Saturday, May 26, 2018

O America

O America
You who does not stone the prophets
but ignores them.
How often this past year
has Jesus wept over you?
As children are torn from their mother's arms
while others are denied medical care?
While supplemental food programs
which aid both elderly and children
are threatened?
While education goes wanting
but privitized prisons
fill with people of color?
And false prophets genuflect
before false leaders?
O America
How often would Jesus
have wrapped you, and the Other,
together in His arms.
But you would not,
for you could not bear to see the Other as like yourself.
Now the time is coming
when those who have sown the wind
will reap the whirlwind.
And like Jerusalem before you
there will not be one stone
left upon another.
Because you ignored those
Who sought to speak Truth to you
and did not acknowledge
the time of your visitation.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

I Dream A Land

I dream a country
Caring and kind
That welcomes the homeless
Leaves no one behind.
Where no one goes hungry
And medical care
Is based on the need
Not what the market will bear.
I dream a nation
Where violence is gone
Where the weak are not treated
As prey for the strong
Where justice and mercy
Walk hand in hand
I pray for
I work for
I dream of that land.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Judgement Day

And the King will say,
"Depart from me you evil doers

For I came to your courts seeking justice,
After I was assaulted;
And you arrested me for deportation.
For I came to your schools seeking education,
And you separated me from my family,
Who had fled to this country to escape violence and poverty.
For I came to your nations churches seeking shelter and aid,
And you parked on the street outside and grabbed me when my feet hit the sidewalk,
Claiming that you were respecting houses of worship."

Then they shall answer,
"You mean you were serious?"

The Words That Echo

The words that echo
In my head this week
From a mother, a child,
and God to a prophet:

"I do not know when they will come.
if they come, promise me
That you'll keep an eye on my boys
when I'm gone."

"My mother used to take me,
early in the morning
To crush tin cans. She
and another junkie friend
Raising money and
sifting through the food in the dumpsters.
At 10 I learned to smell my food,
I do it to this day.
Etched in my brain the primitive test
for whether meat was safe to eat."

The voice of God to Jonah said,
"Should I not have compassion
On the hundred and twenty thousand
Who do not know
Their right hand
From their left."

Break our hearts O God
For the thousands, the millions
That we
refer to as life's collateral damage
Who do not know their right hand
from their left.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Lynching Tree Has A Thousand Shapes

Crucified Christ
What have we done to You?
You who told us
that in the least of these
You abide

In these particular people
with names and dreams and passions
You abide

Black bodies hung from tree or lamppost
Black bodies riddled with bullets
left to lie in the road
Jewish bodies piled into ovens
Children drinking lead poisoned water in Flint
or gasping for air in Syria
Women raped and tossed by a dumpster
Mothers weeping for children torn from their arms
by ICE
Babies abandoned in hospitals
by parents who cannot face their illness

Each of these is You
Crucified again
Hung, burned, raped, shot, tortured, poisoned, starved, abandoned
Within each of these You abide

What excuse do we have?
We know exactly what we do
You told us where You'd be
We say it's none of our business
But You have made it Yours

Break our hearts of stone
Unstop our ears and open our eyes
to hear the Truth go forth:
"Jesus Christ was crucified
Again, Today"
Each time the life of one of these is shattered.

[written with gratitude for the life and work of Dr. James Cone]

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Mercy In A Judgement Parable

I have a temper.  And I hold on to a grudge.  These aren't things I like about myself; and I'm working on them.  With God's Grace I've gotten better as the years have gone on and I'm more and more acutely aware of my own shortcomings and sins.  But it is a part of me.  And, when I read a passage of scripture, these two things can color my reading sometimes.

This was true this week when, both in Bible study and in my prep reading, I looked at this week's scriptures in Ezekiel 34 and Matthew 25:31-46.

Ezekiel 34 is Ezekiel's message from God to the ruler's (shepherds) in Israel about their behavior toward those they were supposed to be taking care of.  If you've ever been reamed out by someone who knows how to make it an art form (a drill sgt. perhaps) you will notice that God does an incredible job.  From the "it's not enough for you that you get the best of everything, you have to go and make a mess of it for everything else!" (my paraphrase) to the "as I live, I Myself will take care of My sheep...and will hold you directly responsible for their injury" (again, my paraphrase) which comes really, really close to "By God, I'll fix this myself, and you're gonna pay for the damages."

Then there's Jesus' warning in Matthew 25 to those stubborn "goats" who "didn't see You hungry and not feed You; never saw You homeless and ignored You." They are sent off to eternal punishment.  This should terrify the authors of the new Farm Bill.

So where does my grudge and temper come in?

I look at so much that is happening; especially in the U.S., but around the world as well; and I am enraged.  Flint still does not have clean water.  Suggestions are being made to cut school meal programs and Meals on Wheels.  The pipelines are poisoning lands sacred to Native Americans. Medical care is getting more and more expensive. And on it goes.  The image of the rams and largest sheep getting the good grass and clean water, then fouling the remainder so that the weaker ones can't even get decent left overs feels like a picture of what is happening in America right now; Scott Pruitt's expenditures of tax payer money for personal things while lifting the protections on public lands being but one example.

Then there is Jesus.  One way to read the Matthew passage is a kind of "gotcha" that I must admit appeals to me some days.  "You thought you were just messing over some folks that didn't matter, didn't you?  But I've got news for you, you were messing with Me! and now you're gonna pay."

These aren't attitudes I'm particularly proud of, but there they are.  And I think the focus on God's anger and judgement aren't just something I do.  We sat in Bible study last night and the silence at one point was very uncomfortable....one person then said, "I feel sorry for the goats."  These are heavy passages.  And I don't want to take away from the reality that there is judgement; there are consequences for injustice. 

But there is something else too.  Something that may even be more important.  Let me try to track it out:

When Ezekiel pointed out the sins of the shepherds, the exile had already happened.  The exiles were trying to make sense of how "God's people," could have wound up like this.  God has Ezekiel tell them.  But there is a Hope here too.  Ezekiel is going to point out that they will go home, "these bones can live again," by God's Grace.  It is a warning that when the bones of the nation are knit back together, there needs to be a correction, a repentance, to the ways in which the vulnerable and weak are treated.

And then there is the promise that "I will save my flock...I will set up over them one shepherd..."  For me, as a Christian, I hold the belief that this Shepherd is Jesus the Christ.  I also hold the belief that He has called all of us, like He did Peter, to "feed my sheep."

The Matthew 25 passage is both warning and promise.  It is a warning about judgement.  It is a parable of a future judgement.  In it is the possibility of changing one's ways; that correction and repentance can make a difference.  There is also the promise that if we look, and care, and act...we will encounter the Risen Christ as we minister with these who are wounded and vulnerable.  That's a Fantastic promise!  Jesus didn't just say, "every now and then,"  He said "if you do it to the least of these, you do it to Me."  That means that every encounter is an encounter with Him.  Every One.

So while there is judgement and consequence; there is also a warning and Hope.  This is a tough love. It shows us that God takes God's commandments about the vulnerable seriously.  But it also reminds us (particularly as a nation) of the words from 2 Chronicles 7:14 (with my commentary)

If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves (give up trying to have everything for themselves like they're entitled) and pray, and seek my face (in the face of the hungry and naked and imprisoned) and turn from their wicked ways (by protecting and caring for these who are the least) then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin (I will not pronounce the judgements I have warned about) and will heal their land.

Shalom