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Chagrin's Passover Experience

It's been a hot second since I last wrote a blog. I've been writing a super unique and really fun VBS at-home experience that turned into a nearly 20k word 100-page passion project that was fueled by ramen noodles and a concerning amount of coffee around the clock. All the plugs for that can be found at the bottom of the page. But wow do we have a lot to catch up on.

May finished up our series on Living Unafraid and every copy of the devotional was picked up by the end so we're really excited about that. We hope you have continued to find comfort in the words shared in it. May also included the retirement of the Rev. Dr. Peter Lawson from an incredible career in the National Guard as a chaplain. He has returned home with his family and it's been nothing short of heartwarming to see the persistent joy found on Joyce's face any hour of the day. Peter preached a fantastic message for us on Ascension Sunday, a message that will likely be his last for a while as he has accepted at a call at another church and will hopefully begin in July so long as COVID-19 doesn't mess with things further. But something else happened Memorial Day weekend that has led us to the current trial our country, and now our own community is facing. The murder of George Floyd.

George Floyd's murder was a tipping point for America. We've seen it with riots, we've seen it with protests and the wave of discussion happening on social media. I don't think his death was particualrly unique as we've been crying out for justice for black lives frequently this month with Ahmaud Arbery and Broanna Taylor, but I think Floyd's death was a tipping point because of the symbolism of it. It was a white man physically on top of a black man suffocating him to death. It is hauntingly similar to the days of widespread lynching and the "strange fruit" hanging off the trees who also gasped for breath. I won't rehash everything I said in my message on Sunday, but I hope you'll consider taking another listen to it if this post affects you in some way. This blog instead reflects on the protest that happened this Tuesday and the second one planned for this afternoon (June 4th). To accomplish I would like us to read it through the lens of Jesus' triumphant arrival into Jerusalem on Passover in what we historically celebrate as Palm Sunday. This account is mentioned 4 times throughout all four gospels and I encourage you to read those stories on your own time. (Matthew 21: 1-17, Luke 19: 28-48, Mark 11: 1-11, and John 12: 12-36) Let's investigate our own events this week next to an event from our faith 2000 years ago.

Let's get a few things on the table first; Passover is a historically celebrated event when God killed the children of the oppressors (Egpyt) so that the oppressed (Hebrew/Israelite people) could go free. Every year there is a celebration of Passover and the reminder that God always leads us to freedom. Passover was particularly charged that year because Rome is the current oppressive force over the Hebrew/Israelite people and Jesus was stirring up hope among the hopeless and everyone was longing for and starting to believe that a passover 2.0 would occur. Rome knew this and sent thousands of guards to watch over the Jewish people. They stood along the temple walls, they stood within the temple grounds, they watched every money changing interaction. The message was clear: "You can celebrate your past liberation but you are still beneath us."

This week Chagrin Falls had a planned protest from a young man in our community, Chase Tuller. Chase is the president of the Sophomore class at Kentson High School and ran on a platform of diversity and inclusion. Earlier this year he particiapted in a youth summit at John Carrol University focusing on social justice issues and harnessing the power of his voice to effect change. This was not some ill informed high school kid seeking attention or personal clout, this was for the sake of comparison, the boy who was riding on the donkey who deserved to be praised for his efforts. He deserved respect because he practiced what he preached. Many lined the path for him with support as we laid down our prejudices (palms) as we cried out not Hosanna but "Black lives matter!". Others took the side of Rome. Jeering with "all lives matter" and messaging a freaking 15-year-old kid privately saying "if you show up I will point an AR-15 at you." (How much of a deplorable, pathetic, insecure little pile of waste do you have to be to threaten a 15-year-old kid over the internet?) In other words, you can have your little celebration but we, the upper-class white community still own you.

Although the official event was canceled due to pressure from the community, Chase and a respectably sized group of protesters showed up regardless. When asked why he still showed up he said "because this is a movement, not just a protest. We may cancel an event. But we can't cancel a movement." How true those words were 2000 years ago in Jerusalem and how true they remain today. The church was not cancelled when the hands of fearful men murdered the prophetic voice of Jesus, the movement only began at his death. It was a tipping point. The church always seems to avalanche in support after someone is made a martyr. I can only hope George Floyd's martyrdom for black lives is enough of a tipping point that no more death needs to happen and that genuine and needed change can happen in this country.

Chagrin showed it's true colors this week. (Well, color - white) If we were to place what happened on Tuesday next to what happened in Jerusalem and watched them both play out in real-time we would discover a sad truth. Many of us would not be following Jesus. We would not be lining the streets welcoming him in as he ushered in a new kingdom of equality and respect. We would be the Roman guards standing at every door, erecting up every wall, and closing in with our hands on our weapons ready to fire at a moment's notice. When a young man (who did everything in compliance with the law and communicated effectively) tried to come into "Jerusalem" for a "Passover" blessing, our communities collective fears turned him away. Mr. Chase Tuller, your courage and hope for a better future is the best evidence of a spirit-led Christ follower and this church celebrates you for who you are. Thank you for challenging us to be our best.

Chase Tuller, event organizer and the Rev. Morris Eason

Boarded Up Shops

Following Jesus is not sexy. It is not comfortable. It is not prosperous. It is not convenient. It is not safe. Following Jesus means uplifting the last, the lost, and the least. Following Jesus means working for systemic change. Following Jesus will cause tears along the way as our hearts and minds are transformed but we are made better on the other side of it. Today our community has a chance to repent as a second protest occurs. We were Rome on Tuesday. We can line the streets today as we welcome in our sisters and brothers of color whom have a message of God's kingdom for us. The Unafraid series had one goal, to show us that our fears do not control us. We have nothing to fear in Chagrin Falls. We're going to be okay. Now let's make life okay for those whom it isn't. Let's repent as a church and as a city.

Repenting doesn't just mean saying 3 our fathers and carrying on; repenting means a genuine change. So at the bottom of this blog will be linked to a number of books that our local Fireside books encourage us to read. I'm personally re-reading "The New Jim Crow" and am listening to "How to be an ally" on audiobook. Will you consider joining me in one of these or sharing your thoughts on another in this list? I'm not sure I can speak for our entire church without councils' approval, but as far as I am concerned the stance of this church is clear.

Black Lives Matter

Recommended Songs (Literally every one of these has a language warning so keep that in mind but man these are gospel.)

Recommend Books

Recommended Conversation I listened to this week

Thanks for joining me in further processing the events from this past week. Thank you for being a part of this church family. Thank you for the collective work we will do as a congregation and as a community to be better.

For His Glory,

Nick Gliha

Chagrin Falls UMC, Associate Pastor


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Thanks for joining me in further processing the events from this past week. Thank you for being a part of this church family. Thank you for the collective work we will do as a congregation and as a community to be better.

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