Keep moving

Anguish grips my soul as events unfold in Gaza.

I am cautiously grateful for the cease-fire announced today. I have prayed for peace; now I pray the negotiations will succeed.

I have called on Congress to act for a ceasefire in Gaza and to pursue a lasting peace in Israel-Palestine.

I have contributed to UNRWA to support their work caring for Palestine refugees in Gaza. There are a number of other agencies responding to the needs of Palestinians and Israelis.

photo (71)I also read Izzledin Abuelaish’s book, I Shall Not Hate.

On January 16, 2009, Israeli shells hit Abuelaish’s home in the Gaza Strip. The devastating explosions killed three of his daughters and a niece. A Palestinian doctor, Abuelaish writes of his experience and his refusal to turn to hate and revenge. Faced with heartbreak unimaginable, he called for the peoples of the region to talk to each other and to build relations with each other that could serve as the basis for efforts that might lead to a just peace. Abuelaish lives his call.

As bombs and shells fell on Gaza; as rockets struck Israel; as Israeli tanks rolled and Israeli troops marched; as Palestinians emerged from tunnels; Abuelaish’s words carry a powerful poignancy and a deep urgency.

We use hatred and blame to avoid the reality that eventually we need to come together.

Hatred is an illness. It prevents healing and peace.

Peace is humanity; peace is respect; peace is open dialogue. I don’t think of peace as the absence of anything that just puts it in a negative light. Let’s be positive about what peace is–rather than what it is not.

We do not need to merely accept what is happening around us. We all have the potential to be agents of change.

I believe that Einstein was right when he said life is like riding a bicycle: to keep balanced, we must keep moving. I will keep moving, but I need you to join me in this long journey.

I give thanks for Izzeldin Abuelaish and all who keep moving on the long journey to justice and peace in Gaza and Israel and places around the world. I pray for the courage and strength to keep moving with them.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Books, Current Events, Human Rights

Stumbling on Grace: a new blog

LarissaThe Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills and vice-moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) launched a new blog: Stumbling on Grace.

Her reflections on these journeys should be well worth following. Check them out!

See you along the Trail.

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Stand Your Ground: On Marissa Alexander and Fear

W. Mark Koenig:

My friend Mihee Kim-Kort provides a theological reflection on Marissa Alexander and fear. “The only way I can make sense of those words is the thought of Jesus speaking us into that darkness. We’re the embodiment of those words, ‘Fear not.’” Mihee includes ideas for action. Good stuff as always. I am always grateful when I see a new post from her appear in my email. Yes. That is a gentle suggestion that you go to her blog and subscribe.

Originally posted on first day walking:

mary1

Henry Ossawa Tanneran, an African-American artist, painted The Annunciation in 1898

“What kind of body and performance can adequately represent “fear” in the US judicial system, or in our communities? And why is the proof of fear necessary to assert one’s right to defend one’s life? Racial justice, feminist anti-violence, and anti-prison/policing movements must take the implications of this ruling seriously in order to make their work more relevant to black women’s lives.” -From The Feminist Wire

I remember hearing once that the phrase “Fear not” is found hundreds of time in the Bible. Fear was clearly pervasive in that culture and time period – an oppressive government, economic disparities, and abuse from religious leaders – and then, Jesus comes along. Jesus, with his radical ideas about God’s kingdom and loving enemies, and all those wonderful miracles, Jesus, and his offering the possibility of change in their context, of course, of course, there would…

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Changing the question

IMG_5289 (800x533)Tricia and I headed up the Hudson River for the weekend. We stopped first at the Storm King Art Center. We opted to rent an audio guide.

As I looked at one sculpture, the narrator said , “People often ask, ‘Is it art?’ when they view our sculpture. We prefer the question, ‘Is it an experience?'”

Definitely a question to ponder. Something to carry to other venues.

See you along the Trail.

 

 

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In This Place

This is the manuscript I took into the pulpit at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church today. The preached sermon varied from the manuscript in some instances as the preaching event took place.

People often ask if I miss serving as a pastor in a congregation. I reply that I miss the community, the shared life. But I feel called to my work at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. I make mistakes; challenges and frustrations arise, but I believe I am where God has called me.

And then come those Sundays when I have the privilege to take part in the sacrament of baptism. And in the joy and wonder of the moment, I feel a tug to parish ministry.

Because I knew I would have that privilege this morning, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about children. Of course along with the filled expectation of the sacrament, this week has also brought tragedy and sorrow and hope.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Israeli children who listen for sirens and take refugee in bomb shelters.
Palestinian children killed upon a beach, under the crushing weight of collapsed homes, on the streets of Gaza.
Israeli and Palestinian children bound together in the violent spiral, not of their making, of occupation and resistance.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Nigerian girls abducted from schools and homes, wrenched from their families, held by a rebel group.
Children of Sudan’s Nuba Mountains who huddle in caves as bombs dropped by the government rain around them.
South Sudanese children whose stomachs knot from hunger and malnutrition that threaten their lives.
Syrian children caught in a chaotic cross fire.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children forced to carry guns larger than they are tall in combat.
Children who breathe air-filled with dust and sometimes toxic gases in mines for gold.
Children used, violated, and exploited.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children fleeing rape and gang recruitment and violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and parts of Guatemala who make their way to the United States to be placed in detention centers where they may experience cramped cells without enough food, beds, toilets or showers.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children who lost a parent when a plane went down over the eastern Ukraine.
Children with AIDS or whose parents have AIDS whose lives will be affected by the loss of the researchers and scientists on that plane.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children in our country whose lives are constricted and diminished by racism.
Children bullied because of their sexual orientation.
Children who know violence in their homes, their schools, and their communities.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

New babies, long-awaited, welcomed, cherished.
Children who receive encouragement, affection, support, and nurture.
Children who enjoy life, bring delight to friends, and share love with family members.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

And I have wept.
Sweet tears of joy and grace.
Hot, bitter tears of grief and pain and anger.
Purging, cleansing tears that have renewed my commitment.

And I have prayed.
For the circumstances that wound children.
For the children. By name when possible.

Prayer opens me to God.

Prayer also opens me to the children and circumstances for which I pray. It binds me to the children be they in Damascus or Detroit. It calls me to commit to act on behalf of the children for whom I pray.

Prayer makes and nurtures the relationships, key to pursuing justice. And prayer for justice and wholeness in one setting draws me out of myself to experience anew the connections between all forms of injustice. It reminds me of the interdependence of people and life. It transforms me as it leads me to pray—and then act—more broadly than I would have otherwise done.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

And I have advocated with government officials and others who are in positions to act to reshape realities for children.
And I have made contributions to groups caring for children in the United States and abroad.
And I have invited and challenged my family and friends to learn and pray and act.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

And I have come to this place, this sanctuary, this congregation.

I come to stand in community. For community is essential to confront the realities of the world. Only together can we stand against the forces that violate children; alone we cannot stand.

I come to sing songs, break bread, share the cup.

I come to celebrate with a family as they present their children for baptism. Affirming their faith in Jesus Christ in a world broken, fearful, and frightening. Proclaiming hope. Sharing love.

I come to remember the grace of God in Jesus Christ. In ways that may surprise us, frighten us, awe us, God is at work. Here. Now. In this community.

When I experience the presence of God, I join Jacob in his affirmation of wonder and faith: “Surely God is in this place — and I did not know it!”

And knowing that God is in this place, reminds me, fills me with hope that God in Jesus Christ is in all places. Even in places where heartache and horror seem strong; even in places where violations occur; even in places where people and relationships are most badly broken and fear and wrong seems strongest, God is at work.

In this place, I am reminded that God is at work in all places. And that sustains and challenges me to look for how God is at work and, as the Holy Spirit gives me grace, to join in that work.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Faith in God in Christ have put them there.

And in this place, God invites us all to join in caring for the children. The children of this congregation. The children of this community. All the children, all God’s children of the world. May we hear and respond.

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Best feedback ever?

She stopped me on my way to the door. The service had ended, coffee had been consumed. Others had eaten what appeared to be wonderful pasties. I had restrained.

I went to the table where a number of older members gathered and told them I looked forward to my next visit. As I turned to make my exit, she met me in the middle of the hall.

Pastor Pastor, you lead a very Amy Ray / Indigo Girls service.

Thank you …

My words must have sounded as tentative as my thoughts, because she quickly added:

You know. Liberal. Progressive. Creative. Almost poetic.

Thank you!

I shook her hand. My smile matched hers.

See you next time.

See you!

Guess what artist I played on my iPod riding back to the Shire.

See you along the Trail.

 

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Why I like New York 40: places to show friends

There is always something new to show friends who come to New York. Today, Grace Ji-Sun Kim and I went to Bryant Park. It was her first visit to the park. Great fun to see places in the city through first time visitors.

photo (78) (800x578)

 

See you along the Trail.

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