Our world is shattered. The brokenness revealing itself on a Wednesday night during a prayer meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine of God’s faithful murdered in the sanctuary of the Lord. A man with a self-assigned operation of animosity walks into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and displaces a haven of hope with a message of homicidal hatred.
Like a magician walking across broken glass while trying not to bleed, we are left with trying to figure out how to tread the shattered pieces. Some want to get political. Others play the blame game. And some scream an eye for an eye. But it is those who were the most directly involved that have shown us a better way. During the killer’s bond hearing, members of Emanuel AME Church stood to tell the young man what he had taken from them – fathers, mothers, daughters, sisters, and brothers. They reminded him of all that was left shattered in their world. But being people of faith, believing that God can make whole that which was left broken, they let grace glisten through the words of forgiveness.
The members of Emanuel AME Church have reminded us that God isn’t interested in saving a world in a way that is beyond us. God heals people through people. We are once again reminded that God’s grace is so real that you can touch it, smell it, taste it, and even attempt to kill it, but you cannot stop it. When the Church starts being the Church, as the faithful in Charleston have shown us, God’s grace can give us the strength to walk across the broken glass of racism and prejudice.
As followers of Jesus, we have been shown how to love in a fragile world. The final night before his life was left broken on a cross, Jesus gathers his disciples in an upper room. Up till this moment, for three years, they had been walking the streets of a shattered world teaching, healing, and showing a better way. Their feet dirty and cracked from the journey. Jesus takes off an outer garment, gets down on his knees, and one by one, goes around and washes their feet. In response he says, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15). In a fragmented world we are not to add to the broken pieces by throwing down more hatred and violence. Instead we are called to love. The one left broken on a cross, encourages us, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
We pray for our brothers and sisters at Emanuel AME Church. They will step lightly as they walk into their sanctuary on Sunday morning. They gather as a community that has travelled through life and death. They have taken a drink from the cup of suffering but they are preparing to feast on the eternal bread of life. They have entered into the depths of Christ suffering but, like all believers, they will wait with a joyous expectation because they know that resurrection is on the horizon. We have been reminded that we live in a shattered world. However, within the reflection of the broken we see a glimpse of God’s redeeming love.
As you make your way through this life take time to pick up the broken pieces. Show grace. Offer forgiveness. Be careful not to leave the path littered with hate. Love makes the way easier to tread. It minimizes the bleeding. Continue to love in Jesus’ name because we have been shown that love conquers all.