Rewriting History

Taking the next step…

A sermon preached on Exodus 1:8-2:10, at Wesley Memorial UMC on August 27, 2017.       

        I wonder if those midwives saw it coming.

        When the Pharaoh shows up to speak to them directly, are they ready? Have they noticed the nervous decrees coming from the king’s palace, first forcing the Hebrew people into work gangs with harsh overseers and finally enslaving them (vv. 11-13)? What complaints and laments have Shiphrah and Puah heard as they spend hours at the bedsides of laboring women – women with husbands still out in fields and making bricks and forced into “all kinds of other cruel work” (v. 14)? Do they know their history – how it hasn’t always been this way between the Hebrews and Egyptians? Do they see how close the injustice and oppression are getting to their own door and the work of their own hands before they hear the Pharaoh’s knock?

            Let’s say they do.

            Let’s say they know it will come to this, eventually, this murderous decree in which they will each be complicit: “When you are helping the Hebrew women give birth and you see the baby being born, if it’s a boy, kill him. But if it’s a girl, you can let her live” (vv. 15-16). Let’s say they see it from a mile away and they know exactly how bad it will be and what they will be asked to do. How long do they watch it get closer? How many hushed conversations do they share with one another before the knock sounds? Do they rehearse different scenarios or do they know all along that they will lie straight to his face and save every last baby?

            Do they know the next step after that?

            I imagine they know they’ll get away with it for a little while, birthing being the domain of women. It will be easy to birth the babies without the king or his men seeing what happens. But after that, when Pharaoh’s snoops notice girl and boy babies, what then? Are Shiphrah and Puah ready with the next step or do they find it along the way?

            This time he calls them in to his house and challenges them directly: “Why are you doing this? Why are you letting the baby boys live?” Well, sir, Hebrew women are much stronger and they give birth before we even arrive on the scene (vv. 18-19). And, birthing being the domain of women, he doesn’t have any information to the contrary so he buys it.

            The next time, he takes another course. He gives up on the midwives and goes straight to his own men, commanding them to throw live baby boys into the Nile to drown (v. 22).

            But justice is a team sport.

            Though none of them is named at this point in the story, we move now to the family of Moses. His mother gives birth to him and, like God surveying the light and the waters and the animals at creation, she sees that her baby is good and she keeps him hidden and safe with her for three months (cf. Genesis creation and Exodus 2:2, as noted by Karla Suomaia at Working Preacher).  When she thinks it’s too dangerous to keep him hidden any longer, she puts him in a waterproofed-with-tar basket and floats it in amongst the reeds at the river’s shallow edge (2: 2-3).

            And while the baby is floating there the Pharaoh’s own daughter happens to be bathing nearby and she finds the basket. And she feels sorry for the baby. The prescribed response for someone in her social and family position is to have the baby killed or at least to show the basket of insubordination to her father. But she steps out of her prescribed role and feels sorry for the baby, and her response is compassion (vv. 5-6).

            At which point, the baby’s sister, who’s been nearby, watching protectively ever since her mother gently placed the basket in the river, steps up to the Pharaoh’s daughter. Helpful royal subject that she is, she offers, “Would you like me to find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” (v. 7).

            This is a handy solution for everyone involved: The baby goes back home, of course. But maybe the Pharaoh’s daughter judiciously buys some time. Would her father kill the baby himself if she brings him home that day? Does she know that in a few months, when the baby is a toddler, he will be out of danger?

            The last leg of the insurrectionist journey – at least in this part of the baby’s story – is the day his own mother hands him over to the daughter of the Pharaoh, right into the family of the man who wanted him killed before his first breath. What does she do when she gets back home? Does she hatch plans to free him from the palace or does she hang around the gates hoping for a glimpse of him as he grows up? Does she know what she will do if she ever sees her boy again?

            I’m asking a lot of questions because this story demands it. (Be suspicious of anyone who wants to tell you once-and-for-all, case-closed, exactly what a biblical text means.) This story is the against-all-odds origin story of the man we know by the last verse of the passage is Moses – the man God will continue to call out of the water and into new lands and up mountains and across deserts, leading a nation behind him. It’s a foundational story, on which a huge swath of the Jewish and then Christian story builds.

            And right there, at the very beginning, are Shiphrah and Puah. Without them, the rest of it can’t happen. Notice how crucial their bravery is. Notice how they are able to influence the beginning of a nation from their precise social situation, in the course of their every day work.

           Do Shiphrah and Puah see it coming? Does the baby’s mother know what she will do after those first three months? Does his sister know what she will do next, from her perch by the riverside, waiting to see who will happen upon her baby brother? Does the baby’s mother break her own heart every day she nurses her own son while wondering what will happen when he is weaned?

            I don’t know about y’all, but I have a fondness for plans. I like knowing the next step. I find comfort in the thought that my efforts are “going somewhere.” Even if you have a more relaxed relationship to planning, you know our culture loves the idea of “cost-benefit analysis” and “demonstrated results.” As a people, we tend to be reluctant to risk when we can’t see the payoff. Even when it comes to something we are passionate about, we might want to study it a while longer and be sure that if we set off in a certain direction, we will get where we think we are headed.

            This is what intrigues me about Shiphrah and Puah. I don’t think they have this luxury or this hang-up. They seem guided by their knowledge of and relationship with God, so that it is crystal clear to them that they will never be killing babies for Pharaoh. I doubt the rest of the story is clear. I doubt they have any idea of their next step until they take it.

            I want to be more like Shiphrah and Puah. I’m afraid that if I were in their situation I might say very “reasonable” sounding things like, So I don’t kill the babies and then what? Someone else kills them anyway – and then comes to kill me? How does that help our cause?

            Or, closer to home: So we take down some statues, and then what? What part of history do we “rewrite” next?

            But they don’t have to know the next step – only the one right in front of them at that moment. And they take it. They do everything in their power, at each point in time where any bit of power is in their hands, to do the next right thing. And when the story moves away from them – when the power to act moves into the womb and the hands of the baby’s mother – she does the next right thing. And then her daughter and the Pharaoh’s daughter each do their things. The ball gets passed – inelegantly, surprisingly, in a completely unplanned fashion – from one woman to the next, resisting and refusing to cooperate with evil, one decision at a time.

            Justice is a team sport and it’s also a marathon, not a sprint. Shiphrah and Puah don’t complete the mission – just their mission. It’s the combined efforts of all of these women, one by one, over time that moves the needle of justice and begins the building of a nation.

            None of us needs to know where this will end in order to risk for Love. None of us needs to be an expert in American or Confederate history in order to listen to the pain spoken by our black and brown and Jewish and LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I don’t have to know, specifically, what I’ll do next week in order to take a step for justice right now. And if obscure Hebrew midwives like Shiphrah and Puah have enough power to start something important enough to become a nation, then so do we.

            Whether you saw it coming or not, whether you joined the counter-protests when the white supremacists marched here two weeks ago or not, there is a faithful next step. You do not have to know what city council should do or how to fix Virginia’s open carry laws. You do not have to re-learn and broaden your knowledge of history before you make a move, though reading might be one next step. On August 12th, Jan was stationed at the jail and our United Methodist colleagues Robert and Phil were providing safe space and medical care at First church; other ecumenical colleagues like Seth and Brittany were on the front lines, staring evil in the face. We are not all called to the same next step. Justice is a team sport and it’s a marathon. There will be more headed our way. If the invitation to cooperate with evil can find its way to Shiphrah and Puah, it will pound on our doors, too. Again.

            I don’t just mean the doors of our town. The church has work to do. The United Methodist church has been complicit in the evils of racism, once splitting into northern and southern churches over it and, even earlier, birthing the AME Church by our refusal to recognize Richard Allen’s call to preach. We have been content to offer charity when we’ve been called to work for justice. We are all called to be midwives for God, helping to bring about the kingdom of God and to live here in this community as if that reality is already here in its fullness. We are all already set free to do this justice work. In Christ, we have been made one family: neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3: 28)… Which does not mean Yeah, we’ve treated one another poorly in the past but Jesus fixed all that. Nor does it mean that the church has already arrived. Evil pounds on these doors, too. And sometimes, as in the culture at large, we can’t hear it or we call it by other names like “law” or “custom” or “how it’s always been” or “what the bible says.”

            We are set free to live radically loving, rule-breaking, decree-defying, justice-flowing lives – and we are called to start from exactly where we are without much time to plan and with whatever tools we have on hand. Right where we are in the birthing room, the board room, the lecture hall, the barista counter, the cookout, the family dinner, the school PTA meeting…

            Without Shiphrah and Puah and the women who took the ball after them, we might have an entirely different story. It’s the same here in Charlottesville and in our country right now.

            We’ll be writing history, one way or another. One step at a time.

            All you have to know right now is which direction Love is.

            Thanks be to God!

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Photo © Woody Sherman, used with permission.

Swimming at the JCC

As I’ve mentioned, I’m determined to keep up my physical-mental-spiritual-emotional practice of swimming my butt off this winter. As I’ve also mentioned, I’ve had to make special arrangements to swim while out of town for work, something I often do with the help of this handy guide for finding a pool wherever you might find yourself.

In both January and February I spent most of a week in Richmond, and I’ve swum at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center each time. I didn’t grow up in towns with JCCs and had never been to one before my first January swim there. I asked my friend Jake if there were any cultural things I should know about being a good guest in the space and he patiently explained it would be pretty much like using the YMCA – not everyone at a JCC is necessarily Jewish and I wouldn’t stand out immediately as the obvious Christian in the mix.

From the membership coordinator I spoke with on the phone to set up my guest pass, to the front desk guy ready with a “Good morning” and a dry wit, to the concierge-style lifeguard, this is a place that does hospitality well. And I’m not kidding about Pete the lifeguard. He greets each swimmer by name when they enter the pool deck (he knew mine by the second day and remembered me when I showed up again in February) and gets off his chair to assist swimmers adding into lanes when they are all full. Seriously, he motioned and directed me to my lane, as he walked over to the swimmer already in the lane, saying, “I’ll let him know you’re joining him,” and then he tapped the other swimmer as he approached the wall to let him know he’d have company. It was like being shown to my table at a fine restaurant. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, necessary, since swimmers mostly work these things out on their own. But it was oddly nice – especially standing there, vulnerable, in only a swimsuit and my weak-prescription goggles – to be treated like a valued member of the pool community and offered a particular place within it.

“Love your neighbor” has resonated more than any other goal or descriptor of our life and ministry at Wesley this year. Not because we are doing it well all the time, but because we don’t know a better way to respond to hate and xenophobia than with this simple, all-encompassing, daily reminder from Jesus (Matthew 22: 36-40). I’m here to tell you that being welcomed as a guest, greeted by name, and offered a place in the pool is a fantastic embodiment of loving one’s neighbor.  

In the first weeks of the New Year, before I swam at the WJCC the first time, a rash of bomb threats began at JCCs around the country. They are still happening. The first day I navigated my way to the unfamiliar pool in January, in the dark early morning on nearly empty streets, a pick up truck followed closely behind me for several blocks before I arrived. It went its own way before I got there but in this time of threat and hate, I noticed and briefly worried. By my February visit, I’d seen news reports of JCCs being evacuated during bomb threats, and I considered what to have ready in my poolside bag in case we had to evacuate in the middle of my swim. I didn’t consider not going.

This past week, the lobby was full of preparations for Purim celebrations, the Hamantaschen-laden holiday when Esther’s story is remembered and humorously re-enacted. It’s a short book and worth the read, if you don’t know it or if it’s been a while. Esther ends up in a position to make her voice heard and influence a king. She needs a little convincing that sticking her neck out is worth the risk. She’s told her silence won’t guarantee her safety and, “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 12-14).

My neighbor-loving neighbors at the WJCC know how to stick their necks out. Given the national climate and current threats, I wouldn’t have been surprised or angry if they had closed ranks and temporarily stopped offering guest passes to unknown non-JCC members just passing through town. But they know Whose and who they are, and what they have to offer at just such a time as this.

Frankly, even if the Swimmers Guide showed me a closer pool somewhere else, I’d choose to keep going back to the WJCC when I visit Richmond for work. Not just for laps or for the kind and gracious lifeguard, but because these are my neighbors.

 

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photo credit: “Lifeguard jumping into action in Ocean City, Maryland,” © 2007 by flickr user dbking, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus Promises They Will Hate Us

 

Walking into Oceti Sakowin Camp with the sun rising, Standing Rock Sioux Nation, 11/3/16

A sermon preached on Luke 21: 5-19 and Isaiah 65: 17-25, on November 13, 2016, at the Wesley Foundation at UVA.

As I think you all know by now, last week I traveled to North Dakota, to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. I had been watching the news for more than a month, learning about the multiple Native tribes who had come together to camp out on the prairie to protect the water of the Missouri River, where a company from Texas has been making its way across four states with an oil pipeline (called the Dakota Access Pipeline), including plans to tunnel under the Missouri River, just north of the Standing Rock reservation. I had read about the original route for the pipeline, which was supposed to cross under the river north of Bismarck (about an hour’s drive north of the reservation). But the people in Bismarck thought that sounded dangerous and risky to them and their water, so the plans changed to avoid that town – but not to avoid the risks to water contamination all together. I had read about the peaceful prayerful protests and about indigenous people from all over the globe traveling to North Dakota to support and stand with the Standing Rock Sioux. Since last April, thousands of people have been camping and protesting and trying to protect the water. In the last month, a highly militarized police and security force began shooting rubber bullets at peaceful protestors and at even at their horses. A private militia hired by the oil company set dogs on protestors, some of whom were mauled. Authorities in riot gear have used pepper spray and sound cannons on peaceful, prayerful protestors exercising their first amendment rights – protestors and water protectors who are bathed every day in prayer and who pray daily for those officers. Authorities have locked up journalists who have tried to cover the events and have thrown over 400 people in jail on contrived charges in attempts to intimidate them into stopping and disbanding. In jail they have needlessly strip-searched people in order to humiliate and further intimidate them. They have shipped some of those in custody to jails several hours away, to make it harder to get back home again or find rides when they are eventually released, sometimes on bail as high as $1500 per person. When their court dates come around, they will be required to travel hours back to those other towns to appear. Police are using helicopters and drones constantly circling overhead and they have road blocked the main highway between the reservation and Bismarck. They constantly stand guard at the roadblock with additional forces keeping watch from the nearby ridges.[i]

As things came to a head and became violent in this past month, the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and other Native groups I’ve been following began asking explicitly for more people to join them. We need numbers, they said. We need them to see we won’t go away and we aren’t alone. Please help us. I kept reading and following and praying. I didn’t really think about going. It’s the middle of the semester. It’s a really long way away. Wouldn’t it be better to send them money for winter supplies? It didn’t seem reasonable or feasible. Then Rev. John Floberg, a feisty crusty old Episcopal priest who’s been serving in the communities on and near the Reservation for 25 years, sent out a call to clergy. It’s time to come, he said. I know it’s inconvenient and this is short notice but this is it. They need us. We can provide a protective witness for their struggle. He was hoping to get 100 clergy and over 500 of us answered the call. But I told colleagues and friends who were going “no” at least twice before I changed my mind. I told God “no” more than that. But it wouldn’t leave me alone. All the same “reasonable” things popped up – money, time, effort, inconvenience, family commitments… As I pondered and said “no” and delayed, the airline tickets kept going up. Wouldn’t it be better to send them $1000 for food and warm clothes and winter camping supplies? What am I going to do? But the Holy Spirit would not leave me alone and the people of Standing Rock kept saying, We need help. We need you to come. At some point in that epic week of wrestling with God about this decision, I realized that, unlike so many many things in the world, this is something I am qualified to do. I am a person who prays; I am a visible sign of the church; I have a body and I’m able and well enough to travel. I don’t know what to replace pipelines with or how to implement renewable energy plans. I don’t know how to map an alternate route for this pipeline. I couldn’t convene a meeting with President Obama or film a documentary about this struggle. But I was absolutely qualified to put on my clergy garb and say “yes” to my far away neighbors who needed help I could provide, and spend some money and travel in the middle of the night and stand in the middle of the prairie with them and pray.

I am not telling you this so you will praise me or come tell me after worship how amazing it is that I went. I do appreciate the support and prayers from Wesley folks and others in Charlottesville as I answered that call, but that’s not why I’m telling you this now. I’m trying to let you in on, as best I can, how inelegant and clumsy and wrestling-match-like my discernment was – and how blessed I was by choosing to go where and when I was asked, to offer what was asked of me, and not to rationalize or monetize my way out of it.

Most importantly, I am telling you this in the hopes that when you hear someone’s request or see someone in need of help and solidarity, you won’t take as long as I did to wrestle it out.

The pipeline may or may not be stopped or re-routed and you may or may not think pipelines are a bad idea – but there are not “two sides” to this situation. For Christians, the only side is to stand up for and to stand with those who are being beaten and jailed and harassed and intimated without any just cause.

This sermon is not about the election, exactly. It’s about how Christians are called to act no matter who is in power, no matter how prosperous and peaceable the times, no matter how war-torn and uncertain.

Luke records Jesus saying, as the disciples admired the stonework and the architecture of the temple, “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.” When Luke writes down those prophetic words of Jesus the temple’s destruction is already 15 years ago for Luke’s own audience.

Jesus says, This is impressive and beautiful but it will be dust. It will not stand the test of time. It will be destroyed. He stands in the shadow of the empire and the religious institutions of his day telling his band of followers that everything will crumble and war will break out and they will be arrested and persecuted – but that, even in the midst of all that, God is still counting the hairs on each of their heads. By enduring, holding tight to God alone, they will “gain their lives” (v. 18).

Jesus does not promise wealth or peace between the nations of the world. He does not promise that the institutions and the things they love about the current regime will be spared. He promises natural and human-made destruction, famine, health epidemics, kingdoms collapsing, prison, religious persecution, and betrayal by loved ones. Jesus promises that people will hate us because of him.

 

Since Election Day incidents of hate speech, graffiti, and intimidation, targeted at Muslims, Blacks, immigrants, and women, have increased. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center and as of 5pm on Friday night, there were over 200 such incidents since Election Day. People have been approached in the street, found graffiti on their apartment doors, been directly put down and threatened in school cafeterias, and more, told to “get out of our country” and “If you aren’t born here, pack your bags.” A Black woman was standing at a traffic light in Louisiana when a truckload of white men pulled up and shouted at her, “F*** your black life!” They laughed and chanted “Trump!” as they drove off. According to Inside Higher Ed, at New York University’s engineering college someone defaced the door to a designated Muslim prayer room, by scrawling “Trump!” across it. Even before Tuesday’s results, we here at UVA have experienced a spate of hateful speech and harassment directed towards Jews, the LGBTQ community, Black students, Muslims, and women. We have seen enough of this here that a collection of student organizations has come together under the name Eliminate the Hate and they are sponsoring a week of activities and events on Grounds this week, to speak out and up against this rising tide.

In the middle of another tumultuous and destructive time, Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 65: 17-19):

For I am about to create new heavens

and a new earth;

the former things shall not be remembered

or come to mind.

 

But be glad and rejoice forever

in what I am creating;

for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,

and its people as a delight.

 

I will rejoice in Jerusalem,

and delight in my people;

no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,

or the cry of distress.

 

Isaiah wrote these words to the war-torn remnant of Israel who were finally returning home after 60 years as captives in Babylon. They are words of hope but they must have been a teary and anguished hope to the people’s ears as their eyes took in their destroyed homes and vineyards and towns. Nothing was intact or as they had left it. They had to start over again. “The former things shall not be remembered or come to mind”…”be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating”…It must have seemed impossible to those returning exiles that they would forget what had happened, that standing in the rubble of their former lives they could ever forget the world-shifting loss or that moment or any of those long 60 years. It must have seemed insane to stand in that situation in that moment and be told to “rejoice” in what God was creating. Where, God? Exactly where in this mess is your beautiful handiwork?

But God promises that the houses and vineyards they build will not be in vain. They will make it through to live in them and to harvest the fruit. Their hard and faithful work of rebuilding will not be in vain. God promises to answer before the people even ask, before they call out again.

Spoken into a broken time of uncertainty and great fear, Isaiah proclaims that even though you may not be able to see it yet, God is still working. What looks ugly and destroyed is the fertile soil for what grows next. Hang on and hope, because here’s what you will see soon.

Sunrise over Oceti Sakowin Camp, Standing Rock Sioux Nation, 11/3/16

One of the things I noticed at Standing Rock was how the Native people referred to others as “relatives.” There is a loudspeaker in the camp and as the morning was getting started around the sacred fire, someone came on and said, “Good morning, relatives!” When indigenous people from around the world arrive at Standing Rock, they say, “Our relatives from New Zealand and Hawaii are here.” This deep recognition of their connection as indigenous people, across country and landscape, is the basis for this huge gathering of tribes (nothing like this has been seen in more than a hundred years).

Since I returned home, I’ve been following Lyla June Johnston, a Navajo woman who spoke to the clergy group and joined us in our prayer and protective action. She impressed and humbled me when she described the Walk of Forgiveness she was organizing for the Sunday after we were there. She talked about how important it was for all of us to join them in their stand and encouraged those of us who are white, descendants of colonizing settlers, to be proud of our own family lineage but also to admit to what our people have done. She said, “Your job is to acknowledge what happened and Native peoples’ job is to forgive.”

This week after the election she posted this prayer to Facebook:  “Creator may you bless my dear uncle Donald Trump. May you help him to heal. May you help him to feel Your Love. May you help to ease his fears and help him to sense Your True Blessing. Help him to forgive himself and others so he may be free. And most of all, just give whatever blessing you would have for Your son, and my uncle. May we continue to retain our nature in the spirit of Your unconditional and restorative love and forgiveness. May we continue to work for health and justice with love for the unhealthy and the unjust. #NotMyPresident #JustMyUncle #Ké” [K’é means kinship]

This is the result of seeing one another as relatives. This is what a Christian prayer ought to sound like. This prayer has meat on it and it’s more daring and courageous and faithful than the mere lip service we sometimes give to the theological understanding that we are “brothers” and “sisters” in Christ. This is the kind of prayer that seeks to create connection and solidarity with some people – and might also make others hate you. Just as Jesus promised.

I don’t think it is a surprise to many of us that we live in a divided country. But it seems this week that we were surprised by just how divided. Almost no one thought Trump would win the election. No one thought the vote would be half and half.

However you voted, half of our brothers and sisters, our relations, voted differently than you did. What I’ve heard most Americans saying this week is “They” didn’t know how many of us there were, or, “They” didn’t know how dangerous their vote was. I have not heard most Americans this week confessing that we have been just fine up until now not knowing or caring about those other relations in that other half. Those aren’t my neighbors.

Rev. John Floberg, who called us out to Standing Rock, reminded us on the night before our protective witness with the Native people, that the police officers we would see across the divide, that barricaded highway bridge, were not our enemies. He reminded us that on the cross Jesus did not rebuke, he forgave – with his dying breath. So, John Floberg said, “We greet the officers with prayer and love and compassion, too.”

This is hard.

Those stones are beautiful but they will be rubble one day. This will not stand.

My life is not in the Democratic Party or even my personal shero Hillary Clinton. My neighbor’s life is not in Trump or the Republican Party or Bernie or any candidates or parties. Our lives, patriotic and democracy-inspired as they may be, are not in these United States. Or in the dream of moving to Canada or making this country “great again.”

Our lives are in Jesus Christ.  They will hate us because of Jesus. Keep going. All this destruction and despair? Raw materials for the beautiful new creation of God.

This is not the time to keep your head down and wait for the uneasiness to pass. This is not the time to think I’m not a racist/ I love Muslims/ I don’t sexually assault women/ I welcome immigrants / I care for the disabled and then be done with it as if you have completed your task. This is not the time to think I’m happy with my vote and I’m nice to people and that’s enough.

The election may or may not have gone in the direction you hoped for – but there are not “two sides” to this situation of increased, targeted hate crimes and speech. For Christians, the only side is to stand up for and to stand with those who are being harassed and intimated simply because they are Black or Muslim or immigrants or people with disabilities or women or….

This is not the time to put your head down in prayer and hope it will pass. This is the time to lift your head up, take in the destruction you see, and stare straight in the face of hate while you proclaim and enact and witness to Love.

Love in these times means refusing to eliminate half of our country when you consider who your neighbors are. That means you don’t have “elite” and “uneducated” neighbors; you simply have neighbors with different life experiences than yours and if you don’t understand those, it’s time to learn and to meet some new people, and work on loving them. Love in these times means resisting and standing up to hate in its many insidious forms. Speak out, stand with, and offer to walk alongside those in this community who are targets of bigotry. Literally, offer to walk with students in unsafe situations around Grounds. Use the Just Report It system. Call for help. Keep watch when something seems off. Do not remain silent when people are degrading and demeaning and intimidating and targeting others in speech or action. State unequivocally that hate speech and “us” and “them” commentary is not OK with you. Attend the Eliminate the Hate teach-in to learn about your own blind spots and to walk across some of our community’s divides to meet your relations.

No matter how uncertain and fearful the times, no matter how unfamiliar the landscape, no matter how unknown and un-relatable our neighbors, our relatives – God is creating a new heaven and earth, right now. In the middle of this huge mess. Believe it.

The only temple that will not fall – not even in the face of death itself – is Love. Let’s work with God to build it.

Thanks be to God!

 

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Photos are my own.

 

Endnote:

[i] This is a compiled account from months of reading and following the news. A few good places to learn more and follow the ongoing stand are: https://www.facebook.com/Indigenousrisingmedia/

http://www.democracynow.org/topics/dakota_access

http://standwithstandingrock.net

http://ictmn.lughstudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/DAPL-Magazine-2016_PREVIEW_r1.pdf

http://westernjurisdictionumc.org/wjumc-bishops-send-letter-to-president-obama-in-support-of-standing-rock-sioux-nation/

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-showdown-at-standing-rock-20161108-story.html

 

 

Prayer, pizza, and blazing signs of hope

post-election-prayer-and-pizza-at-wesley-at-uva-on-11-9-16

The table was set at Wesley last Wednesday night, and they came.

It’s been a long week, folks.  If you are preparing to preach or to listen to preaching this weekend, you have my heartfelt sympathy and blessings as you make your way to that moment and beyond.  In the midst of all this, it’s been a hope-filled week in campus ministry.  I hope you will head over to Ministry Matters today to read my latest reflection.