Afterward, I asked Fin (our seven- year-old) what he thought he would remember about the experience. The word he used was that it was "important." Which led me to ask Nelson (our eleven- year-old) how he'd sum up what we'd participated in. His word was "gathered." And Nelson was very conscious of and impressed by the wide array of people and faiths represented, as we stood with, I suppose, a couple of hundred Richmonders on Sunday, at the Emek Sholom Holocaust Memorial Cemetery.
Pete Nunnally shared a fresh take on an old classic this week in staff meeting. Entitled "The Prayer of St. Patrick," it has traditionally been known as "St. Patrick's Breastplate." With St. Patrick's Day coming up this Friday, it's a pleasure to offer you this newer and different version of one of the great old prayers of the Christian tradition:
I remember distinctly the first time I heard the words spoken: "human flourishing." It was in an Anglican theology class at Virginia Theological Seminary, on a sunny, cool day, with Dr. Scott, one of our theology professors, speaking in his animated, earnest way, a glow about him. And immediately I found the words nothing less than exhilarating, the fullness, the comprehensiveness, the goodness of God's desire and vision for all the children of God.
Some words carry an electric charge. They are high voltage, we could say. They get our attention, and perhaps leave us disconcerted, even shocked. “Hypocrite” is one of those words. Nobody wants to be called a “hypocrite,” and, indeed, nobody wants to be a hypocrite. Someone who acts a part. An imposter. Versus someone who is authentic: The real McCoy, the real deal, the real thing. That's what we want to be. + Alms, prayers, fasting. Spiritual practices, disciplines. That’s fine, Jesus says. That’s good and right. But don’t be merely going through the motions, making a presentation, giving an impression. Otherwise, there will be no blessing in it, no reward. The reward, the blessing comes when the outer and the inner are aligned, our Lord wants us to know; when our heart and our actions are one; when, through those spiritual disciplines, we offer our hearts to God, we make our hearts available to God. I can’t help but think of what we call the Collect for Purity, which we pray every Sunday morning as a part of each Eucharist. The Collect for Purity began, centuries ago, as a private prayer the priest said in the sacristy while preparing for worship, but, eventually, it was incorporated into the service itself, so it could be prayed on everyone’s behalf, as some of the very first words spoken in worship: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen. + This exquisite prayer lays the matter bare, in the same spirit that Jesus does in today’s appointed gospel: that, with God, there are no secrets. God knows our hearts, God knows our secrets, God knows the truth about us, and God is ready to get on with it.
Along with 1500 other Richmonders on Sunday afternoon, I joined many of you at the Islamic Center of Virginia, for Standing Together: One Nation, One Community. It was an experience I won’t forget; and, if you were there, I’m sure you won’t either. It was beautiful. The sunlit crowd, sprawling across the hill in front of the mosque, some sitting, some standing, people of all ages and colors and faiths. And there was an unmistakable, wonderfully palpable spirit of joy and warmth and kindness and solidarity, intermingled with an equally palpable and fierce, if gentle, determination to see that justice is done in this land of ours.