Saturday, April 18, 2009

praise song for the day

On Easter Sunday my church, a non-denominational church planted by an Anglican church in London, shared a service with the congregation with whom we share a building. This church is Greater Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, an African-American church. The theme of the morning was Reconciliation. It was a powerful and emotional experience. Our band combined with the full gospel choir to lead worship. The pastors tag-teamed the sermon. Much was said about the racial issues in the south of America. All I could think of was the sectarian issues in Belfast.

Truly, reconciliation is a universal theme. Each and every human being stands in need of reconciliation. First with God. This is what Easter is all about. "God was in Christ reconciling us to himself." Then with each other. This is the good news of Christianity. That God wants to restore our relationships, all of our relationships.

I was moved during President Obama's inauguration by the poem written and read by Elizabeth Alexander, Praise Song for the Day. I purchased a copy of it recently. Now seems a fitting time to share it:

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eye or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors upon our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other with words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

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