This week, our community at Love Wins Ministries learned that the guard that killed our friend Shon would receive 90 days of jail time. To put in perspective how ridiculous that is: We have friends in jail for six months for trying to steal food to eat.
So our community took this hard. For them, it is another case of justice denied, of being made to feel less-than, of having hope stripped away.
I knew it would be on all our minds Sunday, and I knew we needed a way to talk about it. This is the text of my homily this past Sunday, where I try to introduce a framework for discussion.
Keep in mind that, in our community, we don’t believe the Holy Spirit speaks exclusively, or even primarily, through the person behind he pulpit. Instead, we believe that God speaks through all of us. What the Spirit says to Jon or Bullfrog is potentially just as valid as what the Spirit says through me. So, we see the homily as a conversation starter, and then we open it up to 15 minutes of open space, where the community engages with the text.
So, the homily is here, but the interesting part always happens during open space time.
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When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” – Matthew 11:2-6
This is Advent. Which is a time of waiting.
In the passage I just read, John has been waiting. He has been waiting his whole life. His people had been waiting for many centuries.
John had been told since birth of the One to come, the warrior King who would bring peace and freedom to his people. The Messiah, who would liberate the oppressed and feed the hungry.
And he believed Jesus was it - the Messiah, the Chosen One.
But things were not working out the way John had assumed they would. The one he thought would be king was always at the verge of arrest. The one who was to be a mighty warrior was advocating love and restraint. The one he thought would march into Jerusalem as a conqueror would, instead, one day ride in on the back of a donkey.
So John reached out to Jesus, and asked if he was wrong. Maybe the stories were not true. Maybe John had read them wrong. Or maybe had had, and it just wasn’t Jesus.
Jesus told John to not lose faith. To not give up. To keep believing. To keep hoping. To keep dreaming.
In June, we lost our friend Shon.
First, he was arrested for failing to appear in court over his having an open container of beer. So we waited for him to get out of jail.
Then he was assaulted by a guard who weighed more than twice what he did, and he ended up in a coma, on life support. We waited for him to get better, for him to recover.
11 days later, he dies.
The jailer who killed him was “being investigated”. We waited to see if he would be charged in the senseless killing of Shon.
Eventually, he was indicted, and much rejoicing happened here at Love Wins – because we of all people know what it means to be denied justice.
So we sat these many months and waited for the trial and the verdict, waited to see what punishment awaited the man who killed our friend.
Thursday night, we found out. The man who killed Shon will go to jail for 90 days.
Or roughly one week for every day Shon spent on life support. Or about as long as Shon could have expected to stay in jail for his original arrest for drinking a beer in public and having “drug paraphernalia” when they arrested him.
We waited for justice – and it feels like justice was denied. Our strength wavers. Our hope is shaken.
We wait for justice, we wait for peace, we wait for that day when a person who is poor has the same rights as a person who is not. We long for a day when we do not fear, when we can trust, when we can know that things that are wrong will be made right.
We long for that day. We hope for that day. We dream of such a day.
With the arrest of the man who killed our friend, we hoped. God, how we hoped.
And it did not turn out the way we had dreamed of, and now our hope is shaken.
We are like John, sitting in jail, wondering if we were wrong. Wondering if we were fools. Wondering if there is justice to be had, wondering if God heard our cries.
And all we have in return is the voice of Jesus, who speaks to us as clearly as he spoke to John, saying, “Don’t lose faith. Don’t stop hoping. Don’t give up on the dream.”
So, today, we sit. And we pray, and some of us cry for Shon and all of us who knew him miss him.
And we wait. More than anything, we wait.
Related: Doing My Damn Job