In a week in which we have witnessed the agony of parents over the deaths and injuries of their children in Orlando, and others have grieved an empty “nest” as their children graduated from high school or college and left home, others still yet stand at bedsides of children who are in distress. Into those events I have been comforted by these words from Fredeck Buechner as he talks about parenting, loving and letting go of our children.
(Buechner's children are going off to college)
"What I did not see was that even though they were only a couple of hours away, and even though there would be years of weekends and vacations for us to get together whenever we felt like it, there was a sense in which, when we kissed them goodbye that September it was good bye for keeps. From that day forward Vermont would never be home for them in the way it had been. From that day forward, home, for them, was theirs to find wherever in themselves or in the world they ever happened to find it, if they were lucky enough to find it at all....It was not just that I greatly missed them but that I feared for them more greatly still. The world does cruel and hurtful things to us all before it's done with us, and with little more to defend themselves against it than their bags full of clothes and their boxes full of rock records, coat hangers, hockey sticks, it was out into that world that they went....The adventures that they have had since are theirs to tell, not mine, but insofar as from time to time the world has worked them over as it works us all over, I have suffered vastly more from such pain as they have known than I have ever suffered from any pain simply of my own.
As Buddha well knew, that is the price that love exacts from us all, but since from childhood I have always been given to helpless brooding and worrying and darkest, most doom-ridden imaging, the price it has exacted from me has often proved crippling both to myself and to the ones I love....But unlike Buddhism, Christianity nevertheless affirms this love that suffers and, what is more, affirms it not in spite of the fact that it suffers but because of it. It affirms it for the reason that to love others to the point of suffering with them and for them in their own suffering is the only way ultimately to heal them, redeem them, if they are to redeemed at all. It is God's way in Christ, and as we are called to participate with Christ in his suffering, so we are called to be partners with him in the work of redemption. For our own sakes as well as for theirs, we are called to be Christs to all humankind, in other words, and that is close to the heart of our faith and of our lives together as Christians.
And yet. And yet. Having spoken this Christian truth, we must also, I think, remember the Buddhist truth which may be closer to it than at first glance it appears. If love is a matter of holding fast to, and identifying with, and suffering for, the ones we love, it is a matter also of standing back from, of leaving space for, of letting go of. To become, through loving and needing them, as involved in the lives of others as I was involved in the lives of my children is in the long run to risk being both crippled and crippling. Because we love our children as helplessly as we do, they have the power to destroy us. We must not let them, for their own sakes, no less than for our own.....
~ Frederick Buechner from Now and Then, p. 102-105)
The Peaceable Kingdom - Be Together. Not the Same
“The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.” ~ Isaiah 11:6
Mark Twain once experimented with making peace in God’s creation – he put various animals in one cage and various religious leaders in another. He went away for a couple of days. When he returned the animals were fine – there wasn’t a single living thing left in the cage of interfaith religious leaders. “They had disagreed and appealed to a Higher Authority” he wrote.
Isaiah 11 begins with the prophecy of the messianic king: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse” and moves into the image of the “Peaceable Kingdom” so familiar in the paintings of artist Edward Hicks.
Religion’s cage is a stark contrast to a recent Android animal video of “natural enemies” playing joyfully together, with Roger Miller’s music in the background. That scene stands for me in my mind as the “image” of the Presbyterian Church (USA). “Be Together. Not the Same” is the tag line for the video. It is a core identity for us in our diversity.
The images of that video of the “Peaceable Kingdom” offer promise and hope for us during a tender time in the life of the PC(USA). My personal standard on the Doctrine of the Church, which is the issue that we really must wrestle with, comes from a prayer during the Lord’s Supper liturgy from the 1970 Worshipbook : “We thank you that he is not dead but is risen to rule the world; and that he is still the friend of sinners. We trust him to overcome every power to hurt or divide us, so that when he brings in his promised kingdom, we will celebrate with him.”
And that’s my bottom line about who we are. We don’t always agree but we are not here because we agree on everything, we are here because God called us here to this occasionally "bumpy" Peaceable Kingdom we know as PC(USA). And thanks to Grace, there is, as the song says, “enough love” for all of us to be together:
In this very room, there’s quite enough love for all the world,
And in this very room there’s quite enough joy for all the world,
And there’s quite enough hope and
quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus, is in this very room.
~ Lyrics by Ron Harris
Video link for In This Very Room