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Pomona, CA 91768

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Pastor’s Blog

Julie’s Jar, “Charlottesville”

The phrase “politically correct” is most often used to marginalize speech and people. It is used to dismiss and disregard concerns that are legitimately raised by people who desire to bring greater reconciliation among all people. On Sunday during our time of prayer, I stated that there was a time in our country when signs that read “Whites Only” and “Colored Only” were ‘politically correct’. These signs went unquestioned and to question them meant you were being politically incorrect. For that you could be beaten and/or killed.

doveI remember my southern Indiana relatives sitting in our front living room one afternoon. They’d all moved to Southern California, having followed my grandmother Jewel. My great-aunts and uncles sat around visiting and talking. I distinctly remember an awkward moment: awkward for my parents and awkward for me. The “N” word was being used with frequency and derisive laughter. I could see from the expression on my parents’ faces that it made them uncomfortable, but they didn’t say anything. It wouldn’t have been “politically correct”. Besides, family and conversations about anything perceived as political can be a minefield.

Let us cease and desist from the use of this phrase “politically correct” and instead listen to the pain that is underneath and within the requests for kinder speech, for people to be treated with respect. I wish my parents had been able to speak up for the people not in the room that day who were being maligned simply because the color of their skin and their life experience were drastically different from those speaking. “Lord, help me seek to understand rather than be understood.”

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia are evidence of the work we still have left to do to heal from the sin of racism. The deck is stacked against those who have for centuries been marginalized in our country, who were slaves, who are descendants of slaves. Racism is real in our country and it is a sin against God, who calls ALL of us Beloved.

Today, I am thinking of Bob Gillette and Jerry Page, members of our church now deceased. They both landed on the beach at Normandy on D-Day. I am wondering what they would think of the defense by some of the people whose ideas and ideals they fought to silence.

The pernicious presence of racism varies throughout our country. Anything less than an unequivocal condemnation of actions and activities that perpetrate it indicate support for the continuing of this cancer that plagues our nation.

Jesus had no problem calling out the evil of his day that was perpetrated in the structures of his society. “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the best seats and places of honor. They devour widows’ houses…..” (Mark 12:38-40)

Julie’s Jar, “Green Chalice”

green-chalice-testA guiding value for Christians is found in the saying of Jesus from Matthew 25:45, “when you did it to the least of these, you also did it to me”. This phrase is one of the most foundational for Christians, guiding our response to pain of the world we believe God wants to address. The “least of these” can be anyone who is made vulnerable by life’s circumstances, regardless of how those circumstances came about. This value is what stirs up most of my felt responses when I learn of the suffering of others. The cost of pollution is one of those issues that agitates my spirit because it literally makes people, our water, our soil sick. The cost is usually counted as collateral damage, the cost of “doing business”. But who pays the costs, in days lost to work, school and life as in pre-mature death? The cost is usually born by the most vulnerable.

Recently, I learned that 4-17 tons of coal dust is lost in transportation on every train carrying coal. Yes, EVERY train transporting coal spreads between 4-17 tons of coal dust depending on the amount being carried, wind conditions and more. Coal is transported via open car rail. I wondered, “Why can’t it be covered?” when the narrator said, “It can’t be covered because of the danger of combustion.” Right, it might blow up. That would be bad too.

I wondered where all that coal dust goes as trains traverse cities, neighborhoods, deserts, and the open plains. No one is required to protect the people, the plants and animals that are involuntary affected; there is no recourse for them. Who speaks for the least of these?

We are a Green Chalice congregation. That means we do all we can on our site to walk more gently on God’s good earth. It also means we develop our own capacity to speak for the least of these adversely impacted by the abuse of the environment that support all life. Sometimes, the least of these are even us.

People from different faith traditions collaborate to advocate for the least of these impacted by our own misuse of Creation. Georgia Interfaith Power and Light is one example. Our own Green Chalice ministry is another. Advocacy means speaking up and speaking out in public, about public policies that both help and hurt “the least of these”. The ministry of Jesus was and continues to take place in public and is especially an expression of Good News when we take that ministry out into the public.

Julie’s Jar, Christian Unity

The first two Sundays of July were focused on Christian unity. In what has been called “the priestly prayer” from the gospel of John, Jesus prays for his followers. In the setting, Jesus is alone, praying this long prayer. Who wrote down the prayer? Who recorded it?

It is a memory of what Jesus meant to a community of Christians over a hundred years after the death and resurrection event. It is their understanding of what Christ would hope for them in their current circumstance. In my sermon on July 2nd, I reflected on the impulse to seek Christian unity that was part of our heritage as a denomination. In our current circumstance, I imagined Christ might pray for us, something like this:

 “Father, I have made you known to those you gave me. They are yours and they are trying to keep your word. Give them the power to be still and know you, to be still and know you are also theirs. Protect them, even from themselves God. Interrupt their thoughts with your grace to remember they are yours and you are theirs. Open their hearts to see into the hearts of their neighbors. Give them courage to gaze upon your compassion that pulses through them and patches the world together. And through this they will come to recognize and realize that they already are one, with you, with me, with each other, with all of creation.”

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Julie’s Jar

One out of every three bites of food you eat is the result of a pollinator. Every third bite we take, we should be thanking a pollinator: butterflies, bees, etc. I learned that there is National Pollinator Week: June 20-26. Thank a pollinator you have strawberries, zucchini, avocados, oranges, almonds and more.

Many pollinators are on the brink of extinction. The Monarch population has dropped by 80%.

Yes, pesticides are in part to blame, but the biggest contributing factor to the pressures pushing pollinators to the brink is loss of habitat. We are crowding them out. Ironically, humans take more space and will get less food, a LOT less food. In fact, humanity simply cannot survive without pollinators. Flowers

A retired fire fighter in San Francisco put in plant called “pipeline plant”. He did this to help provide habitat for a unique Northern California butterfly: the Pipeline Swallowtail Butterfly. He planted the plants 17 years ago. This year the butterflies are back; he waited, tending the plants for 17 years! “Let us run the race with perseverance.” (Hebrews 12:1) What a faithful expression of hope!

The community of God’s creation is interdependent. Humanity, in our arrogance, often pits our needs over and against the rest of creation when in reality, our future is tied to the well-being of the planet and all who dwell on and in it. The interdependence of God’s creation serves to remind us that none of us is self-made or self-sustaining. We require communities and that includes pollinators!

Julie’s Jar, “Defining Success”

~Defining Success~

My 8th grade science teacher required a weekly task. Copy a science article. That’s right, copy it. I’m not sure if he thought we’d actually read it as we copied it, or even hoped we might learn something as we copied. Dutifully, every week, I found a science article in a newspaper or magazine and copied.  This was WAY before one could “Google” a topic. The only one I remember was one about a lunar landing. I remember it primarily because I stayed up until 1 o’clock in the morning to finish it.

There was a competition in the class to get the highest grade for this assignment. Most everyone got an A. But Mr. Spiros started giving out A pluses. There was one student who consistently received 5-8 extra pluses. The record was 10 pluses: A ++++++++++! The rest of us were convinced her mother typed them, did the artwork and more.

I was determined to get more than a mere A or A+. I cut out the pictures and wrote out the article. I made it look especially good. At about 11 pm, my dad wandered into the dining room wondering what I was doing. He simply turned in disbelief and went back to bed. No offer of help, no “way to go; atta girl”. I was on my own. When the assignment was returned to us, I got A+++. I determined to never do that again.

We define success in many ways, but it usually involves doing better than someone else. It’s competition. We are taught that from the time we are quite young. Our education system continues to encourage that; winning is more important than learning. It’s the non-curriculum we teach.

success

What makes a congregation successful? Is it the congregation with “a great youth program”? Is it the congregation that goes out to the parks and feed people who have no shelter? Is it the congregation that builds affordable housing? Is it the congregation with the most trendy worship? Very often, success is seen in numbers: how many in worship, how many dollars to benevolence, how many programs for people to attend.

What makes a congregation successful? A community of faith that follows Jesus has a barometer of a very different sort. It is not about being successful; it is about being blessed. The community of the blessed looks nothing like what our society deems successful: those who mourn, the poor, the peacemakers, the meek, the pure of heart, the gentle, the merciful, those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

And what about you? What makes you a success? Frankly, you already are. You are God’s beloved already. There is nothing we have to DO to win God’s favor. You are already in God’s favor; you never left it. Success as a category for understanding our life is inadequate. For Christians, the categories are instead beloved and blessed.

Life is NOT a competition between winners and losers. Jesus invites us in to a deeper experience of Reality. Jesus invites us to hear and know that we are beloved and blessed.