Scripture: Jeremiah 31:10-17
Like thousands of African Americans across this nation of ours, I am outraged over the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The juror, known as B37, said the prosecution did not meet the burden of presenting evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman did not act in self-defense. Many legal pundits said that the evidence presented did not support the charges of second-degree murder.
Somehow the evidence in this trial got twisted and the focus got shifted. Trayvon had gone to a convenience store to purchase some Skittles candy when Zimmerman confronted him, provoked an altercation, then shot and killed him.
Trayvon was killed over some Skittles and Bits (of information). He was wearing a hoodie (because it was raining). He was walking slowly and, as Zimmerman said, he was looking suspicious. Trayvon was killed, as one news source says, for “walking while Black.”
I don’t know whether or not that meets the legal definition of second-degree murder, but I do know that a 17-year-old boy is dead.
Perhaps, more than outraged, lament and sorrow overcome me. Lamenting is the response of the faithful in times like these that challenge our faith.
There is a cry in our nation going up to God like that heard in Ramah in this text. There is a cry of lamentation and sorrowfulness that persons of color still face racism, profiling, and brutality. There is a cry of bitterness toward the perpetrators.
There are tears flowing for our children whose lives have been cut short by violence and brutality (v.15). It is a cry that refuses to be comforted (v.15b), not that it can’t be comforted, but refuses to be comforted. The comfort that was available was rejected. And though I’d like to remain angry, mad, and bitter, I cannot because the text does not remain there.
In Verse 16, the word of the Lord came to Israel. Thus says the Lord, according to Jeremiah, refrain from your weeping and crying. Though Israel was sorrowful because of her captivity, the word of the Lord to refrain and rejoice apprehended her.
Refrain, Jeremiah said, because your work will be rewarded (v.16b). The work of lament does not go unnoticed. Even if the jury or the Justice Department do not notice our laments, the work of lamenting does not go unnoticed. The Lord listens, hears, and acts. Stop crying, Jeremiah told them, because the Lord has heard their cry.
Rejoice (v.17), because there is yet hope in the end for the people of God. Israel was delivered from captivity and brought back to their land.
There is yet hope that one day, those who don’t look like us will not be afraid of us, that one day those who are stronger than us won’t feel the need to destroy us.
There is yet hope, that one day those who are not like us will want to live in peace and harmony with us. My hope is not an unrealistic hope or pipe dream.
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness... On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
(The Rev. Dr. Kelvin T. Calloway is the senior pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church, 7900 Western Avenue in Los Angeles)