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Killing the Messenger

We are not fond of messengers — O God, we confess it!

What is there to love
about one who comes
dressed unapologetically in freedom
to inquire into our weariness?

We prefer such a messenger
beholden to our labor.

What is there to heed
in the questions of one
who proclaims the work at hand
without time for our excuses?

We prefer such a messenger
obligated to our comfort.

What is there to welcome
from one who haunts our fears
so that we might live
beyond their limitations?

We prefer such a messenger
let us ride out the storm.

How beautiful are the feet, yes —
but far less beautiful is the message
that reveals our assumptions
and witnesses to new possibilities.

We prefer to sell such a message
or seal it in a pit covered by stone.

We pray for mercy — O God, open the ears of our hearts!

cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals

Treading Water

In advanced swimming lessons and in lifeguard training, many years ago, treading water was my favorite part of the final tests. Far from being a challenge to exert as much energy and strength as possible, treading water was a challenge to conserve energy as much as possible, to slow down, to rest and let the water support you.

By contrast, we live in a society that values energy and strength, speed and power. Keep up, or you risk losing out. Fight the deluge that assumes your disposability, or you risk drowning in it.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 1 in 3 American adults do not get enough sleep for physical health and mental well-being. Lack of healthy sleep was disproportionately prevalent in the lives of indigenous and Black Americans. The recent end to the eviction moratorium and the lapsed federal support for unemployment insurance puts 20 million people at risk of not having a place to sleep at all – let alone sleep well – according to the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project.

Rest and well-being are privileges reserved for the few in our society.

Even in the work of justice.

The resistance of unjust social structures can easily, temptingly, even logically assume the same conditions as those structures: testing exertion and requiring multi-tasking, calling for both urgency and endurance, leveraging power and speed, matching the pace of injustice with the pace of organizing. In the name of God and for the sake of one another, we rally to the cry that nothing less than 110% is acceptable.

As Madeleine L’Engle writes in Walking on Water, “We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are, to see through the plastic sham to living, breathing reality. Earthbound as we are, even we can walk on water.”

In this Sunday’s lectionary text, Peter was weary from a long night of wrestling against waves and wind in the disciples’ boat when Jesus invited him to take walk on water. God knows, Jesus is no less demanding when we are tired than when we are well-rested. We may have the faith to walk on water, but we are not made from dust that can be sustained in hyperdrive.

The work of walking on water must be paired with a delight in treading water. The cry of justice can only be just when it is paired with an invitation to rest. To prioritize well-being as much as labor. To value rest alongside restlessness. To fight for healthy sleep as much as we fight for healthy work. To believe that none are expendable to satisfy the storm’s torment. To insist that water – that life – can work for those most vulnerable, not against them.

Reach out.

Breathe.

Pull in.

Breathe.

Kick.

Breathe.

Rest.

Breathe.

Take time to tread water, to slow down, to remember and practice peace.

written for Witness for Justice

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Wrestling

Let me behold your face, I prayed, but instead you met me in the dark and bent me into painful knots. Let me be relieved, I pleaded, and instead you laid a path among my adversaries. Let me prove my heart, I declared, but instead you withdrew to tend the song of...

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At a Distance

Then God said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship at a distance. Moses alone shall come near the LORD; but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.” -...

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Still, Still, Still

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things to great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother. - Psalm 131:1-2a (NRSV) Maybe you’ve been feeling this...

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Milcah’s Inheritance

Milcah sang a lullaby to her granddaughter Rebekah, born to Bethuel, You are a queen, gifted and beautiful, a sovereign over kings. You are the gladness of ancestors, and the celebration of the future. And Rebekah believed her grandmother Milcah, owned the inheritance...

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Confession

We have listened to the wrong gods, O Holy Life, to the ones that say "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" and the ones that say "Your help is in the rat race." Hear your people protest: "How long?" Hear your people confess: "No more!" We have said our prayers to...

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For the Sake of Expediency

The officials said to the king, “Jeremiah ought to be put to death, because he is discouraging the people who are left in this city.” King Zedekiah said, “Here he is – I won’t stop you.” So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern. - Jeremiah 38:4-6 (adapted)...

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Nuanced

a sermon on Genesis 21:8-21 and Romans 6:1b-11, preached at Christ Episcopal Church (Shaker Hts OH) There is no nuance to it. There is no middle ground, there are not “both sides.” Sarah is in the wrong. Hagar is in the right. Sarah is wrong for oppressing Hagar,...

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Troubled

Incline yourself like a dread warrior toward those you love, O Holy One. Count the hairs on the heads of Robert Fuller, Malcolm Harsch, Dominique Alexander, and comfort those terrorized by racism's awful fruit. Hear the cries of the children. Hear the cries of the...

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Divest and Defund

The white Church is long overdue to acknowledge and repent of its theological fostering of, financial contribution to & gain from, continued complicity and silence in the face of racism. Long overdue. The work of acknowledgment is, I suggest, the preliminary work...

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