We had a powerful gathering on Sunday, Sept. 24, as we welcomed Rev. Dr. Vernon Percy Howard Jr, Rev. Nia Chandler, Rev. Susan McCann, and Rev. Eric Garbison to share their own theology of protest, and what practices keep them going in their peace and justice work. The night was filled with powerful stories and challenging words, and quite a lot of shared wisdom, so if you didn’t get the chance to join us, listen here.
At the close of our gathering, Emily Bartlett, a member of The Open Table’s leadership team, read a beautiful prayer by the Iona community. This prayer is an excellent conclusion to our spiritual formation series, as we seek to be a people formed by Jesus’ words and actions; a people who practice action and reflection, as Jesus did.
We believe that God is present
in the darkness before dawn;
in the waiting and uncertainty
where fear and courage join hands,
conflict and caring link arms,
and the sun rises over barbed wire.
We believe in a with-us God
who sits down in our midst
to share our humanity.
We affirm a faith
that takes us beyond a safe place:
into action, into vulnerability
and onto the streets.
We commit ourselves to work for change
and put ourselves on the line;
to bear responsibility, take risks,
and face humiliation;
to stand with those on the edge;
to choose life and be used by the Spirit
for God’s new community of hope.
Affirmation of Faith, The Iona Community
We asked our guest speakers to share with us the names of people who had been a source of inspiration for them, and to offer us some helpful texts as we thought about both protest and sabbath as spiritual disciplines. These names, excerpts, scripture, and poems are listed below:
Prophets of the Bible who call us to justice (Micah 6:8)
Martin Luther King, Jr.
You have heard love your neighbor.
But I say to you,
love your enemies…
If you love only those who love you,
what reward do you have?
Consider everyone equals
Ally with the oppressed
Live nonviolence with all
Don’t get revenge
Feed your enemies
Quench their thirst
Don’t be overcome by evil
overcome evil with good
Love without pretending
Be joyful in hope,
Be patient in suffering
Persevere in prayer
Bless those who bully
Be happy with those who are happy,
cry with those who are crying
Seize the moral initiative
Find a creative alternative to violence
Assert your own dignity
Meet force with humor
Break the cycle of humiliation
Refuse to accept the inferior position
Expose the injustice of the system
Take control of the power dynamic
Shame the oppressor into repentance
Stand your ground
Make the Powers make decisions
for which they are not prepared
Recognize your own power
Be willing to suffer rather than retaliate
Force the oppressor to see you in a new light
Deprive the oppressor of a situation
where a show of force is effective
Be willing to undergo the penalty
of breaking unjust laws
Die to fear of the old order and its rules
Walter Wink, Jesus’ Third Way
The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.
Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by
your will, not ours. And it is fit
Our only choice should be to die
Into that rest, or out of it.
Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.
When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.
Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir
The works of mercy – Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, welcoming the stranger, visit the prisoner – are opposite of the works of war. You can’t do one while doing the other.