The Way of the Crucified: Following Jesus on Holy Week

Today marks the first day of Holy Week, the most significant week in the Christian calendar.  On this Sabbath, Christians across the world celebrate Palm Sunday in memory of Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

At our church, children carry palm branches and wave them during the processional. The congregation sings the hymn “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna” and the children’s choirs sing songs like “He Comes” and “Sing Hosanna!”  In this way, we re-enact the the Holy Scripture.

12 On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” – John 12:12-13

Interestingly, other processions were taking place that same Sunday some 2000 years ago.  The Romans led a major military procession into Jerusalem, an enormous display of force meant to instill awe and respect in the occupied citizens of the city.

These two visions of Kingdom stand in stark contrast to each other.  In one, Jesus humbly enters the city astride a donkey, cheered by the poor and marginalized, followed by those longing for salvation.  In the other we see the theology of empire, the notion that salvation comes from power and might.

This message seems particularly potent this year, when we see rumblings of war in the Korean Peninsula, chemical attacks and airstrikes in Syria, bombings in Egypt’s Coptic Churches, the continued massacre of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, and more.

We are being given a choice, a choice that Moses presented to the Children of Israel before his death:

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.” Deuteronomy 30:15

Both suicide bombings and tomahawk missiles represent the way of Caesar.  Christians are called to the Way of the Cross.  As the soldier Martin of Tours said after converting to Christianity, “I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.”

The concept of “me first”, and “my country first” represents the way of Caesar.  The way of Christ calls us to look to God first and then to the interest of our neighbor.

“37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ -Matthew 22:37-39  

The state of Arkansas is currently planning on carrying out seven executions in a single week.  This is the way of Caesar.  The way of the crucified savior calls us to forgiveness and mercy.  We are called to remember Jesus’s words when facing his own death:

“”Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” – Matthew 26:52

And later:

“”Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

The Way of the Cross does not resemble conventional wisdom.  In fact, to most it will resemble the height of folly.  It reeks of naivety and idealism.   After all, the way of Jesus leads us to the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Tears.  It leads us to death on the Cross, the ultimate sign of Caesar’s power.

However, the way of Caesar ends in the tomb, in death and darkness.  The Way of Christ eventually leads us to Easter, to resurrection, to rebirth.

This Holy Week we have set before us life and death.  What will we choose?

 

Rooted In Story

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(Cherokee Dancer Kasey Reynolds; photo by Kara Jex)

Yesterday (3/18/17) I attended the 13th Annual Santa Fe Days in the Park held at Sandy Lake Amusement Park in Carrollton, Texas.  The event highlights indigenous culture from around the United States, Mexico and Canada.  Traditional dancers perform, artists sell their crafts, and crowds gather around storytellers who regale them with tribal legends of trickster gods and how various aspects of the world came about.

I met Samuel Holiday, a 93 year old World War Two Veteran and Code Talker of the Dineh Tribe and purchased a copy of his memoir.  After I bought the book, Holiday took time to show me the pictures in the text, speaking softly about the story behind each photograph.  He even cracked a few jokes about his own appearance, referring to himself as a “goofy man”.

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(World War Two Veteran Code Talker Samuel Holiday of the Dineh Tribe; photo by Kara Jex)

I felt deeply moved to meet so many people with such a deep connection to their heritage.  It brought to mind a Bible verse:

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12

Whether or not they thought of it in these terms, each performer and artist at the Santa Fe Days Festival was actively fulfilling this command.

The modern world, specifically in the western hemisphere, has become a disposable culture.  We like new things, having little time or patience for the old.  We quickly come to think of our belongings as obsolete, discarding them for the latest and greatest attraction.

I fear this mentality infects our relationships with people.  A brief perusal of popular film or television reveals that we, at best, have an ambivalent relationship to old age.  Once an actor or actress reaches a certain age Hollywood ceases to have a use for them, unless it comes in the form of camp.  Advertisements and commercials are rife with the suggestion that we must hide away any trace of old age.  We hide away the elderly in rest homes and hospitals, out of sight and mind, as though by ignoring them we will somehow delay the inevitable fate that awaits us all.  We have created a cult that worships the young, new, and beautiful.

It is hard to overstate how much we lose through this mentality.  Bruce Feiler (author of Walking the Bible, The Council of Dads, and The Secrets of Happy Families) relates studies that show the importance of being rooted to our past.  In an essay titled “The Family Stories that Bind Us” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html)  Feiler relates research showing that families (and by extension societies) are strengthened through a strong family narrative.

The research, conducted by Dr. Marshall Duke, found that families with a strong core narrative tended to be more resilient in the face of crisis.

“Once again,” Dr. Duke said, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said. 

“The most healthful narrative,” Dr. Duke continued, “is…called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

– from The Family Stories that Bind Us by Bruce Feiler

This core narrative grows organically from stories told repeatedly around the kitchen table, in the living room, or by bedsides.

While attending the Santa Fe Days Festival, I began to think of my grandmother Paulina Phillips.  A member of the Tlingit tribe of Southeast Alaska, she grew up during a time when being native meant being less than.  Tlingit children were discouraged from speaking their language.  Alaskan history even reveals that signs hung in business windows declaring “No Indians or Dogs Allowed”.  Like many Tlingit, she came from humble means.  In a letter she wrote to my mother she related this story:

“My mom did her best to take care of us.  I remember how tenderly and lovingly she made us comfortable when we were on our way to fish camp in an open boat and it was raining and the wind was blowing.  Mom laid a canvas down in the bottom of the boat and put blankets on the bottom of the boat and she had me and my sister lie down and she covered us with the canvas and the blankets and tucked us in.  We were so loved.  It kept us warm.”

As an adult, my grandmother battled multiple bouts of cancer and a Parkinson’s diagnosis, all the while serving faithfully in the Salvation Army Church, along with teaching Tlingit youth their traditional songs and dances, never allowing circumstances from a challenging youth or later health struggles to keep her down.   Her story has become an anchor in my life, giving me strength in the face of adversity, but only because I took the time to listen to the stories that she and my mother (Kathy Jex) told me.

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(Paulina Phillips – SAAWDU-OO; photo taken by David Phillips – Yeieeskitch)

Jewish culture seemed to understand this implicitly with commands throughout the Torah and later books of the Old Testament reiterating the need to repeat the stories of their people until they were written on the heart.

To learn these stories we first have to learn to slow down and listen, we must learn to pay attention to those who have gone before us who can give tell us our history.  We must reject the idolatry that says we discard the old and worship the new.  We must follow the Biblical command to honor our father and mother, not simply through obedience, but through careful attention to their history and stories.

 

 

Salam Neighbor: Inside Jordan’s Za’atari Refugee Camp

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(photo from the Living on One webpage)

A few weeks ago our church (www.fumccoppell.org) hosted a screening of the documentary film “Salam Neighbor”, produced by the non-profit media company Living on One (www.livingonone.org).  The documentary follows the film’s directors, Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci, as they travel to the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, currently home to approximately 79,000 Syrian refugees.

To gain a true understanding of life in the camps, Temple and Ingrasci received the permission of the United Nations to register as refugees and were given a tent inside the camp (the first filmmakers ever granted this right).  They then spent a month in the camp and in the neighboring city of Mafraq, immersed in the lives of refugees.  They learn the stories of those who have been forced to flee their home to build a new life in a foreign land.

The film is a mixture of heartbreak and inspiration.  Viewers learn the story of a young boy residing in the camp whose school in Syria was bombed.  They meet a couple who lost two adult sons to the war.  Viewers hear the stories of families who fled in the middle of the night, leaving home, career, and more with no promise of return.  In these moments the full weight of the human tragedy unfolding becomes visceral and real.  However, the stories do not end there.  The film uncovers remarkable stories of resilience and innovation in the face of countless setbacks.  They follow refugees who work with aid and support groups inside Za’atari, refugees who attend school or who devote their time to teaching.  Temple and Ingrasci even discover large groups of refugees who have started their own businesses within the camp.  They meet woman named Um Ali who gathers plastic bags discarded around the camp and transforms the plastic into yarn, making a variety of arts and crafts.  The U.N. refugee agency has since hired her to teach the skill to other young women.

Just as remarkable are the friendships that Temple and Ingrasci develop.  Throughout the camp they are welcomed into tents, provided with food, and even play games with their neighbors.  They swap stories, share jokes, and develop relationships.  It is remarkable to see that, in the midst of so much adversity, so many residents of Za’atari are able to maintain a spirit of hospitality.

The film stands as a remarkable document, providing a clear picture of the day to day struggles of the estimated 11 million Syrians who have fled their home since the beginning of the country’s civil war in 2011.

In a time when a prominent member of the United States government saw fit to suggest that “other people’s babies” pose an existential threat to Western Civilization, this film reminds us of our shared humanity.  As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

 

 

 

 

What I’ve Learned from Valley Ranch Islamic Center

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On February 25, my family attended a community picnic sponsored by Valley Ranch Islamic Center.  Like the VRIC barbeque we attended in November (https://shaunjex.com/2016/11/25/building-bridges-instead-of-walls/) , this was an amazing interfaith event.  Multiple Christian congregations attended, while VRIC supplied all of the food and drinks.  Several hundred people attended, mingling together, sharing stories, laughing, and bonding over good food and beautiful weather.

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Over the last few years I’ve learned quite a bit from my Islamic friends and neighbors, things that I think would benefit the Christian Church.

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VRIC is consistently active in the surrounding community.  They host breakfasts, picnics and barbeques on a regular basis, holding the events in public places and inviting any and all to attend.  The events I’ve attended have focused exclusively on fellowship, devoid of overbearing efforts to convert.  That is not to say that they shy away from speaking about their faith, but they allow their hospitality and kindness to bear witness first, inviting people to come and see who they are and what their faith represents.

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Though by no means true of all Christian congregations, I’ve noticed a tendency for the church to become somewhat insular, existing like a community apart.  The community events the church holds tend to be seasonal, with events around Halloween, Christmas, and Easter.  Rather than venturing out into the community these events tend to put the initiative on the community.  We ask others to come to the church instead of the church going out into the community.  There is also an unspoken (sometimes spoken) agenda behind these events, operating under the premise that we’ll draw them in and then convince them to stay.  One of the most significant things I’ve learned from VRIC is that our service should be given without strings, or even expectation of reciprocity.  The service functions as its own reward.

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Through committees and classes, I’ve heard a continuous refrain that suggests that visitors and new members at churches often struggle with the feeling that they are unwelcome.  They come to the building looking for a new congregation or church home and then find themselves thrust into the middle of a well established social circle that can be difficult to penetrate.  Cliques develop within congregations, with certain members failing to interact with and sometimes even avoiding those outside of their group.  I’ve heard complaints from visitors who were never greeted or who got lost in the building because no one took the time to help them.  Perhaps just as damaging, sometimes they are warmly greeted on their first or second visit and then forgotten about once they become regular members, as though what mattered most was adding their name to the record books.

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At every VRIC event, I’ve found a consistent spirit of hospitality and that the members are just as welcoming as the leadership. During the picnic, our family was approached by several dozen VRIC members, each of whom welcomed us, shook our hands, and then offered to get us food, drink, or anything else we might need.  Every time someone stood up from their picnic blanket they asked their neighbors if there was anything they wanted.  We were regularly thanked simply for our willingness to attend, as though we were the ones extending the hand of welcome and not the other way around.

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As Christians, this welcoming attitude and desire to serve should be second nature to us as well.  As Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35 ESV).  Often, when we discuss declining numbers in church attendance we discuss superficialities like the style of hymns we sing, the mixed media we do or do not use to present our message, the time services are held, or the dress code.  Of course, details like these can be important, but I think that the first and most important step for the church to take is to cultivate a culture of welcome, hospitality, and love.

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Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned how important it is to move past any sense of “other”.  Our church recently held a month long class studying Methodist Theologian and Bishop Wil Willimon’s book “Fear of the Other” (https://willwillimon.wordpress.com/).  The book explores our human tendency to fear those we view as “other” and how we can move beyond this fear, to fulfill the Biblical command to welcome and care for those viewed as the “other” and how they can, in fact, aid in our salvation.

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These are important steps to take, but if we stop there we haven’t gone far enough.  We need to begin to see each other as neighbors, as brothers and sisters, to move beyond this concept of “other” and to embrace each human being for their inherent, God given worth.

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I am indebted to the members and leadership of VRIC for welcoming me, for giving me the opportunity to gather with and to learn from them, but most of all to join with them in building a community of love and acceptance, a love that does not ignore our differences, but embraces them, knowing that we are stronger together.

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Nevertheless, She Persisted

“She was warned.  She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Eleven words.  Eleven words spoken by Senator Mitch McConnell to Senator Elizabeth Warren.  Eleven words that captured the essence of the long struggle of women to be treated as full human beings.  A struggle that continues around the globe to this day.  

I could write about the struggle.  I’ve written before about the need for the church to be at its forefront.  However, I feel that more powerful than my own words would be the words of women who have persisted and changed the world in doing so.

My hope is that, if you haven’t heard of some of these women, you will take the time to learn about them.

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“I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated. ” –  Malala Yousafzai

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“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.” – Rosa Parks

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“In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth, women are not merely tolerated but valued.” – Aung Suu Kyi

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“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.” – Amelia Earhart

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“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

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“We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve the environment so that we can bequeath our children a sustainable world that benefits all.”  – Wangari Maathai

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“Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples.” – Rigoberta Menchu

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“As a woman, I’m expected to want everything to be nice and to be nice myself. A very English thing. I don’t design nice buildings – I don’t like them. I like architecture to have some raw, vital, earthy quality.” –  Zaha Hadid

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“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” – Virginia Woolf

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“We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to the society, because we fit into a certain mold ― because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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“Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.” – Rosalind Franklin

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“I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did.” –  Katherine Johnson

As the father of a young son, I am thrilled to be able to look at him every day and tell him that there are no limits to how far he can go.  As the father of a young girl, I hope to help create a world where I can say the same to her.  And I am forever indebted to the women of the world who have persisted, paving the way for her.

 

The Welcome Table

I love Communion Sundays.

At my church we receive communion on the first Sunday of each month and, as members of the Methodist tradition, we practice an open table.  That means that all are welcome to come forward and take part in the sacred meal.  In the invitation to communion the pastor utters these words:

“Christ our Lord invites to his table ALL* who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.”

(*emphasis mine – Words taken from the Service of Word and Table in the United Methodist Hymnal)

One of our former pastors used to put it like this.  We don’t check for a membership card at the door.  If you are in the church and want to partake, you are welcomed.  Rich, poor, male or female, people of every orientation, of every nationality, members of other congregations, even if you are not certain what you believe, you are welcomed.

The pastor recites these words from the Great Thanksgiving:

“By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world…”

(Words taken from the Service of Word and Table in the United Methodist Hymnal)

The congregation walks to the front of the chapel and kneels together at the communion rail, waiting to receive the hosts.  It is an amazing feeling to kneel side by side with others in front of the Cross and to realize that we are all on equal ground.  Again, the wealthy kneel beside the poor.  The faith filled and doubter kneel together.  Men and women.  Old and young.  Gay and straight.  There is no separation between “righteous” and “sinner”.  We kneel before the cross united in our need for God’s grace.  We recognize and confess that we are all broken and all in need of Christ’s healing spirit.    

There is a natural human tendency toward tribalism, between separating who is in and who is out, who we welcome and who we exclude, but at the communion rail these distinctions disappear.  We are filling ourselves with the body and blood of Christ, symbolically becoming one with Him, abandoning all other worldly distinctions.  As St. Paul said:

“…in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slave or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthian 14:5)

And in Galatians:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

We live in fractious times.  Thank God for the act of communion, the meal that calls us all to the table, and reminds us that we are all one in the One who saves us.

The King’s Garden

On Sunday, our family went to the park to meet up with some friends and their children. The adults gathered in a picnic pavilion while the kids ran around the playground.  A veritable smorgasbord of food covered the table.  Pizza, homemade chocolates, strawberries, cheese bread (this doesn’t convey the wonder of this dish.  It was something like dinner rolls stuffed with cheesy goodness), and jugs of cool water.

The gathering looked like a mini United Nations. One of the families is Muslim.  The mother wears a hijab and has a small nose piercing, a look that delightfully blends the traditional and contemporary.  One of the other families comes from Brazil.  Then there was my family, a curious mix of Alaska Native, Irish, and Italian heritage.

The cast of children on the playground was even more diverse. Hispanic, Asian, African American, Indian, Pakistani, Middle Eastern, Anglo.  If I had to guess, I’d imagine that there were Christians, Muslims, Hindu, and other faiths represented.  Different voices and languages chattered away happily, filling the air with a playful cacophony.

The sun shone down, but a light breeze kept the air cool.

The world is filled with uncertainty. If you follow the news, each day seems fraught.  But sometimes…sometimes I think we are given the briefest glimpse of the Kingdom of God, a peak at the lush tangle of life that makes up the King’s Garden.

 

A Parable

There was once a certain wealthy man.  At the end of his life, he died and found himself standing before the judgement seat of the Lord.  The throne sat empty and the man looked around the room confused, wondering when the Lord would appear.

As he waited a young boy entered the room.  He was small of build, his body frail and his eyes sunk deep into his skull.  His body was covered with ash and blood.  The man felt a rush of pity for the boy and knelt down beside him.

“What happened to you?” the man said.

“There was a war,” the boy replied.  “Bombs rained down on our home one night and we were trapped in the rubble.  We were trapped there for days.  My parents, my brothers and sisters, even my grandparents.  I could hear their cries.  I even heard my mother try to sing to comfort my younger sister, and then I could hear nothing.  The world went dark.  And then I was here.”

“But surely you could have fled?” The man said.

“No one would receive us,” The boy replied.  “We wanted to leave, but no one would let us in.  Why wouldn’t you help us?”

The man felt a wave of guilt and shame wash over him, but seeking to justify himself he stammered for an answer.

“You have to understand,” The man said. “There were complications.  Issues of national security and safety.  We were afraid.  There are violent people in the world.”

The boy said nothing and so the man continued to talk.

“Of course it was terrible what was happening to you, but what could we do?  We had to think of ourselves didn’t we?  There were risks to our homes, to our country, and to our way of life.  It was a frightening and uncertain time for us.”

Again the boy stood silent and so the man stammered on as his eyes began to brim with tears.

“I was a good man,” he said. “I went to church.  I paid my tithe.  I cared for my family.  I even prayed for you and for all of those like you.  I prayed that the fighting would stop and you would be safe.  I was a good man but I was afraid.”

The boy walked slowly to the man’s side and took his hand, calling him by name.  And the man’s eyes were opened and he found himself standing in the presence of the Lord.

“You were blessed in life to be a blessing to others,” the Lord said. “I came to you in my hour of need and you turned me away.”

“But if I had known it was you…” The man cried.

“Did I not tell you where to look for me?” The Lord replied, “Did I not tell you that what you do for the least of your brothers and sisters you do for me? And what you fail to do for them you failed do for me?  Didn’t you have my words with you?  Why did you not believe them?”

“But Lord you know I was a good man,” the man plead.  “You know me.  You know that I loved you.”

“I am sorry,” the Lord replied, “I know you not.”

Christianity and Climate Change

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This is home.  For all of human history this has been home.  This pale, blue dot sustains and nurtures us.  Scientists estimate that this beautiful planet holds at least 8.7 million species.  According to numbers released in 2011, there are an estimated 7.7 million animal species.  Only 12% of these species have been described.  There are approximately .3 million plant species on earth, of which 70% have been described.  The rest are fungi, protozoa, and chromists.  The same study suggested that only 14% of all species on land have been identified and only 9% of those in the water.

Speaking of water, the planet holds over 326 million, trillion gallons it.   You have probably heard that over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, but you may not know that only 2% of the Earth’s water is fresh and more than ⅔ of that water sits locked in ice caps and glaciers (ice caps and glaciers melting at an alarming rate).  Water is vital to all life.  

The vegetation on earth takes energy from the sun and, through chlorophyll, turns that energy into food.  Once plants produce this food they release oxygen into the air.  Though it should go without saying, it is probably worth reiterating that oxygen is essential to human survival.

I could keep going on.  I could provide you with a magical mystery tour of early life science lessons, but I won’t.  This is a faith based blog, and eventually I have to tie this post back to religion.   

The Book of Genesis begins with a beautiful poem that tells the story of the Universe.  It talks about how all life sprang from the creative impulse of God and how each part of creation was declared good.  Theologians argue about how we should interpret these passages.  What do we take literally?  What do we take figuratively?  However we interpret it, I think we can agree that it depicts the world we live in as sacred and holy, the handiwork of a master artist.  A masterpiece built in perfect balance and harmony.

With that in mind, it would seem to me that protecting the earth and the species living on it should be an integral part of the Christian life.  After all, for a believer, this planet does not belong to us.

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” – Psalm 24:1

When we abuse the planet and when we ignore or suppress science, we are abusing something that does not belong to us.  Pollution, global warming, endangered species, famine, all of these things should be of concern to Christians.  

As Christians, we are also called to care for our neighbor, to protect the marginalized and to petition for those that Jesus called the “least of these”.  By ignoring things like climate science, Christians risk complicity in the death of vulnerable populations.

Scientists have called 2016 the hottest year in recorded history.  This has practical consequences.  An article in The New York Times notes that climate change has wreaked havoc across Africa, leaving 1.3 million children suffering from malnutrition.  An increase in temperature and a decrease in rainfall have lead to repeated crop failures.  According to the article, “The immediate cause of the droughts was an extremely warm El Niño event, which came on top of a larger drying trend in the last few decades in parts of Africa. New research, just published in the bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, concludes that human-caused climate change exacerbated El Niño’s intensity and significantly reduced rainfall in parts of Ethiopia and southern Africa.  The researchers calculated that human contributions to global warming reduced water runoff in southern Africa by 48 percent and concluded that these human contributions “have contributed to substantial food crises.”

What practical implications does this have for the residents of South and East Africa?  Families are forced to sell off their animals, driving down the cost of their livestock.  Families marry off their children at young ages, hoping that their new spouse will be able to care for them.  Women mix ashes and rock chalk into their food so that it becomes more filling.  Those children lucky enough not to starve to death are hurt developmentally.  Families who used to live near sources of water are now forced to travel hours for a pail of clean water.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/opinion/sunday/as-donald-trump-denies-climate-change-these-kids-die-of-it.html

When we ignore science and climate change, people die.  A lot of people.  As Christians we have a responsibility to them and God will one day ask us to answer for their lives.  

Contrary to some opinions, Christianity and science are not diametrically opposed.  It is the responsibility of all Christians to care for this planet and every living thing on it.  

My Brother and Sister’s Keeper: Why I Marched

Yesterday, I joined 2.9 million other Americans across the country who participated in Women’s March activities.  Sister marches took place on every other continent, including Antarctica (yes, Antarctica).  There have been a lot of people asking, “Why are people marching?”  The official Women’s March on Washington page provided a very succinct statement of the mission and values of the march:

https://www.womensmarch.com/mission/

That said, I based my decision to march in Biblical values that inform my faith every day.  I’m going to share images from the march along with Bible verses that I believe emphasize why I marched.

“Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.…” Genesis 4:9-10

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“”The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:40

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“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

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“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27

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“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:24

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25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10-25-37

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“And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19

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“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9

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“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20

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“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12

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“This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.” Zechariah 7:9

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“The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” Proverbs 29:7

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“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

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20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.  But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.  Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.  Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.  But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:20-36