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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, June 4, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Ecclesiastes 3:16—4:3

Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals. For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?

Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive; but better than both is the one who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. (NRSV)

Reflection
When I started wrestling with this text, I struggled over the end, how bleak, how hopeless it is. I am by nature an optimistic person, believing fervently in the possibility of change. Even during this pandemic I’ve had faith that healing will come—absolutely certain that our world will be much changed by this yet hopeful it might be for the better.

And then it was another day ending in “y,” and another instance of Black bodies being threatened and killed by our police and another instance of white people from all sides upset at the death but also, loudly, visibly, “but”-ting in. But the property. . . but law, order, “civility”. . .

And now the National Guard is in our cities.

And I am hard-pressed to have hope.

To call racism a virus masks the choices that feed it, though like SARS-CoV-2, it attacks more than we know and spreads in ways we both do and do not understand. A virus is unthinking. Racism is not, even if we are unthinking about our part. Racism is fed on our silence, our indifference, our unwillingness to make change, to be uncomfortable. It’s easy to point fingers and declare “that” person a racist—but truly, if we are not actively fighting it, we are feeding it.

I’m sure all of us are wearing masks and keeping physical distance when we can, giving and caring for others, keeping abreast of new knowledge. What are we doing to combat racism, in ourselves and in our systems? Today? In the long haul?

Prayer
Mighty God, you will judge us. Our fate is not our own; who can see what will come after? And yet, since we are here, let us put ourselves to the work you have proclaimed through your prophets: justice, mercy, and love. Amen.

Written by Anne Ellis, Program Manager for Congregational Life

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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