"In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed." - Mark 1:35
At her denomination's annual meeting, a social justice activist listened impatiently to a keynote address about spirituality. She was heard to mutter, "The world's in flames, and the bliss-ninnies are doing guided meditations."
In her view, the spirituality types were several singing bowls removed from the real world, clueless about root causes and systemic solutions. You want to pray? Do justice. That's real prayer. Want to linger over Scripture? Take Matthew 25. Then get to work. Enough with the navel-gazing.
Meanwhile, the keynoter was wondering why the social justice types always seem so grumpy, so touchy. They have an air of fatigued arrogance about them, she thought, as if everything hinges on them—world peace, an end to hunger. They can't sit still for a nanosecond because maybe, just maybe, the next action or petition will be the thing that finally fixes everything.
Jesus puts his body on the line all day. In the wee hours he prays. He never separates inseparables. For him, the kingdom comes by wonder and strategy, protest and ecstasy, imagination and politics, beauty and programs, service and solitude, rallies and gratitude, resolutions and praise.
It's not about the soul's silence versus the noise of the street, the sanctuary versus the subcommittee. It's not even about finding a balance or making equal time. It's about yielding our whole selves—every gift and skill, picketing or praying—to the Living One, in the sure and certain hope that, with us and without us, the kingdom comes, pure gift beyond our dreams.
In prayer and action, O God, we hope in you. In you alone.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.