An athlete practices over and over to develop strength and muscle memory.
Last night I saw All Star Athletes of Agape Love in Action.
They could not have been a more diverse group.
Last night, Friday August 19th, Bishop Thomas Masters, called a meeting of a group called the “Palm Beach County Coalition to Stop The Violence”.
Avis and I left the church and headed there at about 6:30, we got there at about 7:15, after having to call for directions, since we managed to drive by and miss the church. I thank God that we called and found it, for missing this evening would have been terrible.
We arrived to find about 25 people sitting in a circle, on folding chairs in a large room, cooled by one overworked window air conditioner. There were perhaps 6 black women, wearing white T-Shirts with “Mothers Against Murders” on their shirts, their were others dressed in African American church going attire complete with hats, Bishop Masters was wearing a Purple Bishops hat (a berretta), Avis and I were dressed in casual clothing, the national denominational president of the Church of Christ, Scientist, was there, along with two white senior citizens from the Church of Christ, Scientist of West Palm Beach, along with Bishop Shel Schwartz in a T-shirt.
The meeting began with a mother who son was shot and killed by an off duty police officer sharing her grief and pain. This was apparently the first time she had shared this so openly and publicly. It had quite an effect on some of the other mothers of murdered children.
Avis got up, hugged and embraced and prayed with and comforted a mother who was crying, the moment was spontaneous, and intense, and powerful. There is a Balm at Gilead, but last night Gilead was a hot room in Riviera Beach.
Bishop Masters shared the purpose of the meeting, to form a healing circle, to cover the victims with prayer. Perhaps it was more than that, it was to cover the whole community with the healing balm of coming together as a community of faith.
Bishop Masters asked me if I had anything to say. I shared that the happenings put me in mind of the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 6. In that case the enemy was attacking Israel in gorilla warfare like attacks, but then Elisha began to have vision of foreknowledge of where the enemy would strike, and he passed that information on to the Israelis so they could take appropriate action. King Beth Haddad became incensed at the decreased effectiveness of his forces attacks against Israel. He asked his people, who was spying for Israel, but they told him that God had given knowledge of their plans to Elisha the prophet who lived in Dothan. King Beth Haddad ordered his troops to Dothan to surround and capture Elsiha.
Elisha’s servant awoke in the morning, went outside and looked around, and saw that the town was surrounded by the enemy’s army. He went in to the house and awoke Elisha, and told him of the encircling armies. Elisha told him not to worry, because “There are more with us than there are with them.” Elisha then prayed to have his servants eyes opened, and when his servant went back outside, he saw that the enemy army was itself surrounded by the Armies of God, with chariots of fire, by Archangels. This is where the lectionary text usually ends. But we miss an important message if we do not read onward.
You would think at this point, the forces opposing the enemy would have killed them. But NO, Elisha prayed that God would strike them blind. He then led them into the midst of their enemies. He then prayed that God would restore their sight. The King of Israel asked Elisha if he could kill the enemies, he asked him twice. But Elijah told him No. He told him to meet and eat with them, to share bread; then to send them on their way. And from their the scripture tells us that they did not come back to bother the Israelis again.
I would ask who or what are the enemies who are sniping at us? Poverty? Lack of Education? Would the young men who were shot have been hanging around to be in harms way if we had funded community centers? Would the 23 year old been in the line of fire if he had been allowed a college education and a chance? If the law enforcement officer had received better training, sensitivity training, immersion in a culture alien to him, would the trigger have been pulled?
Dr. Martin Luther King, in his letter from the Birmingham Jail wrote “… I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities.”. “…Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Last evening gave powerful testimony to our interrelatedness. When the national president of the Christian Scientists, gave her testimony of her abduction at gunpoint, of her fear, of her anger, of her trust in God through Christ, and her forgiveness, Chicago fifteen years ago, became the garment worn in Riviera Beach last night. Her terrifying experience of fifteen years ago became the Balm of Gilead for that time and place.
Another mother spoke, she spoke of talking and sharing with the friends of her deceased son. Of listening to “his” music, how it comforted her. She spoke to one of the other mourning mothers, telling how she realized that their sons had known each other. More evidence to the insight of Dr. King’s words, More Balm, more sharing of the ‘garment of destiny”.
I see Bishop Masters stepping into the Elsiha like role, sounding the alarm as to the coming assaults on the Grace and Peace of a community. But the difference here is, I am not sure the “King”, the powers that be today, the commissioners, mayors, developers, CRA people want to receive the message. Its almost like their actions say, so what if some of those people get shot, are displaced, aren’t educated, what do we care about them. Shhh, be quiet, don’t embarrass us.
We need to pray along with Bishop Masters that everyone’s eyes will be opened, so they can see past the enemies encircling them to allow them to see the Armies of God, standing ready to give them the victory. A victory paid for with tears, God’s tears; a victory paid for with blood, God’s Blood.
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul
Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work's in vain
But then the Holy Spirit Revives my soul again
Don't ever feel discouraged
For Jesus is your friend
And if you lack of knowledge
He'll ne'er refuse to lend
If you cannot preach like Peter
If you cannot pray like Paul
You can tell the love of Jesus
And say, "He died for all".
Sole Deo Gloria