Tomorrow, November 8th, is election day and I am becoming increasingly concerned about what will happen tomorrow and in the days and months that follow. This campaign has been so very divisive, hateful, and acrimonious that I fear for the safety of whoever wins and for our own. The name calling on both sides and the call to kill a candidate, the call to commit treason, and murder goes beyond anything we have seen before. We are in a difficult time where we need to step back and rethink our and way forward.
It will not be easy to heal the wounds opened in this election cycle to much hatred and anger has been spewed into our air to make this a comfortable process but we must begin to forgive each other if we are to be the people we profess to be. The spiritual practice of prayer, individual and corporate, helps us focus on each other rather our own selfish interests. Prayer can awaken our concern for the welfare of all and quiet our fears that we are threatened by forces we cannot control. Prayer gives us the courage and strength to take control of who we are as spiritual beings.
To begin I offer a prayer written by the Rev. Kara Markel, a pastor friend of mine, for the Council on Christian Unity, to begin our election day and post-election spiritual practice. As we offer our prayers may we remember Jesus cared for all of us; poor and rich, Christian and non-Christian, Male, female, and differently gendered, and peoples from all cultures and ethnicities. Let us open our hearts to reconciling with each other in prayer.
An Election Prayer
Let us be a people at prayer in these days of waiting:
We pray for our president elect, that they will lead our country with strength and compassion; that they may represent the very best of the United States around the globe; that they may be committed to justice and peace, and bringing our nation together to address our challenges.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for our governors and legislators, that they will be responsive to their whole constituency and enact laws that ensure the wellbeing of all the people they represent.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for all others elected to public office, that their service to their people would be just and beyond reproach; that where ever they serve in local government, schools, or law enforcement, they would treat all people with dignity and serve the common good.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for our nation, our cities, and our neighborhoods, that together we can create a place where all people are respected and safe, where difference of opinion does not lead to violence, and where our combined creativity heals brokenness of all kinds.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray also that regardless of the outcome of this Election Day, we would remember that we are called by Christ to care for our neighbor, pursue peace and work for justice in our communities. Inspire us to work together, across divisions and difference, to create beloved community where ever we can.
Lord, hear our prayer.
From the Council on Christian Unity
written by The Rev. Kara Markell, Pastor
Lake Washington Christian Church
For the past two years I have been wrestling with how my ministry would be expressed in the world. This discernment journey has taken me “around the block” and back again many times and during this past summer I had finally made my decision, I choose not to be ordained in my denomination of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I choose not to be a pastor, or a chaplain, or even a spiritual director. I choose to be something else, what that something is has only just begun to take shape.
This may seem inconsequential to most of you but for me it has been a difficult decision. I graduated in 2013 with my Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) degree and it was with the intention of being ordained, primarily because I believed that is what one did when one received an MDiv. But you see it wasn’t my intention when I entered the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) at Seattle University in 2007. At that time I just wanted to be better informed in order to conduct Labyrinth retreats with more meaning. What happened as I progressed through my degree programs of Spiritual Transformation and MDiv I discovered I had talent and passion for learning and I wanted to share what I learned with others. And the truth of the matter is as an ordained pastor I would not be able to share all that I learned simply by the constraints of the job. I actually would have a greater voice if I wasn’t ordained.
So I chose to be a scholar, a learner of faith with the purpose of spreading what I learn back in to the world. This is important because we aren’t 1st century people; we live in the 21st century. That means we have a perspective on our faith that those living in the 1st and 2nd and 3rd centuries did not have. We have a history of being, or not being, people of God, just as the Jewish people of the 1st century had a history of being, or not being, a people of God. We have had our moments of living as God asked and we have had our moments when we have forgotten God, just as the Jewish people had and have. It is the task of the scholar to educate the people of God of their past and how can we do that if no one studies it?
In the last two years I have become interested in how our Christian faith is connected to our Jewish roots and to our younger sibling in the faith Islam and that interest has led me into the differences in how we read Holy Scripture as compared to our 1st to 3rd century faith ancestors, and the differences are striking. Those differences in perspective has shown me it is important for people to understand what the writings of Paul, Gospel Writers, Jewish Prophets, and Muslim Writers actually wanted their listeners to know, what was the message they were transmitting and how does that message resonate with us today. All those authors wrote and spoke was revolutionary in their time and I want to recover, at least for myself, that revolutionary message. I want to know what they wrote that was specific to their time and not relevant in the 21st century and what part of their message guides us forward into our own future. And, I want to share that news, that revolutionary news. I have no illusions that I am going to be another Marcus Borg, or a John Caputo, or anyone else who is way more learned in theology than I will ever be. But I can read what they have learned and pass it on to those who will listen.
You see scholars are often, well nearly always, not thought of as being relevant to world. When anyone envisions a scholar it is as a stuffy old man or woman who is a bit rumpled and surrounded by books and papers. It is someone who is absent minded and lost in the past, with no idea about what is going on in the world today. But that is not who learners/scholars are.
Scholars are connected to the world by stories, and threads of the past that live in the present and the future. The old quotation “if we don’t remember the past we are doomed to repeat it,” has never had more meaning than in today’s world. We are currently reliving a past history where the disadvantaged and those who are different from us are forgotten and made the objects of hate and fear. It is the role of the scholar to remind the people of who they are, and whose they are. It was the role of the prophets in Jewish History, it was the role of John the Baptist, and it was the role of Jesus of Nazareth and Muhammad. All of them called to their people to see each other, everyone, as themselves. Today we have and had people like President Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther King who have called to us to remember and just like those who went before us too many are not listening.
I will never be an exalted a scholar like Desmond Tutu, or Elisabeth Johnson, Sallie McFague or Elisabeth Schüssler Florenza. But in my small part maybe I can pass on their learning’s to someone who will become exalted. That is enough for me. As the saying goes I am a very small fish in a very large pond and I am happy with that. To give back what I have been blessed to receive is more than enough.
There are many others like me out there, people who read, and study waiting for the opportunity to pass on what they have discovered beyond academics or a very small circle of friends. What each has is a nugget of truth and bit wisdom that needs to be heard. This choice is not prestigious, very few scholars make it to super star status and I am grateful for that. But the time has come for the telling of the past mistakes and success’. To help everyone remember that the eyes of the other are your eyes and to harm or denigrate the other is to harm and denigrate yourself. Scholars have a role to play in the world that is greater than writing dusty tomes that will be read by only a few. The past is relevant to the present and the future and it is important that we remember that. I would like to add my very small part to that story. To offer a tiny bit of knowledge that just might help someone else see the world differently.
My choice, my decision, my path not the easiest of routes to take, and it wasn’t an easy choice but I choose to be a learner, a scholar, a passer on of knowledge.
My prayer for all of you to listen with open mind and heart to what the teaching says, it just might change your life.
Deuteronomy 18:15-18 15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.
Advent is a time of preparation, longing, and anticipation. While shopping, feasting, and celebrating have become part of the season they are not what Advent is about. In fact Advent traditional was a time of fasting just as Lent is. It is time to stop and reflect on what God has done and is about to do. It is a time to get ready for the child that brings us the good news. At my home Church Queen Anne Christian Church in Seattle we are taking this time to slow down and to be mindful of the graciousness of the creator. As faith community we want to buy less stuff and give more love, to slow our pace and live into the hope given by the gift of the Christ Child. So during this season of Advent I am going to share the Advent meditations we are following at Queen Anne Christian Church. May you find hope, peace, joy, and love as you prepare for the birth of love.
Meditations for a Mindful Advent Queen Anne Christian Church
Slow down . . . seek hope
Buy less . . . create peace
Eat less . . . embrace joy
Worry less . . . give love
Prepare your heart for new birth.
An Advent Prayer
God who causes stars to burn and energy to flow,
may Your presence be made known to us in new ways.
When we wonder where You are, shine Your light in new ways.
When we wonder why bad things happen, help us to find all of Your goodness.
When we feel hopeless, help us to become Your hope in the world.
You have created us out of stardust, and breathed into us life.
In You, all things are possible, and all things are created new.
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, as we await the birth of the light of Christ
may we come to know You in new ways on this journey of faith. Amen.
Hope – The First Week of Advent
Light one candle
Pray the “Advent Prayer” above.
At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then inevitable.
— Christopher Reeve
Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated.
You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
— David Lloyd George Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, what dream of hope calls to you?
Evening: As you look back on your day, where did you find hope? Prayer
Offer a prayer for those in need of hope; include yourself.
As I am personally preparing for Christmas I have been disturbed by the amount of violence and death around the world. Peace on earth does not seem near. So as part of my morning ritual I have been doing Lectio Divina with the Psalms. They have brought me some comfort but this Psalm struck a chord within me and I wanted to share that with you. So this is a little different from most of my postings, as it is part of my journaling during my meditation. I am letting you in on a small part of my conversations I held with the Psalmist and God. They are my insights of the moment, so if I say something you disagree with please be gentle, it is after all a private conversation you are overhearing. At the end of my journaling you will find the steps for Lectio Divina. For your own Lectio Divina meditation you may use the whole Psalm, as I did, or only a verse or two.
Psalm 10, The Message (MSG)
1-2 God, are you avoiding me? Where are you when I need you?
Full of hot air, the wicked are hot on the trail of the poor.
Trip them up, tangle them up in their fine-tuned plots.
I am in the process of preparing for a Longest Night worship service and in reading this Psalm I was struck by how it matched my gut feelings this Advent. Every day the news is filled with stories from around the world of someone killing someone one else, often many someone’s. Just last night news came of a hostage situation in Sidney, Australia, just one more story to add to the Ferguson, New Town, Cleveland, Seattle, Portland, Houston, Afghanistan, and Iraq stories of the last number of years. The list is too long, too many people have died, and too many children have died. Like the Psalmist I am left wondering “where are you God.”
3-4 The wicked are windbags, the swindlers have foul breath.
The wicked snub God, their noses stuck high in the air.
Their graffiti are scrawled on the walls: “Catch us if you can!” “God is dead.”
This is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration but I do not feel like celebrating. Our elected leader’s mouth words from the Bible I read every day, yet, their actions tell me they do not believe what they speak. Are they wicked? Are they windbags? Well the wicked part can only be determined by God but the windbag part . . .. Yes they are windbags, hoping that we who at least try to live a life of compassion will not notice their plans to take the last ounce of God’s abundance all for themselves. They write bills and say “try and stop me, from denying the basic necessities to those who cannot help being poor, sick, elderly, or a child.
5-6 They care nothing for what you think; if you get in their way, they blow you off.
They live (they think) a charmed life: “We can’t go wrong. This is our lucky year!”
These insufferable, so called leaders lie and twist the truth until even the best of us are confused and dazed by the avalanche of untruths they let loose on the public. Whether they are religious fundamentalist, political leaders, in the United States, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, British Isles or anywhere they claim the spotlight and they believe no one can stop them. They are on a role and the rest of us “be damned.”
7-8 They carry a mouthful of hexes, their tongues spit venom like adders.
They hide behind ordinary people, then pounce on their victims.
9 They mark the luckless, then wait like a hunter in a blind;
When the poor wretch wanders too close, they stab him in the back.
10-11 The hapless fool is kicked to the ground, the unlucky victim is brutally axed.
He thinks God has dumped him, he’s sure that God is indifferent to his plight.
The words they spit from their mouths cause fear in those who have minds that are weak and malleable. Letting these poor souls do the violence they pretend to abhor only to turn on them when they caught in their snares.
12-13 Time to get up, God—get moving.
The luckless think they’re Godforsaken.
They wonder why the wicked scorn God
and get away with it,
Why the wicked are so cocksure
they’ll never come up for audit.
We wait for you O God to respond, to let us know you haven’t forgotten us. We wait and we wait.
14 But you know all about it— the contempt, the abuse.
I dare to believe that the luckless will get lucky someday in you.
You won’t let them down: orphans won’t be orphans forever.
The Psalmist sings of your knowledge of the violence we see every day. But do you really hear the cries of the children who have lost limbs to bombs, to parents who have watched as their children are killed in front of them, as ISIS hangs those with different beliefs, as children shoot children? Have we not sent enough children, parents, loved ones to you to serve as a sacrifice? Do you care?
15-16 Break the wicked right arms, break all the evil left arms.
Search and destroy every sign of crime.
God’s grace and order wins; godlessness loses.
My heart wants to believe as the Psalmist did that you will intervene in the bloodletting of this world, but I know you will not. It is not up to you, O God, to set this world back on the track of compassion, justice and peace. That really is our job. We are the ones who created these people who mock everything you have wanted for all. We are the ones who must “gird up our loins” and speak out against injustice, violence, hatred, and war. Only we who believe in justice, mercy, kindness, peace, compassion will change the lives of those who are oppressed, abused, injured, and starved by those who mock the world as you, O God, planned it. We must stop cowering in our homes and our places of faith and become the prophets, the messengers, the hands, feet and voice that will bring down those who would enslave us to a life of poverty and misery. Then, and only then, will the Psalmist’s dream come true.
17-18 The victim’s faint pulse picks up; the hearts of the hopeless pump red blood as you put your ear to their lips.
Orphans get parents, the homeless get homes.
The reign of terror is over, the rule of the gang lords is ended.
Gracious Spirit I thank you for this time of blessed meditation. May the words and images I have seen transform my actions into walking with you in greater joy. AMEN
Practicing Lectio Divina
Choose the portion of the Scripture you wish to pray.
Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent, focus for a few moments on your breathing.
Read the chosen text through, slowly and gently. Listen to yourself read, let yourself to savor each word and phrase.
Read the text a second time. What words or phrases stick out for you? Remember God speaks to us in silence and in our listening. The words that pop out do so for a reason, pay attention to them.
Read the text a third time. Are there any other words that speak to you?
Sit now in silence, letting the words you have heard, speak to you and for you in your prayer, your conversation with God. What images, ideas, words spring forward? Or maybe all of them are present in mediation. Sit with those insights as you experience the presence of God. Give your insights to God. Do the insights give you new meaning or transformation of your actions, or prayer life?
Now rest in God’s arms. Let God’s presence give you comfort. Do you feel the pull to return to your meditations? Then begin again. If not close with a prayer of gratitude for the time you have spent in God’s presence and the insights you have received.
My thoughts over the last couple of months have been over whelmed by the violence, the bullying, the tragedy, and the anger that has played across my TV screen, computer, radio and newspaper in the last couple of months. I have seen the quote by some famous person that reads “those who keep silent in the face of evil are giving their approval,” or the pictures’ displaying one perspective versus another and which one has the greatest validity. I am left speechless and in pain. Yes I have heard that even one small act of mercy changes someone and I have used those very words myself many times. Do what you can and ‘wait,’ wait for minds to change, or for hearts to open, . . . wait for what.
The scripture for Sunday came from Isaiah and begins with “Comfort, O Comfort my people” (40:1), but, I’m sorry I don’t feel that comfort. I offer prayers, I read, and I listen. I volunteer at the King County Juvenile Detention Center, here at church, and lead the occasional spiritual retreat and labyrinth walk, yet, except for Juvenile Detention CTR, I feel as if I am “preaching to the choir,” so to speak. Where in all of these days of suffering, and confusion does the offering come that provides more than my comfort and brings a justly faithful, hopeful, loving comfort to those who do not share my skin color, or language, or culture, or gender, or abilities, or whatever makes them different from the so called “main stream” of the population.
This meditation was intended to be an inspirational moment. But I am not feeling very inspirational, just too much has happened in the last couple of months. So I ask your forgiveness for talking through some of my thoughts. I live in a world that appears to be falling apart as I sit my comfortable, warm home. I keep asking what will stop the building blocks our lives from tumbling into the abyss.
I am afraid we are headed into a storm of our own making that will destroy us. We won’t need to be invaded, no; we are doing a grand job of destruction all by ourselves. Voices of change and compassion, justice, mercy, and peace are drowned out by hateful speech by bullies in high places. The actions and words of those high placed bullies give permission to those who fear the unknown to be violent and destructive at the ground roots level. Hateful speech and actions becomes a cancer eating away at our will to fight against justice and mercy.
So I sit in my little home office, offering prayers, and volunteering when the opportunity arises. I do my small acts that I pray are being added to other small acts, but I don’t know if any of it will be enough. Our denominations GLBQ organization used the slogan “All Means ALL” at our last national General Assembly. They wanted to get the message across that everyone matters, despite gender identification, skin color, religion, or culture everyone is important. There are very few slogans I actually believe in, but I believe in that one. If I can do nothing other than let each and every person know how much they matter in my life, in the life of my Faith Community, and in the life of the greater community we are all part of then I have done the best I can. That will have to be enough.
Matthew 3:3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”
Unfortunately I never had children. However, I have been blessed to be Grammy to my husband John’s two youngest grandchildren. I remember how excited I was to hear our Daughter-in-Law, Laura, tell us she was pregnant and I could hardly wait to see this new addition to our family. Liam was born on John’s birthday in 2007 and he is now 7 year old, actually soon to be 8 and is becoming a wonderful young man.
I have been thinking about what it took to prepare for Liam’s arrival. So many things go into preparing for newborn; baby clothes, blankets, crib, diapers, binkies, blankets, toys, rattles, bottles, booties, the list is endless. And you can be sure you will forget something in all the hustle bustle of getting ready.
We are in the first week of Advent and I was thinking about what Mary would have done to get ready. The first thing she would have to do was tell her intended husband she was pregnant and I can only imagine how the conversation went.
“Ah Joseph, I have to tell you something.”
“Yes Mary what is it.”
“Now I want you sit down and listen to what I say, I know it will be hard to understand, I don’t understand myself, but this is the truth.”
“Just tell me Mary, it will be ok.”
“ Weeell, 3 months ago I was visited by an angel of the Lord and he told me that I had been chosen above all other women, to bear the child of the Most High. He said the Holy Spirit would come upon me and, ah, it happened, I’m pregnant.”
“ Ah, Mary , you are telling me your pregnant, and it is YHYW’s child. That’s a little hard to believe.”
“I know but, before you do anything, like report me to the temple authorities, just think about it.”
“Ok, I’ll think about it, but this I will tell you the wedding is off but I won’t have you taken before the authorities, I still love you and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“You will know what’s best to do Joseph.”
Mary was a teenager, maybe as young as 13 years, and being an unwed mother in the first century was not an acceptable practice. Stoning of the woman was the rule and Mary had every right to be afraid. She didn’t know what Joseph would do. She didn’t know that He would be visited by the same angel who would tell him he has nothing to fear. Mary, like any young woman who finds herself pregnant, was fearful of what could happen to her. Just preparing to tell those she hoped loved her would be a fearful experience. Her pregnancy would bring shame and humiliation upon her family and Joseph so simply getting the courage to tell of her predicament would take time. Maybe that is why she went to visit her Cousin Elizabeth to gather the courage to tell her wonderful, terrifying secret.
In the next 4 weeks we too will be preparing. No we aren’t in Mary’s sandals, but, we have those things that terrify us as we get ready for the celebration the Christ Child’s birth. We have our own secrets that we keep buried within us. In the last couple of years the racial bias, gender bias, bias against women, poor, and elderly have come out into the open. All of us, me included, carry some level of all those biases. It is learning to admit that I, we all, carry fear toward someone different that raises those fears and biases from subconscious to conscious where they light of day can heal them.
Advent is about preparation, it is about hope, it is about faith, it is about love, it is about peace entering where angels fear to tread. This advent I am taking my fears out of the shadows and finding the way to heal the wounds they cause. Letting the light of hope, faith, and love change them from fear to acceptance. In prayer, in meditation, and with Advent prayer books I am working, trying hard, to change how I see the world.
What fears, what biases cause you to afraid of someone from a different faith, with a different color skin, is poor, or elderly keeping you from experiencing the amazing peace, hope, faith and love that the presence of the Christ child offers to you? I invite you to ponder the above scripture this week, to pray about how to prepare your heart for the celebration of the Christ’s birth.