Archive for December 2015
Today is still a holiday for most of us, so you probably aren’t ready for anything heavy or serious. Next week is soon enough to get serious, get back to work, start paying attention to all those resolutions. Today is still a holiday, so have another cookie, another drink, another nap, or whatever decadent way you spoil yourself during the holidays. Soon, life gets back to normal.
Wouldn’t it be great, though, if we could live every day as though it was a holiday? Of course, that would require that all calories be removed from desserts and hangovers removed from alcohol. It would require all of us to be wealthy enough that we would need to work only when we felt like it.
The trouble is if every day is special, then, really, no days are special. Holidays are exceptional days. They bring with them unique food or decorations or customs that set them apart from other days. Celebrating life on holidays is pretty easy. The challenge is how do we learn to do it during what the church calls “ordinary days”?
Every day can’t be a holiday, but every day can be a holy day.
“This is the day our God has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it,” the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 118:24.
It is a good reminder that today is holy because it is the day God made for us. We are promised no other. So what would 2016 be like if we “celebrated every moment, from now until the finale”? Would you grumble about going back to work if you knew tomorrow you would have no job or not be able to work? Would you be terse with that salesclerk if you knew she was going to be killed on the way home from work tonight? Would you spend your time buried in the paper, on the computer, or watching TV if you knew how few days you had left to love the people you are with?
Next Monday won’t be a holiday, but it could be a holy day if, from start to finish, we resolve to live as though the day is God’s gift to us, and seek to be God’s gift to others every day in this new year.
President, Hope for Peace & Justice
“I have two photos on my desk. The first shows a child, a girl of about 10. She is standing behind an enormous pile of her family’s belongings, which have been tightly packed for a long journey. Her face is blank with uncertainty, but she strikes a bossy pose — one hand on her hip, the other planted firmly against the bundles. Her companions are an older woman, probably her mother, and a little boy — her younger brother? Both look directly at the photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who took this picture in Dessau, as scores of Germans displaced during World War II began returning home. It is 1945. Where has this girl been, and what has she seen?
The second picture, taken in 1974, also shows a girl of about 10. This child is a Kurdish refugee. Her family is sitting with their worldly possessions in a barren field, somewhere near the border with Iran. A meal is underway. The parents sit cross-legged on the ground, intent on their food, while the girl stands, another little girl by her side, and stares into the distance with a wrinkled-brow expression of adult worry. Where is she going?
Young as these girls are, they have already been asked to bear a profound loss. You can see it in their faces. They appear to be only half children, the other half having been matured ahead of schedule by trauma and displacement. They know what they should not. And yet, there is still that other half. They are still kids. Unlike the adults in the frame, who must be constantly aware of their dangerous ordeal, the girls, from time to time, might forget. If the moment was right, they might play a game.
That children, even under the worst of circumstances, are able to remain children supplies the world around them with the sense of a future, which is the equivalent of hope. The history of the world is a history of wars — the sieges of Jerusalem, the Mongol conquests, the Mexican Revolution, World Wars I and II, the Taiping Rebellion, the Armenian genocide, the
Napoleonic Wars, the Dungan Revolt, the Vietnam War, the Seven Years’ War, the 30 Years’ War, the Roman civil wars, the Chinese Civil War, the American Civil War, the Chilean civil wars, the Liberian civil wars, the Spanish Civil War. These and countless others are usually fought by young adults and overseen by old men, and it is their experiences that historians tend to consider. But children (and their mothers) are present, too. Those who are not killed wind up displaced, surviving in camps and bombed-out villages, where by their mere presence they contribute to the continuance of humankind. Less obvious than the biological fact of this is the psychological one. If there were no children, would the adults of a refugee camp have the will to endure?”
“….Think of them, moving silently within the mass migrations and terrified departures, the families running away at night, the human displacements on an unfathomable scale. Aztec children fleeing the armored conquistadors. French Huguenot children crossing the English Channel with their parents.
European children streaming east and west and north and south during the First and Second World Wars. Jewish children resettling all over the world. Vietnamese children leaping into boats. Liberian children riding on their parents’ shoulders down roads lined by bodies. Iraqi children running from the gigantic explosions of the gulf war. Generations of Haitian children. Generations of Palestinian children. Generations of Afghan children. See them struggling along, year after year after year, carrying the burden of ensuring our future upon their small backs.”
~ by Jake Silverstein
(Nov, 2015) NY Times
Matthew 2: 13-15
13 When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” 14 Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt.[b]
The murder of innocent victims in San Bernardino recently was bad enough. In our last newsletter I wrote about how maybe our only response to such violence and hatred is to show love. And, then, I’ve spent the past week listening to news reports that did the exact opposite. Instead of love there was only hatred.
I heard a Presidential candidate saying that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States and I listened to United States citizens talking about how we should bomb the homes of terrorists because they have to be stopped from
reproducing more terrorists. I wanted to cry. In this season of Advent when we are supposed to be focused on hope and peace, love and joy it seems that the world around us is in chaos and all that comes forth is anger and fear, hatred and attack.
We HAVE to do something to counteract the anti-Muslim rhetoric and attacks. Those who have reached out to our brothers and sisters of the Islam faith know that they are hurting and they are afraid. We must stand in solidarity with them. I was with clergy colleagues in the Santa Clara Association earlier this week. They began listing interfaith groups in their communities.
One person talked about how after September 11 when Muslims were afraid to worship in their own Mosques for fear of
retaliation, Christians went down and stood in front of their building holding hands so they could worship inside in peace. Another spoke of an interfaith event that is happening soon. Still another talked about a conversation with a local Imam who confirmed that his people are afraid. Just now, as I was writing this, someone sent me information about a CBS program, “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” an interfaith event that will air on Christmas Eve at 11:35 p.m.
More people are being attacked—more innocent victims are being hurt because hatred is growing. We need to respond; we need to do something.
So, here is my plan: Let’s figure this out together. One centralized response is not going to help because we all live in so many communities spread over a large geographic area. Instead, let’s join with other clergy and lay leaders from faith communities around us and let’s find a way to do something in love and for peace. Please call a neighboring church pastor and talk about what you might do together; call the nearest Mosque or Islamic Center and ask what it is they need the most; write a Letter to the Editor calling for a stop to the anger and the fear; Attend a rally or interfaith service and bring someone along with you. Then, after you have done one of these things (or decided that you will do one of these things) post it on Facebook. I’ve opened up a thread on the NCNC Facebook page to get the conversation going. Let’s connect with one another through the work we are promising to do in our local communities. I will do whatever I can to support you in your local ministries. And, if there is energy for something bigger, I’m all for that too.
The most important thing of all is that we get started and that we do it together. Let’s see how we can help one another infuse love and joy into this incredible darkness that threatens to descend on us. Let’s be the people of faith that God has called us to be.
~ Reprinted from December 10, 2015 edition
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display God’s glory.
This is often a portion of the Hebrew Lesson for the upcoming Third Sunday of Advent. It is the Sunday on which many people light the pink candle on their Advent wreath. It often is called “Gau dete Sunday” or “Joy Sunday.” This tradition comes from the fact that, during this “little Lent,” when the readings are often solemn injunctions to “stay awake,” on this Sunday we are also called to “rejoice.”
All that is to say that the season will not allow me to preach about what I’d like to preach about this Sunday. I’d like to talk about the portion of a passage from Isaiah where the Spirit anoints the Messiah to “proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”
Most of the time, we spiritualize this passage that Jesus quoted when he began his ministry in his hometown synagogue (Luke 4). I don’t want to spiritualize it, though. I want to talk about our prison system, because I think it is what Jesus would talk about, even though his listeners couldn’t care less.
As proof of our apathy, I offer this statistic: The United States constitutes five percent of the world’s population but we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Why?!?
Perhaps, in light of this passage, which was obviously important to Jesus, why don’t we care? No, this isn’t a very Christmassy topic, but the One whose birth we anticipate will be arrested, unjustly accused, tortured by the authorities, unfairly tired, and, ultimately, executed by the state. If we don’t care about these issues, do we really know much about this one whose birth we celebrate? Maybe this is all just a secular holiday for us, too – except history records that Saint Nicolas cared for the poor and those in prison.
President, Hope for Peace & Justice
During Advent the church calls our attention to passages about what has been called “The Second Coming.” For Christians, Christmas is a reminder of the coming of Christ, but what about when he comes to us again? Of course, we all need the Spirit of Christ to be born in us again and again, but the truth is there will come a day when Christ comes for each of us in that final gift that we call death.
Several years ago, Lutheran pastor Mary W. Anderson wrote about this in Christian Century:
What if you knew you had only one month left in your life? Would you finish up important matters at work? Would you travel to a place you always wanted to go? Would you pray more, go to church more, do that generous act you always wanted to do for others? Would you find ways to leave a mark on the world? Would you reconcile a fractured friendship?
By answering yes to one or more of these possibilities, we indicate that in our last days we would be better stewards of all the things God has given us in this life — better than we are now. In the intensity of last days, we would live better, be better. We would be more generous, more focused on the most important things in life. The question is: Why do we need to be under threat of death to be better stewards?
So, why don’t we live more fully every day? How many more Christmases do you have? I have fewer ahead of me than behind me. So why am I now fully living this one? Perhaps this is why death is a “gift.” Without it I’m not sure we ever would get around to living.
President, Hope for Peace & Justice
Redwood City, CA
(Shared driveway with Smart & Final ~
We are at the far end of the second parking lot)
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