Yesterday morning I was preparing to lead my Women’s Ministry 7 AM weekly prayer call. I was planning to use a devotional method called Lectio Divina to have the women reflect on Ephesians 3:20-21 before we prayed.
I had been contemplating and meditating on Ephesians 3:20-21 for a few days. Here’s the passage.
Lectio Divina (Latin for Divine Reading) is a prayer of meditation, listening for God to speak through God’s Word. Depending on the source, there are 4 or 5 steps. I was using a 5-Step method, using the Latin headings for each step, and had walked through the first 3 steps on my own. I planned to repeat those steps with the women on the prayer call and open it up to hear from them:
Step 1—Lectio: What does the biblical text say in itself?
Step 2: Meditatio: What does the biblical text say to us?
Step 3: Oratio: What do we say to the Lord in response to The Word?
Step 4: Contemplatio: What conversion of mind, heart and life itself is the Lord asking of us?
Step 5: Actio: Living out the Lectio Divina
About 15 minutes before my prayer call was to start, I happened (almost out of habit and on automatic pilot), opened up my Twitter app, and as I scrolled down my timeline, someone had posted a picture of Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, constraining Mr. George Floyd on the ground, with his knee in Mr. Floyd’s neck. The incident had caught national social media and mainstream news the night before. The angles of the pictures I saw the previous night were pretty difficult to look at and I was so saddened that yet again an unarmed Black man had been killed at the hands of police officers.
But that morning, the picture that showed up on twitter was crisp, clear and close-up. That image was shocking! It still is. I can’t “unsee” it and when I think about it, I am still moved.
You see, the picture brought out a bucketful of conflicting emotions in me.
As I mentioned, I was saddened to hear yet another Black man died at the hands of police violence.
Now looking at a closeup picture, I was sickened to see that helpless man lying on the ground, face abutting the hard cement, and a white officer, hands in pocket, pinning Mr. Floyd down by his neck.
And I was angry seeing said officer, gazing, maybe glaring, into the camera, as if to say, “yea, I’m doing this and there’s nothing you can do or say about it.”
“Lord, how long?” I uttered unspoken words that only God could hear. My heart was tearing. And just as sure, deep within I heard these words:
“God still has the last say.”
The passage I was preparing to use for meditative prayer welled up in my spirit.
Step 4 of the Lectio Divina kicked in without prompting from me. The conversion of mind and heart for me, was to remember that God truly has the last say. Officer Chauvin’s statement about the worth of this Black man is not the final say. The other officers who stood by watching this callous cowardly act do not have the last say.
What the Scriptures were calling forth, all in God’s perfect timing, was that God gives the benediction, the final words of God’s purpose and power over our situations.
Doxology and Benediction: Liturgical Final Says
In Ephesians 3, the writer ends the discussion of the mystery of the church and a prayer for power with this doxology. A doxology is a liturgical form of praise giving glory to God. The word doxology comes from the Greek doxa, (“glory, splendor, grandeur”) and logos, (“word” or “speaking”). A doxology is a prayer or hymn that gives glory to the splendor of God.
As a doxology, many of us use Ephesians 3:20-21, and other doxologies from Scripture, as the closing benediction in our worship services. In other words, these doxologies/benedictions give the final or last say in the service. They remind us to go forth from our worship service to serve our world by the power of God and for the glory of God.
I sensed that the Lord was speaking to me not just about this incident but about the (in)justice system and structures that enable these incidents to continue to occur.
When we sing, pray or proclaim this doxology we are proclaiming 3 things:
- Now…to God who is able. God is Sovereign. God is still in control and is powerful. We give glory and praise to the Sovereign God
- God’s mighty power is at work within us. As people of faith, we believe that God’s power is operative and active within us through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
- God accomplishes infinitely more than we might ask or think. We want justice for Mr. Floyd and others. God wants that and so much more.
We often will look at this text and speak of the power within each individual. “God’s power is at work in me,” we’ll hear people say. I’ve said it. It’s true yet there is so much more to this truth. This message was and is to the church collectively.
- Ephesians 3 starts out discussing the mystery of the church, that is the manifold wisdom of God is to be made known by the church. (vv. 1-10)
- Ephesians 3 continues declaring that we have boldness and access with confidence to God through faith and therefore we cannot lose heart. (vv. 11-13)
- Ephesians 3 gives the prayer for us to have inner strength or to be strengthened with might through the Holy Spirit (v. 16)
- Ephesians 3 continues with a prayer that we be rooted and grounded in love and that we are able to comprehend the multidimensional love of Christ. (vv. 20-21).
- And then Ephesians 3 closes with the doxology and in this case, the final word of praise.
Our Faith Response to Racism On Display
My friends, these are tough times, especially for African Americans. Racism permeates every structure of our society. And people like Officer Chauvin have been emboldened to act out their racist beliefs.
As a person of faith, I believe God still has the last say. My faith cannot ignore injustice. In fact, my faith is built and established on a tradition built on love and justice. Racism in all of its ugly forms can never, no, will never, overpower our faith. And it cannot silence us.
And what I believe God is saying now to us, as people of faith reading this post, is:
- Use the collective power God has given us, placed within us, and then watch God do beyond what we even can imagine.
- Use the collective power of prayer. Prayers of lament are particularly timely now.
- Use the collective power of protest. I still look to the model Dr. King gave us as well as forms of social justice virtual organizing effective today. We must demand these officers be held accountable for bad policing.
- Use the collective power of policy-making. We must stay in touch with our legislators as they represent us.
- Use the collective power of the polls and vote out unjust leaders.
The power of the Spirit is both individual and collective. It is personal for so many but it is never private. The power of the Spirit to speak out against injustice is not limited to women and men of color. The power of the Spirit is not limited to racial reconciliation but is poured out to facilitate God’s heart for justice! Whatever your church or religious belief, whatever your gender, race or ethnicity, these moments of racism on display demand our faith response.
As we approach Pentecost Sunday celebrating the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, let us pray in the power of the Spirit for God’s system of love and justice to come into fruition and God’s will to be done here and now.