A Thin Space

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Thin spaces are for me never really expected and the one at Coventry was that.  I walked into the shell of Coventry Cathedral that was bombed to ruins during WWII.   I turned and looked at the altar and the back wall of the sanctuary with the window frames open to the bright blue sky.  Before me above the altar was a charred cross.  On the wall behind it, carved in stone were the words “Father Forgive.”  Those words were carved into the stone by the Provost Howard a few short weeks after the bombing.  He said on national radio that after the war he would work with those who had been enemies “to build a kindermore Christ-Child-like world.”  Today the cathedral’s mission is still one of reconciliation.

In that moment and even now I can feel the anguish of the people, of God, of the world.  It was and is as though all of pain of our separation from God and each other is like a shroud around me.  It brought me to tears for all the hurt we cause each other. 

In 1962 at the dedication of the new Cathedral, Canon Joseph Poole wrote a litany of reconciliation.  This litany sits now in the front of the altar of the old cathedral.  It is prayed every noon during the week around the world, especially on Fridays.  It is applicable today as ever.

 It gave the focus for my pilgrimage and other thin places along the way.  

The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father, forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
Father, forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father, forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.

Freedom Come!

Freedom come!

Freedom come.  Freedom come.  Freedom come.

Freedom comes in the opening of our hands.  We/I must open hands to give and to receive, to let go of the past and engage the future.

Freedom comes in the opening of our eyes. We/I need to see the world as Jesus did.  To see the beauty and the ugliness, the joy and the pain through the eyes of love.

Freedom comes in the opening of our ears.  We/I need to truly listen to others – to be present.

Freedom comes in opening of our minds.  Opening our selves to new experiences, thoughts, and others

Freedom comes in the opening of our hearts.  To have compassion for others and love for all that God created.

Freedom comes in the baring of our souls.  Being willing to change and open to God’s will.

Freedom come.  Freedom come.  Freedom come.

Patti Grace Henderson, 2006

The words of this song have changed a bit since I wrote it.  It is simpler and more challenging.  Freedom requires a willingness to be changed.  It is a lifelong experience.

The Sheep and Goats

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The parable of the Sheep and Goats has always been one of my favorites.  It addresses the nations – all of us.  It is in our relationship with others, our mindset, that the difference is seen.   Those who pleased the Lord were doing it unconsciously.  It was normal to them to see and address the needs of others around them. 

In C.S. Lewis’, The Great Divorce, there is this woman that is being greatly celebrated in heaven.  The questioner asked, “who is she?” thinking that she must be someone important.  She was no one of great distinction, but one who gave of herself to others.  I have had so many of these people in my life.  They are the ones that show up with the soup when you are sick, sit on the bench with you when you are in despair, plunge in and help when your family is in crisis.   So many of them in my life and if you look in yours as well.  The thing is, they don’t recognize that they are doing anything out of the ordinary.

There are so many folk stories and legends down through the centuries of people doing for others without realizing that they were loving like Jesus as they served him unaware.  It always comes back to that, you see.  It is in our caring about others and God’s creation that we love like Jesus. 

My thanksgivings this Lent is in recognizing Jesus in the acts of others.  It is sometimes no more than a smile, pulling a weed, or listening to a child.  All small acts, but they change lives.

Go forth to love and serve the Lord.  You may think you are not doing anything, but God does.