Wisdom Tooth Wisdom
July 8, 2020
Earlier this summer our oldest daughter, Evelyn endured the teenaged rite of passage that is the extraction of her wisdom teeth. In the hours following the procedure, she lay mostly still while we attended to changes of ice packs and gauze pads while monitoring pain relievers and other medications.
Our youngest daughter, Carolyn, became increasingly frustrated with the fact that her older sister was receiving so much attention. Carolyn’s patience wore thinner and thinner until she finally burst out with this question (there may have been an accompanying foot stomp with hands planted defiantly on hips):
“WHY IS SISSY THE MOST SPECIAL?!?”
At six years old, she has obviously become accustomed to having the lion’s share of her parents’ attention…and could not fathom why her usually self-sufficient older sister was requiring so much care.
Ashley and I – after suppressing parental laughter - tried lovingly to explain that Evelyn had to have teeth taken out of her mouth, and it would take a few days for her to feel better.
Carolyn was having none of it. She protested, “But I have lost teeth and I was fine!”
Trying to explain the difference between losing a baby tooth and having 4 wisdom teeth extracted to a 6-year old proved especially challenging…
As I reviewed Carolyn’s frustration, I began to notice a comparison to the challenges I encounter when trying, as a white person, to confront racism. The color of my skin – something I had no part in determining - has afforded me various advantages and benefits that my sisters and brothers with darker skin do not automatically receive. The fact that I do not really have to think about my skin color may be chief among them. I am used to getting plenty of “attention” without having to work for it.
Recent events have once again exposed the injustice of systems that exist around us. As voices from the black community have been elevated in this season, it would be easy for me to put my hands on my hips, stomp my foot, and question, “Why are they the most special?” But as Peter Marty recently wrote in an article for Christian Century, “If you’re white, you don’t have to deal with negative assumptions being made about you based on the color of your skin. If you’re black, you deal with it every day.”
I have often used Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) as my scriptural foundation for engaging the challenge of conversations and action related to race. The episode begins with a lawyer, wanting to justify himself, asking Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” In other words…who do I have to love (and who can I ignore)?
Jesus’ ensuing parable teaches that love shows mercy to our neighbor – emphasizing neighbors who are suffering, and those different from us. The surprising hero and namesake of the story is a Samaritan…one who was different from and often reviled by the Israelites who listened to the story.
Jesus defines love of neighbor as showing mercy to all - so it matters that we, as followers of Jesus, learn about and work to heal relationships between people who are different from one another.
For the remainder of July you are invited to do just that. Our newly formed Faith & Justice team invites you to engage in one of two pathways to know yourself, and your neighbors’ better – in the hopes of stirring us all to work for justice and mercy. We have created two pathways that you can choose from – more details at the links below:
21-Day Challenge – engage a variety of resources (videos, articles, documentaries, podcasts, etc.) that will invite you to hear voices and perspectives intended to broaden our understanding of our neighbors’ lives. Keep a journal, engage in conversations, start a small group, attend Pub Theology – do something to keep the conversation going.
Or, if you prefer to go deeper with one resource:
Read “White Fragility” by Dr. Robin DiAngelo – reflect on your own or join one of the book discussion groups being held later this month.
Our goal is a deeper understanding of our neighbor, and a better understanding of ourselves. Church needs to be a place where we can wrestle together, seek God’s will and recognize the image of God in every neighbor.
The Core Values of this congregation include:
- We welcome all
- We are a learning congregation
- We are honest about brokenness
- God created us for connection & relationship
Each of these, and more, can be engaged as we challenge ourselves toward deeper understanding and broader perspectives. May this journey help us approach all our neighbors with Jesus’ spirit of mercy.