Persevering Hope

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PAX

(pɑks ; pÀks; pæks ; paks). noun

1.Β the Roman goddess of peace, identified with the Greek Irene

2.Β sign of peace

 

The Reverend Jennifer Butler was wearing a white clergy stole with Pax embroidered over a cross and an olive branch. Enlight126She Was singing as police officers restrained her, arms behind her back, both thumbs held tightly together with plastic straps. Next to be arrested was The Reverend Traci Blackmon, who chanted β€œjustice, mercy” again and again as police restrained her and led her away.

The Charlotte Examiner described the event, The March to Save Medicaid, Save Lives.

Capitol Hill police arrested the president of the North Carolina NAACP on Thursday morning after he led a protest of the Senate’s proposed health care repeal-and-replace bill.

Rev. William J. Barber II, who was protesting in his role as president of Repairers of the Breach, was released from jail by 2 p.m. On that morning, July 13, 2017, Dr. Barber and other faith leaders led a group of about 50 people to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in the Capitol.

The group gathered a few blocks away at 10 a.m. and walked to the Capitol, chanting and singing along the way. Eleven protesters were arrested.

Read more at this link:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/latest-news/article161200048.html#storylink=cpy

As I watched the live feed of this moral and courageous expression of civil disobedience, I hoped that the police would not arrest The Reverend Dr. William Butler, who was obviously experiencing pain from his physical disabilities. I hoped that other faith leaders would not be arrested.

The band of justice-seekers, clergy and persons of all faiths, gathered together in a prophetic action to protect the 22 million Americans in danger of losing healthcare because of what the group calls β€œimmoral Congressional legislation.” The Repairers of the Breach Facebook page gives details of the event.

Together, we’ll join in song and march through the halls of power, sending a moral message that we cannot cut Medicaid β€” a lifeline for so many children, seniors and people with disabilities.

My heart was with them in Washington. My prayers pleaded for hope for a brighter day, for justice for those who are oppressed, for peace for every person. My mind recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah . . .

And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;
And will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

– Isaiah 58:10-12

I watched them stand bravely as they faced the powers before them, living into the words spoken by Hannibal of Carthage, β€œWe will either find a way or make one.” I listened to their voices echoing through the halls of the building, singing with persisting, persevering hope.

Ain’t gonna let injustice turn me around
Turn me around, turn me around
Ain’t gonna let injustice turn me around
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’, keep on a-talkin’
Marchin’ up to freedom’s land.

Ain’t gonna let no jail cell turn me around
Turn me around, turn me around
Ain’t gonna let no jail cell turn me around
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’, keep on a-talkin’
Marchin’ up to freedom’s land.

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around
Turn me around, turn me around
Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’, keep on a-talkin’
Marchin’ up to freedom’s land.

Repairers of the Breach —Β http://www.breachrepairers.org/

Reconciliation: The Heart’s Repentance

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The long and arduous presidential campaign left behind a fractured nation. The political parties displayed unprecedented enmity between Democrats and Republicans. The citizenry followed their lead, and the result was broken relationships among friends and even within families. My own family exchanged sharp and hurtful words during the campaign, words that continue to affect our relationships.

We have made enemies of other nations. Some among us have made enemies based on race, culture, gender, national identity, religious practice, sexual orientation. And we remain divided and hostile, with no apparent desire to reconcile.Β And yet, we desperately need true reconciliation.

The Biblical concept of reconciliation suggests the presence of spiritual, divine intervention that creates reconciliation in the hearts of those who are estranged. Reconciliation assumes there has been a breakdown in a relationship, but through the heart’s repentance, there is a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of harmony and fellowship.

It is going to require the heart’s repentance to restore a climate of unity, mutual respect, love and peace. Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in America, offers these insightful thoughts about reconciliation.

Reconciliation isn’t just singing Kumbaya and everyone being nice. Reconciliation is about the hard work of working through our differences, maybe acknowledging them and not changing them, necessarily. Working through our differences, honestly and with integrity, and sometimes repenting of where our differences or my differences or yours has actually hurt relationship and not helped the human family.

Shall we just leave everything as it is? Shall we allow the distance to continue between us and those we have lost because of our differences? Shall we accept a fractured world and the divisiveness that now assails us? Or shall we instead commit ourselves to the holy work of reconciliation?

Our sacred calling is to restore peace within the human family, creating a world that can nurture our children and grandchildren, striving for genuine reconciliation among those from whom we are estranged, restoring peace and a community of love, transforming fractured and hurting humanity. This is what God implores us to do.

. . . This is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;Β 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.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19

 

One Nation under God

The Statue of Liberty is pictured from the Staten Island Ferry at twilight in New York

I sometimes tire of hearing talk about being “one nation under God” in a nation whose leaders want to exclude and divide. In these difficult days, our President has signed an executive order to ban persons from several countries from entering our country. Protesters object in the streets and at airports throughout the country, seeking to hold fast to the promise represented by the Statue of Liberty. We must not forget that Lady Liberty stands in New York harbor lifting her light to all the world. And on a plaque at her base, these words are inscribed:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Bishop Steven Charleston writes what it means to be one nation under God. He says that ours is a holy calling, compassionate to all who seek refuge, caring for those who are poor, protecting those among us who are most vulnerable. These are his words:

One nation under God. What would that be like? I think any nation striving to live such a holy calling would be compassionate to all those in need, caring for the poor, healing the sick, protecting the most vulnerable. It would seek wisdom, supporting its schools and teachers. It would defend itself and help its friends, but never cease striving for peace. It would turn from greed and honor God’s creation. It would respect the dignity of every citizen and strive for reconciliation, finding unity in diversity, strength in mercy, authority in justice not promised but practiced.

– Steven Charleston

Dignity, diversity, strength, mercy, justice, compassion . . . May these words always define us as a nation. May God rebuke the leaders who seek to obliterate these values. And may God touch the hearts of our leaders, urgently summoning them to help make us truly one nation under God.

The Swelling Current

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Yesterday during the inauguration of Donald Trump. I felt as if I were drowning. My own “swelling current” was threatening to overtake me. I allowed myself to become anxious about all the harmful changes the new administration might make.

Today I will pray for the Women’s March on Washington where women will raise their voices for the rights of all women. The group will march west on Independence Avenue SW to 14th Street SW, then they will turn north on 14th Street to Constitution Avenue, then march west on Constitution to 17th Street NW to The Ellipse. Organizers say the event will be a peaceful gathering to β€œpromote women’s equality and defend other marginalized groups.”

More than a quarter of a million women and men will march in our nation’s capital, with other marches taking place in more than 600 “sister marches” planned across the United States. Some of the biggest expected in Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Women and men in cities around the world — including Sydney, Berlin, London, Paris and Cape Town, South Africa — are also marching in solidarity and in opposition to the values they think Trump represents

Protesters march on this day to raise awareness of women’s rights and other civil rights they fear could be under threat under Donald Trump’s presidency. Two of my friends will take my name with them to the Washington march, representing my personal fear that the Trump administration will eliminate Violence against Women Act funding. Most importantly, today we march and pray in protest of Trump’s past comments about women.

So while I nurse my feeling of drowning, I recall the comforting words of this hymn:

When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside.
Bear me through the swelling current, land me safe on Canaan’s side.

– Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah, Text by William Williams, 1745.

What a compassionate promise from God found in this hymn. I will rest on that.

No Silent Assent to Injustice

 

No, we cannot give silent assent to injustice.

Many say that President-elect Donald Trump won, in part, because he gained the favor of evangelicals in the United States. Tragically, these evangelicals sold out, bought into a “fake gospel” of racism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and divisiveness. In so doing, they sacrificed the justice and righteousness of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I was reminded of that in a beautiful sermon preached this Christmas Eve by Bishop Thabo Makgoba, head of the Anglican Church. He eloquently served notice with his stirring words spoken to the faithful gathered for midnight mass in Cape Town, South Africa’s George’s Cathedral. He draws on his childhood, the example of Walter Sisulu, and God’s Word to explain why religious leaders have a critical role to play in addressing a nation at war with itself.

He also had a forthright message for President Jacob Zuma who has called on churches to stay out of politics.

“We have rejected President Zuma’s comments and have told him very firmly: ‘NO, Mr President, we will not refrain from engagement in the political terrain. Our people live there, work there, suffer, cry and struggle there. We live there too, and cannot and will not stop commenting or acting on what we see and what, in our opinion, is unjust, corrupt and unacceptable to God’s high standards of sacrificial love.’,

As people of faith, we must also speak out against the destructive policies of President-elect Donald Trump.

“No, Mr President-elect, we cannot and will not stop commenting or acting on what we see and what, in our opinion, is unjust, corrupt and unacceptable to God’s high standards.”

 

Grace

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Day two of grief and confusion. Day two of desperately seeking grace in the midst of grief. Day two of mourning a deeply personal loss.

It was a stunning upset, leaving us with President-elect Donald J. Trump. Despondency barely describes what I’m feeling. Fear may be even more descriptive. I do not feel despondent over being on the losing side of the election. For me, it is not about winning or losing. I do not feel anger or resentment against my brothers and sisters who voted for Trump.

But I do feel disenfranchised in my own country. I feel like I’m a part of a country I don’t understand. I feel like my hopes and dreams are no longer important. I feel like there is a powerful leader over me who will crush my dreams without a thought. I feel like the ground beneath me is shaking. Yesterday I read these words written by my friend, Julie Pennington-Russell.

In 1952, at the threshold of the Cold War, Harry Emerson Fosdick spoke to students and faculty at the Pacific School of Religion. After acknowledging the uncertainty and chaos in the world at that time, he spoke these now-famous words: β€œThe highest use of a shaken time is to discover the unshakable.”

So this, for me, is a shaken time. I feel a cloud of uncertainty and chaos. I fear the days ahead. I am grieving, yet looking for a smidgen of grace in it all. That’s all I can do. And I lean into the encouraging words of Bishop Steven Charleston.

Now comes the hard part. As this new day dawns, joyful for some, sad for others, we face a single question: how will we walk together when our paths seem so different? There is a word for it. Grace. May we have the grace to be humble in victory and hopeful in defeat. May we have the grace to overcome our fears. This is the hard part, the time of seeking the common good, not for ourselves alone, but for those younger lives watching us. May our first step be made in prayer, spoken in different ways but with a shared appeal: give us your grace, dear God, to care more for one another than for winning.

– Bishop Steven Charleston

Losing Heart

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What does it feel like to lose? How many tears does it take to begin to heal the pain?

I just listened to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. It was a remarkable testament to all that is good about Hillary Clinton. She is truly a public servant, and she will not stop her efforts to make our country a stronger, kinder place.

I literally grieve this loss. I fear for our country. I fear for our brothers and sisters who fear deportation. I fear for women who have felt disfranchisement and disrespect. I fear for the millions of people who are benefitting from the Affordable Care Act. I fear about our relations with foreign nations. I fear for all of us.

Still, we must never give up on our country. We must remain involved in the political process and we must pray for our nation as we have never prayed before.

Most of all today, I pray for Hillary. I celebrate her life and give thanks for her many decades of service. And I will always remember the closing words of her speech from the sixth chapter of Galatians.

“So let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

May God continue to bless Hillary Clinton and may God bless and protect this nation.

A Prayer in the Shadow of the Presidential Election

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All knowing God,

We come to you in this season covered with the shadows of this presidential election. We come to you contemplating our choice. We are concerned about our lives, concerned about our nation.

We hope for a bright future, yet we have wavering confidence in the days ahead of us. It feels important that we pray about our democracy, about the the presidential election that will so profoundly affect our lives. Remind us that above our role as citizens is our role as your people.

We pray for our brothers and sisters who have felt disenfranchised by the hurtful words and actions of Donald Trump, who has attacked Β women, immigrants, Latino and African American citizens, persons who are disabled, Muslim Americans, and many others.

Grant us a sense of unity, not divisiveness. Teach us to clasp hands in love and respect and to move forward together.

When we exercise our right to vote in this free and fair election, help us to remember who we are as people of faith. Grant us divine wisdom. Give us holy guidance. Give us hearts that act out of love not hate, hope not despair.

We ask you, God, to walk beside us and to lead us in the path of righteousness.

Cover us with your grace and give us wisdom and courage for the living of these days.

Amen.

Reborn

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All of us are enduring this season of our presidential campaign with a level of angst. Psychologist have written about the stress that we are experiencing. Some people are turning off their televisions in an attempt to escape the divisive language and incessant negative dialogue.

One thing is clear to me: this is a time for prayer, prayer that our nation will find its way to serenity, calmness and unity. I would like to share with you such a prayer, actually the text of the hymn, “O God of Every Time and Place.”

The words describe a people with “downcast eyes, tight, sullen and afraid.” Yet the hymn moves toward hope for divine rebirth.

O God of every time and place,
Prevail among us too;
Within the city that we love,
Its promise to renew,
Our people move with downcast eyes,
Tight, sullen and afraid;
Surprise us with Thy joy divine,
For we would be remade.

Grant us, O God, who labor here
Within this throbbing maze,
A forward-looking, saving hope
To galvanize our days.
Let Christ, who loved Jerusalem,
And wept its sins to mourn,
Make just our laws and pure our hearts;
So shall we be reborn.

Ernest T. Campbell, 1971

I am confident that, as a people, we will get beyond these days. I am confident that our democracy will continue to shine throughout the world as a beacon of hope. I am confident that, when all the harsh, harmful words have faded away, we will be reborn.

I am confident because of the God who gives us strength, resilience and abiding grace.