A past redeemed

Father Michael Lapsley SSM (now leader of the Institute for Healing of Memories is a remarkable teacher. He was an anti-aparthied campaigner and chaplain to the ANC when his hands and one eye were destroyed in 1990 by a letter-bomb most likely in a covert operation of the apartheid regime. [He has prosthetic ‘hands’.) What follows is from a conversation he had with Rowan Williams at https://stethelburgas.org/”>St Ethelburga’s in London:

"In our Christian faith, we say, ‘By His wounds we are healed,’ and of course we often speak of the wounded healer. Let me tell a personal story which, while amusing, speaks to the issue of how we perceive woundedness and whether we see it as incapacitating or enlivening.

"I was bombed in Zimbabwe and then was moved to a hospital in Australia. Before I left for Australia, my bishop came to visit me and prayed for my recovery. Seven months later and now recovered, I returned to his office in Zimbabwe and said, ‘Here I am, Father.’ The bishop looked startled. At first I imagined perhaps he wasn’t used to God answering his prayers, but then he said, ‘But you are disabled now. What can you do?’ So I said, ‘Well, Bishop, I can drive a car.’ Then he looked frightened. I think he thought he might be on the same road with me. So I said, ‘Father, I think I can be more of a priest with no hands than I ever was with two hands.’ When I inquired of Archbishop Tutu, I got quite a different response. He said, ‘Come and work in Cape Town. I have one priest who is deaf and one who is blind, and now one with no hands.’

"Wow! So, for one bishop I was a liability but for the other I was an asset. The first bishop wasn’t a bad person, but his vision was narrow. Archbishop Tutu, on the other hand, had a different pair of spectacles and he was able to see that my woundedness could help others to heal. So it is fitting that Archbishop Tutu has written the foreword for my recent memoir Redeeming the Past, for he saw immediately that what happened to me was also an opportunity.

"Of course, none of that means that what happened to me was right. Sometimes people say, ‘It was God’s will that you were bombed.’ Now what kind of nonsense is that? Does that mean that God makes letter bombs? I am not interested in that kind of God. Rather, I believe in a God that gives us the strength to bring good out of evil, so that I can sit here today and say that in the bombing I lost a lot and that I have gained a lot.

"I know that I’m a better human being because of the journey I have travelled. For me, God’s grace worked through the prayers and support of people around the globe who also saw the possibilities of healing and continued to believe that I had a life ahead of me. That didn’t happen solely by my own efforts but through the collective power of love."
—Rowan Williams and Michael Lapsley, "The Journey toward Forgiveness: A Dialogue," The Ecumenical Review 66, no. 2 (July 2014): 191–213.

Parish prayers for the same-sex marriage debate

Acknowledgement: Professor Peter Sherlock #postalsurveyprayers

Matthew 22.23–33.

Gracious Lord, we give thanks for marriage and the great blessing it is to so many. We thank you for faithful married couples who bless us so richly.

Gracious Lord, long ago, lawyers and teachers used a problem about marriage to try and trick Jesus. How familiar this seems to us, as people of faith stumble over a question of marriage in the crude form of a postal survey.

We pray that all Australians may be prepared for whatever happens about marriage in the next few months. May Christians reflect and act on the teaching and model of Jesus. Should any fear for freedom, we ask reassurance should there be nothing to fear, and courage if there is.

May what remains of the campaigning be honest and constructive. We ask for a civil society, that we may learn to disagree passionately without violence or intimidation. May religious leaders inspire faith, hope, and love in a weary and angry nation. May both the opponents and the supporters of marriage equality be gracious and generous, as together we find good news to share in your love. Cause those who argue for argument’s sake to be silent, to listen and to learn.

May people feeling alone, unnoticed or unloved—especially young people—know that your love encompasses and holds them. May those who find only condemnation in the Bible come to know the gospel of grace. Uphold mental health staff and service providers that they have resources to help all in need.

Help our leaders to be prepared when the result is announced, that our democracy may be strengthened, not harmed. Help public servants who draft legislation to be patient and thorough. Guide religious and civil marriage celebrants to respond well to change and marriage counsellors that they may help people live fruitfully.

We ask courage for same-sex couples as the nation sits in judgment, and for couples whose legitimate marriages are not recognised in Australia, that their commitment may be respected. Watch over children of same-sex couples, that they may be cherished and kept free from fear or harm.

May gay and lesbian refugees in find their trust in Australia as a place of safety not to be misplaced.

We pray for celibate Australians, that their joy and fruitfulness will be recognised and nurtured.

We pray for those who for whom thoughts of marriage bring sadness and fear:
— people trapped in abusive relationships;
— those for marriage is a distant dream as the struggle to find the simple necessities of food, clothing and shelter;
— those forced or compelled to marry: may they find freedom.

We pray for those who grieve the loss of a partner and for those who mourn for what might have been—and for those whose partners have never been acknowledged, even in death, because of fear, prejudice and ignorance.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.