June 20, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Matthew 5:1-2, 4 (NRSV)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. He opened his mouth and began to teach them saying: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
As a leader, I am a woman of color, but I am not African-American and cannot speak for my African-American sisters and brothers. Yet I can mourn with my siblings who mourn. A Christ-like leader cannot depart from the Christ on this mount. The message of the Beatitudes is ensconced in a painful present. Yet the Messenger of the Beatitudes points to a present and future hope in the midst of dark realities. I am called to mourn the systemic inequities that brought about the death of yet another African-American brother.
I saw the crowds of masked protesters marching and mourning for the death of Mr. George Floyd, who died after a policeman in Minneapolis drove his knee into his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while taking away his last breath. We have all seen by now the many protests erupting all across our nation and globe in lament and mourning over the desecration of the imago Dei in Mr. Floyd. As a faith and thought leader, as a woman of color, as a pastor and chaplain in an academic institution, I have been asked to respond over and over again since the video came out.
I have chosen to center myself and my response in this familiar message of the Beatitudes. In light of all the national racial trauma, I realized that the beatitudes are not for the blessed; they’re for the oppressed. Jesus sees the marginalized crowds whose bodies and lives have been taxed heavily by both state and synagogue, which at the moment was the Roman empire and local religious leaders, respectively. Jesus sees the crowds and knows that they have been exploited and abused. Jesus is aware of the inequities for they have been waiting for 400 years in a hard, long and unresolved waiting to be saved from this empire. Justice has been denied to the people as well. Social relationships were marked by hierarchy and order of importance. The elite were growing rich at the expense of the poor. The people who sat down in front of Jesus… were tired of waiting, too.
As a leader, I am a woman of color, but I am not African-American and cannot speak for my African-American sisters and brothers. Yet I can mourn with my siblings who mourn. A Christ-like leader cannot depart from the Christ on this mount. The message of the Beatitudes is ensconced in a painful present. Yet the Messenger of the Beatitudes points to a present and future hope in the midst of dark realities. I am called to mourn. I am called to comfort. I can do both. As I marched with my sisters and brothers I listened, lamented and learned. I felt the presence of the Jesus on the mount walking in the midst of the march, marching to the heartbeat of heaven with that beautiful upside down kingdom. The leader of that mount led a peaceful protest, for God is the God of the protest and the redeemer of the oppressed.
May we as leaders listen, lament and mourn as we live into this blessed beatitude.
How does the Sermon on the Mount articulate the ethics of God’s Kingdom? How can we insert these ethics into our personal life, home and workplace values?
In recent weeks, several workplace leaders in positions of power have begun or continued to do the hard work of introspection as we lament structural and institutional racism. The problem is enormous. However, where do you have influence and can effect change? How can you lament and listen in your workplace to inequities that are both implicit and overt? What is your next hard step?
Jesus, we as your disciples have romanticized and individualized your sermon on the mount. Teach us to let it discomfort us and expand our imagination for our collective family. Lord, we mourn over our blindspots; show them to us. We mourn over our apathy; inject us with your heart. We mourn over historical inequities shown to our African-American sisters and brothers; show us our complicity. We mourn over a late awakening; invite us into your resurrected and restorative life that rights the wrongs. First, let us mourn, alone and with our sisters and brothers. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: “Blessed are Those Who Mourn, For They Will be Comforted” (Matthew 5:4)