West Side Story

by | Jul 25, 2016 | West District Web Page

Recently, I was listening to a press briefing in response to an act of hatred and hurt. Those speaking referenced both the biblical character of Job as well as the prayer of St. Francis in their comments. It reminded me that words of our faith tradition remain important, especially in times of uncertainty.

This truth pointed me toward a conviction in my heart that the church is as important now as it has even been, or maybe it is needed now as much as it has ever been. We can contemplate brokenness in the world and not respond with absolutes but with unconditional love. We seek to fathom unspeakable anger and yet point to the unfathomable grace of God. We need not be defined by fear but by faith.

Please receive these words of grace for your journey:

“Jesus’ agonizing encounters with fear and abandonment in the garden and on the cross give hope to the rest of us, for ultimately Abba did not abandon him. Peter learned the importance of a prayerful retreat in those days of waiting in the Upper Room before Pentecost. And each experience of imprisonment for Peter surely must have called him to a more prayerful union with the crucified and risen Jesus.
“In our own time, we have the testimony of countless heroes of faith for whom a prayerful, intimate relationship with Abba, Jesus, and the Spirit carried them through raging storms. In their prison journals, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Etty Hillesum, Phil Berrigan, and John Dear speak convincingly of the power of prayer and love to overcome the power of fear. Gandhi courageously walked alone as a disarming presence of love into the incredible violence between Hindus and Muslims in the villages of India in 1946–47 because he was convinced that Jesus walked with him. Certainly the lives of Ita Ford, Maura Clark, Jean Donovan, and Dorothy Kazel—the four religious women assassinated in El Salvador in 1980 because they dared to live in solidarity with the oppressed Salvadoran people—confirm the power of prayer and love to overcome fear and domination. Placing ourselves in the presence of Abba, Jesus, and the Spirit of love allows us to confidently embark each day on the journey from fear to love.”
—James McGinnis, “Go Out into the Deep,” Weavings

Fear can arise out of pain and hurt and can even motivate words and actions of hate. It can never, my friends, define us as children of God, as bearers of the name of the Resurrected One, or as witnesses of grace.

God continues to churn within each of us in surprising ways. God in Christ Jesus loves us to holy excess. God speaks into our lives in every breath of the Spirit. And God is the only One who defines us. I look forward to our continued journey, and I thank God for each of you as you serve in the name of the Fearless One.

(2 Thessalonians 3:16)

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Author: Carla Whitmire

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