Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why are you silent?

Frederick Buechner describes the free gift of God’s Grace this way:
There is nothing you have to do.
There is nothing you have to do.
There is nothing you have to do.

I’m expecting a parade of children in costumes at my door tomorrow night. Our annual Celebration of Life by playing with our fear of Death. Certainly there are worse things than Death to deal with in this life.

This is a “thin” time of year, when the separation between the spirit world and the material becomes less thick. In the Church we celebrate the parade of saints that have crossed over the river Jordan to the Promised Land. We honour their legacy of stamina, courage, compassion, joy.

I find another parade on page 5 of Wednesday’s Toronto Star World section. After pages about Obama and the Global failure of the Wealth Accumulation System, I find a photo showing a stream of people walking a road in the Congo. In it’s midst a father grimaces as he pushes a bicycle along. Just behind his shoulder you can see a child perched on the bike seat. Behind the child are bundles loaded high.

Last winter two women from our congregation joined Nan Hudson and a team from Lindsay Presbytery to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our Presbytery had raised $30,000 over and above our Mission & Service goals for an orphanage in the Congo. The Presbytery team brought back horrific stories of a country devastated by war; child soldiers, brutal rapes, villages destroyed, a government maintaining a fragile peace without power to address basic needs.

They also told us stories of how all of the Christian churches in that country had come together, put aside all differences, and were giving people medical care, refuge, work and hope.

The photo in the Star, with just two lines of explanation, told me that war had broken out in the Congo again. A CBC radio report informed me that over 200,000 people had already been displaced by a push of rebel forces towards the capital of Kigali.

Since the end of August they estimated that over 80,000 people had died. Not in battle but simply due to the fact that they’d fled in the face of the rebel’s surge. Today in that country far away over 1,400 sick, or elderly, or vulnerable children will die because they’re fleeing a worse fate if they stay at home. One of the reporters had been with General Dallaire in Rwanda. He said this was Rwanda all over again. Almost no media coverage. Almost no United Nations support.

It’s budget time in Bobcaygeon. Our expenses are up again this year. And folks living off of RRSP’s are preparing for the hit. And folks running small businesses are bracing for the coming storm. And folks are just generally battening down the hatches on their wallets. When it comes to financial security, things get very personal, very sensitive, very quickly. If we’re running a deficit in a time of prosperity, how will we fare when things get thin?

The Centre for Policy Alternatives in Ottawa just released a poll this week that shows that most Canadians want our leaders to deal with the growing gap between rich and poor – even when the question is asked within the context of this approaching recession.

We say that’s what we want. But when it comes to electing leaders who might actually make it happen, we fall for the window dressing story that tells us our financial security really depends upon keeping the rich richer.

Matthew 23 Jesus’ warning about choosing leaders
3 But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.
9Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do.
11“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. 12If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

When I start worrying about my household’s financial floatability – I try to just let that wave of worry pass and trust in God; the water we float upon. God has let me know in several ways this fall that my needs are within the bounds of Grace.

In the recession of the early 1990s, I attended a workshop for clergy ordained within the last five years. The theme of the day was – in my own words – “how to deal with the bitter realities of our high calling.”

We were taken into an exercise of silent prayer. Relaxation, breathing, clearing our minds, and asking God for the one thing we most needed. The small business I had put heart and soul into had just turned belly up. A good friend had just drowned. I was surrounded by good people but felt very alone. I told God “I need a friend.”

God said right back at me “I am your friend.”

Not the friend I was hoping might materialize - but more valuable than any other gift I could have received that day.

After hearing that report from the Congo on Tuesday, I went into a worship planning meeting. We came upon a song entitled “God Why are You Silent?” (More Voices #73) and chose to use it.

In silent prayer Wednesday morning, I lifted up the waves of suffering I’d encountered close to home and the tsunami of suffering in the Congo. I asked the Maker “Why are You so silent?”

And the Maker said right back to me “Why are you so silent?”

So, here I am Thursday morning singing this song for you to hear. It may not be the answer you are looking for but it is the gift that Grace has provided me.

Sing it with me won’t you?

Join with the parade of the ages; of the saints who’ve suffered and celebrated all that this world can deliver and sing on.

verse 5 “Why are You silent?” More Voices #73

May pain draw forth compassion,
let wisdom rise from loss.
O take my heart and fashion
the image of your cross.
Then may I know your healing
through healing that I share,
your grace and love revealing
your tenderness and care.

1 comment:

brenda said...

What a comprehensive reflection, Allan! And indeed, a daring question, an ageless question, a scary question also. Logically, one would think...but then God defies our small logic and the world definitely doesn't work as we think and wish it would.

I think of Blake's etching called "God and Job"...worth checking out.