Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We Are All Witnesses

As those who know me will attest, I am a hoops junky. I am never happier than when I'm in the midst of a heated basketball game, especially when my jump shot is falling! I've been playing for more than 40 years, and though my game no longer takes place at the rim – not even in the same zip code, alas – I love playing now perhaps even more than when I was a kid. Playing is one of my most important spiritual disciplines: sacred hoops, as it were.

When I can't play, I am happy to watch. We lived in Chicago during the Jordan years, and I recall each of the six championships the Bulls won in those days. But I'm no basketball snob. I'll watch the pros happily, but I'm just as content watching my son's high school rec league team. I simply love hoops.

So, you can imagine the way I felt Sunday afternoon when the time to head down to Lafayette Park for the interfaith peace witness came, and I had to leave in the middle of the seventh and deciding game of the NBA playoff series between the storied Celtics of Boston and Lebron James' Cleveland Cavs. Let's just say, I left feeling duty-bound and obliged to show up, but not filled with any joy or inspiration.

But, since I had the official permit from the park police and a trunk full of rocks, I pretty much had to go.

And, yet again, my own heart was filled and spirits lifted simply by being there with a dozen or so faithful witness determined to remember the dead, and witness to the truth that we are called to build a future in which such memorials will no longer be necessary. We gathered in the park, sang, prayed, read the names of those American service men and women who have been killed since our April witness and laid stones at the White House fence. It was, as it always is, simple and powerful.

In what at first struck me as an unrelated vein, a member of my congregation at Clarendon was wondering aloud on Sunday morning why it is that we continue to give money to the national More Light Presbyterians and the Covenant Network of Presbyterians when year after year they seem to move the church no closer to their stated goals of changing the denomination's constitutional barriers to ordination of partnered gay and lesbian people of faith thus to create a church as generous and just as God's grace.

My answer to that question is the same as my answer to why continue to show up month after month in front of a White House that has no intention of ending a senseless war and imperial occupation: because we are witnesses. It is vital that power be watched, and that there be witnesses to history. What is not witnessed will be forgotten. What is forgotten will be repeated. While that is true for the unfolding events of history, there is a related truth concerning the faith that sustains us through history: if we do not witness to that faith, it will be forgotten. If it is forgotten, it will not be repeated; it will be lost.

We are faithful, in this regard and in this historical moment, precisely to the extent to which we live into our calling to be peacemakers. In this, we are all witnesses.

Hm … we are all witnesses. I believe that is the tagline for a Lebron James' ad for Nike. I knew there had to be some deep connection between hoops and peace!

The next Lafayette Park witness will be Sunday, June 15, at 6:00 p.m. – probably just in time for a seventh game of the NBA Finals! One more reason for me to hate this war and occupation.

If you'd like to help plan the June witness, please send me a note. I'd like to get together on Friday, May 30, perhaps at Busboys & Poets in Shirlington.

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