Three-legged chair statue in Geneva leads to a prayer for a broken world and broken spirits

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Just across from the main entrance to the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland, is one of the most unusual monuments I've ever seen.

It's a huge wooden chair with one of its legs blown off.

The so-called "Broken Chair Monument" stands more than 39 feet high and dominates the approach to the U.N. complex.

Unveiled a dozen years ago by Handicap International, the broken chair is a stunning statement about the death and destruction wrought by landmines.

My wife and I saw the monument six years ago. At that time, there was no signage posted to explain what a passer-by was viewing. (That has since changed.)

Left to our own devices, we began to see the chair as a vivid metaphor for the broken state of the world.

The metaphor of brokenness is in mind each time the church celebrates the Lord's Supper -- as the body of Christ is broken before distribution to communicants.

Jesus, through the instrument of a body broken, healed the rift between God and human beings. Brokenness repaired brokenness.

Read the Psalms sometime. Some of them are joyful in tone. Many, though, are anguished cries, the written articulation of seemingly endless broken hearts that longed for a return to their homeland.

In Gaza, we witness the brokenness of the peace process. Israel continues to pound away at Hamas, the Palestinian paramilitary organization and political party that the Israelis are persuaded is unswervingly bent on the eradication of the Jewish state.

In our own country, we see the broken spirits of those left unemployed or underemployed because of the current economic uncertainty.

The Church of England this week published a prayer aimed at the broken of the United Kingdom after the U.K. government reported 600,000 Britons could lose their jobs in 2009. In part, the prayer reads: "Hear me as I cry out in confusion. Help me to think clearly and calm my soul."

A companion prayer was created for those who have kept their jobs but have so-called "survivor guilt" in seeing their laid-off colleagues.

A section of that prayerful petition reads: "Who will be next, Lord? How will I cope with the increased pressure at work?"

In our own brokenness, whatever it may be, we always have access to the "master mechanic." God can affect repair. No, it may not be the repair job we sought. No, it may not happen on our preferred timetable.

God is busy -- despite all empirical evidence to the contrary -- fixing what's broken.

Our United Methodist tradition puts that last sentence a bit differently. To wit: "God is at work reconciling the world to Himself."

We ought remember that every time a pastor breaks the bread of the sacrament.

Jeff Long is pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Married with two daughters, he is of Scots and Swedish descent, loves movies and is a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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