Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

I Marched this Day

January 24, 2017

The sign I carried had printed in black on white, “We the People will Never Be Silent.” We built the sign with paper, printer, foam board, glue, staple, and wood. I considered not carrying my sign, sore hands from a fall on the ice a week before. But when we arrived at the gathering space I could not bring myself to leave it behind. My sign was one of thousands. There were hopeful signs, angry signs, fearful signs, signs that were difficult to see and read, humorous signs, and signs of love and unity. My sign too…belonged.

This was not my first march or rally to speak up for justice and compassion. I have attended many over the years. I am often asked as some have asked why I marched this day; a man, and in particular a white, straight, middle class man with my back pack of privilege I have carried with me since my birth. I have pondered the question since hearing it for myself as well as watching others wrestle with the question. I did not want to answer without much consideration. A part of my answer is, I marched in part because I do not know, because I have never experienced the kinds of things those with which I joined in solidarity have.

I have never been humiliated, objectified, assaulted, groped, paid less, talked about like I was an object for the pleasure of another, refused needed medical procedure or had my private decisions with my doctor legislated out of my hands, or the target of offensive and unacceptable “locker room talk,” because I am a man.

I have never been beaten, fired, fearful, rejected, disowned, homeless, yelled at on the streets of the city, or threatened, I have never had to worry about my marriage being nullified by the government because I am straight.

I have never been stopped in my car, followed in a store, had a glaring glance, or a suspicious look… I have never had someone cross to the other side of the street, clutch their bag or their child a little tighter when I walk past… just because I of the color of my skin.

I have never been mocked, made fun of, belittled, or limited in opportunity because of being differently-abled.

I have never been feared, targeted, discriminated against, vandalized, beaten, or told I cannot practice my religion because I am a Christian.

I have never been threatened to be sent back to Germany or anywhere else in Europe because it is the land of my ancestry, had the fear of being separated from my family because of my origin, or struggled to find the funds and assistance because I am not a citizen.

I have never had to fear a wall being built to keep me out or keep me in because I am in the United States.

I have never lived in fear because of bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, racism, sexism, ageism, discrimination, prejudice, or hatred because I am different.

I marched with some three thousand persons, and millions around the world, because I have never experienced these things. I marched this day in support of my partner, my daughter’s in law, and my granddaughters because they should not have to live in a world where these things are a reality. I marched this day because I want my sons to know they nor their partners nor their daughters should have to live in a world where these things are a reality. I marched this day because no one, not one should have to live in a world where these things are a reality and happen each and every day in our communities, in our states, in our nation, and around the world .. and no ONE should have to experience such atrocities.

I marched this day because of my faith in a God who loves each and every one of us, each and every creature and all of creation. I marched this day because my faith tells me the vision of KINdom, is one of kinship, we are all related, we belong to one another and that vision for the common good of all requires of us Justice for all, Kindness for all, Humility from and with all.

Until that day … the people… I …cannot be silent.

I marched this day.

May this day be a re-beginning of our journey toward the Common Good for ALL,

Kent H. Little

The Throw Down

November 14, 2016

It takes a long time to construct our institutions. It takes a long time to construct those things we hold as sacred. It takes a long time to construct those things we hold close to our hearts and souls. It takes a lifetime to construct how, what, where, we believe, and encounter one another and God. It takes a lifetime to construct our passion and journey discovering what we believe God wants for our faith and our life. It takes a lifetime.

Depending on what scholar one reads, the temple of Jesus’ day took somewhere between a few years and 46 years to construct. It takes a long time to construct those things that feel sacred in our lives and faith. 46 years in Jesus’ day was a lifetime.

Construction work today is hard work, whether is talking literally or metaphorically. Construction work was literally a whole lot more difficult in Jesus day, and certainly as hard metaphorically.

The journey of construction is difficult work. Whether we are talking literally constructing a physical thing, temple, church, house, office, etc., or whether we are talking about constructing our life and faith. In my own experience, regarding our life and faith journey, it takes building and tearing down, questions and supposed answers, second guessing, doubts, grief, tears, laughter, celebrations, heartache, and struggle.

And when one thinks they know, according to authors such as Richard Kearney in “Anatheism, Returning to God after God” and John Caputo in “What Would Jesus Deconstruct?” once we think we have the faith, the journey, God figured out, it is time to deconstruct those images, admit we can know virtually nothing about God and begin all over again our quest to understand.

It is heart breaking to believe in an ideal, to trust the sacredness of our hopes and dreams, it is devastating to trust, know, believe to the very core of who we are; what we know of the Kindom of God, what the peaceable Kindom is supposed to look like, what justice, kindness, and humility ought to be about, to know in our very heart of hearts what the common good for all should be, and have it destroyed, attacked, and torn asunder.

That is what many heard when Jesus suggested “not one stone will be left upon the other; all will be thrown down.” It had taken years, decades, lifetimes to build and he is suggesting it was all for naught. At the time this was written the temple was already gone. It was already devastated, destroyed, not one stone was left upon another, which I have no doubt influenced the writing of this text. It had to, what one of us could experience such a devastating event and it not effect and influence everything we do?

So here I am, and we need to talk, and listen, and be together. First, I am not going to presume nor critique how any of we in our community of CHUM voted in the recent election. Not only would that be inappropriate and unethical for me, but illegal in this setting and context.

I am a political junky, I suppose not to the extent of many, but I have long loved to read about, see, study, and watch the political process unfold. It is an interesting place to be as a clergy person who is staunchly committed to the separation of church and state. I often find myself dancing with that line between my own personal opinion and political passion and my role as pastor and religious leader in the church I serve and the broader world. But, for the most part I think I do well the dance along that line staying true to our founders and their passion for a freedom of and from religious privilege in our government, while honoring the diverse expression of religious and non-religious belief and practice in our country. And while I believe this, there are some things we need to talk about this morning.

There are those in our world, in our country, in our community, and here in our church who are grieving. I want to say, it is okay, grief is fine, normal, and important, and I nor anyone here or outside these walls has the right to diminish your grief in the aftermath of hopes unrealized and dreams shattered. No One. Tears, anger, confusion, bargaining, are all part of the grieving process, and those of us who are grieving need to take as long as we need to in order to process what we are going through. I am here for you, whatever your grief looks like, on whatever side of the political and ideological aisle you find yourself on. You are not alone!

As for the politics of our day, I have colleagues and friends who tell me the discussion of politics has no place in the church, or at the Thanksgiving table either. If by that they mean partisan, political party politics in the church, I wholeheartedly agree! We are not going to talk about Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party, Libertarian, etc., it is not going to happen.  But if by that we mean politics in any sense of the word, I disagree. Jesus was deeply political, a fierce critic of the oppressive political structures in his day in the church and in the government. I have had to really struggle with what I wanted to say this morning, dancing that line of separation of church and state.

I have been wrestling and dancing in the tension between gentle pastoral care and prophetic anger and passion. I thought I was firmly in place in my gentle preparation for today, until I continued following the news and media. While I will not talk partisan party politics I will be an active, loud, committed, and unrelenting voice against the politics of fear regardless of who is using it.

I attended a peaceful protest and gathering Friday evening. I was present and supportive of all who were there. Not so much because of the outcome of the election. My presence and support at this protest rally was in love and support of those who have been targeted and harassed by what has been unleashed by the campaign; women harassed by strangers on the street, fear and slurs directed at persons of other religions, livelihoods and marriages threatened and increased bigotry toward those LGBTQ persons. This protest rally was not about sour grapes or being “crybabies” because a candidate lost. This protest rally was about REAL emboldened and blatant harassment, hatred, and bigotry in our country and our communities as a result of the campaign rhetoric and hate directed at certain groups of God’s children. I will not be silent nor will I stand by and passively listen to others condemn persons who are being targeted and harassed. Please think before you speak! If you disagree and want to talk about it I am here. If you are threatened and afraid and need a safe person and place to talk, I am here.

Yes, when I encounter these things I too get angry, but our anger in and of itself will do us, me, no good, we need to find ways to channel it and my channel will be do all I can to make justice happen! I will Love as God Loves! I will to the best of my ability be the very reflection of God’s love and justice in the world!

My grief and struggle over the last few days, over the last year, is not about political ideology, though that is the context in which it was often born. What has broken my heart is borne out of my faith in God and my role as pastor as I witness the fear and pain that has been instilled because of the vitriol language, hatred, and bigotry that seems to have raised its ugly head in so many ways.

I am profoundly aware I need to temper my words so as to not assume I know or have experienced the kind of fear and hate many are feeling today because I do not and have not. I am white, male, and straight, and as such, I carry a certain amount of privilege. My responsibility is to listen and stand with those who have come to trust me enough to be vulnerable.

When I listen with those who have been the victims of sexual assault and we feel that recent comments made, objectifying women, have fueled and normalized that kind of talk and abuse, and it brings all of that experience back for them, my heart is heavy. And I say… Enough!

When I listen with those who are lesbian, gay, trans-gender, and bi-sexual who fear for their livelihood and their marriage and family because their rights have been promised to be reversed, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

When I listen with immigrants and parents who are of a different color and national origin who had to comfort their children the morning after the election because their children feared they would be sent away, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

When listen with those who are disabled fear they will be mocked and chided even more than they have been in the past, my heart is heavy. When I listen with persons of color victims of racism, still rampant in our society and culture, who are made to feel less than simply because of the color of their skin, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

When I sit in the Mosque and pray with my Muslim friends, brothers, and sisters and listen to their stories. Stories of hate filled language, suspicious looks, vandalism against their place of worship, and fear of their neighbors, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

It’s time to listen to ourselves. It is time to listen to one another. We need to listen not to diminish, not to critique, not to try and fix the others anger or grief, not even to respond. We need to listen, really listen to one another, to understand what all of us are going through.

We all process and deal with grief and anger, heartache and fear differently. I would encourage you to not cast it off too soon. Don’t just smooth it over for smoothing over sake. Sit with it for as long as you need, abide with it for as long as you need, breathe it in and breathe it out. When you are ready we will gather together. We will gather to figure out how, what, when, we want to do something. We will gather to find hope, find support for our grief, tears for our tears, and love for our Fears.

It is already happening, I have had numerous persons reach out to me over the last few days with questions, “What do I do?” “Where do I turn?” “How can I help?”

We will gather here to do the work of compassion and hope. I here at College Hill we do discuss politics. But never a politic that divides, always a politic that unites and brings us all, ALL together. And not only politics but unity. There will be those who will call us to come together and unify. This is good, but not unity for unity’s sake. Never a unity that denies compassion and justice.

We may need unity…
But never unity at the expense of humanity.

We may need unity …
But never unity with a system that governs by fear.

We may need unity…
But never unity with rights for just a few.

We may need unity…
But never unity with oppression and hate.

We may need unity…
But never a unity with a politic of intimidation and privilege.

Because…

In the church, here at College Hill,

Here we believe in the politics of hope not intimidation.

Here we believe in the politics of compassion on bigotry.

Here we believe in the politics of inclusion not exclusion.

Here we believe in the politics of the rights and humanity of ALL not just a few.

Here we believe in the politics that we are all children of the divine regardless of the religion or lack thereof we practice or not, not the politics of who is in and who is out.

Here we believe in the politics of the human race not racism.

Here we believe in the politics of welcome not locked doors.

Here we believe in the politics of justice for all not just the few.

Here we believe in the politics of kindness not threat.

Here we believe in the politics of humility not arrogance.

Here we believe in the politics of Love not fear!

We will be gathering a group together in the next week and a half. A group to brainstorm, support, and figure out what to do. We need to do something to support those in our midst who know the real fear of threat to their families, livelihoods, and lives AND especially those beyond these walls who are living in fear and uncertainty. It is not enough to stand idly by with only words of support and comfort. We have to put actions behind our words, ALL of us. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, though I have some pretty grand ideas for a few things. We need to start small, knock on a neighbor’s door and tell them you care. Take a plate of cookies to the Mosque, or The Center downtown, offer you support, your solidarity, your presence, and your love. We will rise, and we will rise together for Justice, Kindness, Humility, and Love.      This. IS. SO. Amen.

 

These are lyrics to a song written by Joe Crookston sung following this sermon and communion together here at College Hill UMC.

My father, he could use a little mercy now. The fruits of his labor, falling right slowly on the ground. His work is almost over, won’t be long he won’t be around, and I love my father, he could use some mercy now.

My brother, he could use a little mercy now. He’s a stranger to freedom, shackled to his fears and his doubts. The pain that he lives in, is almost more than living will allow. And I love my brother, he could use some mercy now.

My church and my country, they could use a little mercy now. As they sink into a poison pit, it’s going to take forever to climb out. And they carry the weight of the faithful, as they follow them down. And I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now.

Yeah, I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now.

Yeah, we all, we could use a little mercy now. We may not deserve it, we need it anyhow. We hang in the balance between hell and hallowed ground. Every single one of us, could use some mercy now. Yeah, we all, could use some mercy now.

 

Being There

October 3, 2016

In preparation for this coming Sunday’s sermon on Faith and Healing I have been pondering encounters with those who seek healing of body, heart, mind, and soul. I have experienced, and perhaps you have as well, a profound sense of loneliness in times of loss and grief. Even in the midst of friends and family, an empty, lonely place deep in one’s heart and soul.

Sometimes a realization of connected-ness and relationship comes later. A knowledge in hindsight that says to us, even though I felt profoundly alone in those moments and day, I can see now that I was not. In that loneliness there are times we may want to cry out, just scream, to vent the anger, toward the hurt, and pain. We long to find a way to let it out and empty heart and soul of the grief that consumes us. That is normal and okay.

We all deal with grief differently and express it differently. When we encounter grief in our friends and loved ones we often want to try and help alleviate their pain. We want to say something. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked the question, and you probably have heard it in one way or another, “What do I say?” I want to go see them, I want to be there for them, but I don’t know what to say. We want to say something. Somehow we think we need to say something.

I think part of it is a need for us to fix the grief, and not because we think we can, but perhaps borne out of a helpless feeling and desire to try to move people through the grief process quickly because it’s uncomfortable to deal with. I usually share in response to that question, “You know, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. Being there for them is most important.”

This week I have been reflecting on grief, struggle, and healing;  pondering words I have heard, words I have said, and particularly words shared in the context of a community of faith. Those words are offered in sincere hope of caring, and offered out of a need to say something and here is the statement I found expressing for me faith, and yearning for presence and grace for the day;

Religious and faith-based platitudes are most times, in my experience, unhelpful and often times disconcerting. Though, offered in times of struggle, pain, grief, and shock by well-meaning, faithful friends and members of a community of faith who long to say something to alleviate the pain, to offer a word of comfort, to fix the unfixable, they are often words that at best ring empty and at worse can only serve to open the wound further. Here are some thoughts and words that come to mind.

Don’t tell me my loss was part of God’s plan or God’s will, I do not believe it is ever God’s will to cause me pain and suffering.

Don’t tell me my loved one is in a better place, a better place would be with me.

Don’t tell me God needed another angel, I needed my angel to laugh and cry and live with me.

Don’t tell me you understand, you can’t. You may have experienced a similar loss, you may be able to relate, you may even be able to imagine, but you can’t understand, we are all different and our relationships are different.

Don’t tell me we will understand the reason one day, to say that says to me God is responsible and I do not believe God has a reason, or is teaching me a lesson by taking my loved one away from me.

Do, stay with me.

Do stand with me.

Do sit with me.

Do weep with me.

Do laugh with me.

Do hold me.

Do call me to let me know I am on your mind.

Do listen to me. Do hear me.

Do talk with me.

Do be present with/for me.

Do be present to me.

Do be with me.

Do be available.

Be the very Presence and Love of the Spirit, the very Presence of God in Christ for me.

Do love me.

It is the knowledge we do not journey this road alone that in the end can move us to health. And not that the pain ever just goes away, it never does, yet it is this understanding of the Kindom which nourishes and is one of wholeness and completeness. It is an understanding in which we all participate and is among us, surrounding, within, and immersing the wholeness of our being.

In that, I believe, we are bound together each of us to those we have loved and who have loved us in the very Spirit of Love, which can prompt us to break into tears and song all at the same time. It is about Presence of the Spirit, of the Divine Love in whom we are immersed, a spirit that connects us not only in, to, and with God in the Christ, but inseparably to one another and all of creation.

So as we journey through this life being the faith we embrace, whether you are grieving or giving comfort, we are connected in and with the very Spirit of Love from which we can never be separated. Know where ever you find yourself, whether lonely, screaming, weeping, struggling, longing, yearning, or being present.  You are not alone. Ever.  Period. It is reason to be grateful.

It is one of the many ways we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and one another 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

 

Inspiration for the writing of these words come from not only my experience but a plethora of articles, blogs, and writings I have read over the years. Too numerous or distant to cite.

Peace; Passive and Active, We Are Not More, But We Can Be. A Comment and Call for General Conference

March 29, 2016

This is a rather long “blog” as it is a sermon, but I have had several requests for the transcript. This is the extended version. The delivered version in audio is available on our website at http://collegehillumc.org/gathering under the media tab.

Peace; Passive and Active,
We Are Not More, But We Can Be.
A Comment and Call for General Conference

March 13, 2016

“It’s Windy” “No, it’s Thursday” “Yeah, me too. Let’s get a drink.“ It is never easy to know if one is being understood or if the hearer is understanding correctly. We can be in a setting listening or speaking and hear the words or speak the words and then find ourselves in that conundrum of, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

[Let me say here I have since this sermon and writing visited with our communications director and we are visiting and working on how to communicate this campaign in a way that is open and affirming of the diverse expressions and commitments to faith and justice in our conference and jurisdiction]

I found myself in that position a few weeks ago, a disturbing, reactive, troubling place I knew I needed to process before I responded. The troubling in my soul has been present for a lot of years. This particular troubling brought it to mind again at a gathering of our clergy in Lincoln, Nebraska a few weeks ago. I learned of a communications campaign, for lack of better words, entitled We Are More, which I would confirm later is a United Methodist jurisdictional collaboration among many areas in our region.

When I first learned of it what I heard was at our upcoming General Conference of the United Methodist Church there would be many discussions around controversial topics. The media will choose to focus on these topics and the communication campaign is designed to suggest, while these topics are important, we are more than these topics. My first and immediate reaction was concern and a bit of a knot in my stomach.

The approach sounded to me like an attempt to deflect and move the conversation away from these topics and talk about something else. My colleague Rev. Mark Holland put words to the troubling in my soul when he asked the question, “Are we more than justice?”

While I believe I can hear the intent of the campaign, I confess it still troubles me, in how it might be communicated and used to deflect, diminish, and even shut down fruitful and much needed conversation about our Denomination’s commitment to justice and in particular social justice.

As I understand the campaign to date, it is to create a collection of videos and statements inviting persons to share their conversion and faith stories and to say, while these topics are important, regardless of our differences we all agree that, Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World,  is our primary responsibility. i.e. We are a world-wide denomination with a great deal of concerns and ministries.

I do not disagree with that sentiment and commitment, and while I do not disagree it could be construed that there is somehow a difference or a disconnect between our social justice concerns and making disciples. I have no doubt, in particular, for our LGBT colleagues and members, as I have heard their concerns, the campaign feels like a deflection and diminishing of their place and their concerns, as do many of us who are allies and committed to justice for all of God’s children.

As for me, I am unwilling to concede there is some kind of disconnect or separation between Making Disciples and Equality and Inclusion for All Persons in the church regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. Disciple making and inviting is about walking with God in Christ, learning, following, reaching out, and loving. We are all called to practice discipleship, straight or gay. Equality, and inclusion IS Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.

The personal grace and salvific nature of our journey of faith and United Methodist heritage is truly an important part of our conversation. John Wesley was certainly concerned with piety, relationship, and personal transformation. And he had a strong emphasis on social justice as shared in our United Methodist Discipline which states, “there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness.” In other words, for Wesley, our faith is not individualistic, it is social in nature, we need each other. Faith doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The troubling in my soul and the knot in my stomach is how our communication of this campaign can be, and has already been, seen as an either/or rather than a both/and.

One of the primary tension filled topics of our General Conference will be human sexuality and sexual orientation and how our United Methodist Church responds to our brothers and sisters who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender. These faithful persons in our congregations should not be seen as a but we are more, rather they are more as well.

As I shared with our Bishop one morning, I do not want to be seen as a one issue clergy person, and I know our denomination does not either. While there are other issues of social justice needing to be addressed, how we respond to persons who are LGBT and to the LGBT members and colleagues in our churches is a priority and of utmost importance.

In our own prophetic tradition there is precedent of preaching and proclaiming justice in the face of injustice until justice is made to happen. Some days it can feel like I am a broken record, and yet I refuse to be silent in the face of a belittling, diminishing, and dismissing of the faith and person-hood of so many of my friends and colleagues. We are concerned here not with a topic or an issue, but rather with people’s lives and livelihoods, calls and commissions, and the faith and practice of all children of God, persons of good character and love.

While human sexuality and sexual orientation is a priority, I also believe the critique of a but We are More communication campaign applies across the board of justice in our world including the death penalty, education, refugees, immigration, Medicaid expansion, poverty, homelessness, and the whole spectrum of justice, and particularly social justice concerns of our denomination. We are not more than these social justice concerns, I would rather say, We are These Concerns, All of Them, when it comes to justice for all.

In the familiar passage we read from Ecclesiastes, most scholars agree the author of these words was most likely depressed, frustrated, he or she was a realist of realists. Perhaps beaten up, oppressed, excluded, and treated unjustly by life. A life, they have determined that is futile; work, eat, drink, be merry and what else is there? For the author it is simply seasons and times of life. The journey of life, in culture and society, In relationship, all the times there are, and for the purposes of this sermon, in particular, times of speaking and times of silence.

I agree with this passage. There are times and seasons to our lives. Time to mourn and dance. Gather together and separate, embrace and refrain from embracing, weeping and laughing, there is a time to keep and throw away, a time to keep silence and a time to speak.

I have been told by some colleagues and others that perhaps now is the time to be silent, to be in prayer, to seek understanding and conversation in silence and solemnness. While there is nothing wrong with these things, I do not believe this is the time for silence. This is the time to speak, especially now as we approach General Conference. Especially now when the conversation is growing more and more prevalent. Now is the Time to speak, silence only serves to promote the injustices our world and fellow pilgrims on the journey are experiencing.

It is time to speak, time for ALL of us to speak and to acknowledge there are times for silent reflection, and inner peace, perhaps even passive practice of peace and meditation, AND there is a time for active peacemaking, justice making, and I believe that time is now! Speak up, let your voices, your faith, your lives be heard, until Justice is made to happen!

This posture and way of living and loving is about participating in the vision of God’s justice for all, and with God’s help, into a just, compassionate, and peaceful place for which we all yearn. Living into this vision of God’s compassionate justice in the world is about justice for all. And in terms of our denomination, in terms of the church, the Body of Christ, to emphasize my friend’s words once again, “We are not more than justice.”

All of this being said, I do believe we can be more than the injustices we promote as a denomination, as local churches, and as members. I was struck this week as I studied in Isaiah and his words for the community in which he was a part, listen –

…that you come before me – Who asked that of you? Trample my courts no more; bringing oblations is futile, incense is offensive to me. New moon and Sabbath, proclaiming of solemnities, assemblies with iniquity, I cannot abide. Your new moons and fixed seasons fill me with loathing; they are become a burden to me, I cannot endure them. And when you lift up your hands, I will turn my eyes away from you; though you pray at length, I will not listen. Your hands are stained with crime-wash yourselves clean; put your evil doings away from my sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow.

These are the prophetic words from Isaiah for his community and ours…

We can be more than excluding good, qualified, faithful, loving LGBT members of our churches and congregations by welcoming and ordaining them into the full life of the church.

We can be more than the injustices we promote when we claim to be nonviolent and then lobby for fewer firearm restrictions when we are outside the walls of the church.

We can be more than the injustices we promote when we claim to love the poor and yet shame them by supporting drug testing and calling them lazy if they need to be on assistance.

We can be more than the injustices we promote when we claim to welcome all and then support banning Syrian refugees from our country.

We can be more than the injustices we promote when we state healthcare is a right and then condemn the only attempt to provide health coverage for all.

We can be more than the injustices we promote when we claim to value life and then lobby for continuation of the death penalty.

Yes, we can be more than stating “all persons are of sacred worth to God,” while claiming “except for these.”

I do believe we can be more than the injustices we promote as a denomination, as local churches, and as members. We can be more when all of God’s children have access to both sides of the table.

We can be more when all have enough. We can be more when we are as concerned with tearing down the walls of injustice as we are with keeping the doors shut.

We can be more when we are as committed to justice for all as we are with maintaining the status quo.

We are not more than the important, compassionate, grace-filled, welcoming, loving, justice of God, all of it and more. I pray daily for our beloved United Methodist Church and our General Conference and delegates, praying one day we become more than a Denomination that fears conflict, difference, diversity, and change.

As shared with me by a friend and colleague, we are a broad tent denomination, with a wide variety of theology, belief, and practice and yes, we are more than a single issue church, but we are not more than justice for all God’s children, all of them.

Here I stand. Here I remain. In love and service with the United Methodist Church. May grace abound and love immerse us all. May it be so. May it be so in 2016. Speak Up! IT’S TIME!

Rev. Kent H. Little

 

Questions are Welcome

March 21, 2016

I remember standing in the kitchen with my dad and mom when I asked the questions. I was probably about thirteen as I believe it was confirmation class that prompted the conversation with my dad/pastor/confirmation class teacher. Mom was fixing dinner and dad and I were have a discussion about Christianity and beliefs. I remember asking, “So if Jesus was raised from the dead physically and ascended into heaven, how can we speak of the belief he is always everywhere with us? And if he was raised spiritually and not bodily and the tomb was empty what did they do with his body?

I remember dad answering the question as any good critical theologian might answer such a question, “Those are really good questions son, what do you think?” Which simply prompted more conversation, seeking, questions, and searching, which of course is exactly what dad intended. He was always one who encouraged us to seek out our own path, not to believe something just because he did, but to study, question, consider and make sure what we believed was our own.

As we sat down at the table for dinner that evening I remember mom saying to me, “You know Kent, I believe there are just some things we do not know and perhaps are not even supposed to know; they are a mystery.”

In hindsight I think there is something to be said about the kind of faith environment in which I was raised. There is tremendous benefit in being encouraged to find one’s own understanding and belief structures, to be encouraged to question, doubt, wrestle, and critically practically look at the stories of our faith. I also believe there is benefit in realizing, once we study, question, doubt, wrestle, and critically practically look at the stories of our faith, to be able to say, “I don’t know.”

There are a lot of questions and wondering around our stories and scriptures. Even the story of Jesus’ resurrection differ depending on which gospel account we are reading, they don’t even agree on the details of that morning. I have long appreciated the words of Marcus Borg with regards to the stories of resurrection when he spoke of Jesus’ resurrection as believing what you want about the story, literal bodily resurrection, spiritual, metaphorical, but how does your belief transform you and help you make this world a better place in which to live? Likewise, the quote Diana Butler Bass shared from a “liberal bishop who was asked if he believed in the resurrection,” to which he replied, “Believe it? I’ve seen it too many times not to!”

I believe questions, doubts, wrestling, wondering, and being vulnerable enough to say “I don’t know” are crucial and indispensable qualities of a deep and abiding faith journey. And so, with all I know and with all I do not know, I am still able to cherish this Holy Week with all of its celebrations, questions, difficulties, suffering, betrayal, and darkness. I am still able to embrace all it holds and show up on Easter Sunday morning and celebrate and proclaim with all of us “He is Risen!”

Join us this Sunday at College Hill for our Easter Resurrection Sunday Celebration of Peace come to Life! It is one of the many ways we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and one another 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

Never Alone

September 28, 2009

   We took Simeon to the boarder over the weekend, as we had to go out of town. I missed his thumping tail on the wall when we got back home. I missed it again when we came home from church yesterday. I even missed the big lump on the couch or floor and his snoring while he naps, he is an accomplished “napper,” like dog like master I suppose.
   There is obviously still evidence of his existence strewn around the house, food and water dishes, a toy here and there, his blanket and pillow in his crate next to our bed. It will be good to have him back home later today.
   I suppose, if you will allow me, we can draw inference to the loss of our loved ones from that imagery. Our memories, mementos, and love for those who have gone on, though they be physically absent from us are still held close in our hearts through the memories we have. It is hard to lose those things and people we cherish and love. And yet we can often find comfort and strength in remembering and cherishing the memories we have.
   So with those thoughts I am thinking of the things and persons we lose throughout our lives. We lose loved ones and close friends, we lose jobs and livelihoods, we lose possessions and property, we lose health and well-being. I was told once by a wise man that “any change is loss” and thus we tend to grieve those changes no matter how small or earth shattering they are.
   It is good, or even essential to have those around us who are there for us in these times. It is good to have a close friend or family member, it is good to have a community who cares, or a faith community to reassure us and help carry our load so we know we are not alone in our grief and struggle.
In our sacred scriptures we are reminded often that we are not alone. We as a people of faith know that God is with us and will never abandon us, that we can never be separated from God in the love of Christ. It is good to know! And I believe, though we can say that, and though we can believe that, it is most profoundly known in and through our relationship with others.
   I look forward to this afternoon when Simeon is back in our midst; I hope he feels the same. I hope this week through the relationship between you and the ones you love and know, you do indeed know, you are not alone. It is reason to give thanks.

The Open Table

May 5, 2009

It is an interesting concept, a hopeful concept that we participated in this last Thursday evening. We sat with a friend of ours in the living room of a couple who, like us, were United Methodist visiting and sharing together in small talk and chips and dip. Around the circle were others of varying denominational and religious backgrounds. One couple were members of a local Assembly of God church, another couple were Muslim and our friend of many years is Hindu.

          It is an effort by the Interfaith Alliance in the community we were visiting to promote understanding and relationship among those of diverse religious beliefs. It is a wonderful concept and effort to try and bring peace among the religions by actually getting to know and building relationships among all of God’s children rather than operating on assumption and misinformation.

          After we had sat for a time visiting and introducing ourselves to one another we moved into the dining room where we broke bread together. We paused and a prayer was offered as we prepared to share together a wonderful meal prepared by the hostess of our gathering. I thought to myself as the conversation ebbed and flowed from personal story, religious thought, chit chat… serious conversation and jokes and laughter … what better place to share together in such a venture, such an effort, such a moment of grace than around a table.

          In many cultural and religious thought, to be invited to sit at table with others is to be considered family; it is a very serious occasion. In my Christian tradition we still celebrate that moment of grace given to us in the Sacrament of Communion when we gather and remember Jesus gathering his friends around a table to break bread and share a cup of wine.

          I am glad for my experience, I am grateful for our friend who invited us to join her in this reaching out in grace and hope, that one day we might see others for the child of God they are and the common humanity we share as we continue to embrace our own understandings of God and life. It is reason to give thanks I believe.

          Around this table … it is one of the ways we seek to be faithful here in this place where you are one of the family; where there is always an open door, a comfortable seat, and a place at the table. Until next week know you are loved and that you are never alone.

Gone Flat

March 24, 2009

Simeon loves toys! I have enjoyed that part of him as much as anything I suppose. Though I have been known to give TruDee a hard time about spoiling him, I enjoy the toys as much as he does; trying to decide what he will like and/or which ones he will eat or not. We have seen him play himself to the point of exhaustion falling asleep not only surrounded by his toys, but with something like a ball in his mouth, sound asleep in the floor. He is really like a little kid in a lot of ways, it is rather endearing to us.

   I enjoy it in part because I have always enjoyed wandering the toy aisles at the store. I enjoyed it when the boys were little and have even been found perusing the toys after the boys were too old to appreciate them as much as myself. So, now with Simeon, I once again can find additional purpose to my toy aisle wandering.

   We bought him a new ball yesterday. It was a really nice ball, one of those playground balls, blue with big multicolored polka dots! We brought it home and Simeon LOVED it! I was downstairs when it was gifted to him by TruDee so I am unsure of the timeline, but it lasted perhaps ten minutes, when I came upstairs it was already flat; a little too much exuberance perhaps, a little over the tope excitement and it was all over. Oh, he is still playing with it, albeit when he throws it up in the air now to watch it bounce it just goes thump on the floor, but he is persistent in his attempts to get it to bounce just one more time.

   I suppose there is some sort of lesson in there for all of us too. We need a little balance in our lives, a little play, a little work, a little rest, and when we over-do any one of those things life can get out of balance and we can find ourselves going thump with little or no bounce to our own lives. Too much play, too much work, too much rest, can cause us to go flat and find ourselves down on our back or worse.

   I suspect we will try and find Simeon a ball with a little more stamina to it next time. In the mean time I will reflect on my life and be mindful of the balance I need as I journey along in this life and faith.

Pondering Hospitals, Life, and the Depths of Love

February 11, 2009

          Over the past couple of weeks we have spent considerable time in two different hospitals with my wife’s dad; worrying, stewing, encouraging, teasing, laughing, crying, sitting, and walking as they have tried to figure out what to do, when to do it, where to do it. A hospital is an interesting, wearying, exhausting place to be whether one is a patient, visitor, hospital worker, and or family. Waiting is a draining task.

          I have tended to deal with the drain through exercise in the form of walking, walking the halls. I have walked in the midst of patient rooms, a variety of intensive care units, waiting rooms, family rooms, administrative offices, chaplain offices, lobbies, and cafeterias. I have navigated around nurses, doctors, office workers, patients, family, visitors, and people I, for many obvious reasons, have no clue who they were, and medical equipment. I have seen tears, smiles, and the seriousness of sober thought. I have heard the sounds of sickness, laughter, screaming, and uncontrollable sobbing. A hospital is a place of the highs of the mountaintop and the dreaded lows in the deepest of valleys.

It is a sacred place filled with all the human emotions of feeling and struggle possible. It is a sacred place filled with the laughter, tears, struggle, suffering, joy, and heartache of God. This place of healing of mind, body, and spirit … healing though not just in the physical sense but perhaps healing of the senses… healing of the spirit … a healing of God, so to speak, or at least a healing of the image of God. I wonder … in the context of my wanderings in the “halls of medicine,” I see the image of God in whom we are created … the image of a hurting, suffering, laughing, crying, chuckling, weeping, and surprising God … a God of vulnerability, a vulnerable God if you will.

Where else in our lives can we be so vulnerable as we find ourselves in the hospital bed or in the chair waiting on the one in the bed. Whether we are wrapped in one of those open backed hospital gowns, bare butt mooning the world or sitting in a chair beside a bed yearning for good news, yearning for any news , caught between unyielding hope and crushing loss.

We don’t do vulnerable well, we humans, but I have to wonder in the midst of that if such highs and lows and all that is in the middle is what it means to be fully human … vulnerable … and in the midst of that I wonder if we don’t always do God so well either.

 I am reminded of that as I sit in the room next to my father-in-law’s bed. He is of that generation. You know the one, the Greatest Generation, the one on which Tom Brokaw wrote his bestselling book. I haven’t read the book, perhaps one day I will, perhaps because of my place here in this chair beside the bed of one who lived it, perhaps I will now.

Sometimes, one looking from the outside in, his manner and matter of fact, no nonsense speaking can be seen and heard as gruff, harsh, and uncaring. But sitting here beside his bed I have had a revelation of sorts, though I suspect it is something I have known all along. I understand now, at least I have convinced myself without confiding in him, it is about life experience and how our lives shape and mold us. It is a revelation of a generation, yes; I suppose even the greatest of them. I suspect I would be much the same as he, perhaps even, suspect I would hope to be the same as he, of course with the exception of needing open heart surgery!

Here is this guy, this WWII vet laying in a hospital bed learning each day of something else, some reason they couldn’t do this procedure but could this one, only to learn the next day they could not do that one, but maybe a different one. I watched this one I know as stubborn and hard headed take the decisions in stride, disappointed yes, but open and willing to do what needed to be done. His matter of fact attitude and willingness to “do what needed to be done” is exemplary of his generation, of him.

Joining the Navy when he was really too young to do so, this man has seen and heard and experienced things I cannot begin to imagine and really do not have a lot of interest in trying to imagine in my mind’s eye. He is a practical and matter of fact kind of guy. He wants honest pay for an honest day’s work, he is generous to a fault, constantly telling us stories of helping someone out when they needed a hand. Stories not to brag about it, but simply as a statement of his life, a statement that simply says, “This is the way things ought to be, it’s the right thing to do!”

I suspect it is just those experiences that have shaped his disdain for nonsense and wasted time. He just doesn’t seem to have time for such things. I suspect his experiences have taught him to live in this moment, to not waste time with silly political, religious, or other platitudes and arguments, they are a waste of time and we don’t have much time on this good green earth. I suspect, for one who has seen and heard the things he has seen and heard, nonsense and the like are a waste of the gift of life. I suspect those experiences and his life have shaped his sharp wit and sense of humor as well. He always has a comeback or an unexpected comment that brings a smile, chuckle, or an unabashed belly laugh, his timing is incredible, which is simply another witness to his appreciation of life in its fullness, in the “now-ness” of it all.

He is stubborn, but in a good independent way, a way that says he doesn’t want anyone worrying about or over him, although he takes exception to that when he chooses to worry about others, I guess at 83 he has that right, more power to him! I have watched over the past couple of weeks that tough exterior melt away in glimpses of that tremendous soft heart he has. It has periodically bubbled up and over flowed with a word caught in his throat followed by a tear or two. That stubbornness is borne out of his hard working life that simply wants to provide for his family and himself, and on  be his own as long has he can.

          That stubbornness is matched, no it is exceeded, only by his fierce love of his family, his four girls and his grandkids, I suspect even his son in laws though I would never ask him to confirm that out loud. But that love is evident in his calm spirit and concern and those moments that are only shared between a father and his daughter[s]. It is sacred time; it is the essence of love, borne of a willingness to lay one’s life down for something larger and more important than self.

          I see that in my dad in law, that self sacrificing nature of that Greatest of generations. Shortly after his admission to the hospital one of his doctors noted he is a Vet and then proceeded to thank him for his [Dad’s] service and his [the doctor’s freedom], it was a moment in the truest sense of the word.

          So here I am sitting in the waiting room at the hospital while the doctors have that heart, that huge heart, literally in their hands and am thankful. That that guy has put up with me for 30 some years now, thankful for a guy who participated in one of the most difficult times of our country, who has, not unlike these halls I walk now, seen the extremes of life, the mountaintop of joy and the valleys of heartache, and everything in the middle, thankful for a vet whose work and service provides me with the opportunity to sit and write as I please, thankful for the stalwart, yet vulnerable, resolve of the one who help raise my wife into the loving person she is, thankful for this man, this Vet, this father, this Dad. I think I will read the book, I am sure it is worthwhile, … though, I think now, I may already know what it says.