Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Invitation to Observe a Holy Lent

On this Shrove Tuesday, as we prepare to begin the Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, I invited you to observe a Holy Lent.

May this traditional invitation bless you as you reflect upon it:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church
that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty-day season of spiritual preparation.
During this season converts to the faith
were prepared for Holy Baptism.

It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins
and had separated themselves from the community of faith
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness,
and restored to participation in the life of the Church.

In this way the whole congregation was reminded
of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed
in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial;
and by reading and meditating on God's Holy Word.

United Methodist Book of Worship

[This text is public domain and comes from the Book of Common Prayer]

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Theology and Protestors

A friend of mine sent me a link to a youtube video from the Lawrence O'Donnell show. A Wisconsin state senator was interviewed saying that they are trying to keep protesters out of the building because the building is becoming a "pig sty." The person on the other side of the interview countered that the folks spending the night are not slobs, as the senator calls them, but police officers, nurses, and firefighters. The senator then responded by saying they are "college TAs, college students, and hangers on." Later he says there are also unemployed people looking for something to do. They are just there to have a party according to the senator.

We human beings don't learn do we? No matter how many times history and theology teach us that people are people... no matter how often we hear our nation's declaration of independence quoted "we hold these truths to be self evident: all men are created equal" many of us just don't believe it, do we?

It would seem that in this example college TAs, college students, unemployed people, and "hangers on" are not welcome, not worthy, and cannot exercise their right to free speech without creating a pig sty. They are somehow less.

I understand that at the root of our desire to categorize, stereotype, and dismiss people who are different than we are is fear. We fear what we don't understand. We fear what is different from us. The senator said he would not bring his children to the state capital building with it in this state. I find that telling. The only antidote I know of for this spiritual problem (it is a spiritual problem) is the gift of compassion and the freedom from fear that comes through faith.

Two of the great testimonies of the saints through the ages are
1. perfect love casts out fear (1John4:18)
2. The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion (Psalm 116:5)

These are two of my favorite things about my relationship with Jesus: I am taught how to become increasingly free of fear (its a life long journey), and I am taught compassion by the One who knows all about love and compassion. The saints testify that the more we know, love, and serve Jesus, the more compassionate the Holy Spirit makes us. This is because the Spirit works within us to make us more like Jesus.

Here are some beautiful excerpts from the United Methodist Social Principles. It's good to be reminded of what we teach and believe, I think.

We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or economic status. Our respect for the inherent dignity of all persons leads us to call for the recognition, protection, and implementation of the principles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that communities and individuals may claim and enjoy their universal, indivisible, and inalienable rights. para. 162 The Social Community

We claim all economic systems to be under the judgment of God no less than other facets of the created order. Therefore, we recognize the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies that provide for the economic life of individuals and corporate entities and that ensure full employment and adequate incomes with a minimum of inflation. We believe private and public economic enterprises are responsible for the social costs of doing business, such as employment and environmental pollution, and that they should be held accountable for these costs. We support measures that would reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. We further support efforts to revise tax structures and to eliminate governmental support programs that now benefit the wealthy at the expense of other persons. para. 163 The Economic Community

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.