Sunday, November 30, 2014
It’s been a tough few weeks. People we journey with are suffering and when one suffers we all do. The image of God in humanity is at times marred by darkness, illness, consumerism, abuse, abandonment. And we are all worn down by it. At the same time, we are noting that God seems to be working in us and around us recently in ways different than what we might have expected or want to see. We often want him to be an external God, of miracles, might and power in the face of structural, political and personal evil. We want him to act, to show up and put the fear of the I AM into the pimps, dealers, debt collectors, predators and groomers that prey on people, commodifying and abusing. And so far, he doesn’t.
What he does do, is raise us up and equip us to get involved and alongside, and to prophetically act to bring his kingdom. To care for the sick, tend to the bodies of the broken, and the minds of the disturbed. Not as professionals, but as his people, using the power of being fellow humans, and to pray and act to make a better world. So for us there will have to be response to the happenings of the last few weeks – we are unable as god’s people to accept it, feel powerless and do nothing. Action will begin in prayer and consider and ponder options, but the darkness had better recognise its days are numbered and the power that raised Christ from the grave is coming for it. Today of all days – the start of Advent, when we wait for the light to come into the world, the darkness of the world seems so desperately and clearly apparent.
Matthew 25 gives a clear directive about the physicality of the demands of the Christian life – those who want to enter heaven need to be engaged in the nitty gritty of feeding, cleaning, tending, visiting – entering into the dark places themselves, as his representatives. This is performative, prophetic action in the apocalyptic tradition, but it is also transformative, bringing hope, healing, restoration and light. (If you use twitter, look up the hashtag #cmpfire for a conversation on these themes of late by practitioners and practical theologians working on the streets and in the margins) The parable of the good Samaritan also makes clear that loving our neighbour will be costly and messy. And yet we continue to slip into the idea that God should fix these things and pray to God to heal our neighbour, from the comfort of our quiet time!
In my daily reading today I read Psalm 88. I’m not sure I had ever read it before, but it sums up perfectly the state of play for me at present. I wrote a liturgy of darkness in response to it. It is written to be sung like a plainchant, which is how I read my psalms aloud in the mornings these days. It goes down a little at the end of each line then back up again, which I will put in italics. This is a part of monastic spirituality which I find brings me strength, to keep on praying and acting in a rhythm of life that believes we will see God in the land of the living and that he has entered the darkness ahead of us through Christ’s defeat of death and entry to hell, and now enters again via our entry into the daily hell of life for some.
Litany of Darkness
O Lord, the God who saves us
Day and night we cry out to you
For our eyes have seen the pain of your world;
Images we cannot forget.
We have seen children going hungry,
Living in squalor with parents who cannot cope.
We have seen people fight to buy consumer goods,
Marring your image in greed and des-per-ation.
Our souls are full of trouble,
And we do not know where to turn.
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness?
Or your righteousness in the time of obl-iv-ion?
We have ceased to pray for you to perform miracles,
For we see you act through us.
To bring light into this dark night,
And to show your love and care.
We seek to be obedient to you
Even when we don’t know what to do,
And though we are misunderstood.
We go defiantly in Your name
Send your light through us into the darkness Lord,
Repeal all despair.
We will see your glory in the land of the living,
For you love your world.
Glory to the Father and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now
And ever more shall be.
World without end, Amen.