Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Lives by Imagination

Christmas is an afterthought. But what an afterthought it is!

Maybe it seems crude to say that Advent and Christmas are afterthoughts in the Gospel story—especially to say it this late, with Advent eclipsed by Christmas and as we now count the days from Christmas to Epiphany. But, perhaps pointing out this overlooked reality at this moment may heighten the celebration.

I learned this in Biblical literature studies: only Luke and Matthew write birth narratives and the earliest church did not attach great significance to details of Jesus’ birth. Only in the second century did the church begin to magnify and adorn the birth of Jesus.

Even the little the Gospels tell us of Jesus’ birth is divergent. Luke and Matthew tell two different stories about the birth of Jesus. Luke follows Mary’s lineage; Matthew follow’s Joseph’s. In Luke, an angel appears to Mary; in Matthew, an angel speaks to Joseph. In Luke, shepherds bear witness to the child’s birth; in Matthew, Magi come to Bethlehem to see the child.

Regarding the birth of Jesus, his initial followers missed all that Christians a generation later meticulously tried to reconstruct, document and infuse with meaning. This is not to say that they manufactured the story, but that they relied on passed-along stories (oral tradition is a great and historically important tradition—one largely lost in the West today).

Only long after Jesus’ crucifixion, after resurrection witness, and after Pentecost, amid the dispersion of Christians across the Roman world did the idea of calendaring Jesus’ birth emerge as important in the hearts and minds of the faithful.

Eventually, Christians co-opted a holiday already significant to various “pagan” cultures and baptized it as Christmas. It doesn’t sound very holy, but that’s pretty much how it happened.

However, after a date is fixed, the idea of Jesus’ birth begins to flourish. It doesn’t take long for the imaginations of practitioners, theologians, and musicians to begin to magnify and multiply meaning. One generation adds garnish to the last. Across cultures, stories deepen, traditions broaden, liturgies blossom. The original stories are magnified and morph through riffs that ripple and refract across millennia.

Beyond the church and over time, people have adorned Christmas with explosive imagination. Imagination has given us what is now too much to take in and process in any singularly coherent framework. With only a fraction of Biblical or theologically correct touchstones, Christmas images dazzle, stories morph, traditions multiply, music pours forth. The genie is out of the bottle and no one can contain or control it. Like it or not, Christmas influence is pervasive and continuously extending.

In light of this uncontainable, irreducible reality, I laugh at those who ardently try to convince us that someone is trying to steal Christmas—to drain it of meaning. Hogwash. No one, even if they tried, could curtail the Christmas imagination.

So, however Christmas imagination has come to you—whatever its shape, whatever its feel, whatever its experiences, whatever its traditions—dare to enter into them as fully as possible. Hey, why not contribute a bit of your own imagination to the mix? It is only those who fail to imagine a little who miss the spirit and trajectory of what this season promises.

Have a merry Christmas!

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Monday, December 14, 2015

Seven Relational Wonders

These wonders are not distant and rare, but near and necessary for life transformation

I’ve seen a few of the natural and human-made wonders of the world—and long to see more. I’ve witnessed the magnificence of the Taj Mahal. But I have yet to gaze up upon the sky-filling wonder of Aurora Borealis.

Seeing the Seven Wonders of the World requires costly travel, putting many of them out of reach for most of us. To see the Northern Lights, I will plan to travel far north. Even then, it will be a momentary experience that may soon fade from the realm of wonder to the list of “been there, done that.”

What about wonders that are much nearer and accessible to more of us? What about wonders that are not in the natural order or of human ingenuity? I offer seven relational wonders of the world—wonders which amaze and continue to shape us on a daily basis. Before these, I feel reverence and mystery.

1. Children and parents. Privileged to witness the birth of each of our four children and participate equally in rearing them into young adulthood, they are, to me, a wonder. Their uniqueness, innocence, zest for exploring, and gradual maturing amazes me. Likewise, who is ever adequate to the vocation of parenting? My profession in life pales in comparison to the challenge of parenting.

2. Love and marriage. Do we choose love or does love choose us? We choose life partners and these relationships impact the dailyness and trajectory of our lives. We may yield to love, fully confident that we can manage and max its apparently predictable paces, only to find that love turns us inside out and upside down and, somehow, for better or worse, makes us more fully alive.

3. Grace and forgiveness. Anyone who loves and joins with a companion will, sooner than later, discover the value of grace and forgiveness. Separately and together, both in offering and receiving, they are oil that salve and heal individuals and relationships. Grace is revealed as timely empathy, understanding, and forbearance. Profoundest of wonders, forgiveness births hope for a changed and better future.

4. Reverse mission. Named so by Henri Nouwen, reverse mission is the discovery that those to whom we feel called in mission in the end contribute more to our lives than we ever can give. Those we seek in compassion to change, change us.

5. Border crossing and bridge building. Who knows what compels and propels some people beyond their own kin and kind to cross guarded cultural borders, dwell in notorious DMZs, and build bridges between here and there, inviting all to new common ground?

6. Connectedness of all things. Discovering that all people, animals, lands, and systems are inextricably connected undermines ideologies, humanizes “devils,” extends kinship, cultivates value, changes habits, and creates stewardship.

7. The power of one small light. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overwhelm it.” If one has seen but a single person so shine, one forever salutes this wonder. Moving our light closer to another’s, we become part of the wonder that dispels darkness.

May we open our hearts and eyes anew to the possibility of wonder. May some wonder disrupt our dis-ease, interrupt our foregone conclusions, rattle our settled presumptions, and challenge our criticisms. Perhaps some small relational wonder will begin in and through us a movement that changes the outcome of the future.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Monday, December 7, 2015

Moving Toward Winter Cycling

The glory of autumn cycling yields to the tougher temps and extreme conditions of winter cycling. Winter cycling is not for the faint of heart and body. But, for those who dare, cycling through winter can be a thrill. Certainly grounds for bragging rights come spring.

Here are a few things I do to prepare for and keep active cycling through winter:

1. I get my bike ready. Tune it up. Lube it often. Put on treaded tires. Fenders required. Lights in front and back because you WILL ride much more in the dark of winter's shorter days.

2. I pull out my cold-weather gear. Heavy gloves. Neoprene shoe covers. Merino wool socks. I dress in layers, starting with a long-johns base layer. I like lightweight but warm fabrics. I wear a windbreaker or jacket over whatever else I'm wearing. I wear a head cap under my helmet. Keeping my ears, fingers, and toes uncold is critical for me. I carry a neoprene face mask, just in case.

3. I make sure my lights are in good working order and batteries are charged. I now have a USB-charged headlamp and taillight, so fewer batteries are needed. But I carry extra lights and batteries, just in case. I also carry a reflective vest and wear it when it is dark outside. I want drivers to see me clearly.

4. I now have waterproof bags and panniers and use them liberally. In this photo, I'm using a medium-size Sackville trunk bag and a small front bag. Both are well-made and have proven waterproof through a few rainy-day commutes.

5. One of the mistakes in winter riding is to over dress. If I'm sweating during a ride, I'm over dressed. It's self-defeating because I get cold from the sweat. So, I find it's better to feel somewhat cold on the first third or half of my commute than to be sweating half way through the 14-mile trek into downtown Indy. Again, embrace the wonder of layering.

6. Did I mention lights and reflective gear? I did. Let me reiterate: you not only want to see, you want to be seen--clearly, unmistakably, boldly. There's really not enough you can do, even to the point of looking silly out there on the road. Why? Because while most drivers are conscientious, they are not necessarily completely alert at all times to bicycles along the roadways. Some are quite distracted. I want to attract their attention. If they see me, they usually give me space. Usually.

7. Get ready for rain, sleet, and snow. My commute via bicycle is optional, but it is choice I like to make as frequently as possible. To the gear I've mentioned, I add rain gear. Nothing is more miserable to me than being cold AND wet. One or the other, I can handle; the combination is, to me, miserable. So, get rain gear that keeps you dry.

8. Snow calls for studded tires. They're expensive. So, unless cycling is your ONLY commute option, consider this carefully. I have friends who swear by them, but they're also kinda nuts. There are some clip-on or strap-on treading options for tires for snow, but I haven't tried them.

There you go. A few things to think about and get ready for to make it through winter without abandoning the joy of cycling. Have fun and be careful out there.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent and Anticipation of our Daughter's Wedding

I'm used to the discipline of anticipation each Advent season. Dutifully and for the sake of the payoff and fun that happens when Advent yields to Christmastide, I annually put myself in the mindset and disciplines of hopeful expectation--the primary mood of Advent. The onset of December finds me resetting my mind and heart to an empathy for all who yearn for fulfillment of a promise long awaited.

This Advent, however, anticipation is not something I have to imaginatively work at or mindfully develop. During this Advent season, on December 19, to be exact, our daughter Molly will be married. We've got boatloads of anticipation. Our hands are full of preparations. Everyone in the Hay clan is getting ready for the big day and the joy it will bring.

What a combination: preparation for Molly's wedding and preparing for Christmas. Both call for lots of external activity. Making lists, checking them twice. But both, just as much, call for a preparation of the heart. While I am working down the checklists and activities for the wedding and Christmas, I am very much aware that I need to be preparing my heart, too.

I remember my lack of internal preparation for our oldest child Abby's wedding and marriage six years ago. I thought I was ready. I waltzed through all the arrangements quite readily. Everything was falling into place just fine. But when the week of the wedding came, I experienced feelings I'd never experienced before--feelings that perhaps only fathers of the bride of a firstborn can know. While I was full of anticipation and prepared externally, a knot developed in my throat and heart that I couldn't quite shake and still can't quite describe. I was both joyful and sorrowful, both happy and sad. When people asked me what was wrong, all I could muster was: "Nothing's wrong. It's all wonderful. But this must be what it feels like to let go of your child." I walked through my part in Abby and Alex's beautiful wedding in a bit of a daze. I feel its surreal emotions even as I reflect on it and write this.

Whatever it was that hit me that week faded. I guess I got over it. But not quite. It left me with a profound reverence for the marriage Abby and Alex have entered into. It left me with an awe that these things go much deeper and higher than our mere outward preparations. It left me with an appreciation for the sacredness of passages and relationships and life. Truly, none of these things--nothing in life, really--is to be "entered into lightly, but reverently, discreetly, and in the fear of God" (from a wedding ceremony statement I have frequently used).

So, Molly and Jacob's wedding rapidly approaches. We busy ourselves with what we need to do to make it the wedding they have imagined and we all can celebrate together. In the midst of these preparations, I must check my heart. I must take time to be still. To reflect. To Listen. To try to share thoughtful conversations. To be honest with myself and faithful to the emotions that sweep through me. To shape my worries into prayers. To envision the future of blessing that lies before Molly and Jacob and all of us who have a part in their life together. To envision this whole thing as bigger than me, than our family, than Molly and Jacob, than what any of us can think or imagine--to conceive of it as a critical part of a Kingdom and Intention of which we are invited to be a part.

If I do that, or even part of that, or attempt to do part of that, I may be ready come December 19. We'll see. And then...then I can think about getting ready for Christmas.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Living Life as Advent

Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers perspective for this season and all

HOW CHRIST COMES TO US.  “We are faced with the shocking reality: Jesus stands at the door and knocks, in complete reality.  He asks you for help in the form of a beggar, in the form of a ruined human being in torn clothing.  He confronts you in every person that you meet.  Christ walks on the earth as your neighbor as long as there are people.  He walks on the earth as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you and makes his demands.  That is the greatest seriousness and the greatest blessedness of the Advent message.  Christ stands at the door.  He lives in the form of the person in our midst.  Will you keep the door locked or open it to him?”

BETWEEN ADVENTS.  “Christ is still knocking.  It is not yet Christmas.  But it is also not the great final Advent, the final coming of Christ.  Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate goes the longing for the final Advent, where it says: ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Revelation 21:5).”

OUR WHOLE LIFE IS ADVENT.  “Advent is a time of waiting.  Our whole life, however, is Advent -- that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices in the words of the angels: ‘On earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.’  Learn to wait, because he has promised to come.  ‘I stand at the door…’  We however call to him: ‘Yes, come soon, Lord Jesus!’”  

This excerpt of an Advent reflection by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is from Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, Plough Publishing House, 2001, available at

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Forgive Me For Making Faith Hard

SPIRITUAL FORMATION AND DE-FORMATION. While gratitude is an essential part of healthy spiritual formation, we also experience spiritual de-formation when its opposites are expressed and experienced. A brief contemplation on thanksgiving can bring to mind not only all we take for granted and have to be grateful for, but also our own past ingratitude and unthoughtful contributions to the de-formation of others. That's what brought about the following confession.

HARD FAITH. I observed a person whose bearing, mannerisms, and words made it evident that he works very hard at his way of faith. He works hard at believing and defending what he believes. He bolsters himself against straw men with postulated, ever-ready arguments. He wears his faith on his sleeve to ward off whatever questions or inquiries may arise. He works hard at his faith. I wonder if he ever grows weary. I did. Recalling a book which freed me from this treadmill, Tired Of Trying To Measure Up by Jeff VanVonderen, I wanted offer him grace. Aware of my life of ministry, some of which has been conveyed from this "trying harder" mode, this confession formed in me:

For all the times I have tried to make holiness happen on my terms: forgive me.

For making faith appear hard to those under my care: forgive me.

For those who have perceived that faith was hard because of my words or actions: have mercy.

For times when pride of faith has made me falsely comfortable and feel superior: forgive me.

For glances or looks that have conveyed disapproval or disdain for the faith efforts of others: forgive me.

For words that have conveyed “not enough” to those who are cleaving to You: forgive me.

For the sense of earning or working or toiling to be right with You: deliver me.

For conveyed norms of dress, style, or form which make faith seem hard: forgive us.

For interpretations of the Bible which appear hidden, exclusive or obscure: forgive us.

For loading free grace down with imposed conditions and contrived costs: forgive me.

Forgive me for making faith seem hard.

Let me be reminded often of the terms of faith: grace, grace, grace.

And though it cost me everything, let me proclaim grace freely and faithfully all the rest of my days.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Spring of Grief, Spring of Joy

Mom and dad with Becky and me at my college graduation
in May 1981. Becky and I would marry five days later.
I shared this Wendell Berry poem, one of his many compelling Sabbaths pieces, at the graveside as we buried my dad's ashes today at South Mound Cemetery in New Castle, Indiana.

Among our extended family cluster was my mom, 78, her sister Myra, and one of dad's sisters, Elaine--those who are seeing more and more of their generation pass from this life. There, also, was our oldest daughter, Abby, 14 weeks pregnant with the first of the next generation.

Berry's poem speaks of both: the old experiencing increasing absence of loved ones and the young witnessing that "many are still to come."

Reflecting on this range of simultaneous experience, I resonate with his phrase: "the spring of grief also is the spring of joy."

In Memory: James Baker Hall

The old know well the world
is a place of the absence of many
known, loved, and gone,
as the mind might contain a sky
empty of birds, an earth
without landmark trees.
The young, the husbands and wives,
must learn and the old recall
that all the absent are not gone.
Many are still to come.
The spring of grief also is
the spring of joy. The cup
is dipped and drunk, and the space
of its taking again is filled.

Wendell Berry in This Day, Collected & New Sabbath Poems, 1979-2013, Counterpoint, 2013

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Saturday, July 25, 2015

At Peace with Death, Making Peace with Life

Asked to share the graveside commital for my 86-year old Aunt Jean Hyden Sheffield today, I found and read to family and friends gathered at South Mound Cemetery in New Castle, Indiana, the following snippet from 'Tuesdays With Morrie' by Mitch Albom:

Emery Sheffield is my mother's brother. He, 89, and Jean, 86, have lived in
Utah and Florida after retirement and living a lifetime in New Castle, Indiana.
Jean died earlier this week. Family and friends gathered in New Castle for
a touching celebration of Aunt Jean's life. 
"Last night..." Morrie said softly.

Yes? Last night?

"...I had a terrible spell. It went on for hours. And I really wasn't sure I was going to make it. No breath. No end to the choking. At one point, I started to get dizzy...and then I felt a certain peace. I felt that I was ready to go."

His eyes widened. "Mitch, it was a most incredible feeling. The sensation of accepting what was happening, being at peace. I was thinking about a dream I had las week, where I was crossing a bridge into something unknown. Being ready to move on to whatever is next."

But you didn't.

Morrie waited a moment. He shook his head slightly. "No, I didn't. But I felt like I could. Do you understand?

"That's what we are all looking for. A certain peace with the idea of dying. If we know, in the end, that we can ultimately have that peace with dying, then we can finally do the really hard thing."

Which is?

"Make peace with living."

He asked me to see the hibiscus plant on the ledge behind him. I cupped it in my hand and held it up near his eyes. He smiled.

"It's natural to die," he said. "The fact that we make such a big hullabaloo over it is all because we don't see ourselves as part of nature. We think because we're human we're something above nature."

He smiled at the plant.

"We're not. Everything that gets born, dies." He looked at me.

"Do you accept that?"


"All right," he whispered, "now here's the payoff. Here is how we are different from these wonderful plants and animals.

"As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on--in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here."

His voice was raspy, which usually meant he needed to stop for a while.  I placed the plant back on the ledge and went to shut off the tape recorder. This is the last sentence Morrie got out before I did:

"Death ends a life, not a relationship."

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Planning to Ride the Great Allegheny Passage

Though I've ridden a bike through India, Vietnam, and Kenya, this takes me closer to my roots

Trails in Indiana, like this corn-lined one in Indianapolis,
will yield to hilly vistas and misty valleys when we head
out on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal.  
For me, cycling is everything from a weekday commute to work to an international weeks-long cross-country sojourn. This ride, from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC, is somewhere in the middle.

The plan is to ride the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. From there, the ride will continue along the C&O Canal as it moves southeastward to Washington, D.C.

This is about 335 miles that a few friends and I will cover in six days of riding--almost completely without vehicle traffic. That, for me, will be a first in cross-country cycling.

Several things about this ride, slated for August 10 through 16, compel me.

Foremost is the anticipation of riding through the land of my youth. This territory is my roots. Until I turned 17 years old, I lived in West Virginia--rustic, beautiful, misty hill country. I lived in Parkersburg, along the Ohio River, about 120 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The hills in the northwest area of West Virginia are smaller than what we will see and experience further east into the Allegheny Mountains, but the shape of the terrain I see in a guidebook looks an awful lot like home. While mostly in Pennsylvania and Maryland, both the GAP and C&O Canal border West Virginia for over 150 miles.

Compelling, also, is what I do not know and have never seen before of this age-old mountainous area. So many small towns and rural areas, each similar but oh so distinct, invite my wanderlust. There is history and mythology here that I am vaguely familiar with (as a child and student, I loved reading of the history and geography of West Virginia), but I'm anxious to learn anew and experience firsthand. Some of what I know is ugly history--of rapacious coal and steel and railroad barons, and Civil War north-south border strife (West Virginia was born as an anti-slavery dissent partition from Virginia). Riding through these places, I hope to learn other stories--perhaps both better and worse.

This will be the first cross-country ride I've undertaken without a SAG (support and gear) wagon. No one will be transporting our supplies or assisting with breakdowns. Whatever we need for the journey will be carried on our bikes--tent, sleeping bag, clothing, food, tools, supplies. We'll be completely self-contained. I'm looking forward to cutting the support cord, actually.

The adventure will be taken with friends with whom I've never before journeyed. That's part of the passage I look forward to, as well. Aaron Spiegel and his son, Eli, are on board to make this trek. Perhaps one or two more riders will join us. I've learned that cross-country cycling creates a bond of friendship that is not easily forgotten or broken. Those who pedal hundreds of miles together, repeatedly break bread together, and share the indignities of unvarnished life together tend to discover a sacredness born only through such a sojourn.

So, it's about a month until this passage. I'll keep you posted as things develop and hope to share the journey (and photos) as we go.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Weight of Freedom's Future

A reflection on American freedom for the July 4th holiday

Much of the content of this post is taken from my 47th letter to President George W. Bush, dated July 17, 2002. These thirteen years later, the opportunities of which I then wrote have passed from that President. Still, this piece expresses my patriotism--a kind of patriotism that tends to get ignored in power brokers' obsessions with hubris, militarism, and reductionistic labeling.

BEYOND HYPED-UP PATRIOTIC FERVOR. Ever since the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001 and the state of war that President Bush declared, I've noticed that the Fourth of July has been celebrated with heightened emphasis. More flags fly, more fireworks flower, and everything considered American and patriotic is trumpeted to the nth degree. This July 4th holiday gives me an opportunity to frame hard-won freedoms beyond typical images and reflect on the weight of freedom’s future.

WHO HATES FREEDOM? For as many times as I have heard it declared that the primary reason terrorists targeted America is that "they hate our freedom," I have been completely baffled by it. I just don’t think it is our freedom that anyone hates. They may loathe our unqualified support for Israel amid Palestinian oppression, they may resent our apparent carelessness in the face of their poverty, they may hate our overwhelming military and economic power, they may completely deplore the more promiscuous and paraded lifestyles of the West that offend Islamic (and, quite frankly, basic Jewish and Christian) sensitivities, but they don’t hate the freedom we enjoy. They may hate what we have done in and with our freedom, but I don’t think they hate freedom.

FEET VOTE FOR FREEDOM. Freedom is desired by all. People vote with their feet for freedom—a freedom that releases the heart, encourages community, and fans the flame of individual growth and opportunity. Across generations, refugees and immigrants seeking freedom have flocked to America, clinging to the image of the Statue of Liberty. And, in our best moments of freedom, we have opened our doors and welcomed in freedom seekers. This is how most of our ancestors came to America. Our tightened borders are still porous and many slip through. As they acclimate and contribute, over time we usually grandfather in even these "illegal" aliens as fellow citizens.

WILLING TO FACE DOWN OUR OWN DEMONS. In our best moments, America has grappled with the challenge of extending the promise of freedom to all of its own citizens. Self-evident truths have not always been treated as such. It has taken prophets and protesters and martyrs to make freedom begin to ring for many of our own citizens. Our own bigotry, prejudice, greed, and fears have divided us and at times cast a long and shameful shadow over American freedom. It is not just an enemy without that we have had to face down, but demons within. Our willingness to do this makes our freedom all the more attractive to those who have lived without it.

SOMETHING OF A GRAND DREAM. I think it is clear that American independence and patriotism in defense of democracy is something all but a twisted handful of people in the world salute. Few have been able to pull off and hold together what America has accomplished. America, even now, is something of a grand dream of freedom and democracy at so many levels it is impossible to separate them and still see the vision.

HOW WE USE OUR FREEDOM MATTERS. It is not freedom that is despised. It is our weighty and sometimes insensitive exercise of freedom that is despised, it seems to me. In light of this, we should carefully consider how, as the world’s dominant democracy, we use our freedom at home and abroad. We could begin by ceasing to dismissively label terrorists and millions of people who harbor resentment toward America as merely “freedom haters.”

DRAIN AWAY SOURCES OF RESENTMENT. As America has repeatedly searched its own soul to extend fairness and freedom to its own disenfranchised residents, let us search our hearts once again. Let us think through to the legitimate sources of pain, anger, and resentment that have led to a level of angst that produces terrorism. And let us consider what we can do to drain away such anger by policies and actions that befit the richest, most free, democracy-loving nation in the world. Let us struggle to cultivate, again, a freedom that is noted for character, understanding, fairness, and compassion.

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. Share yours by clicking on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

Monday, June 8, 2015

"And Then All"

Asked by Judge David Dreyer to share the closing prayer during the Robert F. Kennedy Remembrance at the Kennedy King Memorial in King Park this past Saturday (June 6th, the 47th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination), I happened onto this poem by artist Judy Chicago and it captured my sense of what should be shared on this occasion.

I had been thinking of the one phrase in the Lord's Prayer which consistently moves me: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Behind this petition or longing is a deep-down ache that things "on earth" are not "as they are in heaven," connecting to the deep-down conviction that they should and can be. The work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the labor of Bobby Kennedy for equality, justice, reconciliation, and an evasive community of hope are reflected in this prayer.

When I found Judy Chicago's poem in Prayers for the Common Good compiled by Jean Lescher, the words seemed to reflect the heart of the prayer "Thy kingdom come." I incorporated the poem into my brief reflections that I shared as I stood in the shadow of the unique and compelling Kennedy King Memorial.

With gratitude to Chicago for her way of contemporizing an ancient longing and prophecy, I put myself once again into these words and pray with a breaking, hoping heart: 

And then all that has divided us will merge.
And then compassion will be wedded to power
And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind.
And then both men and women will be gentle.
And then both women and men will be strong.
And then no person will be subject to another’s will.
And then all will be rich and free and varied.
And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many.
And then all will share equally in the earth’s abundance.
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old.
And then all will nourish the young.
And then all will cherish life’s creatures.
And then all will live in harmony with each other and the earth.
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again.

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA