07 October 2008

My Friend Abby on Calling

For ConEd, we visit each other's churches and are expected to lead a worship service. My friend, Abby, did one on calling. After reading some passages on specific calls, she gave this homily:

Who are these people? The short answer is well, people. A strange mix of people actually. The first of these is a child, called by a god he did not know. Even though he was in the temple, this was voice that was unfamiliar. And it was a voice calling him to the priesthood, and it was not an easy call. It meant that he would denounce the family of the man who raised him. It meant that he would anoint Saul as king, and later condemn Saul when he visited the witch of Endor. But when God called, Samuel’s answer was, “Speak. I am listening.”

Then Mary, not much more than a child herself according to tradition, who sits in the presence of a divine messenger, utterly confused. Everything she knows says that what Gabriel speaks is not possible. And although she does protest, the angel answers her only once, before she replies, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word.” It was her answer to God’s call that allowed God to become human—human not as a divinely formed being like Adam, or something sprung forth fully born like the Greek gods, but human, born of a woman with the same pain and anguish as every child since creation.

And finally, three of the disciples. Peter, outspoken, devout, faithful, denying Peter was the one who fell down before Jesus, caught up in his own unworthiness. It can’t be me, Lord. It can’t be. I am full of sin. It seeps out my pores and haunts me in my dreams. It can’t be me. But it was, and when our Lord said to him again, “Come, you will fish for people,” Peter came, trusting that following this Savior would be enough.

We come here today as people who have answered a call, most likely with fear and hesitancy. Can we trust this man from Nazareth? Can we trust his words to be enough? Are we ready for this life of service?

No. I will say assuredly to everyone here, no, we are not ready. But we answered the call, hoping, trusting that it will be enough.

And so we come, answering the call to lift up holy hands in acts of worship and service to our exalted savior and his church.

I invite you now: Come to this center table and place your handprint within the cross. Your handprint will surely touch others and they must overlap if we are to all fit. That’s fine; no, that’s good. For we are not alone in this journey, but have been given friendships and colleagues and fellow travelers along this road to which Christ calls us. And when we are done, our hands will have formed the cross, an image of the Savior. Remember, it is this cross that must form us. Come, each of you.

01 October 2008

choosing life, pt. 3

read pt. 1 and pt. 2.

"I feel like we should offer a prayer of thanksgiving," I told my friend James. We were standing beside the drive-thru ordering speaker of the Wendy's that was attached to the gas station.

"Do it!" he said. I hesitated, but decided that it would be the right thing, so I gathered the Candler crew, and we held hands. Soon, the parking lot came together in a circle. Next thing we knew, a bus full of supporters unloaded and our single circle had turned into a double ring. A woman (who turned out to be Davis' sister) asked "Who's gonna lead the prayer?" James shoved me toward the middle, "Jon will."

I was in the middle of a circle of a 100 or so folks, all holding hands waiting to pray. I should state here that speaking in large groups isn't a fear that I'm generally concerned with. But this terrified me. I had prayed before, sure, but never for someone's life. So, I started with what I knew. We were thankful.

"Holy and Loving God"--a good seminary beginning, I thought. "Holy and Loving God, we come today thankful for your creation and for your gift of life. You have inspired our highest court to choose life. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

Each thank you received a response--an Amen, or thankyoujesus or hallelujah--something. "You have told us that you've set before us life and death...you beg us to choose life. Help us to choose life. Help us to choose life for ourselves and for others. Today a battle has been won, and we are happy for it. You have heard your people cry, and you have answered them. Tomorrow is a new day, God. And with it comes new struggles and new challenges. Guide us through those as well. Inspire us to choose life when the hard times hit, and when we don't want to go on."

Then others began to add their own prayers.

There we stood in a parking lot, holding hands and praying together. As the prayer ended, a voice began to shout. "I am Troy Davis! You are Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis!" It spread like wildfire among those gathered, and ended with an explosion of hugs. As we roamed hugging complete strangers, I met Mrs. Davis, Troy Davis' mother. She had been in that circle--holding our hands and praying hard too. I had unknowingly prayed for the mother of a death row inmate. I was baffled.

I can hardly imagine what she is going through. Regardless of what we think about the case, it is when we take down our walls and think about those on death row as people--people with families--that we begin to see the horrors that we are allowing to happen.

Christ's words had new meaning. "Who is my mother and my brother?" He asks. She is my mother, and this man scheduled to die is my brother. I do have a brother on death row. So do you.

Later that evening, a group of us were eating a celebratory dinner at the local Golden Buddha. As we were finishing up, my friend Todd almost shouted "What I want to know is: where are the churches in all this? They should be there alongside us."

"It seems to me," I replied "the church was in the Hess gas station across from the prison standing in front of the Wendy's praying earlier tonight."