Tag Archive for: America

An Earnest Wish (On the Murders in Texas)

On November 5, a lone gunman hunted saints in a small church in Sutherland Springs. On Sunday, babies, mothers, the elderly died in one man’s video-game-come-to-life, and by Thursday, America is back to business as usual. We’ve moved on to tax bills and China and the best new shows on Netflix. We’re back to our obligations, our PTA meetings, our to-do lists. We’re holding our smart phones closer than our wives and babies.

 

Maybe those saints in Sutherland Springs believed the God-man when he said: “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” Maybe I do, too.

Even still, I wish he’d conquer it a little bit better.

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What is America?

Yesterday was All Saints Sunday, and during the prayers of the people, I prayed for the departed saints in Sutherland Springs, Texas, all 26 of them, including no less than three children, a woman who was 5 months pregnant, and the the elderly who could duck, or run, or whatever.

What good is prayer? I genuinely wonder sometimes, but in that wondering, I prayed for America, too. America the wasteland.

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Who are we? What is America?

America–land of insanity, of gun rights and rage, of itchy trigger fingers.

America–land of politicians with their soothing words signifying nothing, the genetically-modified weeds growing among God’s wheat.

America–where a good run up in the stock market or consumer confidence or the coming #BLACKFRIDAYDEALS or positive cattle futures or any news of prosperity numbs our collective consciousness to death, death, death, death.

America–where we pay lip service to the life of the unborn but shell out big bucks to preserve the capacity for one man to commit mass murder and infanticide.

America–where rifles spit bullets into the Body of Christ. On a Sunday. In November. Blackest of days, again.

America--you are heartless, and where is the soul when there is no heart, beating?

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Make America Great (Again)

The lectionary and daily office readings have been on point over the last few weeks. “How is such a thing possible since these readings were scheduled years ago?” you might ask. Call me absurd; call me a religious nut; call me whatever you like. But know this is my opinion: God is trying to speak to us, if only we’ll listen.

Today, I’m simply sharing yesterday’s Old Testament lectionary reading (which is also today’s daily office reading) in several different versions. Let the words sink in.

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Isaiah 58:1-9a (NRSV)

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.

Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

 

Isaiah 58:1-9a (ESV)

Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

“Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

Isaiah 58:1-9 (The Message)

Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances, they’re a nation of right-living people—law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side. But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

Well, here’s why: The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

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Enough

These are the things we are trained against:
guessing aloud the age of any made-up woman;
asking how many place-holding zeroes
a man needs to number his wealth;
the inquiry upon noticing the baby’s
crooked nose, “who’s the daddy?”;
throwing out the first pitch from the stands;
answering truthfully the question,
“who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?”;
raising a hand in church to ask the priest
anything, especially if the anything touches on
politics, sex, religion, or God;
witholding your vote as a vote against
scoundrels, liars, thieves, or murderers;
Loving your enemy, kissing him,
embracing the possibility of violence
against the muchness of your silos.

These things we are trained against,
but none quite so much as this:
Saying, repeating, believing
three small words.

I am enough.

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America #2

Last night, I read this article in the New York Times about Walter Scott. Scott, a 50 year old black man in South Carolina, was shot in the back by a police officer who claimed Scott had taken his stun gun in a scuffle occurring after a traffic stop. The article was disturbing. The video unspeakable.

*****

Dear America,

I am learning this new condition:
waiting in the flickering light
of television’s images of the dead;
the crying mother, daughter, or spouse
of another black man law-lynched.

It is a nightly anticipation,
the result of a force-fed diet
of truth, or the shock of a
different reality, or the descaling
of once-blind eyes, whichever.

And so, should you become
convinced in the pride of your
most exceptional dignity,
turn your eyes to your veins,
tap them, bleed them dry, test,
and know this:
your father is violence,
and your mother fear.

 

 

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