Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Stones Themselves

I'm happy to report that no one got arrested this evening, but I believe the days for that may lie ahead. More than 100 folks showed up this evening to witness for peace in front of the White House. It was a spirited gathering, and that spirit is what leads me to believe that the days for disobedience lie ahead.
In any case, here's the text we used this evening, followed by my brief remarks.
Luke 19.35-45 -- Then they brought the colt to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’

I want to share a few words spoken forty years ago by Dr. King in his famous call to break silence concerning Vietnam. King said, “The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.”
Those words are just a true today as they were when King spoke them to the Riverside Church in New York. As we stand here in front of the White House, witnessing for the peace we yearn to experience, we do so in the same spirit King invoked.
A few weeks ago, when the call came to continue the witness begun last March at the Cathedral, a few of us got together. As we talked, we shared our mutual disappointment that the voice of the church – so clear and strong in opposition to the war before it began – had become so tamed, so timid, so tepid, as the war drags on.
I think Jesus would long since have turned to the stones to cry out, because we, his followers, have been effectively silenced.
Last March, we broke that silence, and tonight, in places across the nation, we are echoing that silence-shattering call for an end to the war and the occupation.
It’s been a difficult week, and precisely that difficulty makes what we do here tonight all the more important.
Rick Ufford-Chase, the director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and one of the conveners of the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, sent out an e-mail a couple of days ago noting the darkness of these days.
He quoted Archbishop Oscar Romero, who, shortly before he was martyred, said, “try not to simply depend on hope, because unfulfilled hope leads to despair, and we have no need of despairing people. Try instead to be faithful.”
We are here tonight, not out of some false hope that our showing up in front of the White House is going to somehow change the policies that emanate from that building. We are not so naïve as that.
But neither are we despairing, because we come here with a deep and profound faith that the God who is Lord of history desires shalom. By our simple witness this evening we give voice to that deep desire for peace.
We do so tonight by taking up the long tradition of using stones to mark and remember, and we do so in the tradition of the prophet, Habakkuk (2:8-11), whose words we heard a few minutes ago. The Lord told Habakkuk to “write the vision; make it plain on tablets.”
Give it voice; make it clear; let the people understand. That’s what we’re doing tonight with these simple stones. So give it voice, make it clear, and let the people understand:
What do we want?
When do we want it?
Our permit is for a prayer liturgy … wouldn’t it be a shame if a rally broke out?
Actually, liturgy means, literally, the work of the people. I submit to you that the work of the people of faith is peacemaking. It’s not always quiet work. Sometimes it sounds like a rally; often it’s messy and noisy; usually it involves breaking silence; always it involves faithfully standing in the public square speaking the truth in love.
But it’s not just the truth in love, it’s that the truth is love.
Just as war is a poor chisel for carving a peaceful tomorrow, hate can never carve a space for love, nor can it ever speak truth.
Tonight, as we carry stones across this park and place them at the gates of power, we do so trusting that love will cast out all fear – even that deep fear casting such a pall over our time.
That trust is the mark of our faithfulness, and, to the extent that we dare to hope, that faith is the ground of our hope. That though the wrong seems oft so strong, the God of love and justice is the ruler yet. That though truth stumbles these days in the public square, ultimately we shall know the truth and it shall set us free from the lies that lead to war. That though the arc of the moral universe seems sometimes so very long, it does bend toward justice and to God’s shalom.
It is our work and our witness to bend it just a little further tonight.
(If you're in the DC area and would like to help continue and expand this witness, please send me a note:

1 comment:

NSP_MD said...

Thanks so much for sharing what happened at the rally last night.

I wish I had been there. I choose instead to stay till the end at Lisner Auditorium for the weekend teach-in "Confronting the Triple Crisis - Climate Change, Peak Oil, and Global Resource Depletion" where we heard about the war for oil and how we need new economic models of justice and generosity and clean energy to build peace.

I am so encouraged by your report. At the Triple Crisis conference speakers were saying we need people of faith to be involved! But we are involved as you demonstrated!

Ruth Alice from NSP in Maryland