St. Stephen’s Day

Happy St. Stephen’s Day! Today is the feast day of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr who was stoned to death by devout religious people for disagreeing with them and speaking truth to power. Yay!

Stephen was a deacon in the very early church, charged with caring for the widows in the church and community in Jerusalem. You can read about him in Acts 6 and 7. He was described as “a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit” and “full of God’s grace and power.” And so, of course, the religious power-brokers were determined to destroy him.

They stirred up the people against him and dragged him before the Sanhedrin with a lot of false accusations and lies (does this sound familiar? Jesus went through this about 35 years before Stephen.) Stephen’s answer to their charges was to tell them The Story because apparently, they had lost the plot. Stephen told them the story of God’s grace and pursuit of God’s people, starting with Abraham and ending with their killing of Jesus, the Righteous One.
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Still No Room

While preparing for Christmas Eve worship, I happened upon a service of Las Posadas in our United Methodist Book of Worship. I was somewhat familiar with Las Posadas, an Hispanic tradition which re-enacts the search for lodging by Joseph and Mary to bring Jesus into the world.
But I didn’t realize that there is a Christmas Eve Service that has the following liturgy sung by the travelers (outside the church sanctuary) and responses sung by the congregation (inside):

Travelers: In the name of God, we beg; will you let us enter?
We are tired and we are cold. May we please have shelter:

Congregation: You look dirty and you smell. Will you please keep moving. For your kind there is no place, for our inn is decent.

Travelers: It is not by our own choice that today we travel. But the emperor has sad that we must be counted.

Congregation: For your reasons we care not, every room is taken. Can’t you see the place is full? You are bad for business.

The travelers respond by quoting John 1:10 “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”
………………………………………………………………….
Maybe it’s just me, but I was stunned. Stunned that the images and cries of the refugees from the very countries where this tradition originated (along with others from the land where Jesus himself traveled) are standing and knocking and hearing these responses.
I put this video together with pictures that speak for themselves.

May we be both stunned and awakened to the fact that Christ has instructed us on how to welcome Him. We have only to obey.

 

 

 

The Las Posadas song in English was from a website with resources for Las Posadas www.VenAdelante.org/posadas

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

galatians bewitched
Paul wrote to the church he had founded in Galatia, “Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3) In his absence, the church had started to follow some other form of the gospel other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, which they knew to be true. They were under a spell of false teaching and Paul had to break through the smoke and mirrors to reach them.
He began with questions. And so, I have a question for “Christian” trump supporters: what if you’re wrong?
In all of this profound disconnect between how you see things and how I see things; what if you’re wrong?
If I am wrong, then I backed the wrong horse and maybe over- reacted to some things based on my desire for justice and equality and how I try to follow Jesus. If I am wrong, and my desires for change and equality go unmet, I have to live with that. If I am wrong and I misjudged trump, then I will have to eat my words and watch for him to do the amazing things he has bragged he would do (although the price we’ve paid already for some of his decisions go beyond politics and economics for me.)
But if you are wrong…If you are wrong, then you have followed a hate-filled and corrupt man into decisions that harm millions of people. You have supported ideas that put “others” in a terrible position to be oppressed and mistreated. You have made a moral choice to abandon the call of the Gospel of Jesus and replace it with “America First.” You have taken the “golden rule” and transformed it into a “golden calf” that you worship instead of Jesus, because you see a more immediate pay-off.
You have chosen to believe that “nationalist” is suddenly good and not associated with fascist regimes like Hitler and Mussolini.
If you are wrong, you have given the okay for fear-mongers to tap into the distrust and violence which is always simmering just below the surface, and to whip white Americans into a violent frenzy.
If you are wrong, then you will bear the burden of knowing that you chose to hang on to an ideology that is shaped like a gun and you tried to fashion it into the cross.
What is this alchemy that you seem to embrace? What dark, magic arts are you employing? It is bewildering! How can you take a sexist, racist, dishonest, misogynist, failed businessman and turn him into a hero? Who has bewitched you? What “hocus pocus” is this?
The phrase “hocus-pocus” came to be some sort of magical incantation that fake magicians used to distract their audience from some trick they were doing. The origin of the phrase “hocus pocus” came from a mocking of the words used in the Latin mass during communion which say “Hoc est corpus meum,” This is my body.
Taking the power of the presence of Christ in communion and turning it into a joke and a mockery. The sleight of hand and distraction go on. The mocking continues as we watch those who would take the body of Christ and try to turn it into some political weapon to oppress and do violence to the least of these.
What if you’re wrong? What hangs in the balance for you? If you are not bothered at all by these questions, then I fear for and pity you most of all.

The Cheerleaders

thecheerleadersMarch 26, 2018

I’m thinking about cheerleaders today. On this Palm Sunday I’m thinking about the cheerleaders that lined the dusty streets as Jesus came through the gates into Jerusalem. The crowd, always ready for something to take their mind off the day-to-day. Willing, for the moment, to back this raggedy, back-woods, itinerant rabbi.

They waved their branches. “Hosanna!” they cried. “Save us!”

But when this Savior didn’t give them the military muscle they craved, their cheers turned to jeers. The crowd became a mob. The violence they needed was now turned toward the innocent, donkey-riding peacemaker.

No more “Hosanna!” By Friday they were screaming, “Crucify him!” They were mocking and spitting and taunting. And they had blood in their eyes.

I thought of some other cheerleaders today. These were the white, working-class mothers (pictured above) that John Steinbeck wrote about in his book “Travels with Charley.” These so-called “cheerleaders” lined the streets outside William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in November of 1960, as first grader Ruby Bridges was escorted into that recently desegregated school by U. S. Marshals. Norman Rockwell immortalized the moment in his painting “The Problem We All Live With.” (Click to view it here) https://goo.gl/images/tHDR8h

Ruby was the first African American to attend an all-white school there. She was six years old. And those “very fine people,” those southern, white ladies screamed vitriol and filthy obscenities that Steinbeck called “bestial and filthy and degenerate” at that beautiful child. Steinbeck wrote “In a long and unprotected life I have seen and heard the vomitings of demoniac humans before. Why then did these screams fill me with a shocked and sickened sorrow?”

I’m thinking about the cheerleaders now.

On Saturday, March 24th, 2018, when the wave of March For Our Lives crested across the United States, the cheerleaders washed up on the shore, like so much trash. Mocking and jeering and taunting. They are saying vile things to and about children who were terrorized and escaped a massacre. Like Steinbeck we are filled “with a shocked and sickened sorrow.”

But we shouldn’t be surprised, because this has been going on for a very long time. Screaming hate at innocents. People filled with violence. Can you imagine that the Lord of Life wanted to be part of this mess that we are?

He did! And on Easter Sunday, once again, we will be able to stake a claim on the new life Jesus offers to all! Not just in the by-and-by; but right now. Changed hearts! Swords (AR15s) beaten into plowshares! Love winning over hate! War hawks turned into doves! Life out of death!

Arise, my Love!

Refusing To Be Comforted

grieving-angel-statueFebruary 15, 2018
“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18
This scripture-within-scripture is originally found in Jeremiah 31:15, but in Matthew’s gospel it refers to the slaughter of the innocents. You know, that part of the Christmas story that we would rather not think or talk about. That part where innocent babies were slaughtered because of political posturing and a need for power. Yeah, we don’t want to talk about that.
So here we are again, watching the blood run and the families howl with inconsolable grief. And we see lots of social media posts with “thoughts and prayers” and “remembering the victims” and prayers of “Lord, keep our babies safe!” And we dare to cry, “How can this happen? How long, Lord?” And we have the gall to say, “Lord, do something!”
Jesus wept.
Jesus weeps and demands of us, “How long? How can this happen? DO SOMETHING!” I imagine that the families who grieve appreciate the thoughts and prayers, but I think that they hold no comfort for them. They are refusing to be comforted by thoughts and prayers when action is required. Take time for a moment of silence? Yeah, that’s great, but they are crying for us to take action.
In yesterday’s Ash Wednesday reading, Isaiah* the prophet brings a word that God is disgusted with the “fake fasting and mourning” of God’s people. Empty words asking for righteousness when we continue to practice unrighteousness.
The words, “our thoughts and prayers” taste like ashes in my mouth. The hand-wringing by the people in power who can (but don’t) end this horror, is enough to make me want to vomit. And I am venturing to guess that God is saying the same thing today he said to another prophet: “Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:23-24)
The shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14th was the 18th school shooting this year. Think about that.
When government officials say “unspeakable tragedy” they mean they don’t want to speak about common-sense gun control laws. Refuse to be comforted.
When the governor says this was an act of “pure evil” my stomach turns because what is pure evil is the fact that politicians don’t have the guts to say “enough!” to the powerful gun lobby. Refuse to be comforted.
When the mental health of the murderer is mentioned by the president but there is no mention of the fact that this administration did away with controls put in place previously to prevent people with mental health histories from getting weapons. Refuse to be comforted.
So, I am doing something. I have notified my representative to congress and my senators how I feel. I urge you to do the same. You can find them at the links below.
If you quote the second amendment to me, I will have a hard time talking to you right now. But I will. I will dare to have the conversations that we need to have to use our common sense and our compassion to see that this country stops being the greatest in the world—in the amount of school shootings and gun violence.
Pastor Sue Corley

Resistance

Jesus rebuking demon

Trump has chosen to mock those who disagee with him. He says we are resisting change and what is good for the country No. No, we are resisting fascism and an end to the noble idea of democracy. We are resisting you, Mr. Trump. We are resisting big business (big pharma, big oil, big sugar, big insurance) that rape the Earth and Her citizens. We are resisting ignorance that masquerades as patriotism and Christianity that wants to have all the power. Because true patriots want freedom and justice for ALL and true Christians know that bending to help the lowly is what God sees as greatness.

You may continue to trumpet away, but we have seen your like before. Those who call lies truth and who try to divide and conquer. The Herods who would do anything to hold onto their power and who hid behind a religious sect that they neither believed in nor cared about. Small children who threatened his power were annihilated. Not even his own children were safe in the end.

The Caesars who tried to maintain order with swords and crosses (or nuclear weapons and fighter jets.) They could maintain a peace, by force. But it was not true peace.
We have seen this before in Hitler who masqueraded as a unifier of Germany but proved to be a monster whose megalomania and narcissism caused the deaths of millions of innocent people.

History has seen you before. And God has dealt with your kind before. God is not mocked. Righteousness and peace will kiss, (Psalm 85) and the whole world will see it. The wilderness will be a highway for people to find the God of grace, mercy and love. No walls, just a level ground for ALL to be welcomed. And the world will see you for what you are.