Tag Archives: Diversity

Reflection, Refraction, and Dispersion

Ordinary Time
February 13, 2018

Scripture Reading: Genesis 9:8-17

God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’ –Genesis 9:12-17

A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. It takes the form of a multicolored circular arc. Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of sky directly opposite the sun. *

Most of us who can see know what happens when we look into a mirror. Our image appears. We get a glimpse of how others might see us for good or bad. We see our reflection. If we are indeed made in the image of God what does our reflection tell us about God?

I am particularly thankful for the power of refraction for at the age of 11 I was diagnosed as nearsighted with astigmatism. In later years I added farsightedness to my visual challenges. The art of bending light made seeing more clearly a reality for me. If we saw the world through God’s eyes what would we see?

Light dispersed in water opens new dimensions of understanding of the beauty of diversity forming a union. If we approach the world with wonder rather than fear would we better reflect God?

If rainbows always appear directly opposite the sun, are we rainbows in God’s eyes?

Prayer: Lord, let your light shine in and through us so that others may see glimpses of you in our love for them. Amen.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow

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.D

What’s in a Town?

Ordinary Time
January 13, 2018

Scripture Reading: John 1:43-51

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ –John 1:43-49

I grew up on a farm near three small towns located about equal distance from where we lived. We did business in all three towns at one time or another. My dentist was in one, my doctor in another. I do not know why my parents chose which town to visit. As a teenager, I was cautioned not to frequent one of these towns after dark when I was on my own or with friends as it was dangerous. I never knew what that meant, and I did go there with friends occasionally. Nothing bad ever happened. I wonder if the caution came from something that happened in that town when my dad was a teenager some 30 years earlier. It was the closets of the three towns, but more boring than the other two. There was not much to do except drive around the square and see who else was there.

I do think that caution caused me to wonder if anything good could come from that town. Funny, how our minds associate things to make us assume something, not in evidence. Such transference is the bases of much bigotry.

Perhaps having to live with people judging Jesus by his hometown gave him a greater understanding of the importance of inclusiveness. He selected a broad sweep of disciples to train. I worked in an office once with all primarily white women. Don’t ever want to do it again. Give me diversity. One must work a little harder to understand or create the environment for success in such an environment, but the creativity from diverse experiences and training makes for far better outcomes.

Prayer: God, equip us to appreciate the value of learning from each other. 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.

Revelation

Living in the Spirit
November 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. –Ephesians 1:15-19

Revelation

  1. a (1): an act of revealing or communicating divine truth  (2):  God’s disclosure or manifestation of himself or of his will to humans
  2. a: an act of revealing or opening to view:  the disclosing or discovering to others of what was before unknown to them*

What has God revealed to us? How open are we to revelation? Have we had an Aha! Experience lately? Ever? Communion with God is two ways. We must take the time to understand God’s responses.

I must confess I am stubborn. I usually wait until I am at my wit’s end before I seek the insight I need to deal with a complex issue. The most complex issues usually involve people. God created an interdependent world and expected us to develop it in such a way that we maximize the contributions of each of its citizens. A large variety of people with a diversity of skills are necessary to attain that purpose. Getting a large variety of people with a diversity of skills to work together productively is rather like herding cats. I have developed a great appreciation for really good coaches. They possess a keen sense of not only each individual on their team but how they can meld them together to win games. They are open to the revealing of each person’s talents, ways of communication,  etc.

Investing our energies in getting angry at another because they do not do things the way we do them never helps. Using that same energy to seek revelations about others with whom we work to identify ways to work with them can result in the more productive use of our time.

Prayer: Lord, open our hearts to revelations that will enhance our ability to work as one with all your children. Amen.

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

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.

Race

Eastertide
June 2, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3-13

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
–1 Corinthians 12:12-13

One body including all people was the world view followed by Paul. He picked it up from the teachings of Jesus. Paul’s list of groups differing included Jews/Greeks and slaves/free.The first two came from tribes. The latter two resulted from cultural distinctions sometimes resulting from tribal discord. One tribe would steal members of another tribe whom they enslaved. Slaves referred to as servants or bonded also were created within the Hebrew tribe often the result of impoverishment. Such practices are recorded early in the Hebrew Bible* and continued into at least the 18th century among Christians. My five generations back English grandfather at the age of 15 was indentured by his father in 1783 for seven years to learn how to operate a forge. Also during that period his master, also English, was to teach him how to read, write, and cipher. Apparently, it worked. My grandfather labored successfully at a forge for many years and signed his will so I know he could write his name. His younger brother signed his will with an X witnessed by others.

What is not present in that discussion is race. Race is a relatively new cultural classification appearing first in the same century my ancestor was indentured**. Was it created to support the economic need for relatively free labor? I find myself more and more identifying greed and lust for power as the primary sin-drivers in our world. We justify both by projecting them into other more exploitable issues like race. Race is one thing I do not think we can justify by Biblical quotes as it did not exist at the compiling of the Bible.

If we drink of the same Spirit of God, we cannot uphold such distinctions. After years of being carefully taught, it is hard to erase its stain from our beings. I doubt that we can without the power of that same Spirit to heal our souls. Let us drink deeply until we are cleansed.

Prayer: Lord, renew our hearts so that we can be one with all your children. Amen.

*Leviticus 25:39-40
**http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-09.htm
***Picture above is Greek painting of three Chaldeans with captive Hebrews see at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrews

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.

Spirit Within

Lent
March 28, 2017

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’ –Ezekiel 37:11-14

Life in the Spirit is life with God engaged. It is easy to get down on life, down on politics, down on the church. Life is hard at times and always a challenge. Living in community involves the give and take of humans striving together when each takes in the world around them in ways differing. I recently saw two pictures of the same thing one depicting the items as they are perceived by most and the other illustrating what the world looks like to the color blind. I was surprised to see the perception of what I would call blue instead of yellow. For some reason, I thought being color blind meant everything was black and white or shades of gray.

God created us in community and thus surely intended that communities of variances result in greater hope, faith and love. Let us celebrate our differences as we claim our roles living in the Spirit of the living God with all of God’s other critters.

Prayer: We thank you God for the gift of your Spirit and for the life-giving strength is provides. 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.

Who Do We Trust?

Epiphany
February 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,
‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’,
and again,
‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
   that they are futile.’
So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. –1 Corinthians 3:18-23

Who do we trust? Several years ago, when I was obese, I participated in a mandatory ropes course with my fellow executives to develop our teamwork skills. One of the tasks was to pick up and pass each participant through a steel web of randomly sized holes each of which could only be used once. It also had to be accomplished without the person being transferred touching the ground until they were completely on the other side. I was not sure I could fit through any of the holes and I was not too thrilled with being picked up by several people and handed over to the receivers. My transfer occurred in the middle of the process along with those who would require more than one person on each side to complete the hand off. While I hated the process, and would never choose to do it again, it did teach a vital lesson. We live in a diverse world including people with varying needs. We live in a diverse world with people of varying skills and talents. Our task is to find wholeness for all by meshing needs with appropriate skills and talents. Every human has needs as well as the ability to help others.

To be a part of God’s team working to bring about God’s Kingdom, we the people must thoughtfully consider the best and most productive ways to meet the Common Good and find or become the leadership that can and will implement them. Such actions require us to work with peoples of other faiths and people of no faith at all. It may require us to identify the practical and pragmatic sense of what it means to love our neighbors as we love ourselves so that the people with whom we are building this nation can feel comfortable working with us without concern that we are forcing our faith on them. God, it seems, is pragmatic so are God’s ways. In searching for openings too explain our values we may find that some of them are not of God at all. Likewise, if we can explain our vision in God’s universal terms, we may help others see the virtue of God who we love.

Prayer: God help us put our trust in you to guide our actions. Enable us to grow closer to you so that we readily recognize you in everything we do. 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.

Wellsprings of Hope

Epiphany
February 9, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul’, and another, ‘I belong to Apollos’, are you not merely human? –1 Corinthians 3:1-4

Because Abraham Lincoln quoted the phrase “a house divided against itself cannot stand”, many think it originated with him. Jesus initiated the saying as reported in both Matthew 12:22-28 and Mark 3:24. I am glad that President Lincoln used it as philosophical glue to hold our country together during the Civil War. I fear politicians today thrive on division. Paul realized the harm in taking sides, one follower of Christ against another, and strongly urged the new communities of faith to avoid such behavior. I firmly believed that God created diversity because no individual or single group has all the answers to life’s challenges. We all must work together to make the Kingdom of God reality.

Ruby Payne* in her work addressing poverty, particularly as it impacts education, points out that people at various income levels have markedly differing life views. I was surprised when I took the tests included in her work to realize I knew little if anything about surviving in poverty (even though I had worked with poverty programs for years at the time) and knew even less about being wealthy. I scored well on being middle class.

Robert Kennedy, raised in wealth, advocated eloquently for the poor. How did he gain the insights needed to champion the cause of the poor? He dwelt among them. He traveled through the worst impoverished areas in the USA, played with the children, talked with the parents, and got a gut full of the horrors of malnutrition and hopelessness.

It takes effort, persistence, and patience to work with diverse opinions, but unity, oneness is the only thing that does work.

Prayer: Lord, help us to see the beauty in all your children, make us wellsprings of hope as we work to be one in your love. Amen.

*See A Framework for Understanding Poverty: A Cognitive Approach by Ruby Payne and Bridges Out of Poverty by Ruby Payne and others with information at http://www.ahaprocess.com/solutions/community/

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.

Making the Diverse One

Advent
December 1, 2016

Scripture Reading: Romans 15:4-13

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that thbilingual_speaker_2_by_getty_imagese Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name’ –Romans 15:7-9

Making the diverse one is easier said than done. Paul felt called to take the message of Jesus to non-Jewish people. People unacquainted with the rich, ancient traditions of Judaism. He walked a fine line as he helped Jews, steeped in the faith from the womb, equally welcome the Gentiles who in Jewish perception were unclean. Do we get a sense of the massive communications problems with which Paul dealt? He could not say, “It is like the Exodus or the exiles” with the expectation that his Gentile audience had any idea about what he spoke. Paul apparently knew the works of the ancient Greek philosophers and could weave them into his discussions with Gentiles but most likely not with Jews.

We face the same challenge today with an even wider canvass of differences in a world with instant communications. Millions can read an off-handed tweet sent in a burst of anger in a few minutes. We are quickly becoming a populace not trusting much if anything we read at least on social media. We are also being distracted by what is probably less than relevant in the long run, while important issues land at the bottom of the rubble of postings and responses. I do not see this as either good or bad. It is change. We will adapt to it, hopefully for the good. I once advised state employees never to send anything via email that they would not mind their mother reading on the front page of the local paper. I think that is even better advice today.

During this Advent season let us examine all our communications considering whether they support oneness. If they do not, how can they be changed to help us become one?

Prayer: Lord, may the words of my mouth, and my tweets and my emails and all my posts and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you*. Amen.

*Derived from Psalm 19:14

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.

Ethnocentric

EthnocentricityLiving in the Spirit
July 29, 2016

Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:1-11

In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! –Colossians 3:11

Ethnocentric*
1: centering upon race as a chief interest or end
2a: inclined to regard one’s own race or social group as the center of culture
b: exhibiting an incapacity for viewing foreign cultures dispassionately

I first discovered the word “Ethnocentric” in Sociology 103. A required basic college course taken in my first semester, it changed my life and my major. I came to school in pursuit of a degree in speech pathology, left with a degree in pre-social work sociology. The Watts Riots, happening in August 1965 a few days before I left for college, also had an impact. Fresh off the farm and small town life, entering a college world that challenged thinking was a going home experience. I found myself there.

I am the substance of my background and upbringing. I probably sang Jesus loves the little Children, All the Children of the World** by the time I could speak full sentences. Singing songs and reciting memory verses about doing unto others and loving our neighbors plants the seeds of Christ’s way. Most of us never realize when we have picked up cultural norms without even thinking. The realities of racism, elitism, sexism, and the other areas of life by which we take on our ethnocentric tendencies while subtly acquired, require intentionally expunging.

The lessons of the early church apply to us today. What is of God and what is of culture? Discerning the answer to these questions was necessary for the fledgling way of Christ to come to fruition. It remains necessary today as we journey geographically and culturally to the ends of the earth and perhaps even beyond.

Prayer: Lord, you call us to serve in a diverse world. We can see it either as a dangerous threat to our ethnocentric ways or as an opportunity in which we can see even more facets of your glorious love. Give us courage to discern your way and live it. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/Ethnocentricity
**Jesus Loves the Little Children, words by C. Herbert Woolston. See at http://www.allaboutgod.com/jesus-loves-the-little-children.htm. An updated version.

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.

Open-my-EyesLent
February 9, 2016

Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:17-4:1

But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. –Philippians 3:20-4:1

Following the Christ, the Promised One of God, is our chosen task right now, every minute of every day. While we seek to walk in his way, we are actively being reformed and transformed in ways small and great. It is interesting to look back, say five years ago, and recollect the subtle changes in our ways. Take a few minutes to seek with God’s help how you are different today than you were then.

The United States is in the midst of a mighty population shift already present in most of our major cities but coming to small towns and rural areas too. For the first time in our history the number of persons of color is surpassing the number of persons who identify as being white. That demographic is forcing those of us who are white to recognize whiteness as having a culture of its own. When one lives in the culture that dominates a space of land, whether by sheer numbers or by power as in South Africa that culture is accepted or at least acknowledged as being the culture that all others must accommodate. It is not necessarily either good or bad, it can be either, or just neutral. It exists and it is very hard to see and it is thus even harder to change when it needs to change. It became glaringly obvious recently when the Academy Awards had few if any persons of color winning anything even when some of the best movies of the year included persons of color in all aspects of their making.

Our acknowledging our need for help in making this journey to equality in diversity is the first step in being reformed and transformed. Our placing that acknowledgement before God enlists God’s help.

Prayer:
Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
   Spirit Divine*! Amen.

*First verse and chorus of hymn Open my Eyes words by Clara H. Scott. See at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/807

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.