A Thin Line Between Protest and Prayer

Colin Kapernick kneeled, Jemele Hill of ESPN spoke out, Steph Curry hesitated to visit the White House, and the President turned his racial prejudiced agenda against athletes and those who cover them. To quote Ron Burgundy, “that escalated quickly.” On Friday, the President referred to NFL players as “SOBs” and tweeted that those who did not stand for the national anthem should be fired.

Kneeling

I don’t believe the issue is a lack of respect for the flag or our nation, but the racial bias and prejudice that permeates our living today. The President has made it clear that he cares only about himself. This is the man that has continuously tweeted about crowd size at rallies while making no mention of Puerto Rico being without electricity. When the subject turns to race, he goes to great lengths to defend white supremacists as “nice guys” while calling African-American athletes “SOBs” This culminated in yesterday’s mass protest by NFL players, officials, and owners. Many kneeled, some locked arms, and a few even skipped the whole national anthem all together. The NFL said “enough.”

Walter Bruegemann describes Biblical Christianity as “awed to heaven, rooted in earth,” The wonder of God roots us to what is going on in current time and place. I’ve been thinking about the difference between being driven to your knees in prayer and being driven to your knees in protest. There are times when the line between the two is thin. This is such a time. Prayer is proclaiming that God’s will makes a way when it seems there is none. Prayer is asking that a world more whole than what we currently experience will take root.

All our biblical prophets confronted the evils of empire in their time and place. The stories from the Bible that we read to our children are about heroes who were in tune with God’s will against empire. The one whom we proclaim Lord and Savior was put to death because he confronted empire. Yesterday I thought about where we would find Jesus. I imagine if you looked closely enough, you would have seen him somewhere on his knees, in prayer and protest, proclaiming God’s kin-dom come to earth.

Jesus Wept- In Defense of DACA

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” Matthew 25:35(b)

It is the easiest parts of the Bible to understand that are the hardest ones to live out. As the Trump administration prepares to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) I have a hard time seeing how Christians would support this action. If anything, people who seek to follow the ways of Jesus should be on the forefront of advocating for rights for Dreamers.

DACA

Immigration is tricky in the United States. In a nation where everyone is from somewhere else, we struggle with what to do about those who desire to do the same as our ancestors.  I’ve spent time building homes in Tijuana and Tecate, along US and Mexican border. I’ve had interaction and spent time with people who live in these communities. The welcome and hospitality is consistently excellent (and biblical). This past Spring, our group meet Eddie. Eddie lived across the street from where we were building. He made it a point to open his home to us each day for bathroom facilities and for rest from the sun. He played music for us while we built. He cut up enough fresh mangoes for twenty-five people each day. I don’t know if Eddie was familiar with Matthew 25, but he sure did know how to live it out. He spoke of the family who had moved to the United States for better opportunities. I remember thinking how I hoped they had been treated equally as well in the states as we had been treated in Mexico.

There are currently 800,000 Dreamers here in the United States. Chances are you know at least one, two, or twenty in some form or fashion. They are neighbors, friends, and colleagues. I suspect that if you took a snapshot of any group of 800,000 people here, you would find that the Dreamers compare very well using the traditional metrics of success. For example, ninety-five percent are either working or in school. In the the wider church I serve, Dreamers offering some of the best ministry the church knows today. Our church will be less whole if DACA is ended. Our nation will be less whole if DACA is ended. Dreamers illustrate the best of what the United States offers not a problem that needs to be solved.

Later in Matthew 25, Jesus points out the consequences for not welcoming the stranger are steep. Rejecting the stranger amounts to rejecting him. While I do think that the ending of DACA by this administration is cruel and has much to do with racial resentment and prejudice, it is not my politics that informs my thoughts. It is my faith. It is my understanding of how Jesus calls us to live that urges me to speak out. A world in which Dreamers are deported is a world that is taking a step away from God’s dream for us. The deportation of Dreamers brings another scripture to mind- “Jesus wept.”

New

 

Danny, we will start in the deuce court.tennis-courts-1024x768

I’ve made three major changes in my life in the few months.

First,  I begun a new ministry with the Pension Fund of the Christian Church.

Second, our family relocated to Carmel, Indiana

Last, but not least, I started tennis lessons- at the intermediate level.

We’ve been knee deep in new lately.

I’ve had to learn lots of new words in the last month. A new job brings a new daily language. I use words and acronyms daily that I have never used.

We’ve lived in Carmel but there is still lots of new. Lots of new roundabouts to be exact. It is very important here to not only know what a roundabout is but also how to use one.

Tennis- I have played on and off, but never at this serious of a level. I’m convinced our instructor is prepping us for the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

It occurred to me on the tennis court that faith forces us to learn a new way of speaking. Faith calls us to new understandings. One of the great promises of the Bible is that God is always moving us forward. God moves us forward in our understanding who God is and what God would have us do. Encounters with the holy call us to see and to understand the world differently. Some embrace this while others fight it. New comes easier for some than it does for others. You can hold onto the past but the consequences of doing so are great. New life is found in what we are becoming, not what we have been.

I decided that I am going to figure out which side of the court is the deuce court and which side is the ad. My guess is my game will improve with new understanding of where to begin.

Grace and peace

The Work of Christmas

This appeared today as the Christmas Day devotion for my congregation. Sandy Springs Christian Church.

 The child is here, and through him the whole world rejoices. I think we love Christmas Day so much because the world stops. We have some time to simply be. What a wonderful gift! Tomorrow, life will begin again, in more than one way. For you, what will be different now that the messiah is here? Will we rejoice at the new possibilities that are born through this child? Will we celebrate the new life offered through the messiah? The angels sing, the thrill of hope is real, a weary world rejoices– now what are we going to do?

The gift of Christmas calls us to be different. All of our expectation and preparation will be nullified if nothing in our lives and the world changes. Our reality is not unchangeable and the birth of a messiah is all the proof that we need.

Something I read every Christmas Day is Howard Thurman’s poem The Work of Christmas Begins. I share it with you now as it perfectly lays out our work following the gift of a messiah:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Merry Christmas!

No More Apologies (or Labels)

Church

“Oh, I’m not that kind of Christian.” I have uttered those words more times than I can count. As a child, playing with neighbors, in the halls of middle and high school, in social gatherings in college, in offices I’ve worked in, and now, as an ordained minister, seemingly to most every person I meet. I’ve grown weary of apologizing for my faith. Maybe you have as well. Continue reading “No More Apologies (or Labels)”

Membership Has No Privilege

Am Ex

Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. 24  All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them.  Luke 9:23-24

I read church signs. I think its a professional hazard or something. Some signs are great, some are informative, some are so ridiclous that they are funny (and I assume most find them that way as well. One small church near us had “Stop, Drop, and Roll Won’t Work in Hell on their sign one day. I am hoping that didn’t attract a lot of visitors.”)

Today, I saw a sign that literally stopped my in my tracks. I quickly pulled into this church’s parking lot to make sure I read the sign right. Unfortunately I did. “Membership Has Its Privileges.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why people don’t go to church and what our congregation can do to change people’s minds and hearts about church. We are beginning a new Sunday evening service at the end of February called The Table. We are committed to the truth that there is a place for everyone at the Table.

Perhaps the Church (the big “C” church) is our own worst enemy. That sign reminded me of many people’s perception and even their reality about the church. Church is an exclusive club where the select few receive special privileges. Take it even further. The Christian faith is an exclusive club where those who believe the right way receive special privileges. Privilege is defined as” a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.”  Privileges elevate one over another or over many. If I join Costco and you don’t, I have the privilege of buying three gallons of ketchup and you don’t.

If you read the Gospels looking for some privilege of following Jesus, you might be disappointed. On several occasions, he mentions taking up your own cross and following him. He mentions losing one’s life (at least losing one’s so called life.) More often than not, he goes out of his way to go places no one else would dare go. “He had to go to Samaria.” No one has to go to Samaria. But Jesus does. Would you? Would I? No privilege to be found in Samaria. However, there is life to be found.

The church can offer the gift of being a part of an inclusive movement for wholeness.

The church can offer the gift of being able to find our true self and God’s true calling upon our life.

The church can offer the gift of being unconditionally loved as well as teaching us how to love unconditionally.

The church can offer the gift of grace and radical welcome

The church can offer the gift of a real and meaningful life.

If you want privilege, get an American Express card. If you want to lose your life so that you may find your true life, well Jesus has some ideas about how to find that.

From Danny- God Is Not Fair!

Parables SeriesWhen I was in college, the Dave Matthews Band had just become the biggest band in the country.They were coming to the Omni in Atlanta (the arena before Philips Arena) on their first major concert tour and some friends and I decided that we would make the trip over to see them. Tickets for the show went on sale about three months before the actual show. We wanted good seats and also wanted to ensure that we got tickets in general, as the show was sure to sell out in quick fashion. Continue reading “From Danny- God Is Not Fair!”