Sunday, December 20, 2015

Advent from the Underside: 4th Sunday, Hope Amid the Scattered Thoughts and Aching, Proud Hearts

Advent from the Underside: I met the hope of the world this morning in worship on this 4th Sunday of Advent, the day we set aside to wait in hope. (It was not DT.)
In part, the Luke reading went like this: “And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
When I asked for prayer requests, the lowly and the least among us prayed: “For the refugee’s please Lord. They are lost and afraid, the separated from family and friends, the familiar and friendly. So am I. I would offer them a home, Lord, a place to live. I know what it’s like. Let them come. May they find peace, and hope, safety and a new home, Lord.” And, I would add, and so may you. Amen.
Perhaps it is a good time for we as individuals, and as a nation, to open our hearts to the truth of our need of God’s forgiveness and salvific grace. Surely, we are living days when the thoughts of the proud are scattered and, more and more, we know the aching danger of living among empty, prideful hearts….

Friday, December 11, 2015

New Directions, Light in the Darkness

I am not the leader of one of the historic mainline Protestant denominations. That is likely a very good thing. But I am an ordained Presbyterian minister and a hospital Chaplain in Behavioral Health for over two decades. I listen to people for a living. I listen with an ear to truly, deeply understanding their pain and, with close attention, to the whispers and movements of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and in their living.

I know that the great majority of the people I see are deeply longing to be lifted out of despair and anxiety, they are longing for a reliable voice of hope in the dark, wilderness of these difficult and confusing days. More and more, I listen to people who cannot hear or identify that voice in the mainline Protestant Churches. Often, they would like to but even if they hear a word of hope and grace, of forgiveness and compassionate direction, they fear, based on strong experience, they cannot trust the actions of the leaders and the people to be follow suit.

We church people are quick to defend that among leadership and the people, Christ calls and gathers sinners and the broken. That is most certainly true, I am a huge sinner and quite broken—as are we all. But defenses, especially, those often practiced and employed, prevent our growth toward deeper and more authentic union with Christ. The more we practice them, the more the relieve us of our faithful responsibility of inviting the Holy Spirit to heal and grow our hearts and communities of faith beyond the boundaries of our broken-sinfulness into deeper and more authentic union with Christ. Jesus is the way the truth and the life (John 14). To know Jesus’ truth, to grow closer to God, to live our great mission of participating in bring about God’s Kingdom in this world, we cannot hide from our own sin and brokenness—our own truth.

Mainline Protestants leaders, local pastors and congregations now have an amazing invitation to stand on a national and world stage (pulpit) proclaiming the truth of the heart of the Gospel before the mania, mayhem and message of Donald Trump’s run for President of the United States.   
In my email I have received statements by two of the major Protestant Denominations denouncing Trump’s latest statements about banning our Muslim sisters and brothers from our nation founded on religious freedom. It seems opportune for the leadership of these denominations, and all others, to take a more public and united stand. And, it seems well for the rest of us, clergy and lay, to follow suit from the pulpit, in adult and youth/children’s education, around the water cooler, board room table and on the 19th hole to do the same.

Based on what I hear from people who are honestly, and in earnest, seeking places of spiritual, communal and social compassion and integrity to call home, such a prayerful, public, faith-filled commitment to concerted action might be a good way to witness being Church in new way for this new mullein. Witnessing our faith in Christ with the integrity of our actions such that the people trapped in the land of deep darkness can see the shining light of Christ (Is. 9).  Jesus is the way, the truth and the light….


Thursday, December 3, 2015

2015 Mass Shootings and a Prayer on the Declaration of Independence

More mass shooting in 2015 than there have been days. Impotent leadership. After so long, even the most ardent prayers only placate. Sadness. Anger. Grief. Fear.  I am coming to believe that as sharers in the sin-sick soul of this nation, we each more Helen Lovejoy than Sojourner Truth.
My prayers today and from now on are for the victims and the community of San Bernardino and far too many others, for the parents of special needs kids and those who are for them everywhere who are sleeping and living less easy in these days.

My prayers are no longer for our leaders, for they, again, have run from the call. My prayers are now for the American people, especially for the women in America, that we must now, as we have done in the past, lead a reluctant nation to recover its right mind and heart, to remind or leaders that the governed do not consent to life as we have come to know it in 2015. We now live in a land where the self-evident truths of the Constitution are not being upheld. If we are not safe from violence we perpetrate   against ourselves, pointing only fingers of blame scapegoated others rather than examining the conscience of our common life, no person or groups of persons in this land is equal. As we are slaughtering one another in the street, at seemingly random times and in disparate and random places, we are cannot live any common life that was worth the lives and sacrifices of our Founders. We are by no means a free nation if we carry arms against one another for our fear. Rather, we are slaves of ignorance and despair.  None among us can be happy if we cannot ever find new meaning and hope, renewed life and greater purpose on the other side of our grieving, for as yet, it has no end.

It is not our leaders who have wondered far from our Creator, is us. And it is only we, in prayer and repentance, action and dedication, who can begin the long slow of return. Amen.   

“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.” 
Sojourner Truth

“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