Thursday, August 13, 2015

Black Lives Matter

"Black Lives Matter" just means that black lives matter. That's all. It doesn't mean that other lives don't matter. Or that other people matter less. It also doesn't mean that black people are more morally superior than other people. Black Lives Matter provides the much needed reminder that black lives matter, too. African Americans are killed at disproportionately higher rates by police and violence. Plus the images of African Americans portrayed throughout society are overly negatively. At the same time, European American are portrayed more positively. TV shows, movies, music, magazines, comic books, etc. already reinforce the idea that White Lives Matter. Racial injustice within many systems such as schools, churches, companies, police, etc. also reinforces the idea that White Lives Matter. We don't need the reminder that White Lives Matter. White privilege is built into our society as a whole - even when individual exceptions are taken into account. So our society needs the reminder that Black Lives Matter. While it's true that All Lives Matter, it's also true that African Americans face discrimination and injustice that desperately need to be addressed. Until the unique challenges that harm the African American community are addressed, then the Black Lives Matter movement will continue to be needed as a reminder that black lives (and dignity) really do matter. It's not just semantics. It's about systems (and minds) that need to be changed for the betterment of the future. And that future will, in fact, be better for all lives.

Here's some steps for action:

(1) Pray.
(2) Talk with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors.
(3) Put up a sign.
(4) Learn more and join the movement.  
(5) Bring the movement into prayers and worship services.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Prayer for the Tragedy at Coral Ridge Mall

Loving God, darkness has covered our community, and thick darkness has descended upon the people. Tragedy has clouded out the light.

Shots rang out at the mall in Coralville, Iowa. A young woman was senselessly murdered.

In this time of darkness may your resilient light shine forth.

May your light shine on the family and friends of Andrea Farrington. After the darkness of continual harassment and threats against her, the actual murder of Andrea must be filling those who love her with a cloudy midnight of immense grief and righteous anger. They need your light, Loving God. Please pour it forth.

May your light shine on the people who were gathered at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville. After ending his shift at the mall as a security guard, a man retrieved a gun from his home and returned to the crowded food court area, where he purposefully tracked down Andrea and fatally shot her in the back. This must confound their loved ones and the survivors in ways we can only imagine. So, we do what we can, Loving God, and pray for your light to make its way in their lives – and in the emotional recovery of the witnesses.

May your light shine on the family and friends of all of those who were affected or shaken by this act of violence. This tragedy has sent ripples of grief and anger through all of these people, as they ask the questions anyone would ask. Why? Why her? Why a young woman? Why now? Why like this? Why? This is a moment where there is a “dark night of the soul” for many people. So, we pray that you hold them in your light. Please bless all those around them, not with platitudes, but with comforting words and healing acts. And in the weeks and months ahead, bless them with a passion for seeking justice and building a more peaceful world.

May your light shine on all of us who are saddened and sickened by the news of this act of violence. We suffer from afar as we hear about this on our TVs, and read about it on our computers and in our newspapers. In our own work of processing this event, Holy God, bless us with enough hope to build a better world, enough grace to respect diversity, and enough frustration to reject acts and symbols of violence in our world.

May your light shine on the murderer, Alexander Kozak, whose darkness overcame his light. Perhaps he has a long history of perverse decision making. Perhaps his family history was painful. Perhaps his social life was conflictual. Perhaps his mental health was compromised. Perhaps his community of support was of little support. Whatever darkness overtook this man, may there be a way for light to peek through into his life.

May your light shine on the friends and family of the murderer – who may be asking questions for which there are no easy answers. May their sadness, anger, guilt, and shame be accepted by those around them, as they process this situation. And someday, may they be able to see and know that light does shine in the darkness - and the darkness will not overcome it.

And may your light shine on the media that fills our screens with violence, sexism, and rage. There’s no such thing as a lone gunman – and sometimes the negativity on the airwaves is enough to tip the balance of an already imbalanced person. Yet the people who fill the airways with this kind of darkness need light, too. So, Loving God, through your light, may they see the damage that their words do to our world. And may their hearts be softened, their words be tempered, and their styles of entertainment be changed, so that their positions in the media can be used in the service of fostering a more peaceful, equitable, and loving world.

Even in the midst of this tragedy, may we hold onto the hope that your light will continue to shine forth in the darkness until we are able to boldly proclaim, with the author of Isaiah, “Arise, shine; for our light has come, and the glory of God has risen within us.” Amen.

This prayer is based on Isaiah 60:1-2.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Progressive Baptismal Liturgy

Gathering Song: “Holy Now” by Peter Mayer

Gathering Prayer:

One:    Holy Presence, dance your vibrant life within us.
All:     Leap and bound joyfully through us.
One:    Fill us with Your euphoric music so we can join Your sacred dance with everything.
All:     The dance of water as it rushes through oceans, rivers, and bodies.
One:    The dance of birds as they fly, soar, and circle above.
All:     The dance of animals as they walk, run, and roam the earth.
One:    The dance of seeds as they bring forth flowers, fruit, and trees.
All:     The dance of the earth as it fosters seasons, climates, and ecosystems. 
One:    The dance of the cosmos as it weaves together stars, planets, and galaxies.
All:     And the dance of children as they explore new rhythms, moves, and methods.
One:    Holy Presence, dance your vibrant life within us now and always.
All:     Amen!

Reading from Sherman Wine:

“When a child is born, hope is born. A child makes us look forward with anticipation and excitement. A child is our link between the past and the future. Children allow us to reach out to the future, with all its possibilities and opportunities. Children unleash the power of our love and creativity and let us discover how much we need to nurture. When we give the gift of life to others, we give life to ourselves. We become alive with hope.”

Reading from John Philip Newell:

“At the birth of every child, the Holy is born. In the conception of every creature, the Sacred One is at work…The gospel of Christ reveals the dearest and most hidden of truths, that we are what Christ is, born of God, and that at the heart of every human being and every creature is the Light that was in the beginning, and through whom all things have come into being.”

Reading from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Baptism is a way of recognizing that every living being has the qualities of being a daughter or son of God. Every person has the qualities of peace, love, justice, wisdom, worthiness, enlightenment, happiness, and blessedness. Plus the negative seeds of hatred, anger, intolerance, incivility, and prejudice can be transformed into flowers of goodness. This is true because we are made of the same substance as Jesus. And the best way to see Jesus is to look at the goodness within ourselves.

Song: “Perfect” (Adapted) by Pink

Reading from the Gospel of Matthew:

“The disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had invited them. When they saw Jesus, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples in all nations, baptizing them in my name, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”


One:    The Holy One is with you.
All:     And also with you.
One:    Let’s give thanks to The Sacred.
All:     It is good to give God thanks and praise.
One:    Abiding Spirit, we thank you, because in you, we live, move, and have our being. We also thank you for the gift of water, which has been a blessing of life and health from the beginning of time. Your same Spirit who brooded over the waters at Creation, continues to brood over the waters in every pond, river, and ocean. Your same Spirit who blessed the sacred births of the first people on earth, continues to bless the sacred births of all babies today. Your same Spirit who led our ancestors out of Egyptian slavery by parting the waters, continues to lead us toward greater freedom today. Your same Spirit who descended upon Jesus at his baptism in a river, continues to be with us through our baptismal waters. Each time we see, hear, or touch water, enliven us anew to your abiding presence with us, and your gracious love for us. Bathe us afresh, now and always, in your sacred waters.
All:     Holy One, as we prepare to baptize ______, we ask that you bless this place, bless this water, and bless all of us gathered. In this moment, may your peace, love, and justice flow like a mighty stream through all of us. Amen.

One:   ________, we baptize you in the name of Jesus, the One, among many, who reveal the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel. The God of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The God of peace, love, and justice. The God of plants, insects, and animals. The God of this town, planet earth, and the entire cosmos. Amen!
All:     Today we reaffirm that you are a beloved child of the Holy One. Amen!
 One:    Amazing God, Jesus embodied your gracious love in word and deed. Thank you for that gift. We also thank you that we can witness that same love to _______, proclaiming that s/he is your beloved child; and that s/he is saturated by your abiding presence.
All:     May _______ be always be loved, supported, and encouraged. May s/he enjoy family, meet friends, and greet strangers. And throughout all the joys and challenges of life, may s/he be filled with courage, strength, and grace.  Amen.
Hymn:God of Movement

Benediction from Marianne Williamson:

One:    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
All:     Holy God, throughout our lives, liberate us so we can liberate others! Amen!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Best Movies of 2014

  1. Boyhood
  2. Interstellar
  3. The Lego Movie
  4. Under The Skin
  5. The Skeleton Twins
  6. Citizenfour
  7. Selma
  8. Gloria
  9. Wild
10. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Best Albums of 2014

  1.  U2 - Songs Innocence
  2.  Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes
  3.  The Black Keys - Turn Blue
  4.  Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways
  5.  Prince - Art Official Age
  6.  Gangstagrass - Broken Hearts & Stolen Money 
  7.  Hurray for the Riff Raff - Small Town Heroes
  8.  Common - Nobody's Smiling
  9.  Postmodern Jukebox - Twist Is The New Twerk
10.  Divina and the Vegabonds - Sunshine

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Some People Say [Fill-In-The-Blank] About You

Sometimes people can do all kinds of mean things to each other in churches, businesses, offices, etc. But one of the simplest yet most aggressive things people do to each other is this statement: "Some people say [fill-in-the-blank] about you." It's a classic move. It's also a classless move. But it's much worse when the person who says that statement refuses to identify who the "some people" are. That means the person is trying to imply that there is a group or mass of people people who thinks a certain way without any kind of direct communication or professional accountability. Without the identification of "some people," those statements are a poison in organizations. At best, those statements are nothing more than gossip. At worst, they are abuse. Seriously. Those statements are only meant to cause injury. And they must be stopped immediately. If the person who makes such statements refuses to identify the "some people," then it's important to say something like: "I hope those people will speak with me directly so we can resolve this situation professionally. Otherwise, I'm going to have to assume that it's not a big enough issue to explore at this time. Is there anything else I can do for you?" That's it. The end. There is nothing more that should be discussed with that person. Well...other than showing them to the door. Then talk to a trusted friend or colleague to process the attack that was just encountered. Plus it might help to go play a round of golf, go for a long jog, or go lift weights. Anyone who encounters such an attack deserves to do something fun!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mary: Society's Nobody Yet God's Chosen

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a poor, faceless, nameless woman. She was Eric Garner's devastated widow. She was Michael Brown's grieving mom. She was Dulce Cristina Payan before she was murdered by a gang. She was Malala Yousafzai on the day she was shot by the Taliban for going to school. She was the woman who was repeatedly assaulted by a prison guard who was supposed to protect her. Mary was every woman who has experienced pain, oppression, and injustice. It for this reason that Mary was chosen by God for a sacred mission. And after Mary was chosen, she sang this song (Luke 1:46-55):