The amount of drama I’ve witnessed in the past month is more than I’d ever wish on anyone in a lifetime. (I know many of you have experienced the same.) News reports of endless gun violence; loved ones sick with covid; churches disaffiliating from the UMC; broken relationships and air conditioners; gossip and rumors and lies spanning from children to the elderly. Gaslighting and other political tactics; bullying and uncomfortable confrontations.
My whole being is sick and tired of the brokenness in the world. Literally as I write this my body is buzzing with anxiety as I try to distance myself from it for a moment to rest and renew my spirit for another week of ministry.
In attempts to facilitate reconciliation in one instance, someone joked with me that I was trying to get everyone to “kumbaya.” The word has since been used several times, somewhat as a slight, to set apart the proposal of resolution as an unattainable ideal.
To be sure, I am idealistic. I hope (and work) for the best solution for everyone. I believe that if people are honorable and truthful in their intentions, it opens the door to a multitude of possibilities. Even in the midst of great chaos and strife, I have this indescribable source of hope in my innermost being. Call it faith, call it naivete, call it stubbornness – whatever it is, it is a blessing and a curse.
I WANT to be angry and express all of my frustrations and tell everyone who disagrees with me that they’re wrong. It seems like it would be SO much easier to be that person who gives up, who doesn’t care, who shrugs off others’ harmful expressions or systemic injustice as unimportant or inconsequential.
But I am not that person.
Sure, I’m angry. I’m heartbroken. I’m sick to my stomach at how people treat one another and at people’s rights/lives/safety being taken away or threatened. I’m exhausted from caring so much. But will I stop caring; will I stop working for justice just because it’s hard? No.
(With the spirit of Miss Congeniality at the end of the movie,) I DO yearn for “kumbaya” – in the sense of everyone working in harmony and tackling the hard stuff together. The words literally translated are “Come by here.” The song goes,
“Kumbaya, Lord, Kumbaya.
Someone’s praying, Lord, Kumbaya.
Someone’s crying, Lord, Kumbaya.”
Kumbaya is a prayer for God’s Spirit to interceded, to overcome our brokenness and restore us in a way that only God can. It echoes the cries of the enslaved Israelites in Egypt, yearning to be free from oppression. It joins in the chorus of all those in the Old Testament who failed to follow YAHWEH and who cried out for forgiveness and salvation. It shouts “Hosanna!” (God Save us!) with those lining the streets of Jerusalem as Jesus walked through. The stories of our faith are ones where the world is messed up to the point of people crying out in distress until God shows up and does God’s thing.
Kumbaya is not a passive naïve notion of a magical utopia to come. It is a call to action. It is a call to tap into your God given uniqueness and stand up and do something about the injustice and brokenness in the world. It is a call to join together with those around you in solidarity to shine light in the dark places and work towards healing and reconciliation so that all may experience the freedom and abundant life that Jesus offers.
My deepest yearning is that each and every person would realize their sacred worth and that every person’s sacred worth would be realized *and celebrated; so that everyone is free to love and be loved; and everyone can truly be able to live without fear.
If that’s kumbaya, so be it. Now get to work!