Liturgy of Hope, Table of Peace
We have come to worship. What does that mean? It means we have come here to affirm together exalted ideals. In company with one another, we open our hearts toward goodness and virtue, nobility and beauty. We say, “Yes, that is so.” and further, “We are glad it is so.”
Of course, there are ideas that distinguish us from one another, particular beliefs about the nature of the cosmos–its history and operation. We acknowledge those differences, then, for now, lay them aside to celebrate together the glorious, pervasive ideals that form a shared treasure.
Outside this place, at times other than now, there is much work to be done. The world of politics and government needs our attention and action. The world of commerce also beckons with its immense possibilities and risks. Some of us are pursuing formal education. Some of us are retired and busy with that distinctive phase of life. Some are medical specialists. Some are police. Some may be soldiers. In each of these arenas, there is much work to be done. Busyness and vigorous action is required. We acknowledge the legitimacy of all these spheres of life. But we are wary of their potential to become all consuming. The urgency of action can so completely capture our attention that we lose sight of our highest ideals. The difficulty of the tasks confronting us and the apparent failures of goodness can weigh on us so heavily, the light within gets smothered. So we come together to help one another once again fill our vision with the glorious ideals that unite our humanity.
As an Adventist minister, the words I know best are the words of the Bible. So we will begin with those words. Then we will savor the words of other traditions, other religions. Words that have been shared with me by a number of friends. After each reading, we will pause. In that pause, I invite you to read again the words of the selection. Or pray them. Or meditate on them. Linger with them. Let these words soothe and nourish your soul. Let them beckon you to higher, brighter ambition and resolve.
Let us begin.
The word of Isaiah the prophet, son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
Now it will come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the LORD’s house will be established on the top of the mountains.
It will be exalted above the hills.
And all nations will flow to it.
Many people will come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us His ways.
We will walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion will go forth the law,
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations, and rebuke many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
Neither will they learn war anymore. Isaiah 2:1-4
From the Prophet Isaiah:
There will come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch will grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And he will not judge by the sight of his eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of his ears;
But with righteousness he will judge on behalf of the poor,
And with equity make decisions for the meek of the earth.
The fruit of his judgment will be
The wolf will dwell with the lamb,
The leopard will lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion together;
And a little child will lead them.
Cows and bears will graze together;
Their young will lie down amicably together;
The lion will eat straw like an ox.
The nursing child will play safely by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child will put his hand in the viper’s den.
They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
From the Gospel of Matthew
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.
Upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned. . . .
Jesus went about all Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues,
preaching the gospel of the kingdom,
and healing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.
His fame spread as far as Syria,
and they brought to him people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics;
and he healed them.
Matthew 4:16, 23-24
Malala Yousafzai. A young woman who was brutally attacked because of her pursuit of education and was later awarded the Nobel Prize, the youngest person ever so recognized.
“But then later on, I used to — I started thinking about that, and I used to think that a talib [religious militant] would come and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do, Malala?’ Then I would reply to myself that, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’… But then I said, ‘If you hit a talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and that talib. You must not treat others that much with cruelty and that much harshly. You must fight others, but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I’ll tell him how important education is, and that ‘I even want education for your children as well,’ and I’ll tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.'”
From J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers (movie script)
Sam: It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Fearlessness is not only possible, it is the ultimate joy. When you touch non fear, you are free.
“The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.”
Around us, life bursts with miracles–a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
From the Quran
They ask thee what they shall spend. Say: ‘Whatever of good and abundant wealth you spend should be for parents and near relatives and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer. And whatever good you do, surely Allah knows it well.’ (Al Quran 2:216)
And worship Allah and associate naught with Him, and show kindness to parents, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbor that is a kinsman and the neighbor that is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Surely, Allah loves not the proud and the boastful. (Al Quran 4:37)
From The Oxford Book of Prayer
Lord, we pray for the power to be gentle;
the strength to be forgiving;
the patience to be understanding;
and the endurance to persist in the right no matter the consequences.
May we trust in the power of good to overcome evil and the power of love to overcome hatred.
Grant us the vision to see a world emancipated from violence,
a new world where fear no longer leads people to commit injustice, nor selfishness makes them bring suffering to others.
May we devote ourselves to making peace, praying always for the inspiration and the power to fulfill the destiny for which we and all people were created. -Week of Prayer for World Peace, 1978
A prayer of the Ojibway people of Canada
Look at our brokenness.
We know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.
We know that we are the ones
who are divided
And we are the ones
Who must come back together
To walk in the Sacred Way.
Teach us love, compassion, and honour
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.
(from The Oxford Book of Prayer)
A Jewish Prayer
Grant us peace, goodness and blessing; life, grace and kindness; justice and mercy. Our Father, bless us all together with the Light of your presence, for in the Light of Your presence, you give us, Lord our God, law and life, love and kindness, justice and mercy, blessing and peace.
from The Oxford Book of Prayer
Lord, the wounds of the world are too deep for us to heal. We have to bring men and women to you and ask you to look after them–the sick in body and mind, the withered in spirit, the victims of greed and injustice, the prisoners of grief.
And yet, our Father, do not let our prayers excuse us from paying the price of compassion.
Make us generous with the resources you have entrusted to us. Let your work of rescue be done in us and through us all.
-from The Oxford Book of Prayer
From Henri Nouwen
Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, “How will next year be for me? Where will I be five or ten years from now?” There are no answers to these questions. Mostly we have just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let’s rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.
from Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith
Henri J. M. Nouwen “Enough Light for the Next Step”
Once in a while we meet a gentle person. Gentleness is a virtue hard to find in a society that admires toughness and roughness. We are encouraged to get things done and to get them done fast, even when people get hurt in the process. Success, accomplishment, and productivity count. But the cost is high. There is no place for gentleness in such a milieu.
Gentle is the one who does “not break the crushed reed, or snuff the faltering wick” (Matthew 12:20). Gentle is the one who is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of the other and enjoys being together more than accomplishing something. A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. A gentle person knows that true growth requires nurture, not force. Let’s dress ourselves with gentleness. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us.
Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith
“Dressed in Gentleness”: Henri J. M. Nouwen
From Dorothy Bass
Can you sense how much this community of hospitable Christians, Jews, post-theists, mystics, Muslims, Buddhists, spiritual-but-not-religious folks and humanists has to offer the world at this moment? Can you imagine what we might offer for the next four years? You are all here. You do know that, don’t you? This is OUR time. To witness to love. To embody grace. To do justice. To care for creation. And we can DO IT TOGETHER. All our voices. Different experiences, different theologies, but respectful, appreciative, creating a table of gratitude for the world. Harmonized. Not angry at one another. Together. No longer a political slogan. Reality.
We can do this. Dorothy Bass
From the Metta Sutta
This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded.
You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you,
love your enemies and bless those who curse you,
do good to those who hate you,
pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
thus living out the family values of your Father in heaven.
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
If you love those who love you, how is that special? Even the disreputable do the same.
If you greet your relatives and friends, how is that noteworthy? So do despicable people.
But you, since you are children, be perfect like your Father in heaven.
–Jesus, Matthew 5:38-48
The readings we have shared come from various religious traditions. Each of these forms of spiritual life have distinctive details and theories. We have chosen readings that emphasize what is shared across religious and spiritual traditions. We have done this in part because of the present moment in the world when it seems that the impulses of sectarianism and nationalism have gained new energy and even legitimacy. When the people of the most prosperous and most powerful nation in history imagine their problems are caused largely by foreigners and poor people, people of faith cannot be silent. In all our religions we are exhorted to show special care for the poor and the foreigner. In worship, we remind ourselves of our connection with the exalted ideals of compassion and justice, generosity and honesty, love and respect, peace and prosperity. We have been blessed. In worship we remember this and pledge ourselves to pay it forward.