Sunday, December 16, 2012
Friday, December 2, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Tonight as I was watching the news and hearing even more about the tragedy in Arizona, I was flooded with the same emotions I felt on 9/11… The question of “why?” kept ringing in my head… As they played the footage of little Christina Green’s funeral I was again flooded with emotions of grief and can only imagine what it must be like for her parents… and in reality, it is too painful and overwhelming to even to begin to imagine…
I thought about the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. I asked in my head, What went wrong? How could anyone become so twisted… so evil? What could make a person go so far off the deep end to kill and maim so many people without any sense of regret or remorse? How could anyone become so mentally ill and evil…
There are no easy answers to any of these questions. And even if we knew all of the answers, it would not change what cannot be undone nor the pain and grief it has caused for so many. The only thing we can do is respond in some way. We do have some choice around that… maybe… I think.
The response for us that profess to be followers of Christ is to somehow forgive Jared… really?! I am not sure how… I am not sure I even want to know how... For the people that were victims and their families, this seems like an outrageous thing to ask. Give the death penalty… make the perpetrator suffer… get revenge… that sounds much more reasonable and maybe easier to do! But is that the response that will cause anything to change?
It is insane to believe or think that God caused any of this to happen… Will any good come out of this? probably… I think there has been already. Does that answer the question “why”? Not one bit! Nonetheless, the tragedy stands to remind us what is really important… what really matters is life. When tragedy strikes, agendas go out the window… Things and money become meaningless…The support and love of others becomes the ultimate value and need… Love and compassion somehow rises to the top…
My hope in the days to come is that love and compassion stays floating on the top… I hope that as choices are made about how to respond to what has happened, it is done with love and wisdom… I hope we seek ways to prevent tragedies like this from happening again and not just seek retribution and revenge… May God have mercy on all the souls affected… may He grant his peace…
Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with all who suffer in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (BCP p.494)
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I have had an interesting debate with an old friend on Facebook this week. It started with me posting a “like” on my profile for a group called “The Christian Left”. When I did this, one of the first comments was from this old friend that said, “Do you align yourself with socialist, communist, etc?” I responded by saying, “No, just followers of Christ and the diversity it represents; Christ taught love and acceptance... not hatred, fear and name calling...” I also let my friend know that I did not appreciate his “labeling” and what I perceived as name calling. I think though it was all just his way of inviting me into a debate about politics and religion… which is okay, those kinds of debates are good to do as long as it does not get nasty and personal.
My friend went on to say, “Just asking, I read a little and see they don't believe that far left which is good. I agree with your statement above, a view can be expressed without the name calling and personal attacks which I am against.”
I then responded with, “Sorry I misinterpreted your question, but it did come across as a ‘dig’... I do consider myself progressive and we probably would not agree in our political views; which is okay... I just believe that we need to be Christ-like in our comments to one another no matter how far left, or right one might be in their views... For me, following Jesus is about love, compassion and helping those that do not have the means to help themselves... if you consider that ‘socialist’ and ‘communist’...then I guess I do align with that...”
My friend then responded with, “No, I agree we should help those as directed by the Holy Spirit. I cannot help everyone. I know the government cannot help everyone either. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us. Jesus did a finished work on the cross and that includes providing for everyone if they will only believe on Him. Problem is when we put our belief in something else it comes up short, including the government.”
My next response was, “And I would add this: something Jesus actually said to his believers ("those that believe on him")... "just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me..." Very true that the poor will always be with us, but it is not an excuse to ignore and turn our backs on poverty. I would not agree that Jesus "did a finished work on the cross"; the story ends (or rather begins) with resurrection and life. This is a lively debate and I will write more later... You have inspired me to write more, which I am going to use in my blog...”
As read back over this, I wondered if we were debating the same issues or not. I know that my friend, based on his Facebook posts, most likely aligns himself with “conservative” values and political views. I would guess, but don’t know for sure, that he considered himself part of the “Tea Party” movement. Politically, I would consider myself having the opposite view. I consider myself a progressive and I am a follower of Christ or “Christian” as he is as well.
It is tempting for me to launch into a discourse about why I think I am correct in my views and he is wrong, but I think that would ultimately bring more division and definitely go against what I believe Christ taught, love, compassion and acceptance. My friend would most likely hold to the idea that the Bible is the infallible word of God and should be taken literally and at face value. I would not. I see the Bible as the inspired word of God, written by man and open for interpretation and discernment. But what I think we both would agree on is that the Bible contains all things necessary for salvation and contains eternal truth. I think that we would both agree that following Christ can transform people’s lives and should be the basis for how we live our lives.
In the end, the progressive (or liberal) vs. conservative debate is really based in fear. In my progressive way of seeing things, trickle-down economics just does not work. It only breeds greed and corporations focused on profit rather than people; it has happened already. I think government has to be an advocate for the people by limiting corporations from becoming too big and too greedy. My conservative friends take the opposite view. They feel that government should stay out of the loop and that the free enterprise system will work just fine if left to its own devices. The conservative view is that we need to promote an unobstructed free enterprise system to create jobs. Nonetheless, both progressives and conservatives are concerned about the economy, human rights and personal freedoms. We just do not agree on how we go about addressing those things.
It seems to me that if we as a nation could start focusing on the things we agree on rather than always focusing on “left wing” or “right wing” agendas, everyone would get at least some of what they want. Just like in communities of faith, our common lives together absolutely depends on each other. The same is true for our nation. The threat of terrorists, the Taliban, emigrants or any other entity outside our borders is nothing compared to the damage we are doing to ourselves from within. Hatred, suspicion, greed and fear feeds on itself. Those are the things that will bring our nation down quicker than anything else. When we can learn to treat each other with dignity, compassion and love, is when our nation will be on course and be a true leader in the world.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Over this past month I have been fairly immersed in my work with Episcopal Appalachian Ministries. I have been filled with both excitement about the work being done to minister to the people of our region while at the same time, like many of you might be feeling, have a feeling of being overwhelmed by the shear enormity of the issues we face in our country and throughout the world. As I mentioned in one of my sermons this past month, we live in scary times. The economic crisis, the wars in the Middle East, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the coal mining explosion in West Virginia, the rising rate of unemployment… the list goes on and on. I wish so much we could find the one “magic wand” that would fix it all, but there just isn’t one we seem to see… at least not one we seem to be accessing. But despite the gloom and doom that seems to be all around us, there is some hope out there for the whole big picture.
I had the pleasure of attending an Episcopal Conference on Domestic Poverty in Newark, NJ about a month ago. At this conference, there were folks representing the whole gambit social, economic, healthcare and welfare groups within the Episcopal Church; in addition to experts from governmental and academic circles. I am still muddling through all the information that I received there… it is hopeful and at the same time overwhelming. Despite this, I left the conference with a renewed sense of energy about how we, as the Body of Christ, can begin to address the multiple issues that haunt us in this world. Although, as I mentioned, there is no one “magic wand” or solution, however there are many solutions just as there are many parts to the body… it is all connected. The one thing I heard, above all the many issues that were discussed, is that there is a resolve within our Church for us to work collaboratively to address the many complicated issues that we are all called to address by virtue of our Baptismal covenant. The truth is, we and “the issues” are all connected.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, was the keynote speaker at the conference. In her talk, she pointed out how so much of the problem with domestic poverty is interconnected with how we view each other and the earth we live in. She said, “We’re here to do justice, and love mercy. We’re here to walk humbly with God and bring good news to the poor. That good news of justice and mercy looks like the ancient visions of the commonweal of God where everyone has enough to eat, no one goes thirsty or homeless, all have access to meaningful employment and health care, the wealthy and powerful do not exploit the weak, and no one studies war any more. It includes the work of building community and caring for the earth, both of which are essential to the health of a spiritually rooted person, in right relationship with God and neighbor.”
I think for most of us, we tend to have this flaw of wanting to point the finger and blame many of the hardships of life on something or someone besides ourselves. It is very easy to fall into the trap of pointing our finger at “the liberals” or “the conservatives”. We blame BP, the Taliban, coal companies, lack of education or anything else we can point to for the plight of the world. But the hard truth is that we are all broken and flawed; we are all sinners. We put our own needs before others. We consume more than we need and we hold onto our “stuff” as if it were going to somehow save us.
As Christians, we know better… Jesus was very clear about that. We have all heard it before… “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
I wish I could offer THE “magic wand” for the plight of our current world and country situation… all of the issues are very complicated. Like you, I still have to drive to work… this computer that I am typing on is most likely using electricity generated from coal burning generators. The oil spill crisis in the Gulf and the recent coal mine explosion in West Virginia just last month are all connected to our need to consume cheap energy. I, like you, would much rather I buy gas for $2.30 a gallon than $2.75 a gallon… I would much rather my electric bill be under $150 a month… it IS complicated…
I think that if there is a “magic wand” it has to be rooted in a change of heart for us all. It would be a spiritual change. It would look something like the Kingdom of God… or rather, would BE the Kingdom of God… Rather than be preoccupied with what we spend for energy or trying to hold onto and protect our “stuff” we would be preoccupied with loving our neighbors and protecting the neighborhood, “this fragile earth, our island home” (BCP 370).
You see, poverty at home and abroad, the environment, corporate greed, terrorism and energy consumption and all that other stuff that scares us, it is all connected. It is about the relationships we have with each other in this world. For there to be change we will all have to be willing to truly live into our Baptismal covenant and truly “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as yourself”. It means we each have to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being”(BCP 305). This my friends is the way of Christ… it is the way of God… it is the Kingdom of Heaven…