Recently in a staff meeting, one of my colleagues opened with a prayer from our Book of Common Worship. Drawing from ‘A Litany of Thanksgiving,’ she prayed, “For the young; for their high hopes; for their irreverence toward worn-out values; for their search for freedom; for their solemn vows; Thank you, God.”
That small part of the prayer pierced me, and got lodged in my gut somewhere. I’m not sure why. I’d like to think it’s because I’m a millennial who has high hopes and dreams; but I’ve always been more of a realist. Or maybe it’s because I work to honor the vows I’ve taken both at my wedding and my ordination, but I know that some marriages fall apart and some clergy experience burnout and quit to join the circus.
I suspect it’s the ‘irreverence toward worn-out values’ bit that haunts me.
These are strange days we are living in, culturally and politically speaking. A young woman was just killed by a self-proclaimed Nazi as she protested against a white supremacy rally… in Virginia… in 2017.
Worn-out ideas seem to be gaining a foothold in the national discourse, things I had believed were settled long ago. But that was my own foolishness. They weren’t settled, not really. Since Cain first struck Abel there have always been folks who believed they were somehow intrinsically better than others. This last weekend was a heartbreaking reminder that for some in our country, the fear of ‘The Other’ continues to outweigh our shared humanity.
Which means we need irreverence toward those worn-out ‘values’ now more than ever. As long as racism, white nationalism, and all the other ‘isms’ continue to rear their ugly heads, then we as disciples of Jesus Christ must continue to be irreverent, indignant, and filled with righteous anger at such things. And not just the young, all of us as God’s people are called to respond in word and deed. Which means we cling to the wild hope that this world can still be redeemed.
Theologian Dan Migliore writes, “To live in Christian hope is to live in the expectation that by God’s grace things can change, disease and death do not have the last word about human destiny, peace is possible, reconciliation between enemies can occur, and we are called to pray and work toward these ends.”
Blessedly for us, that same prayer offered at our staff meeting ends like this: “Above all, O God, for your Son Jesus Christ, who lived and died and lives again for our salvation; for our hope in him; and for the joy in serving him; We thank you and praise you.”
Thanks be to God that the victory is already won. But let us remember that as Jesus tarries, we are called to labor in working to bring “Thy kingdom come… on earth, as it is in heaven.”