Derek Chauvin Guilty Verdict – Accountability and a Step Toward Justice and Police Anxiety

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
(Amo 5:24 NIV)

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
(Psa 103:6 NIV)

Yesterday, the jury came back with a guilty verdict of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd that happened this past May. The Jury found that Derek Chauvin was guilty of murder in the second and third degree. Normaly, this sentence would give him 12 years in prison, but the prosecution will ask for 40 years in prison.

I live in Central, Ohio in a bedroom community of Columbus called Sunbury. We are on the edge of the Columbus suburbs and rural Central, Ohio. Most people that I know of are indifferent to the murder of George Floyd, or police shootings in Columbus. I also have a dear friend who has family members that serve in the City of Columbus Police Force, and also serve or have served in the Ohio Highway Patrol.

Since the death of George Floyd, three African American people have been shot and killed by police for being a the wrong place and at the wrong time. My heart breaks for the families of these young people who were victims of police brutality within Columbus.

At the same time, my heart goes out to those that believe they are called to “serve and protect” and are police officers. In crisis situations it is becoming “damned if I do, or damned if I don’t” when it comes to apprehending perpetrators who break the law especially when it comes to people of color who are both black and brown. The anxiety and fear that both police officers and those from lower income communities who are black and brown is huge. Police officers are anxious because they believe they cannot do their job without the world watching and waiting to accuse them of police brutality and systemic racism. On the other hand, those that come from lower income neighborhoods have a heightened fear of those that are called to serve and protect them. It is the same old same old to them. They are targeted, labeled, and are victims of systemic racism that leads to police shootings and murder of innocent victims who are people of color.

I remember listening to a U2 concert and it was right after a terrorist attack in Paris, France. Bono is singing the song “City of Lights”, and as he is moved by the Spirit, he adlibs and starts signing and saying over and over again “Love over fear” (1 John 4:18).

I believe the key to healing both the black and brown neighborhoods that are targeted by racial profiling by the police, and the anxiety that police officers feel to serve and protect those community is love and compassion. Partly, police officers need to build relationships with those that they serve and protect through love and compassion. Understand the level of poverty, brokenness and pain that systemic racism has affected people that they serve which can lead to drug abuse, shame, and violence in those neighborhoods. On the other hand those that are victims of systemic racism need to understand the fear and anxiety that police officers face in crisis situations. Being a calm presence on both ends goes a long way especially in a crisis.

Now to engage the “other” is to take work, love, time, and compassion. Being able to step into someone else’s shoes is complex. All humans are storyteller’s, and being able to understand the level of brokenness that we all face individually, or corporately takes time. I do know that understanding won’t help in a time of crisis where quick decisions need to be made such as for a police officer, “do I use violence to apprehend the perpetrator, or do I try to negotiate with them?” What is the best decision? For those that are victims of racial profiling, “am I going to be calm and compliant, or am I going to be anxious and defensive?” Defensiveness can lead to violence especially if the officer is anxious. Having a calm presence can lead to understanding and allowing the officer to do their job even if it means getting a ticket. On the other hand the officer being calm if they pull over someone can also lead to calmness for the person that they are investigating.

From a policy perspective, police reform is needed nationwide. Better training, racial training, psychological training, etc. Social work may be appropriate for part of the police reform that police officers need to take classes in social work to understand the complexity of the neighborhoods they are called to serve and protect especially when it comes to those that are impoverished.

You all may not agree with above, but these are my thoughts of the Derek Chauvin verdict for the murder of George Floyd.

Update:

After watching the video from the police officers body camera for the recent shooting of Ms. Bryant, the situation could have been descalated without the use of violence and the use of deadly force. The officer was not in any danger of harm. Ms. Bryant did lunge with a kitchen knife at a girl she was in a fight with, but not at the officer. Again it goes to a lack of a calm presence in the situation by the officers involved where tensions were high with the conflict between the teenage girls. There definitely needs to be more training and new policies within the City of Columbus Police Department so these incidents do not keep on happening.

Mark 16:9-18 – Today’s Revised Common Lectionary Passage – Doubt, Rebuke, and Obedience

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
(Mar 16:9-18 NIV)

The above is from the daily readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. This is the end of Mark’s Gospel. It is a record of Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and when they reported it to the eleven disciples, they did not believe it. When Jesus appeared to the eleven, he rebuked them for not believing for those that had seen him after his resurrection. Jesus then gave the disciples their marching ourders to proclaim the good news to all of creation and signs and wonders will accompany the disciples as they proclaim the gospel.

Here are some observations about this passage. Jesus was clearly human and upset that his disciples did not believe the reports of his resurrection. At the same time, Jesus still had confidence in his disciples to be sent to proclaim the good news of the disciple. Signs and wonders will accompany them as they are obedient to do what Jesus has sent them out to do.

I wonder how many times, I myself has disappointed Jesus for my own lack of faith like that of the disciples. How many times have I not trusted Jesus and do what he calls me to. How many times do I doubt what God is doing. Part of faith is wrestling with hard questions, hard truths that seem unbelievable. In this case with the disciples they did not believe that he truly rose from the dead. Even with all of the reports of his appearance after his death, they still were skeptical and did not believe. Yet literally to be obedient is to learn how to listen. After hearing their marching orders, the disciples did what Jesus commanded them to do. They heard and understood what they were supposed to do because of their relationship with Jesus

Yet as a follower of Jesus, my marching orders are the same as that of the disciples which is to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God (the Gospel). Signs and wonders will accompany that message. Also, in Jesus great love for me, he has confidence in me to do his will despite my own doubts to be obedient to what Jesus has called me to as a disciple and follower of him.

As Christians, we are all called to proclaim (share, preach, teach, and witness or testify) the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom is an upside down kingdom and different than the Kingdoms and Empires of the world. Jesus Kingdom is subversive. According to Walter Brueggemann:

Easter means the dismissal of Pharaoh, Caesar, and all imperial power. Easter means the dismantling of all the pathologies by which we order personal, family, and public life.

Brueggemann, Walter. Truth-Telling as Subversive Obedience (p. 57). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

And according to Brian Zahnd:

If Christianity is not seen as countercultural and even subversive within a military-economic superpower, you can be sure it is a deeply compromised Christianity.

Zahnd, Brian. Postcards from Babylon: The Church In American Exile (p. 11). Spello Press. Kindle Edition.

Thus Jesus Kingdom is nothing like we ever has experienced. It is anti-empire. If it is not anti-empire then it is compromised.

The disciples being obedient to Jesus commands, started a worldwide revolution, subversive against the status quo of both the Jews and their temple, and the Romans with their grand empire. Mark concludes his gospel with:
Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
(Mar 16:20 NIV)

Life with COVID-19

My body is twisted and bent, and I groan all day long. Fever has my back in flames, and I hurt all over. I am worn out and weak, moaning and in distress.
(Psa 38:6-8 CEV)
He saved us because of his mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done. God washed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gave us new birth and a fresh beginning.
(Tit 3:5 CEV)

This past two weeks has been difficult. My family has been fighting Covid-19, and we all have been sick. My wife is in the hospital due to Covid pneumonia in her lungs, and shortness of breath. My stepdaughter is also fatigued even though she tested negative for Covid-19. This virus is deadly if not treated. I am grateful there finally is a vaccine for this. I was the one that first tested positive for Covid-19. It started like flu like symptoms where I felt like I had a bad case of the stomach bug, but then I still felt fatigued after the flu like symptoms went away. I was still exhausted, desired sleep and water, and my oxygen barely was above 90. After about a week, my immune system kicked in, and I began to recover.

Even in my own recovery, I was taking care of my wife who was sick for a week, and eventually had to go to the hospital for breathing treatments. She had an allergic reaction to the antibody infusion therapy. If it wasn’t for that we wouldn’t have known that the virus had gotten into her lungs.

All I know is that through all of this, it takes a village for recovery. I am grateful for my family and my church family for looking out for my families well being during this difficult time. I am grateful for the food deliveries, the cat food, and I am grateful for family being there to help take care of the dogs when I was too weak to do it last week, for taking myself to the ER, and for them sitting with my stepdaughter when she was not able to visit my wife in the hospital. I am grateful for my homegroup’s prayers. I am also grateful for the caring and compassionate hospital staff at both St. Anne’s Hospital, and Ohio Health’s Westerville location.

Yet, above all of this God is good and in control. He has a purpose through all of this. I don’t know what that is, but I do know that God’s Spirit gives life, healing, and regeneration to our bodies. While I was at Ohio Health’s Westerville location, on the wall in the ER was a symbol which says “Together We are OhioHealth”. In the center is the United Methodist symbol of the Cross surrounded by the flame of Pentecost while the circle around that are all of the faiths of the world such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism. There are more spiritual religions out there, yet what I love about the symbol is the inclusiveness behind it. Through the Universal Christ, all religions are included and one. This summer, I am excited to serve as a Chaplain Intern at their Mansfield Hospital.

Part of God’s sovereignty in healing is that he chooses to co-create with us to bring healing to our bodies. In his book, God Can’t, Thomas Jay Oord writes:

Effective teamwork between Creator and creation produces every authentic healing or miracle that has ever occurred. Creatures must cooperate with God or the inanimate conditions of creation must be conducive for God’s miraculous efforts to bear fruit. Miracles are neither the work of God alone nor creation alone…God always works alongside people and creation when healing. “Healing to the utmost, given the circumstances” implies creation may not cooperate. Inanimate entities and conditions may not be aligned for the healing God wants.

This is what I mean when I said it takes a village to bring recovery for Covid-19. Not only prayer, but also our cooperation with God to bring healing to our bodies both through the intercession of prayer from our spiritual community, the healing work of doctors and nurses that are on the front lines of this disease, and the compassionate care of our families and church families. God’s love is always uncontrolling in how he heals working with our own will, bodies, and emotions for our spiritual, physical, and emotional wellbeing.

Prayer for Healing

May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God the Holy Spirit give you strength.  May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Suffering and Desire – The King’s Cross – Mark 14:32-38

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
(Mar 14:32-38 NRSVA)

Gethesemane literally means “Oil Press.” In Gethsemane, Jesus was feeling the pressure of what was coming. He was becoming undone. The disciples got to see a side of him, that they did not see before. A man who was in deep emotional turmoil, duress, and suffering. He was becoming undone.

When the circumstances of life are giving you the desires of your heart, you’re content. Suffering happens, we might say, when there’s a gap between the desires of your heart and the circumstances of your life, and the bigger the gap, the greater the suffering. (Keller, Timothy. Jesus the King (p. 195). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

Today’s reading is from Mark 14 where Jesus is in the Garden of Gethesemene praying to God over what is coming. He is under tremendous amount pressure, stress, and is becoming undone. His circumstances are out of his control, and as a human being, he is feeling the weight of the sins of the world beginning to crash on his shoulders. He feels the weight of the justice of God that is coming, he feels the disconnection of his relationship with the Father. Jesus is beginning to suffer. He asks the Father if it is possible for the cup of sin, justice, loneliness, and the pressure of all of it to be removed from him. He takes his inner circle of Peter, James and John with him into the Garden to watch and pray as he prays.

Timothy Keller in his book entitled, “The King’s Cross” makes an interesting observation about suffering. He points out that the gap between our desires and our circumstances is the space where suffering lives. When the job doesn’t go the way we like, our spouse doesn’t meet our desires, we receive a troubling medical diagnosis, or our kids do not turn out the way we want them to, we suffer. He goes on and writes about the two responses that most of us have with suffering:

They invariably try to go someplace where their desires are satisfied, because they consider their desires all-important, which makes their circumstances negotiable. They are willing to do practically anything to avoid suffering. The problem is that life circumstances rarely oblige. Try that new set of circumstances and in six months you’ll need another set. (Keller, Timothy. Jesus the King (p. 196). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

Thus when some people begin to go through suffering, they re-arrange the furniture, pullout and attempt to change their circumstances where their desires can be met. Such as if a job is too difficult, they will find a new job that meets their desires, if their relationship is too painful, they breakup or get a divorce, and find a new relationship that meets their expectations.

The other response is to suppress suffering. Part of Buddhism is to eliminate suffering. Keller writes about that here as well:

The Eightfold Path of Buddhism doesn’t advocate that response, and neither did the ancient Stoics; they say that always avoiding suffering has no virtue or integrity at all. To say, “When there’s a gap between your desires and your circumstances, change the circumstances” violates the teachings of these and other currents of religious thought. Instead, they say, what you do need to do is suppress your desires. Get on top of them and become cool, detached, and dispassionate. Then you can keep your promises and stay on the path. The circumstances are fated, while the desires are just an illusion. That’s the reason Socrates wasn’t panicking at the end of his life. He didn’t care to keep on living. He had succeeded in detaching himself. (Keller, Timothy. Jesus the King (p. 196). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Thus detachment from desire is the way to handle and control difficult circumstances. Suppression is just another way of saying denial. Denial never works.

Jesus did neither. He neither tried to change his circumstances or suppress his desires. What he did was relinquish control and surrender both his desires and his circumstances to the Father. This is what Jesus prayed when he said “yet not wat I want, but what you want.” (Mark 14:36). Jesus surrendered by trusting in the Father’s plan and purposes for his life which meant he had a date with the cross.

According to Keller:

And in so doing Jesus is absolutely obedient to the will of God. Yet not what I will, but what you will. Jesus is subordinating his loudest desires to his deepest desires by putting them in the Father’s hands. As if to say, “If the circumstances of life do not satisfy the present desires of my heart, I’m not going to suppress those desires, but I’m not going to surrender to them, either. I know that they will only be satisfied, eventually, in the Father. I will trust and obey him, put myself in his hands, and go forward.” Jesus doesn’t deny his emotions, and he doesn’t avoid the suffering. He loves into the suffering. In the midst of his suffering, he obeys for the love of the Father—and for the love of us. (Keller, Timothy. Jesus the King (p. 198). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

We can look to Jesus example when we are in the midst of suffering. We can submit our suffering to the will of the Father. Instead of trying to change our circumstances and avoid suffering, or suppressing our desires, facing them head on and being brutally honest about our present suffering and trusting God with them gives us the strength, and courage to face whatever situation we are facing. Jesus is with us when we suffer. According to the writer of the Book of Hebrews:

Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
(Heb 2:18 NRSVA)

Collect of the Fifth Sunday in Lent:


Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly
wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to
love what you command and desire what you promise; that,
among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts
may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.