Tuesday, July 15, 2008


"Only weak thinkers fear strong images. The publication that convenes itself as a polite dinner party, serving only strained polenta and pureed peas, need not invite me to sup."

Jack Shafer, slate.com, "The New Yorker Draws Fire"

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Point C?

Evan had a children's meeting today. He was talking about what the children have been doing with the money from their Sunday morning offering.

Evan and I have reflected on this several times in the past few weeks, especially since his class at Ginghamsburg UMC. It’s been a long road. I don’t think either of us are “naturally” compassionate people. But I pointed out to Evan, as we’ve struggled ourselves with identifying with our very upper middleclass, comfortable congregation, that there is tangible evidence of a movement from point A to point B. Last year the elementary children raised money for Heifer International - $150.00 total for the entire year. Rather pitiful for a church that raises over 1 million dollars a year. I think this was kind of discouraging for Evan.

This year, Evan decided to do the micro-financing for Rwandans. On Sunday mornings he’s been careful to explain the history of the situation between the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s in April 1994. The Hutu’s, after growing tensions with the Tutsi tribe, marched upon the “cockroaches" and "tall trees” (the names they called the Tutsi’s to dehumanize them) and cut the Tutsi trees down with machetes and garden tools. Between eight hundred thousand and one million people died within one hundred days. In six months, our elementary children have raised over $250 for the Rwandan people. Evan has seen children bring $5 and $10 bills of their own money to put in the toilet plungers he uses for offering plates.

Then, in today’s meeting, one of the parents in the meeting suddenly realized what her daughter was talking about the other day as she counted down from five. A child in the world dies from hunger every five seconds, her daughter told her. The mother dismissed it at the time. But her daughter knew better. Even if her daughter could not identify with true hunger or starvation, she could still identify with a nameless child.

It seems to me that true giving originates not from sympathy but from empathy. That is solidarity. We can only give as Christ gave when we attempt to walk in someone else's shoes. I admit I usually fail miserably at this because usually when I give, I like it -- because it makes ME feel better about myself. My pity for someone else’s situation rarely crosses over to something Christlike. But when I have done it right, it hurts. Shouldn’t I grieve? Shouldn’t I really lose something? The logical end of following Christ does not end at our own salvation. It is taking up the very cross he bore through the streets of his beloved city; it is sacrifice for others.
Do we kid ourselves otherwise? Thinking that the goal of drawing our children and families into Christian service is that they will enjoy it. That they find “fulfillment.” It becomes another drug, another Baal of choice, that widens the gulf between “us” and “them;” between ourselves and our neighbor.

I love the hymn of Philippians 2. It’s something I haven’t gotten past because I haven’t gotten there yet.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (NRSV)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request

In an unfortunate incident earlier this week, Uncle Sam threw up all over our church.

This, following the annual hotdog eating contest.

He had just eaten an entire package of Hebrew National hotdogs, but lost the race to the smaller, more efficient six-time hotdog eating champion Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi.

When he entered the foyer,
he apparently was overcome by the gaseous
incense fumes
emanating from the sanctuary.

Local emergency workers calmed him down by
repeatedly singing America the Beautiful
and Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Uncle Sam is currently recovering from the incident at a local VA hospital.
Cards with money and silk flowers are welcome.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Learning to do good

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!

Listen to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.
When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers, I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves;
make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
Come now, let us argue it out,
says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 1:10-20 (NRSV)