Tag Archives: welcome

21 Dec #Sign #AdventWord 2018

21 December #sign

The Advent devotional project, #AdventWord  is offered by the Society of St John the Evangelist. Each day a word is provided and participants are invited to share images and/or reflections and to use hashtags so our reflections may be included in an Advent Calendar with others from around the world.

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Never forgotten

We, or at least I, often never know the impact we, I, have on one another. Sometimes all it takes is showing simple kindness and decency.

She moved across the hall, clearly intent on talking to me before the meeting began. Although it had been years, I recognized her. She had taken part in a group working on prison-related issues. I had been the staff to the group. I recognized her. But I could not recall her name.

“Do you remember me?” she asked before we had a chance to shake hands.

I answered truthfully. “I do. But I am sorry, I don’t recall your name.” I took her hand.

She smiled and told me her name. I smiled back.

“I will never forget you,” she said.

I shifted my weight, a tad uncomfortable.

“I came to you with my husband in prison. In prison for murder. Murder he had done.”

I shook my head in agreement.

“I asked if I would be welcome at the group you were with. That group working on prisons and prisoners. I was nervous, so nervous, because my husband was guilty. I felt alone, so alone. I could not find a place to talk about my husband and what he faced. Not in my church. Not in my community. I was desperate for support. I thought that group might be a place. But I was scared. Scared they would not want me either. But I was more scared of being alone. I finally got up my courage and asked you.”

“I remember,” I replied. Somehow my throat had become dry all of a sudden.

Tears pooled in her eyes.

“And do you remember what you said?”

She did not give me a chance even to nod. “You did not hesitate. You said, ‘Of course you would be welcome.’ And then you said, ‘If anyone has a problem with me being there you would speak with them.'”

“I did,” somehow I scratched the words out. Her tears flowed freely.

“It turned out that no one had a problem. I found a place I could tell my story freely and where people accepted me and loved me. I found a family in that group. They stood by me and they stood with me when my husband died in prison. They were wonderful. But none of that would have happened without you. None of that would have happened without your kindness to me. I will never forget you. God bless you”

The dryness of my throat was exceeded only by the wetness of my cheeks. And since words would not come, I did what I rarely do, I opened my arms and offered a hug.

And we hugged and wept together for a holy moment.

When I regained control of my voice I said, “Thank you for telling me. I am sorry about your husband’s death.”

“He was a good man. He had his flaws. And one big one. But I did love him.”

I smiled. “I knew that every time you talked about him.”

She scuffed the floor a bit. “When I saw you tonight, I had to tell you. I will never forget you.” We shook hands, smiled, and went our separate ways.

I have never seen her since that night.

But I have never forgotten her.

See you along the trail.

 

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Filed under Cleveland Heights, Friends

I choose the way of life

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has apparently urged students, staff and faculty at his Christian school to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon on campus. The purpose seems to be protection in the event of an attack.

“Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” Falwell reportedly said.

This from a man who purports to follow Jesus who told Peter to put away his sword.

But Falwell further appears to have added an Islamphobic remark.

“I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” Falwell said.

Donald Trump issued a call to bar Muslims from entering the United States.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” a campaign press release reportedly said.

This from a man who claims to follow Jesus who continually crossed lines of prejudice and discrimination.

To Falwell and to Trump, I say “No! You do not speak for me.”

I reject these messages of hate.

I reject these messages of hate because of what I understand it to mean to be a citizen of the United States of America. We are the home of the brave and courage comes from inside ourselves and among ourselves not from being armed to the teeth and shooting first. The message of Lady Liberty is a message of welcome not a message of exclusion.

F26 Lift Highlands Camp, CO 25 August 2012

I reject these messages of hate because they are incompatible with my faith in Jesus.

Jesus calls us to include not to divide; to love not to fear; to respond to violence with creative nonviolence. Jesus invites us to live into hope; to make ourselves vulnerable; to build and nurture community.

The world is a scary place. I know that.

However, responding with weapons and violence and judgement and exclusion leads only to more fear, destruction, and death.

The way to life, and it takes hard, hard work,  is to recognize we are all God’s children, created with an amazing diversity, to honor God’s image in one another, and to love one another. It will involve challenges and risks and pain and sorrow. But it will also involve grace amazing and joy abounding and blessings abundant.

So I reject these, and all, messages of hate. And I choose the way of life. I will protest hate and I will love as well as I am able.

See you along the Trail.

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Choose welcome

Here’s a piece written by Ryan Smith, my colleague at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations about responding to the call of the Rev. Gradye Parsons to “chose welcome” in relation to refugees. 

Our Stated Clerk, the Reverend Gradye Parsons invited Presbyterians to take a selfie with a banner saying “We Choose Welcome,” responding to fear of Syrian refugees. This week, my colleagues at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville joined together in the chapel to choose welcome themselves.

As I sat in my office in New York, across the street from the United Nations, I thought about welcome. I thought, as Rev. Parsons reminded us of the innkeeper not welcoming Mary and Joseph. I thought about our recognition of World AIDS Day and was reminded that it wasn’t until 2009 that HIV/AIDS status was no longer something that could block entry or green card status here in the United States.

I watch the flags float in front of the United Nations and am reminded that the UN, an intergovernmental body’s own Charter begins with “We the peoples…”

I am reminded that we are all “we the peoples.” No matter where you are born, where you live, what faith you practice, who you love, what race you are, or so much more. We the peoples are determined (as the United Nations Charter reminds us) “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…” “to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours…”

So we choose welcome!

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations joins others in the faith community in advocating justice and peace within the United Nations system, including with governments from across the globe. The United Nations Charter sets the goal to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetimes has brought untold sorrow to mankind…”

While we have not seen a third World War, the succeeding generations of the authors of the United Nations Charter have seen war, conflict, strife. We know that right now, the UN estimates that more than 60 million people are displaced by violence and conflict. Presbyterians join ecumenical, interfaith and secular partners in advocating here at the United Nations, the one global roundtable.

A refugee himself, John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion said, “We are not to reflect on the wickedness of men but to look to the image of God in them, an image which, covering and obliterating their faults, an image which, by its beauty and dignity, should allure us to love and embrace them.” We should love and embrace all, no matter who they are or where they are from.

In this Advent season of anticipation and hope, I am thankful to be part of a community who today, across the street from the United Nations, joined Presbyterians in affirming “We Choose Welcome!”

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

An invitation to “Choose Welcome”

I have posted one of my sermons about refugees as well as sermon from the Rev. Randy Clayton. Here’s a post from the blog of the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

I can count on one hand the number of times I have spent Christmas in my own home as an adult. We have shared that day with grandparents and other family. In a pre-Amazon era, we hid presents among the luggage and spent those days on the road just like Joseph and Mary. But of course I knew that my bed was there to welcome me when it was all over.saint mark presbyterian church holding a sign saying we choose welcome

Right now the United Nations says there are more than 60 million people displaced on our war-weary planet who will probably never see their home again. That’s the largest number ever recorded. They have left their homes because of violence, poverty, and fear. There is a story repeated around the world. Some armed men come to your house. They demand money from the parents. They demand that the son joins their gang. They want to sell the daughter into the sex trade underworld. You can’t go to the authorities because the gang is the authorities. What do you do as parents? You flee with your family.

As a church of 1.6 million people we can’t take in 60 million even if our government allowed it. But we can help change the way people talk about the 60 million. I recently put out a Facebook challenge asking congregations to take a selfie with a We Choose Welcome banner. The challenge was to send the photo to their public officials. One congregation that accepted the challenge is St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville, Maryland. I want to give them a shout out.

Maybe your congregation is not ready to go on record on this issue. But sometime over the next Advent days we are going to once again bash the innkeeper for having no room for Joseph and Mary. So perhaps that can be a teachable moment for all of us.

Thank you Gradye!

See you along the Trail.

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Another take on refugees and fear and faith

I posted “The Refugee Jesus“, the sermon I preached yesterday at Rutgers Presbyterian Church. It focused on Christ the King Sunday and Jesus the Refugee and what it meant to affirm a refugee as king in times when acts of terror occur and leaders and pundits fan the flames of fear.

Today I discovered that my friend Randy Clayton preached a similar sermon at Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church: “Of Kings and Kingdoms.”

Here are some excerpts:

But King Jesus is certainly not just a figurehead whose only role is to make us stick out our chests in pride; nor is King Jesus a despot who takes and oppresses, ready to pounce on us for one wrong move, unable to forgive and set us right again.  In fact, King Jesus didn’t even proclaim he was king, but his actions and his love showed us the real truth.

He was a king yes, but his kingdom didn’t look anything like Pilates’ kingdom, or the Roman Empire.  Jesus was a king, yes. He had royal bloodlines that stretched back to King David, but his kingdom looked like none the world had seen. He is king, but his reign of truth and life is based on love and peace and trust rather than coercion, division and fear. He is not a king surrounded by body guards and armored cars, but he was a king surrounded by the poor and the hurting, the outcast and the lonely, the grieving and the prisoner, the powerless and the refugee.

To align ourselves with Christ’s rule and God’s kingdom is certainly to oppose acts of terror, calling them the evil they are, that’s for sure. But at the same time it is to work to end the poverty and the hopelessness across the world that gives rise to desperation and fuels the terror’s flames. To align ourselves with God’s kingdom and Jesus’ rule is to welcome the widow and the orphan as Jesus did, to risk what we have so that others might find life, as Jesus did, and to get worked up about the same things that Jesus got worked up about. And maybe especially in these frightening and scary times, it is to follow Jesus’ example and refuse to live in fear,  to refuse to let our actions be guided by fear, and to let our lives and all we do we shaped and molded by the affirmation that both in life and in death we belong to God.

I encourage you to check out the whole sermon.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Nations, Worship

Embracing the Other – the book is here

My copy of Embracing the Other, written by my friend Grace Ji-Sun Kim, arrived. I look forward to reading Grace’s reflections on how the Holy Spirit inspires and sustains us to work toward healing, reconciliation, and justice among all people, regardless of race or gender. You can too!

Kim_Embracing the Other_cov_9780802872999

See you along the Trail.

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