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What’s Going On

What’s Going On

By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

“God, the Master, told the dry bones, ‘Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!’” Ezekiel 37:5-6 (The Message)

Forty-five years ago, against the advice of his Motown record executives, Marvin Gaye released the song “What’s Going On.”

The world was changing rapidly as the 1960s came to a close and a new decade began. The civil rights movement, women’s rights, assassinations, picket lines, Vietnam – so much was happening as awareness of injustice and oppression grew. But change does not come without push back, and Gaye recognized the timely message that resonated from these song lyrics.

“What’s going on” is not a question. It is a statement. “Mother … there’s too many of you crying; brother … there’s far too many of you dying.” Gaye vocalized the reality of the era, calling into question the problems caused by hate and fear, yet also offering a response that could bring healing and hope. Namely, “Father … we don’t need to escalate. … For only love can conquer hate. … Don’t punish me with brutality; talk to me so you can see what’s going on …”

What’s going on is that we can’t breathe. The weight of oppression and injustice is suffocating. Pressure is being applied to the necks of our brothers and sisters instead of being used to change policies and prejudices.

When our eyes are opened in a new way to the realities of injustice in the world, we have a personal and collective responsibility to put our faith into action. By studying the context, you will recognize that the experiences of others may well be different from your own. We have much to learn by talking and listening to one another rather than speaking in sweeping generalities. If we are willing and open, we will grow. As we reflect on this broadening perspective, the opportunities for action will come into focus. If you want to make a difference, you can’t do it from the sidelines.

Ezekiel, a prophet of God, finds himself surrounded by dry bones. Death and hopelessness abound, yet God’s glory and power are revealed as God brings the dry bones back to life. What once was a place of desolation and despair can be replaced by life and hope if we choose to obey God’s commands.

Our collective memory as a society can be so fleeting. The old adage “there is nothing new under the sun” rings true as we recognize the similarities between what the world looks like now and how it looked half a century ago. And yet, here we are, standing on the threshold of opportunity. The opportunity to influence the culture, to create positive change. The opportunity to allow God to work through us, breathing new life into dry bones.

The time is now. Let us work together, as Marvin Gaye sings, to “find a way to bring some understanding here today.” How will your actions shape the future so that one day soon hate and fear will succumb to the power of reconciliation, hope and love?

The late Rev. Joseph Lowery, United Methodist clergy and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, often shared this prayer when speaking: “Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for the day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow is mellow, when red can get ahead, and when white will embrace what is right.”

Let it be so. Amen.


  • When I see a sinner kill another sinner, I further understand why Christ died for us all. We try to make it about race; however, it is all about sin and a need for redemption. Stop pointing fingers and flaming hatred when we should be praising God for his love, grace, mercy and most of all for His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ!

  • Amen Bishop! This sermon is exactly what’s needed today. It reminds me of another secular song written and recorded by Stevie Wonder, “Love’s in need of Love Today…don’t delay..send yours in right away. Hate is going round breaking many hearts..stop it please before it goes too far.” John 13:34 reminds us of the words of Jesus, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

  • And let it be so (they all said). Thank you and Amen for an eloquent message that I’m passing on to my circle of influence now.

  • “When are eyes are opened”…”sweeping generalities”—Amen! Very harmful tendency now to put blinders on and see only what we want to see. Those sweeping generalities seek to shove the real problems of racism and injustice into the background and divert our attention to security and law enforcement. As important as these are, they are not the real issue. If we can’t get to that, we will be having these same conversations 50 years from now. Christ-followers need to stop living in fear and start making things different.

  • I agree that changes should be made. In Minneapolis it was found that the police union was so strong that even though the
    local police chief wanted to get rid bad apples the police union did not allow this. Getting rid of police unions should be one of the priorities. Second, women and children living in depressed areas should feel safe. Their lives matter. This would mean more policing, not less.
    Police should be paid higher salaries, attracting more police applications so that the best men and women could be chosen
    and bad apples could be fired and brought to justice.
    Already we have elected a black president to the highest office in our land. Does that not show that things have changed?

  • “and when white will embrace what is right.”

    In my mind, this is a racist comment.

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