Tuesday, November 26, 2019

In Gratitude

Sometimes gratitude lists seem a bit trivial--just the idea of setting down on paper things for which you are grateful can be a meaningless excercise.  On the other hand, it can be a good way to remind oneself of the many ways life is good.  So here goes--I am sure I will leave something or someone off this list, but here is what comes to mind this week of Thanksgiving, 2019.

I am thankful for . . .

Having faith, not blind faith, but faith informed by reason and made richer by emotion.

My wife, Linda, who brings a bit of common sense into my sometimes overly intellectualized life and who cares for me in so many ways.

My mother (and my late father) who gave me so much as a child including the love of reading, the love of music, the love of theater and the love of God.

My children, Matt, Bruce and Liz, each of whom provide me with ever new challenges and delights.

My six grandchildren, Zak, Amirrah, Chris, Haley, Megan and Jyzelle, who keep reminding me that while the world is an ever changing place love can be, should be, is a constant.

My friends, both old and new, especially Charlie, who I've known since third grade, Jerry who has traveled the clergy journey with me lo these many years, and Gil, who helps me stay on the straight and narrow.

My calling, which for over forty years has allowed me to impact people's lives in ways I do not always realize, and which has provided me a way to use my God given talents.

My congregations, the one I now serve on Sanibel, and those of the past, all of which have left indelible marks on my life.

The freedoms I enjoy as an American, especially the freedom of and from religion and the freedom of speech.

And so much more:  books, pizza, Beethoven and the Beatles, hot showers, the poetry of Mary Oliver, Rumi and Billy Collins, books, Sibelius and the Gershwins, the legacy of Martin Luther King, the Brothers and Sisters of the Way, health
insurance and good health care, our partner congregation Temple Bat Yam, my Rotary Club  . . . .

For each of these and so much more, all I can say is thank you.  That and a wish that your list might be a rich and as full as mine.  Happy Thanksgiving!  I am grateful for each of you, my readers!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Challenged in Faith by Richard Rohr

I am a regular subscriber to the daily meditation published by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest working out of New Mexico.  He is well-known in many circles for his deeply insightful commentary on Christianity and modern life.

Recently, in an e-mail sent out to his very large readership on his behalf, he was quoted at length:
"Christianity," he was quoted as saying, "is a lifestyle--a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared and loving.  However, we made it into an established 'religion' (and all that goes with that) and avoided actually changing lives.  One could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain in most of Christian history and still believe that Jesus is 'personal Lord and Savior."  The world has no time for such silliness anymore.  The suffering on Earth is too great."

Rohr, of course, is a part of one branch of the established religion called Christianity (the Roman Catholic branch) and I am a part of another branch (the Protestant/United Church of Christ branch).  I don't think he is suggesting we abandon institutional religion.  I think he is suggesting we need to re-examine our institutions.  We need to ask our individual churches, and the Church Universal if we are going about the business of transforming lives, or are we simply engaged in institutional maintenance.

I for one, believes the world needs the Church--but only when we are a gathering of those who seek to live the lifestyle Rohr describes.  A lifestyle promoted
by Jesus.  A lifestyle that leads to a better world, where peace and justice, healing and love, are the norm and not the exception.

I am grateful for thinkers/doers like Rohr who challenge me in how I live out my my faith.  I hope you are as well.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Harriet: A Brief Review

"Slavery," Harriet Tubman once said, "is the next thing to hell."  And, clearly, in the recently released film Harriet, that is made perfectly clear, time and time again.

The title role is played by Cynthia Ervio, and it is a powerful performance.  She manages to capture the intensity of Tubman time and time again.

The story of her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad often raises a real measure of tension, and successfully demonstrates the risks taken by Tubman and those she led north.  Tubman necessarily worked in secret, and was named Moses both by detractors and those who relied on her skill to bring them to safety.  And that is far from the only religious or spiritual element in the film.  Indeed, through out there are scenes in church's, scenes involving Quakers, scenes showing the role of prayer and vision in her work.  After all, as Harriet says in one point in the film, "God don't mean people to own people."

One of the most effective aspects of the film is its use of music.  Often that music is presented in mere snatches, but several plot points turn on it.  The use of spirituals is augmented by modern composition as well, including the stirring anthem sung under the closing credits.

This is a film we all need to see.  This is a film that tells a story that we all need to hear.

This is a film that demonstrates why Harriet Tubman belongs on the twenty dollar bill.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Pueblo: Why We Went to Israel

This past spring my colleague and friend Steve Fuchs co-led a trip to Israel.  Steve is the rabbi of Bat Yam--Temple of the Islands, the Reform Jewish congregation that shares our building.  Steve and I decided sometime ago to invite our congregants to join us on this intentionally interfaith trip.  And they did.  Forty of them.  Twenty Jews, and twenty Christians.

Naturally we wanted to visit the various holy sites in that part of the world.  And we did.  And we wanted to meet some of the folks who live there--and we did, we met Jews, Christians and Muslims.  Ate with them, worshipped with them, learned from them.  We wanted to share prayers and meals and  meet new friends, and we did.

But more importantly, we wanted to witness to the reality that Christians and Jews can work, live and even travel together!  Because, as we were reminded once again by the arrest last night in Pueblo, Colorado of a white supremacist intent on blowing up a synagogue there, not all people believe that to be true.  Not all people believe God calls us to love one another.   "I hate [Jews] with a passion," the would be bomber told authorities, "They need to die."

We went to Israel together for all sorts of reasons, but one of them was because anti-Semitism is very much a real part of modern life in America.  And we just don't believe in it.  And neither does God.

(Photo:  Rabbi Stephen Fuchs and the Rev. Dr. John H. Danner, near the Mediterranean Sea in Israel.)