A Midweek Musing on Miracles and Peace 10-11-2023
Ann Weems was a Presbyterian elder who has often been called the poet laureate of the Presbyterian Church USA. She had an extraordinary gift for sharing the good news in words that both inspired and challenged, comforted and disturbed. Like any good writer she was able to engage the reader’s heart, mind, and soul in incredible ways. Weems eloquently spoke of hope and joy but also of pain and lament.
Personally, she knew of both great joy and personal tragedy. On August 14, 1982, Ann Weems' son Todd died less than an hour after his 21st birthday. As one commentator wrote, “in the years following that loss, she gave voice to her continuing grief, rage, and faith in a series of harrowing and beautiful psalms of lament.”
When she passed away in 2016 at the age of 81, she left an unpublished poem that declared “I left this earth in Alleluias.” Weems had the remarkable gift to see the light even in the darkest places and she believed in hope where no hope seemed to exist.
I thought of her and one of her poems this week as I have watched, often with tears in my eyes, the news coming out of Israel this last week. There are no words to describe the horrors of this violence. While I certainly have no answer for the conflict between the Israeli government and Palestinian authorities, I do know that violence is not the answer. As President Jimmy Carter said so well, “We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children.”
President Carter is right in his assessment of how peace is and is not made. Brutality is never the answer. As Mahatma Gandhi, whom President Carter studied, declared, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
What then do we as people of faith do in the face of such brokenness? Well, we do the good we can, and we pray not just for peace but for miracles. Because some things in this world are so broken only God can fix them.
In Mark 4 beginning with verse 26 we find the Parable of the Growing Seed. It begins with these words. Jesus also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”
Jesus is reminding us that we really have no control over some things like seeds growing – some things are simply in the hands of God. We have our part. We scatter the seed but only God knows how it will grow.
Just like the seeds growing, our capacity as humans is limited.
Friends, we do not know how the kingdom grows. We play our part, but the growth comes from a power greater than you or I. It is a miracle beyond us. Oh, we like to think we run this world, but the truth is this is God’s world and there are some things we must pray for God to work a miracle in.
Thus, I pray for the miracle of peace. The miracle of reconciliation. The miracle of changed hearts. The miracle of swords becoming plowshares and God’s love filling the hearts of people everywhere.
As Ann Weems so powerfully shares in the poem below – I no longer pray for peace. I pray for miracles.
And I invite you all to join me in this prayer especially in this time of such unconscionable violence.
I No Longer Pray for Peace
On the edge of war, one foot already in,
I no longer pray for peace: I pray for miracles. I pray that stone hearts will turn to tenderheartedness, and evil intentions will turn to mercifulness, and all the soldiers already deployed will be snatched out of harm’s way, and the whole world will be astounded onto its knees. I pray that all the “God talk” will take bones, and stand up and shed its cloak of faithlessness, and walk again in its powerful truth. I pray that the whole world might sit down together and share its bread and its wine. Some say there is no hope, but then I’ve always applauded the holy fools who never seem to give up on the scandalousness of our faith: that we are loved by God…… that we can truly love one another. I no longer pray for peace: I pray for miracles. by Ann Weems, written for Ash Wednesday 2003
Grace and Peace to you all,