Sacramental Operative in a Sullied World

KenBy Ken Sehested, originally published last month at Ethics Daily, a publication of the Baptist Center for Ethics

We need to recognize, and adjust in appropriate ways, to the
fact that we humans maintain a perverse fascination with
disaster. I’ll leave it to psychologists to explain why, precisely;
but this habit is easily illustrated: From “rubber-necking” on
the highway (slowing down to view the scene of a wreck), to
the media’s 24/7 coverage of hurricane news. We rarely recall
the car trips made without incident, or the sunny days that
predominate in the Bahamas’ and Outer Banks’ weather
patterns.

For whatever reasons, disaster stories and images are more
mediagenic. Our eyes and ears turn to them with the same kind
of compulsion as the tongue’s obsession with a broken tooth.

In this sense, we are all recovering calamity-addicts.

Admitting as much is the first step to the renewing of our “right
minds” (cf. Romans 12:1-2). The second step is to pay attention
to—and champion—the accounts of where life is being
fomented and fostered, even in small, incremental ways. To be
right-minded is to look for and lift up the stories of health and
healing, wherever love’s ascendance routs misery’s tenure.

Doing so does not diminish or deny the scourge of harm and
the litany of curses that surrounds us. These, too, must be
named and lamented and—whenever possible, inasmuch as
possible—addressed. Searching out the good does not mean
ignoring the bad. It simply means we recognize that sowers of
discord are attended by multitudes while practitioners of
neighborliness draw meager attention.

Choose to be with the meager. Abandon the spectators’ gallery
and mix it up on history’s stage. Submit to Heaven’s
commissioning as an agent (rather than a consumer) of
blessing. Counter the chorus of reproach with anthems of
encouragement, for courage is contagious.

Abandon fashion’s runway. Look for hope’s uprising out on the
blue highways, beyond the spotlight’s reach, in places that GPS
doesn’t map and opinion-pollers ignore.

The power to bless is the most commonly overlooked asset we
possess—probably because the openings to do so are so
common and ordinary, lacking the theatrics by which we so
often assess the Spirit’s presence in the world. Such power is
uncommon, though, because to give blessing implies being
immersed in blessing—a frightful thing, since it demands
relinquishing claims to self-authorship.

The fewer cravings you have for privilege and acclaim, the
greater capacity you wield to restore the abandoned and
entitle the shunned.

The power to bless is fed from springs bubbling from below,
from beyond our reach or control, from a Well of Assurance
that cannot be managed, that will not be bartered, that shall
not be hoarded.

The power to bless is the Source of Creation itself. It marks the
capacity of bringing life where none exists: It brings solace
amid grief’s domain, encouragement where fear lurks, healing
where wounds fester, dignity where shame rules.

Do not let the messengers of misery and the counselors of
despair dictate the boundaries of your attention or the borders
of your expectation. Resist the merchants of fear and the
brokers of gloom. Curate the stories of the pioneers of faith, the
tillers of hope, and the provocateurs of mercy.

Be a sacramental operative, a conduit of grace in a sullied
world. Actively cooperate in the righting of your mind. Tell
stories that transcend the prevailing myths of scarcity and
despondence. Offer blessing without thought of recompense,
much as cut cedar offers its scent, the passing blackbird its
melody, the daylily its momentary brilliance.

# # #

Ken Sehested is curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action.

REV9.12.19; 9.15.19

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