Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

We Cry, “Thoughts and Prayers…”

August 4, 2019

“We are desensitized, numb, used to it;” I hear and read the words across social media, the news, and from our government representatives. I find myself somewhat speechless in the wake of yet another senseless act of gun violence in our country. Mass shootings, defined as 3 or more deaths, in 2019 have been 248, with 246 deaths, and 979 wounded. It is difficult at best to find words that have not been said before. We find ourselves, once again, in that all too familiar cycle of outrage, thoughts and prayers, no action, and amnesia until the next one happens. How many will it take; lives taken, families shattered, bodies mangled, until our leaders have the courage to do something to curb this pestilence in our land?

This violence born of hatred, racism, xenophobia, and the othering of persons who are not white is fueled by words that identify others as less than; murders, rapists, animals, those who need to go back where they came from, those who are ripped from their parents and put in cages. Words matter and those who spew hatred and unfounded accusation are responsible with those who hunt down the other.

This violence, born of hatred and racism, xenophobia and bigotry, is systemically ingrained in our culture and society, in our government and systems. When black men selling cigarettes, or who pick up a BB gun in a store are shot and killed while a white man with an AK47 style rifle kills 20 persons in a store and is taken into custody without incidence…there is something wrong with our system!

This violence, born of hatred and racism, xenophobia and bigotry, is systemically ingrained in our culture and society, in our government and systems. We hear language of terrorists and thugs if a person of color or other religion commits a crime and when a white man commits the same offense all of a sudden it is about mental illness. We have a white man, white supremacist terrorism problem in our country; home grown terrorists with easy access to violent weapons and we are asleep at the wheel. When millions of dollars, and hours of time, and campaign rallies rail  on the dangers of Muslims, immigrants, asylum seekers, and persons of color and say nothing of the plague of white men with white supremacist affiliation, Nazi values, and racist ideologies continue to gun down innocent lives…there is something wrong with our system!

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” as another twenty of God’s children are slaughtered by senseless gun violence as if we believe God is suddenly going to swoop in and save us from our warring madness.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” from the highest halls of our government and yet the cowards who are supposed to be our leaders, supposed to work for the common welfare of our nation do nothing.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” in our places of worship, light candles, pray for peace, weep and grieve with the mourning, and yet refuse to yield our rights even if it might save just one life.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” and point fingers at the others we believe are responsible and refuse to consider our own guilt.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” and sit comfortably in our gated communities and our alarmed and armed homes…as long as mine are safe I need not worry about the others.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” and by August 15, 2019 El Paso and Dayton will just be a memory of two more killings in our land like the others, as we wait for the next.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” as the attempts at sensible gun legislation continue to pile up on the desk of those whose cowardice, power, and greed refuse to strive for a solution.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” and I wonder how many more lives it will take before we awake from our blood stained and violence ridden comas of denial?

How long O Lord, will we sacrifice your children on the altar of gun rights, racism, white terrorism, individualism, and hatred? Not long I pray, however it has already been too long. I am seeking some light in the darkness of this morning. How many times must our hearts been ripped open before we are willing to let the light of justice, compassion, and love shine in?

Today I will say my prayers, I will light a candle, I will do my best to speak truth to power and find some way to make a difference. I pray you will join me.

Searching for Peace and Light on Our Journey…

Rev. Kent

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It’s not Political, It’s Christianity!

July 30, 2019

I am unsure of the details leading to the decision, however the article I read preceded a comment from a colleague regarding politics and the church. It seems in Texas a bishop of the United Methodist Church had been invited to speak at the Lights for Liberty event. The news story indicated the bishop had withdrawn his name from the event because of a turn toward the political as opposed to what he deemed the original intent of the gathering to stand in solidarity with the children held in concentration camp conditions on our border. I wish I knew more about what the bishop deemed too political; however, the article did not reveal those details.

A colleague asked me a couple of days ago about whether or not I received pushback from the congregation when I get too political in my sermons. He was referencing the times I have included critique of the powers that be in relation to immigration, children held at the border, LGBTQIA+ rights, racism, women’s reproductive rights, and other topics around equality and human rights. My response to him was something to the effect of, “These are not political issues, in particular they should not be partisan political issues, these are human rights issues, they are Christian issues the church should be speaking to, not only within the walls of the community of faith, but in the community at large and to the government who should be working to resolve the oppressive and unjust laws or lack thereof.

My point with my colleague and friend, in a broader understanding, is a church that does not have the wherewithal to venture into the political machine to affect change for the common good of all is not following the Way of Jesus. Jesus ministry, life, and words, as best we know, were very politically charged and pointed. I would say certainly not in a partisan way, however certainly in a justice and compassionate way.

The church needs to regain its socially prophetic voice in the world and in our country today. Too many are sitting on the sidelines letting the voices of those who would collude with a corrupt government creating atrocities we see unfolding every day. If the church is unwilling to address the social injustices of our day saying, they do not belong in the worship service, or those are too political to address, the church will continue to decline into irrelevance and empty rhetoric.

I will not withdraw from the work of justice, compassion, and love. I will always speak to the culture and society in which we live, affirming those moments and events promoting love and justice for all, and taking a stand against those moments and events demeaning and limiting the common good for all persons. I believe it is the work of the church. It is our work. It is the Way of which Jesus spoke. May we continue on in compassion, action, and love. It’s not political. It is Christianity.

Peace and Light on Our Way.

Rev. Kent

Dry Spell

July 17, 2019

I remember my dad used to call them Dry Spells, one might liken them to the Dark Night of the Soul often credited to St. John of the Cross. For dad, he referred to those times when the inspiration was evasive and the Spirit seemed distant at best, and absent at worst…Dry Spells. The Dark Night of the Soul has often been used to describe similar feelings; the struggles of life when the Spirit seems distant at best and absent at worst. I too have experienced those moments, hours, days, weeks when the troubles of the world weigh heavy on my soul. As I ponder, I am reminded of the story of Eli and Samuel when, as the text says, The word of God was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

To some degree I have felt that way for some time now. I have struggled to write, which is my go-to process when I need to ponder, but lately it has evaded me. The weight seems to be heavy on my shoulders as I consider the state of our nation and the state of our church.

We have children and families in concentration camp conditions on our border. We have families living in fear of raids and separation. There are continued attacks both physically violent and verbally abusive of Muslims and their houses of worship. We have blatant racism and xenophobia being spewed not only in the general public but from the highest offices in our land. Our Mother Earth is suffering before our eyes and the continued denial of climate change puts us ever closer in peril. The ever-widening gap between the wealthiest in our country and those most in need. The continued blaming of the poor and diminishing of programs of social uplift. There is so much to be done, and what would seem to be so little being done to care for the oppressed, vulnerable, and neglected in our world and country.

It is easy to become overwhelmed, angry, and bitter with the atmosphere being fostered in our country. We live in a time where civil discourse seems to be a lost art. We live in a time of othering people rather than listening and trying to understand. We would rather condemn than have a thoughtful respectful conversation. The example of name calling, bigotry, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and hate filters from the most prominent among us, to the everyday citizen, and yes, sometimes I can even find myself slipping into that which I abhor.

I heard an attorney speaking once who said of the political climates of our nation, “The pendulum always swings back.” I am still waiting for the swing, when we can focus more on the common good for all, rather than who is to blame. I am still waiting for compassion to return to our government rather than the hatred and partisan lack of care among our politicians. I am still waiting for a country more concerned with the least of these among us rather than the mega profits of corporations. I am still waiting for a semblance of the beloved community rather than watching out for number one. It is exhausting some days. I had a colleague who once said, “This kind of work is soul sucking work.” So true.

So, here I sit in my Dry Spell, waiting and longing to write again… and…I am writing. Actually, if one reads St. John of the Cross, the Dark Night of the Soul was less about the hard times when the word of God was rare, and more of a preparatory state. Being in that dark state of the unknowable God as a purification for something to come. In some sense it was sitting with oneself and seeking, listening for, waiting for that awakening and awareness of God to move. And, here I am writing again…

Perhaps the Dry Spell, the Dark Night of the Soul I sense in our country these days is the coming of something new. Perhaps, it is the preparatory time for the pendulum to swing back. These days are difficult for me, I know they are difficult for you as well because I have heard your stories, handed you tissues, seen your tears, listened as your hearts have broken.

As difficult as it can seem, I believe in hope. I believe in a light to come. I believe in people, like you, who also believe in the best of us all. Those of you who refuse to let the evil and sin of racism and bigotry have the last word! We will not! The darkness is where the Spirit is with us most profoundly, calling us out and into the light of compassion, justice, and love.

We are called to love all, even those who promote hate and injustice. However, we love them by resisting! We will stand up to and resist racist language and accusation. We will stand up to and resist brutal treatment of children and asylum seekers. We will stand up to and resist those who belittle and diminish another because of their faith. We will stand up to and resist, not out of hatred, but because we love. And we know love, true love will prevail, it always does.

It may feel like a Dry Spell; however, the rain is coming! It may feel like the Dark Night of the Soul; however, the light awaits us! It may feel like the Spirit is rare and the visions are few, however…We, we are coming! We are enough to overcome. Injustice, hate, and othering will not have the last word, it never does!

May we always strive to Love One Another. Every. Single. Other. Until there are no Others. Only one Beloved Community of All.

Carry On. Be Love.

Rev. Kent

 

We Know Better

July 14, 2019

Several years ago, I had the honor of presiding at the funeral of a high school friend of mine. He was a social worker, however he never talked much about the details of his work, other than just admitting he was approaching burn out with the long and stressful hours. He died unexpectedly at the age of fifty-seven.

I thought of him the other day reading the stories of children held in concentration camp conditions on our border. I thought of him as I did my research for the service, discovering he had been selected for state recognition for his work. He was credited with saving the lives of thousands of children who were in abusive, unfit, and dangerous living conditions. I thought of him because I cannot imagine the pain and frustration he might be feeling today if he were still with us. I have wept remembering my friend and thinking of the children at the border.

I disagree with President Trump, politicians, and others who have turned this crisis into a political partisan issue. This is not a partisan issue! This is a human rights crisis! We are talking about vulnerable children without privacy, soap, clean clothes, basic necessities, and a warm place to sleep. It is time for President Trump and those with power to resolve this travesty!

Our country has a sordid history from our beginnings with regard to Native Americans, Africans, the Japanese, and others. We should have learned from our past the separation and isolation of families and in particular children is not who we are. We know better. We are all children of the Divine, called to care for those most vulnerable among us. I pray President Trump and the leaders of our nation reunite these children with their families and resolve our immigration and refugee policy as soon as possible. It is time!

 

Rev. Kent H. Little, Lead Clergy

First United Methodist Church

Omaha, Nebraska

We Can Be Better in 2019

December 31, 2018

I am here in the continued afterglow of the Season… of Christmas Eve Services, study, writing, sons and daughters-in-law, and three perfect granddaughters, life is good here in the Little home. It is New Year’s Eve day and I have been pondering this year past and what the new year might hold. I am hopeful about many things, and I am frustrated about many things as well.

My frustrations come from many venues. However, I think right now my main frustration is my continued attempts to understand our current administration and our President as well as those who so adamantly support him. I write this not to look for an argument or a debate, but mostly to vent a little and continue to try and understand. I watched as he mocked a disabled person, a war hero and former prisoner of war, a veteran’s family, women, promoted violence against those who would oppose him at rallies and found myself in disbelief that we would elect such a one.

Since his election I have watched and listened to him continue to diminish our allies, our courts, and our federal law enforcement agencies. Refusing to take advice from his advisors on things such as Syria or his own party on the proposed border wall. I have found myself rather aghast at his hesitation, or even seeming refusal to denounce white supremacy groups. His policies continue to threaten the safety of those who seek asylum in our country from other parts of the world that threaten life and livelihood. The list grows ever longer of things I see as injustice, xenophobic, a threat to the common good of all, and just honesty in general. Just recently he compared the wall he wishes to build on our border with Mexico with the ten-foot wall around President Obama’s current home…a wall that does not exist.

I know many who support President Trump, so much so to the point, it almost seems it doesn’t matter what he does or says. I want to understand, I really do, but now after listening to his speeches and reading news stories for nearly three years, I still cannot seem to wrap my head around what we were thinking or what he is thinking. I cannot decide if he is really just trying to distract the country, and if so, distract us from what or if he is just being intentionally obtuse. I see the struggle in our country and I think of a favorite movie of mine, Remember the Titans, and the struggle the team was having to come together at one point, Gerry tells Julius he needs to fix his attitude, Julius responds, “Attitude reflects leadership.” I don’t know, maybe that applies to us today, our leader is a mess…and thus…so are we.

All this being said, as 2019 rolls into the present, I will continue to keep President Trump in my prayers, our country in my prayers, and our world in my prayers. I will pray for understanding as I continue my unwillingness to settle and my commitment to actively resist any policy diminishing the poor, oppressed, discriminated against and the least of these in our midst.

With the continued struggle of the last few years I am still hopeful. I am hopeful because I find myself to be one who must be. I will continue to try and understand and listen more. However, I refuse to let fear, distrust, chaos, injustice, and violence of word and deed be a directing force in my life.

I believe, whether we are people part of a community of faith or not, we are all called as a community of humankind to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper…ALL of them, and especially those who are the poorest and most vulnerable among us. It takes all of us, yet the division that continues to be driven like a wedge among our fellow humankind in our country and our world will in the end destroy us unless we come together.

However, I believe more in the Kindom, the Beloved Community dreamed of by one of our finest…I believe in our country and our founding documents, I believe more in who we have been and who we can become more than I believe in who our current administration and government are. I refuse to believe we are stuck in this descending spiral of vitriol and disrespect. I am willing to extend a hand and have the difficult conversations to find a way out of this fog of disillusion.

We can be better in this 2019.

My hand is here. My heart is here. Let us begin again on this New Year.

Rev. Kent H. Little

The Magnificat; Love is Resistance!

December 23, 2018

We have journeyed through Advent this year through the lens of the wisdom of Mr. Rogers addressing the traditional themes of the season; Hope, Peace, Joy, and today…Love. Love. I confess sometimes I struggle a bit with the word itself. It seems to me in our culture and society, even in the church, there are times if not most of the time we have watered it down, relegated it to a gentle, non-threatening, innocuous, rose-colored glasses kind of sentiment. We use it in so many ways it can feel like it has lost its edge, like a once interesting, unique, rock in the rough after being polished smooth in a rock polishing machine. We love so many things now… I love coconut cream pie, I love my shoes, I love that haircut, to an entire car ad campaign, “Love, it’s what makes a Subaru.” Every time I see that ad, I want to say… “Really?” We have spread the use of the word love so thin it has lost its meaning.

To some degree…I think we can be in danger of doing the same thing with the whole of the traditional themes of Advent and Christmas. We have domesticated the season into a manageable and tame mawkish time of gentleness and warm fuzzies. We have turned hope from a driving force to a pie in the sky attitude, we have turned peace from an active way of life into individualistic isolation, we have turned joy from a frame of mind contagious to those around us to something that denies the struggles of life, and we have turned love from a foundation through which to change the world to a feeling that only feeds to ego.

Too many in the church, in society and culture, dismiss love as some kind of mushy, dreamy, emotion without force or cause. I have heard colleagues say to me, “All you liberals ever preach about is love, love, love.” To which I rely, “Well, yeah, what else is there?”  But too many have lost its edginess. Granted, it is still there if one looks for it… but we have done it to ourselves in a culture and society, in a church who refuses to do the difficult work of looking for the depths of the meaning in the simple nature of what love is suppose to be and look like.

Too many in the community of faith, this time of year, look at Mary’s song we read this morning and only hear her simple words of gratitude and the praising of God…

With all my heart I glorify God! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. The Divine has looked with favor on the low status of this servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is God’s name. God shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors God.

We celebrate the young woman who is pregnant with the child of God and sing songs and feel hope, peace, joy, and love in our hearts. And we leave our churches feeling warm and fuzzy and for too many of those who have worshipped on Sunday morning this time of year that is as far as it goes until the next week. Mary, meek and mild, humble, submissive, and obedient to the end, and this is where too many in our communities of faith end the reading.

As I pondered this simplistic notion of love and the season of Advent over the last couple of weeks, words of Mr. Rogers came to mind from the book of his sayings…

Love is like infinity: You can’t have more or less infinity, and you can’t compare two things to see if they’re ‘equally infinite.’ Infinity just is, and that’s the way I think love is, too. Perhaps you can hear him saying that in your mind like I can, the simple, inviting, gentle way he spoke and welcomed us into his home. I remembered an episode of Mr. Rogers that they spoke of in the documentary about his life. It was an episode in which he spoke of the many different ways we show or tell others we love them. The episode began simplistically and uneventful. Mr. Rogers arrives at home as he does every time, singing his song, putting on his sweater, and taking off his shoes. But this time he does something very different, he has a pair of “slippers” he calls them, I would have referred to them as flip flops but I suppose for a national television show slippers sounded more appropriate. Anyway, in this episode he takes off his socks too, he points out that it is different, that he has never done that before. He puts on the slippers and goes outside to soak his tired feet in a plastic wading pool. He says he has been thinking about the many ways we show or tell someone we love them. The camera shifts from Mr. Rogers sitting on a chair soaking his feet to images of children and adults being present to one another in wide variety of ways. This goes on for several minutes. One, like myself, might be carried off into their imagination of ways I have been told or shown I am loved or ways I have told or shown others I love them. It is a hopeful, peaceful, joyful, gentle journey through the memories in my mind, certainly sentimental.

Love in our faith tradition has been, or at least should be, the foundation of who we are. However, I recognize with the 40-some thousand expressions of Christianity in our world to ask each one of them to explain or define what love means, one may receive numerous definitions and explanations that may be similar or not and certainly not agree. We are in the midst of that right now in our own Global UMC, we are in the midst of that right now in our own country here in the U.S.A. What does love look like? What is it suppose to be? What is it suppose to do? Makes me think of the Tina Turner song… “What’s love got to do with it?”

In his book, God Believes in Love, Bishop Gene Robinson writes of the love of God… [The Divine] is all about love. Whatever is at the center of the universe, whatever gives meaning to creaturely existence, whatever we mean by “God,” it is all about love. There is no more fundamental belief among people of faith. Many adjectives are used in the holy texts of major religions to describe God – what God is like, as experienced by human beings, what God is apt to favor, what God abhors. In Christianity, God is defined quite simply in the [Second] Testament’s First Letter of John: “Love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

No religion can claim to know all there is to know about God. Each religion, and each practitioner of religion, can only claim to know a part of God. But this is a startling claim that the First Letter of John makes, that to love is to know God. I take this to mean that there is something about loving another that participates in the reality that is God. For those who desire to know the nature of God, indeed to “know” God, this is very significant because it plots a pathway to the Divine Mystery. It beckons to those who want to experience the divine: If you want to know God, you will find God in the loving of another.

According to Robinson, according to the Sufi Poet Rumi, according to our faith tradition, Love is all there is! And it is not some sentimental, rose colored glasses, emotion that is only about feeling good about ourselves and the world. Love is a world changing force for the common good of all. Love is edgy, love is challenge, love is prophetic, love changes us and the world from the inside out.

Too many in the church stop reading or stop listening after the first part of Mary’s song when she is praising God and giving gratitude to the power of God. They do not hear, or refuse to hear, the deeply political and prophetic words in her song… this is not a simplistic song just about humility and being favored, this is a song about the Kindom of God… the coming Way that will be… this is a song about Love… the love of God, the love of the world and the Love to which we are called to participate…

The Spirit has shown strength with its arm. God has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. The Divine has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. The Spirit has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed.

Scattered the arrogant and the proud…pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly…filled the hungry and sent the rich away empty handed.

THIS is the Love of God. THIS is Love come down at Christmas. THIS is the coming one for which Mary sings.

Love is Resistance! Just Ask Mary….

As I continued to watch the episode of Mr. Rogers the images of those sharing loved ended and the scene cuts back to Mr. Rogers sitting and soaking his feet. About that time Officer Francois Clemmons comes strolling into Mr. Rogers yard. Mr. Rogers invites him to join in soaking his feet in the pool with him, retrieves a chair, and they both sit and visit about the day and about love. Francois sings a song about the many different ways of loving. Finally, he must leave, Mr. Rogers helps him dry his feet and away he goes. It is a statement about love. It is a statement about race relations as Francois is African American. Mr. Rogers is showing us love is not just some sentimental emotion… love is about taking a stand against those things that diminish and belittle love.

That being said, it is important to note that while Mr. Rogers was willing to take on racism at the time he was unwilling to address full inclusion of LGBTQ persons. Francois was gay, as a result the show would require him to stop going to a gay bar at which he had been seen and he would never be allowed to stay with the show as an out gay man. It would not be until years later Mr. Rogers would come around and be fully accepting and embrace Francois as he was.

It is an important lesson for us all, it is an important lesson for the church and in particular the United Methodist Church. It is a testament to the love that transformed Mr. Rogers’ heart to finally embrace Francois. It gives me hope for our denomination.

Mr. Rogers, in our context today…is taking a knee in solidarity with the those who are oppressed and discriminated against. And Mr. Rogers is a testament to the transformative power of love.

Love transforms us from the inside out and…

Love is resistance! Just Ask Mr. Rogers!

I look at our current state of church, not only the UMC but church in general and the exclusion and hate that is done in the name of love and I wonder where is the voice of Mary… where is the voice of Mr. Rogers? Where is the voice of the church who knows what love ought to be about? I look at the state of our nation and our administration and I wonder where the voice of the church is.

When children are ripped from their families filled with uncertainty and fear. When a 7-year-old Guatemalan Child turns ill and dies while in the custody of our government. When the government shuts down denying payroll to those who count on those wages and vouchers to pay their bills. When spending an estimated between 12 and 21 billion dollars [with a B] on a border wall…and we are told health care for all is too expensive, clean water can’t be cleaned up, sustainable energy is too costly, adequate housing can’t be provided… where is the resistance of the people of Mary, this prophet, this voice of one crying out to portend the Way things ought to be in the Kindom of God. This wall, this government shut-down, this treatment of immigrants and refugees, …these are not just political issues… these are moral issues… these are theological issues… these are children of God… each and every one of them. And the Love of Mary, the Love of God calls us into the fray this Christmas Season…to be a voice, to be active in the Way of Love.

Love is Resistance. It is So. It. Is. So.  Amen.

Rev. Kent H. Little

The Vulnerability of Christmas

December 23, 2018

Of course, this time of year I have been pondering, neck deep so to speak, the Advent and Christmas Season. One of the most profound images of the birth narratives of Jesus is that of vulnerability. The family is forced to make a long journey only to find the meagerest of shelter which sufficed for the moment. And so, Jesus would not come in the grand palaces of the wealthy and powerful, but the least of places celebrated by the lowliest of social status. Jesus was born, like you and me, vulnerable and dependent on his parents for his every need and wellbeing.

Using this image as a template upon our current society and I find it disturbing. Two weeks ago, a father and seven-year-old daughter forced to leave their country of Guatemala for their wellbeing, are placed into custody, a cell. After several days the little girl has seizures, has a high temperature, is dehydrated, and dies just a day later.

Our immigration system is broken, I am not sure how anyone could disagree. However, until we find a solution that welcomes those who seek refuge in our country we must act with compassion. Building a wall should not be who we are, we should be providing doors, wide open doors, of compassion and welcome. To lose even one child of God such as this seven-year-old from Guatemala is too many. Such a loss while in the care of our country is unjust, cruel, and wrong.

Too many in the halls of government, as well as religion, continue to posture themselves with power and privilege at the expense of the most vulnerable of the world. We must find our way to be a compassionate place of welcome and love. Otherwise this ever-widening chasm of division will continue a spiraling descent into fear of the other and a dispassionate isolationist existence.

Our country, our churches, our communities and people of faith must practice the welcoming and inclusive Way of Jesus especially for the most vulnerable, whether they are already among us or traveling great distances for the safety and wellbeing of their families. Our country, our administration needs to take a long look in the mirror and decide who we want to be; a place where the most vulnerable can find safety and compassion even I the most meager of shelter or a place where the norm is fear of the other, suspicion, and even loss of life. I pray we find our way to justice, kindness, and humility, where we love one another. Every. Single. Other. Until there are no others, only One Beloved Community of All.

May it be so. May it be soon.

Rev. Kent H. Little

It’s About the Children!

June 20, 2018

As a Christian clergy let me begin by saying our current leadership should be using the constitution not the bible to either uphold or critique a law of our land. There is a reason our founders included a non-establishment of religion statement in our founding documents, and the citation of any religious text, including the bible as a legal document to uphold the enforcement of a law is not only inappropriate but counters the very constitution that forms our nation!

As a Christian clergy my faith and the faith documents that are a part of the forming of my own journey shape how I choose to speak to and live my life in the country of my birth. While I am a staunch advocate of our founder’s commitment to the separation of church and state I am well aware of my faith’s influence on how I work to affect policy making that promotes justice, equality, compassion, and the common good for all persons not only of these United States but all persons around the globe. As a person of faith the general well being of all of God’s children, and that means all of humanity, is both a passion and foundational to my calling and vocation.

So, I implore the administration of these United States to stop using the bible and the Christian faith to support a perceived interpretation and enforcement of a law of the land. That should apply to any law, but especially an unjust law interpreted so as to separate children from their parents and place them in the equivalent of cages. Just STOP! One does not enforce an unjust presumed law simply because it is on the books! One should choose to break that unjust presumed law and then change it!

I have been dismayed, disheartened, and angry at the attempts to justify the separation of children from their families simply because it is the law. I am sick to my stomach at the current administration blaming everyone but themselves as if they are powerless to do anything but put children in prison. I am furious at persons who say if they did not want their children in prison they should not have come here illegally. I am livid that anyone, for any reason would try and justify putting children in chain link cages!

Our immigration system is broken. We cannot not continue to victimize the victims who come here seeking refuge and sanctuary. For those who say they need to come legally, few of those crossing our borders have the kind of resources or the time available to navigate the complicated and time-consuming process that we as a nation set before them. Many of them come here with no other choice, literally running for their lives with nothing but the shirt on their back, if that, with no where to go and nowhere to return. It is a privileged and uncompassionate position to look down on these persons with such hate and judgement! We need to welcome them and find a way to help them become citizens without fear of being returned to the violence and hopelessness they have fled.

That being said. I really don’t care what the argument is that attempts to justify pulling families apart and placing children in prisons of chain link fence, tents, and detention centers… there is no justification, it is wrong, immoral, and heinous!

As I said, we need to rectify this as a country, honoring all of the people who are in our midst regardless of their religion or lack thereof. However, if I were to seek a citation from my faith tradition it would not be a reference that says we have to follow the law regardless of what it is because it is the law. I would choose a citation such as the words of Jesus who spoke of this journey of life and faith this way, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” This administration and its attempts to use the bible to promote heinous acts as a way to somehow appeal to their base with religion is at best misguided and manipulative and at worse and blasphemous and evil. This administration and its unjust policies, and too many in our country who support such policies, will reap what it sows’.

It is time for the church, it is time for our citizens, it is time for all persons not only here in this country but across the globe to stand up and speak, and act, and to say enough is enough! It is time for all of us to take a stand, to speak up, and to make justice happen! Silence cannot be an option! I believe the character of our nation is at dire risk, but I also believe in the genuine goodness of those of us who believe in compassion, justice, and love for all. But we must rally together and make a difference and fight for the common good of all persons. Until that day when all persons, ALL persons are welcome at the table of abundance and hope.

May it be so! May it be Now!

Rev. Kent H. Little

Maybe the Church is Dead

May 20, 2018

Today is the Sunday in the Liturgical Season of the church when we celebrate Pentecost. Some say this is the Birthday of the Church. Some of us recall the story from the book of Acts about the Disciples gathered in a room and there is a sound like a rushing wind. And the Spirit like tongues of fire appear and rest on the heads of those gathered and they begin to speak in various languages. When the people outside hear all the commotion and speaking they are in wonder of what is going on and some of the crowd accuse the Disciples of being drunk. And Peter stands up and proclaims they are indeed not drunk but inspired by the Spirit to remind the people God is still at work, young and old, male and female, will prophesy and bring the good news of God’s love and justice to the world through this event.  It is a Birthday Party! The church is being born! Break out the balloons, the wine, the party hats, the cake! Let’s have a party! A 2000-year-old birthday party.

But, then I wonder…as I look across the expanse of the Church and its presence and image in the world….

Is the church too tired? Is the church too worn out? Has the church finally become irrelevant, out of touch, stuck in its stale and ineffectual dogmas and doctrines, stuck on life support and no one has the ability, courage, or compassion to pull the plug? I hear the voices of some colleagues and others who say what the church needs is an old-fashioned revival… we need to get back to the way things used to be, back when the church was new and fresh and just getting started when preachers and lay folks were on fire with the spirit like that first Pentecost and the sounds of rushing winds and the vision of flames and the sound of diverse languages were the norm… we need a dose of the old-time religion. The problem with that is those who often long for, yearn for, the way things used to be… the ones who long for a revival of the church and a fresh outpouring of the Spirit will often tell you exactly what that Spirit will look like and exactly where it will take us, which, is not necessarily something new…

But rather perhaps it just keeps the church on life support longer as we tell it what it should say and do and be. The church longs for the way things were, in the heyday, in the grand old days, in the good old days, when we knew exactly what we believed, how we were to behave, what we were to do… life and faith were simplistic… days when the cliché of “The Bible Says It, I Believe It, That Settles It,” was the mantra…back when we knew what to expect and didn’t have to think and feel so much…. Maybe that’s what we need to do, just we sit by the bedside of the church, listening to the hum of the systems, and wait for a miracle revival to bring it all back. But nothing seems to be happening and sometimes, sometimes, it even seems to be getting worse, more disconnected, unresponsive, more distant.

As I was pondering the church in this light it made me think of the movie some years ago… “The Sixth Sense” the story of a successful psychiatrist who is trying to help a young boy who sees ghosts, but the psychiatrist’s life seems disconnected, his family distant and unresponsive, there is just something not right, it feels like he is just going through the motions with not much success at anything, until the end, when he discovers… he is dead, he just didn’t know it.

And I wondered, maybe for all intents and purposes, the church is dead, it just doesn’t know it yet. Today we celebrate the birthday of the church, but I wonder, maybe it is too late?

You have probably noticed by now, I did not use the passage from Acts and the traditional reading for Pentecost Sunday today. I used the Hebrew Scripture reading for this Sunday, the reading from Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones. I used it because of the stark image of death, pondering perhaps, is this where the church is today? Dead, Dry, Piled Up, Deserted, Unknowingly Gone, Irrelevant?  I used this reading because it is a national story, it is a national prophecy. It is the story of not individual faith, but of a people, and as I ponder the image of the dry bones of the people of Israel for Ezekiel I have to ask myself, is the church dead and it just doesn’t know it yet.

The Church is certainly tired. The Church is certainly Tattered. And as I look out across the landscape of the church in our nation I have to consider the church is dead.

The Church is dead when it participates/remains silent in the demonization of the poor and the programs of social uplift helping feed and clothe God’s children.

The Church is dead when it participates/remains silent in the dehumanizing of immigrants and the separating of mothers and fathers from children through deportation and punishes children whose parents chose to escape torturous conditions.

The Church is dead when it claims it loves all and includes all and continues to deny LGBTQ persons full access in its life.

The Church is dead when it ignores the cries of those incarcerated unjustly and without recourse.

The church is dead when it refuses to stand for the full equality of women both within its institutions and in society.

The Church is dead when it categorically proclaims those who disagree with its doctrines and dogmas are destined for a hell of God’s choosing.

The Church is dead when it turns a blind eye/remains silent to the sins of its nation and leaders and buys into partisan politics.

The Church is dead when it does not speak up in defense of our school children because of its love of guns.

The Church is dead when it participates/remains silent, consciously and unconsciously in the evil of racism.

The Church is dead when it says everyone should only speak English when Pentecost is testimony against such things!

The Church is dead when it would rather split over who it can keep out rather than finding a place for everyone.

The Church is dead when it would rather cater to its membership than serve its community.

The Church is dead when it is more worried about how things have always been done rather than dreaming about how to embrace new ideas.

The Church is dead when it gives up on being the prophetic voice of change. The Church is dead when it would rather look back on the old dry bones of past ideas, past days, past preachers, past teachers, past unrealized dreams.

The Church is dead when it refuses to listen to new leadership, new innovations, new ways… the Church is dead when it is more focused on surviving than it is on thriving.

Maybe… the Church is Dead.

And then, sometimes things need to die before resurrection can happen…

And you know what? Says God to Ezekiel. God is in…The Church of Jesus is in…

The Prophecy Business…The Love Business…Is in the Resurrection Business!

Because … Love, True Love… Never Dies!

The Church is in the Resurrection business because that is what we do!

You can’t kill a church grounded in…

Steeped in… Saturated in… Immersed in… Dripping with… Oozing with… Wrapped up in… Inundated with… Besieged with…

LOVE… Pentecost is about the love of God for ALL persons! Pentecost is about bringing new life and insight to the world…

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it Lifts the poor and supports programs of social uplift…

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it stands with immigrants and their families…

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it speaks up in support of LGBTQ persons in the full life of the church and community.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it disdains the unjust incarceration practices of its nation.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it votes to support the FULL equality of women in the church and society.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it Uses its prophetic voice to say love conquers any kind of hell that others may proclaim.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it points out the sins and injustices of its nation and leaders.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it puts the lives of our children before the agenda of violence!

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it condemns racism in ALL its forms!

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it opens its doors to ALL persons!

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it serves its neighborhoods and community.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it embraces new understandings and ideas.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it learns from its past but doesn’t live there.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it finds its prophetic voice of Justice, Compassion, Welcome, Life, and Love!

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it is inspired by the Spirit to remind the people God is still at work and Love is the Way!

The Church or portions of it as we have known it…

The Church or portions of it as we know it…

May be in its last throes of death… or worse…

But, we are an Ezekiel Church!

Prophecy to these old dry Bones… says God.

Live… LiveLOVE

For it is the power of love that will renew and resurrect the best of what is to come…

This is So. This IS So!  Amen!

 

Call Me a Dreamer

May 18, 2018

So, I’ve been doing a lot of pondering lately about the state of our union. Union…a funny word actually, especially in terms of what I see happening in the news, on social media, and in our society. We are anything but united. The only union I seem to see is us versus them, whoever us is and whoever them is. (I just sent chills up the spines of my English teachers). It seems to me we only unite with those who hold our same biases, prejudices, and bigotries. Now, before you call me out, I am no less guilty. I too tend to gather with those who are of like mind. And in general, I do not believe there is anything wrong with that.

When this dis-union becomes problematic is when we begin to think us or them are less than, less than us, less than them, less than worthy, less than enough, less than…human? And as a result, become targeted by violence of word and deed. Think about it, in our tradition, every since the story tells us Cain knocked Abel in the head with a rock we have been identifying those who are less than and imprisoning them in camps, building walls to separate, hanging, beating, shooting, and otherwise trying to eliminate the other who are other than us.

Just the history of our own country, this dis-unified union… the government sponsored and sanctioned genocide of Native Americans, called them uncivilized animals, thus justifying the atrocities we committed against them. Forced slave labor of Africans, brought over on ships and tortured, beaten, stripped, whipped, lynched, and called less than human, uncivilized animals, which once again we justified our actions because they are less than. African Americans who still face devastating racism even now in the 21st Century, what is wrong with us? Indentured servants from England and Ireland and other countries, who for some reason could never quite get out from under the powerful elite who brought them here. We demonize the poor and those on assistance trying to feed their families while working two and three jobs and call them less than. Women, continue to be treated less than in the work place, in society, via access to better paying jobs, healthcare choices, and targeted as objects by powerful men who use and abuse and control. Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender persons who are fired from their jobs simply because of who they are and who they love…refused and turned away at the doors of the church and forbidden from full participation in the community of faith…beaten in the streets, laws passed to discriminate against them under the guise of religious freedom and I call BS! Religious bigotry directed at Muslims and other persons of faith because they practice differently, treated as other and less than. Immigrants and dreamers, refugees who have come here some legally and some undocumented because they are willing to do anything to save the lives of their children and families from the brutalities of their home country, treated like and called uncivilized and animals. families broken apart, children and mothers separated, because we see them as less than. This list is far too long.

Why do we continue to do this? Why do we as a country as a dis-union continue to fester the need to identify another group of humankind so that we can feel superior and special? When will we acknowledge we are all brothers and sisters, we are all children of the Divine, we all belong to one another… how long must we continue to pretend white, Christian, male, heterosexuals are the master species… I call BS!

This prejudice and bigotry, obviously, is not new, it has been going on for centuries… from the beginning really… to some degree early on it was about survival. But surely, we can evolve beyond what our earliest ancestors needed to survive. Surely, we can evolve beyond violence for violence and hate for hate. Surely one day we will lay down our weapons of war, our weapons of violence, our weapons of words and extend an open hand rather than a clenched fist…surely.

As for me, I will continue to hope, I will continue to speak to the best of who we should be, because even though my heart is hurting watching all this belligerent hate and vitriol language and violence laden dis-union of which we are a part… I still believe we can become who we are called to be. A beloved community where love is the rule and not the exception. A world where violence and war are a distant memory. A world where guns, and bombs, and swords, and spears are relics in a vast museum that simply serves to remind us of what we used to be and have no need of any longer. To such love and justice, I will commit my life. As a prophet not long ago once said… “You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Dream and act with me, won’t you? Make Justice Happen. Love as God Loves. Be the Very Reflection of God in the World.

One Day… One Day…May it be so. May it be soon!

Kent H. Little