Taking Time for Sorrow

16thstreetbaptistchurchThis week I need to stop for Sorrow. These last few days, post-resurrection days, have been heavy days for many in my circles, and I do not think they are taking the time to fully grieve. I do not think they have decided it is OK to stop for Sorrow. They are going to “soldier on.” They are engaged in the important work of the church. There are challenges which need adaptation, and there are people (other people) who need them more than they need time for themselves. There are deadlines, due dates, and time cards which need fulfilling.

They are strong people, people who are tough enough to bear their own burdens in silence, with a grin, and an uptilted chin. Maybe for them keeping busy and being needed is more comforting than sitting by the doorposts in dust and ashes.

But the wise know we all have to make time for Sorrow. Otherwise it will  bleed grey into the colors of our lives. It will hang on our backpacks and slow our steps. It will steal heat and warmth from us, causing us to live nurturing the slow burn of disappointment and rage.

So, this week, the problems of the world can roll along their way without my regard. Instead, I am sitting still with Sorrow, with my friend whose husband went to the hospital this week. I am singing songs with Sorrow, for my friend whose dream died rather than being born. I am learning lament from Sorrow, for my colleague who had a death in her family. I am tossing pebbles into the pool with Sorrow, for the ones whose hard work has only led to discouragement and frustrating dead ends. Sorrow and I are painting with sand for those who have spent the last two weeks recovering from crippling and life-threatening ills.

I offer this post to them, my friends, and to you if you need it, along with this small gift:

A Parable On Modern Life from Anthony De Mello’s The Song of the Bird

The animals met in assembly and began
to complain that humans were always
taking things away from them.

“They take my milk,” said the cow.
“They take my eggs,” said the hen.
“They take my flesh for bacon,” said the hog.
“They hunt me for my oil,” said the whale.

Finally the snail spoke. “I have something
they would certainly take away from me
if they could. Something they want
more than anything else.
I have TIME.”

You have all the time in the world, if you would give it to yourself. What’s stopping you?

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From the Voice of a Devastated Earth

A friend challenged me to write this week about Mother’s Day. In my search for a liturgy on which to hang some mission and social justice ministries or movements, I came across this Mother’s Day Proclamation from 1870. In this time of escalating violence, of sabre-rattling nations, of famine, kidnapping, war, and slavery-catastrophes borne on the bodies of women and the children of women-I think its call still rings true:

Mother’s Day Proclamation-1870 by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then … women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God —
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

If you would answer this call-here are some “congress[es] of women without limit of nationality” which are promoting peace:

Healthy Families Healthy Planet

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

BringBackOurGirls

Half the Sky

Polaris Project

UN Women for Peace

Farming First

Women and Peace Organizations wiki

Saving the World’s Women-an interview with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

When Faith Leaves the Museum

 

Samuel House
Samuel House

Ai Weiwei, perhaps best known for his exhibit Sunflower Seeds, is a conceptual artist who creates “social or performance-based interventions.” He is one of a number of artists who have decided to take art out of the museum and into society. For Ai Weiwei, these interventions are a way of “merging his life and art in order to advocate both the freedoms and responsibilities of individuals.”

‘From a very young age I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society’, he has said. ‘Your own acts and behaviour tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be.’   (Tate Museum)

The Women Are Heroes project is another example of an artist using the real world social order as a canvas on which to paint challenging ideas. The artist, JR, did this particular project “[i]n order to pay tribute to those who play an essential role in society but who are the primary victims of war, crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism . . .”*

When art leaves the museum like this, it is transformed into social witness. It becomes something publicly available.  It eludes censorship, yet is  exposed to raw and sometimes violent criticism. It somehow moves back and forth across the line of legal and illegal, sanctioned and under sanction.  It is vulnerable and open to whatever interpretations, ideas and reactions it causes.

For these two particular artists, these interventions are also intentionally meant to give voice to the voiceless-to bring the lives of unimportant and disregarded people into public view. Their works expose inconvenient truths and somehow point to the cracks in our well-reasoned ideas about how the world is supposed to work and how it actually works.

I think that vital faith is faith which has chosen to leave the museum. It is faith which endeavors to give voice to the voiceless-to bring the lives of unimportant and disregarded people into public view. It exposes inconvenient truths and somehow points to the cracks in our well-reasoned ideas about how the world is supposed to work and how it actually works.

Vital faith, like the artwork of Ai Weiwei, JR, or Iowa’s own Rev. Ted Lyddon Hatten, shows the light of God shining through those cracks, and brings the world’s attention to it.

This work-this faith in the world work-this social intervention-is social justice.  It is faith made publicly available. It is faith which eludes censorship, yet allows itself to be exposed to raw and sometimes violent criticism. It somehow moves back and forth across the line of legal and illegal, sanctioned and under sanction.  It is vulnerable and open to whatever interpretations, ideas and reactions it causes.

Social justice is a public faith witness which has the the power to break hearts and inspire people to moral elevation and awe. It paints compassion, grace and the irrational and extravagant love of Jesus on the canvas of the world.

When Giants Pass

This year has seen the death of giants. Earlier this year, Rev. Bob Williams passed away. Just this last week, South Africa lost Nelson Mandela, and the Iowa Annual Conference lost Bob Crandall.

Nelson_Mandela

I did not know any of these men well, but I have met people they touched. I have been in rooms made uncomfortable by the questions they raised. I have met people they inspired and encouraged. I have started to hear stories of the ways in which their witness to social justice changed the lives of the people and the nations around them.  And now, they are gone.

When people die, it is our custom to spend time remembering them. We read narratives of their lives. We share memories of our time with them. We describe their corporate and their personal meaning to the community. We claim them as part of our family and name them so future generations won’t forget them.

Talking about the radical nature of the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann describes them as powerful tools for remembering. Over the coming weeks, I invite you to remember those giants of Biblical justice we have lost, whether that be a public figure like Nelson Mandela or a close and intimate friend like Bob Crandall or Bob Williams. I invite you to search the Psalms for their story, and then I invite you to send me those remembrances. You can email or mail me a story and a Psalm. You can put together a quick video remembrance or even a simple audio recording. If you are an artist, I encourage you to send me poetry, dance, drama, or music which somehow connect you to that member of the family of Christ.

Because we don’t want to fall into nostalgia. We don’t want to retreat into the convenience of amnesia. Instead, we want to keep alive the examples of hope, faith and love that they provided for us and share those stories to raise up our next generation of giants.