Today, if you hear his voice

Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

Month: April 2017

Palm Sunday at Midnight in Washington DC

Washington DC is not solely responsible for the numbed-out, gotta-buy-my happiness-and-can’t, bickering-by-default, coercive domination we all suffer as 21st century human beings. Our despair about the way the world is going wasn’t born in the Capitol building, but it is a big bright target in the skyline of our thinking and feeling that is worth some of our spiritual energy. (Other targets include Wall Street, wherever the pornography mecca is, and the Executive Offices of Time-Warner)

praying at the capitol in Washington DC

Jerome Stafford, one of our pastors, leads in porayer

When Jesus went to Jerusalem back in 33 AD (or whenever) he was finally showing himself to the authorities after building a movement that he thought could survive what was about to happen next. On Palm Sunday he rode into Jerusalem to say to that powers, “Here I am!”

We went to one of our seats of powers and made a house of prayer there. Adapting one of our favorites from the Psalters, five us sang on the Capitol steps, “Many are those who pray, crying out at midnight in Your name./And You, Oh Lord, are a shield to all who suffer/Give us our daily bread/Rise up, Lord. Rise up! And deliver us from all that oppresses.”

For me, this tune has always been charged with the full circuit breaker of my conviction, yet somehow, now that it’s been channeled through this experience of praying on the Capitol steps at midnight, it is even more electrifying.

Jane and Scott Clinton were staying with friends near DC, so they were the first to join my cause. One friend who was supposed to come with me wasn’t able to, so I went to 1125 S. Broad Street as their 7pm meeting ended to find a replacement. Gift Koama lived up to his name and said, “I love adventures.” Then Jerome Stafford called me and said, “Don’t leave without me!” It was a bona fide road trip!

MLK Memorial Mountain of despair

The moon from the “mountain of despair” at the MLK memorial

We got to DC in time to make a quick pilgrimage to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, something I’ve wanted to do since they built it 6 years ago. It was like a warm up for my heart. The “mountain of despair” we exited through was very appropriate. Washington is the source of much despair, but we are a circle of hope!

We went to the steps and found Jane and Scott, then we prayed that the people who worked their would find ways toward peace and mutuality. We prayed for impossible things because that’s what hope and prayer are for. It was invigorating.

I bring you back my hope in these words we read from Colossians Remixed

“In the face of the empire
in the face of presumptuous claims to sovereignty
in the face of the imperial and idolatrous
forces of our lives
Christ is before all things
he is sovereign in life
not pimped dreams of global market
not the idolatrous forces of nationalism
not the insatiable desires of consumerist
culture”

Christ is before all things. Christ is all and is in all. He was in us as we prayed on the steps. He is in you as you read this post. He is in those who work at the Capitol. Yes even in that broken system. But He is sovereign over it. All things have been placed under his feet and he loves us and serves us from that place of power. The powers in Washington will never wield their authority like Christ, but we, as a circle of hope, will. We have power to grasp how wide and deep is the love of Christ, and death has been disempowered over us. So we face the seat of empire with Jesus unafraid and full of hope.

Come to 3800 Marlton Pike tonight at 7pm for the anointing at Bethany! Full details at circleofhope.net/holyweek

The Drums of War Beat Me into the Bible

When I was a freshman in college, terrorists high-jacked planes and flew them into The World Trade Center buildings in New York City. I was newly baptized and thus minted a new man, and newly immersed in the Christian subculture at Eastern University in St. David’s, PA. I was dismayed by my classmates response to what happened that first month of school. The drums of war beat me into the Bible. I poured through the New and Old Testament with a red ball point pen, underlining and exclamation pointing every call to peacemaking and justice I could find (and there are sooo many). Every amateur just war theologian in my Philosophy class inspired me to get the facts. I was building an argument, sharpening my spear, shouting a lot.

Che of Nazareth

Jesus is much more than Che of Nazareth

I don’t hate the zealotry of that young man in the early aughts. I learned the Bible well. I fell in love with it as my guide for life. Though I often painted Jesus as more Che of Nazareth, I was relating to him and wrestling with how to follow him with my whole life. The struggle led me to Mexico for a year of service with the Mennonite Central Committee. The spiritual intensity of that year has not been rivaled in the decade and a half since, but when I read my journals my immaturity makes me squirm. Or it might just be how glaringly naive I was. I am, to this day, a big proponent of my own naivete. I’ve owned my unswerving optimism as a strength even when it requires more resilience when my big hopes are often dashed. The intervening years of struggle and failure (AKA life) give me a much more nuanced perspective on almost everything. But what I learned in a tiny church on the edge of giant Mexico City holds true. Jesus was a revolutionary and his weapon was love. 

My sojourn in Mexico resulted in, among many other things, my sense of calling to lead the Church. I went knowing that I was a leader, but I was leaning toward leading the nonviolent political revolution that would bring about a new age of peace and justice. I came back from Mexico knowing that the transformation of the world would come person by person, heart by heart. I saw the violence of my own political zealotry as a supposed peacemaker and wanted more for myself. I wanted more for the world. I still do.

The drums of war keep beating. The news from Syria this week is deadening. We need more for ourselves. The “red line” of chemical weapons is such a low bar. I feel beaten back and discouraged. Those underlined red verses are coming back to me. The Bible that made me a Jesus follower is still a real comfort to me. The promises of peace, of life beyond death, of grace are new again. They are new every time I need them; and I need them every time I read the news. THIS is the world we live in. It hasn’t changed much in my entire adult life (which I know is relatively short). Anything better than this will only be slightly better in the hands of those in power.

So I invest in a kingdom that is not of this world. I show the powers that there is a greater power. Some are beating their chests to police the world. Jesus was beaten and killed to save the world. And then God beat back death! The American state won’t save me, only Jesus will. May the drums of war keep beating back to this peace. May you find refuge in THIS promise.

On Palm Sunday, I’m going to Washington DC at midnight to stand on the Capitol steps if the authorities will let me, to be at the source of those war drums and deliver Christ’s message of peace again. I’ve been there before to say no to war, but this time I’ll be saying “yes” to Jesus. I’m going to pray on behalf of Circle of Hope but it’s personal for me as well. I’ll say “This is who I am now, American Power. I’ve changed, but God hasn’t. Jesus’ peace can be yours too. Join us!”

Would you like to join us? I have a few spots in my car. Email me, comment, or sign up here, to be sent to the powers to show them who we are in Christ and that his kingdom is not of this world.