Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

September 27, 2022 — Light from Light

One of my favorite experiences of the church has been writing songs for our Sunday meetings, and I’ve been honored to see how they’ve circulated in our community. Translating the poetry of Scripture and the church mothers and fathers into music is a meditative act for me, and I hope that you can get a sense of that this week. — Andrew Yang

Today’s Bible reading

Who, being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

        even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-11

More Thoughts for Meditation:

https://circleofhopeaudioart.bandcamp.com/track/light-from-light

Take on our eyes and our hands and our feet

Cry with our lungs and the air that we breathe

The things that we were, and we are, and we do

They are now holy cause you did them too

 

Light from Light, God from God

Flesh like ours, breath and blood 

I wrote “Light from Light” for an Advent season when I was tired of singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” every week (Although “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is still objectively the best Advent or Christmas song). “Light from Light” draws on imagery from the Nicene Creed, a statement of faith from the 4th century:

  God from God,

        Light from Light,

        true God from true God,

   begotten, not made;

   of the same essence as the Father.

   Through him all things were made.

   For us and for our salvation

        he came down from heaven;

        he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,

        and was made human.

The Nicene Creed is some top-class poetry in my opinion. But the beauty of the creed isn’t in the high mindedness of phrases like “God from God, Light from Light.” God is big and grand and that’s all well and good, but that’s not the point of the creed or the mystery of the incarnation. The point is in that understated line at the end: “[he] was made human.”

St. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote: “That which is not taken up is not healed. That which is united to God, that will be saved.”

St. Gregory was refuting a 4th century heresy that said that God only took on parts of humanity when God became human. St. Gregory’s response is that God came to save us by becoming us, and in order to save all us, God had to take on all of what makes us, us. Otherwise, not all of us would be saved.

I did my best to reflect this idea in the final verse of Light from Light:

The things that we were, and we are, and we do

They are now holy cause you did them too

Suggestions for action

It is literal heresy to believe that any part of what makes you, you, is not shared by God through Jesus, and therefore made holy.

Because of this, any ordinary human act can be imbued with holiness, if we take the time to see it that way. In recognizing that even ordinary things that we do, eating, breathing, talking, relating to one another, are acts we share with God “by whom all things were made,” we can bring the beauty of the incarnation into our whole lives. Even more, we can recognize that the people around us are involved in sacred acts of their own, and remember that in his humanity, Jesus unites us to God and to each other.

September 26, 2022 — Psalm 139

One of my favorite experiences of the church has been writing songs for our Sunday meetings, and I’ve been honored to see how they’ve circulated in our community. Translating the poetry of Scripture and the church mothers and fathers into music is a meditative act for me, and I hope that you can get a sense of that this week. — Andrew Yang

Today’s Bible reading

You have searched me, Lord,

    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

    you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

    you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,

    and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

    too lofty for me to attain.

Psalm 139:1-6

More thoughts for meditation

https://music.circleofhope.net/songs/detail/1060

Lord, you search me and you know me,

You know when I rest and I rise,

All my thoughts to you are open

You see through my disguise

You have made us  for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts, they are restless until (they rest in you)

This song based on Psalm 139 is drawn from a responsive litany that pairs Psalm 139 with a quote from Book I of St. Augustine’s Confessions.

St. Augustine writes, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” The quote pairs so well with the Psalm, which is about the very same idea — that God has made us with intention, and God holds us to Godself with that same intention. 

As an Asian American and a child of immigrants, I’ve often felt out of place and a lack of belonging, whether it’s because of food, or language, or the shape of my eyes, or just broadly the fact that I often feel transplanted to wherever I am. I’m never assumed to belong. For me, the idea that I was knit together, that I am held close, that I am known completely, isn’t an idea that comes intuitively. Instead I always feel the restless need to explain myself. 

Suggestions for action

The idea that God has made us for Godself has a special resonance for me. I think it should hold a special resonance to anyone who feels out of place, but especially BIPOC, LGTBQIA+, and disabled folks, where it often feels impossible to rest because the powers-that-be are always making us justify our existence to them. In the face of that, it’s a matter of survival to remind ourselves that God knit us together with purpose and delight from the beginning, that God is with us whether we’re close or far, that God sees us even shrouded in darkness. I’ve found that it’s when rest feels most impossible that it’s most important to repeat to myself the truth that’s found in Psalm 139, that Augustine used to describe God’s pull on his life.

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts, they are restless until they rest in you.

September 25, 2022 — Unity and Polarization

Andre Henry is a musician, an author, and an activist. This week we’ll be journeying through his book “All The White Friends I Couldn’t Keep.” It has been circling through our community for the last few months. Here, you can listen to two members of our Leadership Team relate its content to our church’s struggle against racism. Let’s prayerfully read through his prophetic work this week.

Today’s Bible reading

The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other.  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.  (1 Corinthians 12:24-27)

More thoughts for meditation

“In their book This Is an Uprising, movement historians Mark and Paul Engler argue that polarization is essential to effective nonviolent movements for social progress: “By taking an issue that is hidden from common view and putting it at the center of public debate, disruptive protest forces observers to decide which side they are on.” When the Freedom Riders performed their own illegal integrated bus rides and the national press published news of the violent mobs who attacked them for it, white Americans had to face the question: are you on the side of your neighbors trying to peacefully ride the bus or on the side of the vicious mob attacking them? Once people have chosen a side they’re more likely to take action that’s consistent with their position. Polarization can be crucial to a winning strategy.

This doesn’t mean we should just throw unity out the window altogether. A certain kind of unity is important. We do need to be united for the purpose of jamming the gears of the white power structure through nonviolent struggle. We need unity in our vision of tomorrow, unity in what strategies we’ll use to realize that vision, and unity in what values will guide our work as we fight. But we don’t need the fetish for the idea of racial harmony that’s so popular in white America. We seek unity not for its own sake but for a purpose.

When Dr. King talked about people coming together in his “I Have a Dream” speech, it was for the purpose of engaging in disruptive nonviolent campaigns. He says, “With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.” White people are out here quoting the “together” part and leaving out the part about “struggling” and “going to jail.”

To see what “unity for struggle” looks like in practice, let’s stick with one the most famous protests Dr. King was involved in: the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Unity played a central role in the success of that campaign. Ninety percent of Montgomery’s Black citizens stopped riding the bus. They also organized a carpool to get protesters to and from work. And their unified actions dealt a major blow to systemic racism, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled racial discrimination in public transportation unconstitutional. That’s unity for struggle in action. It’s important to note that the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott didn’t depend on convincing white people to “come to the table” and sing “Kumbaya The Black community needed unity among themselves, so they could act collectively.
The same is true in all struggles for social progress. We primarily need unity with those who are working toward the same goal.” (Andre Henry, All The White Friends I Couldn’t Keep, Convergent, 2022, p. 187-189

Suggestions for action

Can you appreciate the difference between unity that Andrew Henry is describing? When we have the same goals, unity is essential and division is deadly. But if we have much different goals, unity is counter to our mission and goals. We are working to get people to unite against racism. Let us consider Paul’s words above, that we can achieve unity when we elevate and honor those we have dishonored. Elevating their voices is essential to our goals, our unity, and for them not to leave our church too.

September 24, 2022 — White Saviors

Andre Henry is a musician, an author, and an activist. This week we’ll be journeying through his book “All The White Friends I Couldn’t Keep.” It has been circling through our community for the last few months. Here, you can listen to two members of our Leadership Team relate its content to our church’s struggle against racism. Let’s prayerfully read through his prophetic work this week.

Today’s Bible reading

Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
        he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honored him
        and gave him a name above all names,
    so that at the name of Jesus everyone
        in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
        and every tongue confess
            that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Philippians 2:5-11)

More thoughts for meditation

“If white people are serious about fighting white supremacy and anti-Blackness, they need to start within themselves. This kind Of work is essential because without it, white people will enter movement spaces and cause the same kinds of harm Black people are trying to get away from. They need to confront the ways they’ve been shaped by anti-Black ideas and been complicit in defending the racial hierarchy. They need to dedicate themselves to the work of fighting against racism in their own communities, instead of rushing straight into spaces where Black people are trying to heal and organize for our own freedom.

White people should consider how they can organize for racial justice in ways that give Black people space: space where we’re free from the pressure to educate them, perform for them, or coddle them. One option is for white people to join non-Black ally movement groups that work in parallel with Black-led organizations and are accountable to trusted Black leaders: White People for Black Lives (WP4BL) or Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), for instance. White people who really get it understand that such space is necessary.

Finally, white people should stop self-designating themselves as allies in the struggle for Black freedom. It’s Black people’s prerogative to name our allies when we recognize them, and not a moment sooner. We determine what’s helpful to us. People who are serious about working alongside us will consider our feedback about how their presence is being received and adjust their approach where appropriate. Folks who act as though any feedback is a sign of ingratitude can stay home. We don’t need saviors. We need people who understand the subtle ways white supremacy and anti-Blackness control white people’s behavior and who want to be free of their influence. As artist and activist Lilla Watson once said, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” (Andre Henry, All The White Friends I Couldn’t Keep, Convergent, 2022, p. 163-165

Suggestions for action

For those of us who aren’t Black, we must seek alliance with Black folks, but at their own designation and in humble submission toward them. Too often, white folks think they can use their privilege to advance antiracism in ways their Black counterparts can’t. They condescend when they reflect on Black rage as understandable, but not useful. When they think they can be more gracious than Black folks, they actual advance racism. So let us try to change our posture to humble listening, even when it is uncomfortable for us.

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