Words in a Time of Plague and Peril

Off the rollercoaster and into the train wreck

of wars and rumors.

I am so pissed, I could spit.

Or should I say, “my heart is in tumult?”

I read the Psalms and I curse the wicked

(do not fret…yeah right!)

I wait for the Lord to smite! Smite! SMITE!

Destroy the wicked who steal, kill, and destroy.

Peace, like precious time slips away

and will not come back.

I feel myself a vapor in the wind.

I long to be a tree planted by steams of living water.


Help us to count our days (and make our days count.)

To know our finitude.

If the ashes on my forehead don’t do it,

surely this chemo port scar will.

(Inspired by Psalm 90:3-13)

Good Trouble

This weekend begins a six-day memorial ceremony to honor Representative John Lewis. The great civil rights icon died on July 17, 2020; my 62nd birthday.  A military honor guard will take his body across the infamous Edmund Pettus (hopefully soon to be John Lewis) Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The bridge is where Lewis received a skull fracture from police that could have ended his life on that Bloody Sunday of March 7, 1965. But God had much more to do for this “troubler” before calling him home.

Lewis himself estimated that he had been arrested over forty times. As a “freedom rider” he was also beaten by white people (civilians and law enforcement) who couldn’t believe the audacity of a black man who thought that all people were created equal and should share in the freedom to sit together at “whites only” lunch counters, waiting rooms, and bus stations. He was left for dead after a beating in a bus station in Montgomery, Alabama. Lewis’ drive and tenacity are almost super-human. You can read some of the details of his unbelievable story here: Wikipedia article on John Lewis

In my quiet time with God today, I was reminded that, like all prophets, Lewis was seen by those who wield power unjustly as a “trouble maker.” It reminded me of the prophet Elijah who called out wicked king Ahab in 1 Kings 18. When Ahab saw Elijah coming to challenge him he said, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” Elijah reminded him that it was Ahab who was troubling Israel, by abandoning God and following false idols. Elijah then challenged Ahab and his armies to a seemingly impossible battle. And of course, Elijah proved God right and just by calling fire from heaven on Mount Carmel. And the price on his head for what he had done soon sent him fleeing to another mountain.

Scripture is full of “troublers” like John Lewis and Elijah. The apostle Paul lists numerous arrests and beatings at the hands of authorities on his resume. Jesus himself was the biggest “troubler” of all to the powers of empire. His non-violent resistance to the “powers-that-be” resulted in his arrest and murder at the hands of the religious and government authorities.

John Lewis said, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” His legacy in the fight for civil rights, along with others like Martin Luther King, Jr., is a challenge to us today. Both men were preachers of God’s word and both were “good trouble” makers. It is on us to decide what kind of “good trouble” we will get into. As I drew and contemplated today, I am asking myself; how much are we willing to speak out, step out, and challenge the powers that continue to oppress and degrade our fellow brothers and sisters of color? How much discomfort, or even danger, are we willing to risk on behalf of those whose voices are being ignored, drowned out, or denigrated? I hope we choose a little “good trouble” to honor John’s legacy.

Watch the service here: John Lewis Service live stream







acd9ef55-8d39-426c-97f7-fae62497abeaAll this flag waving 

and baby saving 

has got me asking a question:

How can you love an embryo 

But not a 3-year-old 

That got torn from his mother? 


How can a mass of cells

Be more urgent to protect

Than children in massive cells; 

Suffering, dying from neglect? 


Oh, I know; when the heart beats-

That’s where life begins 

But, I’m confused. 

Those children sleeping in aluminum sheets;

They have beating hearts too. 


No cause can be higher: 

We read Psalm 139.

Protect them in the womb!  

But they are all God’s knitting. 

Don’t we also rescue them from their chain-link tomb

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.
Continue reading “St. Stephen’s Day”

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