From a jail cell in Birmingham in 1963, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly” and that we all must repent not merely for the hateful words and actions of some, but for our own silence.
The preacher wrote that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; but comes through the tireless efforts of those of us willing to be co-workers with God, and that without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of stagnation and hate.
What to do when we find our Faith no longer matches up with the facts as we now know them?
For thousands of years people have found the bones of huge, weird animals – unlike any creature now on Earth – embedded in rock. They are often very lizard-like, sometimes even have wings. So, many of our ancestors believed they were dragons that lived in rock, and had perished in Noah’s flood.
A certain kind of these remains are easy to find, often eroding out of shale cliffs near seashores. People thought they looked like a tongue, and so once called these fossils “Dragon’s Tongues.”
Going forward from here, the question is not what can our leaders do for us, but what we, as people of Faith, must do to heal our country and our world.
Many of us who are Democrats or Liberals are angry and/or despondent at the failure of the Second Impeachment attempt of our ex-president.
Consider that in voting to acquit the ex-president the GOP has refused to join with America as a whole to deal with the problem. He is now their problem, and theirs alone.
It will be telling to see how – or if – they attempt to deal with his blatantly criminal behavior and failure to uphold his oath of office (among other things); and whether the internal strife his failed presidency has engendered within their ranks will rip the party apart, or transform it into an unapologetically racist and even violent movement.
But the Democrats are not blameless in all of this…
I returned to my pew, sweating and shaking; and had to completely rethink what had been a lifelong thoroughly intellectual and theologically liberal Protestant faith. I realized that relationships, especially my relationship with God, were much more than just logic. Relationships require emotion, passion, and love.
On this sunny, snowy, cold morning I am remembering a child that was born in (if I remember right) October of 1992. Her mother had been quite ill throughout the pregnancy, and the little girl was extremely premature. She suffered from numerous medical problems, nearly all of which were likely to be fatal. And yet that December, after a long stay in The Mayo Clinic’s Neonatal ICU and numerous surgeries, she was finally able to go home.
Although many of her immediate health challenges had been overcome, her microcephalic brain was not so easily repaired: it was 1/3rd the volume it should have been. Her parents were told she would be a “vegetable for the rest of her life.”
We once invited several families with children my son’s age over for dinner. Once everyone arrived, we all went into the room where the kids were playing. But guess what, we dads saw our kids playing together with the cardboard blocks!
Well, as good fathers, we had to participate. Didn’t we?
While preparing this message, I remembered that when he was younger, my son would play with big cardboard blocks. And, once he built something, he’d often knock it down and start over, and over, and over.
When you’re two, play is not about being the biggest, nor the best, nor any other measure of success or superiority. It’s about playing, about imagination, about stacking blocks. It was also about playing with someone. Blocks were a favorite pastime with Mommy and Daddy, Grandparents, and friends.
Playing with someone was fun. Our participation – being with him in his play – was the point. There was no goal, no purpose other than enjoy playing … together. It was about relationship.
…We are not alone, [and] we are called to live that reality out in meaningful ways. We are to bring the Good News to all. No one is alone: no matter who they are, what God they worship, what color their skin is, their politics, the size of their bank account, what language the speak, where they were born, how able their bodies or minds may be, what gender they identify with, and no matter whom they love. God loves us all unconditionally: no prerequisites, no expectations, no limits, and no end.
So, how do we live out the reality of this infinite Love of God when we can’t gather together in the ways that have been essential to the life of our church for so long?
Let us pray… … Lord God, may your peace and Holy Spirit fill us this morning. Open your scriptures to us, and may I clearly communicate what you intend us to receive. May your Word take root and flourish within each and every one of us, and through it may we be strengthened and transformed by your unconditional, living, and limitless love for each and every one of your children. In Jesus Name, Amen.
As I read this morning’s scripture (Acts 2:1-19), I imagine the disciples huddled in that Upper Room. They are no longer afraid, but Jesus’ last command is to remain there, to “shelter in place,” until they receive the promise of the Creator. So they wait, separate from those who resumed their normal lives after the turmoil and death of that first Easter week.
I’m sure they mourned. I’m sure they prayed and planned. They must have wondered about Jesus’ promise and his commission to be witnesses there in Jerusalem, then in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of all the earth. How would this Great Commission be fulfilled? They waited.
And there our church sits. All of us are gone. We’re waiting. Only Pastor Tom is there this morning, all alone. We have quarantined ourselves from our neighbors and friends. But like the disciples, we know we must soon move on to something new.
The Gospel is very clear and very explicit on this: It is we who must change to include others. They are not called to conform themselves to our standards.
There’s been quite a furor in the news recently (as noted in this link to a column on CNN) about two lawmakers in Mississippi who are invoking what they call “The Billy Graham Rule.” They are using it to shut women out of the political process in ways that are what I’d term antediluvian: resorting to tropes and portrayals of women that we know to have never been respectful, let alone accurate, and which have the effect of oppressing and excluding women from public life; keeping them under the control of men; and treating them more as property than as persons worthy of respect in their own right.
There’s been quite an outcry against Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D), just as there was a couple of weeks ago against Florida’s Secretary of State to be, Michael Ertel (R). In both cases, both men – and both quite a few years ago – did some things that were at best ill-advised and insensitive at the time, and which are now seen (rightly) as very racist.
In looking closely at the careers of Governor Northam and Mr. Ertel, we see men who are very focused on a just and fair political system for everyone. We see men who have been taking principled stands against those who would undermine our political systems in the name of power and advantage.
In thinking of the alleged crimes of SCOTUS Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I find myself wrestling with a thorny issue: one that has been seen over and over again in the long list of sexual predators who have been revealed (or accused) in the recent past.
To begin with, let’s get one thing perfectly clear. Any sexual crime, no matter how seemingly minor it is (or was), nor how long ago, nor whom the aggressors (or victims) were, is precisely that: a crime. It must be treated as such. It is NOT something to be swept under the rug, nor hidden, nor ignored. Those who are the victims of such crimes – no matter how fragmentary and disjointed their memories seem to be – must be heard. They must be treated with respect, with compassion, with impartiality, and without prejudgment as to who they are, or how valid or invalid of a person (or victim) others may portray them to be.
Frankly, any victim of oppression must always be presumed to be telling the truth – until proven otherwise. Our first and foremost duty is to immediately see them, hear them, and protect them, They must be kept safe, and feel safe, from further aggression by either the original oppressor / abuser, or from the attacks of others.
And that leads me to my main point, which is a twofold concern.
This is an essay I wrote a few years ago (with a few minor edits). Given how fractious and judgmental our interactions with others have become, it seemed helpful to share these cherished memories of a lovely – if eccentric – friend….
– Pastor Allen
Although I may not have a lot to say about my ex-wife, one quality of hers that I admired was her ability and willingness to reach out to others from all walks of life. Today, I’m particularly remembering the friendship she initiated with “Old George”.
Old George was a bitter, foul-mouthed old man who lived in a very cheap apartment near the center of Rochester, MN in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. (I am not denigrating the owner of that building, who had a personal mission to provide low cost housing for those who in Rochester had no other place to go, but that’s a story for another time.)
He spent most of his time in and around the downtown of our hometown at the time: Rochester, MN – or at the nearby Apache Mall. He rode his old bike each day to and from his apartment. He always dressed the same: a worn and heavy coat apparently made from lambskin which was held closed with an old rope tied around his waist. Completing his outfit were rarely washed worn pants, a flannel shirt, and old shoes.
I enjoyed working as a dishwasher in my teens, and still do. Nowadays I’m often the first one of our family to get out of bed, and use my time alone in the kitchen for finishing up any dishes not done the night before, as well as cleaning the counters & stove top, emptying the dishwasher, putting things away, etc. It’s relaxing; and a meditative, creative time & activity for me. (I’ve written many a sermon or blog post in my head while washing dishes, including this one!)
Some part of me – as with most people, I suspect – really enjoys making things neat, clean, and well ordered. When all is done, there’s a sense of accomplishment. We’re ready for a new day. All is right with the world.
My wife and I have this little private joke, which seems to happen at least once a week: As I’m finishing with my morning kitchen cleanup and putting away the last dish – excited at the prospect of having everything DONE in just a few more seconds, I’ll hear a light “thunk” behind me and turn around to see her placing a dirty glass next to the sink. She chuckles and walks away. I chuckle, too. Sometimes I’ll be a little dramatic: “Oh God, NOT AGAIN!!!”
The people of Gaza have made it clear that all they want is jobs, food, adequate sanitation and healthcare, a safe place to raise their children. They want some hope for their future; something more than the hopeless and meaningless lives they now have.
For one, many Jews (not all Jews) are seeing and treating their Palestinian cousins as animals: celebrating their deaths, taking their land, murdering and imprisoning those who resist or protest, giving no credence whatsoever to any of the concerns and voices being raised in protest to how Palestinians are being treated by the Israeli State, blind to the injustices that they themselves are visiting upon their neighbors. They’ve become indistinguishable from the genocidal regimes and individuals that were responsible for the slaughter of tens of millions of Jews in WWII (and before).