohio to stand firm in opposition to the institutional racism that continues to infect our society at every level. As we observe Pentecost this Sunday, however remotely, let us remember that this ancient Jewish feast marks the giving of the Law from Sinai to the children of Israel, fifty days after their escape from slavery in Egypt. What does that law boil down to? Justice and mercy. The police action in Minneapolis exhibited neither justice nor mercy, and we cannot be silent about it.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was neither a circus event or nor a celebration of cacophony, as we often portray it. It is the miracle and great gift of hearing from God, each in his or her language and situation. It is not about noisiness but about clarity. It is about what the triune God is saying to each of us, one by one.
Let us listen carefully this Sunday to what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. Discern the racism within you. Arouse the righteous anger within you against the abuse of power. Open your heart to the ties that bind us to one another in our weaknesses and in our noblest aspirations. Those who heard the apostles speaking to them on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ rising were amazed. They said they were hearing about God’s deeds of power spoken in their own language, in the context of their own personal story.
What does that power mean for each of us personally? God’s power is infinite, but it matters most to us when it comes down to our own persistent struggles. Surely for us Americans, the chief struggle that grips us daily is racism, from within us and from whatever direction it attacks us. We cannot deal with this unless we are open to the Spirit of truth, and we cannot dare to be open to that Spirit unless we trust in the justice and mercy of God. Yet help is always there, if we have the courage to ask for it.
The Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal
Bishop of Southern Ohio