God calls us to be good stewards of creation, to act for justice, to treat our bodies as temples, and to hold out hope for the future. (This is hard to accomplish in a world where you need to scan the fine print of grocery store ingredients lists for words like “methylparaben” and “phthalates.”). This summer many of us will have a chance to explore and enjoy the wonderful place called Minnesota. I invite us all to consider the health of our land and all its people, including yourself. Perhaps this summer we could renew our twin commitments to care for the land and to steward our own health and well-being.
Next month I will be a guest presenter at a wonderful spot, Rancho la Puerta which takes these commitments seriously. I will get a chance to eat organically, exercise well, and sleep a good night’s sleep - that is, to steward my own God-given body. As I get ready for some time off to focus on my own health and wellbeing, I am grateful for those who have come before me in this work. In particular, I want to lift up the instigator, creator, developer, and heart beat of Rancho La Puerta: Deborah Szekely. Deborah was concerned about toxic chemicals and health-food long before any of my generation even knew what those words meant. She made a pathway for many if us - even if we don’t know it. Thank you, Deborah.
In faithful response to the work of that generation, we have to each do our part. The Minnesota Council of Churches, with the National Council of Churches, is working on these issues from the federal level to local work. At the federal level we are trying to protect water, impact legislation that would keep toxic chemicals out of our everyday life and make sure the EPA has the authority it needs and with that authority does the right thing. If you are interested in the federal work try: http://nccecojustice.org/index.php>
Locally, through our “Healthy Homes, Healthy Congregations” set of presentations, Minnesota Council of Churches educates faith communities about the theological basis for caring about toxic chemicals, how to minimize individual and communal exposure to toxic chemicals, and how to advocate for a world where we are less exposed to toxic chemicals. Different presentations have different foci: chemicals in cleaning products, chemicals in cosmetic products, issues of active seniors, issues in general, congregations, and congregational leaders. Our presentations work as an adult education hour or as an interactive experience during worship. But you don’t need to wait to hear from us before acting on your own renewed commitments to the land and your health.
5 Tips on How to Green your Place of Worship:
People in a congregation seeking to be better stewards of creation, to act for environmental justice, to help their fellow worshippers treat their bodies as temples, and to believe in a better future have many tools available to them. In order to reduce the presence of toxic chemicals in the church building, please consider:
For connection on these matters contact firstname.lastname@example.org
As summer approaches let’s help keep Minnesota green all year ‘round.
Well, I’m still here, how about you? Anybody missing?
How in the world does somebody think they know the day the world will end, seems a bit idolatrous to me, but here’s basically how this is all got calculated.
In Genesis 7:4, God said to Noah: "Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." It is calculated that when God referred to seven days, God meant both seven days and seven thousand years. That calculation comes from the verse which says that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The flood occurred in 4990 BC, we are told. Seven thousand years later is 2011.
So there’s the year. Now how do we get the date? That is related to the number of days between the Crucifixion and May 21, 2011. There are 722,500 days between these dates. 722,500 is a significant number because it is composed of the significant numbers 5x10x17x5x10x17. Five signifies redemption; ten signifies completion; and 17 signifies heaven. The numbers represent the day of redemption (5) and the end of the Christian era (10) and the ascent to heaven (17) -- and these factors are doubled for added significance. According to pamphlet, I didnlt actually add it all up.
Wednesday is Ash Wednesday for much of the Christian world. Many of us will experience an anointing of the ashes, tomorrow. These are the ashes of last years Palm Sunday palms. (Palm Sunday – a week before Easter for the Christian - the day Jesus road into Jerusalem in triumph, only to be crucified five days later and resurrected three days after that.)
The palms used to welcome the king become the ashes that welcome us into the season of Lent. It is a time, as a clergy friend of mine says, “to confess our willful participation in the things that bring death not life.” A good mediation for all of Lent I’d say. One short life in the days of the planet; our part is very minor by those standards.
The words that come to me each year are, “Remember, O human, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” Genesis3:19. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Fairly humbling, wouldn’t you say? Well, we could all use a big dose of the ‘humbles’.
I invite us all into 40 days of reflection about our life and the places of our lack of humility. I invite you to join me in my Lenten reflection. Among others things, I will be watching for that one time (at least) everyday when I need to say, “Well, I could be wrong.” Won’t you join me, who knows, maybe that would awaken a new civic spirit?
One short life in the days of the planet; our part is very minor by those standards. Yet, we are reminded, one life can lead to glorious.
Lama Hasan reported on ABC television today with the following to report from Libya: “The wave of change sweeping across the Arab world has finally given women a voice. Everywhere I went in the region, I was impressed and surprised by the women I saw. Something changed; a barrier was broken, and they felt empowered and determined to bring down regimes that had denied them their freedom for too long. "’Maybe we will die, so? History will not die,’ said Salwa Bugaighif, a lawyer I met here in Benghazi.” <http://abcnews.go.com/International/women-revolution-middle-east-uprisings-shaped-women-egypt/story?id=13069696>
I am pondering today that freedom and democracy do not come easily.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of what came to be called Bloody Sunday in America. When the civil rights movement leaders men and women, struggled for voting rights for all American citizens regardless of skin color. It wasn’t so long ago.
On March 7, 1965 the first of a series of three marches took place. This one was of more than 600 marchers. When the marchers got across the Edmond Pettus Bridge they were set upon by the police and state troopers with dogs, billy clubs and tear gas. Two marches later, on Sunday, March 21, about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery. When they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, the numbers were 25,000. Within five months after the last of the three marches, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But there was a high cost, including Detroit homemaker Viola Liuzzo who was attacked and killed by Klansmen as she drove marchers back to Selma. http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/cost.htm
Viola Liuzzo and Salwa Bugaighif challenge me. Is this a moment when resistance to oppression requires this kind of courage from me? At the very least I can remind the next generation what their parents have done. At the very least I can ask the people around me to decide today that they will vote the next time. The vote is hard won. Let’s not waste it – ever.
The body politic is shaken by the Tucson attack and I agree with representative Boehner who said that, "attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve". We are all asking, “How can we prevent such in the future?”
From his police record and the content of his Youtube videos, Jared Loughner, is clearly an angry, mentally unstable individual. While his political views are scattered and not easy to discern from the limited information we have, his actions seem to be quite politically motivated.
The quickness with which many have linked the tragedy in Tucson with the distressingly high levels of vitriol, distrust, dishonesty, anger and hatred in our political discourse is entirely understandable. According to the Senate Sergeant at Arms, threats against members of congress are up 300% since the beginning of 2010. There needs to be a toning down of the rhetoric of violence...by all of us.
For instance, the language of violent threat needs to be dropped from American political life. When Michelle Bachman says that we all need to be 'armed and ready' we need to tell her that won’t do. Or in March of 2010, when Sarah Palin released a map featuring 20 House Democrats she was targeting, there should have been a greater outcry. (The map used crosshair images to show their districts. Many sggested at the time that she was encouraging violence by using the crosshairs imagery and for later writing on Twitter to her supporters, "'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'") She specifically cited Representative Giffords and said, "We'll aim for these races and many others."
In response to the Giffords shooting, Palin posted the following on Facebook, "My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice."
In the comments section below Palin's statement, critics had strong responses:
"More than condolences, I hope you will think carefully in the future when you call on supporters to 'take aim' at opponents, and refer to elections as 'salvos,'" wrote Kirsten Sherk. "A child was killed today by someone who can't tell the difference between 'inspiring' speech and a call to arms. I was appalled by your violent speech before, I'm horrified now."
But while I agree with the concern, Palin cannot become a scapegoat in all this. Her ill-thought-out decision to use a weapon-sights metaphor against the political opposition must be seen as an expression of a larger national culture that celebrates violence. Palin got a lot of support for her approach. And her approach is just one of many violent frameworks laid on the political scene. We can't ignore the analysis that the pro-violence aspects of our culture may well encourage people like Loughner to action but in doing so we can’t, as President Obama said today, “use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”
So let’s find a way to stop the attack-mentality including our own. It is easy to want to put Palin in our own "cross-hairs" for this. It is much harder to ask ourselves how we can move away from the extreme political discourse, the vilifying of the opposition, and the winner-take-all, no-compromise attitude that seems to have taken hold in American politics.
One of the heroes in the moment was a new intern Daniel Hernandez who said he ‘just did what he had to do’ in response to the tragedy being played out in front to him. We all need to consider what it is we have do. Can we hear the call to a better America, being part of a better day, without having an enemy to respond to? Can we be motivated to resist the violence itself and not project and 'enemy' banner onto those who disagree with us? This is going to require a new day of civility from all of us. What a challenge worth taking on!