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Being Repurposed by Grace: A 9/11 Anniversary Reflection

By Glory E. Dharmaraj

"The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God." -Romans 8:19

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:38-39

During this 7th anniversary of grief observed, it may be helpful to recall a medieval story of the grail. Written in the 12th century, the story is about a quest for the legendary grail, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. This story of the grail quest is about chivalry and soldiery. At a deeper level, it is about a quest for inner healing, wholeness of the land and renewal.

Parsifal is a legendry knight who set out on a quest for the grail. Raised as a protected child from the rest of the world by his mother, Parsifal knew nothing of the world of pain.

Making his way into the world of the knights by his chivalry and prowess, the young knight, by chance, came to the castle of the grail and saw two things:

  • A procession bearing the grail, and
  • The rich Fisher King of the land of the grail inflicted with wounds and deeply in pain.

The young knight was so awed into silence by the procession that he forgot to do the one thing needed at that hour. He failed to ask the most necessary question that would have healed the Fisher King and the land of the grail. The one who was on the grail-quest failed to raise the question: “What ails you, Fisher King?”

Parsifal failed to notice the wounds of the Fisher King; failed to open up the possibility of healing for the land, and the healing for the wounded king, at the right time.

Those of us who are often awed by the pageantry and the rituals of holiness, sometimes fail to question the realities that surround us:

  • Naming the realities in the midst of us,
  • Naming the issues related to the realities, and
  • Questioning the realities in which wounded persons and communities live out their everyday lives.

But the Holy Spirit has equipped us with the key to open up ourselves to the Spirit’s deep working within us. The Holy Spirit has given us the gift of grace-based intervention.

Grace-based intervention
We are equipped to birth new visions. We are equipped to be co-agents with God’s vision. We are equipped to implement God’s vision of shalom for the world. The Spirit enables us to work the deep mystery that we hold within:

  • The mystery of the wounded Fisher King, in the form of the crucified God.
  • The mystery of Jesus the Christ who identifies himself with the victim.
  • This mystery of this storytelling God who lifts up the Good Samaritan.
  • The invitation to notice the wounds of others in our journey.
  • It is not “they” with “their” wounds. They are us, too.
  • The coming out on the side of grace to address wounds in others and us.

Repurposed by forgiveness
A real story of forgiveness is found in the Amish community of Nickel Mines in Lancaster County, Pa. An Amish leader described the Oct. 6, 2006 tragedy of the killing of Amish school children, as the Amish 9/11. While the rest of the world was watching this community of grieving people, the media flashed news of the victims extending forgiveness to the killer and his family.

It was a model of what came to be called Amish Grace by three writers, namely Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher. The title of their book is Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, part of United Methodist Women’s 2009 Reading Program.

Diana Butler, a religious columnist, asked rhetorically, “What if the Amish were in charge of the war on terror?”
I was struck by the phrase and how these wounded healers worked intentionally on a “new normal.” Things will not be normal for the Nickel Mines Amish sisters and brothers of Lancaster County anymore. But they have set for those of us who claim to be the followers of the Gospel, a modern-day model for discipleship. In the midst of grieving, they have forgiven the perpetrator and are showing an alternative to taking vengeance. Is not mission helping provide and experience new normals?

Repurposed by grace
Is forgiveness from the Amish community in the Nickel Mines area of the Lancaster County a strange act of a seeming subculture? Can this highly human-spiritual act be mainstreamed? Can we be repurposed with the raw Gospel by the Christ of the Lancaster County Road?

  • Repurposed by forgiveness,
  • Repurposed by naming the issue,
  • Repurposed by addressing the issue, and
  • Repurposed by peace-making and healing.

In the story of the grail, finally, the young knight asked the question, and became the guardian of the grail. The land was healed.

From shalom-quest to shalom-spree
We mourn with those who mourn over the grievous tragedy that took place on 9/11. We also remember the victims of terror all over the world. Weeping with Jesus over the victims, we also ask the Jesus-question: Why do you not recognize the things that make for peace? (Luke 19:42) God is on a poignant love-quest. God seeks humans so that they can seek shalom.

Creation is on a shalom-quest. Romans 8:19-22 talks about creation groaning in pain. It is time to ask, “What ails you, Mother Earth?” It is time to take a stance with the suffering creation for the healing of the earth. Creation is earnestly waiting for that to happen.

The Holy Spirit is seeking out shalom-questers. Therefore the Holy Spirit is groaning. It is time to listen to wounds and groans of the Spirit. It is time to ask: “What ails you, my Counselor?” “How may I take a stance with you and come out as a child of God?” It is time to notice the presence of God in the midst of us nudging us to listen to the intercessions of the Holy Spirit so that we may come out on the side of grace, and take a stance as children of God.

It is time to notice the wounds of the nations, and wounds, what we have inflicted on others as a nation, pray for the healing of the nations, and take a stance on behalf of the healing of the nations. The wounded souls of the lands are on a shalom-quest, waiting to be healed.

Above all, it is time to notice the pain of God, as God suffers with the victims and crucified peoples of the world, and take a stance on behalf of the suffering persons here and elsewhere. God so loved the world that God wanted the world to be on a shalom-spree. Hence God made Jesus, our shalom, our peace (Ephesians 2:14). The God of the Bible urges shalom-questers to become guardians of shalom.

On this day, you are invited to take part in some of the following peace-actions:

  • Light a candle and pray for peace.
  • Advocate for increased funding for veteran’s benefits.
  • Engage in peace activities on Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace.
  • Post prayers for peace on United Methodist Women’s On-line Community for UMW Peacemakers at www.umwonline.org/peacemakers.
  • Resolve to be a people on a shalom-spree, forgiven and forgiving, following Christ wherever the Prince of Peace leads us.
  • Support legislative efforts to end funding of the Iraq War, and act for peace in the region through prayer, mission study, education, outreach and advocacy.
  • Bring about healing by being in solidarity with the innocent victims and the least of these, by asking the question, “Why are people still weeping?” and addressing root causes of wounds in neighbors and communities.
  • Monitor your local or regional or national newspaper the next day, Sept. 22, 2008, to find out how media cover peace and promote peace. Look for monitoring forms on www.umwmission.org. For information, contact Glory Dharmaraj at GDharmar@gbgm-umc.org or 212-682-3633.

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*Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D,. is the director of spiritual formation and mission theology for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
Last Updated: 04/09/2010

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