The anthropologist invited the children from the African tribe to play one game. He placed a basket of fruit near the tree and announced, addressing the children: “The one of you who reaches the tree first will be rewarded with all sweet fruits.”
When he signaled to the children to start the race, they locked their hands tightly and ran together, and then they all sat together and enjoyed the delicious fruit.
The astonished anthropologist asked the children why they all ran together, because each of them could enjoy the fruit for himself.
To which the children replied: “Obonato”.
Is it possible for one to be happy if everyone else is sad?
“Obonato” in their language means: “I exist because we exist.”
Let us begin this week, not with an “assignment”—to care and make a difference in a world in pain—but with an affirmation of Obonato. We begin with the invitation to embrace, the fundamental reality that we—every one of us children of God—are on this journey together.
I write Sabbath Moment to find and create sanctuary and healing, knowing that it will impossible to heal, repair and transform our world if we live in fear, hatred or rage. If we live divided.
Gratefully, we are none of us, dispassionate witnesses. So…
Here’s to Obonato…
And to here’s to the Obonato bridge builders that make it real…
“Here’s to the bridge-builders, the hand-holders, the light-bringers, those extraordinary souls wrapped in ordinary lives who quietly weave threads of humanity into an inhumane world. They are the unsung heroes in a world at war with itself. They are the whisperers of hope that peace is possible. Look for them in this present darkness. Light your candle with their flame. And then go. Build bridges. Hold hands. Bring light to a dark and desperate world. Be the hero you are looking for. Peace is possible. It begins with us.” L.R. Knost
And this, from Rev Anne B. Jolly, “Our hearts break because we know we were created in God’s image to live in community, centered in the love of the Divine. Our hearts break because we know that violence comes from fear and hate, which separate us from God.”
A Nigerian woman, a physician at a teaching hospital in the United States, attended a Gordon MacDonald lecture. After, she approached Gordon, to offer kind words of affirmation. She introduced herself using an American name.
“If I may ask,” Gordon inquired, “what’s your African name?”
The woman pronounced her name, several syllables long, with a musical sound to it.
“And what does your name mean?” Gordon asked.
She answered, “It means ‘Child who takes the anger away.'”
When he inquired about its origin, she told him the story.
“My parents had been forbidden by their parents to marry. But they loved each other so much that they defied the family opinions and married anyway. For several years they were ostracized from both their families. Then my mother became pregnant with me. After my birth, and when the grandparents held me in their arms for the first time, the walls of hostility came down. I became the one who swept the anger away. And that’s the name my mother and father gave me.”
I love this story. It does my heart good. It is a necessary testimony for the world in which we live, and it tugs at two heart reminders.
One, the permission to stand still (to pay attention), to remember what tethers you (don’t ever forget the “name you’ve been given”).
And two, that which tethers you is the fuel that spills wholeheartedness and empathy and compassion into the world—the broken world—around you. It makes the difference. Robert Alden’s affirmation, “There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle.”
This week, remembering Garrison Keillor’s reflection on the church of his youth: “We had a surplus of scholars, and a deficit of peacemakers.” (Yes indeed, a ratio which needs to be reworked.)
Well, here’s the good news; every single one of us have been endowed and equipped, because every single one of us has been given the name; Peacemaker.
This is from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, “So; chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength and discipline. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”
This week we embrace the invitation to be true to who we are…
Yes… Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you—wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment.
Yes… “Child who takes the anger away.”
Yes… Embrace the life of a peacemaker.
What would happen if we lived as if these are true? Can we hear that today?
And no…. this is not easy in our broken world that brings us to our knees, and takes our breath away.
This I know: When worry gets the best of me, I want someone or something to make it right, to create a safe place where worry has no jurisdiction.
Here’s why this matters. When I am anxious (unsettled, disheartened), I revert to a zero-sum view of the world. In other words, I assume (and live as if) resources—including compassion, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, trust, generosity and peacemaking—are finite. And in a zero-sum world, life is short, and the dominant and powerful always seem to win.
So, you get what you can. And if I don’t know you, you are my enemy… or at the very least, someone to be mistrusted.
But here’s the deal: When my emotional compass is catawampus. I need the healing balm from stories that ground and sustain and empower and transform.
In a world viewing strength as unsympathetic toughness, we need Tion Medon’s counsel to Obi wan kanobi on Utapau (for Star Wars aficionados). “There is no war here unless you brought it with you.”
My friends… we are connected. We are on this journey together. Let us spill light where we can.
I take this poem to heart…
Prayer for a Country Called War
Every time you kiss your children,
Remember those who have lost theirs.
Every time you take a sip of water,
Remember those who have no food, no drink.
Every time you call your parents,
Remember those who have no way of knowing if their loved ones are alive or dead.
Every time you flick on a light switch,
Remember those who have no power.
Every time you look up to a sunny or cloudy sky,
Remember those for whom it rains only missles.
Every time you lie down for a peaceful sleep,
Remember those for whom life is only a long, treacherous night,
For whom safety is an unreachable mirage.
Every time you write out your address,
Remember those who live in a country called War.
There is no way to wrap our arms all the way around the globe.
But let us try.
Let us try.
There are some days when I just don’t have the words… for life, or the world around me. Days when music keeps me sane and grounded. Settles my spirit, calms my heart, anchors me and reignites hope and faith. Songs that remind us we are whole, when we feel broken. Songs that remind us we live from sufficiency and not scarcity.
So. Some days, I need to put my pen down, and let the music heal. This week—with the stories in our world, and our theme here of being peacemakers—three songs have continued to replay in my mind, and sustain my heart and soul, and invite me to spill light when and where I can. “Here comes that rainbow again.”
Read the lyrics, and enjoy the audios. Savor your weekend.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky
Imagine all the people
Livin’ for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
Imagine — John Lennon
(Note: We call the first song the peace prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, but it dates to the early 1900s. Even so, it reflects much of the Franciscan spirit.)
And if you have the time… One more song…
Here comes than rainbow again – Kris Kristofferson
Prayer for our week…
Healer of the Nations,
from the noise of war
and the drumbeat of vengeance,
give us undiminished determination
to wage peace.
Out of brokenness, violence, and destruction
let us plant seeds of hope.
Out of chaos, confusion, and hatred,
build bridges of love.
Out of distrust, disunity, and distance,
walk together in harmony.
Heal our divisions and make us whole.
Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson
Photo… “Dear Terry, This is the Bamboo Forest outside of Kyoto, Japan. Enjoy,” Kathy Reedy… Thank you Kathy… And I’m so grateful for your photos, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org