Brothers and Sisters: The Vertical and the Horizontal

(“Brothers and Sisters” is the weekly prayer-and-share diary on Daily Kos where community members share their burdens and needs, and support one another. I was the host for tonight’s edition, and worked for some hours on it once I got home from church. Unfortunately, somehow my draft version got lost just as I posted it on Daily Kos. I later found it, and since it was too late to post there — and since it is time-specific to today’s lections — I decided to just post it here. If you want to read the comments in the Daily Kos version, it is here. Enjoy! — Bruce)

Tonight’s “Brothers and Sisters” is going to go off in all directions. Well, actually, just two: the vertical and the horizontal. Come on in, pull up a chair, and let’s think about both vertices as we gather together. All are welcome to enter, speak, and share, as little or as much as you wish or need.

The Vertical

One of the lections for today is Psalm 130:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.

There’s a phrase that accurately describes the place where some of us find ourselves tonight: “the dark night of the soul.” It originated with the writings of Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross. It describes a time when one’s prayers and devotions seem to go nowhere, and no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what you do, you have an overwhelming sense that

You. Are. Alone.

All of us have been there. All of us have had those times. It may have been family issues, or personal problems. Or it might just be the existential crisis that is part and parcel of the human condition.

The Psalmist gives voice to this darkness. He calls from the depths, and exhorts the Lord to hear, to be attentive. In a phrase that perfectly captures the despair that such a time can cause, he waits for the Lord “more than those who watch for the morning.” No matter which Force of the universe you call on (if you do), the Psalmist has one final word.

O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.

Even in the middle of your dark night, you can know this: at some point, the morning will come.

The Horizontal

But what of us who do NOT call on any Force of any kind? And even for those of us who do — is that the only call we can make? Is that the only number in the directory? Or, even as we wait for the morning to come, is there somewhere else, someONE else, we can reach out to for connection, for sustenance?

In another lection, the author of Ephesians has an answer:

Let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.

I’ve been a member of Daily Kos since the 2004 election. Many of my friends ask me “just what is Daily Kos?” I give the usual answers: progressive political site, super-blog site, one of the places I turn to for well-researched stories about the news of the day. But then I always add — “… it’s a community.” And I tell them about Brothers and Sisters.

The first time I read Brothers and Sisters, I was first amazed, and then deeply gratified. Here was a political site showing the acceptance and caring that many houses of faith could only dream of. Here were people of all creeds, or no creed at all, sharing their burdens, promising to pray or think good thoughts or send energy — and often jumping in to help someone in very physical, tangible ways!

The writer of Ephesians was writing to the early church, of course, but his good word applies to all of us: we are members of each other. All of us share the human condition, including that dark night already noted. If we haven’t experienced it yet, we will.

If you come into our room tonight right smack in the middle of your own dark night of the soul, know this: there is acceptance and understanding here. Many of us have been there, and some of us are there with you, right now.

Whether or not we reach along the vertical, we can all reach along the horizontal. The amazing thing is that naming the issue, and opening yourself to others, allows strength and caring to flow between human beings — even through wifi and cable.


One of my favorite liturgists is Bruce Prewer, of Australia. He is retired now, but leaves his site up as a resource to others. His writing is honest, devout, and non-saccharine. Here is his prayer of thanksgiving for this date:

Most loving God, we take too much for granted. Help us to rectify that. By your Spirit within us, change us into thankful people. May we may wonder anew each morning at the privilege of being alive, and go to bed each night giving thanks for all that the day’s living has given us.

We give thanks for all the influences that have brought us to this hour in your church. For family, friends, Sunday School teachers, visitors, pastors, neighbours or helpful strangers who have pointed our feet in the direction of Christ.

We give thanks for our early encounters with the ways of Jesus, and for those people whose example has enlarged our faith. For memories on which we can draw when we are low in spirit, and those faces we can picture when we are tempted to falter.

We give thanks for the hard lessons as well as the easy. For the times of frustration and disappointment, the pain and the turmoil, and the growing pains of the spirit. For the losses and the tears of grief, through which you have ministered to us even when we thought you were far away.

We give thanks for those special people whom you have sent our way, either as comforters or as discomforters. For every wise or kindly word that has restored our sagging hope, and each confronting word from one who loves you and us enough to dare speak the unpalatable truth.

We give thanks for the very fallible communities of the church in which we have worshipped, shared fellowship and given service to the wider world. For dear kindred spirits , and generous co-workers. But also for those whose views have disturbed us, or whose failings have saddened us and reminded us that we are all sinners being saved by grace.

Most loving God, for these your gifts, many which we have taken for granted, some which at the time we may have complained about as unwelcome impositions, we give you our thanks. Please continue the work you have commenced in us, and let gratitude continue on, not a matter of words but become an attitude.

Through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen!

Brothers and Sisters is now open. Welcome! What is on your mind and heart?

This entry was posted in Life in General, Values, Faith, and Church. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Brothers and Sisters: The Vertical and the Horizontal

  1. JaxDem says:

    Bruce I’m happy that you found the diary. Thank you for making it available to us at B & S for it is a beautiful, insightful and moving diary. I hope that you have the opportunity to post it for real at dkos as it is obvious the labor of love that you put into it. Peace.