A CURIOUS THING happened among many congregations in my very white denomination after George Floyd was killed: Churches that had been at best timid to enter the work of racial justice dove into it headfirst. Colleagues dusted off their blogs to share their thoughts. Church leaders laced up their sneakers to participate in marches. It appeared that a reckoning had occurred for countless people in the faith. They finally got it and could no longer stay silent, not while a global pandemic amplified the existing inequities in our society. It was time to act.
This would seem like good and right action, except many began this work having previously wounded leaders of color who’d tried for years to call them into it. Worse yet, there was little to no attempt to remedy their errors or circle back with the people they’d hurt. They were eager to move toward action but had to be reminded that the past still needed to be addressed before the future could be entered with justice.
If there is a “right” way to approach Lent, it involves holding our past and future in tension. The Greek words for repentance and reconciliation both connote a reciprocal change. The person on a wayward path makes a U-turn. The transgressor trades places with the transgressed. Our texts challenge us to examine who we have been, are, and are willing to become, because all of it matters to the future we will build.