It is a gift to be reminded that our routine and faithful actions can be a source of God’s healing love breaking forth.
After 14 Advents, Sunday’s placing of crosses on our lawn in memory of this year’s violence victims has become as much a part of the season’s rhythm as lighting candles in the Advent wreath.
But an e-mail I received the other day reveals how people are transformed by our small stand of solidarity with those who mourn. I don’t know Ann, but here is what she wrote:
Dear Joe, about 13 years ago your church started placing the crosses on the lawn to remember the homicides in the Louisville area. I remember being called by a member of your church to say they were placing a cross in memory of my husband, Dr. Krishan Arora, M.D., who had been murdered in 1998. I was invited to participate and have never forgotten the tribute, or the benefits gained, from that service.
When I read about the memorial again this weekend, I was reminded that the pain and crimes still continue, but so do you and your members in promoting awareness and peace.
Ann went on to list what she gained from our placing the crosses on the lawn:
· That I was not alone. Standing there with other “crosses” and families, I knew that I was not the sole victim of the horrible crime.
· Here were people of another faith who tenderly reached out to a Catholic wife and her murdered husband, who was a Hindu. It showed me that peace transcends any religion or culture.
· The power of prayer in healing, witnessed as we prayed on the lawn that day. It was the next day after the memorial that I was able to return to work … and continue in the medical profession my husband and I had both shared.
Ann reminds us of how God’s work continues, long after we’ve done our part, even long after the crosses are pulled up on Jan. 1 and stored away for another year.
She wrote, “Many times over the years I have taken a walk across the lawn where the crosses are placed just to remind myself how blessed I felt that day… So many years have passed, but I want to thank you and HBC for continuing to do this work; to call attention to the crimes, and to promote healing. Bless you and your church.”
Thank you, Ann. We are blessed. By your writing, we are blessed. Just as God used us to bless you, now God has used you to bless us. May the blessings continue, as the psalmist says, “until the ends of the earth revere God.”
Joe Phelps is pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and a board director for the Baptist Center for Ethics. This column appeared previously on his blog.
A minister in Louisville, Kentucky, for 21 years as pastor of Highland Baptist Church, Phelps is now Justice Coordinator for Earth and Spirit Center. He leads, along with Kevin Cosby, EmpowerWest, a black-white clergy coalition calling for recognition, repentance, and repair of injustices to black Louisvillians.