Much is made in the media of the breakdown of civility, of lack of security and all the threats that cause us fear, especially from “other” people. Terrorism, by its nature senseless with random capacity to target any of us at any time, lays a cloud of fear and apprehension in our hearts and minds. Stereotypes of “others” compounds the alienation among our society. Fear breeds fear, and sometimes it evolves to hatred and violence.
Over fifty leaders of a wide range of religious traditions in Minnesota met this week for a three and a half hour session to counter such forces. It was a simple but carefully facilitated evening of getting acquainted and having purposeful conversations together in an effort to build relationships across lines of differences—differences of religion, tradition, ethnicity, and culture. The leaders shared hopes, concerns and ideas as well as deeply held values, texts and resources from their own traditions which speak to the value of knowing one another.
The social fabric of our community and state was strengthened that evening with new expressions of respect, and the value of knowing each other, as these religious leaders listened, shared and built new connections with one another. Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, American Indian, Bahai, Muslim, Jew, Christian, and various sub-divisions of some of these, were present and participating. In fact, the group saw value in those differences informing and enriching us, even helping us deepen our understanding and conviction in our own traditions.
The participants did converge on the need to get positive symbols, images and messages into the media about standing together without giving up our differences. The “old media” wasn’t present--not invited to this fresh opening of new relationships. It was not about the press. Yet there is hope that the new media will carry many testimonials—like this one—of the new mutual respect. Who knows what ripple or what multiplier effect will emanate from this occasion.
Look for these leaders to be standing together at 9-11-11 and other times as well, for the good of all people of Minnesota. All agreed there is no place for the hate that breeds terrorism and we must stand together against such hate.
In a democracy, religious freedom must prevail and respect for such freedom must grow. May we all share in the blessings of standing together in new and enriching relationships with “other” people.
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.