Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Day Seven 2014

I try not to make a big deal of New Year's Eve, and yet I can't help but get a little bit reflective at the end of a calendar and the start of a new one.

There are things I want to change (always), things that were amazing and gratitude-provoking in the past year (always), and disappointments in the past year, too (always).

But I honestly don't have anything I want to share with the internet tonight. I had a full day which ended with some good friends and that's enough.

It's about to turn into 2015. I will spend the first hour or so with my cat, reflecting and praying.

Happy New Year! Peace and blessings on us all!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Day Six 2014

I just deleted another long, rambly post. It was about troubling news in the media with a side of concern for some friends' troubles and transitions.

All I really want to say on this Sixth Day of Christmas is that a part of our Christian theology of incarnation is that we, as the church, as the Body of Christ, also embody the presence of God for each other.

All I really have to say today is that we need to pray for one another and check in on one another and do what we can with our hands and feet and minds---all signs of God's gracious love.

No geese here. Just a hope that we can learn to be a little bit of Jesus for one another, bringing hope, healing, and release. In short revealing the Reign of God among us.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Day Five 2014

Fiiiiive Gooolden Riiiiiinnngs!

There are a lot of complaints about the commercialization of Christmas. I've lodged my share. I just barely participate in it myself these days.

I watch the few children in my life and I remember the giddiness of Christmas and the hope of what we might get from Santa. Figuring out that Santa shopped at Sears, their annual Wish Book catalog was left around the house, open to pertinent pages.

Christmas was such a mixed thing for me. I got some things I wanted, of course. Other things were close to what I wanted, but the off-brand version (never got a Six Million Dollar Man action figure, but had some dollar store action figure that had a name I no longer remember). Then there was the year that my parents apparently were busy and did all the Christmas shopping at the local John Deere dealership at the last minute. They had a line of toys, all modeled after the latest in tractor and other farming equipment. Granted, we played with those for years afterward, but in the moment I was somewhat crushed. These were not at all what I wanted for Christmas.

My Facebook friends list is diverse enough that I have friends who had rather privileged childhoods and speak fondly of Christmas memories and also friends who speak of "that one Christmas" when they had a gift. Singular.

If there was ever a holiday to highlight class differences, it's the secular Christmas. Rooted in the story of the Wise Men, I get it and even kind of like the idea, but that it becomes a thing that creates such starkly different childhoods among kids in the same city seems unfortunate. At best.

As noted above, I have participated in this holiday's most commercial side and there's a part of me that doesn't mind the commercial side, and I even wish I had the means to participate in it more fully. But I am of many minds about this. The Christmas Eve service at my church has become the important Christmas observance for me, but all around me, I see this other piece of the observance, the excitement over products and their accumulation. I feel outside of it and yet swimming in it, disdaining it yet wishing to participate more fully in it.

Someone today posted on Facebook that the five gold rings in the popular carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," were ring-necked pheasants, a reasonable theory given all the other birds in the first half of the song. Googling about the web, I find this theory is out there and there is also some disputing it. The earliest illustrated version of the song, in a children's book, shows jewelry, but that was still a few centuries after the earliest recorded version of the song. Who knows what the first singers meant, the first listeners understood?

And so we come to a favorite theme of mine, I suppose. Without this becoming about "the reason for the season," for there are quite possibly a number of reasons for the season we now call Christmas, I'm always mindful of how meanings change over time. Within my lifetime, personally, Christmas has become less about gifts and much more about "midnight mass"---something I knew nothing about in my rural Texas Lutheran childhood. Historically, we don't have much in the way of evidence that Christmas was even observed before the 4th Century. What did it mean then? Gift giving was a part of the pagan winter festival of Saturnalia, so just how much does gift-giving have to do with the Matthean story of Wise Men anyway?

Another friend posted on Facebook about the need for capitalism to be tempered with humility and empathy and civility (actually the friend of a friend's words---I might have chose another three or more words, but these work for me). I think these are words to hold close when thinking about things like gold and Christmas and gifts and commercialization the "reason for the season."

This was intended to be a quick paragraph or two. Well, I often say this blog is the unedited me, and my free-association got the better of me, as it often does. Here at the almost halfway point, I hope your Christmas season is joyful, and that any happiness comed from something deeper than material possession. I also hope you maybe get a little something you wanted for Christmas, too.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Day Four, Holy Innocents 2014

Random disconnected thoughts today.

Four calling birds or murdered toddler boys? On the fourth day of Christmas . . .

You will notice that the Christian calendar does not go in narrative order. The slaughter of the Holy Innocents happens after the wise men leave Bethlehem, but we don't celebrate the arrival of the wise men to Bethlehem until January 6. Don't let this confuse you.

According to the Wikipedia page for Holy Innocents, there is disagreement about whether this was a historical event. The Gospel of Matthew is the only extant piece of literature to mention it. The writer of Matthew is very concerned with fulfilling passages from the Hebrew scriptures, so he may have told this story to reference Rachel weeping for her children. The counter argument is that the Greco-Roman world practiced infanticide with some regularity, so a puppet king murdering all the boys under the age of two in a small town would not catch the attention of a general historian like Josephus.

We don't know how many boys were murdered. The story doesn't say. In a small town, how many infant boys under the age of two would there be? A dozen? A few dozen? Not that a low number lessens the horror of the situation.

If this event never happened, what would the writer be wanting to tell us with this story? If this is myth without factual basis, what should we look for? I'm not going to do a lot of exegesis here, but these things come to mind.

The Jews generally had a higher regard for the life of infants than the larger culture. Matthew was written with a Jewish audience in mind (or so the scholarly consensus goes), and so a basic message might have been that Herod, Hellenized Jew that he was, colluding with the Roman Empire to maintain his little bit of power as king of the Jews, was a terrible person, sinking so low as to practice infanticide like those Romans did. It may serve as a way to show the readers to what extent Herod had assimilated to the conquering culture.

There's also the Matthean concern that Jesus be seen as the new Moses, come to set his people free. Matthew is full of parallels with the Hebrew scriptures, and an escape into Egypt follows the pattern of Israelite history. The dream that come to Joseph, the father of Jesus, also parallels the dreams Joseph of the many colored coat had. 

Right off the bat, we see how dangerous Jesus is. This story is a bit of foreshadowing to the trouble Jesus would have with authorities, both secular and religious.

This is a very short episode in the Matthew gospel, so it's really about the accumulated effect of all these episodes that helps Matthew communicate to us who Jesus is---chosen of God, Anointed (Messiah in Hebrew, Christ in Greek).

But taking this episode on its own, we might think on a few things. Remember the people who are caught in the cross hairs of Empire machinations, particularly the children. We might take some time to reflect on how we assimilate to the ways of Empire to maintain our personal power. We might notice and take seriously the ways that just the appearance of Jesus on the scene threatens the status quo, the power systems. We might reflect on the ways we are threatened by Jesus.

That's what I've got for now.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Day Three, John Evangelist and Apostle 2014

There is much about the Bible that is uncertain. It is a gift.

Today, the calendars of many western church bodies recognize John, Evangelist and Apostle. To be honest, it's an idea that is recognized, more than a certain person.

There is the tradition, of course, that John, the beloved apostle of Jesus, wrote the Gospel According to John, the three Epistles of John, and Revelation. Koine Greek scholars will tell you that the Greek in Revelation is not as well written as the Greek in the Gospel and epistles, so most are pretty sure "John of Patmos" is not the same John, whatever the tradition might say. The authorship of the other pieces with "John" attached is questioned, although there seems to be likelihood that these were all products of a "Johannine Community," That is to say, there was a community that identified with someone named John, perhaps founded by the apostle, perhaps not, but used poetic language and lots of symbolism (particularly light and darkness) in their understanding of God and Jesus.

(As a side note, let me say a bit about the "Gospel of Judas," which was published a few years ago, and how that gospel had Judas being cognizant of his cosmic role in betraying Jesus. There was much talk about how Judas was really a hero, doing God's work for the salvation of the world, etc. There was also general acknowledgment that it was a gospel written later than the canonical gospels. My thoughts at the time was that this very likely didn't tell us anything about the historical Judas and I wished the conversation would turn from that aspect of the gospel Much more interesting to me was that there was a community, however small, that told this story to each other and understood Judas---and the crucifixion of Jesus---in this way. But I digress.)

There are people for whom it is very important to believe that the authorship of the gospel, the epistles, and Revelation are all from one person, the beloved disciple, John. It was, perhaps, what was taught to them by a beloved pastor or Sunday school teacher, and to have the authorship questioned is to question these beloved people in their history, the people who played foundational roles in their faith.

I sympathize with this. No one wants to learn that everything you thought you knew was wrong (Note the influence of comic book hyperbole on my writing. But again, I digress.)

One of the things I struggle with is transmitting to people who are not theologically trained how to read the Bible with reverence and spiritual insight without needing the Bible to be all the things we may have been told it was in Sunday school.

For me, the benefit of this understanding is freedom. We are free to read the Bible, to wrestle with it, to argue with it, and still find within it the Good News of the Reign of God come near.

I realize that some of what I do in this blog is what was once called "de-mythologizing" the scriptures. It's not really my intention to do that completely, as I think we need to approach the bible with a more mythological mindset. It was written in a time and place that was saturated with myth and the symbolism and slant-told-truth (a poetry reference) that myth brings us.

But myth requires interpretation and we tend to want reportage that leaves no room for interpretation. Just the facts, please.

We cannot, however, read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God" as strict reportage, a piece of cut and dried fact. It is full of theology and philosophy of the first century Greco-Roman world. Is there truth to be found within this language? Certainly. But it's not the truth of "a car crash occurred on Loop 610 at 5:43pm this afternoon."

(By the way, I made that up---I don't know if there was a car crash anywhere on Loop 610 today. It's an illustration to get to a broader truth.)

This is such a bigger issue than can be covered in a blog post, but if you're the sort for whom it is important to believe everything you're beloved teachers told you in your youth, I want to gently and with as much love as possible tell you that they were doing the best they could with the information they had. We all are, and we're all wrong sometimes.

And maybe the authorship of all these Johannine pieces of literature are not from one pen, from one person. We still receive them as scripture, handed down through the ages. If you were the sort to study the history of interpretation, you'd find that the understanding of these scriptures has changed through the centuries---sometimes for the better, sometimes for horrific worse. (The Gospel of John has been cited as a source for justifying antisemitism, for example.)

That there is uncertainty in this history, for me, gives me the freedom to wrestle with what these scriptures mean for me---for us---today. We can study the way words were used in the time they were written and gain insight to what they meant to the first people to hear them, but only to a certain extent. We ultimately need to find the key to the scriptures for ourselves, for our time, for the love of the world as it is today.

No matter who wrote it, we can all benefit to ponder these words:

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  [I John 4:7-8]

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day Two, The Feast of Stephen 2014

What's on my mind this Feast of St Stephen is simple and difficult.

I'm thinking about how Jesus was killed by power plays between religious authorities and Roman government, but Stephen was stoned by angry religious authorities alone.

It may be unorthodox to not focus on the saint on his feast day, but I'm really thinking about the religious authorities, their resistance to the New Thing that Stephen was telling them about, even though he put this New Thing into the broader history of their religion.

I don't know if my religious education puts me in the category of a religious authority, but I do know that I am resistant to changes in religious thought and practice (even as there are people in the news with some regularity who say I deserve to be stoned for changes I do want, indeed changes that I represent, but that's another story).

While this has nothing to do with Stephen directly and is a few chapters before he gets stoned, I can't help but think of this passage:

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, ‘Fellow-Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God! [Acts 5:34-29]

Gamaliel had a point and a cool head about him. He points out that some people, with as many as 400 followers, did not have lasting impact, so don't get all excited about these Jews who were saying weird things about Jesus. It'll pass, or it won't, but God will sort it out.

I'm uncomfortable with this, since I can think of a few religious movements that are lasting longer than I probably think they should. And I can think of a few that came, did their damage, and disappeared.

The point is, as a follower of a tradition that says God makes all things new, worships a God who is always working on a new creation and surprising us in our status quo, I owe it to my brothers and sisters in faith to not stone them, even only metaphorically, if they bring in some crazy new idea. Question everything, I think that's still fair instruction, but questioning shouldn't devolve into stoning.

So I remember Stephen today with the remembrance that he was part of something new and it upset the apple carts of the religious authorities, who could have been more open, or at least less violently reactionary, to something new.

May we all be found not violently reactionary.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas, Day One, 2014

It's after 2:00am on Christmas Day. I've been home for about half an hour after a very fine Christmas Eve service at St Stephen's Episcopal Church.

I have said, more than once, that I have an incarnational theology. This is the night to ponder this.

Before the service proper, our choir gave us 30 minutes of wonderful music, which I may say more about in the next day or two. When the harpist played a low note, the long string vibrating at that bass frequency, I drifted to a notion that I have about resurrection, that it's like sound, maybe even like music. We like to think that sound is immaterial, and it is, to an extent. It passes through walls like a resurrected Jesus. It will also shatter crystal or rattle the frame of a car.

The Hebrew scriptures tell us God spoke us and everything around us into being. "Let there be!"

And there was. There is.

As I listened to harp and guitar and marimba and mixed voices, I pondered how we're all just the voice of God, the vibrations of God's vocal chords, spoken, maybe sung, into existence.

Of course, we're all solid and we can't pass through walls, but then maybe that's just because the walls are the wrong frequency. Or we are. We're discordant notes, the wall and me. We don't harmonize very well. 

These are fanciful thoughts, or mythological thoughts. It's just a way to think about this existence, this incarnation, this flesh, through which we experience everything. Even "spiritual experiences" have a bodily experience. We feel it in our gut, or in our heart. We tremble or we faint. Everything is experienced in the context of being embodied. We aren't free floating elements.

At Christmas, we pause to think specifically about how God became like us, living on our frequency, sounding like the sound that clashes with walls. Or viruses. Or bullets. Or speeding, crumpling cars.

The higher notes of the harp tonight, they were so delicate and fragile, and therein lay their beauty.

We're like that, you and I. More fragile than we like to think about, so easily overpowered and stopped by louder noises all around us, but still the lyric and song of God's throat.

Let there be. And you are.

Let us sing with God this song of creation. Let us raise our voices so that walls and bullets and viruses and plane crashes and IEDs and more cannot be heard as loudly as the life we have.

Peace, good will to all. People, sing it with the angels!

Peace, good will to all!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lessons, Carols, Memories

Today was a long church day. I went to the usual 10:30am service, but it was not a Eucharist. We saved that for an afternoon visit from the bishop, so the morning service was a "lessons and carols" service. Lots of singing, congregationally and chorally, I'm generally an all-Eucharist, all the time kinda guy, but this morning's lessons and carols service was full of many memories.

I saw the text for this piece in the bulletin, to be sung by the choir. I think I've heard a different tune with this text and so was cautiously excited to see it there. Luckily, it was the tune I knew.
I first heard this piece when I was in seminary, 20 years ago. I think I was there during a bit of a golden era for the choir. There were some amazing voices in it and so I was able to blend in and sound not half bad. Our choir director, Russell Shulz, was so great with us, pushing us and making us better. It was my primary creative expression during seminary (with the exception of the occasional liturgical dance) and I loved the people I breathed with to make beautiful music like this.

Of course, I also thought of friends like Jeff, Pat, and Kathy, all of them no longer singing in any earthly choir. Bittersweet, to be sure, but the sweetness was worth the loss. I trust I will sing with them again someday.

And to speak on the text for just a second---it's a lovely twist to take what we've traditionally said was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil---an apple tree---and redeem it as a metaphor for Jesus himself.

I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest awhile
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

+ + + + +

We sang, congregationally, "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus." It is one of those moments of culture shock from joining a new congregation and a new denomination. They don't always use the "right" tune for the hymns you love. It's fine, the tune that's in Hymnal 1982 is a fine tune, but lacking for me. If you want to know the tune I know and can sing with more gusto, you should turn in the Lutheran Book of Worship, which you no doubt have at hand, to hymn #30. I just did and sang it for myself. Sometimes we have to meet our own needs, particularly the ones steeped in nostalgia. 

I couldn't find a YouTube version I liked enough to post, however. Search at your own peril. 

+ + + + +

My Episcopalian family can rock "Comfort, Comfort Ye My People." The tune is correct, anyway, and the tempo was perfect. It needs dancing, but, well, neither Lutherans nor Episcopalians are all that keen on that expression of worship, so whatevs. I still grooved on it. It's also a great paraphrase of Isaiah 40

This video probably isn't the best version of it to be found, but it has the organ and bongo combo that works better that you'd want to imagine. If only there were dancing! 

+ + + + +

One of the lessons was Isaiah 6:1-11. It's the calling of Isaiah to the role of prophet. He protests, "I am a man of unclean lips!" Boy did that hit home. The last couple of weeks has had me wondering about what kind of hubris does it take to keep a blog anyway? That God still calls Isaiah somewhat encourages me to keep at this, stumbling, trying to figure out what God would have me say through all this typing I do. My "unclean typing" maybe will serve something someday somewhere.

Obviously, this rather light-hearted post has nothing to do with that tonight. But it was something I heard in today's lessons. 

+ + + + +

Another danceable hymn is "People Look East." Of course, we didn't dance it. Well, I did a little bit where I stood in my pew. I do wonder if I would let loose if people would join in or if I'd be escorted out. The world may never know. 

Although I've sung this plenty of times in Lutheran contexts, my earliest memory of it was at seminary, which was an Episcopal campus, so I guess it's fitting that several of these carols sung at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church bring to mind seminary days. 

My first encounter with this one came in the form of, I believe, a quartet of Episcopalian students, all men as I recall, turning east at the appropriate moments and other bits of silliness. It was almost like a dance, I guess, so no wonder it made an impression on me. 

Here's some Presbyterians singing it. If nothing else, it proves the Presbys don't dance, either. 

+ + + + +

Another lesson was Zephaniah 3:14-18. The thing this brought to mind was when I was in college and writing songs with my best friend, Dean. I did lyrics and Dean did the music. I did a paraphrase of this. I seem to remember taking a challenge to write a lyric based on whatever I opened the Bible to. Or using something from a book that no one really talked about much. Anyway, all I remember was that it started with "Sing and shout! Rejoice everyone!" It had some odd rhythms and we somehow tricked our former high school choir director to sing it in church one Sunday. 

I haven't seriously tried to write a song in a very long time. That's probably okay. 

+ + + + +

The second half of Luke, chapter 1, was read. A friend posted to Facebook this evening, wondering how people read Mary's song and not expect disruptions and such from God? How do they read the upside down world of Mary's praise and still hold "conservative values" as a desirable thing? 

Well, there is that, isn't there? 

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.  

Do bankers and Wall Streeters read this as only allegorical and not pertaining to them? Well, it's worth remembering that to a large population of this planet, I'm one of those powerful and rich, too. But if nothing else, it should bring about some sort of humility in claiming material wealth as blessings, no? 

That little virgin had some troubling things to sing. I admit, I don't know completely what to do with her. 

+ + + + +

Those are my main thoughts this last Sunday of Advent, 2014. The rest of the day was fine, too. I've been in a terribly grumpy mood of late. This day was filled with good music, good friends, and good memories evoked. The news has been full of terrible things of late, things to be taken seriously and not to be ignored. 

But was a blessing to be reminded that some of the best things in the world are not reported by news sites, but can be found in breathing prayers and songs and less serious things with friends (even despite the lack of dancing). 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Anyway, Rejoice

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [I Thessalonians 5:16-18]

This is a blog of obligation. I wanted to write something for every Sunday in advent, and I even had some ideas, but it's been a rough weekend and I'm not feeling like following through.

But I'm confronted with the above verse from this morning. Circumstances aren't that important in the grand scheme of things.

So, anyway, rejoice.

It's that Sunday in advent, actually. Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of advent. We rejoice especially this day as we're halfway to Christmas and the Lord's coming. My priest this morning told us that Paul wrote the above to the Thessalonians because they were expecting the return of Jesus immediately, but it was getting to be a long wait and some people were dying and what did that mean? Paul was basically saying, Jesus will take care of that and it's not for you to be anxious about.

So, anyway, rejoice.

I made a note of something else my priest said. Discernment brings conflict. She's referring to decisions we need to make as a congregation and how we're not going to agree, and cited historical incidents in the life of this congregation of other such moments of discernment. I also heard it personally, as a warning and lesson about some things I'm trying to discern (always trying to discern) and how I feel more combative than usual. I'm seldom combative. My default setting is to avoid conflict. I don't know what this means. Discernment goes on.

So, anyway, rejoice.

I've been asked to do something I don't want to do, potentially a big commitment. It's a good and maybe even necessary thing to be done, but it makes my stomach hurt. Also, I'm in conflict with someone I love very much. I don't feel very good about myself.

So, anyway, rejoice.

Moods come and go. Rejoicing is the work before us. Sundays, we do liturgy---the work of the people. But always, we have before us rejoicing and prayer and thanksgiving. It's our daily work. Some days, the work goes better than others.

So, anyway, rejoice.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Today, we heard from Isaiah 40 and the appropriation of it by John the Baptizer.

It's a mixed message to my eye. Prepare the way of the LORD, to which we might reply "Yes, come, Lord Jesus." Then there is all this talk of people being grass, withering away in a day.

Well, the Bible isn't the book if you want soft-pedaled encouragement.

Yet, Isaiah 40 starts with the words, "Comfort, O comfort my people." I tend to latch onto those words, some of my favorite in all scripture. The hard stuff was hard (even double than you deserved!) but now God calls to us, tenderly.

Isaiah was talking about the end of exile. John used the same words to talk about the coming of Jesus. Long waiting was over, both proclaimed.

Both were proclaiming the end of the wait to the latest generation of waiters. A lot of grass had withered away in the waiting.

I tend to be in the group of people who, while waiting, call out with the psalmist, "How long?"

We wait on the coming of the Lord, for the word of comfort, for the release even as we feel the withering coming on in our bones. Yes, we wait.

But with John, we also prepare. We smooth out some rough spots, make a road easier to travel. In reading the Isaiah passage today, I realized the English translation doesn't really make it clear if the "way of the LORD" is for the LORD's traveling or for our traveling. Perhaps it's clearer in the Hebrew, but I'm pretty sure we're always expecting that it's a road for God's approach. Tonight, I'm wondering if it's preparation for weary travelers to have easier access to the "glory of the LORD."

In this way, it seems to me, we are all, with John, forerunners for a meeting with God.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus, who claim some encounter with the Good News, are likewise called to lead, I think. Or that's what's on my mind tonight. In what ways do I serve God by making a rough patch smoother? In what ways do I go before Jesus (can a follower of Jesus go before Jesus? ah, language and its tensions!) and prepare the way for a weary traveler to meet my Lord?

Perhaps this is not something we can know. This morning we also heard these words from 2 Peter: " . . . that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day." Waiting and fulfillment are not on our schedule, but the promise is there and anyway keep about the work of preparing a way for a meeting between God and people we may never know.

Comfort is not out of reach.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Once Again, the Imago Dei

EDIT: I wrote and posted this yesterday in a bit of a rush of anger and immediacy. In a cooler head, it's clear I'm addressing white people, and the language is definitely about black people, which can become objectifying. Still, I'll let it stand as another piece of me struggling with racism and my own assumptions and privilege. -neo

Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them. [Ecclesiastes 4:1]

As a boy, I was taught to be afraid of the black boys at school. Not relentlessly, not in even particularly forcefully or in relentlessly fear-inducing ways. But the lesson was there. 

I know I'm not alone. 

I know this lesson is costing the lives of black boys and men and the news is full of it lately, and the lives are lost without consequence to the takers. 

Today, it was decided that there was no need to prosecute a a NY police officer for using lethal force against an asthmatic who couldn't breath. 

I've written before: stop being afraid of each other. 

If you've read many of these posts at all, you know how central the Imago Dei---the Image of God in which we all are made---is to my theology. 

I know this little blog just isn't going to change the world and I know that anything more that I have to say on it is not going help. 

Still . . . it's what I have in this minute. Stop being afraid of one another. Search each other for the Image of God. 

Here, I did a Google image search on "groups of black men." Here's a screen shot to help you. Look at these men (and some boys) and pray over each face, each body: Here is the Image of God, here is God's own child and worthy of respect and honor. I will no longer default to fear when I meet the Image of God.

It feels so weak to the the enormity of the problem. But do it.

 (I do not know any of the men in this picture or even the source of any of the pictures. If the owner of any of these pictures would like this removed, please let me know at neilellisorts at yahoo dot com and I will comply immediately. I simply did not want to speak in the abstract this time. Also, to see a larger version of the image, you can click it and it will expand.)