Wednesday, December 10, 2014

nubes pluant justum

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

Familiar words, right?
The Serenity Prayer is perhaps one of the most well-known modern prayers, made famous by its ubiquitous presence on the covers of Barnes & Nobles journals and Hallmark trapper keepers. And usually that's where the quote ends.

But wait, there's more.

Reinhold Niebuhr, of Union Theological Seminary penned the famous prayer, but he did not just write those three short lines. He writes on:
...and wisdom to know the difference,
living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time,

A call to live in the present. How beautiful and timely.

...accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.

Just today we heard that Christ's yoke is easy and His burden light. But how foreign this idea is to our world. That suffering and pain--perhaps meaningless and pointless, unjust and burdensome suffering and pain can be the avenue to our salvation. This is the hope that the Christian story brings: that all suffering, even the most cruel and unjust, can become our pathway to hope. If we look at the story of Christ we see that He lived out this truth. His death was untimely, immeasurably cruel, and a senseless act of violence. The Resurrection does not erase that fact, it does not erase the cruelty and the evil; rather, it opens up an avenue of life that is beyond the reach of all evil. But this new union with God, with light and with life as made by possible by Christ is crucial if our suffering is to mean anything. Without the Cross and Resurrection, our suffering is senseless, but through both, God has entered into every ugly part of our life and turned it into an opportunity for grace and new life.

Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it, trusting that he will make all things right
if I surrender to his will

Last Friday, I marched with so many people who were frustrated, tired, angry, and saddened by innocent death and the lack of justice in our world.
As we lay under the Christmas tree in Bryant Park, a sad December rain poured down on our faces.
And the words of Isaiah came to mind:
Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down the Just One.
(Is 45:8)
Our world, so broken, so hungry and tired for justice, was begging for that rain.
In that moment, the great sadness and beauty of Advent hit my rain with the force of a rainstorm.
There I was, among people who walked in darkness, yearning to see a great light, yearning for a Savior to come into this broken world.
But He is already here.
Christ has not stopped massacres and injustices, rather He has suffered them Himself. He has undergone the pain of being a victim of injustice and violence. Because when you love someone, there is no part of their life in which you will not share. Is that comforting?
Perhaps it is a harsher sort of comfort, a more dearly bought serenity.

that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with him forever in the next.
--Reinhold Niebuhr, Serenity Prayer

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