Friday, June 20, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
We were engaged in a walking prayer because, in this month’s twist on the rules that govern the space in front of the White House, the guards informed us that we could not stand still in the space between the two light posts between which the White House is centered. Of course, the entire time we were walking back and forth one group of young tourists stood anchored to the spot directly in the center of the space. But they were not gathered to exercise any Constitutionally protected rights, so they were not doing anything – the landscape was not disturbed by their loitering.
Nevertheless, the landscape is changing. While I would not presume to suggest that we’ve played any part in any such change, I can say that the powers that be notice our gathering each month (and hassle us accordingly).
This time around, only a handful of us gathered to share in prayer and song, to lift up the names of the dead and to remember the victims of torture and abuse. But the power of the witness itself far exceeds the numbers of those who stand quietly to worship in the spirit of truth and recite a liturgy of remembrance.
Liturgy – literally the work of the people – is a strange kind of work for it does not aim to accomplish anything. There are dozens of distinctive definitions and uses of the word “work” and they all include some notion of purpose or necessity, of outcome or effect, of shaping, forming or improving, of cultivating or influencing, provoking or fermenting, of moving or making.
In some sense, I suppose, our work of witnessing does aim to move and shape and influence, but on a deeper level our liturgy aims at nothing other than standing before God precisely as God’s own work, as those moved, shaped, and formed by God. Our liturgy is simply to be who we have been created to be: children of God, in other words, the ones Jesus called peacemakers. Our witness is simply to stand as peacemakers and trust that God is working in us and through us to change the landscape.
Sunday evening, as we gathered in a circle in Lafayette Park, we set a small pile of stones on top of a larger rock that I brought home from Montreat last Saturday. It had been used – blessed, I would say – during the closing worship of the partners of Christian Peace Witness for Iraq. Each of us brought a stone to that service and placed it in the center of our circle as a mark of the promises we were making to one another to continue participating in the work of the Spirit of peace.
We will continue that work in DC next month on Sunday, July 20, at 6:00 p.m. I hope that you can join us.