Tag Archives: Common Good

Relatives Through Christ

debtorsprisonChristmas
December 30, 2016

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 2:10-18

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
–Hebrews 2:14-18

I grow weary of competition among the nations. There are no borders in the Kingdom of God. We are called by God to want enough for every man, woman, and child in this world. I must desire a living wage not only for every citizen of the United States, but also very every citizen of Mexico, the Congo, and, yes, Russia and China. If I want peace and safety in my hometown, I want it for Chicago and Aleppo too.

Genealogy is a great equalizer. I have met a first cousin eight times removed through my research. I have not been able to verify it fully, but I believe one of my ancestors and his father came to the USA in 1759 on a prisoner ship from England. What behavior had resulted in their deportation, I wonder? Many came from debtor’s prisons, others as thieves and some for brawling. Or I could be mistaken and that family line, as other researchers believe, may be the offshoot of a nobleman whose son came to the USA on a lark in 1618. The son became landed gentry. I have a rather fanciful vision of DNA tracing us all back to the same starting point. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we all had to accept that we are all at least cousins? Isn’t that what the creation story is trying to tell us? Isn’t that the message Jesus taught?

Prayer: Lord, enable us to view your world through your eyes to see the solutions you intended since the beginning. 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.

Leaning on God

wells-of-salvation1Living in the Spirit
November 9, 2016

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 12

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say on that day:
Give thanks to the Lord,
   call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
   proclaim that his name is exalted. –Isaiah 12:3-4

I spent election day this year watching 2,000+ voters weave their way through two precincts that vote at my church. All age groups, most races, varied religions, identifiable by a Yamaka or a scarf, were represented. Knowing this was a momentous election my church decided to serve coffee and water with some muffins and cookies to make the wait to vote easier. My observation of the participants occurred during the process of filling coffee pots and answering questions. I voted in the early voting so I could be available to do this work. These voters live within a 27-block area running north and south by a ten-block area running east and west. I live in a city. Most of my family live in rural areas lacking the same degree of diversity that is my everyday experience. Those differences it seems, have come to a head in this election.

The rural/urban divergence is just one of the challenges our nation and our churches face in which the nation must address the Common Good; the church must become one in Christ Jesus. When considering the magnitude of these differences, I am left feeling rather hopeless that either of this desired outcomes, Common Good, and oneness, will every become a reality. A simple reading of Isaiah describes in many places exactly what I am feeling now. In our scripture today, Isaiah leans on God’s wellspring of salvation as the very source of the hope I am lacking.

I want with all my heart to be so in sync with God that my being reflects my faith. Often, I get caught in the web of having nowhere else to turn but to God before I lean into God’s salvation. I do thank God for understanding my stubborn bent to be independent, and I thank God for always being my Savior when I finally seek God’s salvation.

Prayer: Give me the courage to lean on you in all ways always. 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.

Common Blame

blameLiving in the Spirit
October 15, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 18:1-8

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

An Oklahoma state senator staffer told me once that it, in general, took ten years to get a needed piece of legislation passed. The staffer and I were working on vital changes that would upgrade our child care system. It did take at least ten years. The need for universal health care was recognized when Medicaid and Medicare were enacted in the mid-1960’s. Monumental steps, these two programs were just a beginning. Lots of vested interests create the environment for extensive negotiations. Gridlock result when we the people do not encourage our elected officials to compromise. Sometimes I wonder if gridlock is a goal as maintaining the status quo leaves expensive, inefficient systems in place which continue to produce healthy profits, not healthy people.

We all share common blame as we fail to meet the Common Good. We want the government to be there when we need it and provide fast effective responses. We do not necessarily want to pay for the services we demand or we do not want to pay for services someone else might need.

No matter who is elected on November 8, our job does not end with our vote. We need to emulate the widow in our scripture today and demand justice until we get it. Such work requires us to understand what is just and what is not. It demands that we try to see issues from the eyes of the others involved and search along with our elected officials for new and innovative ways of meeting the Common Good.

Prayer: God of Justice, Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour*. Amen.

*Phrase from hymn God of Grace and God of Glory by Harry E. Fosdick see at http://www.hymnary.org/text/god_of_grace_and_god_of_glory

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.

Much Ado About Nothing

tvLiving in the Spirit
September 12, 2016

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
   my heart is sick.
Hark, the cry of my poor people
   from far and wide in the land:
‘Is the Lord not in Zion?
   Is her King not in her?’ –Jeremiah 8:18-19

William Shakespeare wrote Much Ado About Nothing in 1598-99, a comedy about court politics. It seems not much has changed. We live in serious times needing serious attention. In search of information on which to base our judgments, we seem to thrive on character assassination. A larger than life reality show has taken over our media. I fear it will continue as long as it makes the large media companies money.

Jeremiah’s lament relates to serious times ignored for reasons of power and greed. We live in a nation proclaimed as having a Government of the people, by the people, for the people about which Abraham Lincoln proclaimed shall not perish from the Earth*.

 The privilege of participative government depends on our willingness to take responsibility for it. We are not living in a reality show where at the end we can push the off button and not worry about the outcome. What we do matters not just for us but for the generations to come.

Prayer: Lord, give us the wisdom of a Jeremiah. Help us perceive the difference between information and manipulation. Guide us not to back away from our civic duties but to search for the truth and demand governance targeted at assuring the Common Good for all. Amen.

*From the Gettysburg Address. See at http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm

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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.

On not letting Distractions become Our Way

Dees-family-watching-hypnotic-TV-screenLiving in the Spirit
July 6, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 82

‘How long will you judge unjustly
   and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
   maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
   deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ –Psalm 82:1-3

While the USA government was founded on the principle of religious freedom, there is no question that many of its tenants derive from some of the founders Judeo-Christian backgrounds. The very center of government’s responsibilities to assure the Common Good lies at the heart of that background. It, however, also has very practical applications. As I write this the US Congress is considering how to fund a response to the Zika virus that is beginning to invade our land. Zeka’s mosquito carriers do not differentiate between the rich and the poor, the haves, and the have-nots, the sinners, and the saints. We have a shared responsibility to do whatever we can to prevent the spread of this disease wherever it may strike. Some in Congress are using it as a tool for political leverage even when time is of the essence.

We do not wisely judge when we invest our souls in power and greed instead of the Common Good. There is room for discussion and negotiation regarding every issue considered. Having people with diverse backgrounds and knowledge bases leads to better decisions. In my work for social justice, I have learned much from small business owners about the challenges of paying a minimum wage much less a living wage. I still strongly believe that wages need to be adjusted, but done so in a way that allows a business to remain solvent. Problems often arise when other interests cloud the issues.

The Psalmist is calling us to task in our scripture today for letting those other interests overrule what is the best for all of God’s people.

Prayer: Lord, keep us so centered in your love that we can readily recognize distractions for what they are and circumvent them toward finding your will in our lives. 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.

Responsible Citizenship

CitizenshipLiving in the Spirit
July 5, 2016

Scripture Reading: Amos 7:7-17

And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’  

Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”
‘Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.–Amos 7:12-16a

Amaziah, the priest, works to run Amos out of town for challenging the King of Israel. Think of the clergy who blindly backed Hitler. What is it that each of us are called to do and be in our world today even though we may only be herdsmen or arborists, teachers or electricians, nurses or police officers?

I am writing this on the 4th of July when we citizens of the USA celebrate the founding of a country dedicated to the principles of a democracy ruled by elected representatives.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed* (Emphasis Added)

In 2014 in Oklahoma, Statewide, 40.7 percent of registered voters showed up, the lowest recorded rate since 1962. Oklahoma started tracking voter registration at the state level in 1960**. The estimated percent of the voting-eligible population that voted was 30%***. When we give up our right to consent to the type of government we want, we are turning our responsibility over to special interest groups and lobbyist.

If you are withdrawing from the messiness of democracy because you are already tired of the presidential race, let me remind you that much of the problems in our government lay at the feet of Congress and state legislatures. If we truly seek the Common Good for all, we need to elect representatives to these bodies who demonstrate a willingness to work together for the Common Good and not be led by the will of special interest or lobbyist.

As the fireworks end and we all head back to our daily walk, we need to take with us not only our dedication to a democracy that protects our freedom of religion but we also need to examine ourselves to see if we are holding up our end of the bargain.

Prayer: Lord, help me to carefully discern the candidates who are most committed to establishing the Common Good and to give them the support they need to make it a reality. Amen.

*From the Declaration of Independence see athttp://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

**Oklahoma Watch see at http://oklahomawatch.org/2014/11/04/oklahoma-sees-the-lowest-voter-turnout-for-governor-since-2002/

***United States Election Project see at http://www.electproject.org/2014g

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.

Informed Common Good

Common GoodLiving in the Spirit
June 25, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 9:51-62

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ –Luke 9:57-62

When is it the right time to say “No More”? Members of the federal House of Representatives staged a sit-in this week in Congress based on the message that something needs to be done about the mass shootings that are happening across our land. They are demanding a vote on bills to control the sale of guns. And yes, it was and is a totally political action. We live in a democracy, which is a political form of governance and relies on the people to elect representatives. We do not have a monarch who inherits his or her role nor do we have a dictator who holds governance by force. Many are questioning now whether we actually do have a democracy, since we seem to be moving closer and closer to an oligarchy where leader ship is controlled by a small group of people, in our case the people with enough money to by “our” representatives.

The responsibility a democratic form of governance places on each of its citizens is great. It is not easy to determine what is the best way to meet the Common Good. We generally want things that are best for ourselves. The Common Good demands that we see what is best for ourselves through a broader scope. Is it better for me to have criminals rehabilitated rather than having them stored together in crowded, unhealthy conditions that just breeds more crime? Is it better for businesses to have a well education workforce from which to make hires? Is it better for me to pay taxes to keep roads in good repair rather than making expensive repairs to the suspension system on my car? Is it better for me to live in a world where disease and contagion are held to a minimum?

Those of us who long for the full fruition of the Kingdom of God have an even higher calling to a broad brushed approach to the Common Good. Our love of God and love of our neighbor as ourselves must also inform our civic responsibilities. The time is now, circumstances for our action will never be perfect or we would not be worrying about the issues in the first place.

Prayer: Lord, write on each of our hearts your will for the Common Good and give us the courage to seek it with all our being. 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 Prime Directive

African proverbLiving in the Spirit
June 9, 2016

Scripture Reading: Galatians 2:15-21

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! –Galatians 2:15-17

Laws exists to bring order out of chaos, to identify actions and activities that promote the Common Good into becoming universal practices. Thus, laws are fluid, they are adjusted to changing times and circumstances. Laws about where to hitch our horses may still be in statute but have, in general, been rendered unnecessary. Whereas, how, where, and how long we park our cars is very important. Whether we follow a law depends on many things. Some of us just do it automatically, others seek what they can get away with, and still others apply laws more practically based on the current situation.

God’s laws may be described in the same manner with the one exception that such laws are based in our relationship with God. Based in the sure and certain knowledge that we are each loved by God and that our best expression of response to that love is loving God in return and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. This raises the pursuit of the Common Good to a higher plain where our decisions become interdependent. Love rules. We are called to become a majority who lives like Jesus lived, loves like Jesus loved,and moves the world toward wholeness in the process.

It is indeed a call to move mountains when we feel like tiny ants, each trying to move a piece of sand. God’s call to wholeness can only be fulfilled by God’s grace that serves as the sinew knitting us all into one Body with the guidance of the Holy.

Prayer: Lord, help us as a society to work together to assure the Common Good for all in response to your prime directive to love. 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

Equal and/or Equitable

shapeimage_5Eastertide
April 27, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 67

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
   and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
   let all the peoples praise you. –Psalm 67:4-5

The United States was founded on a principle of equality for all and I support that and think it is a good thing. God seems to take it a step further. The Psalmist, quoted above, talks about our being judged with equity. Equity is defined as:

a free and reasonable conformity to accepted standards of natural right, law, and justice without prejudice, favoritism, or fraud and without rigor entailing undue hardship; justice according to natural law or right; a free and reasonable conformity to accepted standards of natural right, law, and justice without prejudice, favoritism, or fraud and without rigor entailing undue hardship : justice according to natural law or right*

Jesus addresses this in Luke 12:48b when he says, From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

Our tax system is based on both of these principles. Sells taxes are charged equally to all who purchase. Our income tax system is based on equity. The challenge for our leaders now is discern the fairest way to raise enough revenue to prudently meet the common good. It is a very complex and difficult task. I invite all of us to spend time in prayer for our leaders who must make the final decisions of what needs to be equal and what needs to be equitable.

Prayer: Lord, be with each of our elected representatives. Write on their hearts the best ways not only to identify what is necessary for the common good but also to raise the revenue necessary to provide for the common good in equal and/or equitable ways that also reflect the common good. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/Equity

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.

Discerning Agreement on What Justice Is

Martin Luther KingEastertide
March 28, 2016

Scripture Reading: Acts 5:27-32

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority. –Acts 5:27-29

What does the phrase We must obey God rather than any human authority mean to you? It calls to my mind the image of Dietrich Bonhoeffer standing in absolute humility, rather than humiliation, awaiting his death by hanging after resisting Hitler’s oppression. The picture of Martin Luther King Jr. also comes to mind. He is peering out of the bars from the Birmingham jail where he was imprisoned for seeking a non-violent end to racial injustice. It is from there he wrote his letter from the Birmingham Jail which states in part, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Both of these men understood the injustice of the events in their worlds at their times and willingly invested their lives in rectifying such oppression.

The phrase We must obey God rather than any human authority is not representative of any movement that implores human authority to enforce one faith’s beliefs on everyone else. Indeed, the United States of American was formed based on the need to support free religious expression and not to support any governmentally defined religious beliefs. The US Constitution’s first amendment states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….

The challenge in a democratically governed country is for all people to come together and discern the values that they do share to establish ways of providing for the Common Good while respecting the rights of people of faith to follow their tenets of belief. The process by its very definition is messy and of necessity requires compromise. Jesus probably said it best. We are to ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ (Mark 12:17)

Prayer: Lord, it is so very difficult to do justice when we disagree on the definition of justice. Help us discern your justice while continuing to work together to meet the Common Good of all the people of our nation and world. 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.