Tag Archives: Civic Responsibility

Awakening

Living in the Spirit
August 28, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-15

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’ –Exodus 3:7-12

The above scripture is preceded by the story of Moses’ encounter with the burning bush, what I consider to be an awakening experience. How long had Moses chewed on his earlier life and what was happening to his people before the dawn broke and he felt the call to make a difference? Do we all experience moments in our lives when we too understand an issue but ask the question “Who and I to go and address this problem?” The answer in Moses case was self-evident. He knew well the workings of the Egyptian government; he knew well the oppression of his people. No one had greater motivation or was better prepared than he. God did not answer his question with this sort of logic. God said I will be with you and furthermore when you complete the task and are worshiping me back here on this mountain hindsight will tell you that it was I who sent you.

How many of us are feeling the tug of God to get on with the business of being the Body of Christ in the world today and not be distracted by principalities and powers tossing our way of being about like rag dolls? Who are we to go and address the problems of our world?  We serve a risen Savior who is in the world today working in and through us as God worked in and through Moses and Miriam and Peter and Mary Magdalene, and Paul and Pheobe and all of God’s other children who share God’s vision of a world ruled by love. If not us who?

What life experiences do we bring to the table? Are we retired teachers; can we tutor? Are we working in health care; what solutions do we see to cut costs and continue to provide quality care? Are we scientist; can we find ways to curb global warming? Are we citizens; can we remind our elected officials that they work for us, not the lobbyist?

Prayer: Lord, if our backs are to the burning bush, turn us around. Awaken us to your call for oneness and justice throughout our lands. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Yoke of Justice

choose-jesusLiving in the Spirit
November 16, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21

One generation shall laud your works to another,
   and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
   and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The Lord is just in all his ways,
   and kind in all his doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
   to all who call on him in truth. –Psalm 145:4-5, 17-18

In a CBS interview with a post-election focus group of Trump supporters, one woman answered she voted for Trump despite some of the negative things stated about him because she was not picking a Sunday school teacher. Her comment raised a lot of questions. I have no idea from what viewpoint her expression came but two questions raised in my mind are one’s faith communities need to consider. Was she saying that faith is in one basket and politics another? Was she suggesting that she was tired of people trying to force their religious beliefs on her?

Separation of church and state is the source of the second question, and I agree to force what I believe on another serves no good purpose. God is very clear in God’s covenants that people follow by choice. Jesus reflected that in all his dealings. He always offered an invitation for people to come to him as a choice. ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 11:28-30) I fear we chase people from God when we try to cram our interpretation of his will down their throats.

Just as important though is separating our faith from our world view. It cannot be done. We either see all people as children of God or we do not. We love our neighbors no matter what. We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, restore prisoners, and welcome strangers in a continuum of caring that is reflected in all aspects of our lives including the civic part. Over the history of the church, many negotiations happened in how all that plays out. Some so early in church development, their stories are recorded in the New Testament. When we broaden that negotiation stage to include people of different faiths or no faith at all, our God-centered skills of finding common ground toward the Common Good face even greater challenges. Jesus did not say there was no yoke. Jesus says he is sharing the yoke of justice whenever we willingly embrace it.

Prayer: Lord, guide us to find common ground from which to grow the Common Good. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Common Good Revisited

scrooge_pic07Living in the Spirit
June 23, 2016

Scripture Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-25

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. –Galatians 5:1, 13-15

Free to be…you and me* was released as a song 44 years ago to help children internalize self-worth regardless of race or gender. It was Christ’s message over 2000 years ago and it still is today. Our world works really hard at trying to fasten us separately in chains of hate and fear, and of needing to feel better than another to establish our own worth. We try very hard to convert freedom into privilege. I think that is part of what Paul is trying to get at in our scripture today.

While we can be offended by the outrageous things being said and done in our current political climate, I have been trying to listen through the rhetoric and hear from where such venom is coming. I sense a great deal of fear of what is not known. What does the future hold? What does a terrorist really look like? Are we really as innocent of the forces that are working to create terrorism? If we are not, what can we do about it now?

Economically many find their security slowly but surely slipping away. The middle class shrinks as salaries are stagnant and long-term retirement benefits become a dream not a promise. Yet many seem to be thriving financially; seem to have money for anything they want whether they need it or not. And no one seems to want to pay for the infrastructure to keep our country going: education, roads, bridges. A friend gripping about having to pay taxes responded to me when I replied, “but we need education, roads etc.” saying, “The government is supposed to pay for that.” It appears that we the people have given up our responsibility of providing for the Common Good handing it over to the lobbyist and other power brokers.

Our first primary will be held next week here in Oklahoma. If you are from another state, make sure you know when your elections are scheduled. One step toward loving your neighbor as you love yourself is to carefully consider the candidates and make your vote count for the Common Good.

Prayer: Lord, guide us in all aspects of our lives even as we fulfill our civic responsibilities. Amen.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_to_Be…_You_and_Me

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Ugly American

the-ugly-american-movie-poster-1020236485Epiphany
January 12, 2016

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
   and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
   and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
   and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
   and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
   so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
   so shall your God rejoice over you. –Isaiah 3-5

While watching the news, the title of the 1958 book, The Ugly American, flashes through my mind occasionally even now. I do not remember ever reading it. I was in elementary school when it was published. I did see the 1963 movie, by the same name, several years after it was first presented. The term, The Ugly American, although not applied much today, still has resonance. While traveling through Europe several years ago on a eurail pass I got a tiny taste of locals’ attitudes towards Americans. I did not understand that the pass was for the first class cars and was really just thankful that I had gotten on the train and found a seat at all. Eventually, there was barely standing room because the car was so crowded. When the conductor took my pass he started yelling at me in German and gesturing toward the front of the car. I did not have a clue what he was saying but some high school students who had learned English soon translated for me that my ticket was first class and I was taking a seat that was needed by many others. I took my ticket and walked through several cars to the one car that was first class on which there was only one other woman seated. She was German but had married a Scotsman and moved to Scotland during the war. She was traveling home to see family. I told her about my experience and she laughed and said, “Oh, yes, the Ugly Americans.” We preceded to have a discussion about the perceptions people have about one another.

I long for my country to be known for its love. I long for my country to cherish its founders’ dream of freedom and justice for all. Yes, we can probably go back and ferret out that they really did not mean “for all” but that does not diminish the vision. As people of faith our love needs to be reflected in every aspect of our lives even our civic responsibilities.

Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy write your vision for your world on our hearts and let it flow forth from there in our actions. Amen.

*The Ugly American is a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.