I wish I would have thought of this....
I wish I would have thought of this before our journey began... The prayer that follows was from a Nicaraguan citizen and was read in both its native and a foreign tongue during a college chapel service by a beloved Professor. The simple poem with all its fierceness made me feel so awakened. I asked for a copy of the translation and I have read it many times, esp. when I have remembered to remind myself to continue to hate injustices and to seek truth, even when this means finding the ill cavities of truth within myself. It has inspired and transformed me when I reconnect with this piece. Even with all its soul quenching qualities I still seemed to forget the origin of this prayer so easily. The whole time this seemingly unfamiliar Nicaragua I was going to experience was actually not as foreign as I thought. And surely now the unfamiliar country is not unfamiliar anymore, and not only due to this prayer which has meant so much to me....I met Nicaragua. I was hugged by their atmosphere and culture. My lungs filled with their air. I touched their land. I listened to their people. And without realizing at the time, I met this prayer in Nicaragua too - In flesh (with names and faces), in dirt, and in truth. As I read this prayer now, I am once again awakened yet a much different way...
Con gracias & amor,
Prayer from a newspaper from Managua, Nicaragua
Translation by Professor Ruth Huston.
God, Good Father and Just Mother,
Heart of the Heaven and Heart of the Earth,
Today we ask you on behalf of Nicaragua,
That you might open our eyes to the country that we
Are passing on to our daughters and our sons,
A country hijacked (sequestered) by those who have
Accumulated power and wealth
At the cost of their brothers and sisters.
Give us clarity to understand the
Responsibility that we have in all of this.
Give us humility to recognize the errors that
Have led us to this point.
Give us strength to find a path/way to change all this.
Don’t leave us to fall to the temptation passing
Responsibility to you to resolve
That which is our responsibility to resolve.
Padre Nuestro (...gracious Penelope)
Padre nuestro que estás en el Cielo,
santificado sea tu nombre,
venga a nosotros tu Reino,
hágase tu voluntad en la Tierra como en el Cielo,
danos hoy nuestro pan de cada día,
y perdona nuestras ofensas,
como también nosotros perdonamos a los que nos ofenden,
no nos dejes caer en la tentación,
y líbranos del mal,
Tuyo es el Reino el Poder y la Gloria por Siempre. Amén.
A Cure For Blindness?: A Sermon by Fellow Delegate, Rev. David Mesenbring
Sermons at Saint Mark’s
The Reverend David Mesenbring
The Third Sunday in Advent, December 12, 2010
Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
A Cure For Blindness?
A dozen of us just returned from Nicaragua
where we spent the first ten days of Advent
working on target 3.6 of our strategic plan:
“Offer members of the Cathedral community
more opportunities to travel amongst
peoples whose circumstances are different
from our own, and to be transformed by this
experience.” For two nights, we split into
pairs to stay with families in a Managua
barrio where homes may not have more than
one small bed. We visited rural areas and
studied microfinance as well as U.S.-
Nicaraguan history, economics, and trade.
Our first day started with a bible study
contrasting friendship and strangership.
Late in the trip, at our daily reflection
together, one poetic pilgrim suggested we
had caught “a virus of inspiration.”
It felt a lot like “the highway …called the
Holy Way” promised at the end of today’s
lesson from Isaiah. In the center of that
Hebrew poetry “Here is your God (who)
shall come and save you” is sandwiched
between expressions of extravagant hope.
What kind of salvation do you hope for this
Christmas? What saving grace do you wait
longingly for? (pause) Presents you don’t
want and don’t need? Or presents you want
but don’t need? How about presents you
don’t want but do need? What kind of gifts
are you expecting this year?
In today’s Gospel, an imprisoned John the
Baptist wonders whether he’s made a fatal
mistake in naming Jesus as Messiah. Jesus
wasn’t meeting John’s expectations: normal
clothes instead of camels’ hair; dining with
tax collectors on much more than locusts
and honey; urging followers to ‘turn the
other cheek’ in contrast to the tradition of
Davidic warrior kings. So John sends
messengers to ask “Are you the one we’re
waiting for or should we look to another?”
Jesus has a way of addressing our needs, not
our wants, and he does it in a manner other
than we expect. How do you hope God will
come afresh for you this year? What do you
yearn for from the Nativity that might be
saving grace for you? Are you looking for
what you need or for what you want?
In a small Nicaraguan town not frequented
by tourists, we met a crusty, old gringo who
had been kicking around Central America
for decades. He presumed we were yet
another U.S. church group on some service
mission we hoped would be of some help.
Crossing our path in the hallway of a tiny
hotel, he blurted out “These people don’t
need any help!” But our mission was not as
he expected. We’d come to work on our
own blindness about how most people live.
A ‘service project’ would have felt good
compared with the shame we experienced as
we learned history our society’s deaf to.
As soon as Isaiah promises his (captive)
people that “God will come and save you,”
he offers these extravagant promises of
hope: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be
opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer, and
…waters shall break forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.”
What kind of salvation do you long for?
Today’s psalmist writes “Happy are they
whose hope is in God, who gives justice to
those who are oppressed, food to those who
hunger, opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up
those who are bowed down.” In today’s
gospel, Jesus says “Go and tell John what
you hear and see: the blind receive their
sight …the deaf hear …the poor have good
news brought to them. And blessed is
anyone who takes no offense at me.”
Before Jesus, there is no biblical precedent
for curing blindness. Great works by all the
great prophets never cured blindness.
What kind of salvation are you waiting for?
Advent is a time to wait in hope for God to
come and save. But save who from what?!
Today’s epistle has a gentle, pacific, image
of a farmer waiting in good faith for God to
water seeds that were planted uncertain
about when it will rain. The prior verses
suggest James and his readers had concerns
different than ours: “Come now, you rich
people, weep and howl for the miseries that
are coming upon you.” (James 5:1) Scholar
Dirk Lange writes: “The hope that James
describes is not looking upwards to some
heavenly salvation, nor is it looking inwards
to some spiritual illumination but it is
looking the other, our neighbor, directly in
Is the hope of our relatively rich church in
synch with this world’s poor majority?
Travel designed to transform the traveler’s
blindness resists a high horse of charitable
largesse that North Americans like to ride.
Service projects might make us feel good
but presume a certain superiority that is not
the best posture for learning.
Our group prayed for the grace to meet
strangers who would share their stories with
us. For two nights, a rural cooperative of
farmers opened its homes to us. After
picking coffee and hearing a founder
describe their history, we had lunch beside a
smoke-filled kitchen where six women
cooked. Five years ago, they got funding to
promote rural tourism as a means of
women’s empowerment. We coaxed from
them stories that proved as transforming for
us as they were meaningful to share. After
three years of hosting tourists, we were the
first ones to have asked for such a meeting.
Western Christians have practiced only half
of the mission God gives us. Focusing on
the gifts we want to share can obscure the
gifts others offer us. Some of those gifts
match needs we don’t even know we have!
At the end of our trip, we made three lists.
One lists 90 strangers whom we met. A
second contains 95 types of gifts we think
those strangers might offer us. The third
brainstorms how to share those gifts among
the communities we return home to.
God’s saving grace changes people. To the
degree that our travel changed us, we have
new vision to share and stories that our ears
were once deaf to. There’ll be a photo
exhibit in February and a speaker in March
and more opportunities to travel next year.
Not all of it will be gifts a rich Church wants
to see and hear. God provides for our needs
more than our wants. Carlos is a historian
who matter-of-factly outlined the shameful
history of U.S. intervention. Not himself a
church-going Christian, he opined that
faithfully following Jesus is really hard to
do. When we asked Nicaraguans what they
hope we’ll do upon returning home, all
named the urgency of immigration reform.
Is there any way to do that without
ultimately forcing us to choose between the
boundaries of our national interest and thee
boundary-less society of all who are
baptized into a faith we want (or is it
“need”) to share?
It’s really hard to be Christian in Jesus’ way
and our journey on the Holy Way of grace
promises to be long and arduous. So gather
now ‘round a table where God’s gifts offer
enough for all, and where all God’s children
are offered gifts of saving grace, whether
wanted or not. Amen.