Saturday, February 27, 2010

Words of Wisdom from the Archbishop

Last night, we went to see Archbishop Desmond Tutu. What a treat. He is every bit as wonderful in person as he is when I've seen him on the television.

Much of what he said wasn't new to me: he talked about the existence of good and evil, and the issue of free will. He talked about the need for us to be God's hands, that God weeps over evil in the world and waits for collaborators who will help God. He said "The ancient prophet said, 'Your name is engraved on the palms of God's hand.'" From now on, I'm going to look at difficult people and imagine their names engraved on God's palm.

He always kept his God talk gender neutral--what a marvelous thing in a man of his age! A person of any age. While my fellow Lutherans go on and on about same sex marriage, I'm still gnashing my teeth about why the people who put together the new hymnal (which isn't so new now) couldn't have de-gendered the language a bit more: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord"--yes, I know it's from the Bible, but it's easy to fix: "Blessed are we who come in the name of the Lord"--that's how I sing it every Sunday.

But I digress.

What fascinated me most is that he talked about the struggle for justice in South Africa and the non-South Africans who were partnered in that fight. He talked about meeting students in the 1980's. He talked about how justice came more swiftly because of that extra pressure.

I was there, and I remember how useless it sometimes all felt, much like the despair I feel about the Congo today. The apartheid regime appeared to be entrenched evil, undefeatable. I assumed that Nelson Mandela would die in jail. We marched, demanding his release, but no one really expected it to happen.

If we believe in a moral universe, and Archbishop Tutu does, then we know that evil will not win. Even if we believe in a chaotic universe, then we have to admit that Goodness has a shot at winning.

Archbishop Tutu closed by reminding us of all the groaning of creation (my words) needing our hands to help God. The students around me stirred to life most visibly when he talked about environmental issues. Interesting. He got a few scattered boos when he talked about Israeli oppression in Gaza. Interesting.

What an inspiring man. What a wonder that he has managed to speak out against oppression, and he's still here with us. I remember in the 1980's, when he took no more security measures than you or I might take (locking doors, for example, but not travelling with armed guards). He said that protecting him was God's job. I'm glad that he's lived to tell the tale.


Duh-sciple Tim said...

I always thought the "he" who "comes in the name of the Lord" was Jesus, not us. However, I am far from a liturgy expert.

Kristin said...

Thanks for that insight--it helps make sense of why that language would not have been touched, when almost everything else has been, in terms of hymns and liturgy.