I wake some mornings before dawn. I'm pleasantly nesting at the bus stop when the city street lights turn off from their long night of activity. The church bus doesn't come until 5:05, but I prefer arriving at the curb by 4:30. The small group of humble warriors puts on the most stirring and beautiful pageant every morning before the sun begins to shine. They arrive one at a time and shake hands and bow to everyone present. The four seats at the bus stop are always given to senior members. A fantastic game of musical chairs ensues as each congregant arrives and finds his or her place.
One woman always manages to catch my attention. Although her hair is dyed black (and she doesn't look nearly as old as some of the others), her voice gives away a hidden wisdom that could only come with advanced age. She hobbles on stiff legs. Her outfit is the atrocious mix of colors, patterns, and designs that only partial blindness or old age allow. Her outer-coat looks like a festive Easter egg hunt, her socks proudly declare the Union Jack under sandals. It reminds me of Marty Spires, who at 82 had earned the right to use any word without apology during Sunday School class - and often did.
As the bus approaches those gathered on the curb bow gently in unison toward it. This always seems strange and quirky to me. I like it though. The bus ride is short, picking up five other groups of unison-bowing congregants. We arrive at church at 5:30 for prayer.
Dawn Prayer is designed with older adults in mind. There is no standing and sitting and standing and sitting. We sing two or three old fashion hymns, the pastor preaches a short sermon, and then we go to the Lord in prayer. Our prayer time is really rather vocal. The paradigm isn't silent prayer, for sure. The chorus of the group prayer resonates like a symphony that could fill Carnegie Hall; rising and falling, swelling to a fury and then dissipating to muffled groans and gentle sobs.
The scripture today was from 2 Chronicles. Pastors who use these books too often tend to make me nervous, but this morning my voice was among the gentle sobs as my prayers followed these verses. The story is one of war, and the good guys have won and are returning with slaves in tow. A prophet, Oded, shares a message of social justice and liberation. He asks the warriors to free the slaves. "The men designated by name took the prisoners, and from the plunder they clothed all who were naked. They provided them with clothes and sandals, food and drink, and healing balm. All those who were weak they put on donkeys. So they took them back to their fellow countrymen at Jericho, and returned to Samaria."
In these days of scary news reports and uncertainty, this verse helps. Because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if war broke out; this is how the South Korean Christians would respond. The image of the old woman in the clashing clothes removing her wacky-tacky outer-coat to give to a soldier returning home without clothing runs through my mind as I internalize this scripture.
We pray for peace, but prepare to love at all costs and in all situations.