Like many churches and other Christian organizations, Wartburg Seminary has a little prayer shawl ministry. People in our community knit or crochet beautiful, soft shawls that are then given to others who request them.
What is unique about them, of course, is revealed in the name. What differentiates a prayer shawl from any other wrap or shrug is that the handwork is accompanied by ‘soul-work’, if you will: as the knitter or crocheter is doing his or her work, they are also praying, infusing the soul with prayers of healing, support, strength, peace, and compassion.This means that when the shawl is received and put on, the wearer is quite literally draped in prayer. He or she is physically, tangibly, wrapped in the care and compassion of both a single individual and a larger community, and reminded in a vivid way that he or she is not alone.
For Christians—the religious communities with which I am most familiar—the prayer shawl is a way to make tangible God’s love and care for each and every unique individual in God’s vast family. It is an expression of love that can be felt, that drapes around the body like a warm, strong hug. In a prayer shawl, God’s love—and a community’s compassion—are not abstract or theoretical; they are up close and personal—real in a very physical way.
All that is what came to mind after reading the following prayer that came a week or so ago in my Moravian daily texts email:
Eternal God, we give you thanks that your never-ending love is woven into the fabric of creation. We cherish these sacred moments with texts, hymns, and prayers that remind us that you will always be with us. We pray this with thankful hearts. Amen.
After I prayed it I thought to myself, the world is like God’s prayer shawl. God has woven not only God’s love and care, but God’s very self into the fabric of creation, in which we are nestled and embraced. We are literally, physically surrounded by God’s love for us at every moment, at every turn—in the sun, the grass, the sky, and the trees.
Now, this is a beautiful image, and I love it, but I would be remiss if I did not contrast it with the damage humans are doing to God’s creation. Signs of climate change are all around us—record heat waves, fires, flooding—and they are increasing, and one wonders just how bad things will have to get before we will take more drastic action to reverse course.
But that is a different post.
I don’t want to end this particular post on such a grim and dire note, even though this reality, and this contrast between divine care and human neglect cannot go unnoticed. The devastation humans are causing to the planet is true, there’s no question about that, but, here, human action (and inaction) will not have the last word.
Instead, I want to champion God’s work—God’s persistence and God’s faithfulness, revealed to us even in places of desolation, even in the mist of climate disasters, even in the midst of human neglect and willful disregard. God does not give us on us, or the world.
Because at the same time that all of this is happening, at all times in fact, God is continually at work drawing us into a deeper love of creation, a deeper relationship with the world around us, and a more active engagement for the health and safety of the whole planet. Again and again, God chooses life and fosters life for us and for the entire world, against all odds.
The love of God that permeates the whole creation, wrapping us in God’s compassion and care, is relentless, and continually abides.
4 thoughts on “Creation as our Prayer Shawl”
“… God is continually at work drawing us into a deeper love of creation, a deeper relationship with the world around us, and a more active engagement for the health and safety of the whole planet. Again and again, God chooses life and fosters life for us and for the entire world, against all odds.”
I, a believer in Christ’s unmistakable miracles, sometimes think Jesus must be spinning in heaven knowing what atrocities have been connected to Christ-ianity. So many have created God’s nature in their own angry and vengeful image, especially the part insisting that ‘God hates ______’, etcetera. (I personally picture Jesus as being one who’d enjoy a belly-shaking laugh over a good, albeit clean, joke with his disciples, now and then.)
Sometimes I wonder whether there are institutional Christians who would prefer that Jesus had not been so publicly contrary to contemporary conservative values thus politics. I can picture them generally finding inconvenient, if not annoying, having to try reconciling the conspicuously contradictory fundamental nature, teachings and practices of the New Testament’s Jesus with those of the wrathful, vengeful and even jealous nature of the Old Testament’s Creator. And for conservatives they sure pollute the planet most liberally. I’d suggest they might seek out a faith that’s more reflective of their own true values and behavior.
From my understanding, the Jewish people insisted on a messiah whose nature is of the unambiguously fire-and-brimstone angry-God condemnation kind of creator that’s quite befitting of our Old Testament, Torah and Quran. Judaism’s version of messiah is essentially one who will come liberate his people from their enemies, which logically consists of some form of violence, before ruling over every nation on Earth. This Judaic facet left even John the Baptist, who believed in Jesus as the savior, troubled by Jesus’ version of Messiah, notably his revolutionary teaching of non-violently offering the other cheek as the proper response to being physically assaulted by one’s enemy.
I don’t agree with this blanket statement about the Jewish people, nor do I agree with your characterization of the God the Jews [and Christians!] worship. however, I do appreciate your point about how Jesus’ radical message of love and inclusion–and his call for us to embody that message–is definitely inconvenient!
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Thank you for replying to my comment.
In regards to Christianity and “Jesus’ radical message of love and inclusion”, perhaps he didn’t die in place of humans as God-mandated payment for their sins; rather, Christ was brutally murdered BECAUSE OF humans’ seriously flawed sinful nature? Maybe Jesus was viciously killed because he did not in the least behave in accordance to corrupted human conduct and expectation — and in particular because he was nowhere near to being the vengeful, wrathful behemoth so many people seemingly wanted or needed their savior to be and therefore believed he’d have to be. Maybe Christ died in large part because people subconsciously wanted their creator to be a reflection of them, and their patriarchy? And, of course, Jesus also offended some high priests, money changers and Romans in-charge.
Maybe God became incarnate to prove to people that there really was hope for the many — especially for young people living in today’s physical, mental and spiritual turmoil — seeing hopelessness in a fire-and-brimstone angry-God-condemnation creator requiring literal pain-filled penance for Man’s sinful thus corrupted behavior (rather like an angry father spanking his child, really)? He became incarnate to show humankind what Messiah ought to and has to be. Fundamentally, that definitely includes resurrection.
Perfect. Just the words I needed.