Meeting on Zoom allowed a wide sweep of participants—a week ago we had worshippers from Orcas Island, from Seattle, from high in the San Gabriel Mountains, from Orange County, all join with those who live nearby, and the sharing was intimate and authentic. But no group singing. Last Sunday we gathered in a family solarium, great acoustics, our stiff, unused copies of Voices Together help us find our voices. What joy!
1. Worship was shared pain at our service last week.
We grieve, we lament, we wrestle with the dilemmas of war. We canceled our scheduled service theme and instead came to grips with our passion for non-violence and our terror at the realities of atrocity on atrocity. We all read with appreciation the New York Times March 1 Opinion piece by Thomas Friedman, “I see Three Scenarios for How This War Ends.” Then we poured out our hearts. Worship is facing the agonizing, thinking the unthinkable, and confessing it together. And then we return to pledge our souls to Jesus and His sermon on the Mount.
2. Smiling through tears.
“I laugh because I must not cry. That is all, that is all,” Abraham Lincoln said in the midst of war. We find laughter hard to do. My friend, pastor Harold Miller from Virginia writes: “I smile at the videos of Ukrainian farm tractors towing away Russian armored vehicles—hoping they might be a modern instance of swords into plowshares,” and we smile with him, then break into laughter at the thought of junkable tractors pulling the blasted junk of a ruined personnel carriers, or missile launchers, or tanks with long nose in the air. It hurts but it helps to smile.
3. Confession Queries.
Dalton Reimer’s incisive article (AW March 4) prompted an immediate personal letter of support for his thoughts entitled “Confession Queries” that revealed the courage of a congregation asking, “Can we talk?” His clarity on the contrast between descriptive and prescriptive Faith Confessions and his grace in reflecting on the need for open dialogue deserved serious soul searching. Dalton’s appreciation reminds one of how often we give silence. Sometimes our mail, email and re-mail is a form of prayer, or it may be the language of love, or a call to mutual faithfulness in finding our path.
4. “Racist Double Standard in War Coverage.”
Column Left on the front of the March 3 Los Angeles Times, by Lorraine Ali really hit home. “War has been acceptable for Arabs, Afghans and others over there—but not here in Europe, where the people ‘have blue eyes and blond hair’ and where they look like us.” (Actual quotations from news clips). These are white people suffering, and it does not go unnoticed that Whites feel they should be exempt from such danger. We grieve for all who suffer, but we flinch as racism distorts things around us or we too have a slip of tongue that betrays inner truths we deny. Ali ends the article saying “The limits of empathy in wartime are still too often measured by race.”
5. A spot of grace.
In Odessa, Ukraine, a Chinese blogger, Wang Jixian, a recent immigrant from Beijing to this endangered city, writes a daily blog documenting what is happening and calling for peace. A recent one began, “Good Morning . . . It/s snowed a lot. We are still alive.” He receives a flood of responses, some appreciative of his reporting of the bombing and destruction, many others in pure vitriol wishing him dead. His response is noteworthy. In one video, he dares those sending hateful messages to come see it for themselves. If they still want to kill him, they can pick up a knife or a gun and do it with their own hands, he says. But if not, he will make them dumplings for dinner. How we love that generosity toward those who hate. Dumplings!
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