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Steve Wells’ Homily at George Floyd’s Memorial Service

Pastor Remus Wright and Co-Pastor Mia Wright, family: I am humbled to be asked to be here today.

The Apostle John, whom Jesus called the “beloved Apostle,” wrote in his first epistle:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:18–21)

None of us wanted to be here today. You would rather and we would rather George was home and safe. But racism murdered him. Racism is the reversal of the revelation of God. Racism is the consummate expression not of perfect love casting out fear, but of perfect fear casting out love. This means overcoming racism will require a love greater and stronger than fear. Only Jesus offers us that sort of love. Only the Jesus way-of-living can lead us to healing.

And we need healing. You and I know — there is nothing any of us can say that will bring George back. So we want you to know we grieve with you. We want you to know that your grief has awakened the conscience of the nation, and because we believe in the risen Lord Jesus, we grieve in Resurrection Hope. Resurrection Hope promises us both a reunion one day and restoration this day. We grieve in the Resurrection Hope that God is at work in our nation rending hearts, changing minds, bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice.

I hope you know: everyone would have understood if you had said, “we don’t need to hear from any white people today. You have been silent long enough — you can be silent one more day.”

Instead, you asked to have the whole community come together. (And look what happened!) You have chosen the path of love, the perfect love that casts out fear. I want you to know that this path leads not only to your healing but also to the healing of the whole world. This is the path of being a partner with God in redeeming the world. And it is a difficult path.

You have been asked to carry a burden that would have crushed most people, and you have borne it with grace and courage. You called those who disrupted protests with violence or looting to honor George’s life with love. You called a President who sought to dominate, into a peaceful world where we deliberate. You called people whose perfect fear cast out anything that looked like love with a perfect love that casts out fear.

You have been a model for America and the world. Now we must follow your good example — calling out what does not honor George or any of us: Domination, Injustice, Oppression, Racism.

Stephen Klineberg, the renowned sociologist at Rice University, has identified Houston as the most diverse city in America. Houston is ethnically and demographically today what American will be ethnically and demographically in 2050 — which means we are the experiment in how America will deal with race relations.

Unless and until we are willing to be as brave and truthful as you have been, nothing will change. The experiment will not yield any new data. We will simply do over and over again what we have done over and over before until as Fannie Lou Hamer said, we get “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

So it must be different this time. I have to tell you, it is easy in my church to not talk about racism. It is easy to dismiss as politics the economics of hundreds of years of systemic racism. But not talking and not acting is the path to destruction. We can watch the news every night and ask if the present is the future we want.

If I may, I would like to ask a privilege: I want to say a word to white churches. We are better than we used to be but we are not as good as we ought to be. And that is not good enough. We have to take up the work of racial justice. Racism did not start in our lifetime, but racism can end in our lifetime. But only if you ask and I ask, “What are I going to do about it?” While it is still bothering you write on a notecard what you will do and tape that card on the mirror you see every morning when you get up and every night before you go to bed. Each night ask yourself, “was I true to the calling?” Each morning pray, “what can I do today to bring God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?”

Gianna, I saw you on TV. A reporter asked you what was the best thing about your daddy and you said, “my daddy changed the world.” If we will do our part, you will have been a prophet. So from your mouth to God’s ear. Amen.


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