Faith calls us to rise up out of the swamps of life and be God’s family
As a parent, God must be weary with warring children, children who don’t listen to each other and don’t want to understand one another, children who don’t love and respect one another.
On the personal level, it’s sibling rivalry in varying degrees. On the community level, it’s different groups vying for the attention of others. In the faith community, we are divided and segregated. In the business world, firms gobble each other up and redistribute wealth to the greedy few.
In social media and daily life, it’s about bullying and excluding people. On the state and national levels, extremist views gain in media popularity polls. In the world, we are still at war. One person’s perspective of right is another person’s perspective of wrong. In nature, it’s land grabs. In the sports of life, it’s a game of win or lose.
Those realities hardly jive with the 1970s Sesame Street song “Sisters and Brothers” by Stephen Lawrence and Bruce Hart: “Sisters and brothers, brothers and sisters, ain’t we everyone....Ain’t we lucky, everybody, lookin’ out for one another...”
Are we looking out for one another?
Songs can help give us visions of how things are to be. Songs can help us awaken from our bad habits. Songs empowered the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Songs can instill hope enabling us to act.
The many hymns—old and new—give words to our faith with rhythms and tunes that help us remember.
Songs can lift us out of sorrow. When I was at the seventh assembly of the World Council of Churches in Canberra, Australia, in 1991, I knew I was going home to perhaps no home, facing divorce from my husband who was a pastor. It would have been a time to leave the church. I could not sing the hymns and songs. They rang hollow. They did not speak of my experience.
Songs, however, are central to the soul of any World Council of Churches assembly, which gathers 4,000 Christians from around the world. Many songs were not familiar to me in my tradition. Many songs were in other languages. While I could not sing the words in my language, English, I could sing them in another language, because I did not have to think about whether I meant them or they were true to my faith at that moment.
The Assembly theme was “Come, Holy Spirit, Renew the Whole Creation.” I believe that by being able to sing those songs without having to think, the Holy Spirit could be at work on my soul in pain. Those songs are now an important part of my faith pilgrimage today.
At that global gathering, we talked about and shared in each other’s pain about how world relationships were faltering. The Iraq war was on. We heard each other’s stories of hunger, hatred, refugees, racism, slavery and inequities. The global anguish divided people, yet the delegates called for unity as in the 1982 Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry convergence document, calling for mutual recognition of baptism, Eucharist and ministry—areas in which churches are often most divided.
The statement, “The Unity of the Church: Gift and Calling,” said the Church’s calling “is to proclaim reconciliation and provide healing, to overcome divisions based on race, gender, age, culture, color and to bring all people into communion with God. Because of sin and the misunderstanding of the diverse gifts of the Spirit, the churches are painfully divided within themselves and among each other. The scandalous divisions damage the credibility of their witness to the world in worship and service. Moreover, they contradict not only the Church’s witness but also its very nature.”
Our faith calls us to more than our everyday slogging in the swamps of life. Our faith calls us to pick ourselves up again, to forgive our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and enemies. Our faith requires reconciliation because we are “brothers and sisters, looking out for one another.”
Mary Stamp - Editor
Copyright © February 2016 - The Fig Tree