We begin the first midweek Advent program Wednesday night with a Service of Prayer for Justice and Peace from the Iona Community. It’s a beautiful service, and we will adapt it for the season by weaving together evening and advent hymns, as well as hymns that remind us of our Christian commitment to justice and equity.
But if you come to the service and follow it closely, you will see that it is quite challenging to our assumptions about the world. There won’t be a sermon, and we won’t name any issues per se, but behind the service is a motivation that is more than a little bit – well, edgy.
In the vernacular of the Scottish: it might be a “wee bit” provocative.
In the Iona Abbey Worship Book’s introduction to the service, we see what this is meant to be about:
Prayer and politics belong together, as do confession and commitment to action. This service is based on the belief that God’s guidance, judgment and mercy can change situations and people. It is said that people come to Iona looking for peace and quiet and go away looking for peace and justice.
-that the Gospel commands us to seek peace founded on justice and that costly reconciliation is at the heart of the Gospel
-that work for justice, peace, and an equitable society is a matter of extreme urgency
-that, handled with integrity, creation can provide for the needs of all, but not for the greed which leads to injustice and inequality, and endangers life on earth. (The Iona Abbey Worship Book, 2012, p. 71)
There’s lots more to that, but I offer it to give a bit of background to the service we’ll be doing. When you come to this service you’ll hear language that is pretty familiar to most church folks and might not seem, at first glance, as challenging to our assumptions as it is.
But it means a lot to ground this service – or any service – on the “belief that God’s guidance, judgment, and mercy can change situations and people.”
We will likely disagree among ourselves about what it means for prayer and politics “to belong together.” But if we can say with integrity that God’s guidance, judgment and mercy has a real impact on our world, then our worship will point us in the right direction: we will begin by meaning what we say.