Maria wept as she shared the story of Mary and Joseph when they sought a place to stay in the city of Bethlehem. They had found no room at the inn. Maria shared the tradition of Posada in which the parents of Jesus looked for someone who would offer them hospitality and finding no one, they moved on to the next house also finding no welcome. Her voice was raw with emotion as she shared that Jesus–the one who dwelt within real people continued to seek hospitality in a world that offered him no welcome.
I wondered why this story brought up so much emotion in my friend. I didn’t ask, we had a hard time talking with one another due to a language barrier. I spoke little Spanish, and she spoke little English. Nevertheless somehow the Lord knit our hearts together with a deep love. A few years later, there was an ICE raid in our rural town and I was supposed to meet with Maria’s daughter for discipleship. The two girls in the group had frightened looks on their faces as Maria’s daughter explained that her mom was undocumented. We cried together and prayed. I ached inside as I witnessed the trauma experienced by my young friends.
From that moment on, Maria and her family were in my prayers. I often noticed a shadow of shame fall on her face. As Maria gained more English, we began to talk together about her immigration status. Often we gathered to pray together. Continue reading Solidarity and Prayer: One Story
Have you ever noticed the tenacity of a flower that blooms through the cracks of a sidewalk? All around is the hard surface of cement but in the crack the flower has found a way to poke its head up, push through the earth and bloom. Becoming whole, becoming adult has been for myself a journey in which it has felt as if I were trying to bloom through cement. What is this cement? Having come through it, I now have a name for this cement–Patriarchy.
Patriarchy in my life has been the hard surface through which I have tried to bloom.
I grew up in a small rural Charismatic church led by a pastoral couple. She preached as much as he did and I had my first picture of what a strong Christian woman might be like. While the little church was not the picture of emotional health, I had been given a picture of a man and woman working together for the sake of the gospel. The Apostle Peter said this about Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
This is a picture of restoration.
By the Spirit men and women would speak, by the Spirit a new community in Christ would be formed. In this new community God’s people would become whole–once again partners with God and one another to bring healing in the earth. Continue reading Blooming Through Cement
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Every great leader has a mission and I believe that Jesus is no different. No, I’m not talking about Jesus CEO, I am talking about the focus of Jesus as he lived his life on the ground. And I believe as followers of Jesus, we are invited to join with Jesus in the mission.
Very often churches that are in decline have a singular focus that revolves around its own interests, its own needs and its own preferences and the mission is mostly lost. Churches in decline also tend to find themselves having their beliefs defined by a favorite news source that they perceive as “Christian” rather than the actual Bible. Often the church has become more like the world in the ways it colludes with power. And we lose our focus on the real mission of Jesus. Continue reading The Mission of Jesus
I’ve listened to the political dialogue around how our nation should respond to migrants, asylees and refugees and have noticed the assumptions that we begin with and how those assumptions form our responses. I want to talk about that in this blog post because who we think migrants are shapes how we respond to them. In addition, how we think about migrants shapes the policy discussions that we have. And then I want us to reflect on whether or not our assumptions reflect our faith and how we might consider seeking a truly Christian response to this crisis.
Our beginning assumptions shape how we see:
If we begin with the assumption that migrants or refugees are a threat to our way of life–our culture, if they are a threat to our jobs, if they are a threat to our faith or if they are a threat to our well-being, if they are a threat to our social strength, then we must create policy and enact various security measures to protect ourselves. If we think of migrants as invaders, then we would need to use military force to protect ourselves from an invasion. That is the logical flow from our assumptions to our actions.
If our beginning point regarding migrants and refugees is that all of those heading to our borders are criminals coming to harm us, then we must of course stop them from coming into our country at all costs. Naturally we would not want more violent people or drug dealers. Continue reading Finding A Christian Response to Migrants
Genesis 2:25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Genesis 3:8-13 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
I’ve been listening to that anxious dialogue in our world right now about sexual assault, abuse, rape and I have been at the same time thinking about Genesis chapters 2 and 3. Genesis 2 tells us of a wonderful garden within which human beings walk with God in the cool of the evening and men and women flourish in safety and trust—not only in God but in one another. Genesis 2:25 makes the astounding claim that the first couple is naked and not ashamed.
They are the representative humans representing all of humanity in relation with God and one another. There is no assault, there is no taking of what is not given, there is no fear and there is no shame. Human beings are free from the brokenness and suffering that will later come through sin and the sin system.
In Genesis 1:26-28 they were called to image God and reign in the Earth, filling it—creating families, who would create communities who would create nations. As agents of God, the first humans were to act in union with the one who is completely good and just and holy. And God’s people were naked and not ashamed. Continue reading Rape, Assault, Abuse and the Fall
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Often in my childhood growing up in a Pentecostal and Charismatic setting I heard teachings that connected faith with prosperity. Somehow, if I had the right amount of faith and I never really knew how much was really enough, well then I could obtain health or wealth. Having enough faith also included having one’s relatives saved. And I see where these ideas come from in the scripture as the Bible often uses the words faith in connection with healing and the supplying of our needs. But something always seemed a bit off for me. Continue reading A Faith That Rings Hollow
Each time we recite the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew chapter 6:9-13 we pray these words, “your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
We thoughtlessly recite this prayer without paying a whole lot of attention to just how astounding these words really are. That’s what I want us to dive into today in this blog post.
In the beginning God created a beautiful world where he would dwell with his people. Then he created human beings and put them in the world that he created. The Biblical authors called this world a garden because garden best describes what life is like in the presence of God. It is a flourishing world within which God’s people partner with God in doing the will of God. God’s people partner with him as image bearers—tending the garden, reigning in union with God and bringing life and filling the earth with people. Continue reading The Union of Heaven and Earth