This morning, I left church weeping. At the close of a lovely Advent service, we sang the song, “Hallelujah.” I’m sure you’ve heard it. The lyrics, written by Leonard Cohen more than 20 years ago, have been sung by many. This morning, that song landed hard on a tender bruise.
Earlier in the week, during my evening commute, I had listened to angry politicians blustering party-line opinions in 35-second increments through my car speakers. I arrived home irritable, discouraged, and empty of any good spirit. I went to church this morning looking for anything that resembled hope. I wept this morning because I found it in repentance and in God’s grace.
Do you remember the woman’s voice that managed the tirades of the impeachment hearings?
“The gentleman/gentlewoman from [insert state] is recognized for 35-seconds.”
She offered no comment, no opinion, only a framework for “next.” I imagined God’s weary voice speaking through the woman between the haranguing politicians. She sounded disappointed and I imagined God did too.
But baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew you
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
I thought of the one-upmanship during the week’s march toward some sort of political victory by one side or the other. A march of “sides” that had been witnessed by the world and void of victory.
My tears flowed.
Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
My tears flowed again, and all I could pray was, “Christ, have mercy.”
I remembered a prayer that Jesus offered to the Father not long before his death. Interceding, Jesus prayed for his young followers and for us. Maybe his prayer sounded a little like this one I paraphrased from The Message.
I pray for them, the followers you have given me.
Guard them as they pursue this life that you have given as a gift through me.
Allow them to be one in heart and mind as we are.
So that the world might believe that you did send me.
That they might be one in heart and mind with us.
And give the godless world evidence,
And give the godless world evidence,
And give evidence
That you sent me and love them in the same way you’ve loved me.
As much as I’m tempted, I can point no fingers. I am part and parcel to creating brokenness in this world. I can shoot from my words and condemn by my opinions with the best of them. I like being right.
Yet, Jesus prays for something different for me. Unity. Especially in disagreement.
Jesus asks for unity that points not to my beliefs, but to a saving God who did not come to save us from something, but to free us for something – to love in abundance and give evidence to how much God loves.
Romans 12 shows me how:
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. (The Message)
I hear it. Do you?
“Don’t hit back, Jill, bless those with whom you disagree and please, please, please, no cursing them under your breath. Do good, practice playing second fiddle, don’t be the great somebody. Be humble. Love deeply. For in doing so, the broken Hallelujah of your life might offer evidence that the world’s Salvation has already come.”
Jill English is an avid encourager of humans and lover of words. She is most at home out-of-doors, and in particular, while walking any beach. Her most magical moments involve being Grammy to two remarkable grandchildren, and Mom to their lucky parents. As a discerner of call in higher theological education, her favorite conversations involve connecting the sacred dots of every-day life and faith. Jill lives in Grand Rapids, MI with two small, elderly pups.