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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Filed under Current Events, New York, Worship

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.

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See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Friends, New York, Photo

Homes

Thoughts of home have filled my last few days.

Or perhaps I should say thoughts about the many homes I know.

video showing clips of movies filmed in Pittsburgh and a photo posted by my friend Mihee Kim-Kort about her family’s recent road trip, reminded me of the home where I grew: Neville Island.

I realized that no matter how much I like New York, where I now live; no matter how much I like Louisville where I spent ten years and where I make many trips for work; no matter how much I like Cleveland Heights where Tricia lives now and we raised our family; no matter how much, and most days how much means a great deal, I will always, always, always bleed black and gold.

S is for SnowBut this week also saw our ministry host a group from First Presbyterian Church of Albuquerque, New Mexico. And in our conversations I found myself longing for Ghost Ranch and Northern New Mexico, the home of my soul, the place where, every time I visit, I know I belong in a way like I belong in no other place on the planet.

Home of my childhood.

Home of my family.

Home of transition.

Home of the present.

Home of my soul.

All precious places. All blur together.

I give thanks for my homes and I pray and work for the day when all people have a safe place to call home.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Cleveland Heights, Family, Louisville, New York

Purple flowers: guest collection #8

2014-07-08 14.40.41 (600x800)

8 July 2014
Dublin, Ireland

Joel Hanisek

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Filed under Friends, Photo

Purple flowers: guest collection #7

2014-07-08 14.40.29 (600x800)

8 July 2014
Dublin, Ireland

Joel Hanisek

 

 

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Filed under Food, Friends

Get in the swim … or the walk

congoswim_flyer_8.5_x_11_jpeg_medium350Last summer, I took part in the CongoSwim, I did not swim. I walked. On a warm, sunny Louisville day, I walked 22,000 steps. 1,000 steps for each mile across Lake Tahoe where the organizers swam.
Participants and donors made it possible for five women and youth-led groups in the DR Congo to receive grants. The Who We Support page contains information about the work the groups are doing for lasting peace and a future free of violence against women and children.
A CongoSwim will take place again this summer. I will take part. I will walk again. I have not determined how far or where or when, but I will walk.
I invite you to show your support this summer by doing at least one of the following:
  1. Register a summer activity - CongoSwim has expanded beyond swimming and participants are even dedicating their summer-long fitness goals and BBQs with friends
  2. Click DONATE to make a tax-deductible donation
  3. Encourage a child to participate by sharing the FOR KIDS page
  4. Join the August 15 Lake Tahoe Relay (youngest swimmer is 8 and oldest is over 70!)
  5. Sign-up for the August 23 CongoSwim Lake Merritt Walk
  6. Like CongoSwim on Facebook

Get in the swim … or the walk … or support the effort in some other way.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Current Events, Exercise, Human Rights, United Nations