Archive for July 2015
Kim is on vacation this week and will return on Friday. In her absence, please enjoy the following reprinted from Hope for Peace & Justice:
Twice of late I have encountered people who were irritated or testy that they were not responded to when they wanted or how they wanted. It would be okay if this was just an isolated incident, but I find that people are increasingly incapable of conceiving that their needs and expectations are not another person’s highest priority. Yesterday a friend was saying that a colleague had fallen out with her because she did not respond to an email from him that she didn’t even recall receiving. It never crossed his mind that she might not have received it or that his simply sending an email did not require the recipient to respond in a certain way or by a certain time.
We ALL have a tendency to forget that simply because something is important to us it doesn’t mean that another person must rearrange their priorities to meet ours. What is perhaps most deeply disturbing about our minor exercises in narcissistic behavior is that it is a sign of our diminishing capacity for empathy and patience.
If we cannot put ourselves for a moment in the shoes of another, one wonders how civilization can continue for long. While it is easy to criticize those who have unreasonable expectations and make demands that others act according to their demands, it is highly unlikely that you and I have completely escaped this societal infection.
So the next time we are irritated, impatient, irate, or demanding, perhaps we should consider another model. Despite the Gospel writer’s need to elevate Jesus’ standing and diminish his humanity, it is refreshing to see how often he is moved with human compassion and empathy. He weeps with Mary and Martha in their grief. He is not impatient that they don’t understand who he is or what he is about to do. He is moved with compassion that the people acted like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus could have been filled with self-importance, but he lived with great empathy for others.
My hope, for our world and my own life, is that if humans can lose their empathy we might also find it again. Maybe a great spiritual discipline would be to put ourselves in another’s shoes for a split second before we respond -then we might at least have a chance of responding as Jesus would.
President, Hope for Peace & Justice
What does the Lord require of you?
To do justice,
To love kindness,
To walk humbly with your God.
Several weeks ago I found my favorite brand of shoes online. I bought a pair a few years ago for a trip, and they are the best walking shoes I have. (For people who look at shoes: you have no doubt seen them on my feet here at church: black, strappy sandals with a little heel). I was delighted to find them on sale and online! I quickly ordered another pair and eagerly awaited their arrival.
In the intervening weeks, I ran into an article about the brand. The shoes are made in Israel (which I knew). However, I also found out something I hadn’t known: the soles of these shoes are manufactured in an illegal Israeli settlement located in the West Bank –one of the settlements condemned by the United Nations, the international community, and the United States government as encroachments on the safety and human rights of the Palestinian citizens who live there. Suddenly my shoes presented me with a problem: How much did my desire for style and comfort really mean to me? Or more importantly: What do I do when my commitment to justice, as demanded by my faith in God, comes into conflict with something I really want? What is my responsibility to use all the tools available to me, including my buying power, to bring about a change I believe in?
At the recent General Synod of the United Church of Christ, the delegates wrestled with those questions in a much bigger way. They prayed, discussed, debated and prayed some more over
our shared responsibility to be a voice for peace and justice in the Middle East—and what actions that would involve. The result of that time in community discernment was a vote to align the use of our financial resources – through divestment and consumer actions – in ways that reflect our values and create conditions for a more just peace in in the Middle East., as well as to advocate for Israeli compliance with US laws relating to human rights violations, and to promote continued interfaith relationships in that area.
I have excerpted some information about the resolution below:
“On Israel/Palestine, the General Synod adopted a resolution entitled, “A Call for the United Church of Christ to Take Actions toward a Just Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” The vote was 508 in favor, 124 opposed, and 38 abstentions (80.4% in favor, counting those who voted for or against; 75.8% in favor, counting all delegates).
This resolution calls upon the UCC to:
Study the Kairos Palestine document as well as other perspectives on the occupied Palestinian territories
Divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and people
Boycott products made by companies that operate in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories
Advocate with Congress to ensure Israel’s compliance with US laws, related to the $3.1 billion of military aid that the US sends annually to Israel, and in light of Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories
Continue to engage in interfaith dialogue, including with Jewish colleagues and organizations. This resolution does not call for boycott or divestment from Israel. There is an important distinction between that and what the resolution calls for. The resolution addresses the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and its people; it does not challenge Israel’s existence…
The resolution seeks to employ a non-violent tactic to bring an end to the occupation, in response to the authentic and clear call of Palestinian Christian partners, especially as articulated in the Kairos Palestine document (2009). The UCC has consistently condemned violence in all of its forms, not only in the Middle East. This approach is consistent with that understanding of ideal human relations…”
As Anthony Moujaes reports for the Justice and Peace Network of the UCC, “The UCC passed the resolution as a way to express solidarity with Palestinian Christians. It was also clear in the resolution’s language that the divestment is from companies profiting from the occupation — not the state of Israel itself — and that the boycotts are of products produced in Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.”
“Boycott and divestment are nonviolent strategies of resistance, called for by Palestinian leaders and Christians,” said the Rev. James Moos, executive minister of UCC Wider Church Ministries. “The UCC condemns all forms of violence and anti-Semitism, and reaffirms the right of Israel to exist securely within its borders. We’ve also recognized the right of Palestinians to live in sovereignty and peacefully within their own state.”
My dilemma with the shoes was, of course, a small one. And easily solved – once the shoes arrived, I put them back in the mail, returned them, and wrote a letter explaining why. If the day comes, as I hope it will, that they are fully manufactured in a place that does not exploit or oppress its citizens, I will happily buy another pair. But until then, in this one small way, I can make sure my actions and beliefs are in alignment. That is what our General Synod decided, too. I invite you to read more about this action (see resources, below), to contact me with any questions you might have, to talk about this issue with on another, and to continue to pray for a just resolution for everyone involved. Justice, kindness, humility. These are our guideposts as we seek to live God’s love in the world. May all that we do and all that we say be in service to that vision.
Selected resources for further study are available by contacting the Church Office or you can go online to any of the following:
Kairos Palestine—A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering
UCC General Synod 30 Resolution on Israel/Palestine
This summary is prepared to assist clergy, members, and others in understanding and interpreting the actions of the 30th General Synod. For more substantive discussion, please contact Dr. Peter Makari, Executive, Middle East and Europe, Wider Church Ministries, UCC, in the National Setting of the UCC in Cleveland, OH. He can be reached at (216) 736-3227, and by e-mail at email@example.com.
“You pray for the poor.
Then you feed them.
That is what prayer is.”
~ Pope Francis
You’ve got to love this Pope. Really. I think every Christian in the world should be thankful that this man, at this time in history, has come forward speak loudly and clearly about the teachings of Jesus. He is not the only powerful spokesperson for the faithful, but he certainly has a platform to speak that few others have. And he has chosen to use his platform, not to consolidate power, or to excuse past wrong-doing on the part of the institutional church, or to find more reasons to separate out the “us” from the “them.” He keeps it simple. He studies the teachings of Jesus and he applies them to our lives. It’s that simple. And that hard.
We who are Christians find our sustenance and our inspiration from the teachings of Jesus. Many of us respect and study other religions, as well, and understand that people with no religious beliefs often have much to teach us. Yet, we have chosen to align ourselves with Jesus because our own lives have been shaped by his life. We find in Jesus’ words about the poor our own call to serve. We hear Jesus speak of forgiveness, and understand our own role in the giving and receiving of that gift.
We sit in the shelter of his intimate relationship with God and feel the Presence of one who is here for us, as well. Jesus – his life and his death – becomes the example of a life lived fully and a death that is not the end of existence. Jesus is the gift Christianity has for the world, and it is a tragedy how often his name has been used to separate and shame instead of unite in love.
How often have you squirmed when you have heard some preacher, often on TV, use Jesus as a battering ram? Have you ever found yourself speechless when someone in your group explains that they could “never be a Christian because Christians are so judgmental”? It happens to me a lot, because the loudest voices in the past couple of decades have often been the voices of a strict and strident form of fundamentalism: one that I can find no evidence for in the Gospels.
So I welcome Pope Francis’ voice. I don’t care that his branch of Christianity is different than mine. I don’t need to agree with him on matters of church polity or the finer points of theology. I just appreciate that in the midst of a turbulent time in history, in spite of all the pressures to say only the easy and expected, he has chosen a different path. He has chosen to speak boldly and to expect more of Christians. He has chosen to step into the essentials of our faith, the teachings of Jesus.
Make no mistake: this is a risky thing to do. There are many people, Catholic and Protestant, who do not appreciate his words about our responsibilities to the poor or the environment or people of different faiths. There are many whose livelihoods are based keeping the status quo. There were many people in Jesus’ day who felt the same way, and Jesus died because of it. Yet we, too, are called to step up and step out. We are called to look at our lives through the lens of our faith, and then to make changes where we are not in line with Jesus. We are called to imagine the world as more just and more loving – and then to do everything we can to make it so.
Listen for the voices around us calling for us to live boldly. Join the voices around us calling for the world to be a better place for everyone. Those are the voices of our faith. Those are the voices of our community. Those are the voices that will lead us into the future. Speak up. Speak out. You are in good company.
Thanks be to God. Kim
“When the power of l♥ve overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” (Jimi Hendrix)
Read more here
“As my future unfolds in the immediacy of each moment,
I now know the fullness in my soul,
the paradox of wanting more,
and the ability to rest in having all I need.”
~ Lee Warren, Living School student
I have been thinking about this quote for the past few weeks. It is a quote from a student of the Living School,, a program through the Franciscan-based Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It speaks of paradox: the pairing of seeming opposites whose relationship to one another fills out the meaning of each. In this case, the “wanting more” and the “ability to rest in having all I need.” What holds these opposing magnetic polls together is being able to be fully present to each moment, as it comes. It isn’t either/or: either I’m fully satisfied with everything and don’t have any desires OR I’m able to be grateful for everything I have. It’s both. It’s all of it. Right now.
A few days ago I had some time before I needed to be at church. I stopped by a café and, after ordering, picked a table by the window so I could read for awhile. Lucky me, I picked the best table in the house: right outside the window, mere inches from where I was seated, was a group of moms and babies, clustered together at their tables, finding some time to talk together as their not-quite toddlers dozed in their arms. I remember that time so well – it doesn’t seem like 22 years since I’ve had a babe in arms! And I remember, too, grabbing whatever time I could find with other adults to talk about – well, anything, really, that required complete sentences.
So there we were, the mothers, the babies, and I, separated by a thin sheet of glass and an invisible sheet of time. Suddenly, the baby who was inches from my face woke up. His eyes got very round, as he peered at me over his mother’s shoulder. I smiled, he looked wary; I kept my face neutral, he kept his eyes locked on mine. Suddenly he reached out to touch my face. His hand hit the glass. He pulled his hand back, looked at it, and tried again. He saw the salt and pepper on my table, and decided he’d like to have that. Again, his hand brushed up against the glass, and he was stymied. He wasn’t yet at the stage where he understood that there are things that we can see but can’t get at. So he kept trying. His mother, whose back had been leaning against the glass between us, shifted so she could see what was drawing his attention. She smiled at me and shrugged, as if to say, “What are you going to do? I guess this is how they learn?” I nodded agreement, through the glass, through the ages, to another mother who was starting the journey of discovery with her child: a discovery that would bring surprise and disappointment and even pain, as we let them teach us again about the paradox of wanting more even as we rest in gratitude in the loving arms of the One who created us all.
It is the experience of living to look ahead of us, at what is coming, at what we most desire for our future. It is the experience of wisdom that enables us to remember that we have already been given all that we need, here and now. And it is the experience of faith to live in both realities: knowing there is more to do for the world, more needs to be met, more love to share — and knowing that we can draw our strength for the doing from our relationship with God. We are part of a Love much bigger than we are and recipients of a Life Source we don’t need to manufacture. That’s the fullness we hold within our souls.
Today, I hope you have time to ponder what it means to “want more” and “rest in having all you need.” And to give thanks, once again, for the loving arms that hold you close, as you stretch out into a future just slightly out of your reach.
I am very pleased to print a recent article by Rev. Evelyn Vigil, member of Foothills Congregational Church and Staff Chaplain at the San Jose Maximum Security Jail. Evelyn shared these reflections about the events in Charleston, S.C., and from her unique perspective, gathered together the threads that wove such a terrible day: our national legacy of racism and our unwillingness to change the role that unrestricted guns play in our society. Unfortunately, she sees too often the results of this first hand.
Thank you, Rev. Vigil, for being another prompt in our necessary conversation, and for the work you do with the imprisoned, the victims, and the families of those most affected by violence. May our work for compassion and justice be furthered by your words.
Thanks be to God.
And Jesus said to him,
“Foxes have holes,
and birds of the air have nests;
but the Son of Man
has nowhere to lay his head.”
(Matthew 8:20 NRSV)
A recent report said there are more refugees on the seas, on the highways, crossing the deserts than ever before, and they are finding no place to lay their heads. Turkey has taken in more than 1 million Syrian refugees; Australia is paying smugglers to return their human cargo to the place they picked them up; and we are spending millions of dollars locking up women and children who headed north to escape the drug violence created by our hunger for heroin and cocaine.
The world keeps turning as human beings seek safety, a better life, and sanctuary for themselves and the people they love. And they find no place of peace, it seems.
The shooting in Charleston, S.C., of nine black men and women in prayer meeting shocked me because it took place in the sanctuary, the place where we live our lives in common. We marry in church sanctuaries; we baptize babies in church sanctuaries; we remember our dead in church sanctuaries; and we pray, sing and worship God in church sanctuaries.
I remember a Jewish friend of mine who told me she learned early that no matter where she traveled, she could always find a home at the synagogue in that town. I would like to think that we are the same way. A church should provide us sanctuary, a place to rest from the business of the world, giving us time and quiet to remember what really counts in our lives. For too many people, though, churches have proven unsafe, because they were gay or divorced or poor or anything we discriminate against or look down on.
For black people in our nation, church sanctuaries are rarely as safe as we would hope. They have been bombed, burned and threatened as long as white men are afraid of losing whatever privilege they think they hold because of the color of their skin. News reports moved quickly to link the suspected shooter at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church with white supremacist groups, where he probably found meaning for his life that seems so aimless until last week. His father bought him the gun for his birthday. My mother did the same with us. I understand that culture, but I cannot live it because it believes guns can level the playing field and keep us safe. The family of the shooter believed that myth, not realizing how powerful a gun can make a powerless person feel.
Because of the easy access to guns and the sense of power they provide, there is no safe place in this world, not really. Our safety is with the love we show each other and with God’s love and care for each of us. Emanuel A.M.E. Church reopened with a worship service because, in our words, “God is still speaking” and we must listen.
People are still moving, still looking for a place to call their own, still hoping for places of peace and respect and love, still seeking sanctuary. Some people think stronger doors, more security, bigger guns, and tougher treatment of other human beings will bring us peace. That path of fear has been trod again and again and found wanting, because even in all that confusion and pain and sorrow, we are called to remember the words of Hebrews 13:2 (NRSV): Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
May it ever be so.
Redwood City, CA
(Shared driveway with Smart & Final ~
We are at the far end of the second parking lot)
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