Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness and deliver from the hand
of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed.
Jeremiah 22:3a (NRSV)
Several years ago, I led 20 teenagers from Arkansas on a mission trip to serve with Memphis Youth Mission. We had a free day and decided we would visit the Civil Rights Museum. My hope was for the youth to engage with and learn from the structural oppression that poisons the roots of this country. I wanted them to wrestle with their privilege and be moved to action. I wanted them to see the young people of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC), who transformed and led the civil rights movement.
I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t learn until I was an adult that Rosa Parks, the SNCC and many others were trained at the Highlander Center in Tennessee. The Highlander Center that to this day, still trains people to organize, work for justice and liberation within their communities. As I walked through exhibits outlining 400 years of violence, the roots of structural racism and the civil rights movement in the American South, I eventually found myself at the bus. The bus that represents and honors the women of the Montgomery bus boycott. I was overwhelmed as I thought of the women who endured multiple intersections of oppression and hatred, who resisted through nonviolence. They were trained, prepared and ready for this action. They were sustained by the love and power of community. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would preach the next year, the answer is not to choose inaction, nor to give in to ways of evil, but “to organize mass nonviolent resistance based on the principle of love.”
Action: Educate yourself on the history of the civil rights movement and allow it to inform and encourage your own justice work.
Prayer: Creator, let us live into love and be moved to action. Shake us up and move us from places of comfort and complicity into places of discomfort and resistance. Let us speak up against that which is evil and oppressive. May we embody a peace that is restless and transformative. May we use our power to support those working within their communities crying out for justice and liberation. Amen.
Sarah Leer (she/her/hers) is a native Arkansan who served PC(USA) churches in Austin, Texas; Northwest Arkansas; and currently serves in Dallas. Sarah is a graduate of Wake Forest University, Columbia Theological Seminary and the Clinton School of Public Service. She is a practical theologian who is living into her call to deconstruct systems and disrupt the status quo in order to seek liberation, justice and belonging in solidarity with those living on the margins. Sarah is working on her Doctor in Educational Ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary. A lifelong Presbyterian, Sarah enjoys singing Broadway songs in her car, random road trips and adventures, geeking out over pop culture, traveling the world with friends, hanging out with her family, board games, watching SEC college football and attending youth conferences that include energizers.
This year’s Path of Peace reflections are designed to help participants explore peacemaking efforts addressing some of the major issues of our time. The theme for the 29 days of the 2022 A Season of Peace is Led Forth in Peace: Critical Areas of Engagement for Peacemakers. With these daily reflections, we are invited to reflect upon ways to practice peace by engaging the following critical areas:
- Climate change
- The intersection of poverty and racism