Lord, If You Had Been Here
Posted December 9, 2014
It’s December and I love this time of year. I want desperately to write a joyful holiday message full of references to all the sights, sounds, and smells that make this season so special. I want to talk about treasured traditions and recount magical memories, but somehow I can’t.
I want to, but I can’t shake the images of Eric Garner’s widow, Esaw; or 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s mother, Samaria; or Michael Brown’s parents, Lesley and Michael, Sr., thrust into the media spotlight, forced to publicly grieve the loss of their husband and sons, to listen to strangers judge the merits of the actions that resulted in tragic and soul shattering losses. These formerly unknown bystanders have become passionate but imperfect spokespeople for a cause with which, I’m sure, they’d prefer not be identified.
In the midst of all the protests and fervent pleas for justice and peace, I envision Esaw Garner playing the role of Mary in a contemporary adaptation of John 11, and saying to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother (husband) would not have died."
I'm imagining a compassionate Jesus being deeply moved and troubled today in the same way he was on the occasion of his friend Lazarus' death. In that instance, Jesus went on to say to Martha, a grief stricken sister, "Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" With the benefit of history and hindsight, we can appreciate and celebrate the glory that was manifest to Mary and Martha when Lazarus emerged from his tomb. But if we believe now, in the middle of the conflict and the controversy, I wonder if the glory of God will be as magnificently displayed in Cleveland, Ferguson, Staten Island, or Washington, DC as it was in the ancient village of Bethany.
I really do want to sing carols, to revel in the wonders of this glorious season. Perhaps I’ll start with the African American spiritual, O Mary Don’t You Weep, which comforts the grieving Mary by reminding her that “Pharoah’s army got drownded” and that God gave Noah “the rainbow sign” to remind him that the flood waters are receding and a brand new world awaits. I invite you to sing with me in the hope that our collective voice will drown out the fear, division, and misunderstanding that once again troubles our land.
James Woody is the Executive Director/President of the Bishop Walker School.