Taking a step away for a few days from the Bible in a Year posts to do some reflections upon the conference I am attending at Montreat, North Carolina this week. It is called DisGrace and is focused on issues of race and the church. In addition to the content, I was also excited about being in the mountains of North Carolina in Autumn and the autumn colors that would be bright when I arrived. That, however, was not to be. There are some trees that are beginning to change, but as you can see from the picture, it looks like a summer day. I have to confess that I lamented that a little bit as I arrived. It is gorgeous but not quite what I was “hoping” for. I took a hike when I first arrived today and said a few times to myself, “if only this was a few weeks later.”
And then reality hit…the preacher in the opening worship service focused on words from the book of Lamentations and about the power and necessity of lament in our lives. At one point he said that lament restores the elasticity of our souls in that it allows us to express the depth of how we are and can begin to pull us away from static, frozen thinking. As we moved from the sermon into the confession that followed, I started thinking some more about the feelings I had as I arrived and I thought about those of color who have been waiting for a very long time for things to change only to see that only a few of the “trees” of racism (explicit and instutional) have begun to change but that there are far more that need to change in order for the full beauty of what God desires for our world to come to pass.
The preacher today, José Morales, rightly shared that none of our human structures and instutions will ever be perfect and free from sin (racism or other sin) but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to move towards what God desires for us.
So, while the colors of the trees here at Montreat haven’t changed, there’s a different form of beauty here – people coming together to confess the sin of racism that we have allowed to divide our world and divide the church of Jesus Christ and people seeking for steps to bring us closer to the beauty that God desires for us as we are all created in the same beautiful image of God.