Advent Week 2: Waiting for Peace

ADVT02 “Peace” by Stushie

Another tough week. A week of violence and revelations of violence and of just how deep the violence of the so-called good people of the world runs.

Thankfully the same scripture that instructs us to seek and receive peace, which seems so far removed from our world right now, also discourages us from faking it, from pretending the wounds aren’t so bad and spouting nonsense about peace when there is no peace. We of all people should trust neither in political promises of security nor in our innate collective goodness to one another to eventually win out. The kind of peace we can drum up ourselves doesn’t require waiting.  It tends toward immediate gratification (taking whatever pacifies our desires)  or mollification (caving in to other’s illegitimate demands) or diversion – gorging our senses to overwhelm our sensitivity to one another’s needs, eating to the point where we can no longer imagine starvation, turning up our own personal soundtracks so we don’t hear the suffering of others, looking at anything as long as it is away.

The sense of shalom peace that courses throughout the words of Genesis and Jeremiah and Jesus entails relational wholeness. None of us can achieve that kind of peace alone. It has nothing to do with getting away from it all and everything to do with assuming rightful places within a righted all. It is a peace we receive from drawing near to a God who would suffer the violence of birth and death to be with us. It is a peace we seek for our cities and neighbors as we strive to do right by one another.

from “Here on Earth”

The old man living
In his rented room
Grows lonely as the night comes on
Especially in winter

And the boy shooting drugs
On the tenement roof
Is lonely whether or not
He has companions

Lovers lie sleeping
Side by side
A wilderness between them

And their unborn infant
Is already alone
So soon to be discarded
Even as he begins
Unfolding in the womb
Of his lonely mother

Because the scatterer
Has overtaken us
Betraying promises
Estranging lovers

Tearing us inwardly
And tearing us apart
One from another

And this is why
Those of us who are sated
Find it so easy to ignore
Those of us who are starving

And why we have been known
To torture one another
Why there are times
When we are far more cruel
Than the animals.

Nevertheless
Taken all together
Or taken one by one
We are the holiest
Of all earth’s creatures

For he who kindled
The fire of the sun
He who draws out the tender leaves
From the dark twigs of winter

He who has whittled
A cabin for the snail
Has also carved our names
In the palm of his hand

And he became a child
The better to be near us
Born in the wintertime
Born on a journey….

– by Anne Porter, from Living Things: Collected Poems (New Hampshire: Steerforth Press, 2006), p. 124.

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Advent Week 1: Waiting with Hope

advent week 1 (2)

It’s been a bad week to be told to wait.

An especially frustrating – even demeaning – time to be told to wait for justice, for the world to be set right, that things will get better, things which are not entirely in our hands to fix, things that can only truly change through some odd and mystical combination of patience and systemic upheaval, accountability and radical forgiveness, quiet and cataclysm.

Waiting with hope is the antithesis of an escapism. Waiting with hope does not mean blithely ignoring or submitting to the status quo, but walking humbly enough to find oneself in the company of those most deeply threatened by it, who have no choice but to wait, because their lives depend on others acting justly. That’s deeply unsettling when you think about it: living at one another’s mercy. We all do it, but it’s a gamble with blatantly rigged odds. Sadly we don’t extend kindness or even the benefit of the doubt with anything resembling equality and no one is under any illusion that we can rectify that overnight. And so we wait, but in the hope that justice will be established, that power will protect the powerless, that the starving will have their fill of good things. We wait with those who wait. “You’re tired. But everyone’s tired./ But no one is tired enough.” So…

Wait

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

 – Galway Kinnell

from Selected Poems. © Houghton Mifflin, 1983