Tag Archives: Sudan

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

A prayer on a day of grief

Famine stalks the Horn of Africa.
A bomb and gunfire rip Norway.
Violence wracks Malawi and Syria.
Rapes are perpetrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Atrocities are suspected in Southern Kordofan.
Human rights are denied in Madagascar, Peru, and Colombia.
Weak and vulnerable people are exploited and abused in the United States.
In places and situations that fail to make the headlines,
people are violated; God’s creation is abused.
Yet we continue to trust the good news:
that peace will prevail; that good will overcome evil;
that love is stronger than death; that God will have the final word.
And so we pray:

Gracious God,
the hurts of the world are legion,
the wounds of your beloved children exceed our counting.
Our spirits sag,
our hearts ache,
we grow weary.
Pour your Holy Spirit afresh upon us:
renew us
revive us
sustain us
guide us
for the living of these days and
for the loving of one another
we pray in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

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A prayer for Sudan

I usually keep my work and personal blogs separate.
But the situation in Sudan weighs on me. So I offer a prayer – a prayer I wrote for a call to prayer issued by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):
Come Holy Spirit, come to the people of Sudan.
Come Holy Spirit, break the hold of violence.
Come Holy Spirit, draw the people together.
Come Holy Spirit, lead the people in paths of peace.
Come Holy Spirit, guide the people to establish justice.
Come Holy Spirit, come to the people of Sudan.
 
By God’s grace, may it be so. Amen.

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Watch, pray and weep

We watch,
we pray,
we weep.

As blood flows,
society implodes,
agony unfolds,
and the pile of corpses grows.

We watch,
we pray,
we weep.

We call the international community
to move
to intervene.

We watch,
we pray,
we weep.

We give to humanitarian causes
who raise the alarm
and count the bodies.

We watch,
we pray,
we weep.

It is not enough
never is it enough,
but it is all we have,

So though our
heart breaks,
our spirits recoil,
our stomachs retch,
we turn not away.

We watch,
pray,
and weep.

16 June 2011
Shire on the Hudson
As reports of violence in Sudan mount

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A prayer service with the people of Sudan

The clear highlight of the day was the blessing of participating in a prayer service with the people of Sudan. Here is a reflection originally written for Swords into Plowshares, the blog of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

Remember.

The interfaith group who gathered today in the Tillman Chapel at the Church Center for the United Nations to pray with the people of Sudan in anticipation of the referendum on self-determination in Southern Sudan did that.

Remember.

Times and places when people made hard decisions and peace prevailed were named.

Remember.

The violence and the pain, the death and the suffering, faced by the Sudanese people through the years, was recalled as was their courage and grace, hope and faith.

Remember.

Participants held pictures of people from Sudan as reminders of those for whom prayers were said – those with whom prayers were said – for the people of Sudan are and have been and will continue praying in the days through the referendum and its implementation and beyond.

Remember.

Re-member. Bring the members back together. The members of the human family. In Sudan. Around the world. All the human being tribe.

Remember.

“You are not forgotten. We remember your names.” The song echoed off the chapel walls and guided the participants from the chapel to the Isaiah Wall in the cold and snow.

Remember.

Large snow flakes and the swirling wind made it impossible to light the candles the participants carried even though they could not extinguish the candles of hope and love and faith that are lit in human minds and hearts and spirits.

Remember.

As the service closed, the participants together recited the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

May it be so. For Sudan. For us all.

See you along the Trail

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Another day, another trip

Flew back to NYC (Shire East) from Louisville (Shire West) late this evening after a day of meetings.

The meetings went well. I watched Whiteout upon returning. An OK escape, but nothing profound. It seems to winding down, I will see if I figured it out. Not sure I have been paying enough attention to be sure about my suspicions.

Tomorrow is the interfaith prayer service for Sudan. There are signs of hope . . . may they come true.

See you along the Trail.

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Looking forward to the return

I have not been posting as often as I hoped. I am still fighting with a cold.

Here’s one that I originally posted over on Swords into Plowshares:

There are two broad foci to the mission of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations:

  • Inspiring and equipping Presbyterians to live as disciples of Jesus in the global neighborhood
  • Bearing witness for peace and justice in the community of the United Nations, based on policy statements of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Of course these foci are essentially and inextricably intertwined as events today affirmed.

Wellshire Seminar October 14, 2010 001 A group of about twelve Presbyterians from Wellshire Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado visited the office this morning. They were the first group of Presbyterian visitors that I had the privilege and joy to host.

As the Presbyterians from Denver gathered in our large conference room, a delegation of church leaders from Sudan met in our small conference room. The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations helped with their visit based on long-standing Presbyterian involvement with our Sudanese sisters and brothers in Christ and on many statements of the General Assembly calling Presbyterians to work for and pray for a just peace in Sudan.

The Rev. Ramadan Chan, Secretary General of the Sudan Council of Churches, graciously agreed to speak with the Wellshire group.

He shared about the concerns that he and his colleagues share for their beloved country and the impending referendum in southern Sudan. He reiterated their view that violence and war might break out but it is not inevitable – that peace is possible if the nations of the world act swiftly and decisively to support peace and a fair and transparent referendum.

The Rev. Chan explained that he and the other church leaders from Sudan had two primary purposes for their visit. The first is to sound the alarm. They have done that in London with leaders of the United Kingdom. They are doing that in New York with the international community through meetings with Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, national missions at the United Nations, and international organizations and programs. They will do that in Washington, DC next week with leaders of the United States.

Their second purpose is to meet sisters and brothers in the churches of the United States – so we will know their story – we will hold them in prayer – we will advocate with our government.

Wellshire Seminar October 14, 2010 007 When the Rev. Chan had finished, we joined in prayer led by the Rev. Chan and the Rev. Patricia Kitchen of Wellshire Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Chan then left for a lunch engagement.

We talked a bit more about the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and about ways that our lives as disciples of Jesus intersect with the work of the United Nations . . . through the season of prayer for Sudan, prayers for United Nations Day, participation in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, and the Red Hand Campaign to end the use of children as soldiers were discussed.

Our time ended with an invitation to Wellshire Presbyterian Church to return for a seminar at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. Looking forward to that day!

Photos by Ricky Velez-Negron of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

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