As I continue to try to be a faithful disciple of Jesus I continually confront the messy, cluttered commotion along the Way. I feel like I keep switching from being stunned by the beauty and caught in my human confusion.
The words I pray every morning stir my questions:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.
He has raised up a horn for our salvation
within the house of David his servant,
even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old:
salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to be mindful of his holy covenant
and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father,
and to grant us that,
rescued from the hand of enemies,
without fear we might worship him
in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord* to prepare his ways,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God
by which the daybreak from on high* will visit us
to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” –Luke 1: 68-79
Good and simple and the Light on the path is mighty. The Light that shines on the path of peace glows into shadows. There’s dusty despair floating around in the Light creating a strange beauty. A calm collects and settles, yet the stains of sin feel like stones in shoes. We talk about the beauty of God’s mysterious ways while a bad taste of discontentment lingers on our lips. We remember that although we can revel in the goodness of God, we can’t forget the injustices and suffering that still are in need of great redemption.
I’ve been on a blogging break for the past couple weeks as I finished up a semester of teaching, took a Christmas vacation and went on a silent retreat. (Thanks to Sister Sarah and Steven for writing while I was away!)
The Christmas season is ending and I am renewed. The blessings of the incarnation have re-rooted me in the core of who I am: a child of God. As God’s child, I am on the path of peace. A theme of my retreat was God’s Way of Love and I considered the power of the Prince of Peace being alive and home in the broken darkness of our messed up world. Jesus’ way of blessing the brokenness of humanity permits us to have hope and trust. God is enfleshed and alive in the fullness of humanity. Back in my classroom I’m marveling with my students about how Jesus is a material man. He’s word, light, love, energy, feelings, image, sound, alive and fleshy. God is really awesome!
Still, my rejoicing feels mucky. Many of my companions on the journey carry a lot of truth. In the faces of many I see tears, hunger, fear and sorrow and I know that oppression is not over. There’s more work to do. My friends who are peacemakers remind me that we can’t sit down and give up. Jesus loves us (yes he does!) and love is a powerful, world-changing force.
We can’t slow in our work for peace and there’s an urgency in the good news. We keep creating the new ways of God- no matter how mucky they seem in coming. The muck can be depressing. It’s unpleasant, but if we’re with Jesus it’s where we belong.
Nowadays, the horrors of state sanctioned torture and indefinite detention are especially disturbing me. Guantanamo prison has been open for almost 10 years despite its human rights and international law violations. Some of my activist friends are hard at work in Washington D.C. and here in Chicago with incredible fasting, protesting, educating and praying. Like they did last year (and Luke wrote about) they’re fasting and creatively, non-violently asking our government to end the injustices of torture and detention. I join them as I am able: in solidarity as I fast too (from television), in action to increase awareness, in advocacy for justice and in prayer and contemplation.
I’m remembering how before Christmas we heard the news that all the troops were coming home from Iraq. I was still in an advent waiting space in my spirit, but my mind told me I ought to rejoice and celebrate a victory for justice. A shadowy waiting space and an enlightened celebration: I wasn’t able to unite the two. Instead, I felt my joy fall flat. I was opposed to the war before it began and my young activism was formative for me. The ending of the occupation felt so long overdue that it felt more frustrating than favorable. Peacemaking is mucky.
I am grateful that Jesus was born into the broken, confused places within our spirits and within our world. As we suffer and struggle we find that we must remain open and empty to experience the fullness of God. We must allow continual conversion. After all, we can accept that on the path of peace there’s joy of the incarnation: we are forgiven, free and blessing the brokenness in the world. The darkness cannot overcome the light, light shines through the darkness! Thanks be to God!