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Archive for August, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Spirit,

The recent rancor in our political system has left me longing for a better system, for a way to be more engaged in supporting a constructive process of dialogue rather than just throwing my hands up in anxiety and anger.

So Steve and I have been at Camp Mechuwana this week in Maine with former Congressman Bob Edgar and current President of Common Cause, a political organization founded by Republicans in the 1970 working to hold power accountable.

Our homework assignments each night included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s speech at Riverside Church in New York, April 4, 1967, to lay and clergy concerned about war, explaining the Christian reasoning for standing up for peace.  In “Beyond Vietnam–A Time to Break Silence”, King warns against the “Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them” – it is not just.

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence:  when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves.  For from his view we may indeed see the basic weakness of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

We also read evangelical pastor Jim Wallis’ work, The Soul of Politics:  A Practical and Prophetic Vision for Change.

Deep in the American soul exists the conviction that politics and morality are integrally related.  But why do our efforts to connect them always feel like mixing oil and water? Today, many doubt that politics can be moral anymore.  But others are already intuiting the need for a new kind of politics based on a renewed moral perspective.  We need a politics that offer us something we haven’t had in a long time: a vision of transformation.  A new sense of direction will require a moral compass we can trust. . . .   Dare we seek the conversion of politics itself?  What many today are trying to find is the soul of politics.

Finally we read from Bob Edgar’s book Middle Church:  Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right whose purpose is to

awaken the conscience of average, ordinary, common folks within the United States to do above-average, extraordinary, and uncommon things to insure a future for our fragile planet.  I am attempting to give people hope that we still have time to change our attitudes and retool our thinking, to restore and recover what our founders had in mind when they shaped our Constitution and Bill of Rights. . . .   The faithful majority must have the courage to confront their government when it makes bad decisions and have enough confidence in their own judgement not to believe unquestioningly the “expert” political leaders [or I would add media commentators], who most Americans assume know more than they do.  My goal is to challenge them to read deeply their entire religious texts, to discover God’s prophetic call to all of humanity, and to work collaboratively and be faithful stewards of our limited resources.

Bob encouraged us to vote with conscience but also to be engaged in the process between elections.  He has been arrested five times for civil disobedience, most recently a couple weeks ago during a pray-in for a more just resolution to the national debt discussion at the rotunda.  He reminded us that Jesus was active in civil disobedience – Jesus wanted powers to be responsive to people and he was willing to break the law (in those days it was “churchy” law). This Sunday, the lectionary Old Testament lesson (Exodus 1) is one of my favorites and it’s an act of civil disobedience by those with little power but who risk standing up for the helpless and the foreigner.

Shalom,
Pastor Kelly

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Stories that stab

August 2, 2011

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the faith,

After a couple weeks off from our summer sermon series to explore Muslim/Christian relations and celebrate Vacation Bible School, we are back this week picking up where we left off in Genesis with the stories of Jacob.  In the introduction to Eugene Peterson’s reading version of the Bible, called The Message, he writes, “You are going to hear stories in this Book that will take you out of your preoccupation with yourself and into the spacious freedom in which God is working the world’s salvation.  You are going to come across words and sentences that stab you awake to a beauty and hope that will connect you with your real life.” 

I do find that these stories from Genesis, the bedrock of our faith life together, tend to stab … to awaken us to beauty, to hope, to real life.  Are there stories you tell within yourself that stab in different ways … ways that deny beauty?  despair of hope?  and diminish the reality of life?

Several churches are following the lectionary Genesis readings this summer.  Here’s what one mega church says about the stories:

 As we explore Jacob’s story, the clergy staff are discovering together how enduringly it has the power to “stab us awake” in beautiful, hopeful ways which can connect us with our real life: life in relationship with God, with others, with ourselves.  Jacob’s story is so powerful because it is exquisitely human!  Filled with people struggling to find beauty and hope and real life in the tangle of family stories which cast some as worthy and some as “second best”, people seeking to prove their worth through deception and acquisition and self-will and status, we cannot help but see some of our own stories in Jacob’s.  And, with him, we just might come upon God unexpectedly in our own stories in ways which can bring us beyond the stories we have been told or tell ourselves – in ways which can connect us with the beauty and hope of our real life.

Getting out of our preoccupation with ourselves, with our constricted and restricting stories, into the spacious freedom of God’s story for our real lives, can truly and immediately save us from so much that is destructive in our lives.  I am so looking forward to entering God’s spacious freedom with you this week!

May our study of Genesis help us enter God’s spacious freedom this August.

Shalom,
Pastor Kelly

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