Why are you surprised?

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The Good News of the Gospels is usually relegated to back page stories in this newspaper called life.  Every new day brings increasingly savage and violent news of mankind’s failure to understand our purpose during our visit to this life.  Perhaps people are unaware of the necessary path we must take to ensure our species is existent a few millennia from now.  Deadly armaments and unbridled displays of man’s inhumanity to man foretell a fiery demise.  Is there any hope?

Days like yesterday and today leave me questioning.  The salient media story has been about one man intent on killing as many other men and women as possible with his accumulated stash of weaponry and ammo.  Disgruntled about political differences and incited by racial hatred this one person had a desire to destroy the world.  Can you fathom a crazed mind that intent on having his will let loose on mankind?  I cannot.

Several books of our Scriptures prophesied the “end times.”  Some of us believe the writers could indeed foresee the future of man as related in their writings.  Some of us who are less inclined to agree with prophesy call today’s world circumstances a coincidence.  I certainly don’t know the answers.

However, I do believe those ancient men of scripture knew instinctively the nature of man.  They knew and experienced the violence and hatred inherent in humanity since the beginnings of time.  We do not descend from peaceful stock.  Our genes do not comprehend the words love and compassion and tolerance.  Our primal tribal nature teaches us to kill that which is different from us.  We have millions of years of DNA driving us to be killing machines.  So, why should we be surprised when one man sets out to destroy as much as possible of God’s creation?

Understanding the aggressive, violent nature of mankind does not excuse the task set before me which is to evolve to the highest levels of peaceful coexistence with all races, creeds, nationalities and lifestyles possible within my broken, human condition.  I can never do this perfectly, but I can make progress.  How about you?  Together, maybe we can modify those genes and change our world.

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the awakening

 

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The ugliness in the world somehow seems much uglier than it did yesterday.  The darkness of a government missing its moral compass is darker.  The inequalities gripping humanity appear more unequal.  What happened to my complacency and my acceptance of this status quo?  I did not ask to be made aware.  I was happy with a world that accepted me.  I was content to just fit in and be unnoticed.  Then he came along.

Then he came along and changed my life forever.  Minding my own business casting my nets, this preacher man walked by and said to my brother Andrew and me, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Who is this stranger?  Does he really believe I am going to leave my nets and my boat and walk away from my wife, my children?  What does he want?  What does he mean by ‘fishers of men’ and why is my brother abandoning his nets also and turning our boat over onto the beach?  Why are we doing this?  

Look!  There are James and John with their father Zebedee mending nets on their boat.  This stranger is calling to them.  They, too, are dropping their work to slosh through the water to join us.  He says we are going to be his followers, his disciples.  We are going to preach at Capernaum and everywhere in Galilee.  Preach what?  Who is this man who calls himself Jesus?  Just yesterday I was content to simply fish and mend my nets, but now he wants us to be fishers of men.

Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John encountered a dilemma on that day nearly two-thousand years ago working their trade on the Sea of Galilee.  What would you have done?  How about me?  My spouse would definitely not understand and my friends would think I’ve had too much to drink.  And what about the neighbors?  “Yeah,” they would chortle, “Larry just left the mower in the yard, joined Joe and Bobby following some guy who said, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. He’s bonkers! ‘”

Everyone of us has had our day in the boat just fishing and easing along through life when Jesus appears on the shore beckoning us to follow.  It happens unexpectedly, doesn’t it?  He says our nets will catch something bigger and better than anything our dreams could imagine.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Folks, that’s not a request.  It’s a command.

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SELMA – 1965

 

America gave him a federal holiday in 1983.  Not all states complied; many objected.  Why should a “white” nation recognize a black rabble-rouser and trouble maker?  A few raised questions regarding Dr. King’s moral character in order to discredit the work he had done for the advancement of the civil rights of black people.  But, with the federal government’s mandates regarding civil rights, justice and equality, strident racism within American society appeared to be a relic of the by-gone days when signs at drinking fountains and lunch counters told black people they were not good enough or American enough to share those same facilities.  We white people probably felt that we had somehow been miraculously cleansed of the centuries of hatred and intolerance leveled on other citizens who just happened to be a varying, darker shade of our skins.  Yeah, the government gave them a holiday, that ought to keep them quiet for a while, we’re cool.

Guess what folks?  Those issues which were a festering sore on our collective, white American soul are back in full force.  It’s as if we learned nothing from the horrors of slavery, the Jim Crow laws, the voting obstruction, the job and housing discrimination, the burning crosses, the hooded cowards raising havoc with people of color, Jews, Catholics, gays, Muslims, i.e. anybody who does not have a white, European, Christian pedigree.

My  initial writing for this post, briefly detailing the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia, failed to  convey the anger and disgust which is building inside me today.  The words which I wrote were yada-yada-yada achievement reporting from Wikipedia that somehow seemed to be sanitizing the blood, sweat, and tears of thousands of protesters, marchers, and victims of American intolerance and injustice.  They gave their souls, minds and lives to a cause which should never be summed up in a few accolades for a job well done or a holiday once a year with parades and linen sales at the local WalMart.  Those civil rights warriors deserve much, much more from us.

And we see some groups celebrating today as a day of service, a time of being kind to others.  I like that.  I think MLK, Jr. and Rosa Parks would approve.  Maybe we could also take a few minutes to hear Dr. King’s speeches, the incredible urgings to non-violent action, the famous “I’ve been to the mountaintop”, and Bobby Kennedy’s announcement in Indianapolis to his mostly black crowd that their leader had been murdered in Memphis.  Yes, that seems to be the least we can do in remembrance.  It’s all on YouTube.

SELMA

The movie SELMA is a 2014 production which is the true story of the tumultuous 3 month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition.  The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

 

One day when the glory comes
It will be ours, it will be ours
Oh one day when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be sure
Oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)

Hands to the Heavens, no man, no weapon
Formed against, yes glory is destined
Every day women and men become legends
Sins that go against our skin become blessings
The movement is a rhythm to us
Freedom is like religion to us
Justice is juxtapositionin’ us
Justice for all just ain’t specific enough
One son died, his spirit is revisitin’ us
Truant livin’ livin’ in us, resistance is us
That’s why Rosa sat on the bus
That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up
When it go down we woman and man up
They say, “Stay down”, and we stand up
Shots, we on the ground, the camera panned up
King pointed to the mountain top and we ran up

One day when the glory comes
It will be ours, it will be ours
Oh one day when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be sure
Oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)

Now the war is not over, victory isn’t won
And we’ll fight on to the finish, then when it’s all done
We’ll cry glory, oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)
We’ll cry glory, oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)

Selma’s now for every man, woman and child
Even Jesus got his crown in front of a crowd
They marched with the torch, we gon’ run with it now
Never look back, we done gone hundreds of miles
From dark roads he rose, to become a hero
Facin’ the league of justice, his power was the people
Enemy is lethal, a king became regal
Saw the face of Jim Crow under a bald eagle
The biggest weapon is to stay peaceful
We sing, our music is the cuts that we bleed through
Somewhere in the dream we had an epiphany
Now we right the wrongs in history
No one can win the war individually
It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy
Welcome to the story we call victory
The comin’ of the Lord, my eyes have seen the glory

One day when the glory comes
It will be ours, it will be ours
Oh one day when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be sure
Oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)
Oh glory (Glory, glory)
Hey (Glory, glory)

When the war is won, when it’s all said and done
We’ll cry glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)

Songwriters: CHE SMITH,JOHN LEGEND,LONNIE LYNN
© Universal Music Publishing Group,BMG Rights Management
For non-commercial use only.
Data from: LyricFind

Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne will speak to the risks of practicing discipleship. Shane is the co-founder of the Simple Way, a faith community in inner-city Philadelphia that has helped to birth and connect radical faith communities around the world. His ministry experience is varied, from a 10-week stint working alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta to a year spent serving a wealthy mega-congregation called Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago. Shane is the author of several books including “The Irresistible Revolution”, “Jesus for President” and “Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers.”

Who’s your Daddy?

 

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“Turn Your ear to me, rescue me quickly.  Be a rock of refuge for me, a stronghold for my deliverance.” PSALM 31:3 TL

Where do you go when your world is being challenged from all sides?  I know you have been there because you and I are not uniquely different and, trust me, I have spent a lot of time begging the above verse penned by the authors of Psalms.  It is my signature plea to a timeless, Universal entity whom I name God.  You may name yours by another name, but when we cast aside man’s theological philosophies there is just one who is the I AM.

I like the word phrasing, “rock of refuge.”  It inspires in my mind a place, or state of consciousness, which is protected from the ravages of an insane world, a place where the intents of vile men cannot reach me, a sanctuary which can conceal me even from the evil which exists within.  The rock is strong, impenetrable and secure.  Amazingly, it does not erode with the forces of nature or the passage of time.  On the contrary, it grows and becomes stronger.

And, it is a “stronghold for my deliverance.”  As much as I would like to attribute all my factory defects to environment and circumstance, when I find that inner  place of honesty and transparency, I realize that I need desperately to be delivered from myself and the character traits which make my personal world insane and unmanageable.  “Turn you ear to me, rescue me quickly” from that which seeks to destroy me – anger, envy, greed, gluttony, pride, sloth, and lust.

Social injustice, poverty, oppression, national politics are also issues that can cause severe conflict if I don’t have a rock to sort everything and place priorities on those issues.  Approaching wickedness and uncivility with a peaceable intervention does not imply a lack of conviction.  I do not need to scream and rant to show the outside world that I am incensed by a corrupt political system.  Jesus overturned the tax collectors’ tables efficiently and forcefully, but I don’t see in the Bible any accounts of screaming, violence, and profanity.  Jesus also had that rock as his fortress and refuge.  He had his personal inner conviction guiding his actions, but he relied on the strength of the rock whom he called Father.

Many people want to contradict the existence of a rock, they vehemently deny with substantial energy that God is not.  That’s OK, I at one time was one of them.  Stridently ridiculing those of faith and defying them to prove their faith was a hallmark of my youth.  I was the intelligent one, they were the dupes.

Only when alcoholism forced me to my knees, did I decide to stay on my knees for a few moments longer and say a prayer, plead to the unfamiliar rock and fortress which I had ridiculed and discredited for many years.  With no more arguments, nothing to lose,  I was in desperate need of relief from myself and my atheism.

My church foundation as a young boy was based on old time preaching and music.  We sang “ROCK OF AGES” probably every Sunday.  “Rock of ages cleft for me.”  It’s a stunning visual for lost souls –  a fissure in a solid rock wall split to provide protection and comfort from the elements of our personal storms.  Why would anyone not want to believe?

ROCK OF AGES