A lifetime ago, while stationed in Iraq, my supervisor was stranded at a base separate from us for three solid weeks. His absence created a number of obstacles for our finance team including our inability to officially close our business day. Each day that we conducted business (much like tellers at a bank), we were risking burying a mistake deeper. I was very afraid that balancing our money with our paperwork was going to prove impossible when he finally returned. Every few days, he would call and I would express my anxiety over this compounding problem.
“Don’t worry, Le Buhn,” he would say confidently, “I have an Ace up my sleeve.”
“Well I should hope you do,” I’d reply anxiously, “because I’m the only one distributing cash here and that means any screw-up will have MY name on it!”
We went on like this for three weeks. When my supervisor finally returned, I had conducted over 1,000 transactions and distributed well over 100K dollars without balancing my paperwork. I was terrified.
“So what’s this secret Ace you’ve been keeping up your sleeve?” I greeted him nervously.
“I’m looking at him,” he replied, “let’s get to work, Ace.”
A couple of hours later, my computer work, my paper work, and my cash, were perfectly balanced. In three weeks, over all of those transactions, I hadn’t made a single mistake. I was dumbfounded. My supervisor just laughed – he’d believed in me all along.
Now, dear friends, we are facing a most uncertain future. A pandemic has grabbed hold of the world and divided us into those who are petrified and those who are oblivious. Deforestation and wildfires have likewise choked the very lungs of our most sacred planet while a cruel and hateful government has worked tirelessly to support polluters and sell off precious land to a rich and powerful few. This government and the Canadian government continue to wage war on Indigenous People. People of Color are demonized, marginalized, oppressed, and erased while greed, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy seem to grow bolder, louder, and more violent. Our siblings in the LGBTQIA+ Community are targeted by hateful theology and heinous laws and our Trans siblings – especially our Trans siblings of Color – are murdered; stolen from us. ICE agents steal our neighbors and deny families safety after they’ve fled war and violence only to find their children stolen from them by the very government they hoped would save them. Our police forces continue to murder Black people with impunity and our prisons enslave our family members, neighbors, and friends. All the while, our planet grows hotter every year and our government works hard to make the problem worse.
There is so much to be afraid of and at present we can’t even meet together. We can’t enjoy the comfort of each other right now and it tears at my heart to think you may be scared or lonesome – because I’m scared and lonesome too. But I’ve got an Ace up my sleeve.
I don’t know what the future holds for this world, but I know the world is better off with you in it. And I don’t know how our respective religious institutions will respond to the coming trials but I know it will do so with you bravely speaking Truth with steel in your spine and thunder in your voice. Yes, there is much to be afraid of, but I’ve been in community with the future for the past three years and I can say boldly that tomorrow’s clerics are the bravest people I have ever met. As this world spins wildly out of control, you’ll be there – speaking Peace and Justice until the world bends to your demands. When suffering enters our world you will be there bearing witness when everyone else turns away. When our Elders tremble, you will be there to hold their hand.
You’ve taught me about Love. You’ve taught me about Grace. You’ve taught me about Justice and Equity. You’ve taught me about God. Together, our voices will cry out “Thy Kingdom Come” until the lion lies down with the lamb and the rocks say, “Amen!”
I never thought my final semester at VDS would end without me having the chance to look into your faces and thank you for your presence in my life. I never thought it would end without my thanking you in person for how you held me when my son and wife were in the hospital. I never thought it would end without me memorizing the details and contours of the Divine in your smiles but here we are – alone now, still reeling from the storm and looking anxiously toward our futures. Perhaps I’ll still get that chance, but even if I don’t, I will not succomb to my fears. I know that our future is secure because I know just how powerful you are.
You see, I have an Ace up my sleeve. This world is dark, but you are here and I could never despair of a world with you in it.
I love you, I am with you, I am forever grateful for you, and I have believed in you all along.