Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace…
In Sunday’s collect, the Church asked me (and a number of you as well) to pray these words, this request for peace in our time. This is an urgent appeal. We are not making a dreamy, docile petition for the distant reclamation we believe will come at the end of things, when the lion lays down with the lamb and heaven and earth are finally joined as one fabulous new creation. No, we are asking for God to act now. This moment. In our time. Would God act in such a way that we’d stop killing one another in Syria and Afghanistan? Would God protect the daughters we were unable to protect last night? Would God salvage our family teetering on the brink?
The deepest scandal of Christian belief is not that we affirm the impossible truths that God has acted in Jesus Christ by fulfilling Israel’s vocation, dying on a cross, rising from the dead and forming his new, visible Body on earth via the Spirit. Rather, our outrageous scandal manifests whenever we announce that God is acting now.
Of course, this is scandal even for those of us silly enough to make such a claim. We utter these words, if we have any sense at all, with fear and trembling. We cannot pretend to presume where God will act or when God will act or if God’s actions will correlate in any way at all with what we had in mind when we suggested the whole idea. Annie Dillard was right to recommend we all wear crash helmets when we pray.
Requesting God to act in our time, on our street, in our soul, is the most ridiculous, lunatic invitation we could ever conjure. It is also the only sane hope in a world that’s proven absolutely impotent at turning itself right-side up.