A Morning Prayer for Reformation

Last Saturday Waterloo Lutheran Seminary and Renison University College co-hosted a symposium on the theme of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. I wrote the following prayer for the opening worship and so share it here for you. Allen

Holy God, as we gather together today around your redeeming and reforming will for this world, we acknowledge You:

In grand rivers rippling with grace

In soil saturated with stories of Your faithfulness

In mighty forests bearing You, and here, in this place:

Your finger prints in wrinkles, dimples and folds of skin;

Your scent in bannock, curry, sausage and sage;

And in your desire for a church as

Supple as a moss on rock and as

Solid as tall cedar tree.

We celebrate you, and pray your passion for peace among us. We plead your impatience for justice within us. Form us that we might be living sacrifices in your Reign coming to us here, now in your Son, Jesus. Amen. May it be so.

A Blessing for Pilgrims for Indigenous Rights

Friends, I was asked to provide a blessing for some pilgrims walking from Kitchener to Ottawa in support of Bill C 262, which requests the implementation in Canada of the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for truth and reconciliation, as per the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s report. This pilgrimage has been organized by the Mennonite Church Canada. My blessing followed upon a traditional sending by Myeengun Henry, an Ojibway elder in our city. The text for it follows:

God bless you in this journey of justice and peace.

May your feet feel each treaty
Holding you as you cross its reach,
Sustaining you as you walk in a good way.

May your ears be ready to hear
The stories sown in the territory you
Traverse step by step.

May your hearts beat in time with
Our Mother, the Earth
Who watches over you
In love, in delight.

May your minds be as one
In the community you are
On the way to truth and reconciliation.

And may you know

That your knowing is first being known.

And your loving is first being loved.

And your passion for justice and peace

Is first and finally God’s Reign in your midst.

God be above you, below you , behind you, beside you, before you and within you – as Holy Flame; as Sacred Word.

Poetic Justice

Not far from my ear
I hear my tongue slicing air
with jabs of hope.

I witness world
being carved by this to and fro;
the thrust of a trust
that truth will weigh in.

I’m never sure which will win:
this incessant stab at grabbing what-is
or that ever present slip-into-not.

At least I have a
ring side seat, a treat
when television bores and
my books are too, too heavy.

There are no Mirrors in Heaven

There are no mirrors in heaven, no
self-reflection on
    tied tongues, pride
    rung and hung before
    eyes to see or
on ears marred by wounding words;
no deer-in-head-light fright staring
me in the face
of demands remanding my freedom.
No, none of this in heaven.

There are no mirrors in heaven, only
windows and doors
neither locked nor exit-ready;
no need to capture,
no need to bolt,
no need to be back-against-the-wall
because there are no walls in heaven, only
bridges where
    righteousness and mercy meet, where
    justice and peace kiss and
        all is the biggest word of all.

Revenge Revisited

In the movie The Interpreter, the character Silvia Bromme (Nicole Kidman) speaks of her commitment to non-violence saying “Revenge is a lazy form of grief.” Tobin Keller (Sean Penn), who is a federal agent protecting her, is mourning the senseless death of his wife and admits that he would gladly and swiftly take revenge on the one who caused the death of his beloved.  He admired other modes of grief from afar.

 

Is revenge really a lazy form of grief?  Is it even a form of grief?

 

I can remember, still with knots in my stomach, events in which I was wronged and longed to make things right by a sharp word (that came to me a tad too late) or a swift kick (that would have had me thrown out of the game).   My desire for revenge has more often come in response to assaults to my person, rather than those I love – although there has been more than enough of the latter too.  So, while revenge may be a form of grief, I tend to think of it more as a form of preventative defense: I will respond to your violence with violence in kind, or with the threat of violence that holds you at bay.

 

My parents, however, taught me that vengeance isn’t mine to exact: it is the Lord’s, or the teacher’s, or the judicial system.  Sometimes I listen to their now internalized voices; sometimes not.  But even when I do, still doubt nags.  Will my honour truly be returned; my right to fair treatment finally fulfilled?  Giving up vengeance always seemed, and seems, to be a waiting game.

 

But maybe we can make of it another kind of waiting game; a flip from waiting for to waiting on.  While waiting for vengeance, we can wait on others needing recompense: victims of economic violence, those beaten by racial stereotypes, children deprived of hope, etc.  When we wait on while we wait for we discover a most amazing thing: waiting on becomes a waiting with which brings me back to grief.

 

Grief’s condolence is accompaniment.  Those who suffer with others find – not exactly erasure of suffering – but the possibility of experiencing hope in suffering, in grief, in lament.  Such hope seems to dissipate the press for vengeance.  Maybe vengeance isn’t the Lord’s so much because it is God’s to exact, but rather God’s to absorb.  And maybe waiting with victims while waiting on them gives us something different to wait for: justice graced by love and righteousness kissed by peace.