I loved how Pastor Greg’s sermon began Sunday with perceptions. Perceptions of what we picture Jesus looked like based on our culture. How the culture we grew up in was our perception of what Jesus looked like, a white Jesus, when in reality He was probably not. Then Pastor Greg put this statement on the screen, “There were no white people in the Bible. Take all the time you need with that.” Look that one up! Our minds create images that are “comfortable” for us to process. Some might say those images were a lie.
In her dining room, my grandmother had a picture of Jesus standing there knocking at a vine-covered door. I used to look at that picture for what seemed like hours. But there it was, a white Jesus. Although I’d seen other pictures of Jesus, and his face looked different in each, I knew instinctively who it was.
I trusted in what I had been taught. It never occurred to me that Jesus looked any different than I did. It never occurred to me that other cultures might picture him differently and, in all honesty, I was taken aback the first time I saw a black Jesus. Was I wrong? I had never considered seeing things from a different perspective.
Life has changed all that hasn’t it? These past few months have really awakened all of us. Seeing life from another perspective has radically and, for me, emotionally changed. Our society has had the “clay washed from our eyes.” Seeing what others have to deal with, especially the African-American community, has opened my eyes. It seems as though it would be exhausting to experience each day. And like in the video Pastor Greg shared, first impressions or “the look”, although they may be unintended, are real.
As you know, I drive for Uber, yes, even in these pandemic times. But I am diligent in not only wearing a mask, but also wearing gloves, sanitizing my car after every ride, and insisting everyone wear a mask, no matter who it is. Uber is also diligent about safety. For example, I can’t even turn on the app unless I am wearing my mask (verified with a photo) and they have told riders I can refuse anyone not willing to do the same. These past few days, I have driven an African-American gentleman that works for a local radio station a number of times and had wonderful discussions about race. I asked him why he thought there were fewer police officers of color.
His first answer threw me. “Fran, I think it’s a matter of trust.” I considered his answer in a duel nature. I wondered if our police department were indeed cautious about hiring, but he also thought it might have been trust on the part of young black men. That black role models were sometimes in short supply and that “training” for young black men includes the “Talk” about what could be expected from police officers first as “suspects” before “citizens”. In some cultures of the past, women would cry at the birth of a girl baby because they knew the life they would lead would be subservient to men. Do we understand now, that black women may fear the same for their newborn sons?
How did we get here? Have we lost sight of who we are supposed to be? Are we truly living like someone saved by grace? Are we living as a believer that, we are all created equal? When we see the cross of Christ, let us remember the dual nature of the cross, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I am reminded not only of Christ at his best, but man at his worst.”
Heavenly Father, please open our eyes to the promises we make to you. Help us to see all people as precious in your sight. Let Christ be seen in me today and every day Lord. Amen.
Written by Fran Baatz
At the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.’
So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.’
Fran is happily married with two daughters, and now four grandchildren and one great-grand daughter! She was an army brat growing up (which means she moved a bit) and her parents (Francis and Orpha Jimenez) were charter members of Sheridan Lutheran Church. She was also the first girl baptized in the church in 1953, so she has been at Sheridan a long time.