Friday, August 8, 2014

Embracing 50

For many years I have been one of those annoying people who claim to be 29 every year. Last September, I celebrated the 19th anniversary of my 29th birthday but this year I will jump ahead instead of clinging to the past. I made this decision a few months ago when the thought occurred to me that my 49th birthday is actually the ending of my 49th year and thus the beginning of my 50th. I thought of how many friends I had that did not make it this far and how blessed I have been to see 50 years. Then, last week, I was reading Clarence Jordan's book, "Sermons from the Cotton Patch" and he spoke of Jubilee. Now, the first part I already knew, every seventh year is a year of Jubilee and is accompanied by celebration and forgiveness of sin (including debt) and universal pardon! Here is what I did not know, every seventh cycle of seven years (49) is followed by an even bigger celebration in the 50th year, a kind of mega Jubilee!! So, on September 6. 2014, I will join a second annoying group, you know those people who have a birthday week or even month? Well not to be out done, I will celebrate all year, my 50th, my mega Jubilee. Who wants to party with me?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jesus : his birth and his death, but not his life!

On friday last I went to Gainesville, GA to hear Marcus Borg lecture at Breneau University. He made a statement that caught my attention, " a religion of the afterlife is of no threat to the way things are," I wrote it down and went home and posted it to facebook. After I posted it, I was done and could scarcely remember what that quote was today. It was however, another statement Borg made that didn't grab me nearly as much at the time, I didn't post it to facebook or twitter but I marinated on it for the next several days and it has now led me to this blog for the first time in a year and a half.

Borg was asked if he believed creeds, like the apostles creed and nicene creed could be a harmful element in Christian liturgy and life. His answer included far more than this, but this is what I couldn't shake, "the problem with creeds is that they examine Jesus birth and his death but do not say a single word about his life." This has led me to series of questions. Is it possible to emphasize what we believe about Jesus to the exclusion of what He believed? Do we care more about his titles than his attributes? Is it possible to know how he got here and how he left and not know who he was?

A few weeks ago I posted a link to information about a protest vigil being sponsored by Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the state of Georgia was scheduled to execute a Mentally challenged individual that evening, despite a supreme court ruling against executing children and the mentally challenged. One of my evangelical christian friends responded to that post with an unfortunately common misquote of Jesus, she said, "what about an eye for an eye, didn't Jesus say that?  I directed her to Matthew chapter 5 and answered,  No, he didn't! We debated further with little accomplished and I was faced with the question I had asked myself so many times before and yet had never found an answer. Here's the question. How can you claim to follow Jesus and yet be pro war, pro gun, pro discrimination, anti helping the poor and so on? Marcus Borg answered that question for me last Friday. You see, in much of Christianity today it is possible to disagree with or just disregard much or all of what Jesus said and how he lived as long as you proclaim his virgin birth, death, burial and resurrection.

Initially I viewed the Matthew 5 misquote as only that, a misquote or misunderstanding, probably due to only reading part of the chapter, but it is far more than that, it is a complete disconnect with who Jesus was. It attributes to Jesus, not just something different than what he said but the exact opposite of what he said. I never knew Dr King, but I know enough of what he said and stood for to not be fooled if someone told me he advocated violence, so how is it that you can "know" and "follow" Jesus and not recognize when someone misrepresents him?

Let's look past (or put down, if you observe lent) the emphasis on the virgin birth and the events of easter week and look at what he said, how he lived, who he befriended and see if we can't discover who he really was and is.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sing a new world into being!!

I don't know if I have ever been so moved by the words of a hymn. I heard this Saturday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, it is sung to the tune of "Joyful, joyful we adore thee" The new lyrics are by Mary Bringle. I hope it speaks to you as well.

Sing a new world into being, sound a bold and hopeful theme.
Find a tune for silent yearnings, lend your voice and dare to dream.
Dream a church where all who worship find their lives and loves belong.
Sing a new world into being, sing as Christ inspires your song.

Sing a new world into being, where each gender class and race.
Brings its rainbow gifts and colors to God’s limitless embrace.
Where the lines that once divided form instead the ties that bind.
Sing a new world into being, Risk transforming heart and mind.

Sing a new world into being, where the homeless find a home.
Where no children ever hunger, but are filled with God’s shalom.
Where all people work for justice, where all hate and vengeance cease.
Sing a new world into being, raise the harmonies of peace.

Sing a new world into being, Join the ancient prophets’ cry.
For a time of health and plenty, when all tears have been wiped dry.
When compassion flows like waters, pouring balm for all who grieve.
Sing a new world into being, live the promise you believe.  

You can find this is the new GIA/National Baptist Convention Hymnal, "Total Praise"

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Atlanta : Black millionaires and hockey players

 It's February and of course that means Black History! I began my observance of this month by watching the Atlanta Thrashers play the New York Islanders on SportSouth here in Atlanta. You immediately get the connection between hockey and black history, right? No, ok, i'll help you. I am very proud of our NHL franchise here in Atlanta as we dress for action 5 of the leagues 17 black players. Dustin Byfuglien, Evander Kane (named after Atlanta's own Evander Holyfield), Anthony Stewart, Johnny Oduya and Nigel Dawes. The Thrashers also picked up Sebastian Owuya in the 6th round of the NHL entry draft in July making a possible 6th in the future lineup! Maybe you wonder why I am being so politically incorrect with my use of "black" and not "African American" well actually this was not a typo or insensitivity on my part, you see only Byfuglien, from Minneapolis is American.  The rest of the group coming from either Europe or Canada. This just 53 years after
Willie O'Ree broke the color barrier in hockey wearing the number 22 with the Boston Bruins from 1957 to 1979. O'Ree could not have conceived of an NHL locker room with the diversity of the Thrashers, as he was the NHL's lone player of color for 16 seasons. Edmonton Oiler's goaltender Grant Fuhr holds 2 distinctions worthy of note as the first player of African decent to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup and then later to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

For more on Thrashers diversity check out this AP article :

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Consider the ant....a Jainist perspective.

One of my earliest memories is from Birchwood St in Troy, Michigan, playing outside with my friends from the neighborhood. Sounds like the beginning of a good memory doesn't it? No, this one has haunted me for over 30 years, we would search through the tall grass growing in the ditch near the road to find frogs. It started as a way to scare one another with stories of hands and arms covered with warts but eventually devolved into a game akin to skipping rocks, we had no pond, so the sidewalk was our surface of choice and the captured frog became the stand in for a smooth stone. Gleefully, my friends would whip the frogs sidearm across the pavement to see how many times they could make it bounce. I think this may be the earliest memory that points to the hippie freak I would become because I found no glee in this activity, in fact I remember trying not to cry as I looked down at the stains on the sidewalk the next day! We were all somewhere between 7-10 yrs old, how had we already learned that one form of life was superior to another and that we, as the superior lifeform were entitled to do with the lesser as we pleased? A little older, I conformed and participated in the great fun that came from exercising our rights as the top of the food chain and stepped on as many ants as I could on my way to school. Of course I avoided the cracks in the pavement, stepping on those was clearly immoral!! I never completely got rid of the voice in my heart that said, why? what did the ant do wrong? why shouldn't he or she be allowed to live? but I learned to ignore it so that no one would think I was a sissy. Now at age 45, I still have conflict with this question of life's value. My thoughts are probably even more outside the norm today. I ask questions like these, "Why do I have any more right to exist in this kitchen than this living, breathing cockroach?" and "If I end the life of this fly, am I really pro-life?"

Recently I discovered a group even weirder than I, the "Jain." I hope I do not misrepresent their beliefs as I am no expert, but this how I understand them. Do no harm, strive to live in harmony with the rest of life on this planet. I have learned there are no "absolute rules." While they believe that eating root plants like potatoes and carrots is to be avoided because it ends the life of that plant, it is not an offense that carries a punishment. They strive to do as little harm to other life as possible, some cover their mouths with a vail so as to protect the tiny living organisms in the air that would die if unknowingly inhaled.

So what of me as a Christian and the ant, the frog, the roach? Like the Jain, I am not making a moral judgement or pronouncing a new rule, just suggesting as Solomon did that we consider them. In Proverbs 6:6, he goes on to call the ant a she..not an it! and then to speak of her attributes from which we can learn.  If we can learn from her, why can't we live with her??

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oppressors and murderers

I responded to a post on twitter yesterday, someone made a generalization of the Pro-life community that I thought was unfair so I tweeted a challenge to it...the responses started mild, I was an "anti-choice zealot." Later I was told that I thought it was better to rape and murder a child already born than to abort a fetus. Then I learned that I wished to chain all women up by their vaginas. My indignation was short lived as I thought back to the numerous generalizations I had heard from the pro-life side, a couple I may have even made myself. One of these conversations continued on past a few points and counterpoints and is actually still in process today. As I tried to convince these folks that I did not wish to punish women for having sex it became increasingly apparent that I had as distorted a view of them and they had of me. These people were not standing in line with their chainsaws, bent on cutting fetuses into tiny pieces!! I was amazed as I began to recognize the sincerity of their belief that women are second class citizens in our society and that the religious world from which the pro-life movement has it's strongest base is among the worst offenders. So have I converted? Am I now Pro-choice?....HELL NO!! But I am beginning to understand that both groups have, at their heart, what they perceive to be a noble mission. One to defend the oppressed and one to defend the unborn!! When we stop viewing them as murderers and they stop viewing us as oppressors, maybe we can have a constructive dialogue. But what is more likely is we will continue to vilify each other because another thing I learned yesterday is that both sides are more interested in winning the argument than solving the problem!