There is a striking moment in the Godly Play story, Exile and Return, when the story teller pauses, then drops a noisy metal chain and says, “They were in exile. The people could not go home.” Over and over again this week I have heard the “terrible sound of the metal chain striking the sand.” Every day, sometimes more than once, I feel as though the world I live in is being ransacked by those in power. Though we were always a long way from God’s perfect vision of peace and justice for this world, it seems now we are moving farther still. The very tenets of faith and democracy (in that order) I hold dear are being pillaged. People are dying and nothing I do seems powerful enough to make a difference.
What I lament most is our collective turning away from the belief that human life is sacred. All human life. Everywhere I look I see blatant disregard for life growing:
- The lives of the people of Puerto Rico, half of whom still do not have water are sacred. We should be doing more to prevent the illness and death that will come if people don’t get water and necessities immediately.
- The lives of the 20 million people in Seoul are sacred. Any altercation with North Korea puts these people’s lives (and others) at risk.
- The lives of LGBTQ persons are sacred. Yet, the US voted against a UN resolution to ban the death penalty for being gay in other countries.
- The lives of children are sacred. Congress let CHIP expire. Rumor has it that welfare reform is on the table. Public education is under threat. This in a time when forty-three percent of US children live in low income households. Twenty-one percent live in poverty. “Research is clear that poverty is the single biggest threat to children’s well being.”*
- The lives of regular people attending a street festival are sacred. We need protections that ensure no person is able to injure and kill hundreds of people in so few minutes using.
- The lives of refugees are sacred. Sixty-five million people have been displaced from their homes due to war, violence and famine. More people that at any other time in human history. Who is helping them find homes?
- The lives of people of color are sacred. Yet, we refuse to acknowledge that systemic racism is real. Taking a knee is seen as more controversial than white supremacy.
The list of sacred lives goes on an on, including everyone, all of whom God knows by name. In the home God is beckoning us to, no one is disposable, collateral, or “just” one. But, I hear the chain drop. Over and over I realize that we are being moved farther and farther from home. Over and over I read the calls to action posted by my Facebook friends. Donate money. Pray. Hold vigil. Call your congress people. Attend rallies. Offer your home, your voice, your skills, whatever you have in support of the sacredness of life. The ransacking isn’t done yet.
If you, too hear the chain dropping, separating and dividing us from the knowledge that life is sacred, if you, too, feel as though you are in the unfamiliar land, perhaps we can find comfort in these words of “disturbing hope” from Jeremiah 29. During the exile God tells the people to build communities and relationships so that “you don’t dwindle away.” When we build community amidst the chaos, the Holy Spirit gifts us with resolve and strength to help us weather the challenges. After calling us to action, the prophet reminds us of God’s presence and God’s promise:
The Lord proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord.
Let us build community, work and hope together. My friends, the world God has promised will be.
*Statistics from the National Center for Children in Poverty, http://www.nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html