Tag Archives: Justice

Being both Wise and Innocent

Ordinary Time
January 20, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ –Mark 1:14-15

What is our final straw? What must happen to get us up and out into the world to do our part toward building the Kingdom of God? Jesus and John had most likely talked and prayed about the need for change many times; may even have had a plan. Jesus probably saw the writing on the wall that John’s arrest would lead to his death. The mantle was on Jesus’ shoulders now.

I heard and read several voices of race-hate this week. Hecklers calling out in gatherings celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. disrupted meetings. I was stunned to hear of states placing work requirements for adults to receive Medicaid. There are very few adults even eligible to receive Medicaid, and if they do, they are most likely at that moment too sick to work. Many of these adults are parents of children who need them returned to health so that they can support their families. Why would we suddenly require thousands of refugees from El Salvador sheltered here to return to their homeland when we warn our citizens that it is a place too dangerous to visit? Are these types of policies the way you envision the Kingdom of God functioning?

I am a strong supporter of the USA constitutional separation of church and state. I respect the rights of people to practice freedom of speech and religion. I also think it is incumbent on each of us to make our voices heard regarding the way our state or country should function. Less than half of eligible voters, vote in most elections. Many who vote are caught up in one-issue or another without regard to how the candidate might act on other issues. I believe some candidates emphasis wedge issues to get elected because they have other issues that are more important to them but are not as important to their constituents. They are sly like foxes. Jesus tells us ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

Prayer: Lord, create in us pure hearts, hold us closely in synch with your will, and empower us to step out in faith in support of a world that reflects your 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Greed Addiction

Ordinary Time
January 18, 2018

Scripture Reading: Psalm 62:5-10

Those of low estate are but a breath,
   those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
   they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no confidence in extortion,
   and set no vain hopes on robbery;
   if riches increase, do not set your heart on them. –1 Corinthians 62:9-10

God is magnanimous. having been made in the image of God, we are fully capable of being magnanimous too. So why aren’t we? And, why are we sometimes guilty of wrapping greed in sanctity?

Magnanimous means:
1. having, showing, or suggesting nobility of feeling and generosity of mind: devoid of meanness or          pettiness

2. showing or suggesting a lofty and courageous spirit.

The Indian Removed of the 19th century dubbed Manifest Destiny was nothing, but greed run amok. Slavery, often justified by using Biblical quotes, provided labor that garnered greater profits for their owners. Today, companies not paying a living wage, reap the fruits of their employees’ labor driving the stock market to record highs while forcing their staff to rely on food stamps, Medicaid, and child care subsidies. Our society disparages people receiving these benefits. Private prisons, to make a profit, rely on an ample, and continuous stream of persons convicted of crimes and have little motive to rehabilitate them. The military industrial complex depends on war or the fear of war to be successful. And there is no question in my mind that our so-called immigration problem could be quickly solved if some folks weren’t profiting greatly off the backs of undocumented aliens.

So how do we move this mountain of greed and attain the abundance that Jesus desires for all of God’s children? A first step might be revisiting what that abundance looks like and what it means to have enough.

Regarding our epidemic of greed, faith groups universal must ascertain whether they are contributing to the problem through investments or even underpaying their staff. Individuals too would reap the benefits of examining their investments, attitudes, and behaviors. Justice requires us all to speak for those without voice or power.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we get caught in the grip of greed. Show us ways to live your love in all aspects of our lives. Amen.

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

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.

Silenc

Ordinary Time
January 17, 2018

Scripture Reading: Psalm 62:5-10

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
   for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
   my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor
   my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. 

Trust in him at all times, O people;
   pour out your heart before him;
   God is a refuge for us. –Psalm 62:5-8

The final two verses (9 and 10) of this scripture address the problem of greed which I will deal with tomorrow. My gut level reaction, after reading the first eight verses that segued into greed was: I am really tired of greed messing with my life and the lives of everyone else. So I went back and read these first eight verses again, and went for a walk. I believe that is a good prescription for people dedicated to justice, which includes alleviating all the damage caused by greed.

I am a child of the sixties who invested a lot of time and energy during that decade in stopping what I thought was an unjust war and eliminating racial discrimination. Here I am 50+ later still dealing with unjust war and racism. While I do get discouraged, my faith in God’s infinite justice is even stronger today. Why? I routinely spend time alone with God. God helps me ferret out what is important and what is not, where I can make a difference and where I cannot. I imagine God getting tired of my rantings and ravings. God has heard them over and over again. Once I get them off my chest, I am enabled to wait in silence and silence is the blessing that strengthens me to continue my work.

 Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’ (Psalm 46:10)

One of my favorite classic books is J. B. Phillips’ Your God is Too Small: A Guide for Believers and Skeptics Alike. Perhaps it is time to dust it off and read it again. Perhaps it would help you too.

Prayer: Dear God, forgive me when I fail to recognize your omnipotence, unlimited power. 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.

Hearing with New Ears

Ordinary Time
January 15, 2018

Hearing with New Ears

Scripture Reading: Jonah 3:1-6, 10

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. –Jonah 3:1-6

In the cacophony of prophets, good and bad, speaking today, how do we discern the will of God? I do not think that the people heard God by either Jonah’s eloquence or even rightness. They heard the will of God that Jonah did speak because the Spirit stirred their hearts and their minds to listen with new ears.

The media is all over a story about the President using foul language to describe people he believes are not worthy of migrating to our country. While we might never use the language, he used, how many of us carry the same bigotry in our beings. Who do we want to come to the USA? Who of us do experience fear when we think about diverse people fully integrating into our society? How many of us can truly say Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free*?  Are we more apt to desire migrants who are the best and the brightest and even the whitest? Do we truly believe that God created the earth and all that is in it and that God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them? (Genesis 1:27) Whether you believe creation happened in seven days or millions of years, the truth of God’s image being the source of humanity rings true. When we think we are better than any of God’s children, we think we are better than God. Blasphemy separates us from God. Once our hearts are set right with God, we can discern the true prophets of God.

Prayer: Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.** Amen.

*Taken from The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus part of which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty
**First verse of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind by John Greenleaf Whittier, see at https://hymnary.org/text/dear_lord_and_father_of_mankind

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.

Sins of Omission

Ordinary Time
January 9, 2018

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-20

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.’ –1 Samuel 3:10-14

We are as accountable for sins of omission, perhaps more, than we are of sins of commission. By all accounts, Eli dedicated his life to the Lord’s service. His failure was in parenting. He apparently turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of his children. We do not know, if he was too tied up in his work to pay them any attention or whether he just could not bring himself to discipline them correctly. I will never forget a juvenile case many years ago. * Three young teenagers entered private property without permission and with a lot of beer. They broke some furniture and caused some other damages. The police soon arrived, arrested them, and notified their parents. All three appeared in court the next week accompanied by their parents. Two of the youth each standing between their parents apologized for their behavior. Their parents made restitution for their share of the damage assuring the courts the youth would pay them back. he two boys were sentenced to several hours of community service. Having successfully complied with all requirements their records were eventually expunged.

The parents of the third boy also appeared in court, said he was incorrigible and they could do nothing with him. They turned him over to the state and walked out. All present were stunned. The judge ordered temporary custody to the state, and we, not knowing what he was capable of, placed him with foster parents who had a lot of experience with tough kids, which as it turned out he was not. He was a child hungry for love and acceptance. He flourished in foster care, did well in school, and became an adult of whom most parents would be proud. I wonder if he ever saw his natural parents again.

Are their injustices we see but think they are not our problem and thus do nothing about them? Is there someone or something we know we have talents and skills to help that we ignore?  The start of a new year is a good time to, evaluate our sins of omission and set about correcting them.

Prayer: Lord forgive me for all my sins. Open opportunities for me to do those things I am omitting to do that are a part of your desire for my life. Amen.

*The situation description has been altered to protect the privacy of the youth.

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.

Being an Advocate

Ordinary Time
January 7, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:4-11

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ –Mark 1:9-11

Baptism has a history all its own. The Jewish faith practiced ritual cleansing thus baptism was not a new concept with Christianity. Baptism and its purposes were a source of debate from the early years of Christian theology and may still be today although most of us have taken our stanch in our chosen denomination. What does it mean to you? What do you suppose it meant to Jesus?

Many students of the Bible demarcate Jesus’ baptism as the beginning of his earthly ministry. There is not much if any information about his life from the age of 12 when he visited the temple with his parents and his baptism when he was speculated to be around 30 years old. Was he working as a carpenter with Joseph during that time? I read a book a few years ago that suggested he was a disciple of John the Baptist and had traveled and learned from John until it was time for him to take the leadership role. Perhaps John’s death thrust him into the spotlight.

I was baptized at the age of six in a church that practices believers baptism. Apparently, some members thought I was too young. I understand our pastor, Dr. Fred Keller, was my advocate for accepting my confession of faith and baptizing me. I did not know about this issue until several years later. As innocent as I may have been at six, I probably never made a more sincere decision and commitment. I guess I was living the principle ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 18:3)

What I learned at that early age is that God’s Spirit advocates for us at times through our brothers and sisters in Christ and we need to be aware of any call we receive to advocate for others.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, strengthen us in your service when you need us as advocates. 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.

 

Free Will

Christmas
January 3, 2018

Scripture Reading: Psalm 29

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
   the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
   May the Lord bless his people with peace! –Psalm 29:10-11

We saw our fair share of floods and other weather-related events in 2017. People will be working to overcome the devastation for years. We take comfort in the knowledge that the Lord will be with all those impacted by the floods and all those who are trying to help in any way they can. we seek answers to the questions that plagues us, how do we contribute to weather extremes and how can we prevent or ameliorate our participation in influences these events?

The theology of having dominion over the earth draws us into the concept of God’s gift to us of free will and how we handle it. We face the same question with many other issues. After overindulging in rich foods and not keeping my exercise routine over the recent holidays, I am facing the full weight of my failure to exercise dominion over my health and well-being.  This too is a free will issue.

I suffer from wanting to do the right thing when it is convenient for me. Practicing freewill within the boundaries of God’s love requires a good helping of intentionality. We are not like working horses who must be fitted with blinders to keep their focus on the path ahead. We are more like the quarterback or point guard who sees the entire playing field or court and must make the right decision among the many choices presented. There are more ways than one to do the right thing, to exercise the talents and gifts with which God has graced us. Remember Jesus’ story of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  Each servant was given resources to develop. All but one used their resources and doubled their worth. The one buried his and his gifts were taken from him and given to another to develop. Dropping the ball is not a choice.

I have no doubt that God’s will will be done. The question I must address is: am I doing my assigned role in making that happen? We live in a time when our best and most intentional efforts are demanded to bring justice into the world in which we live.

Prayer: Lord, give strength to your people and bless us with your peace as we attempt with our best efforts and intentionality to do your will. 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.

Priorities

Christmas
December 30, 2017

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:22-40

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’ –Luke 2:22-24

After an extraordinary trip and birth experience, Joseph and Mary went about the business of adapting to a new normal, parents with a child. What better way to begin that journey than to return to the ancient familiar, the practices of their faith. I find that true in my life. Writing these daily devotions is a test of my ability to mine the lectionary’s daily challenges requiring me to reach beyond my comfort zone of favorite scriptures. The lectionary makes me deal with uncomfortable truths at times. At other times I find a scripture I have read many times brings new insight, understandings. The beauty of the scriptures is how it molds to its reader’s needs as we move through the various stages of life. The same scripture so meaningful to me at the age of ten provides different truths that are just as vital to me now.

A new year brings new opportunities for growth and development. Funny, I seem to set similar goals each year, ones I did not attain the previous year. My stated priorities include decluttering my home and getting bids to get the house painted. The decluttering goal is years old. The painting goal started last year. My unspoken but controlling priorities win out.

I also think I have a strong priority of doing my part in creating a world ruled by love. I certainly give lip service to that goal but do my actions support my stated mission? Is my mission only a lofty goal I state each year but relegate it to the same level as my decluttering goal?

If ever we needed a world ruled by love we need it now. Only God can make that happen and we who call ourselves disciples signed on to be a part of the Body of Christ to make the rule of love a reality. More than ever we first need to work to be in synch with God and then work with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength with God’s help to create a just world.

Prayer: Prod me forward, O Lord, to work for the rule of love this year as I attempt to do justice. 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.

God’s Justice

Christmas
December 28, 2017

Scripture Reading: Galatians 4:4-7

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Laws when properly used provide shortcuts for how we are to conduct ourselves, protect ourselves and each other, and create order out of potential chaos. The Hebrew Bible contains three types of laws: rules of etiquette, civil law, and religious law. I do not think we have much trouble with veering to our own interpretations of etiquette today. After all, times change, resulting in the need to change the way we interact in good company. We who have always lived in a society that practices the separation of church and state, probably have more difficulty parsing out what is civil law, meant to assure the Common Good, and what is religious laws, meant to assure our personal and communal relationship with God.

As people of faith, the command to love God and love one another serves as an overriding covenant for our way of acting and being. At times that has put people in the awkward place of going to jail as they broke the civil law while fulfilling their covenant with God. Notably, Paul was arrested more than once. In the Birmingham jail as guidance in loving as Jesus loved. Civil law was eventually modified to bring civil law into synch with the will of the majority of the people with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The passage of this law was impacted to some degree by people of faith doing justice.

Conflict arises when people of faith extract differing interpretation of God’s rules and attempt to enforce them through civil law. Our country is very divided today as we seek the Common Good through these differing views. In fact, in recent years the Civil Rights Act was modified to lessen its impact.

Christ was sent to redeem those under the law what does Paul mean by that? How do we reconcile our divisions and find the Common Good for all people? We are each called to seek God’s will for our lives including the justice we are called to do. Celebrating the birth of Jesus again and beginning a new year is a great time to put away our defensiveness and evaluate our attitudes and positions anew. What indeed would Jesus do?

Prayer: Lord, it is so hard to see our ways objectively. Be our mirror so we can individually and collectively love the way you would have us love and do your justice. Forgive us when we substitute our justice for yours. 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.

God with Us

Christmas
December 25, 2017

 

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 61:10-62:3

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
   my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
   he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
   and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
   and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
o the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
   to spring up before all the nations. –Isaiah 61:10-11

Funny how our brains work—when I first viewed these two verses, I thought how long they were. My immediate next thought was the remembrance that the shortest verse in the Bible is Jesus wept (John 11:35). I have not completed a complete comparison of the lengths of all the Bible verses. I placed my faith in unknown scholars who met my criteria as valid sources. I was also taught that the Bible in its original languages had no chapters and verses. These additions were made by humans to make the Bible conform to the ways of the people. Although I have read some of the books not selected for inclusion in the Bible, I generally accept that the compilers picked the right ones including the Book of Isaiah. I am human, and I make mistakes at times, so I think all humans make mistakes now and then.  I do have faith that God continues active and engaged in our lives and we see that activity clearer at sometimes more than at others. God forgives us for our mistakes, helps us recover from them, and when we let God, God will guide us in ways to prevent the same mistake from happening again.

This may seem like a strange meditation for Christmas Day, but it is what Christ’s coming to be with us is all about. He became the Word And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) The Bible is the source of strength and enlightenment about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. He is the Word toward which we strive that establishes the righteousness and justice of God. The Bible is an excellent source of knowledge about the works of God designed to enhance our lives in Christ every day as we seek to follow the Word in our lives.

While God wants us to each and all strive to be the people we were created to be, God recognized the need to dwell among us as we struggle to be God’s conduit to bring righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Prayer: O come, O Come Emmanuel. 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.