I continue to find myself disturbed and stirred by the events - recent and long past - surrounding the death of George Floyd in the United States. As I should. These are moments designed to wake us up to what is real about our societies and about our own hearts. We should not be content to sleepwalk through our lives.
[Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash]
You might remember that last weekend I described some of the conversations taking place in our home, as we tuned in to the news and followed social media threads. Today, as our personal and shared process continues, I spoke with some of our CMS family . As people in mission, who have chosen to live in cultures that are different from our own and have sought to identify with the people of those cultures, seeking to reflect the love of Christ in the ways we live, it is confrontational to face the question of racial privilege and prejudice. And yet, if this is our story, it is crucial that we acknowledge the ways we have benefitted from systemic racial discrimination. If indeed we have never had to wonder whether we will be safe from bullying, or from harmful assumptions based on our appearance, if we have never had to wonder if the colour of our skin with preclude us from a particular job, or role, or opportunity, then we have benefitted from a system that is broken.
And the fact that we didn't design the system in no way exempts us from being part of fixing it.
At the same time as mulling over all this, I have been writing a piece for a prayer publication on the topic of 'seeking God.' What does it mean to seek God at such a time as this, I wonder? Five things come to mind as I consider how I might seek God in this season:
1. Seeking God means to LISTEN - listening implies talking less; being willing to listen to the cries and complaints of others. It means I adopt a posture of listening to God, and his word.
2. Seeking God means to LONG FOR - to be in touch with the longing within us for God’s redemption to be worked out in our world and our communities, and our own hearts; to allow ourselves to feel it deeply.
3. Seeking God means to LAMENT - to add our groaning, our supplication, our sorrowing to those of the world around us and yes, even that of creation (as we read about in Romans chapter 8).
4. Seeking God means to WATCH - to pay attention, to look to see what God might be about in the current situation, to ‘keep our eyes peeled’ and our spirits alert; to remain watchful.
5. Seeking God means to WAIT - to wait on God, the chief mover and shaker, to submit to his timing. Not out of a lack of desire to act, but out of trust in his agency and commitment to redemptive change.
[Photo by Matt Sclarandis on Unsplash]
Douglas McKelvey, the author of the beautiful collection of liturgies published as Every Moment Holy, has offered a new piece for this season. He has titled it A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering and you can find it here.
A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering
Christ Our King,
Our world is overtaken by unexpected
calamity, and by a host of attending fears,
worries, and insecurities.
We witness suffering, confusion, and
hardship multiplied around us, and we find
ourselves swept up in these same anxieties and
troubles, dismayed by so many uncertainties.
Now we turn to you, O God,
in this season of our common distress.
Be merciful, O Christ, to those who suffer,
to those who worry, to those who grieve, to
those who are threatened or harmed in any
way by this upheaval. Let your holy compassions
be active throughout the world even now—
tending the afflicted, comforting the
brokenhearted, and bringing hope to
many who are hopeless.
Use even these hardships to woo our hearts
nearer to you, O God.
Indeed, O Father, may these days
of disquiet become a catalyst
for conviction and repentance,
for the tendering of our affections,
for the stirring of our sympathies,
for the refining of our love.
We are your people, who are called by you,
We need not be troubled or alarmed.
Indeed, O Lord, let us love now more fearlessly,
remembering that you created us,
and appointed us
to live in these very places,
in the midst of these unsettled times.
It is no surprise to you that we are here now,
sharing in this turmoil along with the rest of
our society, for you have called your children
to live as salt and light among the nations,
praying and laboring for the flourishing of the
communities where we dwell, acting as agents of
your forgiveness, salvation, healing, reconciliation,
and hope, in the very midst of an often-troubled world.
And in these holy vocations
you have not left us helpless, O Lord,
because you have not left us at all.
Your Spirit remains among us.
Inhabit now your church, O Spirit of the Risen Christ.
Unite and equip your people for the work before them.
Father, empower your children to live as your children.
In times of distress let us respond, not as those
who would instinctively entrench for our own
self-preservation, but rather as those who—in imitation
of their Lord—would move in humble obedience toward
the needs and hurts of their neighborhoods and communities.
You were not ashamed to share in our sufferings, Jesus.
Let us now be willing to share in yours, serving
as your visible witnesses in this broken world.
Hear now these words, you children of God,
and be greatly encouraged:
The Lord’s throne in heaven is yet occupied,
his rule is eternal, and his good purposes
on earth will be forever accomplished.
So we need never be swayed by the brief and
passing panics of this age.
You are the King of the Ages, O Christ,
and history is held in your Father’s hands.
We, your people, know the good and glorious
end of this story. Our heavenly hope is secure.
In this time of widespread suffering then,
let us rest afresh in the surpassing peace of that
vision, that your whole church on earth might be
liberated to love more generously and sacrificially.
Now labor in and through us, O Lord, extending and
multiplying the many expressions of your mercy.
Finally, this is a poem I wrote as part of a very personal process in the midst of the questions and lament around this topic. There is no doubt that words are limited and inadequate in the face of such complexity and pain. This is just my flawed attempt to articulate something as part of raising my hand to say, 'Yes, I see you, Yes, I hear you, you belong.'