Another Memorial Day

I’m currently sitting at a Memorial Day parade in my community. You see the American flags all over the place and soon my fellow attendees and I will be exposed to a overdose of patriotism.

For the last few days we’ve seen the ads memorializing our military dead. We hear the “Thank you for your service” rang from the TV to the pulpit. In my town, banners bearing the photos of hometown veterans grace the streets.

However what about those left behind? We forget the widow(er), the orphan, parents, lovers, friends, lifetime companions and soulmates who’ve lost someone to war? Those with an empty chair at the table, an empty side of the bed, the empty spot on the church pew, or the empty desk in a college classroom? Maybe Instead of some lame “Thank you for your service/sacrifice” maybe we can honor them?

How about the veterans who are still fighting wars at home? Facing racism, homelessness, mental illness, physical pain, loneliness, and other demons?

No, we’re not going to do that. We’ll have the patriotic orgy with the marching bands and the call to remember our fallen as if it were our sacred.

While those who really sacrificed the most will sit in the shadows and sidelines of our pomp and parade silently suffering…

Another Memorial Day…

Peace.

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Purpose at Advent

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:42-45 (English Standard Version)

Welcome to the beginning of Advent 2018. It’s interesting that this year the First Day off Advent falls on the First Sunday in December, which is Communion Sunday in many Protestant Denominations.

Today, we commemorate our waiting for the coming of God’s Christ into our world. We await Jesus, God’s anointed, to come unto us and usher in the Realm of God. Jesus came to show us the Way of God, and bring us the Gospel-the good news. Today, we also remember the Seder dinner that same Jesus would have years later with his disciples on the night of his betrayal by Judas into the hands of the religious authorities.

However, instead of the usual passages of Scripture used in traditional liturgy, today’s Scripture jumped out at me. The text taken from Mark is usually not associated with Advent, however it sums up why Jesus came. Jesus came to turn the established order upside down (or probably right side up). First, Jesus made the greater to serve the lesser; instead of the traditional reversed arrangement. Second, he was to set a strange precedent: to give his life for many.

We will be referring to the above today as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Communion). It’s where we have our ministers serve the laity at a table open to all in the Boardinghouse-hold of Faith. I know my fellow deacons will serve our sick and shut-in members later in the day. Our work to exemplify the Christ who called us to serve. And when we’re called to give our lives, it calls for us to throw our lot in with God to wherever and whatever He/She leads us to.

The above flies in the face of today’s top-down power structures prevalent in our world-even in the Church itself. We seek power: from the janitor to the CEO; from the usher to the Senior Pastor/Elder/Bishop/Pope; from world leader to the dogcatcher. We are constantly reminded of this power system by those in power. And we’re warned that any insubordination-even if warranted-will be dealt with.

And to serve those beneath us? Surely you jest! We look down at those who are not in our sphere-regardless of who they are. And if we do serve, it’s not out of love but out of show. Plus we act as those we do serve ought to be grateful we do deign to serve them.

Don’t even talk about giving our lives unless it’s something that pays off for us and us alone. Sacrifice-no matter the size or situation-is old-fashioned and for fools.

Nevertheless, what God calls forth is paramount. Christ will come to serve God by serving and giving his life as a ransom for us. He will turn the tables on the power structures in his day. As we wait for the coming of the Christ and commemorate his last Seder, can’t we also do the same today?

Prayer: Almighty God, remind us in our hearts and minds that Your Christ came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for us. Keep us from emulating the top-down power structures of our day, looking to Lord over others. Instead, let Christ’s humility be seen in us this Advent Season and evermore. In Your Name, Amen.

Welcome to Advent 2018. Peace.

(Image: Oculus at the World Trade Center in New York City. September 21, 2018. By Me.)

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Memento Mori*

for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return

Genesis 3:19c (King James Version)

I’m in Manhattan observing this construction undertaking in the Manhattan Yards (West 30s) where fancy high rises are coming up. From what I can see, these will be for those with serious bank. These will also be a testament to somebody’s greatness as well.

However, we need to remember that we are dust-ephemeral, passing stuff that is a mere flash in the pan of eternity. The above high rises will be torn down and nature will overtake their land in a few generations. The occupants therein will one day die and be forgotten, no matter how great they might have been.

Food for thought my friends. Peace.

(*Latin for, “remember death”)

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A Swiftly Warming Planet*

Otherwise I will strip her naked
and make her as bare as on the day she was born;
I will make her like a desert,
turn her into a parched land,
and slay her with thirst. Hosea 2:3 (New International Version)

20160813_151811

The above image was not manipulated. You’re seeing correctly. And this was two years ago! I should know since I took this photo!

Heatwaves throughout the globe. Days of thunderstorms and rain in the US Northeast. Wildfires in the American West and in Greece. Ice shelves calving into the ocean. Sounds like the stuff of an apocalyptic sci-fi film, right? Sad to say, it’s all real.

We as a species are turning Mother Earth into a giant hothouse in space. Last month-June-was the third warmest on record. Our pumping pollutants into the air, the US’s pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement last year, our continued dependence on fossil fuels, along with other factors are contributing to this problem. What’s so sad is that it’s our destructive way of life that’s fueling the fire (no pun intended).

It’s this destructive way of living that is a sin against God, our fellow humans, and to the Earth.  Tonight’s Scripture dealt with sin as well-Israel’s sins against God. Through the prophet Hosea, Good pronounced His/Her judgement against this rebellious lot. God could be easily talking to 21st Century humanity due to our tearing up His/Her world-especially the “parched” and “desert” parts.

God blessed us with the means to slow down this warming process through sustainable agriculture and technological means. However there are many in power who deny our climate change and will not put the aforementioned technologies as a priority. We have politicians who are in bed with the coal and petrochemical industries here in America. Plus, there are many fundagelical Christian types that also deny what’s happening.

In time, God will allow our planet to heat up past the point of no return. We’ll see more violent storms, more heatwaves in normally temperate regions (like where I live), continually shrinking ice caps that will flood out places like Manhattan, London, Amsterdam, Miami, and other coastal cities; and God knows what else.

Whether you believe it or not, God is trying to get our attention through climate change; like He/She tried to get Israel’s attention in the Book of Hosea. God is trying to warm us about our screwing with the climate.  Like the Jews back then, we ignore God at our peril…

Peace.

(*With apologies to Madeline L’Engle)

 

 

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I Told You So

8: Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Article II, Section 1:8 of The Constitution of the United States

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  1 Timothy 5:8 (New International Version)

About two years ago, I posted High Treason on the Campaign TrailI discussed then-candidate Donald Trump’s remarks calling on Russia regarding the 30,000 emails of his challenger, Hilary R. Clinton. I warned about the abuses of power and damage that a Trump presidency could do. I pointed out the treasonous attitude that Trump exhibited back then.

Now let’s jump two years later. This past week we saw now-President Trump commit treason in Helsinki.  Regarding the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential elections, Trump gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a hall pass by throwing the integrity of the US Intelligence Community under the proverbial bus. He was very generous in his praise of Putin, a strongman that has been a thorn in American foreign policy’s side since the Clinton Administration. This praise has generated criticism from politicians and political pundits alike.

Now we Trump backpedaling, saying that he had “misspoken” with Putin. This is pure bullshit! Trump got busted committing treason and now is trying to cover his ass!

I hate to say it, but I told you so. I warned you about Trump’s treasonous attitude and how it will come to harm us. Trump showed blatant disregard for the Constitution he swore to defend. Plus, as tonight’s Scripture shows, he’s not providing for the household of the Nation as its leader. Trump is worse than an infidel. Tack on Trump’s other sins, and you’ll see that I’m right.

Now there are those out there who will disagree with me and say I’m mistaken. However, current events are bearing me out. And Heaven knows what history will say…

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Protest on Palm Sunday

He disarmed those who once ruled over us—those who had overpowered us. Like captives of war, He put them on display to the world to show His victory over them by means of the cross.
Colossians 2:15 (The Voice)

Since last month’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, school students have walked out of classes all over America to protest gun violence in this nation.  Many of these young people hearken back to the “Freedom Riders” for Civil Rights and the Anti-War (Vietnam) protesters of the 1960s.  And like their socially-conscious “ancestors,” these youth risked reprisal: in this case, from their school districts for doing so (two towns here in New Jersey I know of are guilty of this).

This anti-gun violence protesting has culminated with a “March for Our Lives” that took place yesterday in Washington, DC (the seat of American power) that was organized by the survivor-students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.  Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the nation’s capital accompanied by fellow protesters across the nation and globe.  Despite counter-protests by gun-rights advocates, yesterday’s events took center stage.  This loud message was aimed straight at the powers that be in Washington-and elsewhere-that are in bed with the gun lobby including the National Rifle Association.  This time, our youth has put these legislators and lobbyists on center stage likened to “captives of war” for all the world to see.

Today is Palm Sunday.  Today, we commemorate Jesus’s “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem (the seat of Roman/Jewish power in Jesus’s day) a few days before his Crucifixion*.  Jesus-accompanied by his disciples-rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  Jesus-ever since his ministry on Earth began-has preached truth to the powers that be.  Jesus-like many of us today-contended with the political and religious elites that were in bed with the Roman Empire which oppressed Jesus’s people.

Upon his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus knew the reprisal he would face from the authorities.  Jesus knew that going up against the powers that be with the Realm of God would be death for certain.  He knew the waving palms and shouts of “Hosanna!” would be clenched fists and shouts of “Crucify Him!” in only a few  days.  Jesus’s entry reflected the humility and self-sacrifice that are hallmarks of God’s Realm. God-through Jesus-used a lowly service animal instead of a stallion to bring His/Her Christ into the face of power. To me, this entry was an act of Divine protest against the spiritual and political violence against God’s people. Just like the young protesters about two millennia later, Jesus took aim at the powers that be.

Today, as we celebrate Palm Sunday, we will be called to protest that which is against God’s Realm. God will call us to stand up against the powers that be like Jesus and today’s youth. Will we be willing to stand despite reprisal?

Protest on Palm Sunday? Something for us to think on.

Peace.*Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-38; and John 12:12-19
(Image courtesy of The Washington Post)

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Pause and Reflect at Lent

 

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
Psalm 46:10 (King James Version)

We’re a noisy lot.  Look at our media-especially television and Internet with their round-the-clock offerings.  Go out in public, and you’ll hear someone chatting loudly on their cell.  Drive, and you’ll have someone with their car stereo turned up to concert hall pitch booming through closed windows.  I live not far from Times Square in NYC, and every time I drive through at night I feel like I’m in a scene from Blade Runner.  It’s enough to make you scream.

What’s worse is the spiritual noise in our lives.  This noise are the myriad thoughts that crowd our mind for our attention.  Thoughts about home, family, career, church, social life, etc…run 24-7 inside us.  This is exacerbated when we allow the noise from the world (mentioned above) to crash into our minds and add fuel to the fire.  This noise can distract us from the weightier things in life (ref. Matthew 23:23), and pull us away.

Tonight’s text is a familiar one, usually read or sung during a worship service’s “Call to Worship.”  Here the psalmist is reminding us to pause and reflect that God is God.  Here they have God reminding us to be still, to shut it down, to take it down a notch.  We need to understand the majesty and power of the Divine in our lives; to recognize His/Her unfathomable being. To also realize that God is to be exalted (given preeminence) among the people-not just Christians either.  We need to pull away from our noisy world, shut down out noisy thoughts and focus on God.

As we still ourselves and recognize the Divine, we will have clarity of mind and spirit.  We will learn from God what He/She has for us in our lives.  We will develop fellowship that nourishes us; instead of the world’s crap that drains us.  As Christians-and others-this is something we sorely need.  Since God calls us to intimacy, this is a good road to that state.

As we continue this Lenten Season, let us learn to shut it down and know that God is God: to pause and reflect.

Peace.

(Image: Fog at dusk at Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield, NJ. February 11, 2018)

 

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