It’s no surprise the black community is tired of such injustices or angry at years of oppression: the aggressive unlawful arrests that end up in the murder of Black people is only the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t achieved equality for all people: we live in a world which has systems and successes that stem from exploitation of people all around the world.
And it’s not just an American problem. There are many stories of Black people in the UK being treated unfairly. A Black barrister from London who is thirty one has been stopped and searched 7 times. Unlawfully arrested once. On one occasion he was in his suit heading to work and the police allowed their dog to put its paws all over his suit. He arrived late for work with paw prints on his suit and no apology. My friend’s black partner, in his thirties, has been stopped nearly 10 times. The most recent time he was taken for a strip search at New Street station. I’ve never been stopped. Never been searched.
I’m incredibly blessed to have worked in inner city schools. My last school was comprised of mostly black students. They’ve been brought up with the image of themselves as distrusted by society. They have few role models because of the history of discrimination against Black people in our country: it was only the 60s where companies could legally choose not to employ Black people because of their colour. So black people have to fight to rise up the ladder and become those role models. I’ve worked with some incredibly talented, intelligent young Black people, who have little belief that they can achieve and do well.
Racism has been tackled to some extent. There’s not as much direct racism. But there are still major barriers and injustices stemming from systemic racism. We have churches with black people, but where are they in leadership, as stewards, local preachers? We still have work to do to challenge this inequality.
Jesus went to those who were on the margins, those who were considered the least. The Samaritans were considered less by Jesus’ contemporaries and were on the outside of the systems held up by the privileged. What did Jesus do? Reach out, heal and teach that all people are neighbours. Remember Jesus turning society on its head in the Good Samaritan? He made the Samaritan the one with the power to help the man lying in the road. It’s not tokenism we need, allowing others to partake on our terms, but real structural change where the power shifts and true equality is achieved.
Paul in his letter to the Galatians said there was neither Jew or Greek, slave or free. Those were very divided communities and classes of people. But he put them all equal before God. Affirming that all are made in the image of God. Our readings today are glimpses into the Trinity. All of us made in the image of a God who encompasses everything throughout time and space.
The Trinity is a concept that I don’t think we’ll ever grasp and explain. But I do think we can talk about our experiences of God. The God who has made everything around us and is the source of all. The God who came into time and space and walked among us as a human, healing and teaching. The God who lives in our hearts, guiding us, challenging us and perfecting us in love.
We never fully grasp the whole, but we grasp parts as we journey through life. And it’s the same as we learn about others. We have our own experiences that give us our worldview and we have to continually challenge that worldview, even when it is uncomfortable to do so. When we’re among other communities we learn their struggles, their challenges, just as I’ve been fortunate to have done in teaching. Part of being church is bringing all sorts of people together in fellowship to learn from each other and grow in community. That church community is only rich in its diversity: learning from the voices of many.
Yet, in our world, there are so many groups whose voices aren’t heard, who are exploited or oppressed. Part of our mission with God, modelled in Jesus’s life, is to challenge injustice and break down barriers: Jesus’ message of the reign of God was that the least will be the greatest and the last will be the first. Only when we stand aside, allowing all voices to be heard, and stand with the oppressed, challenging injustice, will the good news we preach mean something to our communities.