Face truth!

Friends,

Last week we reflected on the harrowing story of Hagar. We included a picture of George Segal’s sculpture of Abraham’s embrace of Ishmael as he and his mother Hagar were about to begin their journey of banishment.

Here is a photo of another sculpture by the same artist. I alluded to this sculpture during our CMM Chat last Sunday. Here is a little history about this sculpture:

“George Segal, who taught sculpture at Princeton from 1968 to 1969, was commissioned in 1978 by Kent State University to create a memorial to the four students killed by members of the National Guard during an antiwar demonstration on their campus. Segal found a metaphor for the tragedy in the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. In Segal’s version, Abraham, dressed in contemporary clothing, looms over a college-aged Isaac, who is stripped of his shirt and bound with rope. Kent State University officials refused it, interpreting it as a politically volatile depiction of murder. According to Segal, however, this group misunderstood the memorial: the theme, in Segal’s words, was “the eternal conflict between adherence to an abstract set of principles versus the love of your own child.” Segal selected Princeton’s site for the sculpture, near the University Chapel, to reinforce the work’s biblical associations.” 

This sets the scene for our discussion on Sunday regarding Abraham’s decision to sacrifice and then not to sacrifice his son Isaac as recorded in Genesis 22:1-14. As we engage the ancient text we are asked to reflect on our understanding of the passage in the light of Jesus and his teachings. The primary question we always ask is: Would Jesus say ‘amen’ to our interpretation or not? Then as we move to our present context we ask how children continue to be sacrificed in the name of “god” or “abstract sets of principles”.

In our reflections I invite you to read the short story entitled: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin. This story is disturbing. As disturbing as Abraham considering to sacrifice Isaac. This story was written in the early 1970s but is even more true today. Let us ask ourselves: How is this story true today? I include links to the story and a brief commentary.

This may be all too much for us to hold, but we dare not turn our face away from the truth of things. Our liberation and healing rests in facing the truth. To help us stand in the presence of the traumatising truths of our living I invite you to lean into Psalm 13 – the set psalm for this week. The psalm is one of lament. Lament is risky speech. Lament is speaking the unspeakable. It is to voice the terrifying truth. It is in no way doubtful speech. Rather it is determined and demanding. The Deliverer must now deliver! The psalmist demands that grief stops leading the dance of life.

The psalm is a mere six verses. The first four verses (the majority of verses) voice the isolation, pain of the soul, sorrow of the heart, diminishment of being and overall deathliness of life. Followed by two verses of praise. Is this a sign that the psalmist has turned the corner? Does it mean the Deliverer has in fact delivered? If so, how long did it take the psalmist to move from verse 4 to verse 5? Or are the last two verses of the psalm the psalmist’s act of defiance and resistance? Perhaps there has been no change and no deliverance. In this case the psalmist is hanging on to the side of a cliff with just two fingers (verses). Hanging on for dear life. Somehow holding onto praise with bare fingertips…? Like the ones who walk away from Omelas.

If you would like the link for the 11h11 CMM Chat on Sunday – please email welcome@cmm.org.za

Grace,
Alan

Lament our land and our loss

This Crucifix hangs in the Chapel at Bishopscourt

Lament for our Land …

‘On Exhaustion Over a Lack of Understanding’

I am tired
God Almighty, I am tired
of being told that we need to move on,
that we need to forget,
that we need to put the past behind us,
that Apartheid is over.
They don’t understand.
We never will.
Our bodies are monuments of centuries of torture, trauma,
terror, these exist in us, we live it every day.
We built this country
slaves
whips at our backs –
The Man holding the whip did not build –
we built.
Apartheid is not over.
No magic TRC wand can bippity-boppity-boo! it away.
Our glass carriage is still a pumpkin,
rotting,
pulled by rats.
A polite revolution over tea and crumpets, good Sir,
‘twas the order of the day.
When could we mourn?
When could we cry?
When could we scream
for our loved ones lost
our chances trampled on?
Please Mastah Baas Meneer,
Asseblief,
Gee my ‘n kans om te huil
vir my ma en my pa en my susters en broers
gee my ‘n kans om te huil.
Let me stand up for myself
and for those who stood before me.
Let me march for myself
and for those who marched before me.
Let me call out AMANDLA
and raise my fist
and let me cry
after hundreds of years
let me cry.

Ameera Conrad
(Fourth Year B.A. Theatre and Performance at the University of Cape Town)


Lament for our Loss …

Did you know that nearly half of the Psalms in the Bible are songs of lament and poems of complaint. Jesus turned to one such Psalm while on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”  Psalm 22.

Here is a modern day Psalm of Lament by Ann Weems:

I don’t know where to look for you, O God!
I’ve called and I’ve called.
I’ve looked and I’ve looked.
I go back to my room and sit in the dark waiting for you.
Could you give me assign that you’ve heard?
Could you numb my emotions so I wouldn’t hurt so much?

I walk in circles.
I rock in my chair.
I pour a glass of water.
I look out the window.
I walk to the kitchen.
I open the refrigerator;
There’s nothing I want.
I close it again.
I turn on the TV.
The voices are too loud; the faces are too loud.
I mute the voices; I turn off the faces.
The silence is my friend; the silence is my enemy.
I go upstairs.
I lie on the bed.
I get up again.
I walk to the window.
No sign of you!
I’m dying, O God, without you.

O God of Wonder, you can change it all.
You can distract me from thoughts of death.
You can fill my days with purpose.
You can make the nights shorter.
You can let me find you.
Don’t hide from me any longer, O God.

O God you reveal yourself to those who call upon your name.
Blessed be my God who does not fail me!