I receive a 'On A Journey' daily meditation from an old friend daily. These columns of his are distributed freely to any and all who wish to receive them. The following 'meditation' I received on 09/09. He says much better what I have been attempting to put into words for this page.
ON A JOURNEY
by Tom Ehrich
"Peter came and said to Jesus, 'Lord, if another member of the church sings against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?'" (Matthew 18.21)
(Imagine Taps playing in the background.)
Death is in our midst and deserves honor. The deaths of over 3,000 people a year ago, the deaths going on now in an unfocused but hazardous "war on terrorism," and the many emotional deaths of a traumatic year.
The death of naiveté about our security, the death of trust in our corporate leaders, the death of jobs and retirement funds, the death of confidence in our government - each death takes its toll, each deserves to be seen.
(Let "Taps" lead into silence, and then out of silence "O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.") Not a jingoistic shout of rage, not one of those "We're No. 1!" chants that lose merit after high school basketball, but a recognition that while we Americans do much that offends the world and deserves to be questioned, it is our freedom that defines us, not our SUVs, and it is our freedom that has come under assault.
As I did a year ago on the Sunday after September 11, I would ask a few people to talk about this year of trauma. This isn't a time for polished oratory, but for listening to each other. I would encourage people to talk not only about terrorist attacks, but about corporate scandals, plummeting stock values, vanishing retirements, layoffs and difficult job searches, the rich cheating to get even richer, and sex abuse scandals in churches.
I would talk about rubble . It took eleven months to clear the rubble from lower Manhattan. City leaders are determined to build again. And they should, for life must go on, and fear must not prevail.
But much other rubble remains. The government is avoiding a painful self-examination of what went wrong and what needs to be learned. Politicians would rather make war.
The rubble in our hearts and spirits is harder to see. The cumulative impact of terrorism, scandal and financial collapse probably is greater than we think. It is distressing to know that we have a determined enemy waiting patiently to strike again. It is distressing to know that weak and greedy people control the institutions which enable our economy and democracy to work.
I think we need two things, and they will spring from faith. One is openness. Our national life, our institutions and our individual lives won't be served by secrecy. We have got to trust in truth.
Our other need is forgiveness. Peter framed his question narrowly: should members of the church forgive each other? The question needs broadening: Should nations forgive each other? Should competing cultures forgive each other? Should religions forgive each other? Should the deprived forgive the greedy? Should those who have hurt other people learn to seek forgiveness?
Faith says a resounding "Yes!" But faith stands alone. Our hearts cry, "Vengeance!" In the rubble and shouting, forgiveness can seem weak. But it takes strength and wisdom to know that protection is one thing and vengeance is another. Self-defense is one thing and self-serving another. Deterring an enemy is one thing and crushing the enemy in a way that creates more enemies is another.
I would end with "America" and its plea for "sweet freedom's song." Not just my freedom, but your freedom. Not just our nation's freedom, but all people' s freedom. Not just freedom to worship as I choose, but freedom for all people to worship the God of their naming. Not just freedom to put my skills to work in gainful employment, but the freedom for all to know the dignity of work.
We need to sing of that deeper freedom which comes from God, the freedom to forgive and to build something new on the rubble of human history.
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