Tag Archives: violence

Disrupt and dismantle

Killings motivated by racism at the Kroger where I shopped when I lived in Louisville.

Killings motivated by anti-Semitism at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, where I have never lived but claim as home because it is more recognizable than the nearby small towns where I did live.

Pipe bombs sent to public figures, putting at risk the intended recipients and everyone who came near the packages.

Words do not pull the trigger on guns. Words do not build explosive devices. But words create an atmosphere in which some people think it is somehow acceptable to build and send bombs and shoot guns. When we hear words that express hate or stoke violence, we need to find ways to respond.

Racism. Anti-Semitism. White supremacy. Patriarchy. Homophobia. Ableism. May we find ways to disrupt and dismantle these and all systems that divide us and distort our living.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Gun Violence, Louisville, New York

Lent 2017, day 7

“… before we arrive at Holy Week, we spend time in the wilderness with Jesus. We reflect on the violence that surrounds too many places in our nation and the world. We sit with the Belhar Confession, and we can contemplate Belhar’s origins from South Africa during the violent rule of apartheid. In the midst of the violence struggle for dignity and justice, the church took a stand to say that love conquers all.”
Joseph Kinnard
Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar

Where human dignity is violated,
where violence reigns,
where systems perpetuate injustice,
may we proclaim love;
difficult as it is,
may we, may I,
proclaim love.
may I, may we,
live love.

This Lenten season I am using a new resource to explore the Belhar Confession: Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar, edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in which I serve as a teaching elder (pastor), added the Confession of Belhar to our Book of Confessions in 2016. This confession came from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

See you along the Trail.

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Heavy, aching, longing heart: Officer Ramos and Officer Liu

The brutal killing of Officer Rafael Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu of the New York Police Department shocks and angers me.

I grieve for Officer Ramos and Officer Liu. I grieve for their families who encounter empty spaces in their homes and have holes ripped in their hearts. I grieve for the comrades of Officer Ramos and Officer Liu. I grieve for their friends. I grieve for every police officer and every family member who wonder and worry during each shift if they will come home. I give thanks for the service provided by Officer Ramos and Officer Liu, beloved children of God.

Violence, all violence, is unacceptable. It solves nothing. It breeds more violence.

With a heavy heart, I pray for Office Ramos and Office Liu; for their families, their friends, their comrades

With an aching heart, I pray that all people might turn from violence.

With a longing heart, I pray for transformation.

See you along the Trail.

 

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A prayer for #NMOS14

10604510_1455047228107493_7131459021695901671_oIn response to the killing of Michael Brown and others, people will gather in solidarity across the country on Thursday, August 14, to hold vigils and observe a moment of silence to honor victims of police brutality. Find information about a National Moment of Silence 2014 near you.

For those who are called to prayer at such a time, Mihee Kim-Kort and I offer the following for you to use or adapt or take as a starting point to create a completely different prayer:

Gracious God,
With breaking hearts and aching spirits, we turn to you.
God, have mercy.

Another violent death has torn your human family.
God, have mercy.

Another person of color,
another of your beloved children,
killed too soon.
God, have mercy.

Families, friends weep.
Communities question and rage.
God have mercy.

Have mercy, God.

Guide us
to see each person,
to value each person,
to treat each person,
as your beloved child.

Help us
to remake systems that diminish, divide, deny, and degrade,
to establish and enforce policies of accountability,
to turn from violence,
to end state-sanctioned police brutality and antiblackness.

Draw us together
to allow justice justice to roll like waters,
to permit righteousness to flow like everlasting streams,
to wash over all your children.
All your children.

This day and every day.

With breaking hearts and aching spirits, we turn to you.
God, have mercy.
Amen.

 

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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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The light of love

Satpal Singh, chairperson of the World Sikh Council – American Region, recently published a reflection in response to the September 21 attack on Dr. Prabhjot Singh. His article, entitled, “Our Resolve in the Face of Terror and Hate,” tells of the work of Dr. Singh for a better community and analyzes the nature of hate crimes.

Such crimes are attacks against a person or a particular place. They are also attacks against a whole community. Satpal Singh puts it this way:

Beyond the death of innocents, their ‘victory’ lies in shaking the foundation of a free society. It manifests in a sense of fear in the society, with everyone looking over his or her shoulders. It manifests in a sense of suspicion of others, including neighbors, especially of those who look different. And even more perniciously, the terrorist victory lies in creating hate among people, and heightening the divisions within a society.

We deny hate its victory when we control our suspicions, build community, and overcome fear with love. Dr. Singh demonstrates this in his response to the attack he endured as reported by The Times of India:

“If I could speak to my attackers, I would ask them if they had any questions, if they knew what they were doing. May be invite them to the gurdwara where we worship, get to know who we are… Make sure they have an opportunity to move past this as well.”

Satpal Singh expresses a similar resolve and vision:

May God enlighten the attackers and bring peace and understanding to their mind. Let the light of love pierce through the clouds of hate and illuminate our hearts with universal love and harmony.

God made this world a wonderful place for all of us to live in peace and happiness. Let us not allow the terrorists to undermine the house of God.

Amen.

See you along the Trail.

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A prayer for South Sudan

An earlier post focused on participating in a National Day of Prayer with the people of South Sudan in response to the violence that has plagued their country since independence and that continues to tear at the fabric of society and the people. Here’s a prayer that I wrote for that day:

God of grace, God of justice, God of peace,
you create us to live together,
to honor and respect one another.
Hear us as we pray for South Sudan.

With our sisters and brothers,
we give thanks as they celebrate their independence.

With our brothers and sisters,
we pray for your presence and guidance
as they seek to live together.

Comfort all who mourn the death or injury of loved ones.
Keep safe the Reverend Idris Joshua Idris Nalos and Pastor Trainee David Gayin and all who are detained and their families.
Speed the day when they will be released.

Protect the women who are targets of sexual violence
the children and the most vulnerable.

Grant all your children
the grace to see each other as sisters and brothers
and the courage to turn from violence and  break cycles of vengeance.

Renew within the leaders of South Sudan
the vision for a just and peaceful country
that leads to the wisdom to govern wisely.

Provide the leaders and peoples of South Sudan with
strength to work for justice for all;
passion to seek reconciliation and peace;
and all that is needed for the living of these days.

God of grace, God of justice, God of peace,
you create us to live together,
to honor and respect one another.
Bless South Sudan and her people,
we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

See you along the Trail.

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