Guest Post for Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Vahisha Hasan

The Living Psalms Project of the United Church of Christ invites a team of writers to interpret and share the Psalm for the Revised Common Lectionary each week as it speaks to justice. Vahisha Hasan is the writer for this weekend — which in the United States is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Psalm 40:1-11
[To a Leader. Of Civil Rights. A Psalm.]

A Prayer for Freedom

1I patiently waited on that balcony Lord,
For you to hear my cry. You leaned in when I was murdered.
2And pulled me from this sunken place
full of segregated lunch counters and water hoses
You let me stand on the mountain top
With my marching feet firm
3And you gave Mahalia a new song,
“Take My Hand Precious Lord.”
Many saw the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,
And they honor and trust you, the liberating God.

4You bless all bodies who trust you, Lord,
And refuse to bow down to the idol of whiteness
Or follow manipulated whitewashed theologies.
5You, Lord God, have already brought our ancestors thus far on the way,
And you have the wildest dreams of our ancestors shadowed beneath your hand.
We let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies.

6Capitalistic production and nationalism are not what please you,
The blood of black bodies and the criminalization of poverty are not what you require.
7And so, I said, “We are God’s children. Our cry is the same, we want to be free.
Survival demands that we grapple…I have a dream.”
8Our freedom pleases you. We are going to march again.
Jim Crow laws are not your will. Your law is in my heart.

9When we worshipped together in Memphis,
You were there and heard me say,
“There is a certain kind of fire no amount of water can put out.”
10When your people gathered together and marched out of Clayborn Temple,
We did not remain silent in our message.
We said, “I Am A Man.”

11Do not, O Lord, withhold liberation from us in our lifetime;
Because you are faithful and merciful and your steadfast love keeps us
We know deep in our hearts, we believe deep in our hearts,
That We Shall Overcome. We Shall Overcome. We Shall Overcome Someday.

Vahisha Hasan M.A., Ed.S., M.Div.is a faith-rooted organizer working at the intersections of faith, social justice, and mental health. She is the Executive Director of Movement in Faith, a project of Transform Network. She is a public speaker, transformative facilitator, social justice trainer, minister, and writer with a deeply prophetic voice and imagination for how faith communities can be an active part of healing and collective liberation.
She is Assistant Professor and Department Chair of Applied Psychology at Memphis Center for Urban and Theological Studies (MCUTS) and seeks to integrate mental health in faith communities. Vahisha serves on the Executive Team of Memphis Coalition of Action and Hope (MICAH) as C0-chair of Training. She also serves as an associate minister at Christ Missionary Baptist Church, under Rev. Dr. Gina Stewart, Senior Pastor, where she was licensed and ordained June 23, 2019.

In addition to penning book reviews, journal articles, and online publications, she has published two editions of Resipiscence: A Lenten Devotional for Dismantling White Supremacy, 2018 and 2019. Most recently, Vahisha collaborated to launch miles of melanin, a travel fund for melanated artists and activists, inspired by the benefactors of the Harlem Renaissance authors and artists.

Vahisha is a friend of mine.

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Remembering Christopher Tolkien

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” JRR Tolkien

C. Tolkien, Bob Cohn (Fair Use)          

We remember Christopher Tolkien,
a boy who heard the Father Christmas letters,
wondering what would happen next
to the North Polar Bear
and when would be more fireworks,
who stayed home because of ill health
and listened to the Hobbit
became its earliest critic,
Bilbo’s earliest companion,
and the very youngest Inkling.

And we remember the young man
deployed to South Africa in the second world war
receiving The Lord of the Rings
for edits and comments,
and returning home to become
the mapmaker of Middle Earth.

We remember his teaching,
yes, Chaucer,
where he also found tales and journeys,

and his caretaking of his father’s world —
preserving notes and sketches,
bits of stories, webs of myth-making,
translating invented languages
in all their sweet and wild parsing,
sharing adventures
for all the world children
who need eagles and ents and elves,
editing the new books,
and bringing them to the Shire
where most of us live most of the time.

We remember his tussles with filmakers,
his retirement to France,
the family who grieves his passing,
its breaking
and its reconciliation,

and we remember,
in his name,
that a seat was found for Frodo
on the voyage to the Undying Lands.

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Reflection on the impact of the Australian wildfires on the land by Rev. Carol Hallman

Carol Hallman shared this poem with her congregation and with us as well.

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
How gay your life must be!

My heart grieves
As the cameras
Record the devastation
Of the bushlands
Fires furious destruction
Ash and soot all that is left

My heart grieves
The loss of
Kangaroos and koalas
Wallabies and wombats
The habits of
Potoroos and Dunnarts

My heart grieves
The Glossy Black Cockatoo
Just back from the brink
The Richmond Birdwing Butterfly
Greater gliders
Peackock spiders
And the Nightcap Oak
Which offered food for many

My hearts grieves
The countless
Bats
Frogs and other
Critters whose
Habitats are forever changed

My heart gives thanks
For all the volunteers
Dropping carrots and other
Food in the wastelands
So they might have
A fighting chance

My heart gives thanks
For those who offer
Water and shelter
Who comfort and aid

Kookaburra sits in
The old burnt tree
Grieving king of the bush is he
Cry Kookaburra Cry Kookaburra,
How sad his life must be

Forgive us
For our complicity
In the destruction of
This place of beauty
For the pain and suffering
We caused

May our eyes be opened
May our hearts be wide
May we finally begin
To be the good stewards
Of God’s beloved
Creation that we
Are called to be

 

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An Update from Australia by Christine MacDowell and a Prayer for the Animals there

Christine MacDowell sent this note as a “comment” on the blog but I think that it is important enough to be a post so that everyone can read it. Many thanks to her and ongoing prayers for the situation.

Maren, it seems we are entering a quiet week relatively speaking. There is much work to do in cleaning up and re-opening roads, providing resources to townships still cut off from regular supplies, especially fuel to power generators for essentials such as fridges and c-pap (sleep apnoea) machines. There begins the recovery work for those affected, long term compassion and practical aid. Millions of creatures have lost their lives, homes, habitats, some fear extinction is inevitable for certain ones. There is ongoing frustration with how to reduce fuel in the forests when there are fewer days in which is safe to burn, and an increasing interest in cultural burning, the term used for the way the indigenous First Peoples have cared for the forests for millennia. We are only at the start of our hot dry summer – there is every reason to fear for the future. There has been tremendous support in many ways from around the world, the funds raised and promised is staggering. I am writing to you because I hear that rumours and exaggerations are spreading about our situation. Our prayers are for the people, their situations and for wisdom and compassion, justice and hope to walk hand in hand. Thank you for the reminder through your writing of God’s constant loving presence with us and all creation. Blessings to you. 

For God’s Creatures in Australia

Job 12:7-8 ‘But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.’

God in the midst of our grief
for the human beings who have died
in the Australian wildfires,
the homes lost, farms scorched,
and understory blasted,

we pause to pray for
more than a billion creatures
who have died in this season
of dry heat and flame,
because animals do not have
evacuation routes, hardened homes,
emergency supplies.

We memorialize cockatoos
and honeyeaters,
kangaroo and gliders and frogs,
bats, dunnarts, potoroos,
and green carpenter bees,
and mourn their terrible losses.

We weep with farmers
who bury their cattle and merino sheep,
euthanize those in terrible pain,
and desperately care
for the survivors, wondering,
what they will eat tomorrow —
wild and domestic animal alike?

And we pray in gratitude for rescuers
who detach remaining koala bears
from the skeletons
of eucalyptus trees
and bandage their burned feet
and who slowly and carefully
give water to dehydrated wallabies,

and for the prophets
who cry out for the climate —
that humans shall not hurt or destroy
on holy mountains
or holy Australian bush,
and we learn the creatures’ wisdom,
so the waters cover the land.
amen.

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Letter from Malkhaz Songulashvili, from Iran

A friend of mine Baptist Archbishop from the Republic of Georgia, Malkhaz Songulashvili wrote from Iran:

Dear Friends,

All these days since the New Year Bishop Ilia, a colleague of mine, and myself have been traveling in Iran on ourregular bridge building mission. We have also been engaged in a relief work supported by our German colleagues.Rather unexpectedly we have became witnesses of all the frustration and uncertainty Iranian people are experiencing these days. In the course of the visit we have been meeting with clergy and laity, young and old.

This morning we left Shiraz and arrived to Ispahan – old Safavid capital of Iran.

Today we visited tombs of great pursuers of inter religious peace: Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great. It was a rather overwhelming experience to stand in front of their graves. In accordance with Biblical narratives these two characters granted their royal support to the return of Jewish captives from Babylon and restoration of the Jerusalem temple. At their tombs we offered our prayers for peace in the region and reconciliations among cultures and religions.

We need more leaders like Cyrus and Darius who will be promoting peace, respect and reconciliation in the world which is being torn apart by fears and hatred.

May I humbly ask you to join us in prayer for peace in Iran, Israel, Iraq and the rest of Middle East. It the aftermath of the march to Selma Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel was writing that in Selma their feet were praying as they walked for social justice in the USA. It is my instinct that time has come that not only our feet but also out hearts, minds hands should be praying for peace in the world.

Yours,
+Malkhaz
Shiraz-Ispahan, Iran

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Renewing our Baptism

In Puerto Rico,
the old baptizer’s saints day
is the greatest of celebrations.

On Fiesta de San Juan Bautista,
people gather at the beaches
and at midnight
the walk backward into the ocean
and let themselves fall.

This is my image of faith
become real in the waters,
trusting in the hope of rebirth.

In the wake of earthquake
upon earthquake upon earthquake
upon hurricane,
let all the world pause
at the courage, the sacrament
of falling into loving arms,

and reach out our hands
to become part of the holy web.

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Prayer for Puerto Rico

God, for the beauty of Puerto Rico,
for the whispers of taíno heritage,
for dawn over water,
for mountains and shores
for the royal poinciana on the hills,
the song of the coqui,
the orchids and parrots, we give thanks.

For gifts to the world —
for music, storytelling, dance,
for poets and architects,
for playwrights, artists, athletes,
musicians and singers,
diplomats, human rights activists,
inventors, engineers, we give thanks.

For courage in spite of neglect,
after hurricane Maria,
for the resilience of people
during power failures
and the failure of people in power
to offer assistance,
for continued sharing and generosity,
for spirit that stays alive
month after month of waiting,
for reaching out
to help one another and offer hope
in the earthquakes of this week,
we give thanks.

And from our gratitude,
not our pity at news footage
of devastations,
but from our amazement
at courage, strength, perseverance —
we pray with our hearts,
and also with our open hands.
amen.

 

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