01 September 2005

"You were sent to heal the contrite"

As I write this, I have the archive broadcast from Taizé of Brother Roger's funeral playing on Realplayer. The congregation just sang "You were sent to heal the contrite," and I needed to hear this. As I think about the stampede victims in Iraq, the hurricane victims here in the USA, and my own commitment to pray for national leaders whom I can hardly think a nice thought about, the precious words of Psalm 51, verse 17, are important to me: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

Here's another Psalm, number 131, I love for moments when I cannot even tell which end is up:
My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quietened my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and for evermore.
I am not such a liar that I can claim that these words accurately reflect me. My heart is proud of my safety, my good sense, my initiatives, my ability to "provide for" my family; my eyes are haughty far too often; I obsess about great (as they seem to me) matters; often I don't put my hope in the LORD. But my desire is to still and quiet my soul.

Having written those words, I go back to the Taizé webcast, and see the congregation sitting or lying prostrate in deep silence. Such incredible beauty among those diverse brothers and sisters at this most vulnerable and tender moment, their farewell to Brother Roger. As a spiritual orphan in terms of my own family, I cherish these glimpses of the global family God has blessed me with.

Did the evangelical Christian community's leadership succeed in putting Pat Robertson's bizarre advocacy of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's assassination in perspective? I found a measure of comfort in the links assembled by Ted Olsen in his Christianity Today weblog. For myself, I realize that part of staying low and contrite is not exploiting the massive opportunities for ridicule (in other words, for exalting my superiority rather than actually contributing anything to civil discourse) offered to me by Robertson's heretical suggestion. As I saw from Olsen's work, others have done a good job of pointing out the actual danger that Robertson could have caused Christian workers. My question: how do we reach out to brothers and sisters who agree with him and his politics?

Speaking of civil discourse on politics, it is strange to see more of it on Comedy Central television network than on the so-called news networks. Some recent gratifying examples: Jon Stewart's interviews with Bernard Goldberg (author of 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America) and Christopher Hitchens. In both cases, I believe Stewart (who more or less represents my point of view in both cases) prevailed, but without rhetorical brutality on either side.

Yesterday I saw the new film The Constant Gardener on its opening day here in Portland, Oregon. The frequently-cynical Willamette Week had given it an enthusiastic review, so I was not sure what to expect, but the movie turned out to be a thoroughly decent production in a very straightforward and relatively complete adaptation of John Le Carré's novel into film.

David Walker's review includes a piece of an interview with filmmaker Fernando Meirelles (deservedly acclaimed for his earlier City of God). Meirelles said, "I could have gone to make it as a thriller or a political drama, but I felt the love story was really, really strong so I decided to make the love story the axle of this film.... My feeling is that thriller and the political drama is more like a backstory." I'm happy to report that the geopolitical and economic dimensions are by no means suppressed to produce some sort of sophisticated romantic treat for progressives.

I would love to know how this film is being assessed in Kenya. Parts of the film were made there, which is a positive sign of some kind; when the book was first published, it was (reportedly) not openly sold in some Kenyan bookstores for fear of irritating former president Moi's partisans.

As Brother Roger's funeral is drawing to its end, they're singing my favorite Taizé song, "Confitemini Domino." Thank you, dear Jesus, for offering healing to the contrite, and for offering healing to my heart through those voices I'm listening to now. Guide me as I look for my place in your healing work.

Friday PS: Message from Northwest Yearly Meeting:


The news reports coming out of Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina have been shocking and heartbreaking. Even as we grieve for the thousands of people who have lost so much, we are confident in Christ’s unwavering love. As His followers, these tragic events prompt us to take action. The NWYM Board of Peace & Social Concerns urges all members of the NWYM to contribute as generously as possible to the relief efforts.

The Northwest Yearly Meeting office is prepared to serve as a collecting point for hurricane relief donations. They are currently coordinating with other EFI Yearly Meetings to identify the most effective way to quickly distribute funds. Friends Disaster Service and Northwest Medical Teams are already actively involved in providing humanitarian services and will be among the organizations that contributions to NWYM will support. The Yearly Meeting staff are also in touch with Friendswood, an EFI affiliated church in the Houston area that are serving in the affected community, to find out how we might support them.

In the next few days, more details will be provided as the situation continues to unfold. In the meantime, the Board of Peace & Social concerns encourages you to send your donations to the NWYM office. Please specify your contributions to the NWYM office for “hurricane relief”. It is also likely that in the coming months there will be opportunities to participate in Friends sponsored work teams going into the affected areas to directly help with rebuilding.

Our board encourages local churches to take action in response to this urgent need. We call on NWYM members to contribute generously in order to alleviate suffering and bring hope to people whose lives have been torn apart by this disaster. We have been delighted by the many innovative ways that NWYM churches are ministering to their communities, and encourage your to consider how your local church might respond to this call. Please feel free to contact the Board of Peace and Social Concerns if we can be of help.

Please also continue to pray for the many, many lives affected by this disaster.

NWYM Board of Peace & Social Concerns
Co-Clerks, DorindaJoy Taylor and Peggy Hanson

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