Go ‘outside the camp’ to the marginalized

I took on this assignment to write something for the FOCUS Churches of Albany’s Advent devotional. This was my submitted copy, which may or may not be what shows up.

Text: Hebrews 13:7-17. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As Christ was killed outside the city gate, let us also go ‘outside the camp’ to the marginalized and risk “the abuse he endured.”
In gratitude, “let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God…”

Quite a few of my friends are apathetic or even antagonistic towards the church. I totally get that. I’d been there myself some years ago.

My friends often see some elements of the church favoring those who have, the insiders. “Send money” so the pastor can have a bigger house, a better plane. I actually heard one of these guys say that if Jesus had come to earth in the 21st century, rather than the first, he’d be riding around in the newest and fanciest airbus.

That’s not the Jesus I’m seeing in this passage. He is instead a sacrificial Lord. While He is learned enough to swap scripture with the scribes and elders, he’s spending most of His time tending to the marginalized.

I’ve been a member of a FOCUS church since 1984. What inspires me about service to others is that doesn’t end at the sanctuary door. It goes “outside the camp” (v. 13), meeting the needs of the broader community.

Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, and FOCUS does that with food pantries, a breakfast club, and other services. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others.” (v. 16)

But FOCUS volunteers also sacrifice their time to do advocacy, trying to address the root causes that require a food pantry that was designed as a temporary activity to be in place for nearly five decades.

Just as Jesus brought people together to express God’s will, occasionally turning over a table or two, FOCUS mobilizes “individuals and other community organizations to work for systemic and structural change to address issues including poverty, social and racial injustice.”

Prayer: When people come to Advent services, they see the lighted candles and hear the familiar hymns. May they also see the love in our hearts that comes from caring for others, even those ragged people outside the door, per the example of Jesus.
***
Yes, There is a War on Christianity

Cruelty in the name of God

One of the Rob Rogers cartoons that got him fired

On my way to a friend’s retirement party this past Flag Day, I came across a sizable demonstration of folks protesting the cruel and barbaric policies of the current regime, separating children from their parents at the border, including those coming to the border for sanctuary. If I wasn’t already engaged, I might have joined them.

The regime has cited the policy as a negotiating tool in congressional negotiations. It also has worked to block victims of gang violence and domestic abuse from claiming asylum.

Leviticus 19:33-34 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

The Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the Bible in defense of breaking up families. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

The beginning of Romans 13 is fairly infamous, one of the passages used to defend slavery in the 1840s. The use of St. Paul to justify acts of cruelty is reprehensible, as he was an apostle not of laws, but of Christ.

Still,late night talk show host, and devout Catholic, Stephen Colbert noted: “If he just read a little bit further into Romans 13:10, it says, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.'”

Members of Congress protested the separation of families at the border. Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-MA 4) recently said, “I don’t care what you believe, who you vote for or what you think about the nuances of immigration reform. These kids need to be with their parents, just like every child. That’s it. That’s all there is. Anything less is cruelty in its purest form.”

Ezekiel 47:22 “You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.”

July Rambling: Weird Al, and the moon walk

clock.numbers
Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. – George Orwell. To that end, Bible Stories for Newly Formed and Young Corporations and Congratulations: It’s a corporation.

An answer to the child immigrant problem at the US-Mexican border? I note that the Biblical Jesus was a refugee, his parents fleeing Herod’s wrath. Yet so many people who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ “are so uncaring and hateful about hungry children trying to get to a better, safer place to live.”

In the non-surprise category: Stand Your Ground Laws Lead To More Homicides, Don’t Deter Crime.

Misleading on Marriage: how gay marriage opponents twist history to suit their agenda.

Yiddish Professor Miriam Isaacs has dug in a previously unknown treasure of over a thousand unknowns Yiddish songs recorded of Holocaust survivors; text is in Swedish, but can be translated. Miriam was my old racquetball buddy decades ago.

The Creation Myth of 20th Century Fundamentalism by Jeff Sharlet, who I also knew long ago.

Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe came out as gay. Arthur explains why it STILL matters. Also: I Can Be Christian, and Gay, and Live in Alabama.

Portraits of people in 7 days’ worth of their own garbage.
Continue reading

Easter is new

eastereggsOne of the things my pastors, and pastors before them, have often said is that you should be different on Good Friday than you were on Ash Wednesday. It’s not always easy to do that. The texts tend to be SO familiar that one has a tendency to “mail it in,” theologically. “Oh, yeah, that scripture; I know EXACTLY what that means.” I think, remarkably, that I did not “mail it in” this Lent.

Frankly, I’ve been puzzled by people who look at Scripture as though God handed it down in 17th century English. Continue reading

Art, science, Bible, baseball

josephhenry
More from New York Erratic:

Who is your favorite visual artist? Favorite director?

I tend to be rather catholic about these things. Here’s the best way to recognize the artist of paintings, BTW.

My church has Tiffany windows, which I like; the one above is one of them. Gordon Parks is a favorite photographer. Always though Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings were interesting, if not always practical. Van Gogh I enjoy, but there are so many more; I love going to the house in the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY because it’s so eclectic. Did one of those Facebook things where you should live, and it came up with French Polynesia, which reminded me that I like Gauguin too.

But I guess my favorite visual artist is Rodin, whose work I find sensual as all get out, even if it isn’t all his work.

I took this list of a list of the 50 greatest directors of all time. Of all the directors whose films I’ve seen more that three Continue reading

Tittynope, or ort, and poor Lazarus

tittymouse As is my wont, I checked out the Grandiloquent Word of the Day, which, for a day in late February, was tittynope. The term was SO peculiar that I had to check it in
another source. And sure enough – “Tittynope: (noun) a small quantity of anything left over, whether a few beans on a dinner plate or the dregs at the bottom of a cup.”

My old friend Hadiya – she’s not that old, but… – asked if it was related to the word ort. I’d say, definitionally, yes.
Continue reading

MLK as creationist?

MLK-ed-quoteIn a couple different Facebook strains around the Martin Luther King holiday, I read suggestions that Martin Luther King was a creationist. This is, as far as any evidence I’ve seen, a total fabrication.

First, a sidebar: apparently, there’s a narrative out there that suggests that philosophically – it is a Darwinian worldview that allows racism to exist, while a biblical perspective does not Continue reading

What Would Jesus Be Packing?

jesus-gun-wwjd41First I read that churches in Kentucky are using gun giveaways to help people find Jesus. Then, in a front-page story in my area, the pastor of a local Baptist church plans to give away an AR-15 assault rifle to the winner of a free raffle at an upcoming Sunday service.

From the Troy, NY church’s website:

We have decided to hold a special service honouring hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians the last few years. Our country was built with the King James Bible and the gun.

My theology is very different from this, and I struggled to understand. Continue reading

Doing your good deeds publicly?

HydrantsFBBack in mid-February, our local newspaper social media guru wrote: “A good deed loses some of its purity when it’s broadcasted by the ‘doer’ on social media.” I thought this was self-evidently true.

One person replied: “I’d like to think people do this to inspire others to follow suit. But the skeptic in me is pretty sure that they do this to satisfy their ego.” I have no idea about the motivation, but too often, it just feels unseemly.

Another: “If you want to pay it forward, just do it! If you are looking for praise for your complimentary cup of coffee , then you did it for the wrong reasons.” I’ll give that an AMEN.

And: “Bragging about a good deed is tacky. Class is when you do the right thing, not only when no one is looking but also when no one will thank or praise you.” YES.
Continue reading