Only half of us stood up, and that was because we couldn’t reach each other to be able to hold hands otherwise. The other half of the room stayed seated. I looked down at my toes, initially wondering if my clammy palms would be noticeable to the women on my left and right.
But then, looking at my flip flops and the sandals of the women on either side of me, and then the various shoes of those around the room, (not that I was peaking during the prayer) I immediately flashed back to several years ago in the mountains of Nicaragua. We were in a small church in Matagalpa at the end of a Sunday morning service, and the congregation was praying for us and us for them. I remembered during that prayer too, holding hands and sweating, looking down at all those toes. Shoes were pointed toward each other making a makeshift circle, hands held, prayers offered for one another and those not even present.
Tonight, our circle joined that circle years ago in Matagalpa. It will join the circles of the generations to follow as it joins the circles of generations past. It joins the circles and sweaty palms of my friends in Cape Town, England, Korea, China, Seattle, Texas, Atlanta, Spain, and the globe over. Our sweaty palms and pointed toes join each others as we look over the words of those who tried their hardest to follow Christ early on and ask what it means to follow him now. Our sweaty palms and pointed toes join each others as we work to learn what it means to hold onto truth, push the boundaries of hospitality, ask the questions of justice, and pray the words of hope.
Sweaty palms and pointed toes. There’s little magical about it, and yet it’s in these small circles that the world is changed.
The world is changed even as we are looking at our toes.
Pine Tree Dr.
were asked to
against the ways that things are
and toward the way that things should be
in the kingdom
in the beloved community
in the new ecology
of a world and
of a community where
rich and poor
sick and well
like and unlike
loud and quiet
important and ignored
sing together and
And while we are still so far behind
we have moved so far ahead
of where we have been
and only a few moments of remembering
will give us the wisdom and the humility
to pray to God–our only hope–that we will keep moving forward
faster and surer than the ways we are pulled to move backward
and we will remember
in our trepidation and
in our eagerness for
things to stay the same
that we are descendants of a long line
of hope-holders and
And now is not the time for stillness.
We watch as the jets fly in with the power people and the money people, the suits, the budgets, the billions.
We wonder about monetary policy because we are among the haves, and about generosity because we care about the have-nots.
By slower modes we notice Lazarus and the poor arriving from Africa, and the beggars from Central Europe, and the throng of environmentalists with their vision of butterflies and oil of flowers and tanks of growing things and killing fields.
We wonder about peace and war, about ecology and development, about hope and entitlement.
We listen beyond jeering protesters and soaring jets and faintly we hear the mumbling of the crucified one, something about feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, about clothing the naked, and noticing the prisoners, more about the least and about holiness among them.
We are moved by the mumbles of the gospel, even while we are tenured in our privilege.
We are half ready to join the choir of hope, half afraid things might change, and in a third half of our faith turning to you, and your outpouring love that works justice and that binds us each and all to one another.
So we pray amid jeering protesters and soaring jets. Come by here and make new, even at risk to our entitlements.
+ Walter Brueggeman, “The Noise of Politics”
from Prayers for a Privileged People