I fell in love with the Benedictus—the Canticle of Zechariah—when I began praying Morning Prayer my senior year in College. Every morning and now all these years later I can say it from my soul. There was something powerful about beginning my day by reminding myself why a savior came, why the promise was fulfilled, and why that promise is still real and being fulfilled today.
Over the years different verses in the amazing prayer have guided me and helped me through difficult times. “That he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us,” “you will go before the Lord to prepare the way,” and “to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,” And today, “guide our feet into the way of peace.”
About 25 years ago our family was in the middle of a mess. We were in a town that did not want us—mostly because of our ethnicity—and the High School that I was attending was not kind. What made it more difficult for me was that unlike the previous times, it was not only the students who struggled to make it a pleasant experience for the newcomer, it was also the teachers. I was told in no uncertain terms by one of them that I “would not amount to much.”
My English was not the best at the time, my accent thick, we moved in the middle of a school year and so I was having trouble catching up, settling in, and finding my way. I tried hard to “deal,” “push through,” and “make the best of it.” Yet I would arrive home and weep almost every day, my soul shrinking inside. I would pray, too . . . But it seemed for so long that the prayers would just bounce of the ceiling.
Then an evangelist came who was visiting the prison my father worked at. He came by the house for dinner and then asked to pray for us. We gathered in a circle in a living room and he began to pray. As he prayed he stood in front of each of us, speaking a word of the Lord. It turns out that all of us were struggling. The obvious lack of hospitality in this small town was creeping into our psyche, shrinking our souls. Doubt was taking over and the evil of racism and white supremacy was constantly breathing down our necks.
As he stood before me he said “God knows that you feel unheard, that your weeping has gone ignored, know that God has heard, and will free you, and some day use you with power in ways that you cannot imagine now.”
I think that was the day. There were many other struggles after that but that day was key to my call as a prophet, pastor, teacher, and good news teller. Weeping did not turn into dancing fast, and I left the pathway of my call for a season after that, but overall it clarified something. I’ve been shaped, formed, called, empowered, and gifted for the work of justice, reconciliation, and peace making. For the work of the gospel as I have received them in scripture and in life.
My feet guided into the way of peace . . . And it turns out that God has been up to this since the beginning of time.
I say all of this because I have continued preparing for the new season in my life that my forties have brought. A season that is more true to whom God has created me to be but also a season of leaning into a more whole second half of life. One rooted in the ways that I’ve been uniquely shaped, in the relationships that strengthened that life, and in giving back in the most real ways.
I recently set up a Facebook page for myself. I have resisted that for years but I finally realized that it brought some freedoms. It gave some folks the opportunity to follow my family’s journey, including our shared commitments to the work of justice and reconciliation. And for those who would rather not hear about that stuff, they can follow my professional page which for now will be filled with non-controversial, inspirational, and church related stuff. If you want fiery me, stay on my personal feed, if not, then my professional page is for you.
Now I will warn you that this blog will be fiery. Soon I will begin musing about colonialism, white supremacy, Puerto Rican identity, and the ways that the church should be this kind of community. I will also be updating you on my work with Project Curate and our grant on shaping justice seeking communities (and who knows what might be up our sleeves). There will also continue to be musings on my pastoral life in a tradition that still struggles to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in WHATEVER form it presents itself.” (Emphasis mine)
I cannot wait to keep you in the loop on my attempts at walking in the way of peace!
P.S. Having this open conversation about these things as a local church pastor is dangerous, especially for pastors who belong to minority communities. I have learned this and experienced this. In this season, I think that silence is the evil that I seek to avoid . . . Pray for me and for all who work for justice in all places. Let us remember that we can be followers of Jesus and disagree.