God Can Redeem Tragedy


 From Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.

The recent not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, who was facing charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin Memorialin Sanford, Florida, leaves most of us with emotional responses that may run the gamut from anger to sadness. In the midst of this emotionally charged atmosphere some want to hear from their church.


My youngest son Joshua, who will turn 23 in August, probably provided me the best context from which to reflect.


He said to me, "Daddy do you realize that all of my life we have lived in integrated communities? This means I have always lived in neighborhoods, attended schools, shopped and often had fun in places where I was the minority, and stood out as not the normal resident." I responded to him by saying "Yes."  He went on to say,  "Now I realize more than ever because of what happen to Trayvon, why sometimes some people looked at me like I didn't belong there."


The words that should give us strength were the words "some people."  He did not indict everyone in the majority community. He felt safe and affirmed around many of the people he came into contact with, whether they were familiar or strange faces. This incident involving George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin reminds us just how important it is for us to live in right relationship with one another.  


I heard Trayvon's parents say repeatedly that they didn't want his death to be in vain. Although George Zimmerman is old enough to speak for himself, I could not help but think that George's mother would also want his life to be meaningful. I just believe The Holy Spirit is seeking to redeem this tragedy. All over the United States people and organizations are trying to help us to learn how we might become a society not just of laws, but of justice.


My colleague Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr. of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church writes to his people:


<<Click here to read Bishop Carter's statement>>  


Bishop Carter I agree with you.  I believe God will not let this moment go by without speaking to us. We have a prime example of The Holy Spirit going before us.  This year the Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted Four Core Values during our annual conference. We had no idea this tragedy would impact our lives in this fashion but God did.  So the Holy Spirit spoke to us and said we are called to be people characterized by Love, Generosity, Justice and Discipleship as Apprenticeship. We asked every church to be in six Bible study sessions learning these Core Values.  The Core Value of Justice offers us a tremendous opportunity to discover how we might become people of justice and create places in Mississippi where justice is the norm. So we become people working to build right relationship and not suspicious behaviors. We were created for community. Let us work with The Holy Spirit and redeem this tragedy.

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.