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A Reflection – 22 October 2020

As we watched the news today

Watching as I prepared to share my presentation for class

My heart was consumed and overwhelmed

We pray for…

Our very dear friends in the Rocky Mountains who are family

Our wildlife neighbors with whom we share a deep connection

Our Rocky Mountain family is suffering

Lord, as wildfires approach our mountain home

Our family is forced to choose what can fit into their cars as they evacuate

They are worrying about pets they could not coax into carriers

They are worrying about artwork which is a part of their very soul

For our dear family, two-legged and four-legged we pray

Calm the winds and bring precious moisture to smother the flames

Into your heart and hands we lift those whom we love

Lord in your mercy, hear this humble prayer

Hold the burdens of our aching hearts

Dona Nobis Pacem et in Terra

Grant Us Peace on Earth

Justice – James Baldwin

Photo and quote courtesy of Pace et Bene

“Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person—ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” —James A. Baldwin

Evening Prayer – 21 October 2020

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

We are midway through the intensive week in Narrative Leadership

It has been a time of sharing and transformation

It has been a time of reflection and fellowship

Thank you to my alma mater, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities for this opportunity

Now as my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre…

Sojourners Verse and Voice – 20 October 2020

Verse of the day
Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. – Psalm 119:133 (NIV)

Voice of the day
If the Church is to remain faithful to its Lord, it must make a decisive break with the structure of this society by launching a vehement attack on the evils of racism in all forms. – James H. Cone, Black Theology and Black Power

Prayer of the day
O God, may our hearts receive and act out of the understanding that being faithful to you requires us to resist the ideologies and systems that produce oppression.

Black Lives Matter!

Picture from The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL

“If one believes in the Prince of Peace one must stop committing crimes in the name of the Prince of Peace.” – James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time p. 756)

A Global Vision – Elise Boulding – Pace et Bene

Picture and quote courtesy of Pace et Bene

“When we are talking about a global vision of a disarmed world—a world without weapons—then we have to know what our brothers and sisters have been able to create in the way of nonviolent sharing communities under great hardships in many parts of the world. Practicality links with spirituality.”—Elise Boulding

Evening Prayer – 17 October 2020

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

It has been a busy day, Lord

Spending time with friends who are family

Walking and exploring our town with them

Enjoying good food and fellowship (and a football game!)

Working on next Sunday’s worship

Taking some time to simply Be Still

Now as my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre…

Is it Really About Taxes or is it About Who We Serve…

Once again, the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. (Matthew 22:15) I am frankly surprised by how slow the Pharisees are to see that every trap they attempt to set for Jesus fails. This could almost be a Road Runner Cartoon where the Pharisees end up much like Wile E. Coyote with his ACME tricks that he bought to trap the Roadrunner. Each episode would end with the Road Runner sticking out his tongue and saying “meep, meep” as he sped off into the sunset. While Jesus didn’t stick out his tongue (maybe he did in his mind only, I know I would have done that) he still left the Pharisees with another painful lesson in don’t try to outsmart him. Yet as I sit here smugly thinking how much better I am as a pastor than those silly Pharisees were as faith leaders, I find myself holding the wrong end of the ACME device with a dazed look as it blows up in my face. Who am I to say that I am better than the Pharisees? We each have our own faults and heaven knows that the church has done more of its share of acting the Pharisee only to be out maneuvered by Jesus. As we used to say in the Air Force—Been there, done that. Got the t-shirt, don’t wear it. Even though I should know better, I continue to slip and fall on this journey called faith and life. 

So, on to the answer that Jesus gave the Pharisees (and the Herodians) in response to their question about taxes. The taxes in question were only part of what the common, ordinary citizen was expected to pay out of their meager earnings. The Temple Tax was expected, along with the cost of ritual sacrifices, by the religious elite but that is a story for another day (turning the tables on the “den of thieves” in his Father’s house). When they asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor, there were several things in play. First was the fact that the Roman coins had the image of the emperor on them and since the emperor considered himself a god, it was breaking the second Commandment concerning idols. On the face of the coin of the realm of that time you would find the face of the Emperor, Tiberius Caesar. On the flip side of the coin were these words in Latin: “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus.” Every time an observant Jew picked up that silver denarius, they would hear the voice of the Lord s saying—I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God… (Exodus 20:4-5a)

Jesus asked the Pharisees and Herodians (who were actually a political party that supported Herod the Great and his sons) who’s head was on the coin. Well Jesus, that seems like an easy answer. Of course, they said it was the emperor’s head. Left unsaid was the fact that it was also a coin minted by the Empire, the occupying forces! The Pharisees and the Herodians would never say that because they were in cahoots with the empire and had abandoned the very people of God they were supposed to be serving along with serving the one who had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and broken the bonds of oppression.

After Jesus replied to their answer (Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.) they left him, sort of like Wile E Coyote covered in the soot of his latest ACME disaster. Well, that’s all well and good, Padre, but what does it have to do with us today? Is it about the images engraved on our own money or the images on coins around the world?

In my own study and reflection, I have a slightly different take on this story from Scripture. First of all, everything above the earth, on the earth, and under the earth belongs to the Creator of us all. In an old offering hymn, we sing the following: We give thee but thine own, Whate’er the gift may be, for all we have is thine alone, A trust, O Lord, from thee.

So, it really isn’t a question of ownership as I see it. It is a question of loyalty, whom do we serve? In the words of Joshua–…choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River  or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

At various points in human history the church has gotten itself into trouble by “getting in bed with the empire” so to speak. The Protestant Reformation came as a result of the church becoming internally and externally corrupt. In 1930’s Germany, the “official” state church (German Christian Movement–Reich Church) became a pawn of the Nazi movement. Nationalism (not patriotism) was wedded to the church and if you didn’t agree with them you could find yourself in a concentration camp like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and so many others. The Confessing Church (Lutheran, Reformed, and United Christian churches) responded to Hitler’s National Church with the Theological Declaration of Barmen. This Declaration is a part of the Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (USA). This document and the movement of the Confessing Church challenged the so-called German Christian Movement’s ties to the Nazi party and being a mouthpiece for the Third Reich. This movement had put government (empire) before Christ. 

This brings us back to the question… whom will you serve? God or the emperor in whatever form the empire takes. In the words of Joshua, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Healing the Wounds of the Earth – Paul Hawken

Image and quote courtesy of Pace et Bene

“Healing the wounds of the earth and its people does not require saintliness or a political party, only gumption and persistence. It is not a liberal or a conservative activity; it is a sacred act. It is a massive enterprise undertaken by ordinary citizens everywhere, not by self-appointed governments or oligarchies.” — Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest

Evening Prayer – 16 October 2010

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

For a day of rest and preparation

For time to simply Be Still in your presence

For the gift of your presence and love

We give you thanks, O’ Lord

As my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre,,,