Tag Archives: baptist inclusive church

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Las Vegas and the Hollow Center of a Very Sick Society

Las Vegas now has its name listed amongst the other cities of massacres carried out by lone gunmen who, with but one weapon and a lot of ammunition, destroy a multitude of lives.  I have written so often in blogs about this that I can see no point in repeating what I have said on those other occasions.  Our society is very sick.  We should be alarmed. We should be rational and logical about how we limit access to these hideous weapons.  But we aren’t and we won’t.  And at the center of that hollow problematic is a wicked disposition desperately in need of a remedy and redemption.  Let me state that last sentence more clearly: the problem is deeply spiritual.  The remedies are simply mechanical and legislative but there must be a will, an intention to do what must be done to safeguard our society.

As you cross the threshold to enter the world, do so with blessing on your lips. When you cross the threshold and re-enter your home, do with thanksgiving and gratitude in your heart.  In the various decisions you make in a day—from how you greet someone to how you carry out your work—consider doing no harm and expanding the circle of friendship and kindness.  Join a community of the Spirit so your and my life might be hallowed, not rendered hollow.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

We remember the perished and wounded in Las Vegas.

 

 

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Athletes, Anthems and Courage

There are not many White parents who, upon finding out that their Johnny or Jane has been unfairly treated or deprived of classroom resources, won’t speak up and ask the teacher or principal to rectify that situation.  I recall doing so myself when my youngest was in about third grade and late in the year she told me she finally had the chance to use the classroom computer.  I was shocked.  So for nearly the entire school year, the boys had used the computers.  No girls.  Did I march into the school and demand justice and equality?  You bet I did.

So why is it so difficult for White folks to understand that when an athlete respectfully takes a knee or bows out of pledging allegiance to the flag or paying homage to the national anthem, s/he is protesting the injustice and inequity of persons who supposedly are promised “liberty and justice for all” but in truth, are too often denied that promise?  That is not only an understandable protest, it is one that actually honors the principles of the flag and is far more patriotic than the hollow entertainment and spectacles that surround the flag at these events.  Consider  God Bless America at the 7th inning stretch–it may not be blasphemous but it’s close.

Christians especially are caught up in this drama when they should know better.  Church History is a complicated and long history but for the sake of this point, let me simplify and say that most scholars would agree that Constantine and his conversion to Christianity is a watershed moment.  So there is Church that is Pre-Constantinian and there is the Church that is Post-Constantinian.  The Pre-Constantinian Church was persecuted and martyred by the Roman Government.  Paul and Peter and the Lord they proclaimed were all killed by the State. And the reason so many Christians were persecuted and killed is that they would not bow to the images of Caesar and the State.  The Post-Constantinian Church eventually became intertwined with imperial power.  And yes, in America, churches will have the flag prominently displayed in their sanctuaries.  Some will pledge allegiance to it on a Sunday. That is a Constantinian Church, jeopardizing the very Gospel it proclaims.

Were a First Century or Second or Third Century Christian to show up by way of a time machine and see athletes refusing to honor the image of the State, they would quickly conclude that these must be Christians about to be fed to the lions in a large stadium.

Well, Pastor, what do you do?  When I am at a stadium and the anthem is sung, I stand and put my hand over my heart.  But I do not pledge allegiance.  My allegiance is to Christ.  I love my country and am grateful for all I have but here’s the deal—I know that my experience as a White male in this country is vastly different from African-Americans, Women, and GLBT persons.  I don’t blame them at all for opting out or taking a knee at the anthem. That in my opinion is remarkably similar to the early Christians and their passion for God.  And were I able, I’d link arms with those who choose to protest because, protest is not only Protest-ant, it is American through and through.  And I recognize this:  while a game, be it football or baseball, allows me to cheer on an athlete, it does not allow me to dictate their conscience.  They agreed to entertain us but they did not agree to prop up our political views or philosophical opinions.   When we can have a conversation about how justice in this country is predetermined and bends for some while oppressing others, then maybe we will have grown up.

So, no, Mr. President, you are wickedly wrong. These athletes are not “sons of bitches.” They are brave. They are true Americans.  You owe them and the country an apology for your vile speech.

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Balance: Turn Off the “News”

In Washington DC, the swirling currents of power and those who want it or those who attempt to live near it, threaten to overwhelm and diminish everything else.  It is difficult to maintain balance and perspective.

Reduce by half the time you spend watching the news.  I use “news” in its broadest terms as an entertainment product produced by a range of radio, print, and internet media.  Reduce the time you devote to that by half.

We have had illustrated for us in recent weeks how a hurricane can inundate every aspect of a person’s life.  The power, the devastation and ruin are so vast that persons living within that matrix are in danger of being swept away by the sheer number of issues and tasks they must undertake to regain their lives.  In such times, you must focus on the most immediate tasks that will insure your safety and health.  Find those few things that you must accomplish this week and then bracket out all of the other issues until such a time arrives that you can sort through them. And while weather reports are important (anyone who lives in a hurricane zone will have to keep an eye on the weather reports), watching those reports on the hour every hour will actually paralyze you.  Reduce your time watching reports to morning and evening and in between, get on with your life.

This is applicable to we who live in D.C.  There is an entire world that can be explored. There are other dimensions of your life that need and deserve attention.  The political vortex of “news” however can pull you in and deplete you of the joy of living in balance.

I pastor a church on the corner of 7th Street and Maine Avenue. Currently we are building a new sanctuary.  And as we do, we worship across the street at Jefferson Middle School.  Every Sunday, at 10 a.m., we dial down the noise and rhetoric and dial into the still, small voice of a merciful Shepherd. We sing, we pray, we live in the light of a greater Good.  Peace like petals from tree blossoms fall around us.  Dignity and blessing are handed out by hands and hugs.  If there is one thing in your routine that might immediately propel you out of the raging currents into a harbor of peace, worship is it.  ~See you Sunday, 10 a.m.

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Dignity in the midst of the storms

We pray for:

THOSE IN THE PATHWAY OF STORMS  We are especially mindful of all those who reside in Florida and Georgia and the Carolinas, the Bahamas and Caribbean who, at this moment on Friday,  seem to be in peril as Hurricane Irma makes its way closer to the United States.  And for those who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.  Christ, have mercy.

THOSE IN MEXICO  We remember especially those in the state of Oaxaca and beyond who had family and homes destroyed.  Lord, have mercy.

DREAMERS  We pray for those children who have known only the United States and came here or were born here with families who had illegally entered the country but by no fault of their own were raised here and dared to dream they could be part of the American Dream.  This administration and the Congress seems prepared to do them great harm.  May it not be so.  Christ, have mercy.

FOR ALL OF US  We who toil day by day and attempt to do better by ourselves, our families and our communities are under great stress, carrying large burdens.  May these burdens be lifted and in their place may we receive courage and strength.  Lord, have mercy.

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Sunday I will be asking the following questions and I hope to give some guidance in my sermon entitled, “Superman’s Cape, A Clerical Collar and Clothed in Christ”:  How are you navigating this apocalyptic landscape?  How are you making sense of your lives as you daily wade through the swamp of political rhetoric, assorted hatreds, natural catastrophes, not to mention trying to find an affordable plumber on the week-end?  How are you living between sun up and sun down?  What strategy for maintaining your human dignity and the dignity of others do you have when the power goes out and the storm is raging around you?

Join us in worship Sunday at 10 a.m. at Jefferson Middle School.  Because there in that auditorium, we embrace each other as fully human. We carry one another’s burdens and share in each other’s joys.  ~See you Sunday

A swamp

How to Live in the Toxic Atmosphere of Political Strife

I was struck Sunday in our worship service by the power and the simple eloquence of the lectionary reading take from Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 12.  As you embark upon another week and ponder how you’re going to deal with the various catastrophes, hatreds and toxic rhetoric, I urge you to read these words. Print them out and attach them to the refrigerator or  recite them into your life every day this week.  They are words to live by.  They are words that can help us live in the toxic atmosphere of political strife that has permeated our culture.

ROMANS 12:

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 

10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 

13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 

16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;do not claim to be wiser than you are. 

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 

18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

AMEN.  So be it…in our own lives, in the lives of our leaders and within the sacred bounds of our beloved community.

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Houston & Nashville: What To Do and What Not To Do In A Flood

Houston  We pray for Houston in the aftermath of this terrible storm.  The misery index is off the scales.  I have reached out to an inclusive Baptist church, Covenant Baptist, in Houston to say we are praying for them and have asked if we might offer them help in some way. They seem safe but once the rains have relented, they may get back to us.  Please pray for this sister church.

Meanwhile, I have requested that our Shepherd’s Purse offering this communion Sunday be dedicated to relief efforts in Houston.  You (we) may also want to donate through the One Great Hour of Sharing Donations that can be made through the church: either by visiting www.abc-usa.org and clicking “Give Online” at the top right of the page and then in the “Comments” section, type “OGHS-Hurricane Harvey.” Or give and designate through the church and we’ll send a  collective donation to the OGHS.  By the way, 100% of these offerings go to relief efforts, not a penny is used for administrative purposes.  I encourage you to give to the Shepherd’s Purse this Sunday and from there we will send our financial support.

Nashville  In a flood we reach out to others and help them. It matters not (or should not) that these Americans reside in a “red” state or a “blue” state—a lesson some Texas representatives and senators might have learned during the disaster of Hurricane Sandy.  Be that as it may, “Evangelicals” have convened in Nashville and issued a statement insisting upon the sinfulness of being GLBT.  When you look at the signatories of the Nashville Statement, it is overwhelmingly Southern Baptist.  It includes persons who have spent a lifetime discriminating and heaping abuse on GLBT persons and look, not only GLBT, but Southern Baptists were formed explicitly to defend slavery (Slave-owning missionaries). They repented of that just a decade or two ago.  As well, they continue to treat women as second-class citizens.  In 2008 a Professor Ware of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville was cited by Ethics Daily as suggesting that “women wouldn’t have to worry as much about spousal abuse if they were more obedient to their husbands.”  I listened to Ware’s sermon from which that summary was made and then wrote him a letter expressing my dismay and calling on him to repent from such hideous commentary. Perhaps the book of Genesis should be off limits to these scholars and pastors!  There is a pattern here with the SBC and these Evangelicals.  They are uniquely unqualified to speak with moral authority on this issue and given the many issues from climate change to war, poverty, extrajudicial executions of Black citizens and the rise of neo-Nazi and Klan members in their regions, that they would choose to “clarify” continued discrimination of GLBT persons is especially disgusting.

There will be those who issue counter statements of equal or greater length (such as the Denver Statement) but instead of pegging a statement to a city, I’d prefer to quote the Lord himself who denounced such persons when he exclaimed:  You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? With that, remove the dust from your shoes and move on. The Evangelicals who signed this statement are nothing new and have nothing to say that will clarify anything. Indeed, their statement will be used to wreck families and abuse children.  By the way, one  of the signers was the CEO of Lifeway Bible Bookstores.  Need I say you should consider never buying another religious item from that store?

So we’ll send money to relief efforts in Houston. We’ll stop giving money to homophobic institutions like the Southern Baptist Convention or Lifeway bible bookstore.  We’ll pray for the thousands whose lives have been upended in Houston and we’ll pray for those whose lives have been upended by the Nashville Statement of gnat-slapping evangelicals.  And importantly, we will continue to support and celebrate our church which is a haven of peace and justice. Because, you see, in a flood we help everyone and we do not issue condemnations of people whose only crime is their existence.  ~See you Sunday