Let’s look at this prayer attributed to St. Francis another way this week. Have you ever noticed what the very first plea of Francis was in that prayer? “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” Above injury, discord, doubt, despair, darkness and sadness. Hatred was the first plea to help address. I don’t think that was by chance. Do you?
When you look at it at the core, hatred unaddressed can prevent all else from being addressed at all. There’s a true story about a black preacher, who just over 100 years ago, who was about to be lynched by a group of whites primarily because he was teaching blacks to read in my home state of Mississippi. He was even foolish enough to think that a better educated population could provide a better work force. He was trying to raise money to buy books so that he could teach our brothers and sisters of color to read in the Piney Woods area of the state.
Such hatred….and fear for what being able to read could do for a group of disenfranchised…..brought a mob to slide a noose around his neck and place him on a stool. He begged them to grant his final wish to simply listen to what he had to say. He would rest his fate with God and in their hands if they would but let him speak. So, they did. When he was done the mob took the rope from around his neck, unbound his hands from behind his back and set him free. In his hands…..bound only moments earlier…..was a hand full of cash collected among the mob and given to him so that he might buy some books for the “colored people” and even build a school for them. So it was for Dr. Lawrence C. Jones that Piney Woods School was eventually founded in 1909.
How many times in your life has the grace of love slipped into your heart to wind up changing your mind? How many times has fear turned to hatred and bored a hole into the very core of your being? There are some things in life that are so big, so complex we simply can’t handle them. We just can’t seam to “fix it” ourselves. Lawrence had to give his goal up to God amidst a mob determined to stop him from his goal; to drop him dead, literally. What kind of faith must that have taken?
I don’t know that Lawrence Jones ever knew the words of the St. Francis Prayer. We do know Francis never knew Lawrence. After all, 700+ years separated them in time. But, I wonder. How many times in the 20th & 21st Century, indeed throughout history, has unabridged love changed the course of human events? It’s not the course of history where love has the greatest impact en mass. I believe it’s in the course of history that love has made the biggest impact in those singular events in our lives that, collectively and uniquely, changed the heart of men and women. As it did the world changed.
Sometimes the world changes in the remote places like Piney Woods. In this case, a man speaking in truth and love prevailed. Let’s give this prayer another try when we are faced with the most impossible, most unfortunate set of circumstances. I’m going to have faith you’ll google the prayer for yourselves. Read, mark and inwardly digest. As you do, your days will begin to change in subtle ways.
Tending the vineyard,