Our mission at Reach Church is simple yet profound…we live to reach all people with Nothing But Jesus. The reality is that many times in life, we are tempted to focus on everything BUT Jesus. Jesus is not only for those who are skeptical of Christianity, but for those who have been Christians for decades. When we are about Nothing But Jesus our lives begin to change.
As a white man, especially one who grew up in a non-diverse rural community, I feel incredibly ill-equipped to speak on these matters. But, as a Christian man, a father, and church leader, I cannot stay silent.
The George Floyd video is one that I’ll never fully be able to explain to my daughters. I’ll never be able to communicate how their friends of color experience things differently than they do, just because of the color of their skin. You can never really explain something like this if you’ve never experienced it.
However, just because I or my family can’t fully explain it doesn’t mean that I can deny it exists. I can’t sit by, nor will I raise my kids, explaining away the broken systems, injustice, and racism towards the black community in our society. Enough is enough.
Let’s stop denying, running towards every chance at explaining away situations like this one, and instead let’s stand boldly against it. Let’s not be quick to speaking against bizarre conspiracies, and let’s be very quick to speak out against blatant injustices. Let’s stop being defensive, and instead let’s refuse to make any part of racism acceptable.
Let’s stop just feeling bad, posting a status, and moving on to the next thing, and let’s, instead, somehow redeem this horrible situation by actually fighting against the systemic and racial prejudice our black brothers and sisters have felt for some time. Do it with one conversation at a time. Do it while you’re raising your kids. Do it when you decide what words will come out of your mouth next. And ultimately, let’s do it to reflect the God we serve, who created all of humanity in his image and is redeeming the beautiful and diverse world he has made.
The greatest sin and the most unjust crime in all of history was the nailing of Jesus, an innocent man, to the cross.
I wasn’t there.
You weren’t there.
Christians readily admit it was OUR sins he bore on the cross...but WE didn’t actually nail Jesus to the cross, right?
When Peter preached his first sermon in Acts 2, people who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world were miraculously able to hear Peter's words in their own language...even in their own dialect. What did Peter say to this diverse group and the locals who were also in the crowd in verse 36?
He said, Jesus whom YOU crucified...literally, whom YOU "pinned" to the cross...
And what was their response to this accusation of murdering an innocent man?
“I wasn’t even there!” No.
"I was there but there was nothing I could have done about it." No
“I have lots of friends like this guy you describe, Jesus.” No.
"I can't be held responsible for what others have done." No.
"How dare you accuse ME of murder." No.
"You have to understand the way I was raised." No.
"What you have to understand is BLAH BLAH BLAH." No.
“Those rotten Pharisees need to not only be fired but arrested for murdering Jesus!” No.
“Jesus’ life doesn’t just matter...ALL lives matter! Unborn children's lives matter. Blue lives matter! And why aren't you focusing on other crimes?” No.
What was their response?
They were “cut to the heart”. That means they were repentant for THEIR action of nailing Jesus to the cross, and asked Peter, “What must WE do?”
Behold I hear MY mocking voice among the scoffers.
It was MY sin that nailed him there.
We love to sing those statements. Most Christians are OK with those kinds of statements about Jesus dying for us and that we nailed Jesus to the cross. But we aren't good with this statement...
It was MY knee on the neck of George Floyd.
It was MY lack of courage to stop the murder of George Floyd.
It was MY lying frantic voice on the phone with 911 in Central Park falsely claiming that an African American man was threatening me and my dog.
The most basic and most settled doctrine of the Christian faith, outside of the deity of Christ, is perhaps the doctrine of Original Sin. Original Sin teaches us that not only are WE responsible for the sins of our fathers, but WE are responsible for the first sins of Adam and Eve. So why is it that we accept Original Sin and we accept the fact that WE nailed Jesus to the cross but this next part is totally foreign and jarring to us...
Just as WE nailed Jesus to the cross, it was OUR knee on the neck of a detained handcuffed man who was crying out for mercy over and over again.
It is OUR knee on the neck of George Floyd when the knee of Colin Kaepernick on our football turf during the playing of our national anthem made us angrier than the knee of a white police officer on the neck of George Floyd slowly sucking the life out of him.
It is OUR knee on the neck of George Floyd every time we qualify these murders, or change the subject, or say incredibly stupid uneducated racist things in the process.
But those specific "OUR KNEE" statements are easy for me to make because it isn't personal enough. I can stand outside of that stuff and judge...so let me get more personal...
MY knee was on the neck of George Floyd every time I have backed off on "going too far" when preaching about racial issues.
MY knee was on the neck of George Floyd when an African American professor sat in my office last year and challenged me in a kind and somewhat light-hearted manner to consider that even the paintings on my wall, one of which is the story of the Prodigal Son that depicts all the characters as white men, could be a small way of alienating African Americans. Even though I saw his point, I took no appreciable action.
Perhaps MY knee is on the neck of George Floyd right now when I delete a few more examples I had written because they would be far too controversial and shameful to state in ANY setting.
These are the times that "Nothing But Jesus" applied, drastically changes our responses. Because anything less than "It was MY knee on the neck of George Floyd" and "What must I now do?" isn't a Gospel response. Nothing But Jesus isn't the wide path...it's the narrow path.
Kenny Daughtry, an African American professor, wrote this to me in a public setting yesterday...
"Reach is a staple church in the De community and is positioned to lead with great influence for the sake of the gospel and representing God's justice for all people from the womb to the tomb; including the tough racism that Black people face in this country. It's a cross that comes with consequences, burdens and lots of pain, but we know that every cross we pick up for the sake of the gospel and justice is worth picking up. In love my sister and brothers."
Please pray for pastors, like me, whose hearts continue to be broken over these issues, to discern God's calling for what specifically to do next to "represent God's justice for all people...including the tough racism that Black people face..."
We are excited to announce our plans as we continue to navigate through the uncertain times brought on by the Coronavirus:
1) We will be continuing online Sunday morning services through the month of June. We are very excited about the response to our online presence! God continues to work mightily through Reach Church to bring our message of the hope we find in Nothing But Jesus to our community and the world! Keep tuning in, sharing, and commenting!
2) Starting on Sunday, June 7th, we will be hosting outdoor in-person worship services from 6-7pm! Your safety is our top priority, and we are able to provide an outdoor environment where ALL who come will feel safe, while being able to meet together to celebrate communion, pray, and worship together!
Down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem that day…the soldiers tried to clear the narrow street…but the crowd pressed into see…a man condemned to die on Calvary.
The Via Dolorosa is a processional walk in Jerusalem that is thought to be the path that Jesus walked on his way to be crucified. It is translated "way of suffering" and "sorrowful way".
There is a musical depiction of that walk by the same name…Via Dolorosa. Even though I have played Via Dolorosa on the piano on Good Friday almost every year since high school, it is never mechanical notes that I am playing. My interpretation and experience of playing it has evolved and deepened over time. What do I mean?
Each Good Friday, I remember the words of the Apostle Paul from Galatians, "I am crucified with Christ therefore I no longer live..." On Good Friday we remember Jesus' sacrifice, but we also remember that we too are crucified with Christ. So I reflect deeply on the past year...and I pour out all the "worst of times" stuff into every note of the piece so that pain and loss is embedded in the music deep inside the notes.
It’s not that my life is painful overall. It really isn’t. As I am sure you can relate, the worst of times stuff can be brutal, but the best of times stuff far outweighs it. Even so, the worst of times stuff doesn't go away and cannot be ignored or wished away. My parents call the worst of times stuff "scorch marks". Every scorch mark I have experienced is embedded in my interpretation of Via Dolorosa. So when I play the Via Dolorosa from one Good Friday to the next, layers of my brokenness, deep disappointments, losses, sins, and secret pains are woven into the past worst of times layers already embedded in my interpretation of the piece.
Don’t misunderstand…Good Friday isn't a time for us to try to feel as sad as possible. It also isn't a time to start wishing people "Happy Easter" as if Good Friday and Holy Saturday don't exist. It is a time to deeply remember the cross, to take stock of the past year, come face to face with the losses, stop denying the pains, admit sin patterns...and nail all of that worst of times stuff to the cross. That doesn't mean the pain goes away or that you won't struggle with sin anymore...each Good Friday my past worst of times stuff is still in my interpretation of Via Dolorosa somewhere...it may just be an ache or a scar or a distant memory...but it is in there somewhere. To reflect on the past year and to pour all the worst of times stuff out on the cross is what it means to deeply survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died.
Down the Via Dolorosa called the way of suffering…like a lamb came the Messiah Christ the King…but he chose to walk that road out of his love for you and me. Down the Via Dolorosa all the way…to Calvary.
Tonight at 6:00pm we will worship together and observe Good Friday here at www.reachchurch.online and on our Facebook page.
Until then, please use this video from 2019 of my rendition of the Via Dolorosa as a tool to prepare your heart to remember Jesus' sacrifice: