Rocka my soul in the bosom of Abraham;

Rocka my soul in the bosom of Abraham;

Rocka my soul in the bosom of Abraham;

Oh, rocka my soul.

Dipping and straightening up, moving in sync across the stage. Women in plantation era dresses with full skirts swirling out from and around their bodies, women raising and pointing ruffle-trimmed parasols and waving ribbed, palm leaf like fans. The men intermingling with the women, men in white dress shirts and black pants, set off by champagne colored, shiny cloth vests– the classic rendition of the old spiritual Rocka My Soul by Alvin Ailey’s black dance troupe lives through the ages.

And in Luke’s gospel story about the rich man and Lazarus: an unnamed rich man in purple and fine linen; a starving man named Lazarus sitting by the rich man’s gate; Lazarus carried by the angels to be with Abraham; the rich man, parched, scorched by the flames of hell; and between them a great chasm.

We sometimes know what it feels like to have a chasm between us and another person, or to feel as if there’s a great chasm between us and God. Sometimes it can be clarifying to discover the chasm, to see it in our mind as it widens and deepens before us and between us and another person. Sometimes it helps us to know what we can accept in a friendship and what we cannot.

I had such an experience 15 years ago. I was having dinner with a friend, and we were discussing the choir director from his church who was in prison for molesting a third grader. My friend faithfully visited the man in prison, and I admired that very much. However, when my friend said over dinner, “But it was just the one child,” that’s when I saw the chasm opening up in my mind. That’s when I knew we did not have the common ground we needed to be friends. It was, indeed, clarifying.

But to discover chasms can also be scary. To think of a great chasm fixed between us and another person or between us and God. To feel that we are so far away from God that there’s nothing we can do to get closer, to be within reach of God’s healing grace. And it is disheartening to realize, to admit, that the chasm is of our own choosing. That when we speak, act and think in ways that are contrary to Jesus’ teachings, we are choosing distance between us and God rather than closeness. We know that to be the definition of sin.

In the case of my friend, I didn’t address it with him, I didn’t look to God to heal the relationship. And I believe that God would have healed it if we had asked for that to happen. God has helped me to see now, so many years later, that I caused the chasm, too, by not trying to talk it through, by not turning to God for guidance. By being determined to handle it myself. To give up. But this is the same God, the same Jesus, who strode across the chasm and into our lives and hearts and souls and closed the breach for now and evermore.

This is the Love Divine of which we sing; the love divine that “came down at Christmas.” The Love that came “ in the bleak midwinter.” (The {Episcopal} Hymnal 1982, #516, #84, and #112.) The Love that helps us make ever smaller the chasms between each other and between God and us. And this is the same God, the same Jesus, the same Love Divine who is here with us now despite what has happened in this week’s election and who will be with us wherever we go and with whomever we gather together.

This past weekend I spent a few hours with friends reflecting on the week just experienced by this country and the world. One of my friends had asked us to come to her house to process what had happened and to pray. Our conversation was wide-ranging, covering many aspects of this country’s politics, direction, heart. And I experienced with these friends as we talked the healing redemption of Christ – whether we agreed with each other or didn’t agree with each other was not what mattered. My friends helped to show me that what mattered was listening to each other, responding thoughtfully, unhurriedly, and being open to the other’s perspectives. I could literally feel the risen Christ in our midst. I could feel burgeoning chasms float off, disappear from my consciousness. This Christ is the same God, the same Jesus, the same Love, who obliterates all of our chasms. And at that precise moment when the chasms break into pieces beyond number, when they crumble, scatter and fall away, cease to be, it is indeed in that very moment that

our souls rocka,

yes, they rocka,

oh, how they rocka,

together in the very bosom of Abraham.

The Sacrament of the Last Supper (1955) by Salvador Dali is part of the Collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.







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4 thoughts on “Rocka My Soul

  • November 28, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I fear this is an issue, like racism, in which not enough people on either side are willing to listen to the other in order to reach a point of agreement or, at least, acceptance that each person has opinions which are valid to himself. This is going to require two people at a time willing to hold hands across the chasm. But two at a time works – it just takes a little longer.

    • November 28, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Your message has hope in it — two people can make it work.

      Thanks so much for sharing your perceptive thoughts.

  • November 29, 2016 at 1:00 am

    My hope is that the chasms can be mended. This thought brings hope for our country and for humanity. However, we are also called to witness to truth, and in that, diverse individual perspectives do not dissapear, and must be challenged if they are contrary to the teachings of Christ. It is hard work to both uphold truth and heal chasms.

    • November 29, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      Wow. That is great. Thank you so much for your insights.

      What do we do? How do we proceed? As you say, we have to do all of the above simultaneously.

      Thank you, again.

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