Posts Tagged ‘All God’s Children’

Where Are You?

October 15, 2015

I walked away from the meeting feeling as good as I have in a long time. My friend asked me, “So, this journey you have been on, how are you, where are you?” I had to pause for a moment before I responded. Over the many months, and to a large degree over the past several weeks I have been on what I consider an inward journey; inward into my past, my future, and finally my present.

There is so much to consider about what I, what we, experience in the past that shapes and molds who we become in positive and negative ways. And to come to the realization that just a blip on the screen of one’s life can effect so much, can open one’s eyes to a clarity and vision that grounds one in who, whose, what, and why they are.

There is so much in our world that can seem so broken. So much to worry about, fight against, stand up to, and speak out against. It is often difficult, I think, in our current reality to get to the important, deeper, and more life giving issues than in this soundbite world we live in.

There is so much attention focused on “what is in it for me” rather than making this world a better place in which to live for “all” of us. Depending on what side of the political and or religious fence one is on determines where we stand on so many issues, but really not “issues,” we are affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

Prepare here for personal, religious, political perspective rant. Too many lives and livelihoods are threatened in our country, in our world today.

The lives and livelihoods of persons, female persons, who want to access quality healthcare, prescriptions, abortion care, care that should be provided and decided between them and their doctors, and in clinics that shouldn’t subjected to false accusations and edited videos, government should not be making these decisions for women and their doctors.

The lives and livelihoods of parents and children who want a more safe and sane world, more safe and sane educational experiences, without having to worry about whether some unlicensed, untrained, unregistered individual is going to walk into the room with a gun with intent to do harm.

The lives and livelihoods of immigrants and their children and whether they are going to have a chance at education, food, medical care, and the opportunity to become citizens without the fear of deportation and inhumane treatment.

The lives and livelihoods of young black men and women, parents and children alike, who have to worry about being targeted and profiled unjustly putting their lives and livelihoods at risk.

The lives and livelihoods of the poor, middle class, working poor whose incomes and resources are continued to be mocked and swallowed up by the greedy and those who lack compassion.

The lives and livelihoods of those religious who simply want to practice their faith in peace but are besieged by protest, threat, suspicion, lies, and bigotry in a nation founded on freedom of religion.

The lives and livelihoods of those who simply want to embrace the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us, marry the ones they love, buy their houses, file their taxes, care for one another and visit one another when they are sick, and share the same protections under the law that my wife and I have.

The lives and livelihoods of all of us, when science is ignored and denied while glaciers melt, anomaly weather patterns create floods, droughts, and super storms that threaten life as we know it.

There is so very much wrong in our world, in our country, in our government, in our churches today. And I believe we are charged with the continued work of trying to make it a better place, for all of us, all of us.

All of this being said, I had a bit of a revelation along this journey I have been on over the last many months and last few weeks. Life is too short. Life is too short to get bogged down in what is wrong with the world. Life is too short to get caught up in a soundbite world that is more interested in shallow fear of the other, fear of new things, than it is in the weightier matters of the common good for all. Life is too short to focus on sensationalized headlines rather than substantive information and education. Whether it be in the halls of government or the sanctuaries of the church, life is too short to bicker about who is in and who is out, who is worthy and who is not, what I want to your exclusion, or who deserves and who is undeserving. Life is too short not to embrace the world, the whole of it and tell it, “I love you, and deep down inside … you are good; Good I Tell You!

With all of this preceding pondering, I can say I walked away from my meeting as good as I have been in a long time. “Where are you?” he asked. “I’m right here.” I replied. “Right here, in as good a place as I have been for a long time, here in this moment.” Life is too short to let the past continue to obscure and blur my vision. Life is too short to worry about the future. Life is too short to live anywhere but right here, in this moment.

My calling by the Spirit of the Divine as a politically active pastor, clergy, advocate, voice, thorn in the side, and nervous prophet is no less important to me, I would venture to say it is now even more so now. My encounters with the Divine contine to bring me peace, nurture, and connection. My calling is within and outside the halls of the church. Within to continue to challenge the status quo, to continue to look for where God is doing a new thing. My studies, I pray, will bring new revelations and understandings of what it means to follow The Way. Progressive and compassionate theologies grounded in love of God, neighbor, and self, not focused on fear and sacrifice. And that Spirit calls me to be a voice, presence, and advocate of social justice not only within the church but in the halls of government as well. Our Gospel is a Social Gospel and without the Social Gospel there is no Gospel at all.

I still intend on changing the world, even if it is just my little corner of it, moment by ticking moment. My renewed vision of the present moment has clarified for me my vision of the task that lies before me. Life is too short to sit idly by and watch as injustice after injustice diminishes and belittles the lives and livelihoods of too many women, men, and children.

I am no longer governed by fear, but am led and guided by, immersed in the love of the Divine, a love that I believe we are all immersed and connected within. This love of God is a love from which nothing, no thing, not one thing, can ever separate any of us … in each eternal moment, we are loved, period! I am here, right here, and present in as good a place as I have been for a long time. I am not going away or shrinking back, the moment before us is huge, but we will persevere, we will see the day, when Love will, Love does, when Love Wins!

Just a long process of pondering along the Journey of the Way… the Way of Light, Life, and Love.

Kent.

Advertisements

Kneeling Shoeless at the Mosque

July 13, 2015

It was an early Saturday morning start for me in the first weekend of June as I drove across town for a prayer and conversation time with my friends. I arrived at the mosque just as the sun was rising in the east and welcomed at the door when I walked in. I had been there before on the first Saturday at the invitation of my good friend who is a member of the west mosque. But this was the first time I had made it early enough to join them in the prayer time.

I removed my shoes in the entryway and walked into the area where they share their morning prayers. Another of the members greeted me warmly and handed me a paper with the prayer they would be chanting and explained what each section was about and invited me to participate in whatever way I felt most comfortable. I stood with them as they began, knelt with them, bowed with them, and followed the printed prayer as the leader chanted the words of prayer and worship to God.

There was, there is, something profoundly humbling and moving about kneeling shoeless with, and in the presence of, others who seek to also live in peace and grace in a world so torn with hatred and anger. There was, and is, something particularly sacred about being in prayer together even if we have differing understandings and perspectives of the one we all call God. In that place, shoeless, on my knees, bowing in a common gesture, on common ground there was connection of relationship, common goals, and a connection of striving to understand while being together immersed in the same Spirit who nurtures and nourishes us all.

Once the prayer time was over we gathered around a table with a meager collection of snacks and listened as one read from the writings of Islam. We then visited and discussed various things of current events in the world, where our respective faith traditions found touch points and common ground. I shared with them a collection of cards our congregation at College Hill UMC had written in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters in response to recent acts of protest and bigotry directed at their faith and other Muslims in other states.

My hour there, as with other times, was nourishing of mind, body, and spirit as we shared in discussion, laughter, care, and food. It was an honor for me to be included as simply another child of God present to pray, fellowship, and share at table with these fellow pilgrims on a journey of life and faith.

I pray for continued grace in our community finding ways to exist in peace and understanding working toward the common good for all not only here in Wichita, but that we might be a light to our state and world where we are all in this together.

It is one of the many ways we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and our world here at the Hill, where you are one of the community. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

Peace and Light on Your Journey,
Pastor Kent

Living Together

July 6, 2015

Simeon and Mozart, for the most part are good buddies. They wrestle and play together primarily in the backyard but now and then get started in the house and have to be invited outside. They can be found hanging out together side by side on the living room floor or sitting shoulder to should on the deck keeping watch. Every now and then though, and it tends to happen around the presence of some kind of edible thing, they get into it. They fight, and I mean really fight. They have been known more than once to even draw blood before I can get them separated. It is bound to happen I suppose, to some degree they are a bit like our human children, well hopefully with the exception of drawing blood, they can get along really well and then something sets one of them off and here we go!

I suppose on one level or another humankind tends to reflect that nature as well. Though it is always my hope and prayer we can find a way to rise above such things. What started this whole reflection was my presence at Phillips Theological Seminary the past two weeks. I have begun a journey into doctoral work and I found the first on campus session challenging, refreshing, and energizing. The program focus of my studies will be Collaborating for Change, a program designed to enhance leadership, study, preaching, and bringing a wide diversity of thought and position to the table, so to speak, to bring about just and compassionate social change.

We were there when the recent Supreme Court decisions were released and they caused much cheering, discussion, and reflection among us. It was heartening to be in a religious setting with various Christian denominations and find celebration and solidarity among other colleagues and new friends.

Of course it did not take long before the media began covering the decisions and hearing not only affirming commentary but dissenting views as well. I remember thinking, as it seems I too often do in recent years, how sad it is that we cannot disagree without being civil and respectful of one another. There is a broad range of disagreement on the decisions and so many other things. Everything from religious freedom being attacked, to the destruction of marriage, to the notion that God is going to rain wrath, vengeance, and destruction down on the U.S.A., as if slavery, racism, and the genocide of native peoples were not good enough cause for righteous destruction but somehow health care for all and civil rights for same-gender couples is.

A question was asked of us as we prepared to leave the last day of class in response to a video we had watched by Jim Wallis, “What questions are tearing your heart apart now?” The question is a challenging one. Challenging because though I have numerous things I could site in regards to an answer, how does one journey down to the core of what underlies all of those responses?

In thinking about answers, at least at this point of my journey, at the core of all that I see as broken in our world and especially in our country, is the need to find the other as less than. From the very beginnings of our country there have been those we have persecuted, denied rights, slaughtered, driven from their land, put on reservations or in internment camps, written out of equal protection under the law, and legislated discrimination against. And as time and history goes on it is apparent that many if not most of these efforts to identify the other is not just an individual injustice but built into the very systems of our government, society, and culture.

In Jim Wallis’ video he made a statement that resonated with this thought, “We can’t just keep pulling bodies out of the river without sending someone upstream to find out who is throwing them in.” Or perhaps to be specific about a current issue, We can’t just keep pulling down confederate flags, we have to find out why our system supports a racist symbol. Or perhaps, It’s not enough to just keep saying, ‘We don’t hate LGBTQ persons,’ we have to find out what it is about us as individuals, as a society, and culture that continues to belittle and see our brothers and sisters as less than.

I wish Simeon and Mozart would be as passionate and energized about resolving conflict as they are at proving which one is the boss. They will continue to do well together and they will continue to fight and do damage now and then. That’s their nature. But I do not believe we as human kind are bound by such instincts, we can rise above the vitriol language and hate, if we will work hard enough together to make it so.

Those are the things right now that tear at my heart. I am not oblivious of the fact that with 322,583,006 people in the U.S. we are not always going to agree, but somehow must learn to live as if all really are created equal. Somehow we must not only quote, but believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s immortal words, “We must learn to live together and brothers and sisters, or perish together as fools.” Somehow we must find a way to live out that call of the Spirit to practice what we preach and create a world of Justice, Kindness, and Humility, even when we disagree.

May that day hasten to be. May it be so. May it be soon!
Pastor Kent

Can You Love a Rattlesnake?

June 23, 2009

   Simeon and I encountered a rattlesnake the other day on our daily excursion. I did not hear it at first, I had my earphones in. Simeon drew my attention as he began to nudge me away from the edge of the road toward the center. I looked down and he was all bristled up, a ridge of hair on end ran from the top of his head to his tail. Then I saw it, curled there, head in the air alongside the road. I pulled my earphones out so I could hear as well … he was rattling!
   The only weapon I had was my cell phone and so I made the prudent decision not to try and beat the snake to death with my phone. But, maybe I was not meant to kill the snake, maybe it was to be a lesson in peace rather than violence. With that and with Simeon insisting on staying between me and the snake I tried a different tact.
   I decided to stand and watch the snake. I tried to move from fear to respect. After all, in some sense the snake meant me no harm, had he meant harm he would not have warned us that he was there, he would have just struck! His rattle was a warning which said, “I am here! Please do not step on me, but if you do you will probably be sorry!”
   I decided to try and get my head around the difference between fear and love. We are told that in love there is no fear and so I stood there in the road and tried to practice what I preach. I stood a safe distance away, all the while Simeon standing guard, staying between me and the snake regardless of where I positioned myself.
   Maybe I needed to take my cue from Simeon, he did not try to attack the snake, and he leaned hard into my leg keeping himself between me and the problem. If I were to try and read Simeon’s mind, I would say he had a healthy respect for the snake but appeared to have no intention of taking the snake on, he was intent on keeping us a safe distance from the rattle.
   As we watched the rattler decide we were no threat and slither his way back into the wheat field, there was a sense of awe and respect that washed over me, a sense of being in the presence of one of God’s creatures, and knowing respect and not fear. I suspect, as he went out of sight, all three of us were relieved.
   I wondered, how many of God’s creatures as well as all of God’s children I react to out of fear rather than love, and in my ponderings I think what a world this would be if love were the common practice and fear was indeed cast out.
   I pray this week you ponder that which you fear and wonder how love might help move us all to a different place in our faith and lives.