Friday, April 13, 2018

Prayer for peace

Almighty God, ruler of heaven and earth, all lands are yours. So too, all people are your beloved. We know this night that not all rulers are just. We pray that you protect the innocent. That you guide all people to turn away from destruction. Lead us out of the nightmare of violence, and protect everyone in harm's way. Topple every tyrant, and establish your peace among nations. Though that dream seems far away, it is yours, and may it ever be ours. Amen.

Mid Night waiting-3, by Rajesh98.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Fifty years after King

Fifty years ago this April 4, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. We have now been without him longer than he walked on earth. His public ministry lasted a mere 14 years. Called as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954, he quickly became a leader of the Montgomery bus boycott. Following its success, his ministry expanded well beyond the call of a tall-steeple pastor.

Since his assassination, Martin King has become an icon of American righteousness, and deployed as a symbol in service of many different agendas. Probably most often, he is used as a heroic symbol of racial progress.

We conveniently forget how much opposition King encountered. We forget how few people and organizations joined with him, even at the height of his success and popularity. We forget how, after having made gains in civil rights in the South, King was fought to his death when he took on civil rights in the North, the evil of the Vietnam War, and economic justice for poor people of all skin colors.

We love dead heroes far more than the living men and women. The dead can speak no more challenging truths, they cannot personally confront their opponents. We have their words, we have their accomplishments, but we lose the vitality, the spirit, the relationships, the living leadership of the living person. Without the living person to call us to account, the contest over their legacy may take priority over their life work.

Yet Martin Luther King, Jr., named after three prophetic saints in the Christian tradition (Saint Martin, the peacemaker, Brother Martin Luther, reformer, and Daddy King, pastor), even 'til the day of his death witnessed to a vision of God's justice. King would be the first to acknowledge that the movement he led was not about him. It included him, it included his fellow leaders, it included his communities of color, it included the poor white Southerners and the middle-class Northerners, and the Vietnamese peasants, and the Jim Clarks, Richard Daleys, and Lyndon Johnsons of this world. It includes you and me. It includes everyone, because God's vision is a dream of healing and redemption.

In God's vision for this world the hardest of hearts are opened, the most toxic hellholes get loving remediation, and the dream of peace and justice is the reality we live.

In memoriam: Martin Luther King, lover of humanity, renewer of society, preacher of peace, and prophet of the Lord.

See also my 2008 article "Martin King, prophet & martyr."


The first image is Martin King's mug shot from his arrest February 21, 1956, discovered July, 2004 by a deputy cleaning out a Montgomery County, Alabama, Sheriff's Department storage room. It is not known who added the notations.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

April Fool!

Hope is dead. Good can never win, evil is just too powerful. Jesus is rotting in the tomb.

April Fool!

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25

"The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always."

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!" Luke 24:1-6

May you know the foolish joy of God's steadfast love!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sabbatum Sanctum

Sabbatum Sanctum, Holy Saturday, known also Great Saturday, the Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, Joyous Saturday, or Easter Eve, is that day long deep breath between Christ's death and resurrection.

It doesn't get the same liturgical attention as Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter Sunday, because, formally speaking, nothing happens.

Epitaphios - Tapestry depicting Christ's burial,
used in the Great Saturday liturgy.

Jesus' friends laid him hurriedly in the tomb Friday in advance of sunset and Sabbath. And then they laid low. The gospels go silent until Sunday morning, about 36 hours later.

Any and all the action is off-stage, buried in the ground, hidden behind the stone, shrouded in the Great Mystery.

Tradition has not been able to be as silent as the gospels and has filled in the blanks with two competing stories. The Matins Canon of Holy and Great Saturday has a tone of watchful expectation, with Jesus observing Sabbath rest.
    Today Thou dost keep holy the seventh day,
    Which Thou has blessed of old by resting from Thy works.
    Thou bringest all things into being and Thou makest all things new,
    Observing the Sabbath rest, my Savior, and restoring strength.

A more militant story has Jesus breaking open the gates of Hell and bringing the dead out of captivity to to paradise.

This is, of course, something the church believes as true. In the Great Vigil of Easter, the Church will sing the Pascal Troparion:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

We live post-Easter. Thankfully, we cannot un-see or un-know that wonderful news which we have embraced.

Yet Great Saturday is an opportunity to reflect on that moment where we cannot see God's plan. Whatever was going on behind the scenes, to the world it looked like yet another troublemaker put down. The devil wants you to know that resistance is futile. "March all you want, but I can and will kill you with impunity. Your best hope is to submit." These temptations (really threats) are the same whether from the Roman Empire or the Domination System of this age.

It's a choice that takes your breath away. Can we trust just a little longer? Can we dare to hope in the face of fear?

    With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
    What can mortals do to me?
    The Lord is on my side to help me;
    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. Psalm 118:6-7

Two thousand years ago, everyone buried Jesus. To this day, there are forces which would prefer this inconvenient God to keep silent and make no demands. Can we be faithful and not abandon the reality of God's blessing? Can we be faithful just another day? Can we deny the devil no matter how strong its position seems? Keep your eyes on the prize, and hold on. The dawn is coming.

    You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God, I will extol you.
    O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 118:28-29