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Kneeling for Justice

In my office, I have a kneeler that I got off of Craigslist from a Lutheran church that had closed many years ago. It was the first piece of furniture I dropped down into my empty, stuffy, non-air-conditioned office that I was presented with at the beginning of my vicarage at Bethlehem Lutheran Church—a church I now serve as pastor. I lovingly refer to this office as my “penthouse suite.” See, the 171-year-old urban school building that Bethlehem now worships in was built to have five different levels. Thirty steps for each landing. Of course, where was my office?

The very top.

The Penthouse.

The Penthouse Suite

After huffing and puffing up the steps of this old urban church with this heavy wooden kneeler from another closed urban church—Vicar Bolling arrives to the “penthouse office” and takes a look out of windows twice his age. I gazed upon a city skyline hugged from side to side by the arms of the St. Louis Arch, with the setting sun shining in its horizon. This penthouse suite was the perfect place to view the beauty of this city, for all it was, as the sun wrapped its warmth around the horizon, saying goodbye to the day.

I set my kneeler down, picked up my Bible, and read a verse that I have been reading periodically over and over again since that day.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
     and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
     and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

As a young vicar, I reflected on those three statements, all the while knowing that the implications of justice in a city so divided by geography, color, creed, and class would be loaded. That justice, God’s justice, was needed for a community torn apart by the Mike Brown incident. It called to the carpet systematic issues and hurts that serve as the scars of our city, the dents on our Arch, the bruises on our buildings, that if impacted too often and too deeply, could no longer be tuck-pointed but rather would cause the entire structure to fall. 

God’s mercy poured out over this city would need to be, as medicine to a wound, applied generously and re-applied as needed. The proverbial mercy seat where God would show up to His people would need to be in, with, and under everything so that this city would see hope in hopeless times, in the people whom God has chosen and those whom God has used—whether they are aware or blissfully blinded to His loving-kindness.

The Christian Walk Is a Marathon

I realized that our walk with God is not a short brisk walk around the track of the city parks covered by the horizon — a workout meant to keep the body beaten and the mind sharpened. This is not a walk congruent with health purposes, designed to serve self and elevate the body. No, this is a walk led by God for the purpose of dissecting the soul. This Christian walk, this step-by-step we take with God, is a walk in which our awkward feet trod in the too-big shoes of our Father as we trip over words and slip into deeds we should not. We constantly take off the shoes we wear and approach the mercy seat of God with humility, entering holy ground with bare feet, bare soul, and bare heart. As we seek forgiveness constantly, He picks us up and walks for us. It’s a marathon—but He runs it for us. He has a destination, though He doesn’t give us a GPS play-by-play. His guidance and leadership help us to arrive home.

In Heaven.

With Him.

But until then, what shall we do?

We drop our stuff down.

In an empty room.

With the Son shining on us in the horizon.

With the kneeler down, the Scriptures open, and our eyes fixed on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

And every minute the weight of our knees presses on the kneeler, we know that God Himself can handle the weight.

Somewhere in heaven — in the penthouse suite —  for every minute I kneel, my Father towers above me, listening. And He demonstrates His mercy by sending me the sun to hit my skin, as I remember His Son, who lives within me.

I do justice. I love mercy. I walk humbly.

Words for a vicar to live by.

Words for pastor to live by.

Words for a Christian to live by.

In unjust times—we kneel.


Further understand of how the truth found in God's Word inspires and guides us.

Read A Martyr's Faith in a Faithless World 

Written by

Gerard Bolling

Rev. Gerard Bolling was born and raised in the heart of Brooklyn, NY. From an early age, he always desired to serve God’s people in a greater capacity. One visit to Concordia Seminary and he was “sold out” on serving Jesus! Gerard attended Concordia Chicago from 2008 to 2012, earning a BA in theatre with a minor in languages. Gerard graduated from Concordia Seminary in 2016 with a master of divinity (MDiv) and received a call to serve at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the inner city of St. Louis. He had lead the Deaf Ministry at Bethlehem two years prior to receiving the call. He currently serves as pastor and co-executive director of the Lutheran Hope Center. In this role, he leads the Deaf Ministry team at Bethlehem while reaching out to youth and families in the Ferguson, MO, area in the aftermath of the Mike Brown incident. He also co-leads the dynamic weekly Bethlehem Church ministries (preaching, teaching, and leading outreach programs and community engagement) with the amazingly talented Pastor John R. Schmidtke. Their ministry is an innovation to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and a blessing to those whom they serve, who are often overlooked because of socioeconomic situations. Gerard is also an educator. He currently serves as an online adjunct leadership professor at Concordia University Texas; an online adjunct theology professor at Concordia University Texas and Concordia University St. Paul; and an online adjunct professor in the Nonprofit/Business department at Concordia University Wisconsin. He has spoken at numerous conferences, events, and venues within the LCMS, reflecting the love of Christ and promoting deeper conversations about deaf, urban, and cross-cultural inclusive ministry. In addition to serving as a full-time pastor and part-time professor, he is also a doctoral candidate in his research stage at Concordia University Wisconsin in the Leadership, Innovation, and Continuous Improvement (LICI) program. His research topic is Human Resource Development in Urban Ministry Structures of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as it Relates to Mentorship. He is set to complete his research by September 2020 and become Dr. Bolling officially. Gerard has been married to his beautiful wife, Lorenda, for six years. Lorenda serves as a preschool teacher at Word of Life Lutheran School. Together they have a four-year-old son named Lincoln and a two-year-old daughter named Monroe. Both kids were born on October 5 (in different years, of course). They currently reside on the south side of St. Louis, MO.

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