Monthly Archives: August 2017

Standing up, Speaking Out, Praying for Peace

Yesterday afternoon I posted this on Facebook:

I have no profound words in response to the violence and bigotry in Charlottesville. There can be no justification for hatred, for waving nazi flags and giving nazi salutes. No justification for punches thrown, kicks and pepper spray and a car used as a weapon. White nationalism is not Christian. I am stunned to have to write those words in 2017. I am horrified, saddened and I know that God weeps at bigotry and hatred and this kind of violence. Praying for peace and hope and equality for all.

Then I began the long and hard work of re-writing my sermon for today. Many people might be surprised to know I don’t like controversy. I don’t really want hate mail or texts or messages. The events of the last week have rattled me in so many ways. I am stunned and shocked and saddened by the rhetoric around the possibility of war with North Korea. I wrote about that on Friday.

Then Friday evening I stayed away from the news. On Saturday the pictures of the white men and torches in Charlottesville, Virginia began to fill my news feed. By afternoon the protesters and counter protesters begin to engage in a war of words, of actions and finally a state of emergency was declared. People died when a car…a CAR was driven into the counter protesters and many more were injured.

I continue to just be stunned by the actions of yesterday. I am shocked by Nazi flags and salutes and signs of hatred again my Jewish brothers and sisters and my brothers and sisters of color and so many others. So my sermon needed to be re-written to reflect on the need of a Christian voice, my voice to be raised against such hatred and bigotry.

So I preached. I preached against the powers of hatred and evil. I preached God’s call to justice. I know my words are inadequate to the task, but I believe God’s me to be a voice of reason, of hope, of faith, of equality and of grace for ALL people. As far as I am able, I will stand up and speak out against such atrocities.

Here is this morning’s worship service….if you want to skip the music (which is lovely)  and prayers (which Pastor Rebecca Goltry Mohr said so beautifully) the sermon begins at 34:15.

God in your mercy, hear my prayer for peace, for justice, for equality. Hear my prayer especially for your love and grace to shower your world with Shalom.

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Anxiety, Fear and the Rumors of War

Today is my day “off.” I attempt to not check my e-mails or respond to e-mails. The day is often filled with all kinds of other “to-do” lists and sometimes with hobbies or projects I really enjoy.

Today I am struggling to stay away from the news. The rhetoric racheting up  between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and our president Donald Trump is enough to cause anxiety in the calmest of people. I don’t spend time wondering about scenarios that are silly or practically non-existent. I am not losing sleep over the possibility of a meteor hitting the earth or some other great natural catastrophe.  I am not a conspiracy nut or an end times prepper.

And yet….and yet. I can not help but be concerned when grown men are hurling insults like they are on a play ground. The “mom” in me wants to grab each of them and put them in a corner until they cool off. Angry words and quickly spoken insults often results in fists being used and a fight ensuing on the playground. I watch in disbelief as one threatens the other, Kim by saying North Korea will launch missiles at Guam and President Trump using phrases such as “fire and fury” and “locked and loaded.”

Harry J. Kazianis wrote this opinion piece on the Fox News website. His insight on the hell that war with North Korea would bring is worth reading. The devastation on the ground even without nuclear or chemical warfare, the deaths, the destruction, the starvation is unconscionable in any stretch of the imagination.

As a child, I remember the body counts of the Vietnam war and how the war was brought into our living rooms every night. That doesn’t even begin to acknowledge every horrible skirmish and war since and currently on-going. There have been terror attacks, two Gulf Wars and other wars across the world that are often hidden in our news cycles. I am saddened and sickened by the possibility that missiles and bombs and tanks and troops could kill and destroy many people on the Korean peninsula, Guam and Japan.

Today the United Methodist General Board of the Church and Society posted this call to prayer:

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On my own facebook page I posted: I am praying for the cooling winds of discernment to dampen rhetoric of war and of hate and of violence. I am praying for the thousands if not millions of people that are being targeted. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

I have no power to influence the powers that be, I do have the power to pray and to pray for peace. As a follower of Jesus, I take seriously his challenge out of the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7, that “peacemakers” are blessed and called children of God, that we are turn the other cheek and not repay violence with violence. This challenge is one of the most difficult for Christians to follow, but that does not mean we should not attempt to live as a people of peace.

So, today, I have been doing mundane tasks. I have swept and mopped the kitchen floor, canned 7 pints of diced tomatoes, made gazpacho for dinner, done the dishes, a load a laundry and will soon do other household tasks. I am praying for peace, I am connecting with the Prince of Peace, that my heart and spirit might be free from fear and anxiety. I know there has always been war and violence and the rumors of war. I attempt to do my part, not to participate in the hateful rhetoric or be driven by fear. I will choose to be a peacemaker and a child of God and a follower Christ. May my words and my actions be a witness to a God who calls us to lives of peace.

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Lost and Found, Part II

This week’s parables come from Luke rather than Matthew. The fifteenth chapter is a trilogy of stories about “lost and found.” The refrain after each story is that “there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repent than those who need no repentance.” That is until the story that is usually none as the “prodigal son.”

In that story there is no refrain, it ends with a father pleading for his son to come and  join the party “because his brother was lost and is found.” This story is often difficult to accept by those who play by the rules, do what is right,, are dutiful and for lack of a better term, “good.” This story is hard for respectable people and for many church people.

One of the things that Amy-Jill Levine noted in her book Short Stories by Jesus, is that somehow the elder brother was lost too. This wasn’t news to me, but her point about how Jesus’ listeners would have been cheering for the younger and stunned by his behavior caught me by surprise. I spent some time in my sermon  noting how often the “younger” sons come up as heroes in the Hebrew scriptures.

What was more unsettling to me, was when I really delved into the fact that the older son/brother was absolutely ignored in the party planning. I read into the story for the first the hurt, bewilderment and pain the brother must have felt at being forgotten and ignored.

This story by Jesus could be preached and experienced on many levels. Having preached this sermon many times, my sermon from August 6, 2017 is just one small slice of the depth of this story. You can find the worship service from First United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kansas here.

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Lost and Found, Part 1

I have really enjoyed preaching on the stories of Jesus. Sunday, I continued by focusing on the parable of the shepherd who had one hundred sheep and loses one, or it wanders off. I used the Matthew version, because in Luke it is the first story of three. The stories in Luke include the woman and the ten coins and the “prodigal” son. The Matthew version also has a very different setting, so I wanted to spend some time on the slant and meaning that Matthew brings to the story.

So I spent intentional time studying not just about a shepherd and sheep, but about Jesus and his viewpoint on the lost, the vulnerable, on children and little ones. What has become very clear for me, is from Jesus’ point of view, it doesn’t matter if there is a hundred sheep, or ten coins or two sons, reconciliation is always the goal.

I didn’t say this in the sermon, but years ago my Old Testament Professor from Saint Paul School of Theology noted  in Psalm 23, the final verse, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” that the word translated as “follow” was more a more active verb. The verb might be better translated as “pursue.” I can acknowledge that both of those words can seem or uncomfortable particularly if one has a history of abuse.

The point of the words though, when combined with the Matthew story is that God is not going to ignore the lost or the needy or the vulnerable or the weak. God is longs for a relationship with all of us as beloved children.

Yesterday’s worship service and sermon is my attempt to give voice to this God who looks for the lost. The service also has a great video highlighting Vacation Bible School. As I said in my sermon, I am sometimes lost and not so good about looking for those who have wandered away. I am grateful for a God who loves me and loves us all enough to come looking for us.

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