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When the MLT meets for our day-long meetings, we begin the day praying for the congregations of Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (IMMC). Our last meeting occurred the day before Pentecost Sunday. The Covid-19 death toll recently surpassed the 100,000 mark. Protests rose up regarding the death of George Floyd and racial injustice plaguing our country. The evening before our meeting I saw many disturbing images. My heart was heavy that Saturday morning. I did not much feel like leading an MLT meeting.

 Naomi Yoder began our “Zoom day” in prayer. At the end of that prayer, I was left speechless. My heart was comforted. I did not want to rush onto the next agenda item. So I sat there. Resting. Soaking in the loving embrace of God.

 Naomi incorporated a Jan Richardson prayer titled “This Grace That Scorches Us: A Blessing for Pentecost Day” (from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons), along with one of Richardson’s images titled “Pentecost Fire.” This became for me a prayer of hope and expectation as we delegates will soon gather for our Annual Sessions. After the MLT members took turns naming every congregation in our conference, our prayer continued:

Here’s one thing
you must understand
about this blessing:
it is not
for you alone.

It is stubborn
about this.
Do not even try
to lay hold of it
if you are by yourself,
thinking you can carry it
on your own.

To bear this blessing,
you must first take yourself
to a place where everyone
does not look like you
or think like you,
a place where they do not
believe precisely as you believe,
where their thoughts
and ideas and gestures
are not exact echoes
of your own.

Bring your sorrow.
Bring your grief.
Bring your fear.
Bring your weariness,
your pain,
your disgust at how broken
the world is,
how fractured,
how fragmented
by its fighting,
its wars,
its hungers,
its penchant for power,
its ceaseless repetition
of the history it refuses
to rise above.

I will not tell you
this blessing will fix all that.

But in the place
where you have gathered,
wait.
Watch.
Listen.

Lay aside your inability
to be surprised,
your resistance to what you
do not understand.
See then whether this blessing
turns to flame on your tongue,
sets you to speaking
what you cannot fathom
or opens your ear
to a language
beyond your imagining
that comes as a knowing
in your bones,
a clarity
in your heart
that tells you
this is the reason
we were made:
for this ache
that finally opens us,
for this struggle,
this grace
that scorches us
toward one another
and into
the blazing day.

 May it be so. Amen. I look forward to seeing you in a few weeks!