Tag Archives: justice

Important Anniversaries

There are many reasons to pause today: for citizens of the United States: this weekend hosts many Veterans Day activities. My grandfather was a World War I veteran. He served as both a sniper and a front line interpreter in Europe. His experience was bad, and my grandmother would note that he never got away from the “nightmares.” He never talked about them or his experience much. But on November 11 in 1918, World War 1 ended.

Prior to World War II, this day remembers Kristallnacht. November 9-10, 1938 Jewish homes and synagogues, hospitals and schools were and demolished throughout Germany and Austria. Thousands of Jewish men were sent to concentration camps and this was the beginning of the Holocaust were millions of Jewish men, women and children would be slaughtered.

In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany would occur beginning on November 9 and continuing in the days that would follow. This symbol of the division between the east and west, between the Soviet Union and the free world would be dismantled and the reuniting of families would begin. The visual was stunning and Germany would spend billions of dollars on unification of families and their country.

Personally, today is the anniversary of mother’s death. Six years ago she transitioned from this life to the next surrounded by her children and love. Every day is filled with anniversaries of things internationally and personally. Finding time to pause and remember is important.

For me it can be easy to go through life and not pay attention to these important moments where the world changed and where my life changed. And yet…..I find if I don’t pay attention, it is easy to forget. What is the old saying? Those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it.

I honor the memory of mother, of those who tore down the Berlin Wall and commit myself to not forget the horrors of Kristallnacht. Too often I turn from injustice because it “doesn’t affect” me….and yet, if I am honest it does affect me. Life is too short not to notice the injustices and pain and pain of those who are inflicted with hatred and bigotry.

We are brothers and sisters, siblings created in the image of God. This day as is true every day, we are called to stand up against evil and injustice wherever they may be. I long to be part of a world where goodness and love, hope and faith are made real in the world.

So as I remember my mother, as I remember the horror of Kristallnachht and the hope of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I recommit myself to be part of God’s reign of justice, righteousness, hope and peace.

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Year of Gratitude: June

We begin a new month in our year of gratitude. This month our focus is:

June 2019

Sabbath: This month begins summer break for people in school. Vacations, camps and all kinds of outdoor activities abound. Summer vacation has often been a time to relax, enjoy outdoor activities and time away. This month we give thanks for Sabbath and time off.

I always loved summer, either as a kid or when I had children at home. It was an easier time, with trips to the pool and the park and grilling out and time away. I still love summer for riding my bike, walking, hiking, eating every meal I can outside, listening to the birds a different rhythm.

In this weeks blog, I don’t want to focus on sabbath so much, as the historical events remembered this week. I don’t know about your news feed, but mine been filled with the honoring Women’s Sufferage and the 75th anniversary of D-Day. There are precious few that are still alive that participated D-Day and none that were part of passing the Woman’s Suffrage bill in U.S. Senate.

Both of these events were historic for the lives of many. On June 4, 1919 the Women’s Suffrage bill passed to allow women the right to vote. It would not be until August 20, 1920 that the ninteenth amendment would be ratified by a majority of the states. It wasn’t perfect, women color still to this day continue to struggle to exercise their right to vote. But Methodist women, both Anglo and women of color, have been on the forefront of this important step toward equality.

D-Day was a changing point in World War II. The sacrafice made by the soldiers and the medics in life and limb and sanity of mind and spirit was great. This was the event that began to turn the tide against the ugliness and the hatred and the bigotry of nazism. We must never forget the horrors inflicted upon our Jewish brothers and sisters, the Roma, homosexuals, dissendents against the Nazi regime, athletes, theologians, artists and others who were systematically murdered. Fascism in whatever form it rears its ugly head must be called out and named so this can not happen again. I am forever grateful for all those who stood up and fought against this perverse political understanding.

So while this is not a post on Sabbath, it is a post to encourage us to think about those who have gone before us. This is an invitation to thank someone today who has made a real difference,  has made stand for equality and against the powers of bigotry and hate. Perhaps you know someone who is serving in the military, as an Americorp or Vista or in the Peace Corp. Could you write them a note and say thank you? Maybe you know someone doing an internship in the church, in the schools, at a medical facility and is working to make the world a better place, a place where all are welcome. Today, write a note, pick up the phone or find a way to say thank you to those who continue the work of those who have given of themselves to make the world more peaceful and more just for every one.

 

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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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For the Love of Jesus, I am not going away

Yesterday, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church (UMC) released its decision on a request from the South Central Jurisdiction of the UMC concerning the application of certain paragraphs from the Discipline on the nomination, election and consecration of bishops. In shorter terms, the question had to do specifically with the nomination, election and consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto from the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC, and the paragraphs have to do with “self avowed practicing homosexuals.”  Here is the link to the full review of the case before the Council.

There are a “lot of words” out there on this case, before the Council met and now since they have released their decision. For non United Methodists, the Judicial Council is basically our Supreme Court. They make decisions based on requests from United Methodists that question acts by bishops or pastors or annual conferences and rule on what is “lawful” or “constitutional” within the UMC. The Judicial Council doesn’t make the laws or the rules that are within the Discipline, they only make decisions as to whether entities within the church are following them, or upholding them. The General Conference is entrusted with writing or rewriting or changing the Discipline every four years.

The church, for some time, has wrestled with the issues surrounding human sexuality. This is not the first debate the “church” has had over biblical issues. The church has split over many other kinds of issues, over power, over structure, over biblical authority, over slavery, over women in the ministry, divorced people in the church and in the ministry, over the use of alcohol, playing cards or dancing. I am not making light of the conversation and deep divide that is in front of the UMC right now. I am pointing out, that the church is constantly struggling to figure out how to be the church and how to live out following Jesus Christ in a real way in each generation.

The Methodist church divided over slavery a little over 150 years ago. Each side believed they were right. Slavery is biblical, there are verses in place as to how to treat a slave appropriately. And yet…..I do not believe there is a church left that still believes that “owning” another human being is Christian. Women have been in the pulpit just a bit over a 100 years, and yet it was not until 1956 women were full members as clergy. There are still people who walk away from the church when a woman is appointed as pastor. There is plenty in the New Testament to cling to if one wants to deny women the opportunity to live out their call as pastors and preachers and teachers. It has only been since the 1970’s that divorced people could be ministers. If a pastor went through a divorce he (and at that time it was usually a he) had to turn in his credentials. Of everything that I have noted, divorce is the one thing that Jesus had some very strong and judgemental words to say. (Matthew 5: 31-32)

I was saddened by the Judicial Council’s ruling, but not surprised. Their job is to rule on what the Book of Discipline states. As someone who has been clergy for 35 years, I know what the Discipline states and have worked to change the language. Our, as in United Methodists, statements that all people are of sacred worth and that homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teachings is contradictory. Obviously I disagree, but the Discipline states what it states, so the decision by the ruling should not surprise anyone. Judicial Council’s function is not to question or change what is in the Discipline, it is only to rule on whether or not the question before them is valid and then what if any acts are in violation of the Discipline. The Western Jurisdictions College of Bishops released this statement. The College (which is the name of the group of bishops for a particular area) already has had Bishop Oliveto’s “case” under review. The sad thing is that her jurisdiction elected her with no dissenting votes, which is practically a unanimous vote. They elected Bishop Oliveto because they believed she had the gifts and the graces to lead the church forward. Her assigned annual conference also have many who agree with her giftedness for the church.

I am saddened by this because I continue to see the best and brightest and most gifted people turned away because they are gay or lesbian. Men and women are told they are sacred worth, but not holy and sacred enough to share their lives and their gifts for ministry in the church. Some congregations won’t even allow them to be on staff or in leadership. I, divorced and remarried, am allowed to stand up Sunday after Sunday and preach grace, love and hope and promise and faith and the good news of new life in Jesus. Yet, someone, who happens to have a different orientation than I, is denied that privilege not because of an action that Jesus clearly condemns, but on the basis of their “being.”

I have been told that those who think the church needs to change should just go away or start a new church. What if those who had worked diligently for slavery to be abolished had just gone away? Or those who worked for full inclusion of people regardless of the color of their skin had just gone away? Or those who worked for the full inclusion of women just went away? I have loved the United Methodist Church my whole life, I am not going away. I am not leaving. I want to be part of bridging the divide that honors what I believe is the real grace and love of Jesus for ALL people.

There are many bumps and mountains and disappointments in the long round to justice, to the reign of God. I never thought I would see in my lifetime, all the changes that have been made. I never thought I would live to see gays and lesbians being able to marry legally, to have the same basic civil rights that I enjoy. And yet, it is now the law of the land as well as the law in many countries around the world. In the church, I have seen many things that are disappointing, but I have seen a movement towards equality and justice. Baby steps, I tell myself, baby steps.

Yesterday, in Egypt, Pope Francis spoke these words, “”History does not forgive those who preach justice but then practice injustice. History does not forgive those who talk about equality but then discard those who are different.” While I know Pope Francis was not speaking about the UMC, he was speaking about equality and justice. I will continue to work for what I believe is true justice in the UMC. I will work with and walk with those who are most hurt by our lack of compassion and grace. I will not walk away or leave, because I believe that I am called to do the working of inviting, including and proclaiming God’s grace for ALL. For the Love of Jesus, I will continue to Stand Up!

 

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To Boldly Go on Faith

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first episode airing of Star Trek. I was a little girl, but was so enamored of this television show. I loved studying the stars and watching Apollo missions and reading everything I could find on the “world” out there.

When this show launched, I was immediately transported to “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its 5-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”   I wanted to be an astronaut, but was told again and again “girls were not allowed.” Supposedly we were not strong enough or smart enough to do space flight. Newer series and movies change the quote to boldly go where no one has gone before, but the original is important because it was made pretty clear to me as a child that women mostly were allowed to boldly go nowhere.

Yet, Star Trek challenged that assumption. Granted, the original series mostly kept men in the “important” jobs, still there were women on the bridge and in space! Subsequent series had women as doctors, engineers and certainly captains and admirals. I eagerly waited each week for the next episode to see what wonderful adventures there were beyond the solar system. For years after that I watched every space launch and a man walk on the moon. Now I read and look at the pictures sent back from all the satellites as we continue to explore beyond this planet earth.

So many of Star Trek’s made up technology is now standard. The flip phone, reminiscent of the communicator, automatic doors, voiced computers (Siri anyone?), tablet computers and visual communications all have come to life since that amazing television show. The ideas of respect for different cultures and ethnic groups and religion and species was a hallmark of the show as well as an ideal of peace between peoples.

For me, the opening lines of the show speak to a different place inside of me than when I was a little girl. There are strange new worlds and new life and civilizations all around me. I don’t need to fly “light years” away. Faith itself is its own frontier. Attempting to live a life of love, of grace and of acceptance is boldly going where many do not want to go.

Right now, in the middle of a political season that is proving to be mean, ugly and hateful, I long for a place to go where there might be a new worlds of peace and justice, love and grace. Yet, wherever I go, there I am. If I am not living out a new life and a new civilization in my heart and spirit and mind, it doesn’t matter where I go.  It is more than a five year mission, it is a lifetime. of seeking out a new world of love, light and grace.

Perhaps, as it has always been, the final frontier is faith. Faith that challenges me to trust that when Jesus says to love one another, this is a new world and a new civilization. When Jesus says that the only way to truly know God is to serve one another and to turn the other cheek and to believe that good will overcome evil. This frontier is one that asks me to follow the path of righteousness and peace, regardless of what others say. This frontier reminds me that those who who walk the path of peace and love are children of God.

So today, I celebrate the 50th anniversary of this show that set my young heart and spirit on fire. I celebrate with my favorite Mr. Spock saying in my profile picture from Facebook

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May this final frontier bring peace, bring justice and love to this strange world. May you live long and prosper!

I am graced to Serve

 

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What Forgiveness is Not

For Lent this year, I am preaching a sermon series on “The Forgiveness Factor.”  One of the most asked for sermons, in my experience, is a sermon on forgiveness.  I think forgiveness needs more than one sermon, it needs a series and probably should be preached about once a year.  

Forgiveness is not easy,  simple and or a one time event.  Part of the reason for the series, is that like grief, I believe forgiveness is a process, and with all the research I have done, I am obviously not the only one.  Forgiveness requires commitment, faith and a belief that in forgiving one is not only set free, but one has an opportunity to let go of bitterness, resentment and hatred and have space for grace and love.

In today’s sermon, I spoke to what forgiveness is not.  I think it almost impossible to begin the process of forgiveness without defining what it isn’t.  So often I have heard versions of, “I would forgive, but…”  

I did not create this list, it came from multiple sources.  So here is the list of what forgiveness is not, including full citations (which is hard to do in the midst of preaching and was not cited in full on the screen):

  Forgiveness is not forgetting

http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/forgiveness/understanding-forgiveness 

  Forgiveness is not condoning or excusing. Or saying what the person did was okay.

http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/forgiveness/understanding-forgiveness

  Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation

http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/forgiveness/understanding-forgiveness

  Forgiveness is not justice

http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/forgiveness/understanding-forgiveness

 Forgiveness does not mean the person can abuse you, wrong you again, or that you allow others to do so.

When you can’t say “I Forgive You”,   By Grace Ketterman, M.D. And David Hazard

  Forgiveness is not trusting the person or relieving them of responsibility.

http://www.laurapetherbridge.com/Articles/What-Forgiveness-Is-NOT.htm

In other words, the forgiveness is not about the other person, it is a spiritual practice that is about me and about you.  When we get past the idea that somehow the other person will “get away with something” and away from the idea if we hang on to our anger and bitterness that somehow it will change the past, the situation or the other person, we are free to let go and leave everything in hands of God.  

In the words of Paul, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12: 17-18)  Or in the words of a image I saw on Facebook (unattributed of course)
Image
 
Forgiveness is not a blanket invitation for a person who hurt us to have an open invitation to do so again. Reconciliation is wonderful if it occurs.  Justice when served is right and good.  These things do not always happen, but are not necessary for forgiveness.  What is necessary is for each one of us to give up the past, the resentment and bitterness that hold us captive.  
In the midst of all that occurs, for good and ill, God has promised forgiveness to us and through Christ challenges us to forgive others.  In the midst of the process of forgiveness, I am graced to serve.

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