Monday, 26 July 2010

If Mercy, Truth, Justice and Peace were people what would they say to each other?

It's holiday time and to say that there were not many of us in chapel this morning would be an understantement!
We focused in the service on praying for peace as we prayed for the churches in the Caribbean who will next year host the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation.
I decided not to preach a sermon but to "steal" one in the form of a brilliant meditation by John Paul Lederach on an imagined meeting and conversation between Justice, Mercy, Truth and Mercy.

His starting point were the verses from the Psalms:
Truth and Mercy have met together
Justice and Peace have kissed.

The idea that these are not just values but people who can converse, relate to one another and ultimately even dance together is quite brilliant. It is also one Lederach has used to good effect in his work on conflict mediation to transform deep seated antagonism in societies. An act of creative imagination which allows people to speak to one another, to discover their own prejudices and to find a path towards reconciliation.

You can read Lederach's powerful text which I used extracts from this morning here. (scroll down to the part entitled The Meeting) Here's how it begins:

so I brought Truth, Mercy, Justice and Peace into room and sat them down in front of the contentious crowd. I addressed the four. "We want to know what concerns you each have in the midst of conflict. Would it be possible to hear your views?"

Truth stood and spoke first. "I am Truth," she said. "I am like light cast so that all may see. At times of conflict I am concerned with bringing forward, out into the open, what really happened. Not with the watered down version. Not with a partial recounting. My handmaidens are transparency, honesty, and clarity. I am set apart from my three colleagues here," Truth gestured toward Mercy, Justice and Peace, "because they need me first and foremost. Without me they cannot go forward. When I am found, I set people free."

"Sister Truth," I interjected hesitantly, not wanting to question her integrity, "You know I have been around a lot of conflict in my life and there is one thing that I am always curious about. When I talk to one side, like these people over here, they say that you are with them. When I talk to the others, like our friends over there, they claim you are on their side. Yet in the middle of all this pain, you seem to come and go. Is there only one Truth?"

"There is only one Truth, but I can be experienced in many different ways. I reside within each person yet nobody owns me."

"If discovering you is so crucial," I asked Sister Truth, "why are you so hard to find?"

She thought for a while, then said. "I can only appear where the search is genuine and authentic. I come forward only when each person shares with others what they know of me and each respects the others voice. Where I am strutted before others, like a hand puppet on a child's stage, I am abused, shattered and disappear."

"Of these three friends," I pointed to the three colleagues seated around her, "Whom do you fear the most?"

Without hesitation she pointed to Mercy. "I fear him," she said quietly. "In his haste to heal he covers my light and clouds my clarity. He forgets," she concluded, "that forgiveness is our child, not his."


janetlees said...

This is amazing - thinking of using it at school next term.

Jane said...

It is totally brilliant - works superbly as a role play I imagine

davidjamesgoss said...

I was interested in this because I have long thought of psalm 85.10 as implying a dynamic between these various qualities - but I have thought of justice as 'distributive' rather than as 'retributive' - which leads to a different dynamic:-
Peace might fear justice (because the struggle for justice may turn in to a fight) and justice might fear mercy (because charity to the poor can obscure the need for truly just sharing of the earths resources etc.).
Does truth become the arbiter in this case? - I'm not sure.
P.S. forgive me if you already spotted my comments on twitter :)

Jane said...

thanks for your comment and sorry I am only catching up now - I like very much your idea of destributive justice ... - and your comments on twitter! thanks!