a mother’s child

 

I was a mother’s child – we all were.  I was fortunate to live in a nurturing, caring home.  Often I jokingly refer to our family as the Pennsylvania Dutch version of  THE WALTONS, that wildly popular television series from decades ago.  Indeed those Waltons had nothing over my family living in a multi-generational household consisting of 2 great-grandparents, 2 aunts, 2 grandparents, my mother and me.  The menfolk in the house did not have a chance when challenged by the 5 female members.😎

I learned not to be too strident when considering religious or political issues.  Every man and woman was entitled to his/her opinion or as Grandpa always said, “opinions are like a certain body part, and everybody has one.”  Grandpa was a wise man who knew that Grandma was always right even when she was dead wrong.

We learned the Bible as youngsters and we knew many of the Jesus stories from the Gospels.  The passage on my mind today was written in the book of Mark.   Check it out in order to get the gist of Jesus’ story.  It is Mark 7:26-29. (1)

A Gentile woman approached Jesus and begged him to cast out a demon indwelling her daughter.  Jesus replied, “Let the children (the Hebrews) be fed first because it’s not right to feed the children’s food to the dogs (non-Jews).”  The woman responded by saying that even the dogs under the table eat the children’s food.  Jesus honored her faith and removed the demon.

Perhaps Jesus realized how dehumanizing the word “dogs” was when referring to Gentile children and that this was not what He nor the Father whom he professed were in this world to teach.  Coming to love, heal, and resurrect only certain mothers’ children is not what the love of Jesus and his God embodied. (2)

I was never referred to as dog, animal, illegal, alien, vermin, invader or pest when I was a child.  Children of the universal God, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, black, brown, white, or multi-colored, are never denied  citizenship in God’s universe nor should ever they be denigrated by crass, dehumanizing labels inflicted upon them by political leaders or religious leaders.  Leaders who endorse this type of dialog are not worthy to hold positions of responsibility and should be viewed with skepticism.

When we awakened this morning, did we acknowledge the universal power which has declared that all of us, each and every one, is a child of God?  Do we accept that although we do not always understand the man or woman who stridently disagrees with our faith, our political affiliation, our lifestyle, do we accept that they also are loved by this same God?  We are all children, sometimes bratty, sometimes impish, sometimes hateful, but never dogs, animals, illegals, aliens, vermin, invaders or pests.  You and I would never label our children this way, why do it to another mother’s child?

(1)MARK 7:26-29

(2)RED LETTER CHRISTIANS

 

Lest we forget

Elie Wiesel published NIGHT in 1958, thirteen years after his liberation from the Nazi death camp of Buchenwald at 6 P.M. on April 10, 1945.  It is said he could not or would not speak of his experience for several years, but decided he needed to face the memories and the horror of his experience because the world needed to remember.

ELIE WIESEL NOBEL PEACE PRIZE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH

Excerpts from that speech in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, 1986:

“I remember: it happened yesterday, or eternities ago.  A young Jewish boy discovered the Kingdom of the Night.  I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish.  It all happened so fast.  The ghetto. The deportation.  The sealed cattle car.  The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.”

I remember he asked his father, ‘Can this be true?  This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages.  Who would allow such crimes to be committed.  How could the world remain silent?

And now the boy is turning to me. ‘Tell me,’ he asks, ‘what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life?’  And I tell him that I have tried.  That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget.  BECAUSE IF WE FORGET, WE ARE GUILTY, WE ARE ACCOMPLICES.”

As a caravan of desperate Central American men, women and children from Honduras snake their way north to a land which they hope will give them a chance for sanctuary from a despotic, violent government, will America shut the door?

In June of 1939 nine-hundred-thirty-seven passengers aboard the ship St. Louis, most of them European Jews, were denied entry to the port of Miami and forced to return to Europe; more than a quarter died in the Holocaust.  Our government under FDR stated that they posed a national security threat.

In February of 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR ordered the internment of 110,000 – 120,000 Japanese-Americans in western parts of the United States.  Sixty-two percent of those were United States citizens.  Again the government said they posed a national security threat, but historians lay the blame on racism.

“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.  We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  Sometimes we must interfere.”  

How can we remain silent?

 

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Jesus in disguise

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

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“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger………

The fiercely defiant woman holding her travel bag refuses to release the arm of a small child, her 6 year-old son.  Guards surrounding her now, she screams profanities at the men who are attempting to take the child from her.  They understand her Spanish words and react more harshly to accomplish the mission of the border agents.  Since three days before, when a new government directive ordered that children crossing the border with their families be separated from parents  and confined for further relocation, detention centers were created from abandoned retail centers to house the detainees.  Within those buildings fenced cages housed the children.  Their only offense was escaping with their parents from hostile and dangerous conditions wrought by political and social turmoil in their native homeland.  They sought to start anew in a land they perceived as a place of opportunity and freedom.

………or needing clothes or sick in prison…….

Since going into hiding on 6 July 1942 with her parents and sister in concealed rooms behind a book case, the young girl remembers a previous life of respectability and shared community in the Netherlands.  A gifted writer, she passes her time keeping a diary.  They are joined later by the van Pels family and Mr. Pfeffer, a dentist.  The eight of them share the cramped quarters for two years.

Then on 4 August 1944, “Shhhhh, they are here, don’t move,” whispers their father.  The noises and sounds of footsteps grow closer and the Gestapo storms the door which has concealed their whereabouts, their hiding place.

On 3 September 1944, Anne, her sister Margot and their parents Otto and Edith were boarded on a cattle train to their final destination at Auschwitz where the Nazi government’s solution to the disposition of unwanted elements in Aryan society was carried out.  The men were separated from the women by the SS. Those deemed able to work were admitted to the camp; those deemed unfit including children under 15 years of age were sent directly to the gas chambers.  Of the 1019 passengers on that train, 549 were immediately dispatched to death. Mother Edith died later of starvation, Anne and Margot died of typhus.  Father Otto survived the death camp.  He returned to Amsterdam where, having received his daughter’s diary and notes from a friend, he realized the significance of Anne’s writings and proceeded to publish them.

……and did not help you?”

His half-frozen body hangs from the fence crossing the barrenness of the cold October prairie.  Small in stature, boyish in appearance, he has been brutally beaten and left to die by his abductors.  It is many hours after the assault before he is discovered and rushed to a nearby hospital, where he will die six days later from severe head injuries.  A bright young man, fellow students remember him as a friendly face in the college classroom where he has attended classes.

Stories detailed the events leading up to his death.  Some wanted to believe it was a drug deal gone bad, others said it was a hate crime directed at his sexual orientation.  In the end analysis, it truly did not matter to his mother and loved ones what reasons were responsible.  The boy was brutalized and left hanging on a fence in Wyoming to die.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for the least of these…..

The man standing on the corner holding his tattered cardboard sign looks longingly at motorists passing by hoping that someone will roll down the car window and pass enough money to him to feed his growling stomach.  Nobody stops.  They don’t seem to notice.  He reflects on the times he also was that motorist who ignored beggars standing on the corner with their cardboard signs.  The times back then were better.  He had a job and a family who depended on him, loved him.  But, addiction stole all of that, made him an unbathed, ragged homeless man who now lives in the nearby woods with others like him.  Different stories to tell, but all of them now hungry and destitute.

…..you did not do for me.”  Matthew 25:44

I open my eyes in a sweat-soaked bed, my pulse racing.  I recognize the man with the sign on the corner in my dream.  It is me.  I recognize the motorists passing by ignoring the man’s needs.  They also are me.

I am the one who stands along the rail tracks leading to Auschwitz wondering where the human cargo is heading, knowing where they are going, too frightened to be involved.

I am the border guard seizing the child from his mother.  My conscience tells me this is not right, but I have a family to support, I need the job.

I am the one who watches the frail boy being bullied after gym class.  They are calling him a sissy, a wimp.  I watch as the bigger boys punch and poke him.  They make fun of him because he is different.  I turn and go to my next class not wanting to be the next target for their taunts and abuse.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

ELIE WIESEL

FOREIGNERS

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”orange tree

“Live simply so that others may simply live.”

This well-known quote attributed to Gandhi was a bumper sticker on the aged and worn automobile of one of my heroes whom I was privileged to know during the 1980s.  Father Bond was the priest at the Episcopal Church which hosted 20 AA and NA meetings weekly.  While that church social hall witnessed innumerable miracles of recovery, the sanctuary hosted a number of sober marriages.  Father Bond ministered faithfully to his parish and to his wayward flock of recovering drunks.

What is it for me to live simply?  For many years it meant a personal commitment to reducing material possessions to minimums.  It meant being an environmentalist and a steward of God’s creation.  In later years it also manifested by minimizing  theology and doctrine, bringing it all back to basics.

Father Richard Rohr in today’s comment “BE PEACE AND JUSTICE” writes:

“When you agree to live simply, you do not consider the refugee, the homeless person, or the foreigner as a threat or competition. You have chosen their marginal state for yourself—freely and consciously becoming “visitors and pilgrims” in this world, as Francis put it (quoting 1 Peter 2:11). A simple lifestyle is an act of solidarity with the way most people have lived since the beginnings of humanity.”

Francis (1182-1226) and Clare (1194-1253) of Assisi lived life understanding fully what Jesus the Christ envisioned – a simple lifestyle outside the system of production and consumption (the real meaning of the vow of poverty)  Therefore, assuming a vow of poverty does not mean living in filthy hovels with no running water or sewer systems.  It does not necessarily mean hunger and starvation.  For most of us a vow of poverty would mean a commitment to jump off the insane cycle of incessant material accumulation and depletion of the earth’s resources.

With today’s screaming calls to bring social justice to the world’s oppressed perhaps we can find guidance in these further words of Father Rohr regarding a conscious identification with the marginalized of society:

“In this position we do not do acts of peace and justice as much as our lifestyle itself  is peace and justice.” (underlined emphasis are mine)

Like many of you, I would like to fix every single episode of social injustice, but in wanting to do so I will undoubtedly make myself quite insane because that fix is unattainable.  Just as Father Bond walked the path of Francis and Clare, we also can be advocates of social justice through simplicity by speaking our truth kindly, by identifying with the marginalized,  and by being living examples of Christ’s teachings.

Look at the world around us.  Living “marginalized” is the norm, not the exception.  We are all in some way a refugee, a foreigner, a visitor and a pilgrim.  Our validation as a nation of ethics and values is currently under severe testing because of governmental actions regarding immigration.  Our strength and our salvation rests not in our criminalization of those who are marginalized, but rather in our solidarity with them.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  I am the LORD your God.  Leviticus 19: 33-34

CANDLE

 

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