“This is the day we have been given. Let us rejoice in even this day…”
When I offered the benediction last Sunday I changed my usual words to acknowledge the simple truth that it is probably harder for most of us to get to gratitude this year than normal. Harder for us to get to gratitude but more necessary for us to get to church. Our attendance last Sunday was at an all time high. Thirty new children and youth joined our Learning Community classes. More than 50 visitors took the time to fill out our visitor questionnaire.
But for all the individuals and families that we welcomed, that question of gratitude remains. Can we be grateful even when the world seems not to be going our way?
A good friend and good Unitarian Universalist, Annette Marquis, reflecting on her own religious journey, writes:
“As a child, I learned to pray the Our Father, the Roman Catholic form of The Lord’s Prayer, which ends not with praising God with ‘For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever,’ but rather with the line petitioning God to ‘deliver us from evil.’
As I grew older, I realized I could no longer ask God to deliver me from evil. I couldn’t hide from it, safe behind a protective shield, and expect evil to dissipate on its own—I had to play an active role in dispelling evil in whatever ways I could. I came to understand that it is in the absence of love that evil propagates, and, in the presence of love that evil dissipates.
So instead of praying to God to deliver me from evil, I began praying for the Spirit of Life to deliver me to evil, to give me the courage to go where evil exists and supplant it with love.”
Deliver me to evil. It is a much more challenging prayer for me and for us. But living in a time when the odds for evil seem to be going through the roof, perhaps that is the intention that we need to bring. That particular attitude of gratitude recognizes the many blessings of our lives and the ways we have been privileged. It recognizes our gifts and our strengths.
It is more than that, however. The willingness to approach evil is a leap of faith that we can, somehow, help transform that evil. It is a leap of faith that is bold enough to claim that love can trump fear and that justice can trump greed. That is the ground that I am trying to stand on in this season and the ground I will try to point toward this coming Sunday.
Annette Marquis has replaced her childhood “Our Father” with a deeply Unitarian Universalist version that I am happy to share with you as we approach this holiday season:
Spirit of Life, which exists wherever there is love,
Blessed be all Your Names.
Strengthen our will
To create heaven on earth,
And help us embody a peace-filled world.
Give us all our daily bread.
Teach us to forgive ourselves for our failings,
And to forgive those who have failed us.
Deliver us to evil
And give us the courage to transform it with Love
For Love is the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Blessings and an early Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,