Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Grinding Prayers

My prayers this morning
grind like the gears of an old tractor
Struggling with grit and sand
that have found their way in
to grate at every moving part.
Someone poured blood and Lenten Ash
into my engine block.
Debris scraped off the floor of a Florida school

The Way

If you're going to follow me
Let the dead bury their dead
Foxes have holes, but the security level
of being my disciple leaves something to be desired
I need from you
A depth of passion
Ablaze with the fire of this new life
Where everyone matters
Especially those who have not been valued before
And that lives always ready to die.

So one dies holding a door
so others can escape.
Another is riddled with bullets
holding a door shut with his body
protecting his classmates.
One steps in front of a shotgun blast
during a civil rights confrontation,
Another steps onto a hotel balcony
and never sees the bullet coming.

Excuse me Lord, but some of these
aren't on our Acceptable Guests For The Kingdom list that we've been putting together.

Who told you that you could put a list together?
I Am the Door not you
Besides, I already told you
that I have sheep you know nothing about.

Not one of these was looking to die,
But better love has no one than this
That they live always ready
To lay down their life for their friends.

Don't go looking for martyrdom,
Just follow Me
Martyrdom will find you

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Riff On Mark 8:34-35

What following Jesus isn't

It isn't about attending church,

Or dropping money in the offering plate

It's about walking away from everything

Selling all you have to buy a pearl.

It's about being so overcome with being healed



That nothing else matters;

Not family, or friends, or money, or job

Or even your own life.

It’s about hanging a syringe with an execution cocktail,

the one they really haven’t experimented with how much pain it causes after it paralyzes you,

around your neck on an  unbreakable chain, so it’s always there.

Or dangling the lynching rope

permanently around your neck,

knowing that sooner or later they’ll come for you in the night, torches in hand,
Or maybe with warrant and SWAT teams,

causes standing up to the injustice of the Powers That Be

only ends one way.

It's about having a passion to die for,

And that passion is for being like Him.
Jesus says, "take up your cross,"
and suddenly, as they say, the shit has gotten real.

Do you really want that?

Do I really want that?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Don't Dare To Say It Is Too Soon

Don't dare to say it is too soon,
that we need to let folks grieve.
We've been grieving for way too long.
Tears have caked our faces with the ashes of grief and agony,
have streaked our faces and wrinkled them like scars.

Don't dare to say it is too soon.
I demand
that before the blood has dried
while it lies sticky on the floor of this 12th school of 2018
painting the playgrounds of children dark red

Before this blood has dried
put ink to gun control law.
Our children are not game for hunting.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Gospel and Domestic Violence; An Alternative Story

I want to share an article with you.  It's about William Gay teaming up with the Biden Foundation to take on the issue of Domestic Violence

Next, I would like to tell you a story.  My daughter's partner teaches school.  The school where she teaches has a very proactive approach to interpersonal issues.  So when they notices that there was a group young boys (5 and 6th grade) who were having particular difficulty with females...especially with females in authority...they took action.  They hired a mentor;  An ex-military, former policeman, tae kwon do instructor.  In other words, they hired a macho role model whose example of respect for women would mean something.  He spends time with these kids every day; checks in with them; has them on a point system where they can earn a Friday basketball game with him.  The results are very impressive.

Both William Gay and the boys involved in this program are/were statistically highly likely to become men who batter their partners, who engage in domestic violence.  But that's not what's happening.  I would say that the healing work of the Kingdom of God is moving in both of these situations.

Andrew Sung Park, a Korean theologian, has pointed out that part of the definition of the work of "salvation" is the healing of the deep wounds that people suffer.  The Korean word for this is han.

Fred Craddock preached what was, to me, one of the most interesting sermons about this.  You can find it here.  It's titled Jesus Saves

Having laid this groundwork, what I want to ask is: Are we as the Church at large, and the local congregation engaging in "han" as a part of our sharing the Gospel?  Do we see it as an vital part of the message of "salvation"?

Taking this approach to the issues of Domestic Violence and sexual assault that have filled the news cycle lately will call us into a whole different way of being Church:

We will need to listen to and believe the stories of victims.  We will be available and attentive to members of our congregations and communities who are experiencing these wounds.  We will need to be involved in helping create opportunities for healing from these wounds

We will need to hold people accountable for their behaviors and not ignore or excuse these behaviors because they make us uncomfortable or because the perpetrators are people of popularity or power

We will need to also create opportunities for those who have violated others violently or sexually to change their behaviors (the fancy word is "repentance") 

We need to create ways for victims and perpetrators to engage in the work of reconciliation when the time is right and appropriate. (This is a far different thing than sending battered spouses home to be battered again.  This is protecting them from abuse and letting them, in due time, make decisions about how far they are willing to go in reconciliation).

Please notice two thing:  Sin leads to a cycle of wounding others.  Wounded people, who have not healed, are more likely to wound others themselves.  It is hear that we see the modern day expression of the scripture that says that, "the parents have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth have been set on edge."

The work of Salvation is so much more than just "my sins are forgiven, I can just sit around and wait for God to snatch me up to heaven when I die," or "my sins are forgiven, I don't need to deal with any of the damage that my sins have caused or the wounds that caused me to sin this way."

The work of Salvation is a process in which "it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose." (Philippians 2:13)  Remembering that that good purpose is that "all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. "2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

I found myself asking how this week's news cycle would have been different if this was what we did with reports of violence and abuse.  Is this reconciliation part of the alternative story we are telling to the world around us?  Is it part of our evangelism?  Our sharing of the Gospel story?

What would happen if this became our Lenten theme and focus?  How would it change how we listen to and assist victims?  How would it impact the ways we deal with perpetrators?  Would we become agents of the Reconciliation of God in which God is "hugging the world back to God's self" repairing the breach between neighbor and neighbor and humanity and God?  Would the cross take on a deeper meaning for us?

The work of Salvation begins at the separations caused by sin and by deep woundedness.  It's goal is the reconciliation of all creation.  Let it be so.  AMEN

Friday, February 9, 2018

Extremely Close, Incredibly Loved

Evil is extremely loud.

It rumbles like a collapsing building,

or a train going off the rails.

Like the parade of tanks and missiles

in a military might parade.

It screams like a hail of bullets

shot into the body of an unarmed man.

Or a torch carrying mob

shouting "Jew will not replace us."

Like a victim of torture

or an abused wife.

Evil is extremely loud.

The noise is a weapon to intimidate.

Evil is incredibly close

Like the buried memory waiting to burst to the surface

Or the ICE agents parked at the corner,

the bruise on a neighbor's cheek.

the silent hunger of a neighbor's child.

The still small voice of Truth after the noise of the whirlwind

reminding Elijah that he is not the only one who has not bowed to Baal.

The hidden chariots of fire

revealed to Elisha's servant as proof

of God's involvement even when we are surrounded

by the enemies of God's desire for us.

The glory transfigured on the mountain

proclaiming in expression beyond words

that the Messiah is here, the Kingdom has come


not Evils threatening noise

will be victorious.

Closer than Evil

As close as skin 

as intimate as breath

Incredible Love