I joined the Micah Center a number of years ago. It is a faith-rooted organization that works for justice in the Grand Rapids, Michigan community by promoting education, building relationships, and calling for action.
The Micah Center expresses its mission in the words of Proverbs 31:8-9:
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
My experiences there have led me to places that I have never been before and have introduced me to people I have never known before. These places and these people have changed my life. The significance of all this came home dramatically to me one weekend that I will never forget.
On a cold Saturday morning, I attended a breakfast meeting at a predominantly “Black” church on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. A group of mothers carried pictures of their deceased children, all of them victims of senseless gun violence. They called on all of us to help them end the violence in our communities. Other than a few members of the suburban church who had graciously provided the breakfast, I was one of the few “White” people in attendance. My heart went out to the cries of these mothers sharing their stories of pain and grief. I wondered, “What can I do? How can I help?”
My next stop that same day was the Hispanic Center on Grandville Avenue in Grand Rapids. Several of our elected officials were there to share their opinions about immigration reform. A number of citizens passionately shared their painful stories of separation and incarceration. They called on all of us to reform the current immigration system. A very civil discussion took place.
I wasn’t buying what these elected officials were selling however. Their tone suggested they were more interested in a policy of “arrest and incarcerate” and less concerned with finding a pathway to citizenship for immigrants crossing our Southern border.
As I drove home I pondered how segregated our community really is. Blacks living in a Black community and dealing with their issues. Hispanics living in Hispanic communities and dealing with their issues. And I living in a White community. I have few Black or Hispanic friends and am only dimly aware of their issues.
The next day, I attended my White Church. Throughout the service my mind wandered. The Word of God as not coming to me in the sermon. It was coming from somewhere else. I felt the Word of God in my heart, a “still small voice” prompting me with questions: What kinds of sermons were being preached in the Black and Hispanic churches this day? What would I say if I were giving the sermon that morning? Would anyone care to listen?
The service finished with the singing of a contemporary song, “Our God Reigns.” I have sung this song many times before, but this time the words took on a new meaning. “Our God?” How many Gods are there? Is there a Black God? a Hispanic God? a White God? Is my God the god of White privilege?
Until I joined the Micah Center I doubt I would have spent my Saturday the way I did. I doubt I would have spent my Sunday wrestling with that “still small voice” calling on me to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Yes, that would be the text of the sermon that I would be preaching on a cold Sunday morning. How can we address the needs of our community if we fail to recognize we have but “One God”?
“Our God Reigns” — I don’t think I can ever sing that song again…at least not until the word “Our” has been removed.