Today, I am Thomas. Absolute disbelief floods through my body as I hear that there will be no indictment for either officer involved in the shooting of Jamar Clark. This is in direct contrast to, if not complete opposition of, the Alleluias and Christ-is-risens echoing through the liturgy I’ve just finished writing for the second Sunday of Eastertide. How can the Resurrection be true when there is no justice for Jamar, for People of Color, and for this nation governed by systems imbued with racism?
I’ve followed this case from its beginning last fall. I’ve participated in marches and signed petitions. I’ve listened and I’ve prayed. Jamar was not a model citizen and no one is saying that he was. He did not, however, deserve to die. (Domestic violence, horrid as that may be, is not a capital crime nor is disrespecting police.) And, maybe, the officer didn’t start off intending to shoot him. But that’s what happened. When it was decided that there would be no Grand Jury, a breath of hope filled the community. But it was false hope. A white lawyer reviewed the case and found no evidence to support indictment and lots to support the police officers’ account.
Strange, that. And now the comments I’ve seen on social media and heard on the radio. As People of Color on the Northside of Minneapolis react with outrage, grief, and despair, white people condemn them for it. Not all white folks, of course, but too many and too many filled with vitriol.
No doubt this is the kind of response that the first disciples got from those in power in the early days after Jesus’ death. There was probably a lot of “He got what he deserved and you all better watch out because you could be next” kind of stuff going around. Thomas was brave enough to go out of that locked room and go about his business in spite of being afraid of what could happen to him. He was living his life when the Risen Christ showed up and breathed peace. Can you blame Thomas for not believing the story? This was a community grieving. They were capable of believing anything, right?
Many of us claim to have seen Jesus, too. We talk about the Resurrection and the new life it brings and the amazing gifts of God freely given to any who ask. So where is that same commitment when we see racism crucifying People of Color over and over again? If we are the body of Christ why are we not trying to join with People of Color and breathe peace into broken, fractured communities? Not peace that the world gives with its faulty justice and laws that benefit the privileged, but peace that comes with justice, grace, healing, hope and new life? We sit back and nod with the lawyer who says that the evidence doesn’t support indictment. Really? How is that possible? Systemic racism is the answer which has nothing to do with Jamar Clark’s character.
Now I look around because I couldn’t see the Risen Christ when I heard the news. I look around and I see Christ everywhere. The wounds are still fresh. The hands raised as fists in the air, the hands clasped in prayer, the hands reaching out to comfort, the hands seeking to hold back outrage… all these hands are wounded hands. The tears and the angry words are justified in the face of a system that speaks only of death and oppression.
The Risen Christ identified himself by his wounds. That says a lot. That says that Resurrection, Easter, doesn’t fix anything. However, it does change everything.
When Jesus came back to the disciples a second time, Thomas was with them. Jesus simply invited him to touch his wounds so he would know for himself and believe. Thomas didn’t haven’t to touch those wounds. Seeing was enough for him. Today, though, I think we need to touch the wounds. It isn’t enough for us to see or hear.
Jesus didn’t change the world with Resurrection. Yes, it was a profound act of Divine Love to show us that death and violence do not have to have the final word. However, if no one were paying attention, it wouldn’t have mattered. So Jesus didn’t change the world, his disciples did. They went out in the name of that same Love and tried to breathe peace and new life wherever they went.
I want the world to change. I want the lives of People of Color to matter. I want police to stop killing them. I want justice to be done. I am a person of privilege in this society and I have a responsibility to use my privilege to advocate for change. I am no longer willing to accept the status quo or to agree that blaming victims excuses the crime. I am, however, willing to add my own hands to those reaching for justice. I, like Thomas, have seen the wounds. And it is enough. New life is possible if you and I get out there with Holy Spirit, bear witness to the undeniable suffering, and breathe peace.
Psalm 118:14-29 or Psalm 150