As you read this, we are in the season of Lent. I have been reflecting on the report that the structures of the Diocese are in a palliative state. It occurred to me that Lent is a good season for this kind of deep reflection. I turned to a profound blessing which undergirds my own faith, which I first heard at Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 when it was offered by former Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
I appreciate how this blessing opens me to look at abundant life in a fresh way in difficult circumstances:
“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half–truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.
“May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
“May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.
“And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.”
This blessing names the fragility of life profoundly and honestly. Human life is a gift, precious and fragile. We don’t own it. We can’t control it. Some days, we don’t even manage it very well. When life is difficult, it blesses us with courage to face the death of old ways when they no longer work. It is honest about the fact that there are no easy answers, and encourages us to look deep within.
But it doesn’t stop there. It continues by expressing a powerful longing for the gift of life to be renewed. It strengthens us in our discontent with things as they are, and renews us in hope that God continues to create and make life whole.
But hope can be a dangerous thing. It means we dare to believe that change is truly possible. Hope is born, as we dare believe and work for a new future in partnership with God. In our discomfort with things as they are, we are blessed to discern God’s new way coming to birth. We seek a new vision, anticipating that God will do a new thing in our lives, in our world, in our church. It’s an active waiting, as we waited in Advent for the birth of God’s light.
There will be much discomfort in this coming time. There will be some anger as people seek to hold on to a past which no longer works. There will be many tears.
I suspect it will be important to hold the anger and the tears together, as this blessing does. Anger without tears leads to arrogance. Sorrow without anger leads to hopelessness. Anger and tears together hold out the possibility that we might work humbly and faithfully to restore life.
Finally, we bless the foolishness that dares to believe that God is at work in all this. A few weeks ago, our epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 1 “the message that points to the cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works …” (The Message).
We are the people of a God who subverts our way of thinking and acting. As people who belong to this subversive God, we should expect that God will surprise us. So we bless the foolishness that dares to believe that we can make a difference, as we work in partnership with God.
With this blessing, we live with a resolute and strong hope. It is a deep part of faithful Christian living.
It also seems to me to be an appropriate posture for Lent as we reflect on our baptismal identity as people who are made new in Christ, who make a commitment to living in new ways, who see with new eyes a life lived by a new vision.