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Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As March comes to a close so quickly, I realize that part of the break-neck speed I’ve been experiencing, is due to the quickly changing face of our public policy. It’s been a tough couple weeks for collective bargaining rights, for immigration reform, health care for women, clean air, and social services for the poorest among us…. and of course beyond our borders, it been horrific for the people of Libya and Japan.

The “A” in my vocabulary of faith, started off as “awareness” — it’s since moved on to “attention,” and “accountability” because I’ve been lots of emails encouraging me to pay attention, and hold the government accountable!

I’ve been contacting my senators and Congresspeople, signing petitions, trying to stay engaged given the enormity of the problem and the vitriol of the discussion. I’ve been amazed by the lack of historical knowledge or understanding in many of the debates. I’m just astonished by the recent attacks on unions, which are a voice against managerial abuses. At the theologically-conservative, evangelical Sojourners magazine, some of their officials have gone a hunger strike. And they’re encouraging us to “Pray, fast, take action for a moral budget.”  Most of my emails have links to make my “action” (yet another “A” word) easier. They are complete with talking points.

Here are some examples received in the last week.

  • We keep hearing the same mantra from congressional leaders: “The government is out of money.” But our country’s problem isn’t just spending — it’s misplaced priorities. Congress keeps stalling on passing last year’s budget. And now, some members are moving from neglect of the poor to targeting of the poor. For people of faith like you and me, this is an assault against those whom God specifically instructs us to protect and whose well-being is the biblical test of a nation’s righteousness. Sojourners (complete with “What would Jesus cut” bracelet”) or fair wages for agricultural workers
  • The attacks on our environment and our health are continuing in Washington. Some of our elected officials in Congress who wish to stop the EPA from doing its job are relentlessly attacking the Clean Air Act. As a person of faith with a strong concern that global warming disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable in our country and abroad, tell your senators: let the EPA do its job! Interfaith Power and Light
  • The Niger Delta is one of the most important ecosystems in the world and is home to some 31 million people. It is being poisoned because oil companies spill more oil into the Niger Delta each year than was spilled as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that devastated the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Don’t let oil companies destroy the Niger Delta! Amnesty International
  • The House recently voted to bar Planned Parenthood health centers from all federal funding for birth control, cancer screenings, HIV testing, and other lifesaving care threatens the health of millions of women, men, and teens. Cutting off millions of women from care they have no other way to afford places them at risk of sickness and death. Help protect this crucial funding by calling your senator and telling him or her to vote NO on any legislation that targets Planned Parenthood and women’s health. planned parenthood talking points
  • The Methodist Federation for Social Action is encouraging work on a new middle east policy. MOVEOVERAIPAC
  • Labor unions, wrote Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Laborem Exercens, are “an indispensable element in social life . . . indeed a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice.” The Christian Century

This Sunday our epistle lesson (Ephesians 5:8-14) tells us to live a children of the light.  Sounds like an “illuminated” goal. We begin with prayer–here’s the social justice devotional for this month from MFSA.

Mubarak steps down, Libya riots, gas prices soar.
World and national events are as frightening and ominous as ever.
Lent begins this month and the miracle of Easter inevitably follows.
Yet it can be hard to feel hopeful hearing the news, listening to the politicians,
seeing the violence, tallying the deaths.
We continue to pray for the same problems, the same “hot spots,” the same injustices.
We complain like the Hebrews to Moses, “Is the Lord among us or not?” *
”Where is this God…?” we cry out like the pagans whom Joel cites.*
Moses waited six days for God to speak to him after he was called up the mountain.*
We pray that as we await God, we may not only be present to God but also serve God.

You’ll do well to keep focusing on [the prophetic Word]. It’s the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts. *We pray to stay focused on the light of God’s love in these dark times.

We pray for the political unrest in the Mideast. We pray for the safety of the protesters. We pray that new systems may be better than previous ones. We pray for justice and improvement in relationships between countries.

We pray to stay focused on the light of God’s love in these dark times.

We pray for the end of wars, terrorism and violence worldwide.

We pray for the improvement in the condition and treatment of women and girls in the many ways discriminated against by systems and circumstances.

We pray to stay focused on the light of God’s love in these dark times.

We pray for the improvement of the economic crisis and a change in our materialistic obsessions.

We pray to stay focused on the light of God’s love in these dark times.

We pray that leaders and politicians may put the interests of their people ahead of their desire for power, prestige or money.

 We pray to stay focused on the light of God’s love in these dark times.

We pray that Lent might be a time for confession, fasting, and seeking the kind of world Jesus advocated. Amen.

*Scripture references in order: Exodus 17:7b, NRSV, Lectionary March 27, Joel 2:17b, NRSV, Lectionary Ash Wednesday, Exodus 24:16, Lectionary March 6, 2 Peter 1:19, The Message, Lectionary March 6. To suggest concerns for listing on the Prayer Network, contact: Edie Harris, SJPN Facilitator: edieannh@gmail.com To be added to the SJPN mailing list, contact: Methodist Federation for Social Action MFSA, 212 East Capitol Street, NE, Washington, DC  20003   Phone: 202/546-8806    E-mail: mfsa@mfsaweb.org

This prayer makes me think of the Lord of the Rings trilogy where the shadows fall across middle earth and Gandolf reminds the fellowship that they must stay focused on the light in these dark times. May this be our prayer and the source of our action.

Shalom,
Pastor Kelly

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March 7, 2011

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Conspiracy theories aside, it’s no fun when Girl Scout Cookies arrive three days before Lent begins. When I was bemoaning this fact this morning someone at the gym said, “Those cookies will freeze.” Apparently they are unaware of the magical powers of these cookies to call your name from the freezer. They can tempt you to abandon your Lenten discipline to forgo chocolate like nothing else.

What are you giving up this Lent? Or what practice are you taking on to better observe a “holy Lent” as the liturgy says?

At the sexual ethics training on Saturday, someone said they were going to fast from Thursday sundown to Friday sundown every week in Lent–drinking only water/coffee/tea. Another said, she was going to try a “technology fast” one a day a week but was having trouble figuring out how she would define “technology” — obviously, she said, that means cell phones and computers, but does it also mean GPS, TV, automobiles? I ask about the regular phone but she said she didn’t have one of those (you can guess how young she was). I’ve heard from lots of folks over the years who have enjoyed a television fast which had the side benefit of increasing their reading–maybe I should try one of those–not on the night PBS shows Masterpiece Mystery!

Some Catholics who have already given up meat on Fridays give up meat another day of the week also. There’s a “green” movement encouraging “Meatless Mondays” to help the environment by eating lower on the food chain and eliminating meat one day of the week. But that’s not a discipline specific to Lent.

Someone told me that one year he gave up “impatience” for Lent, which wasn’t easy considering his co-workers, but he was able to do it and it helped. What a grand idea, to give up a characteristic that keeps you from connecting with God and neighbor. Let me know if you choose this route.

A friend of mine says a couple in her church “go monastic” –they bake bread together and cook a huge pot of soup on Sunday nights and then eat soup and bread all week. They like the togetherness aspect as well as the ascetic qualities. And it has the side benefit of “giving up” cooking every day!

Lots of folks give up chocolate. One  year I gave up sugar and discovered just how difficult that is–it meant no jarred spaghetti sauce, no ketchup, really just about anything processed seems to have added sugar–of course the diabetics among us could’ve told us that.

I’m thinking about giving up junk food but then there’s those girl scout cookies, and . . .  do potato chips qualify as junk food? (aren’t they a vegetable?) How about popcorn? The folks in the car with me yesterday on the Advance Mission Team to Cheshire — said popcorn was ok without salt and butter but what’s the point in eating it then? Perhaps, giving up something that’s bad for you–that you might want to consider giving up ALL the time–isn’t quite the point of a Lenten discipline. A Lenten discipline, according to the tradition, should better prepare you to receive the joy of Easter morning. It should facilitate or encourage “self-examination and repentance”, it involves “prayer, fasting, and self-denial”. It should always be combined with “reading and meditating on God’s word,” which makes the Lent study an excellent option (on Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings).

I’m taking on a ballet class on Wednesday mornings. Ballet is the most disciplined existence I know and I haven’t done it since college when I was in the class for ballet majors mostly for the humor value I provided the other students.

In a culture that thrives on instant gratification, self indulgence, sloth, and a “more is better” mentality, Lent is a lovely opportunity to discover the gifts of simplicity and to push ourselves toward greater devotion. Why not consider what a forty-day season of spiritual preparation might look like for you? If you’re on facebook, please join our Lenten discussion, “A Light from Within” and let us know what you’re giving up or taking on for Lent.

Shalom,
RevKelly

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March 3, 2011

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Spirit,

We have passed into March without my notice. And perhaps without nature’s notice. The snow-covered ground still says February. Spring will not come any earlier because of my desire for it, my anxiety about its arrival, or my annoyance at its delay.

I have a couple of clergy friends in treatment for cancer. One just finished chemo and is moving into radiation treatment, and the other one is to begin chemo in three weeks. They are both speaking of the lessons of learning to “be” rather than looking forward. It is not helpful, they have found, to wait until they “get better”, whatever that is, whenever that will be. They are both trying to live in the present, to work while in pain, to allow “normal” to be this new treatment reality.  Cynthia Good (who has served Enfield and Mittineague) has chosen as her breath prayer “Let Be and Learn”. She quotes, Audre Lorde, who wrote that we must learn to work when we’re afraid just as we learn to work when we are tired.

So I’m taking a lesson from them and not looking forward to spring. I am learning to work in and with what is before me. It is a lesson from winter for all of life.
Thomas Merton wrote, “Love winter when the plant says nothing.” Here’s what The Circle of Life says about the season for deepening in which we find ourselves, still:

Let the plant rest. “Love winter when the plant says nothing.” Nothing, because nothing needs to be said. The plant is just being. It is simply living with the truth of itself as we all must learn to do. It is not thinking about spring when the green will return. It is not preaching eloquent sermons. It is not throwing color around. It is waiting in creative darkness. John of the Cross understood well this mysterious winter prayer of going into the frightening beauty of the unknown:
To come to the pleasure you have not
you must go by a way in which you enjoy not.
To come to the knowledge you have not
you must go by a way in which you know not.
To come to the possession you have not
you must go by a way in which you possess not.
To come to the way you are not
you must go by a way in which you are not. (The Ascent, Book 1, Chapter 13, #10).

And good meditation as we move into Ash Wednesday and Lent, as we consider what change we might want to experiment with this Lent. What spiritual practice might you want to take on? What habit or food might you want to “give up”? What might we learn about ourselves if we took the time to reflect on our spiritual gifts in Evie’s Wednesday night class?

“To come to a way you are not, you must go by a way in which you are not.”

To come to a new place, a new way of being–it will require choosing a new way. What way will you choose this Lent?
I’m resisting the temptation to jump to colorful warmth and joy of Easter. Instead I am searching for the wisdom of winter and Lent and what they may offer.

Shalom,

Kelly Turney

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