Blessed Are the Peacemakers

I won’t recount the tragedy in Baton Rouge in detail because you already know about it. It may seem strange but even British media report on these events and I found out about the officers in Baton Rouge being killed while in line for the loo at a pub in Bath. I have to be very honest about my response: I was filled with anger. Yet again, police officers – the majority of whom have had absolutely nothing to do with injustices against people of color – were targeted, ambushed, killed senselessly.

This has to stop.

I have seen many people on social media – including some clergy – who have been trying to rationalize these attacks on our law enforcement officers. To me, such rationalizations are just excuses and, possibly worse, exhibit inaction and an unwillingness to actually work for justice. There is no possible solid rational reasoning for police officers to be killed by vigilantes. None. Zero. Zilch. There is no acceptable excuse for taking life without just cause; “guilt by association” is not just cause. You should also know that EMS and fire crews have been targeted over the last few weeks because people claim that “they’re on the same side as the cops.”

This has to stop.

I know that there has been injustices committed by some police officers. I know that innocent people have died who did not have to. I agree that there should be changes made to procedures and laws so that these tragedies can be eliminated to the absolute best which can be achieved. I grieve when an innocent person is killed when they did not have to be. I am not saying that all law enforcement officers are innocent but I am also not going to condemn them all unlike so many others. I acknowledge my own privilege and I acknowledge that people of color have been harmed. However, killing other innocent people solves nothing, changes nothing, and only causes more animosity. Violence only brings more violence.

This has to stop.

During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9 NLT). Note that he did not say that those who take the law into their own hands are blessed. He did not say that those who shed more innocent blood are blessed. He did not say those who exact revenge are blessed. The ones who are blessed are the ones who work for peace. What have you done to actually stand in the gap and make injustice into justice for someone? What have you done to bridge the divide between us and our neighbors? How have you ministered to the “least of these?”

If you have taken any actions such as snarling racial slurs, hurling insults based on stereotypes, or picked up a weapon and spilled innocent blood, then you are part of the problem.

This has to stop.

Following in the Footsteps of the Wesleys

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Salisbury Cathedral

Since last Monday, I have been in the land of England on a Wesleyan pilgrimage. While this might sound like a fancy name for a sightseeing tour while on vacation (or “holiday” as the Brits say), this has been a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn, to study, to grow, and to touch history. So far, this pilgrimage has proven to be just that: A pilgrimage. We have trod where John and Charles Wesley and so many others have trod, touched where they lived, worshiped, shopped, preached, and undoubtedly shed many tears. It is not enough to state that these places have been historical in nature. Indeed, we have been to sacred, holy places.

The trip began, in earnest, when we went up to Oxford (one always “goes up” to Oxford) to explore the place where the Methodist movement was begun. It’s important to remember that John and Charles Wesley were not setting out to start a new church, rather this was a renewal movement within the Church of England. One thing to note is that it was actually Charles who began what would be come the Holy Club at Christchurch College. Later on, they would be called Methodists as a way of poking fun at their methodical style of study and prayer. While in Oxford, we saw St. Mary’s Church where John preached sermons which caused him to be scorned by many within the Church of England power structure. Christ Church Cathedral is the place where John and Charles were both ordained Anglican Priests.

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Commemoration of where the Oxford Martyrs were burned.

Seeing and touching these holy places was an amazing experience but here was the real sobering moment for me: We stood at a spot on Broad Street which commemorated the place where Anglican bishops Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer were burned at the stake for heresy. These men are who became known as the Oxford Martyrs. To see the place where these men were killed for their faith in Christ rather than their faith to a monarch was inspirational and sobering.

 

In addition to this significant faith history, we also experience another place where our faith was shaped: The Eagle and Child pub. This is where C.S. Lewis would often congregate while he was in Oxford. There was a door marked “Narnia” but I darned not to open it. For the record, the fish and chips are excellent.

Yesterday we spent the day in Epworth where the Wesley boys and

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Me in the pulpit of Wesley Memorial Methodist Church in Epworth.

girls¬†grew up. We toured the Old Rectory where the Wesleys lived while Samuel Wesley was rector of St. Andrew’s Church. At St. Andrews, we were able to see and touch the baptismal font where John, Charles, and their siblings were baptized. We were even able to see and hold the chalice which belonged to Samuel and from which his children received their first Eucharist. We saw some of the places where John Wesley practiced open air preaching, including the market cross and his father’s grave (he climbed on top of the grave to preach after he was denied an invitation to preach at St. Andrew’s).

 

Along the way, we have learned much from our leaders who have been lecturing on Methodist history as well as ways by which we can reclaim some of the Wesleyan fervor. Hopefully by doing this, what began as a renewal movement within the Anglican Church will itself be renewed today. I throw this in mainly because I did not want you to think we have only been sightseeing. This has very much been a learning experience, both by being able to learn from some of the best Wesleyan scholars available as well as being able to experience the places where so much of our Methodist heritage was formed.

Still on tap for us is worshiping at Salisbury Methodist Church tomorrow as well as an excursion to Bath, where there has been much Roman influence preserved. Monday we head to Bristol to see sites such as the New Room and Bristol Cathedral. Tuesday and Wednesday will be spent in London where there is also much Methodist history to be experienced and learned about.

This has been our trip so far. As you can see, we still have much more to go and I can not wait to see what God will do with these final days for us here. As I expressed to a friend of mine earlier today, this has been a learning experience that is helping to shape my future ministry in the United Methodist Church. Even if I were to go back home today, I would come away with much knowledge and the blessings of being able to be in these holy places. I have experienced joy, affirmation, new friendship, and the Holy Spirit speaking to me. May we continue to listen for His small voice as we continue this sojourn.

Jonathan