Ordinarily for tonight's healing & eucharist service, we would look for a saint's day to remember, or just use the readings from the back of the book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Church Publishing, 2006) in the two-year cycle for daily eucharist. However, recently I found that two on the calendar - Nathan Soderblom and Albert Schweitzer - were also Nobel Peace Prize recipients. So I went to the Nobel Prize website and searched on "September 24" ... which turns out to be the anniversary of the forming of the National League for Democracy, in Burma - the political party of Aung San Suu Kyi.
A Buddhist, she sees her quest as basically spiritual. “To live the full life,” she wrote, “one must have the courage to bear the responsibility of the needs of others… one must want to bear the responsibility.” And, she added, the quest for democracy in Burma is the struggle of a people to live whole, meaningful lives as free and equal members of the world community. It is part of the unceasing human endeavor to prove that the human spirit can transcend the flaws of its nature.
Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize for 1991, yet even today lives under house arrest in the capital city of her country.
Very much in the news today are the protests of the current military regime of Myanmar - the country better known as Burma - which began Saturday with hundreds of monks gathering outside the home of Aung San Suu Kyi to pay their respects. How these events will end, in the short term, we do not know. We have hope of the eventual outcome, a restoration of peace and justice, for Burma and the world.
It was on September 24th in 1988 that the National League for Democracy was formed in Burma, with Aun San Suu Kyi as general-secretary, and a policy of non-violence and civil disobedience. There was hope in that year of many nascent democracies that Burma, too, would shake itself free of the grip of its ruling military junta.
The struggle continues today: earlier today nuns and monks of the Buddhist tradition, predominant in central Burma, took to the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay in mass protest.
We do not know what turn these events will take. If the regime acts with restraint… I’d breath a sigh of relief. If in coming days some glimmer of recognition of the need for change were to emerge inside the junta’s palace… it would be an early sign of hope.
The readings for the evening of September 24th were not selected for their appositeness to current events; it turns out, however, that they fit very well.
Ezra 1:1-6 (End of the Babylonian Captivity)
Psalm 126 ("When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion...Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.")
'No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.’
From the history of ancient Israel, we know that powerful kings and military rulers do not give up power easily. But we also see in that history a continuing witness of hope, of fidelity to the promises of God.
That hope has begun to be fulfilled in Christ Jesus. In Jesus, the kingdom of heaven was proclaimed – and the day of the Lord began to dawn, the day of peace, righteousness and justice. We are called to live as children of that day – to align ourselves with the coming reign of God, knowing that, try as the rulers of this world might try to hide it, the light is dawning.
How are we to live? As children of the light, letting our light shine before all people – in our personal dealings, in our relations with one another, in our actions as a people of God, to follow the Lord of Light, Jesus Christ: to be the light of the world.
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sources for 2007 September 24th:
The Nobel Foundation - The Nobel Peace Prize 1991 - Aung San Suu Kyi
BBC News - Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi
The Telegraph - Burma protest swells as 100,000 join march
Jim Carrey - Call to Action on Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi
The Age - Tens of thousands add their voice to Burma protests
The Guardian - Burmese junta threatens protest crackdown
Church of Ireland