Tag Archives: Diversity

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.

Worship Practices Differing

Sister%20Barbara%20Lum%203%20(1000x615)Epiphany
February 2, 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 34:29-35

When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him. –Exodus 34:33-35

The wearing of veils in our day and time is a controversial issued tied up in our ability to accept differing religious and cultural practices. I was hospitalized around the age of five for a short time in our local hospital which at that time was operated by a Catholic order of nuns. I had never seen a nun before, at least not one clad in a habit from head to toe. I remember not knowing what to make of them. My mother explained that they were nurses and all nurses, like the ones in my doctor’s office, wore uniforms. These nurses just wore a different kind of uniform because of their faith. It is a rare sight to see a nun in a habit anymore.

When I worked for the state, I did job interviews to fill an economist vacancy in my division. Two of the applicants were Muslim. One presented in an attractive business suit with a colorful blouse and had no head covering, the other wore a black scarf and an all-black pant suit including a black blouse. This is emblematic of the world in which we now live where cultures and religions intersect in all facets of life.

The story about Moses’ worship practices as they continued following his descent from the mountain does not say whether he chose to continue to cover his face because he felt that was best for the Israelites or because it was meaningful to him personally and his relationship with God. I believe this scripture suggest the latter and I believe it gives us guidance on how we should respect the practices people of all religions follow as they honor God. What is meaningful for one may not be meaningful to me and what is meaningful to me may not have any significance for another.

Prayer: Lord may all your followers worship you in spirit and in truth as they feel compelled through their relationship with you and grant us the peace we need to love them for their love of you as demonstrated in their practices. 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.

Gifts Differing

you-belong-serving-Christ-body-churchEpiphany
January 15, 2016

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. –1 Corinthians 12:4-11

God intentionally created diversity. One would think that would be the only rationale we need to encourage us, even drive us, to make it work. Diversity has often been described as one of the greatest assets of the USA, if not the greatest asset.

Our scripture today talks about the diversity of talents. Most of us, who have been in the work force since Myers Briggs Personality Types were identified, have been trained to recognize that the workforce needs all sixteen types to flourish with productivity. And yes, that can result in differences of opinion. The fruit of the combined labor comes when people take the time to learn from the viewpoint of the other, put them together, and produce a better outcome. Why can’t we do that, not only in church, but also in government? We seem to prefer to model ourselves after prize fighters who go to and from their designated corners getting more and more battered and bruised until someone lands a knockout blow. It might be good for boxing; it is counterproductive everywhere else.

I don’t know whether If by Rudyard Kipling remains required study in school. It should be. If you haven’t read it for a while or ever, do:

If you can keep your head when all about you
   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,…

Prayer: Lord, help us keep our collective heads and deal with the issues of our world. Amen.

*See If by Rudyard Kipling at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175772

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.

Together as One

negativityEpiphany
January 5, 2016

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7

Do not fear, for I am with you;
   I will bring your offspring from the east,
   and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
   and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
   and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
   whom I created for my glory,
   whom I formed and made.’—Isaiah 43:5-7

Most read Isaiah as promising the regeneration of the nation of Israel. I cannot help but recall the book of Genesis when I read this scripture where Isaiah speaks of everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. God apparently glories in diversity for God surely created it. Why do you suppose it is so hard for us to glory in diversity?

Created as totally unique individuals, it does not take us long to cluster into like kinds: males on one side females on the other; red and yellow, black and white; athletes, scholars; working class, wealthy; conservatives, liberals. Apparently the world is easier to understand when we cluster and then create hierarchies of those clusters although it actually gets more complicated, when individuals from various clusters mix together.

One of the traits that Jesus modeled for all to follow was recognizing the uniqueness in each person with whom his path crossed. O, he knew about clusters. Had apparently learned about some. The syrophoenician woman was originally not on his radar. Lepers may not have been either, at first. He had this amazing skill to look past his predilections and see the image of God in each person. This is a skill we each need to hone, if we long for oneness and justice in our world.

Prayer: God, show us the treasure you planted in each human being and let us treat it as the gift of your grace that it is. 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.

Let Me See Again

What do you needLiving in the Spirit
October 25, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 10:46-52

Many sternly ordered [the blind man] to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. –Mark 10:48-52

If we trace the events in the gospels that describe Jesus’ interactions with individuals he often asks the question, or some form of it, in our scripture today: What do you want me to do for you? It is the question he is always asking each of us. For most of us it is a really hard question to answer. The blind man already had the answer before the question came. He wanted to see again. What he most likely really wanted was to be self-sufficient again and to be whole but to attain such independence he had to see.

Jesus was a very practical mystic, I think. He understood the desires and dreams of the people. He did not condemn and he did not itemize sins. Most likely he knows what is separating us from God, but until we see the divisive parts of our lives we cannot turn away from them. Even when we face the truth about ourselves, it is very hard to change the habits of our hearts. God can enable us to change. I like to think of us as changing back to the person we were created to be in the first place before we allowed the world to reshape and remold us.

When I first read this scripture in preparation to write about it, I thought it included something about the man being blind from birth but that is in another gospel. Perhaps it was a different blind man in the other recounting, perhaps the authors just remembered it differently, or wanted to stress a different part of the story. We often run the four very distinct gospels together. I do believe it is important for us to also see that we are not called to discern what is separating another from God. The gospels’ variety of perceptions of Jesus are important to us today as we celebrate the beauty of God’s diverse world within the wideness of God’s love for all.

Prayer: Lord, I really don’t want to see my faults but I do long to be whole. Grant me the courage to see what I need to see to make wholeness a reality and make me a better conduit of your love for others. 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 Blessing of Diversity

diversityLiving in the Spirit
October 14, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
   In wisdom you have made them all;
   the earth is full of your creatures. –Psalm 104:24

I think we sometimes forget that God created the earth to be manifold—diverse. It is interesting that some take offense at scientific explanations of creation. I, on the other hand, think it is one of the greatest compliments we pay God to invest our energies in trying to figure out exactly how God made all this happen. A surgeon once told me that he was rather agnostic about God until he started studying the human body and realized what a marvelous invention it was.

It also makes sense to me that if God created a diversity of people, God had reasons for doing so and we need to respect those reasons as we respect the differences in people. I worshipped yesterday evening with one of the most diverse group that could be gathered. Most were homeless, although one in sharing her blessing for the week with the group told of finally finding someone who would rent to her using her housing voucher. She took her seat and in a few moments returned to speak again in this part of the service set aside for sharing blessings. She wanted to thank her case manager for sticking with her through it all and believing in her. She choked up while expressing her thanksgiving it meant so much to her.

Today let us praise the Lord for the wonderful work of God’s hands and reflect that praise in how we love one another.

Prayer: O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed: 

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!* Amen.

*First verse and refrain of How Great Thou Art by Stuart K. Hine. See at http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/h/o/w/how_great_Thou_art.htm

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.

Family of God

Harmony_Day_(5475651018)Living in the Spirit
October 11, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 10:17-31

Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

 Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’ –Mark 10:27-31

Do we worship a god whom we truly believe is capable of all things when we have wars abounding throughout the world, children starving, sex trafficking, the rich getting richer and the incomes of the middle class shrinking? I fear what we may give lip service to is not demonstrated in our ways of being. As we open our hearts and minds to the leadership of God, we will live into God’s omnipotence. When we see all people as our family—brothers and sisters—when we know they are all safe and nourished, we will begin to have a glimmer of God’s perspective.

It is hard to ferret out what is culture and what is theology. We have lots of examples of that in the gospels where ritually washed hands was a sign of piety and plucking and eating wheat while walking through a field on the Sabbath was a sin. Paul struggled mightily with the issues of cultural differences when he introduced the gentiles to Christ crucified. How do we reflect Christ in our lives?

I first supervised social workers in the early 1970’s when the miniskirt was popular. The state eventually issued a dress code which did not set well with some of my staff. I, frankly, did not care if they wore miniskirts or not but what I did care about was how what they wore impacted their relationship with the person they were serving. Wearing a miniskirt to an elderly person’s home was probably a major distraction as was wearing a miniskirt to work with a teenaged boy. I doubt that most of our young mothers on public assistance paid any attention to it.

There are thousands of refugees pouring out of the Middle East and Africa bringing with them rich traditions passed to them from earlier generations that are different from ours. They are our brothers and sisters whom we are called to love.

Prayer: God of all, as we meld together the ways differing among our culture and other cultures, let sources of diversity become opportunities for understanding and growth for all of us on the road to the Kingdom of God. 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.

Diverse Love

ChristLiving in the Spirit
October 1, 2015

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. –Hebrews 1:1-4

High Christology is how the theologians would describe Hebrews. I must admit I stumble about when I am writing trying the find the right name when referring to God. I like to use Jesus when remembering the stories of the time he walked the earth and shared his teachings and his love. I use the name God primarily when talking about creation or the idea of Parent. Christ, which is actually a title, or Jesus Christ is who I perceive to be leading us toward the Kingdom of God. Holy Spirit appears most often in my work when I am touching on issues of guidance and constant communion. Lord, however, is my fall back when I cannot decide and that is the same High Christology the writer of Hebrews develops.

This Son by which God has spoken to us is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being. We were all created in God’s image but the word we would probably use today to describe what Hebrews is trying to describe is clone. The idea of a clone makes most of us a little uncomfortable, I think, but I am moved by the thought of God being willing to experience humanness in order to grasp God’s world from the human perspective.

Each of us experience the world differently, including identical twins, and thus how we respond to the world differs. Learning to love in the midst of such diversity is a challenge. If loving another means wanting the very best for the other, we are required to accept that we may not know what that best is. The Lord does know and that three sided relationship of the Lord, ourselves, and the other must work together for love to succeed. We must trust in the Lord’s wisdom.

Prayer: Lord, it is hard to let go of applying our own ideas of what joins us to you and what separates us from you to others but it can get in the way of our loving them and thus helping them experience you in their own way in keeping with your relationship with them. Give us the strength to entrust them to you and the faith that you will guide us in our role with them. 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.

Developing our Working-Together Skills

Working_Together_Teamwork_Puzzle_ConceptLiving in the Spirit
July 30, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:1-16

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. –Ephesians 4:1-16

It has taken me a lifetime, two careers, and retirement to even begin to come to the understanding, much less accept it; God made us different on purpose. God created us to be interdependent, to need one another. God apparently equipped us with the skills to work together. Few of us tap into the vast array of skills that each of us have. We skim the surface of several and hone in on one or two perhaps. I fear not many of us in recent years have tried very hard to enhance our working-together skills.

We do work together on occasion. Particularly here in Oklahoma, we have responding to disasters down to a fine science. Had to. Our response to the Oklahoma City bombing was praised as being exemplary. It was forged on the backs of responses to tornados and other natural disasters. Our disaster readiness also could probably be traced back to the Dust Bowl of the great depression and even to the Indian removal to Oklahoma in the nineteenth century. I am glad we do respond but we really have little choice where disasters are concerned. It is in and of itself the source of motivation for response.

Where working together seems to falter is in the everyday challenges of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves and overflows into seeking the common good. The result of failure to do either of these activities is not as readily apparent as a foundation where a house once stood and a family that is now homeless, but the ramifications of our not loving our neighbor as we love ourselves and not taking the time to address the common good in the long run has even more serious consequences. We need to dust off our working-together skills and use them until we are one.

Prayer: Lord we need your instruction and guidance in developing our working-together skills. Make us whole, make us one. 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.

 

One in the Spirit

splash-teamLiving in the Spirit
July 23, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. –Ephesians 3:14-19

We are all children of God. I heard a young, freshman member of the state House of Representative say in a public gathering recently he had been surprised at all the, what I call, hate mail he routinely receives. We had asked him to tell us how we could best communicate our wishes to him as constituents. He was being lighthearted about the graphic correspondence he received, understanding people need to vent at times, I guess. I frankly do not know why anyone would run for any office. We the people seemed to have forgotten the first purpose of the government of the United States of America is to form a more perfect union and we the people are the government and the ones who are to form this union. These people we cast dispersions on represent us. Yes, we need to let them know our positions and yes, we need to be fully engaged in our citizenship, but we need to do it in love and in the spirit of oneness.

Thus, I needed to read this prayer for all of God’s people in our scripture today: I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. Jesus called us to be one and, I believe, the only way we can be one is through the power of the Spirit and the love of Christ.

Prayer: Lord, you created us a diverse people and called us to be one. Help us celebrate our differences while understanding that together and with you in our presence we can be greater than the sum of our parts. 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.