Excerpted from Reverend Warnock’s sermon Renew, delivered on Sunday, May 31, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Made, we are, from the dust. And for mere dust to try to dominate other dust, to put your dusty knee on the neck of another man, who is already handcuffed and on the ground, for nearly nine minutes, with your hand in your pocket, is to arrogate to yourself the things that belong only to God. It is a sickness. It is ungodly, uncivilized and unjust.

George Floyd deserved better that that. Breonna Taylor deserved better than that. Ahmaud Arbery deserved better than that. Sandra Bland deserved better than that. Atatiana Jefferson deserved better than that. Botham Jean deserved better than that. Tamir Rice deserved better than that. Trayvonn Martin deserved better than that. Eric Garner deserved better than that. Emmitt Till deserved better than that.

That knee has been on the neck for a very long time. And folk have been gasping, “I can’t breathe.”

There’s a virus in the air. And it’s killing people. Black people and white people, red, yellow and brown people. Old people and young people. There’s a virus in the air and it’s killing people. Covid-1619.

And in this land, we’ve been trying to beat back this virus since 1619 when about 50 slaves or so arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. Some thought the virus had been defeated, that we had received herd immunity after the bloody conflict of the Civil War. Indeed, it seemed to go into remission during reconstruction. But in a few short years, it mutated into Jim Crow segregation and came back with a vengeance, what Douglas Blackmon aptly calls “Slavery By Another Name.”

Some thought the nation had been sufficiently vaccinated by the Civil Rights Movement. But it mutated again into what Michelle Alexander calls, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In the Age of Colorblindness.” And if you’re black, the virus doesn’t care if you’re a CNN reporter just doing your job. The skin you’re wearing is more important than any badge you’re wearing.

There is a thick fog of death in the air. A pandemic, like the locust plague of the Prophet Joel’s time, hovering in the air, covering everything, destroying human flourishing and possibility.

But then across the horizon, comes this blessed word of hope. You know, God always has the last word. “Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.”

In the first creation, I breathed it in you. In the new creation, I am going to pour it all over you. The glory cannot be destroyed, the dream will not die because I’m going to pour it out on everybody, everywhere. “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh!”

Amidst the death and destruction, God is up to something. Joel glimpses it and the early church catches it. That’s why in Acts 2, when the Day of Pentecost came, they who had been scattered were now gathered in their brokenness in one room. A few days earlier, a brother born in a barrio called Bethlehem and nurtured in a ghetto called Nazareth had died a state-sanctioned, shameful and humiliating death, a public death. But they got together on one accord and a new wind of spirit and possibility began to blow through the environment.

And it fills the whole place. And they began to speak. And although they were diverse in ethnicity and nationality, and although they came from different places and experiences, and even spoke different languages, everybody was empowered to speak and everybody could be heard, honored, affirmed and understood. Nobody’s humanity was ignored, nobody’s vote was suppressed and nobody’s voice was unheard, and nobody’s brilliance was wasted.

And somebody began to say (this is pure Bible), “they are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:13) They must be drunk. They must be dreaming to think the world can actually look like this. And that’s when a preacher named Peter began to preach the first Christian sermon.

And, he took as his text words from another preacher named Joel who had preached through the turmoil of a deadly pandemic. But like a great jazz musician, like Dizzy Gillespie, he improvises them. Or, like a great MC, like DNice, he remixes them for a new moment.

Peter says: “In the last days it will be, God declares.” Peter says, we are living in the last days. What is he saying? He is preaching about the death of the old world and the birth of a new world set in motion by the very one who was crucified. A victim of history, he split history in two between BC and AD. Jesus is his name. And if you call on His name, you too can be saved.

Peter sees a new world coming. And, my beloved, I see a new world coming where all of God’s children can be heard and understood. Some people think we’re drunk or dreaming. They cannot imagine it. But God declares, “It will be.” Because I’m going to pour out my spirit on all flesh! We are living again in the last days. The old world is breathing its last breath. It is desperate because it is dying. You can hear its death rattle in those who express their fear about what might happen if everybody actually showed up to vote. You can hear its death rattle in the backlash of those who long for a mythological world that never really was. That is what happening right now.

So, don’t be distracted. Listen to me. Don’t allow undisciplined provocateurs of hate who engage in looting or who tweet about shooting to highjack the message. Stay on the moral high ground. And we will win. Love yourself and love your neighbor. Love everybody and we will win.

Don’t give up. And don’t give in. Don’t give in to despair. Don’t give in to fear. Don’t give in to doubt. Don’t give in to depression. Don’t give in to cynicism. Don’t give in to selfishness. Don’t give in to greed. Don’t give in to hatred. Don’t give in to bigotry. Don’t give in to bitterness. Don’t give in to violence. Stand up for justice. But always stand in love. And love will win every time.

The Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock is the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and currently running for a U.S. Senate seat in the state of Georgia. He is a frequent visitor to the Vineyard, preaching every summer at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury.