Month: July 2014
Scripture: Isaiah 55:1-3
[The Lord declares:] “Come, pilule all you who are thirsty, unhealthy
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.”
Thought for the Day: One of the many things I have trouble understanding about our global culture is our unwillingness to share the planet’s resources. Why does everything have to be commoditized? Worse, why is there absolutely ZERO discussion about alternative economic systems? It’s a Capitalist world, no questions asked—no questions even allowed.
Yet, we clearly see that our ancestors imagined a world where all are welcome. In God’s world, from the Hebrew Bible through the stories of Jesus in the Second Testament, in the Qur’an, in messages from Buddha, and in every great religious and philosophical text that’s ever existed, the ultimate human world is a world without profit motive. It’s a world where we recognize the natural resources of the planet don’t belong to individuals and corporations, but rather are recognized as gifts from God for all humankind to share equally.
God invites everyone in for a drink and a bite to eat, and as beings created in God’s image, we are expected to do the same. Yet we create borders and turn people in need away, because there’s no profit in it.
If we truly want to see a peaceful, loving world, then we need to look past the superficial problems. The war in the Middle East isn’t about religion or borders. It’s about rampant Capitalism that creates uber-wealthy and uber-poor, just like unfettered Capitalism is doing here in the good ‘ol U.S of A. Unregulated Capitalism in a world that recognizes corporations as people (!) is the underlying evil, the great Satan causing all our woes. The only way to change the world is to change the underlying global economic system, and we already have good advice on what that system looks like in our holy texts. In my opinion, it’s beyond time to start following that very good advice.
Prayer: God of abundance, help us stop making excuses. Melt our hard hearts and eliminate our greed. Show us there is more than enough land and food in this world for every woman, child, and man. Give us the courage to destroy the evil economic systems we’ve created, and to replace them with a system of global justice and sharing in Your endless, magnificent abundance. After all, Good God, we are all Yours before we are Jew or Palestinian, Republican or Democrat, Russian or Ukrainian. We are all Your children simply looking for safe haven. Give us safe haven, God. Give it to us now. Amen.
Today’s “Daily Wonder” is from Rev. John Auer. Thanks, treat John!
From “Gathered at the River, pilule ” Denise Levertov:
As if the trees were not indifferent / A breeze flutters the candles but the trees give off / a sense of listening, of hush, The dust of August on their leaves . . . . The trees, / the trees are not indifferent. We intone together, Never again, we stand in a circle, / singing, speaking, making vows Remembering the dead / of Hiroshima, / of Nagasaki. We are holding candles: we kneel to set them / afloat on the dark river as they do / there in Hiroshima. We are invoking saints and prophets, / heroes and heroines of justice and peace, to be with us, to help us / stop the torment of our evil dreams . . . Windthreatened flames bob on the current . . . They don’t get far from shore. But none capsizes / even in the swell of a boat’s wake. The waxy paper cups sheltering them / catch fire. But still the candles sail their gold downstream. And still the trees ponder our strange doings, as if / well aware that if we fail, we fail also for them: / if our resolves and prayers are weak and fail / there will be nothing left of their slow and innocent wisdom, / no roots, / no bole nor branch, / no memory / of shade, / of leaf, no pollen.
Thought for the Day: There is no conceivable good served by war any more. We remember the only atomic bombings in the history of the world – the only destructive use ever of the very energy creating, sustaining, the universe, all of life in it. Remembering life is sacred work for us – Do this remembering me! Remembering life! Like Icarus we challenge the very sun – source and substance of all we are, and ever are part of. With nuclear weapons the fate of the world, our only Earth, lies literally in our hands – all of us in every nation subject to nuclear terror. It starts with us; it can end with us – for worse, for better. We can do something, somehow, somewhere, starting now. How do we begin to wonder, of every substantive choice we face, how am I, are we, about to affect the well-beings of all others everywhere we cannot see? . . .
Ringing bells, folding cranes, growing sunflowers, tasting ashwater – acts of remembrance, acts of resistance. God so loves the world as to risk fully God’s very own flesh and blood, body and soul – so that everyone who believes in the Child, and the Children of God, may not perish but find everloving life. No one anywhere in this world is worth any more, or any less, in the sight of God, than anyone else anywhere in this world. The radical availability and equality of the sacraments say so to us all the time. We are all in this, part of each other, together! Weapons of war are useless to God in us. How can we call Earth our home, and expect to disarm her, if we cannot, will not, even disarm the homes we live each day? If we will not disarm our own hearts and minds?
Prayer: We pray with the Ancient of Prophets among us, There is no peace because there are no peacemakers. There are no makers of peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war – at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake. (Fr. Daniel Berrigan) Still the candles, all of us, of every land, of every age, sail our gold upstream. Amen.
Scripture: Leviticus 19:33-34a
[God said] “When foreigners reside among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.”
Thought for the Day: There are 40,000 refugees at our borders right now. They are children escaping forced labor and addiction from the drug cartels we have pushed to their borders through our failed war on drugs, which has pushed the cartels to Central America. Yes, this is entirely our own doing. These children are being held in poor conditions, denied the right to a hearing to determine their refugee status, against the laws of our country, and worse, against the command of God to treat foreigners as native-born, with the love and respect we demand of each other.
A couple of weeks ago I quoted the plaque on the Statue of Liberty and asked what has happened to the values of this country. I could do the same with the Pledge of Allegiance, which ends with the line “with liberty and justice FOR ALL.” It seems to me we now live in a country with liberty and justice for none, or at best, the uber-wealthy few who can afford to corrupt the legal system (I won’t call it a justice system because there is nothing just about jailing minorities and keeping children from coming into our country, simply because they are children and minorities).
The last time I wrote about this, I was also taken to task by the conservative right who claim these children—again, I remind you these are children, are attempting to enter the country illegally. My response as a person of faith is that my God commands me to accept those who need help, unconditionally. I don’t care what the laws are. These children need help, they’ve come here to seek it, and we certainly have the resources to provide them the assistance they need. As Jon Stewart so correctly pointed out last night, when the country of Jordan, which has far fewer resources than the U.S., can aceept hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, then we, the wealthiest country on the planet, can help a handful of children.
Especially since it’s our fault they’ve had to leave their home countries in the first place.
Prayer: Compassionate and merciful God, PLEASE open the hearts of the hardened and heartless who so mercilessly demand we close our borders and our souls to Your children begging for our help. Amen.
God who loves us unconditionally,
fill our hearts with understanding.
Correct us when we err.
Enlighten us when we’re confused.
Feed us when we hunger for your Word.
Retune the souls of everyone in the world to your eternal frequency of love.
[PAUSE TO FEEL GOD’S RETUNING]
We know you are love, our dearest God,
and we know that we are created from love.
Set us on the path of love!
Help us change the channels
of hatred and fear
that possess this world.
[PAUSE TO FEEL GOD’S RETUNING]
Tune us into a new broadcast,
the lovecast of Your Spirit,
which fills us with compassion and mercy,
which provides us hope and fortitude,
which conforms us evermore
to the loving, enlightened image of the Christ,
in whose name we pray.
[PAUSE TO FEEL GOD’S RETUNING]
Thought for the Day: Pasternak lived through two world wars, the Russian revolution, and the terrors of the early Soviet Union. Yet through it all his work remained full of hope that at least one human being would always act decently. Most of the time, he was that human being.
In the West, many of us are only familiar with Pasternak through his novel Doctor Zhivago. However, he was a prolific author and translator of works by Shakespeare, Goethe and others. He wrote volumes of poetry, experimented with form, rhythm, and style, and often managed to hide revolutionary messages in texts purposefully written for regular folks like you and I. In this way, Pasternak echoed many biblical authors, who also wrote in a sort of code, encouraging believers to rally against the evil powers of Imperialism in all its forms—even while those Imperialists read the same texts and saw no threat whatsoever.
Pasternak was devastated by the broken promises of Lenin and Stalin, and often commented that he wished the Russian people would have been able to remove Stalin from office after World War II. He remarked, “If, in a bad dream, we had seen all the horrors in store for us after the war, we should not have been sorry to see Stalin fall, together with Hitler. Then, an end to the war in favor of our allies, civilized countries with democratic traditions, would have meant a hundred times less suffering for our people than that which Stalin again inflicted on it after his victory.” It’s no wonder he received hate mail for much of his life, especially after dealing with Western publishers in the 1920s. His work was derided and the Soviet Union attempted to discredit him, yet he persevered as a voice for truth and justice.
Such is the duty of all humans: to act with a sense of moral responsibility to each other, a responsibility that demands we act as compassionate, loving beings who put others first, above our own desires. It is in compassion that we truly find our humanity. Without compassion, without a sense of responsibility for each other’s well being, we might as well simply be emotionless automatons, cogs in the machinery of cold consumerism, mindlessly buying and selling ourselves into certain oblivion.
This need not be our fate, but I wonder now where our single, simply decent human might be hiding?
Prayer: Turn us into the caring, compassionate beings exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ, God who is everything, God who changes everyone, God who I pray turns us all into simply decent human beings. Amen.
Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:5
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Thought for the Day: I have to confess, discount I’m a little sad today. It occurred to me as I watched Bill Maher recently that Atheism is quickly becoming the new American religion. Now, unhealthy I like Bill—a lot. He’s a master of pointing out ludicrous double standards and bone-headed maneuvers in both politics and organized religion. And while I understand it’s difficult for 21st Century, there post-modern, post-enlightenment, scientifically minded people to believe in an all-powerful creative force, the hubristic levels to which we’ve taken our own self-worth are obviously foolish and destructive. Do I need to mention the Middle East? Or Syria? Or Congress? I don’t put a lot of hope in humans to suddenly turn the other cheek, join hands, and sing Kum Ba Yah around the campfire.
Of course, there’s no way to prove or disprove the existence of God, which is why belief in God is called faith. My faith in God’s existence gives me hope that there is a more intelligent, more loving, less bone-headed force of some sort in the universe. I don’t know if God is a being or an energy flow, or even if God is conscious, and it doesn’t matter. Those are fun questions, but ultimately pedantic. What matters to me is my deep faith that humankind is being transformed from within. I think that part of the reason we act so horrifically is because we’re resisting an evolutionary change from selfish, greedy, frightened primates to enlightened, empowered, egalitarian beings of the loving light of God.
So when Bill mentions he’s an Atheist and the audience goes wild, I feel my heart sink to the pit of my stomach. If we no longer believe in God, where do we find hope? Where do we find encouragement to push back against the systems that oppress us? Without God, what unites us as humans, free of the shackles of nationalism, capitalism, and even religion? We may need to transcend all the borders we’ve created, including those too often erected by organized religion, but does that really mean we need to throw away our hope that God is a loving energy, constantly at work, conforming our hearts to love, rather than fear? God, I hope not.
Prayer: I love You, God who first loved me, and I pray that others will come to know Your unconditional love and be transformed from fear-war mongers into the magnificent, loving beings of light which is our true birthright. Amen.
Scripture: Hebrews 13:1-2
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Thought for the Day: Paul was such a utopian optimist. He gets a pretty bad rap these days because his letters are all read out of context. But when you really spend time with Paul, you begin to see this hopeful, almost childlike nature that permeates his writing. He constantly asks people to love each other. He begs them to be hospitable to each other, no matter where they’re from, regardless of social standing (or lack thereof) or what their religion was before becoming part of the Christian community.
For Paul, Christianity is less about dogma (although he can certainly be dogmatic) than it is about community. Paul believed that God through Jesus created a completely new world, and now everyone that lives in it is expected to act differently. No longer are we to assume the corrupt, selfish, self-defeating, barrier-building, violent limits of secular society. Now, in Christ, we are free and equal children of God. Paul expects us to act accordingly, with hospitality and grace to everyone, no exceptions.
I’ve experienced this hospitality when I’ve traveled abroad. From Nicaragua to Turkey, from France to Hong Kong, I’ve encountered the most welcoming and friendly people. Many invited me to stay in spare bedrooms for as long as I liked. I’ve also traveled all over the U.S., and that sort of invitation has rarely been extended. As Rev. Auer said in yesterday’s Daily Wonder, Americans are too busy locking themselves behind gated communities to extend the hand of friendship to a stranger.
For a country founded on welcoming the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, we’ve gone a long way toward literally walling ourselves off from our neighbors. On our borders right now, thousands of children sit in detention centers because this country is no longer hospitable to strangers. I understand the sudden influx of so many young people is a strain on the system, but is deportation really the only answer? Don’t we as a country have a moral obligation to care for the needy? Don’t we people of faith have an obligation to God to care for others the way God cares for us?
Paul never lived to see his utopian vision come to fruition, but he believed with his entire being that a new, just, equitable, loving and compassionate world was just around the corner. I imagine his heartbreak were he to look around the world today, and come to the realization that unfortunately, the Roman Empire might not have been so bad after all.
Just to remind us who we used to be, here’s the inscription from the Statue of Liberty, a poem entitled “The New Colossus.”
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”
cries she with silent lips. “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!”
—Emma Lazarus, 1883
Prayer: God of compassion, I beg you to eliminate our suspicion of strangers. Infuse our souls with Your love, which overcomes all fear. Remind us that, no matter our country of origin, our real beginning is with You, our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. Redeem us now, Lord, and save the world from constant war, hoarding of Your resources; from terrorism and abuse. We pray in the name of the One who shows us all, no matter our religion, what a compassionate, loving, human being looks like, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today’s devotional is by John Auer. Thanks, medical John!
Today’s Quote: Sr. Joan Chittister, from “Does Anything Matter?”
Of what are we really capable as a nation if the considered judgment of politicians and people around the world means nothing to us as a people? What is the depth of the American soul if we can allow destruction to be done in our name and in the name of “liberation” and never even demand an accounting of the costs, both personal and public, when it is over?
We like to take comfort in the notion that people make a distinction between our government and ourselves. We like to say that the people of the world love Americans, they simply mistrust our government. But excoriating a distant and anonymous “government” for wreaking rubble on a nation in pretense of good requires very little of either character or intelligence.
What may count most, however, is that we may well be the ones Proverbs warns when it reminds us: “Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the ones who speak the truth.” The point is clear: If the people speak and the king doesn’t listen, there is something wrong with the king. If the king acts precipitously and the people say nothing, there is something wrong with the people.
It may be time for us to realize that in a country that prides itself in being democratic, we are our government. And the rest of the world is figuring that out very quickly.
Thought for the Day: As disciples we lower a little heaven from above. As citizens we raise a lot of hell from below. “Prophetic religion” speaks truth to power, irrespective of party, in behalf of God’s commitment to the last and least among us. When the church or faith communities let go of our share of responsibility for the public life, the vacuum is filled, largely and, especially today, by corporations – many of whom own their own politicians!
Religiously as Protestants, and politically as Americans, we are creatures of Reformation and Revolution – born to rebel and resist against gross concentrations of power and wealth that disenfranchise and disinherit broad segments of people. How do we choose between a frontier-like libertarian “freedom from,” especially from all-purpose devil “government,” and a more garden-like communitarian “freedom for” one another?
We remain a youthful nation with much to learn, about ourselves, as well as from and with others. A certain arrogance of ignorance about others tempts us to confide only in and convince only ourselves of our “divine right” to self-interest and self-protection. Are we free for responsibility and right relations with those who share our nation and world? Or are we stuck in a lonely mode of reaction and retrenchment, fear and frustration, divided and conquered, hiding behind walled borders and gated communities?
Prayer: Thou of Fierce Interdependence with your world and with us – we would co-imagine, we would co-create, a future far beyond armies and armaments, free of all might making right. In the one who teaches to die, not to kill. Amen.