a sign of your goodness

Photo by Joachim Riegel on Unsplash  
Father, I’m a man of my time and situation,
Around me, the signs and symbols of man’s fear, hatred, alienation;
a bomb exploding in a market square;
. . . faces on TV twisted in mocking confrontation.
It’s not that we haven’t tried, Father,
to find ways to peace and reconciliation
but always too little, too late;
the forces of opposition were too great . . . 
I am perplexed, angry, hopeless, sick, I want to turn
my back, wash my hands, save myself, my family, get out.
But every time I turn to go
there stands in my way a cross . . .
 
Lord, make me a child of hope, reborn from apathy,
cynicism, and despair, ready to work for that new man
you have made possible by walking the way of the cross yourself.
I do have hope grounded on your victory over powers
of evil, death itself, focused on your kingdom,
breaking on us now as light out of deep darkness.
And I do see signs of hope immediately around me.
I see a wider sign:
I see a sign – flower growing on a bombed-out site.
The sign – an empty cross.  The burden, Lord, is yours.
Lord, I am a prisoner of hope! There is life before death.
 
Prayer from Northern Ireland
 
__________________________
 
 
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
    show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you
    just as my mother did.
Give me a sign of your goodness,
    that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
    for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

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Pondering the small ways

plumb bob by Wolfgang Sauber / CC BY-SA 3.0
 
We ponder at your greatness.
 
We bless you in your wonders of creation.
 
We magnify you for your miracles of deliverance.
 
We relish the news of your gift of
    newness given us in Jesus of Nazareth.
 
We make our doxology as large as we can,
    in order to match your
    massive presence in the world.
 
But then, in slow times and in lesser venues,
    we know you to be the God of small things;
        one widow and one orphan,
        one touch of healing,
        one lunch turned to much food,
        one small temple for a small people in a small city,
        one small scroll to power the small city.
 
On good days we are among those,
    who do not occupy ourselves
        with things too great and too marvelous.
 
It is enough that short of glory and magnificence,
    you hang in to make small places your venue for governance.
We are grateful for your “tidbits”
         that bespeak life among us.
 
Walter Brueggemann, 1933 -,  American Protestant Old Testament theologian
_____________________________
 
 
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

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That face, Lord, haunts me

George Floyd / Wikimedia Commons

That face, Lord, has haunted me all evening.
It is a living reproach,
A prolonged cry that reaches me in my quietude.
 
That face is alive, Lord, yet men’s sins have struck it;
He was defenceless and exposed to their blows.
 
They came from all over;
Destitution came,
The shanty,
The dilapidated bed,
The foul air,
Smoke,
Alcohol, 
Hunger,
The hospital,
The sanatorium.
 
Work – crushing, humiliating,
Unemployment,
The depression, 
War.
 
Frenzied dances,
Revolting songs,
Demoralizing films,
Languorous music,
Unclean and deceitful kisses.
 
The struggle to live,
Rebellion,
Brawls,
Cries,
Blows,
Hate.
 
They came from everywhere,
Men with their horrid selfishness, their dreadful faces,
    their great dirty fingers,
    their broken nails,
    their fetid breath.
They hastened here from the ends of the earth,
    from the bounds of time.
And slowly, one after another,
Or suddenly, all together, like brutes,
They struck,
    whipped
    lashed,
    wrought,
    moulded,
    hammered,
    engraved,
    sculptured.
And here at last is this face, this poor face;
It took forty six years to fashion it,
It took hundreds of centuries to produce it.
Ecce homo : behold the man.
 
Here is this poor face of a man, like an open book,
The book of the miseries and sins on men;
    the book of
        selfishness,
        conceit,
        cowardice;
    the book of
        greed,
        lust,
        abdications,
        compromises.
 
Here it is like a mournful protest,
    like a cry of revolt,
    but also like a heart-rending call,
For behind this ridiculous, grimacing face,
Behind those uneasy eyes,
Is a light
A flame,
A tragic supplication,
The infinite desire of a soul to live above its mud.
 
Lord, that face haunts me, it frightens me, it condemns me;
For with everyone else, I have made it, or allowed it to be made!
And I realize, Lord, that this man is my brother, and yours.
 
What have we done with a member of your family?
 
I fear your judgement, Lord.
It seems to me that at the end of time all the faces of my brothers,
    and especially those of my town, my district, my work, 
    will be lined up before me,
And in your merciless light I shall recognize in these faces
    the lines that I have cut,
    the mouth that I have twisted,
    the eyes that I have darkened,
    the neck that I have crushed,
    and those whose light I have extinguished.
They will come, those that I have known
    and those that I have not known,
    those of my time and all those that have followed,
    fashioned by the workshop of the world.
And I shall stand still, terrified, silent.
It is then, O Lord, that you will say to me
     . . . it was I . . .

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