Prayer is the key to our own kenotic obedience, a reflection from Bishop Akiyama

Prayer is the key to our own kenotic obedience, a reflection from Bishop Akiyama

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Dear Friends in Christ,

Spoiler Alert: One of the final scenes in the Netflix movie Don’t Look Up will be described below.

I’ve been reflecting on the dinner table scene in the movie Don’t Look Up. Although there is an ultimate final scene, the penultimate scene with friends sharing a final meal is, in my opinion, a powerful and poignant ending. As the group prepared their meal and sat down around the table, one friend says, “Shouldn’t we say something? Like “Amen?” They were clearly a group who identified as “spiritual but not religious.” One of them, a young man who had long ago left the evangelical church of his childhood says, “Don’t worry, I got this.”

His prayer is heartfelt and succinct as he combines confession, humility, and gratitude for God’s grace and mercy. The prayer is not a list of conditions or things they want; nor is it panic and fear dressed up as control. It is the kind of prayer one would pray when there is nothing left to do – nothing left to be but God’s own. It is a prayer that sanctifies a kenotic moment for the gathering of friends. They had done all they could to bring about a different resolution, but their expertise was not heeded. As they sat around the table eating, the friends talked gently and calmly. This was their last supper. The fact seemed to drain away all ego, desire for control, and despair. They were emptied of human will and open to the divine activity of God. They were at peace.

The theme of kenosis ran through my reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as our nation observed his birthday. I found myself thinking about the self-emptying required to become the kind of man who captured the hopes and dreams of those who suffer injustice. Amidst the death threats and covert efforts to sabotage his ministry, Dr. King was at peace preaching justice. His life exemplifies the very real ways in which following Jesus and his teachings will eventually lead us to kenotic obedience – being emptied of our human desires in order to be filled with God’s grace and desires.

These two examples remind us that prayer is the key to surrendering our illusion of control. Whether we come to the fullness of God’s grace at our last supper on this earth, or we are continually seeking kenosis in fulfillment of God’s call, we are closest to God’s peace through prayers that wash away our devices and desires.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

Blessings,