Many commentators have described the assault on our nation’s Capitol as a “desecration,” and indeed it was. We feel violated. We feel waves pounding at the foundation of our fundamental governing institutions. The Capitol, with its wings like Jesus’s mother hen hovering over Jerusalem, has been raped and pillaged. All for the bottomless narcissism of Donald Trump. This hellish fever may be breaking (what an analogy in the midst of our physical fevers!), but the body politic is weakened, ravaged, and reeling.
Yes, it was a desecration. The Christian Citizen, put out by the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, ran a series of observations by some of its writers about these recent events. Here is what I wrote:
“Many public voices have cried out about the desecration of the sacred temple of democracy that is the US Capitol. As someone who grew up in Washington, I shared in that horror as I beheld the sight of angry mobs storming this treasured edifice. But the sacred work that was being broken into is not a building. It is the very work of argument, negotiation, compromise, and agreement among equals that contains the sacred spirit from which we draw our life. The sacred spirit that has been violated is the presiding authority and power that arises as we gather in these circles of deliberation and search for a greater justice. Too often, both in church and in politics, we have sought to draw our life from a leader, an orator, indeed, some longed-for monarch or despot who might do our work for us. But the spirit that gathers people around a table to recognize the inherent worth of each person and to seek peace, a reconciliation of differences, and the common good coming from the one God—that is the sacred work that is under attack and that needs to be defended and exemplified in our religious assemblies and in our public life.”
These sacred, or as Methodists sometimes say “holy,” conversations are what we have been celebrating and nurturing in our monthly Roundtable Worship. It is conversations like these that are the heartbeat of democracy. They are not merely the heart of self-governance, but of a governance in which we are equally called, by our very being, into the work of the Spirit that seeks the unity, integrity, and flourishing of creation.
And so I conclude with this month’s liturgy, enacted on the weekend in which we remember Martin Luther King, Jr.’s gift of life, words, and action to our ongoing struggle to live out this holy conversation of all God’s peoples.
January 17, 2021
Call to the Table
Not in a mob of vengeance and recrimination,
But in a circle giving thanks for grace and love.
Not in words like curtains cutting off our vision,
But in a simple deed of lovingkindness opening our eyes.
Not in armaments and fortresses,
But in a hand held out to drowning enemies.
Not in walls and sepulchers,
But in a garden by the river flowing with God’s life.
Not in a frozen desert
But at a table of your harvest.
We come to this table,
This table of peace.
ALL. Amen. Amin, Ameyn.
A Moment of Visualization: “Watch and Wait”
In the face of despots, kings, and tyrants, God sent prophets speaking truth to arrogance and power.
In the midst of chaos God brought order with a covenant of law.
Out of a sacrilege of desolation, God brought a people forth with stories of a gracious liberation.
In a wandering Palestinian healer God revealed the power of a universe alight with beauty.
In the agony of execution God revealed the suffering heart upholding worlds to come.
In a life surrendered to God’s work of reconciliation, we were drawn into the circle of God’s love.
Amen. Amin. Ameyn.
O, Heart of Peace,
For all who bring your justice and your peace in times of awful misery our hearts are filled with gratitude. For the work of King and Lewis, Parks and Evers, we lift our voices up in thanks. For the goodness of the earth despite our thoughtless exploitation, we give you hearty thanks. For the love that gives us strength to live beyond our fear, we lift our voice in thankfulness. For fellowship beyond each barrier of disease and doubt, we give you our unending praise.
We give our thanks to You (4x)
We give our hearts to You (3x), because you first loved us.
A Taste of the Earth’s Bounty
Psalm 5 (condensed)
Mark 9:33-37; 10:15.
The Conversation: What are Biblical witnesses saying to us in this time of testing and violence?
Gathered Prayers (Visualization – “The Spirit Intercedes”)
The Hope Prayer
O Source of Life, You alone are holy.
Come, govern us in perfect peace.
Give us today the food that we need.
Release us from our sin as we release our enemies.
Sustain us in our times of trial.
Liberate us all from evil powers.
Guide us in your justice, wisdom, and peace. Amen, Amin, Ameyn
Reflective Moment “If He Shall Die”
Words of Commitment
In God’s love, we will seek the path of reconciliation.
In God’s power, we will walk the ways of peace.
In God’s wisdom, we will struggle for God’s justice in this world.
In God’s mercy, we will seek to care for Earth, our home.
Go now in peace, blessing and blessed, Grounded in God, healing and whole.
Go now in peace, blessing and blessed, Grounded in God, filled with God’s love.
“Watch and Wait”
Sylvia Johnson Everett
This engineer/black-and-white/digital world view kind of guy struggles a bit with the word desecration. For me, this signals a holiness that borders on idolatry, as if we elevate the symbol of the Capitol to the level of the symbols of our faith that we share. And yet, as one who swore allegiance long ago to the Constitution, pledging full faith and allegiance to the same, I share the outrage at the attack on the manifestation of representative democracy that meets in that building.
But I also share the hope expressed in the liturgy, that we can rise to the task outlined to us in Paul’s epistle we call Second Corinthians, to be the hands, feet, and voice of reconciliation in the world.
Thank you for broadening my understanding, and thanks be to God.