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Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category


Sirach 38:24-34: God’s Ancient Handiwork

Wednesday, November 2, 2016gods-masterpiece

I still like to balance all the work that happens in my head with the work of my hands.  I find that when I have spent too much time with ideas and concepts that the only way to regain a sense of equilibrium in a hectic day is to return to the production of something I can touch – crocheting an afghan, preparing a casserole, mending something that has been torn or broken.  It is in this mending that I so often feel the snags in my heart begin to heal.  I recently saw a documentary about how work in the earth with one’s hands and time spent in nature that is far from development is used as a therapeutic method for some who suffer from depression and I can see the wisdom in this.  All of nature seems to me to be God’s playground because it is the work of God’s hands.  Perhaps the work of our own hands can be just such a playground for us.  It is good to return to simple manual occupations when life feels overly complex or complicated, when our human-ness has somehow forgotten our divine-ness.

In today’s Noontime we read an anthem of praise for those who work with their hands and even their feet.  The vocation – or calling forth – of a person’s craft is praised.  We are asked how we see wisdom increase in ones who have little time for the study of and reflection on God’s written word and the written wisdom of the learned ones (as in 39:1-11).  Guiding the plow and the draft animals to create a fertile furrow, engraving, designing, and smithing metals, molding pots . . . all these are expert skills of the hands without which no city could be lived in, and wherever they stay they need not hunger.  Sometimes I believe that we city folk have gotten too far away from our country roots.  We forget why we have been created . . . to know, to love and to serve God . . . not ourselves.  We have forgotten our true craft and we have forgotten how to maintain God’s ancient handiwork.

Over the past several evenings I watched news stories about organizations begun by westerners who bring important health care and safety to indigenous peoples in Asia and Africa.  Stories of how people who spend little time tending to their own basic survival needs turn their hands to the provision of a better safety net for those who truly have little.  One endeavor in Borneo that takes local goods as barter also invites those who have nothing to barter to replant seedlings on that country’s deforested hills.  All sides win, even Mother Nature.  Another story was of a young man who provides shoes for children in order that they not suffer from illness contracted from the volcanic soil where they live – a simple gesture with an inspiring consequence.  There are so many small yet hugely wonderful movements in the world each day that speak to this idea of knowing one’s simple craft . . . and living it out.  They are too numerous to name; yet it is these movements to maintain God’s ancient handiwork that bring light to a world threatened by violence and wars of many kinds.

When we become too far removed from who we are and who we are meant to be, it is no wonder that we lose our way.  When we become too puffed up like the example of leaven in bread that Jesus uses to describe the prideful scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 16:6, we have forgotten our craft and we no longer have the true vision of our purpose which is to maintain God’s ancient handiwork.  As we spend time this evening in prayer thanking God for all that he has given us, we might also thank him for our vocation, for the calling forth of our own craft which we offer to the world and back to God as we engage in, participate in and maintain . . . God’s ancient handiwork

A Favorite from October 29, 2009.

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Psalm 112:7: Evil Reports

JimCrowInDurhamNC-1024x687

Bus station in Durham, North Carolina in 1940.          JACK DELANO/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

We receive many reports of evil in a world that is increasingly interconnected, and too often it is difficult to sort reality from illusion. Recently Diane Rehm featured “Two perspectives on life in the Jim Crow South: how white children learned to believe that black Americans were inferior and the crushing conditions that motivated millions of African Americans to move from the South in search of a better life”.

Racism, tribalism, discrimination and bigotry distort our perception of who we are and who we might be. For the just one, the psalmist tells us, conducts affairs with justice, is firm of heart and steadfast in the Lord. The just one does not fear an evil report. Might we say that we have such confidence? Might we say that we have no fear of evil reports?

When we listen to the podcast of Rehm’s show, Two Views of the Jim Crow South and its Legacy Today, we might determine how fear moves us into or out of the world of bigotry. And we might consider the legacy we pass on to our children. And we might determine to take some action – either small or great – to show that in the face of evil reports, we will refuse to teach hatred of the other to future generations.

For the Rehm podcast, click on the image above, or go to: https://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2016-08-10/two-views-on-the-jim-crow-south-and-its-legacy-today

For a Noontime reflection on Psalm 112, go to: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/03/30/the-just/

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imam at Mass

Iman Sami Salem during Mass in Rome

Matthew 8:4: Tell No One

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Scholars speculate about Jesus’ request that those he cures tell no one about their healing. We find this request in a number of places in Matthew: 12:15-16, 16:20, 17:9 and we notice that neither Jesus nor Matthew rebuke the exuberance of those who receive Jesus’ gift. In the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY we find this statement: “[T]hough Jesus did not seek to attain ‘celebrity status’ for his miraculous powers, the effects of his works were simply too marvelous to be kept a secret”. (Meeks 881)

Perhaps we need to point this out to those who are our sports and entertainment icons. Celebrity is a gift to be treasured and used well.

monk and imam

Catholic monk welcomes Muslim worshipers in a church in Nice

Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. (Matthew 12:15-16) Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:20)

In the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE commentary tells us that, “To this [Matthew] adds a full citation from the First Servant Song (Is 42, 1-4) . . . emphasizing the meekness of Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, and foretelling the extension of his mission to the Gentiles”. (Senior 26)

Perhaps we need to point this out to those who would be our social or political leaders. Power is strongest when used in service to the poor and broken.  

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

Others speculate that Jesus was waiting until a particular moment to reveal his true nature to the world. Again from the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE commentary: “[O]nly in the light if Jesus’ resurrection can the meaning of his life and mission be truly understood; until then no testimony to the vision will lead people to faith”. (Senior 37)

Perhaps we need to point this out to our religious leaders. Influence is purest when used in the Spirit of the Living God.

And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:27-30)

muslims catholics procession

Muslim faithful walk behind a religious man as they attend Mass in tribute to slain priest

Jesus asks his closest followers to refrain from announcing his presence to the world. From the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE commentary: “Jesus acknowledges this identification [as messiah] but prohibits [the disciples] from making his messianic office known to avoid confusing it with ambiguous contemporary ideas on the nature of that office”. (Senior 81)

Perhaps we need to point this out to ourselves. Humility, sacrifice, and an authentic reverence for the Way that the Living God asks us to live. These are the marks of authentic leaders and followers. 

Our modern society and instant global communication have brought a new tension to our lives; but they have also brought a rapid means of connecting with others in a positive and healing way. We must look for constructive strategies to form solidarity with those who carry the good fruits of Christ’s story into the world. “Tell no one,” Jesus said in the beginning of the ministry. Now that his resurrection has begun the transformation of the world, we must not lose heart. Now we must tell everyone we know the Good News that Jesus is among us, calling each of us to a life of faith, hope, peace and love.

Reprepsentatives of the Muslim comunity go to Catholic Mass at Milan's Santa Maria

Representatives of the Muslim community go to Catholic Mass at Milan’s Santa Maria

Today, let us consider an act of solidarity we might make with others as we speak to our own entertainment, sports, political, social, and spiritual leaders and ask for lasting peace that transforms society.

After the shocking murder of an elderly Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, in France, the web brings us pictures and words of Muslims joining Christians in Catholic liturgies. For more on how these religious leaders work for solidarity in the name of peace, click on the images above or see: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36936658 or  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/muslims-pray-catholics-french-priest-murder-160731131924563.html 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. Print.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. Print.   

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John 8:1-11: Throwing Stones – Part IV

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Joyce Storey with her badge from Chefoo, a Japanese Concentration Camp

Joyce Storey with her badge from Chefoo, a Japanese Concentration Camp

What tax or tithe do we surrender when we give in to the temptation to throw stones? And what do we gain? How are we transformed when we render our suffering for, with and in Christ? 

How do we forgive the unforgivable?

Swarms of people came to Jesus. He sat down and taught them.

How do we guard against a smug or prideful attitude?

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone.

How do we open ourselves to possibility rather than close ourselves off from the potential for hope?

They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” 

How do we turn the horrible into the beautiful?

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. 

When we find ourselves in the impossible, we look for the pivot point of change.

Does no one condemn you? Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.

Throwing stones is a dangerous temptation. Throwing stones ends the possibility for transformation. But in the throwing of stones there is always the shimmering potential of hope – no matter how small. Today we read about the women and children of a Girl Guides troop that survived years of life in a Japanese concentration camp. Explore their story at the sites below and consider what was gained by these women as they lived through the experience of thrown stones, and we reflect on the surprising result of optimism in the face of violence.

For more on the story of Girl Guides in the Chefoo concentration camp, click on the image or visit: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/birmingham-woman-tells-of-childhood-in-japanese-158102

When listening to the podcast, visit this site and move through part one to arrive at part two: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/559/captains-log?act=1 

For the transcript of the THIS AMERICAN LIFE episode airing this story, use this link:, This American Life – Cookies and Monsters

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John 8:1-11: Throwing Stones – Part III

Friday, July 29, 2016take on hate

What tax or tithe do we surrender when we give in to the temptation to throw stones? 

Hate crimes. What are they? How do they affect us? Why does society worry about hate that flourishes among us to stalks the innocent?

Swarms of people came to Jesus. He sat down and taught them.

Societies might ignore the hate that simmers beneath the surface or they may ignore the anger that erupts into the open. They may even covertly or overtly encourage division for whatever reason governs their thinking.

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone.

Crimes that spring from hatred of “the other” also spring from the teaching that we must divide and categorize ourselves, and that some of us deserve more and less than others for reasons laid out by a controlling few.

They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” 

With hatred, a majority often dictates to a minority. Often the crime of hatred is nurtured by harbored thoughts of inadequacy and/or resentment. With hatred, we must take our division to Christ to ask for healing.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. 

At times we are the condemned woman, at times we are the hypocritical accusers, at times we are innocent victims of the unjust. In all cases we must respond as Jesus responds: Does no one condemn you? Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.

Throwing stones is a dangerous temptation. Throwing stones puts us in ambiguous positions. Throwing stones nurtures division and does not encourage understanding or inclusion. Today we reflect on the problem of hate crimes as we determine to pray and work for an end to this violence.

For information on hate crimes visit the United States National Crime Prevention Council site at: http://www.ncpc.org/topics/hate-crime  or to understand what action we might take to take on the hatred among us, click on the image or visit: https://www.accesscommunity.org/news/community-stories/2015/02/18/hate-crimes-are-rise-what-can-we-do-takeonhate

 

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John 8:1-11: Throwing Stones – Part II

Thursday, July 28, 2016honor killings

What tax or tithe do we surrender when we give in to the temptation to throw stones? 

We prepare to meet friends and family and celebrate important events. We gather to worship, to play, to study, to learn or to work. We read news feeds, Twitter feeds and fact-check the information that often poses as fact. When we are overwhelmed by natural and human catastrophe, we look for wisdom and peace. We go to God’s Word.

Swarms of people came to Jesus. He sat down and taught them.

Societies are free to establish mores and codes of conduct; yet we ask if they are free to extinguish life without benefit of full and fair justice.

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone.

Honor killings are a way of life in a number of cultures, among certain peoples. Like Jesus, we might gently ask who among us is without sin.

They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” 

Like Jesus, we might offer forgiveness rather than judgment, love rather than hate, an invitation rather than condemnation.

 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. 

At times we are the condemned woman, at times we are the hypocritical accusers, at times we are innocent victims of the unjust. In all cases we must respond as Jesus responds: Does no one condemn you? Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.

Throwing stones is a dangerous temptation. Throwing stones puts us in ambiguous positions. Throwing stones nurtures division and does not encourage understanding or inclusion. Today we reflect on the problem of honor killings as we determine to pray and work for an end to this violence.

For data, research reports, media articles and other information on honor-killings, click on the image above or visit the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network International Resource Center at: http://hbv-awareness.com/

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John 8:1-11: Throwing Stones – Part I

Wednesday, July 27, 2016stones with heart

What tax or tithe do we surrender when we give in to the temptation to throw stones? 

In our public and private lives, in our work places, in our houses of worship, in our homes . . . we are constantly called to judge one another. Where so we learn how to handle our tendency to judge?

Swarms of people came to Jesus. He sat down and taught them.

Christ still walks among us and teaches us through our own spiritual core where the Spirit speaks, and through the words and actions of others whom God sends into our path. When we silence the noise of the word and withdraw for a time as Jesus does, we allow a space for God to speak to us. Even then, there will be those who challenge us. And they will frequently hide among the holy, the expert and the innocent. What do we do to distill the Word of God?

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone.

In all circumstances and at all times we are vulnerable to the trick questions and false fronts of those who take advantage of our better nature. What do we say when we are hard-pressed by deceivers?

stonesThey were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” 

On all days and at all hours we face confusion and obfuscation. When we do as Jesus does and answer the deceptive dare with a question that goes to the core of the deceit, we invite Christ into the conversation.

 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. 

At times we are the condemned woman, at times we are the hypocritical accusers, at times we are innocent victims of the unjust. In all cases we must respond as Jesus responds: Does no one condemn you? Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.

Throwing stones is a dangerous temptation. Throwing stones puts us in ambiguous positions. Throwing stones nurtures division and does not encourage understanding or inclusion. Today we chose a circumstance, environment, or situation at which we want to throw stones. We reflect on this story and we look for ways to apply it to our own lives.

For a reflection on the distinction between throwing stones and giving grace, click on the image above or visit: http://sharperiron.org/article/showered-with-stones-or-grace 

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Matthew 2:13-14: Migration – Part II

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Flight into Egypt

Flight into Egypt

We are familiar with the problem of migration in modern society. Not only does evil force families to uproot lives and shift to foreign lands, it also stalks the very societies that offer haven. In the presence of this evil, we consider the anger and rage that sends families into exile, and we recall that Mary, Jesus and Joseph were forced to migrate to a foreign land in search of safety. Today we read again the familiar words but with an openness to the plight of migrants looking for safe harbor. We renew our commitment to Christ who asks that we pray for those who hide among the innocent to commit horrendous acts of malice. And we ask for the intercession of the Spirit in the lives of all who forced into migration.

Refugees on the island of Lesbos, autumn 2015

If there is time today, focus on a news story about migration and bring your prayer together with al those who work for peace in homelands and abroad. If we are able, we might render our tithes to an organization that works for local or global peace.

To read a sermon entitled “Holiness Always Wins,” click on the image of the flight into Egypt, or visit: https://interruptingthesilence.com/2014/01/06/holiness-always-wins-a-sermon-on-matthew-213-15-19-23/ 

For drone footage of refugees moving through Slovenia, click on the image from Lesbos, or visit: 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11986994/The-migrant-crisis-is-a-mere-gust-of-the-hurricane-that-will-soon-engulf-Europe.html 

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John 8:1-11: Adultery

Sunday, March 13, 2016 Jesus_writing_in_sand

Again today we hear a story with familiar characters who give us an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. We are accustomed to thinking of adultery as an intimate relationship outside of marriage. In our Lenten journey, the Gospel invites us to consider what other ways we adulterate our lives. We might ask what impurity or weakness have we added to our actions or to our character that moves us away from the hope for the world that God created in us. When we use the scripture link to read other translations of this familiar story, we might listen for the newness that creeps into our understanding of ourselves, others, and of Jesus. Why is it that Jesus does not condemn this woman? Where is the man who accompanied her in this act? Where is the angry crowd? Is the woman guilty? What happens to her after her encounter with Jesus? And what happens to us when we consider all the times we have watered down the goodness and mercy planted in us? When and how have we adulterated our lives?

The religious scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

We ask ourselves. Whom do we most closely resemble, those in the crowd or the one who stands condemned? And can we see ourselves as the forgiving Jesus?

Does no one condemn you? Neither do I. Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.

To learn more about this story, use the scripture link to compare versions, click on the image above or visit: http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.7.Adulterous_woman.htm 

For Aicha el-Wafi and Phyllis Rodriguez’ Ted Talk on forgiveness, click on the image below or go to: https://www.ted.com/talks/9_11_healing_the_mothers_who_found_forgiveness_friendship

For more stories like these, visit The Forgivness Project at: http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/  Consider becoming involved with this or a similar initiative to bring peace to our world and to stem the violence that adulterates our lives.

Phyllis Rodriguez and Aicha el-Wafi

Phyllis Rodriguez and Aicha el-Wafi

Today we begin this week’s Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “I will set all things right in God’s kingdom,” let us think instead, “I will strive each day to follow Jesus’ example of forgiveness, mercy and love”.

Tomorrow, missing God.

 

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