Sunday, May 17, 2009

Deliver us

I feel like Miriam today.

A variety of forces have been at work on me this week, bringing me through a difficult season and into a new peace. It culminated this morning at church: my choir outdid themselves; our larger community baptized Owen into the faith; we celebrated our graduates. We sang "Come, Lord Jesus--send us your Spirit; renew the face of the earth" and "Jesus loves me: this I know." And Wonderful Colleague drenched us (homiletically speaking) with great, dripping buckets of grace. He quoted two other wise souls, in so doing:

The arc of history is bent toward justice. --Martin Luther King, Jr.

The arc of the gospel is bent toward inclusion. --Walter Brueggemann

And so, it was a strange time for this phrase to jump out and smack me on the forehead while we prayed:

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Deliver us. Whatever it takes. Whether or not we know how much we need it.

Deliverance sometimes comes in a pillar of fire or a parting of the waves. More often, though, it's a messy, protracted business--often arriving just as we are truly tiring of the company of its advance party, Mssrs. Discomfort and Doubt.

Deliverance can be as sensational as a near-drowning, or as mundane as our pesky brother Moses continually clearing his throat in the corner of the room. But one thing is constant: it's born of a truth that insists on being heard, whether we really want to deal with it or--most likely-- not.

Deliverance comes when we muster the courage to bear witness to deep truth: by telling, by hearing, by doing. By not bowing down to our assumptions, especially when they exist to keep other people safely classifiable and under our control.

Like many of you, I've been blessed and privileged to bear witness to Cecilia's journey over the last year or so. This extraordinary woman has had a big week, coming out to her congregation and basically everyone she knows. And now she has been delivered from the burden of secrecy and some fear of the unknown, born into a new understanding of God's love and her own courage. Her congregation has likewise been delivered (whether or not they all know it yet) as she has invited them to a take another look at her, and at what they truly believe about the core meaning of life in the body of Christ.

In the last week, I, too, have been delivered from an aspect of anger and fear. It hasn't been as dramatic as Cecilia's story, but hey, any true deliverance is gracious and powerful. God kept on gently (and finally, more Professor Dumbledore's mugs of butterbeer knocking at the Dursley's heads when they rudely refused his hospitality) prodding me to take a deeper look at a couple of challenging situations in my life. It was uncomfortable. Some repentance was required of me. That's well and good. Because I, too, have been just a little bit more fully delivered now, having inched farther along the arc of justice and inclusion in my own life. It isn't dramatic. It's incremental and incomplete, but it's real.

I often ask my choir, as I did today, to make arcs of melody that have an origin, a sweep, a peak and a falling away...arcs that sometimes intersect and hold the music aloft like this. The sweep and swoosh of the arcs are moments of fullest life: of awareness and, sometimes, of deliverance--whether you're the singer or the listener.

I'm awed.

I'm grateful to God for the unending canticle of deliverance, and pray that we may all continue to listen for it, and to try, as much as we can, to sing it in tune.


Songbird said...

I love the way your thoughts bend.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Blessings on you with this healing / deliverance.

FranIAm said...

This is a beautiful post, filled with grace.

Just like you!

Katherine E. said...


Cecilia said...

Dear one, I'd love to hear your story of deliverance.

Isn't it amazing?

Pax, C.