Monday, April 29, 2013

Be Not Afraid...

Be not afraid, sing out for joy, Christ is Risen, Alleluia!  I woke up this morning with this TaizĂ© chant on continuous loop in my brain.  Be not afraid, sing out for joy, Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

We’ve been singing this chant at the beginning of worship since Easter.  Yesterday was the Fifth Sunday of Easter, so I guess that’s a pretty good yardstick of how long it takes for a song or phrase to take root.  Now, I’m grateful.  It feels like such pleasant company on a rainy, quiet morning.   Be not afraid, sing out for joy, Christ is Risen, Alleluia!  

These are some of the lasting gifts of worship.  The parts that latch onto us and trail us out to our cars, floating in the air like bits of dust suddenly visible in the streaming light pouring through a window in our life.  Be not afraid, sing out for joy, Christ is Risen, Alleluia!  Even on dark mornings like this.  When the throaty song of the cardinals singing in the new green canopy, dripping and freshly scrubbed, is the brightest light to be found.  Be not afraid, sing out for joy, Christ is Risen, Alleluia! 

Our worship needs more of these moments.  More chants, more music, more opportunity just to linger together in the cathedral of these words.  To allow the simple reassurance of our faith to guide us in the challenges and the opportunities this moment presents us. 

It’s always unnerving when the familiar approaches to life no longer work.  When circumstances call for something new.  Our daughter and son in law just brought their new baby home from the hospital.  Gabriel Alexander.  Now, everything must change.  The familiar routines that made their household work must be re-thought and re-created.  Who they are as parents; who we are as grand-parents, requires similar imagination.  Everything shifts to make room. 

We face such moments all the time.  Individually and together, in our workplaces, in our families and in our churches.  Each moment gives way to the next, and the next and the next....

Be not afraid, sing out for joy, Christ is Risen, Alleluia!  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The God Who Suffers From Guantanemo to Boston

I began yesterday morning by reading the powerful first hand account of SAMIR NAJI al HASAN MOQBEL, a US prisoner at Guantanemo, who has been on a hunger strike with 40 fellow prisoners, since February 10th. The piece entitled “Gitmo Is Killing Me,” was published in the New York Times editorial page on April 15th.

The link is here:

It describes in horrific detail the force feedings he and the 40 hunger strikers endure twice a day at Guantanemo. It also describes the injustice of being held for more than eleven years without being charged. The hopelessness that spawns such a desperate hunger strike. My heart was broken, my indignation burned. What could I do to put an end to this?

Then, yesterday afternoon, the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon. Three dead at the time of this writing, including an eight year old boy who was celebrating with his dad at the finish line.

I can’t imagine the blinding turn from euphoria to horror at that moment. For all the families and people there to celebrate. To honor the hours of individual training, dedication and discipline to accomplish such a feat. To simply rejoice and cheer for the best in all of us.

How my heart goes out to them, and my prayers for them offered as balm for their wounds. I suffer with them, weep with them and hold fast to the goodness, love and mercy I treasure, resisting the pull back to fear and blind retribution.

At worship this past Sunday, we talked about “why God continues to allow evil in the world,” and re-framed that question to a more Biblical perspective; “why God continues to suffer at the hand of evil in the world.” We reflected on a God who acts to transform evil, who pronounces words of forgiveness from the cross, and calls us to take up our cross and follow the Way of transformation and new life.

Many reject that God. The God who suffers evil, even to this day, in order to transform it. They prefer a god who declares war on evil. A god who commands them to take up arms against it.  This is a false god. No matter what religion claims it, no matter what culture demands it, no matter which people act on it.

To witness people suffering—any people—is to witness God suffering. To inflict pain on anyone is to inflict pain on God. To exploit human life, to waste it either by spilling blood or stealing dignity and hope, is to oppose the God who raised Jesus to new life and declares God’s final answer to evil.