Archives for October 2010

Shared vision, Pentecost 23, Proper 26 (C) – 2010

[RCL] Isaiah 1:10-18; Psalm 32:1-8; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10

Hookworm. Largely eradicated in the U.S. for nearly a century, these tiny parasites are one of the leading causes of maternal and child mortality in the tropics and subtropics. Debilitating the immune system, they are a known cause of anemia, and hookworm infections can make the body more susceptible to malaria and HIV.

But in 2004, David Pritchard, a British immunologist, applied a bandage to his arm covered in hookworm larva, intentionally infecting himself. This wasn’t an act of self-destruction but was the beginning of years of study into the possible benefits of the tiny parasites.

The hookworm, like all of our earthly co-habitants, evolved alongside us, and in this case, within us, in an intricate balance. As it turns out, hookworms, in small amounts, can work to keep our sometimes overactive immune system in check. A small hookworm infection can serve to prevent certain allergic reactions in humans, to reduce asthma, and eradicate hay fever. Allergies, in their modern ubiquitous array of manifestations, may be, in part, a result of our attempt to sanitize our world and rid ourselves of this and other tiny parasites.

In our culture, we are obsessed with sanitation and control. For many of us, our vision of the reign of God, whether we call it that or not, is one of simplification, where there exist no unknowns, where the world is a mechanical, predictable, responsive, finite network, and where justice is a system of equal give and take.

The signs of this vision are all around us, as are the signs of its destructiveness. In our attempt to groom God’s creation into a controlled environment, we’ve cleared millions of acres of forestland, prairie, and meadows for single cash crops. We’ve dramatically reduced the biodiversity of our most populated areas in order to make them safe for a handful of domesticated species. We’ve developed simplistic systems of labor, talent, and currency equivalences. We’ve envisioned a world as white as individually plastic-wrapped disposable cutlery; the whiteness of a single-use fork to accompany our individually packaged organic spinach salad.

But today’s readings remind us that the world is a complex, messy place. Consider the reading from Isaiah. The Jewish people of the prophet’s time had a vision similar to ours: a world where simple exchanges could right the spiritual disorder, where quick cures would undo long-term spiritual decline and disease. Their hands were bloodied with their burnt offerings, their schedules were filled with church-stuff without really engaging the broken world surrounding them. But the justice of God asks more: “Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

One would think that these commands would be clear enough. Stop doing bad; do good. But God, speaking through Isaiah, admits to the fallacy of any system of symbols, even language. Isaiah, interpreting God’s revelation, speaks the beautiful line: “Come now, let us argue it out.” Or in other translations “Sit down. Let us reason together.” In an invitation, God, through Isaiah, admits to humankind that even God’s commandments, when written in human language, are insufficient to know and envision the reign of God.

God calls us into conversation, even argument, over what it is to follow God’s will, to resist, to listen, to adapt, to contest, to move forward in relationship with God. God speaks to the continuing revelation of God’s will in the world, a revelation dependent on relationship, on placed-ness, on the past and the present realities of human life from which we speak, and read, and act. It is in this “arguing out” of justice that God offers us the possibility of redemption, of the cleansing that makes us “like snow.”

But the whiteness of snow can be a slippery slope into the vision of a dry-erase world, where the past is forgotten in an attempt to not be bound to it. Who has not heard or sang of the cleansing power of the blood of the lamb? We are to be washed as white as snow by the blood of the lamb, by claiming him as our personal Lord and Savior. Sometimes we imagine that Jesus is the ultimate re-start button, that to find and be found by Jesus is to forget the past and simply live by love into the future. But that is not the Jesus we encounter in today’s gospel reading.

There’s a fun children’s song to tell the story:

Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Savior passed that way, He looked up in the tree,
And he said, “Zacchaeus, you come down;
“For I’m going to your house today, for I’m going to your house today.”

But the story is not quite so simple. Zaccheus is a tax-collector and a rich man. His money had been made through the extortion of the people by the ruling empire, and by his own wickedness, as he tells it, in “defrauding” others. Having welcomed Jesus into his house, having come into personal relationship with him, having not only seen Jesus, but having been seen by and recognized by Jesus, he was transformed. As a result, Zacchaeus took it upon himself to make restitution for his past.

This is not a case of “Go and sin no more.” Zaccheus had to confront those he has wronged, paying them back four times what he has wrongfully taken. The restitution, the resurrection, is in the confrontation with God that results in a confrontation with ourselves, our pasts, and our world. The “arguing out” of God’s justice is a complex invitation.

“Cease to do evil.” What is the evil we turn from?

“Learn to do good.” Who will teach us the good?

“Seek justice.” How will we know justice when we find it?

“Rescue the oppressed.” Who, indeed, are the oppressed and how are we called to rescue them?

“Come now, let us argue it out.”

As a faith community, we have often found it sufficient to say we are “open and affirming” or tolerant or inclusive. We have hung banners and said, “All are welcome.”

But have we truly wrestled with the reality of the experience of people who are oppressed? What might it look like to pay back fourfold what we have wrongfully taken in terms of dignity, social place, relationship, and of life? Not just to this community at this time in this place, but to all those we have wronged and continue to wrong? What might this type of justice look like? We must “argue it out,” with God, with each other, and ultimately with God present in those we have wronged.

The question is not whether we should stop trying to eradicate hookworm or move forward into more inclusive communities. The issue at hand is confronting the reality that we are not operating in the artificial whiteness of a lab, or in the mansions of an imagined hereafter. The vision that we share with the ancient Hebrews, that vision of a sanitized and simple world that can become a productive, predictable, controllable machine operating within the confines of human logic, will always be a violent and destructive dream. At the end of the day, we will always be called from real lives with real relationships to make real sacrifices for the sake of real justice.

The crumbs will always fall to the linen, the wine will always drip from the chalice, and, by grace, the body will always be broken open and shared. Come, let us argue it out.

Written by Jason Sierra
Jason Sierra is a member of the Office for Young Adult and Campus Ministries at the Episcopal Church Center. He resides in Seattle, Washington, and holds a BA in American Studies from Stanford University.

Merciful God, Pentecost 22, Proper 25 (C) – 2010

[RCL] Joel 2:23-32 and Psalm 65 (Track 2 OT: Sirach 35:12-17 or Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22) (Track 2 psalm: Psalm 84:1-6); 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14

In the early years of our country, one Southern family stood out in offering leadership to a fledgling nation. Most renowned among the first families of Virginia, the Lees were wealthy, capable, intelligent, and dedicated patriots.

Using the legend of this family and what some consider a bit of overexposure, lyricist Sherman Edwards crafted a clever song for his Broadway musical “1776.” In a classic scene, John Adams asks fellow Continental Congress member Richard Henry Lee to help the cause for independence. He challenges the Virginia representative to get his colony’s House of Burgesses to pass a resolution calling for independence from England. In the course of their conversation, Adams prays, “God help us.”

Lee replies confidently, “He will John. He will.” Then, as if to prove his statement, Lee launches into a delightful song that includes this wonderful stanza:

They say that God in heaven is everybody’s God,
I’ll admit that God in heaven is everybody’s God,
But I tell you, John, with pride, God leans,
A little on the side of the Lees, the Lees of old Virginia!

This humorous song rings true because it is so natural to think that since we are faithful, we must be special, and that God must be on our side. It’s a good example of what Jesus was getting at when he told the parable in today’s gospel reading.

The Pharisee in today’s parable was basically a good guy – a member of what might be considered one of the first families of the faith. But like Lee in the play, he lost sight of his place in God’s world. He knew that thanking God was a good way to pray, but he allowed his prayer to degenerate into prideful boasting.

And he forgot about the need for repentance. As a human being, he had a dark side, but he tried to hide it. He made the mistake of choosing to look on his good side. He attempted to boost himself by comparing his good qualities with what he perceived as the negative attributes of others. He set himself up as the judge of his behavior over against the actions of others.

We can imagine the details of his thought process, because we are tempted to engage in the same delusion:

I may have told a white lie, but I thank God I don’t cheat on my income tax.
I may be a thief, but I thank God I’m not a murderer.
I may have turned aside when the poor family asked me for help, but I thank God I’m not responsible for the starvation in Africa.
I may hold back on my pledge, but I thank God I’m not one of those reprobates who never gives.
I may not get to church as often as I might, but I thank God I belong to a church.
I may not study the Bible as much as I should, but I thank God I’m not an atheist.

These examples may be a little over the top, but Jesus was using the self-aggrandizing statements by the Pharisee in comparison with the prayer by the truly faithful man who asked simply, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Jesus makes it clear that it is dangerous to compare our relative goodness, whether real or imagined, with that of others. This is because such moral manipulation drives a wedge between us and God. It is especially tragic in its use of religion as a divisive element between us and our brothers and sisters. Such action works against us all by inevitably separating rather than unifying the human family.

Sometimes we can get into trouble even if we use the standard of today’s gospel, “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” as a way to compare ourselves to others. For example, Rabbi Joshua Davidson tells a wonderful old story from the Jewish faith that illustrates the danger:

A rabbi decides to model repentance for his congregation. Humbly he beseeches the Almighty for forgiveness, and he beats his breast proclaiming, “Before You, God, I am nothing. I am nothing.”
The cantor sees him and joins in: “I am nothing. I am nothing,” she cries.
The temple president, sensing that he too must get in on the act, now comes up. “I am nothing. I am nothing,” he sobs.
In the silence that follows, the rabbi turns to the cantor and whispers, “Look who thinks he’s nothing.”

In truth, our measure is not one of comparison with others but rather against the values of the gospel, against the Ten Commandments, against the summary of the Law. How well do we compare with these standards? In doing so, we can stand to our full height, whatever it may be.

But then we take the test of the truest measure. How high do we stand when comparing ourselves against the final, and only, model of our faith – Jesus himself? The ultimate comparison can only be between ourselves and God’s perfect desires for us. Of course, such a test leads us to only one conclusion. We fail, and can only offer the tax collector’s prayer: “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Only in this way can we move forward in the right kind of humility, asking for forgiveness after darkness invades us, the darkness that we have given into through our sin. Such repentance can renew us as we listen to Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. We will become humbled, cut down to size, and this will lead us to the exhalation that comes from a life in Christ.

Standing in the knowledge of our need for God’s forgiveness and love, we can become not only the prayerful people Jesus calls us to be, but we can also act in the faith that despite our sin, God will empower us as children. We can pray, finally, “Lord use us sinners to do your work. Use us as instruments of your peace and grace and love and active concern for your children, our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Written by the Rev. Ken Kesselus
The Rev. Ken Kesselus, author of “John E. Hines: Granite on Fire” (Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1995), is retired from full-time, active ministry and lives with his wife, Toni, in his native home, Bastrop, Texas.

Pray without ceasing, Pentecost 21, Proper 24 (C) – 2010

[RCL] Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 119:97-104; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8

Today’s psalm, Psalm 119, gives us 176 ways to say the same thing: “Happy are those who walk in the way of the Lord,” and “Oh, how I love your law!” and “All the day long, it is in my mind.” At 176 verses, it is the longest of all psalms. It consists of 22 eight-line stanzas, each stanza beginning with a sequential letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is an astonishing exercise in puzzle working, poetry, and praise.

Psalm 119 calls for the kind of continued learning Paul commends in his letter to Timothy. As a subject of our recitation and meditation, it offers an entrance into a life of continued, endless prayer. So Jesus tells a story to underscore our need to pray always and not lose heart. It is what Paul elsewhere commends: “pray without ceasing.”

And note the forceful summary by Jesus: for those chosen ones who pray day and night, justice shall come and come quickly.

Are we even aware of this linkage? That our prayers are to be linked to justice?

Don’t we often tend to be rather selfish in our prayers? We would always like immediate results – but would like those results to be centered on what we want rather than what we need.

And what Jesus says we need is to pray always and not to lose heart.

There is no better place to begin to pray always than with Psalm 119. One hundred and seventy-six verses reminding us to have Torah, God’s law, in our minds all day long. The word “Torah” or one of its synonyms appears in almost every one of the 176 verses: Torah, law decrees, precepts, statutes, commandments, ordinances.

A rabbi was once asked, “What does a rabbi do?” He replied, “A rabbi is to lead God’s people to study Torah so that one day everyone will know Torah. On that day when everyone knows Torah, everyone will be a rabbi so that there will no longer be any need for rabbis.”

This is the dream of God as revealed to the prophet Jeremiah, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” God wants us to become experts in loving the law and living the law.

We in the church tend to suffer grave misunderstandings about this word law. These misunderstandings come from misreading of Paul, compounded by particular Christian theologians throughout the ages. The word “law” sounds static with the sole purpose of convicting us of sin and misdoings.

Whereas a regular reading of all 176 verses of Psalm 119 would reveal a much richer range of meaning. The “law” is a treasure, a gift, really, that makes one wise and happy. The psalm is written in the first-person narrative voice, making the words of the psalm personal, words that belong to us, words that are given by God to be ours. Torah is not a static set of rules, but a map that provides a personal way of life, a guiding force, a pathway from which it is all too easy to stray but is sweeter than all alternative paths available.

At its core, Psalm 119 as a source of our daily prayer and meditation directs us to endlessly reflect on the Decalogue – the fancy theological name for the Ten Commandments. The first “table” or “tablet” of the Ten Commandments focuses on our love of God; the second “table” or “tablet” focuses on our love of neighbor.

Jesus spent much of his time discussing the law, Torah, with any and all persons he could. Jesus demonstrates that continual focus, discussion, and meditation on God’s law is what leads one in the way of life that is really life, and offers justice for all people. Torah, as understood at the time of Jesus, was a continual unfolding of God’s will, new each day, new in each age. Torah, or law, was not confining, but empowering, and necessary to being God’s people in the world.

And meditating on the law day and night, as Jesus lives and instructs us to do ourselves, reminds us of our God-given responsibilities to love and care for our neighbors, especially those in greatest need.

It turns out God does have a plan to care for those in greatest need: we are that plan.

How wonderful it would be if all of us, every day, would read all of Psalm 119. How might the world be different if our love of God’s law was something we treasured in our hearts all day long? For Jesus this is faith: Torah in action every day.

Written by the Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek
The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek is rector of St. Peter’s Church in Ellicott City, MD, a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. He also travels throughout the church leading stewardship events for parishes, dioceses, clergy conferences, and diocesan conventions. He has long been involved in the work of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS), and the Ministry of Money. He frequently uses music and storytelling in his proclamation of the Word.

Have mercy on us, Pentecost 20, Proper 23 (C) – 2010

[RCL] Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 and Psalm 66:1-12 (Track 2: 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c and Psalm 111); 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” That’s a good prayer to know. The story of the ten lepers is really a story about life and death. It is really a story about our lives, and about our deaths – and about the choices we have. It’s a simple story, very familiar. But it is easy to miss what is really going on.

We need to remember what it meant to be a leper. Being a leper meant being worse than dead. Lepers were considered evil and unclean. They were excluded from every part of community life. They could not live, worship, eat, walk, or talk among “normal” people. They had to stay at a distance from life and to survive, as best they could, on the leavings and the charity of others. The horrible progress of their disease was probably far from the worst thing they suffered. They had nothing, and no hope, yet they could – from forty paces – watch the real world, and real life, happen just outside of their reach.

Ten of these lepers met Jesus. They stood at a distance from him – as was required by the law – and shouted for mercy. Doubtless they had said the same thing to every passing rabbi, to every hustler and holy man with a reputation for healing who had wandered within earshot. A simple prayer: “Jesus, master, have mercy on us.” A good prayer, a very good prayer. Jesus granted them mercy. He just did. No reason is given or needed. Jesus heard their prayer and showed them mercy. He gave them their lives back. He told them to present themselves to the priests. Now, this was more a medical act than a religious one. The priests were the ones who certified that the lepers were cured and could rejoin the world.

They had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so off they went toward the city and toward the priests. And as they went, their leprosy went away; they were cured. Jesus stood there and watched. He gave them their lives, and he put no conditions on the gift, and he just stood there, and watched and waited. Nine of the ten just kept going.

I know of no clearer picture of what our culture is mostly like, and of what our lives are mostly like, than the picture of Jesus standing there, watching those nine people running just as fast as they can run, watching them get smaller and smaller the farther away from him they got.

They weren’t ungrateful. There is no way anyone could have such a thing happen to them and not be grateful. Those nine who showed Jesus their backs were doubtless thrilled, ecstatic, and generally tickled pink. It is easy to imagine them, happy, laughing, making plans, feeling just wonderful, and running just as fast as they could away from Jesus, in a terrible big hurry to get on with it.

I’m quite sure that if someone had asked, they might have slowed down long enough to say that God was really swell to do this for them and that Jesus was the most wonderful person in the whole world. But it would have been hard to catch them. There was so much to do, so little time.

No, the issue wasn’t gratitude. The issue wasn’t feeling good about Jesus or anything like that. The issue was that those who had received so much were running so hard in the wrong direction.

They were so full of what they had received, of their gift, that there was just no room for the giver, the source of the gift. They weren’t ungrateful, they were just busy. That’s all; they were just terribly busy. There we are. There is our world. There is our life, in one small, bitter nutshell.

It’s impossible not to see ourselves. It’s impossible not to ask questions such as : What direction are we running? What are we running toward? What are we leaving behind? How often do we stop, or even slow down, long enough to pay some attention, not only to our gifts, not only to all we have and all we have to do, but also to the giver, to the source of it all? Are we so busy running, so busy using what we have, that we can see no farther?

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

Only one came back. Only one was actually drawn toward Jesus, and not away from him, by the wonderful gift. Only one. And this one alone received the fullness of what Jesus had to give.

Our English text makes it harder to see this. All ten lepers were cured – the Greek verb is a medical term, and it means their disease went away. And all ten stayed cured, whether they came back or not – God gives freely, without conditions. But to the one who came back, to the one who saw what was going on the most clearly, to him and to him only something more was said. To him Jesus said, “Rise up and go your way, your faith has made you well.” The Greek for “made you well” is a different word, a theological word; it means “being made whole,” or “being made complete.” It also means being saved. Go your way, Jesus told him, your faith has made you not just cured, but whole, and saved.

All ten were healed, all ten were given their lives, but Jesus had more to give than that. That’s why he watched and waited, that’s why coming back was so important – because Jesus had more to give. But you had to be there. So only one was made whole, only one was fully made well. All ten were given their lives back; but only one was given the fullness of life.

The one who came back was a foreigner. That’s important. The one who came back, the one who actually gave thanks, who actually changed the direction he was going and did something different, the one who focused not only on the gifts, but also on the giver, this man was a foreigner.

I doubt this is an accident or a coincidence. I think that the really hard part of this story is the realization that if we are ever to discover fully what that tenth leper discovered, if we are ever to know fully what it means for the Lord to say to us, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well”; if we are to know that, then we must also, and first, discover what it means to be a foreigner. We must discover what it means to belong somewhere else, for our first loyalties to be elsewhere.

The one who made it back to Jesus didn’t fit in quite as well as the others. He didn’t belong to the world quite as much as the others; he didn’t have quite as much to run to, or quite as much to gain. So he, and he alone, could see clearly. He, and he alone, could see beyond the gift, could see beyond all that there was to do, and so could see the Lord. Everyone who belonged, all of the natives, ran the wrong direction.

This is hard stuff. We have long been established in the land, and we are very busy, and we have a lot to lose. It’s hard to imagine what it might mean to be an alien, to stand one step removed from everything that makes us run so fast and so hard.

But remember that only the foreigner looked back; only the foreigner was able to see beyond the gift to the one who gave it. Only the foreigner received all that Jesus had to give. The rest were just too busy, the rest had too much going on. And it is a matter of life and death.

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” That’ a good prayer to know.

Written by the Rev. James Liggett
The Rev. James Liggett is rector of St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church in Midland, Texas. He is a native of Kansas and a graduate of the University of Houston and the Episcopal Divinity School. He has served parishes in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Engage wholeheartedly, Pentecost 19, Proper 22 (C) – 2010

[RCL] Lamentations 1:1-6; Psalm 137; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10

Even listening attentively to Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we are probably not going to want to go the distance with Paul when he invites Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel … relying on the power of God.”

It’s really easy to hear “Join with me in suffering” and then just zone out. “Suffering” is an unappealing sound bite, even for those of us who listen without Bible Attention Deficit Disorder. We do not want to suffer any more than we already do; indeed, have we not come to church precisely because we need to get away from suffering, or at least hand it over to Jesus, who can do something about it?

Perhaps this is why we do not ordinarily find the Book of Lamentations in Hebrew scripture very useful, either in church or at home. The book is a series of five lengthy poems of inexpressible sadness, raw pain, and deep sorrow. The poets put into words our ancestors’ experience of living through enormous public and personal suffering as their home city of Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C. For our ancestors, that city was the focus of dreams and hopes, the sign of God’s presence, the promise of God’s fidelity to them; its hills, its Temple, its walls and gates all spoke to travelers and residents alike of what they treasured. And now the place was gone, and they wept. They wept for being invaded, for their national identity and security damaged; they wept for abandonment by their kings; they wept for old ones killed and unburied; they wept for children dead in the streets. They wept for all the questions shouted, sighed, and whispered to God that the heavens did not answer.

We can, each of us, relate to that; but we would much rather not.

Yet it is there, in the five long poems of lament, there for us in the Bible, the living word of God. And the lamentations are there because the loss, the weeping, the suffering, and the pain goes on.

As it says in the opening verses of Lamentations:

“How lonely sits the city that was once so full of people!
How like a widow she has become
she weeps bitterly in the night,
her cheeks wet with tears
and she has no one to comfort her.”

The ancient poet imagined the city as a lonely, abused woman, grieving. At best, we apply the scenes of Lamentations to Good Friday, Jesus on the Cross. We transpose the lament from Hebrew scriptures to the women who stayed with Jesus to the end, and grieved at the foot of the cross as they watched their friend and Lord dying.

But when Paul invited Timothy – and by extension, us – to join him “in suffering for the gospel,” Paul was not asking Timothy or us to be observers. Paul knows what we also know: that Jesus repeatedly told his followers to take up their cross and follow him, not to sit somewhere watching his cross and weeping for him. For the sake of the gospel, for witness to the good news, we have somehow to engage the suffering, enter the lament.

“Join me in suffering for the gospel … relying upon the power of God.”

Like our ancestors who watched their beloved Jerusalem invaded, ravaged, desecrated, and devastated, we have been watching so much of our world and our planet suffer before our eyes. The power of God seems a bit ambiguous and even flimsy when we see the arctic ice mass retreating or that in Africa there is almost no snow left atop Kilimanjaro. The landscapes and languages of all our cities have been invaded by “others.” Un-finish-able wars are being waged with new weapons and even newer peacekeeping goals, yet men and women still suffer and die for a cause, a name, or a flag. These are losses as surely as Babylon invading Jerusalem was a loss, and pogroms and holocausts are loss. Yet the suffering has brought forth into the public arena not the poetic cadences of lamentation, but uncharted depths of anxiety and resentment, rage and fear.

“Join me in suffering for the gospel … relying upon the power of God.”

We are the ones who share bread and wine at a common table of thanks-giving. We are the ones covenanted to honor God in worship, study and prayer. We are the ones who promise to repent of indifference, brutality and greed, and return to the God of engagement, compassion, and generosity. We hold in our hearts and in our minds’ eyes the raw and bleak edges of violence, and at the same time the glorious vision of God at work in the world about us. Where certain talk shows, tabloids, tweets, and blogs daily degrade the realities of poverty, injustice, and oppression by manipulating the media bites, we are the ones who notice and resist such manipulations. We resist because we are called to live, notice, pray, act, and share in a context where, in Christ, our lives are made one with those who suffer such realities and the consequences of such manipulation. In our time and place, this is what it means to be the ones called to “rely upon the power of God.”

The poets of Lamentations look fearlessly at the consequences of the loss of Jerusalem. They speak terrible things, such as “The Lord has broken my teeth on gravel and ground me into the dust. My life was bereft of peace, and I forgot what happiness was.” The voice of lamentation is fierce and strong – and it is followed almost in the same breath by “But this do I call to mind, and therefore have hope: the kindness of the Lord has not ended, his mercy is not spent.”

It is only by remembering the acts of God in the past and by engaging the living word of God in the present that we can also engage wholeheartedly in both fierce lamentation and in boundless hope.

Written by the Rev. Angela V. Askew
The Rev. Angela V. Askew lives in Brooklyn, New York.