Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Altera Civitas and Health Care Reform

Once again this year I’ve taken to praying the hours (in a modified form) for my Lenten discipline. Whether it’s the pattern, routine, challenge, new insights, it’s a practice that I have greatly enjoyed in the past. There are times when I find myself sleepwalking both literally and figuratively through the ancient and contemporary words. But then…something sings…words glitter and begin to pull me back to proper attendance.

This year I’ve been using Phillis Tickle’s Eastertide: Prayers for Lent from her larger series The Divine Hours. By weaving traditional prayers, collects, hymns, and Psalms the prayerful pilgrim is led the way of self examination leading towards the celebration of Easter. But two nights ago, a single repeated line stood out. The following morning a similar line dug deeply into my consciousness. It’s not as if I had not read or heard these lines before, but it was the context into which they were read which reminded me of their great power and our condition as the church.

The refrain for Monday night was “Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God.” Twelve hours later, the morning refrain came from Psalm 145.13; “Your Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your dominion endures throughout all ages.” Both images imply a political and alternative reality. The first suggests a military image while the second implies the stability and endurance of earthly rule. The fitting context into which these fell of course is our country’s ongoing debate over healthcare. This contentious debate spreads even through Facebook, where I witnessed a friend attacked by a complete stranger for her questions and support of what he called a socialist agenda. To which she replied that she was done with conversation because this country had lost its civility. She retreated to Barry Harvey’s Another City (Altera Civitas) which reminds us that while we are earthly citizens our means being are formed by another set of practices. Regardless of how we interpret the recent developments of the health care issues, we do well to recall these two refrains that our trust should not be in the governments power, but rather the Name of the Lord our God. We also do well to recall the fragile and fleeting reality of this thing we call the United States. It is a temporal…meaning earthly and temporary reality. Our hope is to be set upon God’s everlasting kingdom, which is not synonymous with American or any other political aspirations.

I wanted to end these rambling thoughts with my friends Facebook status from the other day. “The Christian community should always remember that as the altera civitas it is on pilgrimage toward a very different realm, that its allegiance and mode of practice is vested in this other city, and that in this world those who love as God loves will frequently, and perhaps invariably, meet with a similar fate to that... which met the divine love incarante.” -- Barry Harvey, Another City