Thursday, August 30, 2018

Aretha and Sen. McCain: Respect

            It has been quite a week. Two icons of American life have died and we find ourselves joined together to celebrate two extraordinary lives. Just as the threads that hold our national life feel they are approaching a breaking point, the memories and the values that we hold dear are knotting us together to continue the journey.

            Aretha Franklin is known more for the lyrics and the presentation of her music.  Yet she was so much more than a performance artist.  As I write this entry, the Queen of Soul is being honored by her friends, fans, and family.  The hearse that carried her body to her public viewing carried the mortal remains of Rosa Parks in the 2005.  It is appropriate that she was accorded this honor. Born in 1942, Aretha knew the struggle for racial equality that has torn our American fabric in our lifetime.  Grounded in the New Bethel Baptist Church of Detroit, Michigan, she used her amazing voice and her celebrity stature to advocate for civil rights – human rights – rights for African-Americans – rights for Native Americans. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is not only a great song, it is a title that is a foundational touchstone for our human identity.  

            As we as a nation remember the life and legacy of John McCain we go beyond partisan positioning to recognize that which is a part of all of us, that which defines us a people of a particular place.  Few of us feel that we would have the courage to endure the captivity experienced by John McCain.  In that defining experience we see the cost of citizenship.  It is patriotism writ large because it was never all about him. It was about the others with whom he shared captivity.  It was about a country he had promised to defend.  It was about the memories and the stories from his father and his grandfather, both men who had chosen a life of public service through the U.S. Navy. It was about the hopes and dreams he had for his country.  It was courage he probably did not know he possessed.  That crucible would shape his public career.  Again, all his policies would not be popular or acceptable to all. However through the years he would advocate for RESPECT for one another.  He worked with his political opposite, Sen. John Kerry, to reestablish diplomatic relations with Vietnam.  He made political enemies because he wanted immigration reform that gave respect to the gifts and graces of Central Americans and Mexicans who sought a better life in the United States.  He famously and publically gave respect to Barak Obama even when running against him for political office.

            In 1 John 3:11-18 we read:  For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.  . . .  Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you.  We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another.  Whoever does not love abides in death.  All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.  We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.  How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
            Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

            The path from hate to love goes through R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  We can’t love without granting the dignity of respect. Otherwise we love in the abstract and remain locked out of relationships of life.  Love and Respect are active verbs.
They are seen as our actions.  They are seen as we face the truth of one another’s pain and hopes. To love and to respect means we must expose our vulnerabilities.  We must rise to a courage we did not know we could possess.  We must lay down “our selves” in service and respect for others. When we learn to do this we discover that we have really found “our selves”.  We will be loving, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Grace and Peace
Rev. Clara

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Washed Out – Not Quite

            It has been a particularly wet summer.  Regular violent storms have left rivers near flood stage ready to spill over into highways and byways at a moment’s notice.  Threats of storms have worked as a deterrent to be on the road because when they have rolled through visibility is extremely limited.  Basements that do not regularly flood need constant monitoring and plenty of electric fan power.  According to the National Weather Service our area has averaged 10-15 inches of rain above average.  When you add high humidity and temperatures, this summer has taken its toll.  It is my sincere hope that we can consider the implications of Climate Change to our earth instead of considering such talk a threat to our economy or our religious beliefs.

            Summer is often a time for vacations.  It is a time when we easily can be out in creation, renewing ourselves through the gifts of sunlight and fresh air.  On my one brief trip to the mountains of West Virginia I was able to enjoy my morning walk along the canyon rim.  During that mile down the road in the early moments of the day, I was conscious of breath. I was particularly aware of the many trees and dense vegetation around me.  I was thankful that the very act of breathing that morning was a gift, oxygen and carbon dioxide exchanged freely for mutual benefit.  

            Although I am quite “done” with scheduling my days around rain, I am also very aware that the rain that has inundated my yard has also meant that the source for my well is full and prepared for the months ahead.  Creation is an ever-changing palate as we move from season to season. Creation invites us to be aware of these moods and learn to appreciate them for what they teach us and what they give us.  Creation itself is an ever-flowing well of life and possibility.

            During my “inside” time this summer I have been stitching our planet earth as part of a series of the universe.  

It has been a form of prayer as I have taken each stitch as a way of thinking of our earth as a whole.  I  remembered when I first saw the photographs from space of the amazing blue marble that is our planet earth.  I  thought of all the ways our earth has been, and is being  harmed by some of the deregulations designed to protect our air and our water.  I looked at the swirling clouds over our whole planet  giving us glimpses of the beauty that is there.  I thought of the power of the volcanic eruptions over the big island of Hawaii, the force of the hurricanes that ravished Puerto Rico last summer and that is taking aim on Hawaii as I write.  I was aware, stitch by stitch, of the beauty of the earth.

            I was also aware of those who live on this planet alongside me.  My prayer was often for the healing of the divisions that assail us. My prayer was for children separated at a border that is not even prominent when looking at our planet as a whole.  My prayer was that we could find ways to stitch up the broken places around us.

            The stitching is complete now.  The needlework will be framed and will join the competed stitching of Jupiter and Saturn. In time the other planets will follow. Together they will remind me of the immensity of the universe.  They will cause me to wonder how any of us, including and especially myself, are so blessed to receive the gift of life itself.  They will be a source of wonder and awe and a reminder of grace.

Grace and Peace
Rev. Clara