Tag Archives: justice

A prayer for the children

I sat to entertain myself, O God.

I smiled as the movie rolled,

and the story flowed.

Then the cannon balls began to fly

and the children began to cry

and cinematic illusion blurred with harsh reality.

I imagined shells falling on Mariupol,

drone attacks in Yemen,

bullets tearing flesh in Tigray

and always children cry.

“And how are the children?”

asks the Masai people.

God, you know.

In places the children are well.

In places the children are strong.

In places the children are safe.

But you also know, O God,

that in places,

too, too many places,

the children cry in terror,

cry in pain,

cry as loved ones suffer and die.

cry from hunger.

The children are not well.

in any conflict,

in every conflict,

the children suffer.

O God, in the name of Jesus,

who bade the children come to him,

I pray for the children of

Mariupol,

Yemen,

Tigray.

I pray for the children

caught up in every conflict and any conflict.

I pray for the children who cry.

Protect the children, O God.

Hear their cries.

Watch over them.

Guide the nations of the world

to end conflicts

and establish the justice

that leads to wholeness and peace

in which children may thrive.

Guide me to discern my part

to support such efforts.

I pray in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

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Filed under Current Events, Human Rights, Prayer

A prayer for peace

Again, God, we pray for peace.
Dona nobis pacem.
Still, God, we pray for peace.
Dona nobis pacem.
For the people of Ukraine, we pray.
Dona nobis pacem.
For the people of Russia, we pray.
Dona nobis pacem.
For the people of Europe, we pray.
Dona nobis pacem.
For the people of the world, we pray.
Dona nobis pacem.
For peace rooted in justice, we pray.
Dona nobis pacem.
Again, God, we pray for peace.
Dona nobis pacem.
Still, God, we pray for peace.
Dona nobis pacem.

23 February 2022

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It comes this night

It comes this night.

Faintly, 
ever so faintly,
it comes.

Above the roar
of anger and hatred,
Above the howl 
of prejudice and bigotry,

Above the maelstrom
of systems and structures,
Above the crash 
of violence and war,

Above the groan
of doubt and despair,
Above the dis-ease
of heartache and heartbreak

Above the tumult
of turmoil and trouble
Above the clamor
of struggle and strife

Above it all,
despite it all
because of it all,
it comes.

Faintly,
ever so faintly,
it comes.

A baby’s cry,
proclaiming
life and
love and 
justice and
peace and
hope,
this night
and all nights.

It comes.
Thank God, it comes.

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Home

A sermon on Luke 1:39-55
Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church
19 December 2021

From 2010 through 2016, I served as the director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church

Memories of precious people, painful international events, and amazing happenings swirl in my heart and mind.

Among my favorite memory is the moment I have come to call the good night ritual.                   .

Each night, I shut off my computer,
turned out the light,
and left the office.
I walked down the hall to the elevator
and pushed the call button.
When the cab arrived, I pushed “1” to go downstairs.
Hector would be there to see me out.
Always.
And always we spoke.
Sometimes we talked about weather or family.
Often, we talked sports. Conversations got interesting the week my Steelers beat Hector’s Jets.
After some conversation, I made for the door,
As I stepped across the hallway, I heard Hector’s final words:
always the same words,
always in the same, kind voice:
“Good night, Marko.
Get home safe.”

In Advent and Christmas, we think of home in many ways.

“Please Come Home for Christmas,” sings Aaron Neville.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” sings Oscar Peterson.[i]

Spoiler alert. If you have forgotten the ending of A Christmas Carol; if you have never seen It’s a Wonderful Life, I invite you to plug your ears for a moment. I will let you know when the spoilers are done.

After the visits of three ghosts in A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge sends a feast to Bob Cratchit’s home and then travels to celebrate at his nephew’s home.

After the visit of one rather ordinary angel second class, in the climactic moment of George Bailey’s renewal, he makes his way home. 

I see places I have lived at different times when I hear the word “home”.

Unique sights, smells, and sounds.

Home also recalls people. Beloved people. Family. Friends. Chosen family. Different in different homes. But always people.       

Home is a place.
123 Sesame St.
80 Main St., Apt. 23D

Home is people.

Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri observes that as a poor, unwed teenager, Mary was surrounded by dangers and uncertainty – both physical and societal. When she learned of her pregnancy, Mary sought a haven, a sanctuary, home.[ii]

Home for Mary was a place. The house of her relative Elizabeth.  Home was people. Zechariah was there. Silent, but there. More importantly, Elizabeth and the baby in her womb, were present.

They welcome and affirm Mary. And in a moment that Stephen Sondheim could have written, Mary breaks into a song. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The Magnificat. A song that has been set in many ways over the centuries, including the Canticle of the Turning which we will sing shortly.

The Magnificat holds together the grittiness of life on the margins, the resilient hope of those who trust in God, and the power to image a new way of living.

My friend the Rev. Margaret Aymer suggests that we need to revise our view of Mary. Rather than gentle Mary, meek and mild, Margaret says Mary is better seen as Jesus’ radical Jewish Mama. A woman full of strength and courage and hope. An alternative vision fires her imagination. God’s vision of justice, equity, and peace. This vision, sung in Mary’s song, no doubt found its way into the lullabies she sang to Jesus and the stories she told him. It shaped him. It guided his living. His words and deeds exemplify his mama’s song.[iii]

Consider, church: the Triune God – Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit or whatever formula you use – exists in relationship.

Made in God’s image, we are made for relationships. The late bell hooks reminds us of this when she says that healing is an act of communion. Rarely, if ever, she says, are any of us healed in isolation. Healing comes through relationships. Life comes through relationships.[iv]

We are made for each other. We are made for relationships of integrity, compassion, justice, equity, solidarity, accountability, responsibility, and love. We are made to be home to one another.

The village of Le Chambon in France provided sanctuary and home to Jews during the Second World War. Fleeing the monstrous, sinful evil of the Nazis, Jews would arrive in this Huguenot village. They made their way to the building we Presbyterians would call the manse. They knocked and were usually greeted by Magda Trocme with the words, “Welcome. Come in.” The process of creating home began. Years later, asked why their village and people became a sanctuary of home, Magda replied, “They knocked. What else could we do?”[v]

This theology – that God has made us and called us to be home for one another –  was shared by those who ran the Underground Railroad. It is shared by those who welcome refugees, who support citizens returning from incarceration, and who offer sanctuary to individuals and families at risk of deportation to the violence-filled places they have fled.

Whether they are running for their lives or they are buffeted and battered by life, we will encounter people in need of refuge, haven, and sanctuary. Through Jesus Christ, God who is love, God who is our sanctuary and home, empowers us to say, “Welcome. Come in.”

Part of what allows us to create home is God’s gift of imagination. Our shared humanity allows us to imagine the pain and the fear of people in need.

More importantly, our faith allows us to imagine our relatedness to the entire human family. Each child is our child. Every person created and loved by God is a person to whom we are bound by the unbreakable cords of God’s love.

Imagination is an act of faithful subversion in a world that tells us nothing will change. Things will always be the same. There is nothing we can do about it.

Not so, says imagination. Not so. There can be, there is, another way. Imagination is the root of joy. Imagination is the source of hope. When we dare to imagine that Jesus just might be on to something when he tells us to love one another; we take the first steps toward loving one another.

At home with Elizabeth, Mary’s imagination inspired her to break into song about what God has done, what God will do, and what God is doing. Mary’s song, Rachel Held Evans reminds us, declares that God has chosen sides. [vi]

God has chosen not narcissistic rulers or leaders, but an un-wed, un-believed teenage girl for the holy task of birthing, nursing, and nurturing God.

God has chosen not the powerful, but the humble.

Not the rich, but the poor.

Not the occupying force, but people pushed to the margins.  

God has made a home. That home, Jesus reveals, is among the people the world casts aside. Women. Children. The poor. Lepers. Samaritans. Tax collectors. Sinners. God’s home includes people of every sexual orientation and every gender identity, people living on the streets, people whose immigration papers do not match the government standards, people battling addiction, people dealing with mental illness, and anyone pushed aside by the culture of domination.

Any time we human creatures seek to keep some of God’s children out and we draw a line to exclude and we say, “you do not belong,” God wipes the line aside. “Hold my beer,” the Holy Spirit says, and she begins the patient, careful work of removing the line and welcoming all God’s children home.

Church, we know that does not happen quickly enough. We know people, too many precious people, are wounded in the time it takes God to erase the lines. That grieves us and God. But we also know that patiently, persistently God is at work. And God invites us to join that work.

In her defiant, prophetic, imaginative song, Mary—a dark-skinned woman who would become a refugee, a member of a religious minority in an occupied land—names this reality: God makes a home for and with those who have been driven to the margins by the powerful. And we are invited to meet God there on the margins and be welcomed home.  

During Advent, we journey home.

During Advent, we work to create home.

During Advent and always, may we journey and work with the stubborn, unsentimental hope of Jesus’ radical Jewish Mama – a woman so convinced the baby inside her would change everything, she proclaimed that:

The powerful have already been humbled;

The vulnerable have already been lifted up;

The world is turning;

And it is turning toward home.

Thanks be to God. Amen.


[i] Many artists have recorded both songs. The versions by Aaron Neville and Oscar Peterson were the first to appear in my iTunes Library.            

[ii] This comes from Vilmarie’s commentary on Luke 1:39-55 in the Sanctified Art Close to Home Sermon Planning Guide for this Sunday.

[iii] I found this image from the Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer a couple years ago. I can no longer find the source.

[iv] https://www.uua.org/worship/words/quote/healing-act-communion.

[v] The story of Le Chambon is told by Philip Haille in Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Chambon-sur-Lignon.

[vi] https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/unsentimental-advent.

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A prayer, September 11, 2021

Gracious God,
twenty years on
we remember.

We remember
your precious children killed in
New York
Washington, DC,
Shanksville.

We remember
your precious children killed in
Afghanistan
Iraq
and around the world.

We remember
death
wounded bodies
wounded spirits
wounded souls.

We remember
acts of terror
acts of valor
acts of violence
acts of peace.

We remember
fear
anger
hate
prejudice.

We remember
kindness
courage
grace
generosity.

We remember
people coming together to
reach out
weep
sing
embrace
care.

We remember
songs ended
songs gone
songs created
songs begun
songs lived
songs shared.

Remembering,
may we take bold, faith-filled, hopeful steps
to unlearn the ways of war and
turn to ways that might make peace between people;
to overcome fear of one another
and recognize the dignity and value of every person;
to seek understanding of suffering
and nurture the empathy needed to work to alleviate it; and
to walk the paths of love
that leads to peace and justice.

Remembering Jesus,
in response to your Holy Spirit,
we pray. Amen.

with thanks to Shannan Vance-Ocampo, Chris Shelton, leaders of the United Church of Christ and Come from Away

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Demand Justice for Kaysera Stops Pretty Places


Two years ago, 18-year-old Kaysera Stops Pretty Places (Crow) was murdered in Big Horn County, Montana. Since her murder, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office, and the Montana Department of Justice have done nothing to undertake a criminal investigation. We will not stand for this – law enforcement must be held accountable. Kaysera’s family, in collaboration with National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Sovereign Bodies Institute, Rising Hearts, Elite Feats, and Bethany Yellowtail, are advocating for justice in Kaysera’s name. Help demand #JusticeforKaysera by learning more and take action through the Kaysera website. Join NIWRC’s Twitter Storm on 9/9 and the Justice for Kaysera 5K/10K Virtual Walk/Run

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Human Rights

PC(USA) Week of Action – August 25

On Wednesday, Aug. 25, the PC(USA) Week of Action will turn its attention to the LGBTQIA+ community with events including a children’s story time and a poetry and story slam. The Week of Action is designed to bring attention and action to people and communities living under different forms of oppression.

Check out the schedule and watch the events at the Week of Action home page.

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Filed under Current Events, Human Rights, Louisville, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

PC(USA) Week of Action

From August 23-29, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will observe a Week of Action. The theme this year is “Shades of Oppression, Resistance and Liberation.” Each day will focus on a crisis or issue facing the people of the world. The week is evocative—it cannot cover every issue. The week also points to the breadth of resistance and liberation work being done by Presbyterians and our partners. Events will be both virtual and potentially in person.

All events will be livestreamed on the Week of Action web page where you can find the schedule with the times of the events (Eastern Daylight time). You are encouraged to watch the events live if possible. Livestreamed events will be presented in English, Korea, and Spanish. Events will be posted at a later date. There will be posts on PC(USA) social media – Facebook and Twitter.

Here is the scheduled of themes for the week:

Monday, August 23: Middle East … Our Peace

Tuesday, August 24: Vivencias Hispano-Latinas: Unidad en Cristo AND Systemic and Racialized Poverty

Wednesday, August 25: LGBTQIA+ Resilience

Thursday, August 26: No More Stolen Relatives: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit People

Friday, August 27: AAPI Resilience, Resistance, Power & Affirmation

Saturday, August 28: Black Lives Matter

Sunday, August 29: Gun Violence Response and Recognition

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Gun Violence, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

Resistance

“Resistance is the secret of joy,” writes Alice Walker (Possessing the Secret of Joy)

Perhaps, in a manner akin to a mathematical equation, the words could be reversed.
Perhaps, joy is a secret of resistance.

Joy is, at one and the same time, personal and communal.
Joy comes when communities and individuals are strengthened, nourished, sustained.
Joy comes when individuals and communities welcome and embrace one another in love.
Joy comes when communities and communities affirm all God’s children.
Joy comes when individuals and communities (including God’s whole creation) thrive.
Joy comes when communities and individuals experience well-being and wholeness.
Joy comes when individuals and communities love and practice kindness.
Joy comes when communities and individuals acknowledge evil and sin, repent, and seek repair, reparation, and justice.

To work for such joy is to reject the lies that we are made for enmity … the lies that we are made to “other” and fear and hate people from whom we differ … the lies that creation is ours to exploit … the lies of white supremacy and patriarchy and homophobia and all systems and structures of oppression.

To work for such joy is to resist.

“Resistance is the secret of joy.”

Joy is a secret of resistance.

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12 June 2021

Walking. Germantown.
The Greatest – Sia (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Hands – Various Artists
Love Make the World Go Round – Jennifer Lopez & Lin-Manuel Miranda
Pulse – Chakra Khan
Not Myself – Sharon Van Etten
Razade Mi Colores – Ricky Martin
I Know a Place – MUNA
Misirlou – Kumbia Queers
Here in Spirit – Jim James
Beautiful Strangers – Kevin Morby
Pulse – Mel Hsu
Antonio – Bruno Toro
God Bless the Children – TT the Artist
La Yuta – Dani Umpi
Pulse (The City Beautiful) – Zen Fuse Box
Pulse – Melissa Etheridge
I Am Orlando – Alejandra Ribera

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