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Waging Peace

29 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

Photo via Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

Do you hear the cries for peace? The longing is so urgent and real. It is easy to think of peace a simply a lack of violence. God’s vision of peace, however, is more beautiful than that and requires more of us than simply putting our weapons down.

What is God’s vision of peace? There are two biblical images in particular I have been meditating on:

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not raise its sword against nation, and they shall learn war no more.          –Ish 2:4

and

Everyone will live in peace and prosperity, enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees, for there will be nothing to fear.       –Micah 4:4

I love the visuals that come with these images of peace. One person taking a weapon and making it into a tool that will help bring forth food, abundance and life. Or another person, enjoying the shade of a tree that bears fruit. This biblical idea of peace, coming from the word shalom, is not just lack of violence. This is a peace that gets at the holistic well being of all persons. It is a peace that claims that access to food, safety and leisure time bring human dignity and should be available to all.

These images of shalom remind me of a statue I saw in El Salvador, a beautiful and hopeful piece of art made from melted down bullets used in their civil war. Tools for violence turned into art. It makes me think of organizations working with farmers to create more secure food options for families and communities all around the world.

I yearn for shalom. I pray for a time when we can put down our weapons because we are no longer afraid. I beg for an age when we can all sit in the shade of prosperity without fear. Shalom will only come when all people have enough, when the most vulnerable in our communities are seen and tended to as God’s beloved children. Peace is tied to being committed to the well being of all. Shalom requires us to believe that we can glimpse heaven here and now and engage in God’s work of reconciliation in this life.

Blessed are the peacemakers, those who do not just think about it, but build their lives around waging peace. Peacemaking is a vocation Jesus calls us to. This shalom peace is not just a lack of violence, but a commitment to the holistic well being of all God’s beloved creatures. And God’s creatures are crying out for peace.

I-Thou

22 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Harwig HKD

Photo via Flickr user Harwig HKD

This week, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s Podcast Nurture the Wowcast reminded me of the importance of incorporating Martin Buber’s I-Thou idea of relationship when approaching my small child. This is one small way that parenting is a spiritual practice.

It is important, especially in the middle of a tantrum, to really see our children. Instead of seeing our children as a frustration or problem or obstacle in getting out the door, we are called to see the world through their lens. God wants us to see and honor their full humanity.

Buber categorizes relationships into I-It and I-Thou. I-It relationships happen when we see the other as an object. I-Thou connections are sacred. We see the beauty of the other’s full personhood. I-Thou is the relationship we have with God.

The podcast was a simple, powerful reminder to seek I-Thou relationships not only with my child, but with all the people I encounter in my day. How am I treating the worker at the grocery store? Another mom at the park? My co-worker? My spouse? Who is this person? Can I try to see them today?

We can remember to see the people, friends and strangers alike. We can look for the desire, needs, fear and complex nature of the soul in front of us. This posturing of curiosity and seeking, I believe, is sacred, and can make a difference in our increasingly polarized and digitized world.

Gospel Reflection for July 24, 2016, 17th Sunday Ordinary Time

20 Jul

Scripture Readings: Genesis 18.20-32; Colossians 2.12-14; Luke 11.1-13

Jesus said, “Say this when you pray: Father, may you name be held holy; your kingdom come…”

Jesus encourages us to pray for “the kingdom,” the vision he has for a just and loving society and world. To pray that God’s name be hallowed and that God’s kingdom come is to acknowledge that all barriers to love must be dissolved. Anything that separates race from race, rich from poor, gender from gender, age group from age group, Christian from non-Christian is a barrier to the holiness God wishes to share with believers. Biases have no place in the community that names God our father.  Especially as protests and politics set us against one another, we must cherish all we have in common and respect one another.

Make today a day to act out the Our Father and talk with folks who seem different from yourself. Pray for someone with whom you are angry or hurt.

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Mourning Into Action

15 Jul
Photo via Flickr user AK Rockefeller

Photo via Flickr user AK Rockefeller

When one man gets shot, when five police get targeted by a sniper, when a baby dies from gun violence, we all hurt. It happens to us all. As people of faith, there are helpful places we can go.

We can turn toward lament, knowing God can withstand our anger and pain:

Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; Incline Your ear to me; In the day when I call answer me quickly. –Psalm 102:1-2

We can crack open our Bibles and read, yet again, about the life of Jesus. We can see with eyes anew how he dissolved boundaries and worked for peace and saw the dignity in all people, challenging us to do the same.

As a person of faith, I also know I need to continue to explore my own white privilege. I am called to see it, name it, and work toward being actively anti-racist in my day. For encouragement, and guidance, we can turn toward the US Catholic Bishop’s Letter on Racism from 1979 (!). It still rings true in 2016. The whole letter is helpful, but allow me to include a few quotes here:

Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church. Despite apparent advances and even significant changes in the last two decades, the reality of racism remains. In large part it is only external appearances which have changed.

Racism and economic oppression are distinct but interrelated forces which dehumanize our society. Movement toward authentic justice demands a simultaneous attack on both evils.

Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation.

God’s word in Genesis announces that all men and women are created in God’s image; not just some races and racial types, but all bear the imprint of the Creator and are enlivened by the breath of His one Spirit.

We can read The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me, Walking With the Wind, or I Have a Dream, just to name a few, and watch Color of Fear, Eyes on the Prize, or 4 Little Girls. We can identify where in our lives we have power and skills and use them for good. Do you have the power of free time to show up at a peaceful protest? Are you a voter in a place that could benefit from some policy change? As a mom, as a teacher of youth, as a writer I can tap into my power. I can commit to spending more time being uncomfortable, listening, learning, and acting in response to the recent violence.

There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. In this time of mourning, may our faith call us also to act.

Image 9 Jul

Social-Action-Has-Two-Feet-(1)-2

Gospel Reflection for July 10, 2016, 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

6 Jul

Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 30.10-14; Colossians 1.15-20; Luke 10.25-37

“But a Samaritan who was journeying along came on the beaten man and was moved to pity at the sight. He dressed his wounds, pouring in oil and wine as a means to heal. He then hoisted him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, where he cared for him.”

(Luke 10.33-34)

A marginalized person is often caught in cultural conflicts at the boundaries of society and communities. The Samaritan in Sunday’s gospel has compassion for a stranger left on the side of the road. During Jesus’ time Samaritans were the marginalized people in Israel, a heretical group detested and despised by Jews and pagans alike. For Jesus to hold up a Samaritan as a truly compassionate and wise person was to send religious and cultural shock-waves through his listener’s ears. People must have thought, “How could anyone make a Samaritan the hero of the story, a person obviously so unworthy and unacceptable?

Another unsung hero in the gospel is the donkey. The Samaritan acts out his compassion with the help of his animal. Pope Francis calls out our kinship with the whole of creation and its creatures in his encyclical Laudato Si’ on the environment. Jesus’ parable doesn’t tell us how far away the inn was or how big the injured person was. We do know the Samaritan couldn’t call 911 on his cell phone. He puts the injured person on his own animal that usually carries him or his loads. Together they help the wounded man.

When have you felt marginalized by economics, gender, sexual orientation, race, or personal crisis?

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Found Family

1 Jul

Last weekend I attended a 10th wedding anniversary celebration of two friends. I had attended the actual wedding a decade ago, and looked forward to the evening. Even with  my excitement, the gathering far exceeded my expectations.

The couple had reserved a beautiful room in the back of a lovely restaurant. Appetizers, drinks, dinner and a toasting cocktail were provided. At a certain moment of the dinner, the couple asked us the group, sitting at two long tables, to introduce ourselves so we could see how our lives intertwined. Later, the man made a toast to the woman and the woman made a toast to us, the friends gathered. Both toasts brought me to tears.

It was clear that the couple had put real thought into creating an intentional celebration. The guest list was built with care, and it was an honor to be in the room. Both people living far away from home, they had built a found family, and we were it.

I believe in found family, and talk about it often. For one reason or another, parents and siblings can’t always provide in the way that we need them to. They can’t be our everything. We can, however, build a found family over the years. We can reach out to mother and father figures and invest in found siblings. We can find ourselves among family regardless of genetic make up.

For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. –Psalm 27:10

We are, indeed, beloved children of God. We’re in. We’re loved. At its best, our spiritual community can be an extension of God’s love, a found family. They can love us despite our faults. They can weep with and laugh with us. They can welcome us in, and pray for us when we have no words.

My friends created a thin space, a place where found family came together to eat great food and share special conversation. It was a reminder of what church can be when strengthened by the love of God the Parent.

 

Gospel Reflection for July 3, 2016, 14th Sunday Ordinary Time

28 Jun

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 66.10-14; Galatians 6.14-18; Luke 10.1-9

“Whatever house you enter, say first, ‘Peace to this house.'”

(Luke 10.5) 

In Sunday’s gospel Jesus sends out 72 missionaries to announce the kingdom of God is at hand.  A missionary is someone who is sent to bring a message.  The word to send in Greek is apostlein, from which we get the word apostle, missionary.  Only Luke describes the 72 sent off in pairs to travel with little but their message and instructions to stay with people who reciprocate their greeting of peace, the same peace the angels announce at Jesus’ birth.

In this passage Luke double exposes the Church’s mission on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.  Only Luke finds the story of the Church inseparable from the story of Jesus’ ministry and inaugurates the mission of bringing God’s healing nearness to the nations and through this mission to us.

On the Fourth of July Americans rise together to honor the flag in parades down our streets.  On most other days, especially in an election year, we struggle to forge the vision the day celebrates.  We disagree about immigrants and whose lives matter.  Perhaps we don’t talk religion or politics to keep peace in our families.  Jesus’ message challenges us to include more than our own individual selves in the happiness we pursue.

For what are you grateful in our nation on this 4th of July?  To whom do you reciprocate a greeting of peace in your home and neighborhood?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
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No Rules

24 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Susan Ackeridge

Photo via Flickr user Susan Ackeridge

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. — Galatians 5:13-14, 18-25
There are no rules when it comes to love.
It is something the Galatians needed to be reminded of, and I understand. It’s a simple idea. You hear it and think, “Of course. Of course there is no such thing as too much love or too much patience. More kindness is always better than less. Yet we pace ourselves. We ration. We save our love for certain people and withhold it from others. We live as if we don’t believe the simple truth that love grows, seeps and expands. It replenishes and flows.
There are good things that we need to apply rules to: sugar or screen time come to mind. Moderation is key. Our struggles to find balance and health in life, or relationship with our own will power, trains us to apply rules to all things. With the gift of the spirits, though, rules need not apply.
On Father’s Day, my father reflected about raising five children. When my mom was pregnant with me, their second, my parents were afraid. There was no way they could love us as much as they loved their first. But then I came into their lives, and they hearts expanded. There was more love to go around.
There is no law against more love. And isn’t this what we need right now? To believe in the ability for love to multiply and spread? We will not run dry. If we love more, God will replenish and renew, will fill us with the capacity to keep on loving.

 

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