This Week's Prayer

Words of the poet Denise Levertov:
“An awe so quiet I don’t know when it began. A gratitude had begun to sing in me. Was there some moment dividing song from no song? When does dewfall begin? When does night fold its arms over our hearts to cherish them? When is daybreak?”
Dear Beginnings, poised, yet already begun -- incipient yet eternal,

We are a week and a half into a New Year, and we are challenged already on many fronts.

The year just ended – 2015 – was the 19th straight year in which US temperatures were above the 20th-century average. Atmospheric carbon dioxide passed 400 parts per million, is still climbing, and, perhaps relatedly, record floods have racked the Mississippi basin. With human activity altering the planet in unprecedented ways, what is ours to do?

Fear grips our nation, prompting hateful reactivity. Some of our candidates for president are so hateful that Al Qaeada has used footage of them in recruitment videos. Wheaton College is seeking to fire political science professor, Larycia Hawkins because she said Christians and Muslims worship the same God. What is ours to do?

Our nation suffers under a scourge of gun violence. We know how to reduce it and save thousands of lives every year, but we cannot elect the politicians that will do it. What is ours to do?

Saudi Arabia executed 47, including a Shiite cleric, touching off heightened tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran – a further destabilizing element in a highly unstable region. What is ours to do?

Fourteen states saw a minimum wage go into effect in 2016. The federal minimum wage, which has not seen an increase in six years, stands at $7.25. As earnings gaps continue to widen, oppressing some and rending the social fabric, what is ours to do?

Armed ranchers occupy a Wildlife refuge in Oregon – placing themselves above the law. What is ours to do?

Our consciences continue to weigh how to respond to December’s grand jury finding not indicting police officers who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The prosecutor clearly wanted no indictment and acted more like a defense attorney than a prosecutor. We know that police face a very difficult job, that most officers are fair and reasonable, yet we see that some have been abusive, that young black men bear more than their share of that abuse, and our justice system resists punishing abusive officers. What is ours to do?

In the Mexican city of Temixco, mayor Gisela Mota was killed 1 day after taking office, evidently by a drug gang. No doubt some of the drugs that flow through Mexican cities end up in Westchester. What is ours to do?

Meanwhile, political extremists are on the rise in Europe. Migrants are pouring in and Britain may drop out. North Korea claims it successfully tested its first hydrogen bomb, though US analysts say it was a less powerful atomic bomb. The Chinese stock market has been plummeting so fast that authorities there keep shutting it down. U.S. market indexes dropped in the worst 4-day start to a year ever. The stable world of peace and prosperity we yearn for confronts dizzying difficulties and setbacks. What is ours to do?

Let us seek the "awe so quiet we can’t tell when it began." Let gratitude sing in us. The turn from hate to love, from fear to compassion, from defensive self-protection to hospitality has already, mysteriously, begun somewhere -- and everywhere.

Let our eyes, our ears, our hearts be open. It is ours to keep turning -- keep turning toward understanding, toward kindness and respect, toward connection, toward the day that is breaking though we did not detect its beginning.

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