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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, September 26, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Matthew 21:23–32

When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. (NRSV)

This summer, our nation mourned the passing of Congressman John Lewis, who devoted his life to speaking  truth to power in pursuit of equality for all. He fought to deliver on the promise of justice that African Americans have sought since the founding of our nation and for more than one hundred years after the Civil War. Former President Obama called Congressman Lewis “a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.”

This summer we also saw historic protests against police brutality and systemic racism sparked by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. As I talk with African American students, family members, friends, and coworkers, a common refrain is Why now? Why George Floyd? Why this video and not countless other body cams, videos, images, or harrowing testimonials? What will be different this time?

We must ask ourselves how will the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder lead to a different outcome than what happened after media coverage of Eric Garner, Abner Louima, Rodney King, or Emmet Till? How do we push back comfort, indifference, and a reversion to an unjust status quo? How do we build on the legacy of Congressman Lewis and internalize his call for equality? How do we give voice to the powerless and change our hearts and minds so that we administer justice in the true spirit of Jesus?

Dear loving and gracious Lord, pray for us, our nation and our leaders. Help us see you in our neighbors. Help us listen and seek fellowship from those who hold views that differ from ours. During a time of great personal and community challenges sparked by a global pandemic, let us seek unity and grace. Help us hear your call to seek justice and champion equality for the least, the last, and the lonely. Amen.

Written by Ranjan Daniels, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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