Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Power of the People

I was just in Germany for two weeks. On November 9, Germany celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Berlin wall coming down. Since 1961, citizens of East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) were not able to leave the country without a visa and passport. They couldn't even visit West Berlin where many of them had family members. They were basically held captive by their government. After many months of demonstrations and protests, the government gave in on November 9, 1989, and the people were free to go where they pleased.

Back in 1989, I remember watching images on TV of people dancing on top of the wall where there used to be snipers, ready to shoot. They walked across borders that arbitrarily cut a city in half, and they hugged complete strangers in the street. They were celebrating a freedom they hadn't known in 28 years.
And it was all peaceful. No violence, no weapons, no destruction of property. More and more people gathered in the streets until the forces of state, police and border patrol could no longer resist.
Every time I read or see something about this I am deeply moved: People have power. Peaceful demonstrations have impact. Good always wins over evil. But it takes time.
As Christians, we are called to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). As Christians, we are free from the powers of this world. Jesus protested the Roman government and the religious rule of his time. Jesus spoke up and acted up against injustice and discrimination.
He's the one I choose to follow.
Let's be faithful to him, and be brave!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

American History

This week, most U.S. states celebrated Columbus Day. 
At Trinity Church (as in more and more communities and states), we celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day. Two of our native American members shared some of their culture with us.
We acknowledged the sins that our European ancestors committed by stealing land, culture, religion, language, and dignity from thousands of native tribes. The Christian church proclaimed that America was their promised land, that they had the right to take it and enslave the native population.
As Christians, we need to repent from the sins of our ancestors. We need to speak the truth about the past so we can learn from it, so we can heal, and so we can prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
"Discovered? Or Stolen" is the title of a video created by the United Church of Christ, summarizing the church's role in this dark time of our nation's history:

To celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in worship we read prayers from different native tribes. We read a letter from a member of the Wakka Wakka nation in Australia:
"I recently had the privilege to visit your ancient lands. In this visit I was honored and shown hospitality on a scale I have never received in Australia. I say thank you.
As I stood barefoot and connected with your land, I was troubled. I felt the same disturbance pulse from the land as when I do this in Australia. I could feel the land was unsettled. I could hear the land weeping and screaming. I could see the land was tired. These are the deep wounds of colonization, dispossession, racism—a true history that has not been dealt with.
While I was in the U.S., I found that your Indigenous peoples, just like Indigenous peoples in Australia, somehow become invisible. How is this possible when we are not invisible to the Creator? Creator has always seen us, created in the image of God, as Creator’s appointed custodians. Invisibility is another deep wound.
The healing of deep wounds requires humbleness, prayer, and action. Are Australia and the U.S. ready to humble themselves? Ready to walk in truth, friendship, and prayer with their Indigenous brothers and sisters? Ready to challenge the “American story?"
Friends, the time is now! Too many centuries have passed; let us not let one more day pass! Our lands, waters, and all peoples need healing. Let us sit in ceremony together on these ancient lands with the healing smoke—the smoke of the burning sage that rises from your lands to the smoke of the burning (eucalyptus) gum leaves that rises from mine.
My prayer and hope for the nation of Australia is that we the peoples will build an Australia on truth, justice, love, and hope. It’s my same prayer for the world. The church in the U.S. is part of that prayer and hope."
(Source:  https://sojo.net/magazine/august-2019/letters-american-church-dear-sisters-brothers)
When we face these deep wounds that are still festering in our nation, that are now showing up in the shape of white supremacy and hatred, when we talk about them and address them openly, we can heal. We can learn, and we can grow closer together as children of God.
God says, "If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
May we humble ourselves and seek the face of God. 
God, forgive our sins and heal our land.

Monday, September 9, 2019

A Celebration of Love

This weekend a group of us attended Worcester Pride: We marched in the parade, wearing colorful rainbow garb, waving rainbow flags and carrying our church banner to let everyone know that we believe God loves all people. Along the route people were waving and cheering us on, we waved and cheered back. It was a beautiful celebration of love, of friendship and community. One of our marchers was wearing a T-shirt saying "Free Mom Hugs" and people took her up on it! We actually saw a lot of moms and dads wearing those T-shirts. What an important message, but also how sad that it is necessary: That people need to be reminded they are loved and accepted the way they are. If not by their own family, then by our human family. 
How sad that it is necessary for us as a church to proclaim loudly and boldly that God loves everyone. But what a privilege it is that we get to be the ones to share this message.
It sounds so simple: God loves everyone. Love God, and love your neighbor.
But it is so profound and so incredibly difficult to really open our hearts and our doors for all of God's children.
I believe this is what we are called to do. And I believe it will change the world.
In the end, love will win.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

What Is Priceless?

What is priceless to you? What is worth more than money can buy? 
Where do you invest most of your time, energy, your thoughts?
If the two line up, if you invest most of your time and energy into what is priceless and valuable to you, you can consider yourself blessed.
If you invest your time and energy into things that are not priceless to you, this may be an opportunity for you to re-evaluate your priorities. Jesus says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21.) I interpret this to mean: that which you value the most, that is where your heart is, your true self. That is where you feel love, that is where you are most connected to yourself and to God.
We all lose our way sometimes. We get caught up in emotions or values that lead us away from who we truly are, and from the life God wants us to lead. But we can always find our way back. We can invest our time and energy and resources into people, causes and projects that we value.
Life is priceless, and life is short. A life well lived is a life that we follow our heart.
May Jesus lead the way! 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Faith as a Muscle

"If it don't kill ya, it just makes you stronger."
"The struggle you're in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow."
The letter of James even describes difficult times as times of joy because they test our faith and thereby make it stronger.
Faith is like any other muscle: if you don't use it it gets weaker. If you use your muscles regularly, and challenge them by adding weights or running/walking/cycling/swimming faster, your muscles will get stronger. They will be sore. You will be tired. But your body will only get stronger.
It's the same way with faith. If you challenge it by dealing with struggles in your life and accepting them, your faith will grow stronger. I know it's a stretch but what if God gave us those struggles to help us exercise our faith? To help our faith grow stronger?
We can't see that in the moment. When we feel discouraged, stressed, downtrodden, worried, exhausted. In that moment we can only hold on and try to keep going. But looking back we realize how much we have learned during that time, and how God has carried us through.
I've experienced that and I've heard people tell me about their own experiences.
Just like working out your body, it takes effort, and determination, and practice.
It also takes a certain openness to want to see God in all of it. God is not one to force Godself on us. God offers us unconditional love and unlimited grace. But we will only receive that if we are willing to let God in. Which also requires effort, and determination, and practice.
But oh, how good it feels when you realize how strong you are. How strong God is.