June 2, 2017
People of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference,
We know the capacity of the human spirit to wander off and lose itself. It happens all the time, resulting in self-destructive behavior, and other-destructive behavior. This week we saw what happens when societal norms seem to give permission for people who have wandered away from basic civil behavior, to speak and act on their hatred. Young women on a train are harassed, and three men who stand to protect them are stabbed, two to death.
This unthinkable event is a jarring reminder that the values and norms of society are not a certainty. It’s far easier to tear them down than it was to build them in the first place. It makes me angry. I hope it makes you angry. While sometimes society adopts values that need to be torn down — if they fail to protect the powerless, for example — it’s up to the citizens in a society to enforce them. That’s what the heroes on the train did. They saw something very wrong occurring, and they stepped in with their bodies to be a shield, not only of the women, but of the values that were under attack. People of faith know that we are given life as a gift to share, to protect, to nurture. If you don’t intervene when you hear someone say something hateful, disrespectful, harmful, then you’re letting hate become normal. You are giving it a place to fester. Followers of Jesus should always be ready to step in when someone spews hate toward another.
This Sunday, Christians will celebrate Pentecost, when people from many cultures and languages gathered and were blessed by the Holy Spirit giving them ability to hear and understand each other. It is a familiar story. We take it for granted. But it is not reality in our world. It is a story that Christians have been given to share with a world where people struggle to live together with their differences. It is a good story, and it is NEWS! So, tell good news on Sunday: God’s Holy Spirit makes it possible for people to understand each other, and to live together in peace. We are all empowered by that Holy Spirit to speak up when someone seems to think it’s OK to put down someone else. We are all empowered to speak in ways that welcome and build community among people in our neighborhoods. This is the way of life.
May God, strengthen us to love you and love our neighbors as ourselves and show us ways this week to speak and act as people who value curiosity, diversity, inclusion, and harmony. This is the way of life.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater NW Episcopal Area