“Grace is the occupying generosity of God that redefines the place.” – W. Brueggeman
I find myself in multiple conversations over this wedding weekend trip. This will be the only wedding of my brother I ever get to be a part of. Our family, those by blood and those by commitment, have gathered together as we are never really able to do in a spectacular city for an important moment.
And as in almost all holy gatherings like these, as all gatherings are likely holy but we only notice some, we find ourselves telling stories together of memories that have scaffolded our shared histories up to these moments. As many perspectives as wedding guests, stories are told over rich food and drink from years upon years of moments, all reminding us of how incredibly fortunate we are.
Children in diapers looking out windows.
Promises made and promises kept.
Phrases learned from repetition that stick years later.
Shared community homes.
Shared inside jokes.
Shared holy lives.
And in moments where we make our promises out loud in fanfare and flower-lined rooms, we are reminded that we have no ability to actually keep them even when we are acting out of our best.
And it’s in these moments, also, that we look back over shared histories from varying perspectives and realize that we have been living in an occupied place, filled with the sometimes subtle and sometimes breathtaking generosity of God. And in those moments, when we have to clench our jaws together to keep from crying out with joy because it will ruin our faces or our makeup, we own up to the holiness of grace filled lives, occupied by the generosity of God.
And we are redefined.
So we celebrate in promise and in party, knowing that a family occupied like ours is a glimpse of the kingdom breaking into earth.
Congratulations, Jamey and Emily. Looking forward to this one.
Through this day we have named your name in gladness, we have pondered the world you have called “good,” we have relished your gift and your task, and we have marveled in amazement, yet one more time, at the wonder of this Easter Jesus, who has died and is alive among us.
Now we are homeward; And when we arrive there, it will be as it was this morning, with anxiety and demand and conflict and inconvenience. Except that all things will be–yet again–made new. Make new by your spirit; make new the church where we live; make new the public reality of justice among us; make new the practice of compassion in our neighborhood; make new the surge of peace in our violent world; make new the policies of our government and the workings of the church.
Make new, and we will be in Easter joy unafraid and unweary, your glad people, carrying among us the marks of the death and the new life of Jesus in whose name we pray.
+ W. Brueggeman, “Habitat of Newness and Goodness”
from Prayers for a Privileged People
I was cleaning up around the house and found journal pages from Cape Town this past summer. Here is an entry from June 10, 2011, written while sitting in a restaurant at the V&A Waterfront. The picture is from the same restaurant, different trip. Thanks again to the friends who welcome me at the table.
Catch us up this day into the reality
of your good purpose, that by the time we leave
each other we will know – yet again – that your
mercy and justice and love outrun all the needs of the world …
… keep us simple and on task, and we will
praise you by our glad obedience.
+ Brueggeman, from “Prayer of the Church”
We fear that we’ve lost our minds, and perhaps we have.
Perhaps we’ve lost our minds and our life.
Life by community.
Broken by the reality of our own struggle against status, power, privilege.
Broken by the reality of our own struggle against dulling.
Broken by the reality of what we see for only a moment when we dare open our eyes
Those things we see in others and then become terrified to see in ourselves
Greed. Pride. Injustice. Dishonesty. Piety. Blindness. Insecurity.
Relentless protection of the status quo under the guise of protecting the church, the faith.
in the harsh reality of the present, you call us to join one another
At the table.
And slowly, as our broken pieces sit together
around warm food made by broken hands
around dim candlelight that already threatens darkness
around the giggles of children, around their questions
we begin to become whole.
Only in the context of others.
Broken hands. Threatening Darkness. Giggles and Questions.
At the table.
And for the first time in a long time
Something tells the truth, and we are made new.
Cape Town, SA
I woke up this morning to an email thrown through time-zones from a friend. Its contents immediately made my insides go from quite calm to full-on knots.
Then I put my feet on the floor and got out of bed.
I learned long ago that first thing in the morning is a time when my brain not only doesn’t process well, but it processes into worst possible scenarios. About three years ago, I stopped listening to my thoughts until post-morning shower and first cup of coffee. I forgot the discipline this morning.
Sure enough, after that shower and cup of coffee, the clouds began to part a bit, and the proverbial rainbow was an actual thing arching all the way over Table Mountain on the drive in.
And then in prayer time at The Warehouse, there was this sense for me of the great power that God has to shine on us and beyond us, making our shadows stretch larger, broader, and longer than we think of ourselves being. When standing in his light, we become aware of our strength. In our awareness of what his light does to us, on us, beyond us––we are rightly filled with courage.
In the morning, may we lean into the light with strength and courage.
… When I awoke, I found you still to be God, presiding over the day and the night with serene sovereignty, for dark and light are both alike to you.
At the break of day we submit to you our best dreams and our worst nightmares, asking that your healing mercy should override threats, that your goodness will make our nightmares less toxic and our dreams more real.
Thank you for visiting us with newness that overrides what is old and deathly among us. Come among us this day; dream us toward health and peace, we pray in the real name of Jesus who exposes our fantasies.
+ from Brueggeman’s “Dreams and Nightmares” in Prayers for a Privileged People