The Service of Repentance continues as I speak, but I need to offer a quick word of thanks to Dr. George Tinker for his prophetic word which taught all of us a history that has been pushed under the carpet, and calling us to communal repentance with a gentle spirit that was challenging and yet gentle. Tinker didn’t pull any punches, reminding us of our complicity in the oppression of indigenous people . . . an oppression which has continued in many different forms throughout the history of the Americas.
This is especially important for me for I am appointed to serve a village named “Old Hickory,” the nickname of President Andrew Jackson, whose mansion known as “The Hermitage” is just a few miles down the road. As I sit in Tampa, arrangements are being made be people I know and love to honor Jackson with a special memorial in our village’s Veteran’s Park. As a pastor we believes that God has called me to engage in the community, I will be expected to attend this celebration, and the pastor in me wants to honor the energy and passion of my members . . . people who are like I was until tonight . . . unaware of the horror perpetuated on the Trail of Tears, a horror ordered by the one for whom our town and church is named.
As Tinker said repeatedly, repentance isn’t easy. Repentance calls us to cast aside our myths of moral superiority, and honestly confront the ways that we have fallen short in our relationships with others. It forces us to take our heroes off their pedestals and recognize that they were broken men who often did horrible things in the name of God. The lie of manifest destiny – the false theology perpetuated by the church – provided the cover to avoid Christ’s call of love, and to engage in acts of hate.
Where Tinker – a man with a gentle spirit and whose eyes looked through our hearts like a disappointed grandfather – recognized and affirmed that we can’t repent on our own. It takes all of us standing together to try and restore the harmony and balance of God’s creation.
The fact is that I can’t confront the legacy of the community I serve without help. It’s going to take everyone who believes that God is calling us to transformation to stand together. I need your help. I need Tinker’s help. I can’t do it on my own.
The good news is that Tinker reminded us that the Greek word metanoia really means “Y’all repent!.” I understand what “y’all” means, and it means that I am not alone. Yes repentance is hard, but y’all are standing with me.
“Be not afraid,” the scriptures say, “for I am with you.”
May we be joined together with God and with one another as we work to repent of what we have done.