Worth a Try
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. – Psalm 85:10 (NRSV)
A Pollyanna I am not. I know the world is broken in countless places, and that much of the suffering, division, rage, and reaction we’re living is reaped from evil, hurt, greed, and fear sown decades and centuries ago. Some days things seem only to be getting worse.
But I am a person of faith. I have walked repeatedly into the belly of the beast to plead prayerfully, if futilely, for fairness. I have agonized, organized, gone to jail, and prayed for my enemy, living as if the arc of history will eventually bend toward justice.
And on occasion I have witnessed the transformative power of faithful humility, apology, and hope. This time of year I remember the Sunday when several Japanese scholars visited our church.
The elder of the group rose to speak. He would say a few sentences in Japanese, and then another scholar would translate. Excruciatingly long minutes passed. And then he spoke two words in English: Pearl Harbor.
The translation went something like this: “It is with great sorrow and pain that we ask your forgiveness for our nation’s attack on Pearl Harbor.”
We gasped as one. And then the tears began to flow. I extended our forgiveness, adding that we needed to ask their pardon—for Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the unfathomable suffering of the Japanese people. Could they ever forgive us? They could, and they did.
Our simple offerings of apology and forgiveness did not change the world, but they created space for healing and relationship. When so much of our justice work feels fruitless, isn’t faithfulness also worth a try?
When I am tempted to despair, give me faith enough to try vulnerability, apology, forgiveness, and love.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.