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Africa and the Middle East
Closing Devotions following viewing of film “Judgement Day”
February 23, 2003
As we bring this first day together to an end – following the viewing of this powerful and provocative film and before we gather for the reception in Scott Hall – let us take just a few moments for reflection, to think quietly on the film and on its meaning for our life together at this dangerous moment in history – and on the urgent mission to which we have been called.
With than in mind, let us sing together hymn # 415 “Now the Silence.”
I would ask you to reflect also on your own life, the reason for your being, and on those commitments for which you are willing to live and die.
[Silence (20 seconds), followed by the piano/combo (softly) Background music continues through the meditation]
“An Invitation” – Robert Frost
I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan’t be gone long. –You come too.
No, “I shan’t be gone long.” -- only three or four days, just long enough to listen and talk, time enough to gather strength for the journey – to rake a few leaves from the pasture spring – and to stop “and wait to watch the water clear.” And perhaps – amid all the challenges that face us at this moment – to see our own reflection in the pool and ponder anew who we are and what we are about on this planet Earth.
For you know as well as I – as Eliot wrote of the barbarous desolation of the century past – that we find ourselves in a wasteland of broken bones and shattered dreams. And you know as do I, that it is not just “out there” where the causes are to be found, but “in here,” in the racism that lurks so closely, the hypocrisy, the trail of broken promises, the arrogant pretensions to virtue and wisdom. And who among us has not looked out across a landscape filled with war and betrayal and pain – and cried out with Eliot when he writes,
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?; son of man you cannot say or tell
For you know only a heap of broken images..
Or cried out with the prophet Isaiah:
Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and
I live among a people of unclean lips. (6:5ff)
A voice says, ‘Cry out,’ but what shall I cry?
All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it.
Surely the people are grass. (40:6ff)
Or with God – who addresses Ezekiel as he looks out over the valley filled with the bones of his people that have bleached white in the sun:
Son of man, can these bones live again?..
Oh dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
Or who among us, African or Palestinian, Arab or Jew, has not cried out with the Namibian church leader and freedom fighter, Zephania Kameeta, when he laments the words of the Psalmist?: (Ps. 137)
By the rivers of foreign countries we sat down as refugees;
There we wept when we remembered the land of our birth.
We stopped singing our beloved songs of liberation.
Those who are helping our enemies wanted us to sing;
They wanted us to entertain them: ‘Sing us a song about the land whence you fled.’
How can they expect us to entertain them
with our suffering and tears?
Or who among us has not cried out with Sean Callaghan, soldier in the South African Defense Force, in the film we have just witnessed: “What have we done? What have I done? Why have 11 of my friends committed suicide?”
Yet – and yet – it is precisely there, in the midst of the chaos, amid the brokenness in Africa, the Middle East, in these United States, that the word of hope is spoken, that a voice, however faintly, can be heard:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
That her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned
It is there, not in some ghetto of quietism, but for the Psalmist (Ps. 23) right at the heart of hopelessness, there “in the presence of enemies,” that a table is prepared that allows hope to be reborn.
It is there, in the midst of it all (if we are listening) that another voice can be heard, that of the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba before the assassin’s bullets cut him down:
The dawn is here, my brother! Dawn! Look in our faces,
A new morning breaks in our old Africa.
And it is there with Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian leader, as she walks with the great leader of South Africa along the rugged shores of Cape Town:
On the edge of Africa, where two oceans met and clashed, where ancient travelers feared falling off the rim of the world – I reveled in the raging storm, ..the drama of the massive waves lashing at the jagged rocks with the pent-up fury of ages. Fortified by Mandela’s calm, I walk into the storm.. ‘We have shared much more than words long before we met,’ (I said) and [we] recognized each other in the silvery glow of the storm and the warm candlelight of our communion
Hear then the voice of the prophet Isaiah – it is God’s word to all of us this week:
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings.
Lift up you voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings.
Lift it up, fear not, say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God.’
Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him;
Behold, his reward is with him and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd,
He will gather the lambs in his arms,
He will carry them in his bosom,
And gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40: 9-11)
[Conclusion of background piano/combo]
I’m going out to clear the pasture spring,
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away,
And wait to watch the water clear, I may.
I shan’t be gone long.
You come too.
Siyahamba (Siyahamba kukanyen’ kwen-kos) “We are marching in the light of God” [Second verse softly as benediction is spoken] All stand.
The Lord bless us and keep us.
The Lord’s face shine upon us and be gracious unto us.
The Lord look upon us with favor
And give us peace. Amen
Siyahamba – “We are marching in the light of God” (in program – all sing)
Paul A. Wee