Monday, October 26, 2009

"We are Able"

(A sermon on Mark 10:35-44, preached at All Saints' Episcopal Church 10/18/2009)

This is not universally known as a great moment for the Sons of Zebedee.

In fact, it’s pretty unbelievable that they ask what they do. “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand, one and your left hand, in your glory.” (Mk. 10:37)

I read a sermon online by an Episcopal Priest named Suzanne Watson, who all but says that this might be the dumbest thing ever said by one of the disciples. She writes:

The disciples’ impudence and lack of understanding is beyond belief. How could two people who are so close to Jesus miss the boat so completely? Did they forget the encounter with the rich man that occurred just before their request? Or the encounter with the little children? And have they not heard Jesus’ own prediction of what was soon to happen to him? In light of all of this, their request is truly astounding.

The disciples lambaste James and John as well, and before it gets out of hand, Jesus must remind them yet again that they are to live by different standards...not as wielding power to put one into submission, but using their power to be a servant...”a slave to all.”

I intend this morning to do something that might be out of the ordinary. I wish to not only defend James and John, but I want to raise their boldness up for us all.

Now, let me just back off this somewhat outrageous claim for just a moment: I don’t actually disagree with what the Rev. Watson is a reasonable to conclude that James and John are way off base here. Since the disciples in the Gospel are usually wrong about everything, Rev. Watson likely has a stronger case in concluding that these two guys are daft. The choice of the Isaiah and Hebrews passages suggest that those who put together the lectionary agree as well.

Perhaps I’m just in a rebellious mood, but I like James and John taking the initiative here. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” In other words, promise to do what we ask before we ask it. Jesus says nope, can’t make that promise until I hear the request. This isn’t really unexpected, and they make their request anyway: to sit at a place of power...the persons to either side of the ruler are the most trusted and the second in command.

Out of the blue, this seems like a grab for power.

However, before finalizing that opinion, consider the text that comes before this event...text we have not heard recently. There are three verses between the end of last week’s text...the account of the wealthy man...and this week’s passage.

Mark 10:32-34

32They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.

(a quick pause: what are they afraid of? By going up to Jerusalem, Jesus was provoking a showdown with the temple leaders. They were right to be afraid.)

Continuing on:

[Jesus] took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”

This is the third time Jesus has said something like this. The first time was back in chapter 8, just after Peter proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah.

The reaction he got then, was Peter openly rebuking him, and Jesus in turn rebukes Peter with “Get behind me Satan.” (Mk. 8:27-33)

The second time Jesus says something like this is in Chapter 9, while passing through Galilee. Jesus says, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” (Mk. 9:31)

The disciples’ reaction this time?

Mark 9:32 “But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.”

The Gospel of Mark is all about threes: the third time is often the charm. Combined with the fact that they are heading towards Jerusalem, it is not unreasonable to conclude that James and John have figured out some of what is to come. So there request to sit at Jesus’ hands in his glory isn’t just about a heavenly place, like one might suppose, but a request to stand alongside Jesus as he squares off against the temple leaders. There is more than a bit of courageousness to their request.

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” The students James and John are saying to their teacher: “allow us to take our place standing next to you. We’re don’t have to protect us.”

Jesus’ response is cautious: “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They replied, “We are able.”

It appears to me that Jesus is pleased with this answer, even though he certainly sees that James and John are somewhat naive:

“The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

This is not a rebuke. In fact, I think Jesus approves of the enthusiasm and boldness of James and John, even if their request is a bit off.

I understand that this is counter to the common way that this Bible lectionary gets used. I can certainly see value in warning against seeking power and self-justification. But I wonder if sometimes we take this warning too far...

For the second time in the past few months, I have been reminded of similarities between theater and church. The first time it was Paul Lister who did so. He suggested how interesting and helpful it is for people to get a behind the scenes look in theater. Paul thought that knowing all that goes into a church service, and what is and isn’t asked of volunteers, would help people find where they would like to further participate. These led to our narrated service on Ministry Fair day.

In preparing this sermon, I read another comparison of theater and church in Ralph Milton’s web blog “Rumors.” Milton wrote:

The theatre and the church are children of the same womb. They spring from a deep human need to act out the mystery, to recount the story, to relive the drama. Perhaps that’s because so much of our faith can never be adequately expressed in mere words....

Theatre is not a vocation for folk who wait around to be asked. Theatre involves going after the parts you want to play – going to auditions and trying to convince directors that you are just the right person for that particular role and that you are immensely talented....

We have this “thing” in the church about not putting ourselves forward. We wait to be asked, never telling anyone what it is we would like to do, and then we feel hurt when nobody asks. But nowhere in the Bible are we told to cower in a corner waiting for our gifts to be discovered. We are explicitly told not to hide our light under a bushel, but to “let your light so shine” that people may see what you can do and they will let you do it and in the process declare the greatness of God.

James and John reflect this boldness in this morning’s gospel. They are willing to stand up, and take on the power that Jesus calls them to. Perhaps they overestimate their abilities...perhaps they attempt to bite off more than they can chew...perhaps they don’t really understand what Jesus is asking of them, and what it means to wield power not in dominance, but as a servant...but their willingness to try and put themselves forward is essential for us today.

The church, our community, and I dare say the world needs our commitment of time, talent and treasure. What we have to give is an essential part of making the puzzle whole...and we all lose out without some boldness in speaking up and giving of ourselves.

Finally, I want to close with a word about affirmation. One reason James and John are classically rebuked in this morning’s text is the sense that they are seeking affirmation from Jesus. It’s fair to say that our motivation should not be about seeking affirmation, but it is very human to want affirmation: assurance that what one is doing is alright.

People often get themselves in trouble when they go looking for affirmation: they want to hear ONLY their rightness, and that often means hearing that other different ways are wrong. Sometimes, when affirmation is mixed with critique or criticism, we hear only the negative. Looking for affirmation often leaves us disappointed or misguided.

Having said this, I think it would generally help us if we spent a little more time affirming one another. I’m not calling for us to continuously pat each other and ourselves on the backs, and I’m not saying that we should only comment on the positive in everything and ignore problems, but I think that we sometimes forget to praise and give thanks for the people we encounter in our lives. We need to let each other know when they are doing good work, or that they have made a difference, or just that their effort and presence is appreciated. There is so much uncertainty in the world and in our lives. Part of our communal calling is to be public witnesses to the good found in the world...and in the people...that God has made.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bono, Obama's Peace Prize & the MDGs

I for one was surprised when it was announced that President Obama was getting the Nobel Peace Prize. "Too soon," I thought (and I'm a supporter of his, before and after the election).

Leave it to Bono to make me reconsider...

Bono's been writing Op-Eds all year long for the New York Times when he's not working on his day job (fighting extreme poverty) or his night job (lead singing for U2's 360 Tour). His latest effort, Rebranding America, may be his finest work yet!

There’s a sense in some quarters of these not-so-United States that Norway, Europe and the World haven’t a clue about the real President Obama; instead, they fixate on a fantasy version of the president, a projection of what they hope and wish he is, and what they wish America to be.

Well, I happen to be European, and I can project with the best of them. So here’s why I think the virtual Obama is the real Obama, and why I think the man might deserve the hype. It starts with a quotation from a speech he gave at the United Nations last month:“We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year’s summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time.”

They’re not my words, they’re your president’s. If they’re not familiar, it’s because they didn’t make many headlines. But for me, these 36 words are why I believe Mr. Obama could well be a force for peace and prosperity — if the words signal action.

Leave it to Bono to find the uncovered words of President Obama's that touches on the MDGs and relates to The One Campaign. Bono uses material from one of U2's new songs, Unknown Caller (restart, reboot) to make the rebranding point:

Many have spoken about the need for a rebranding of America. Rebrand, restart, reboot. In my view these 36 words, alongside the administration’s approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East and, by the way, creating jobs and providing health care at home, are rebranding in action.

These new steps — and those 36 words — remind the world that America is not just a country but an idea, a great idea about opportunity for all and responsibility to your fellow man.

All right ... I don’t speak for the rest of the world. Sometimes I think I do — but as my bandmates will quickly (and loudly) point out, I don’t even speak for one small group of four musicians. But I will venture to say that in the farthest corners of the globe, the president’s words are more than a pop song people want to hear on the radio. They are lifelines.

In dangerous, clangorous times, the idea of America rings like a bell (see King, M. L., Jr., and Dylan, Bob). It hits a high note and sustains it without wearing on your nerves. (If only we all could.) This was the melody line of the Marshall Plan and it’s resonating again. Why? Because the world sees that America might just hold the keys to solving the three greatest threats we face on this planet: extreme poverty, extreme ideology and extreme climate change. The world senses that America, with renewed global support, might be better placed to defeat this axis of extremism with a new model of foreign policy.

It is a strangely unsettling feeling to realize that the largest Navy, the fastest Air Force, the fittest strike force, cannot fully protect us from the ghost that is terrorism .... Asymmetry is the key word from Kabul to Gaza .... Might is not right.

I'm amused to hear Bono "talk" about melody lines instead of sing them, but I think he's right on here.The conversation with General Jones is fascinating, but I'll let you read it for yourself, and get to the connections to the Nobel Peace Prize:

The president said that he considered the peace prize a call to action. And in the fight against extreme poverty, it’s action, not intentions, that counts. That stirring sentence he uttered last month will ring hollow unless he returns to next year’s United Nations summit meeting with a meaningful, inclusive plan, one that gets results for the billion or more people living on less than $1 a day. Difficult. Very difficult. But doable.

The Nobel Peace Prize is the rest of the world saying, “Don’t blow it.”

Wow: that's a direct and daunting charge!!! Bono, however, is quick to get us all involved:

But that’s not just directed at Mr. Obama. It’s directed at all of us. What the president promised was a “global plan,” not an American plan. The same is true on all the other issues that the Nobel committee cited, from nuclear disarmament to climate change — none of these things will yield to unilateral approaches. They’ll take international cooperation and American leadership.The president has set himself, and the rest of us, no small task.

Forgive me for sounding like the gushing U2 fan that I am, but Bono is so good at always calling people to their part in it the call to action within every U2 concert, or the simple call to pay attention to what's happening in the world.Finally, the big finish:

That’s why America shouldn’t turn up its national nose at popularity contests. In the same week that Mr. Obama won the Nobel, the United States was ranked as the most admired country in the world, leapfrogging from seventh to the top of the Nation Brands Index survey — the biggest jump any country has ever made. Like the Nobel, this can be written off as meaningless ... a measure of Mr. Obama’s celebrity (and we know what people think of celebrities).

But an America that’s tired of being the world’s policeman, and is too pinched to be the world’s philanthropist, could still be the world’s partner. And you can’t do that without being, well, loved. Here come the letters to the editor, but let me just say it: Americans are like singers — we just a little bit, kind of like to be loved. The British want to be admired; the Russians, feared; the French, envied. (The Irish, we just want to be listened to.) But the idea of America, from the very start, was supposed to be contagious enough to sweep up and enthrall the world.

And it is. The world wants to believe in America again because the world needs to believe in America again. We need your ideas — your idea — at a time when the rest of the world is running out of them

AMEN AMEN AMEN!!! (And bravo Bono, as well!!!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All Saints' Littleton NH Facebook "Fan Box"

A fun new addition to my blog: scroll to the bottom of the blog to see the All Saints' Facebook "Fan Box." I'm grateful that so many people have already become fans of our church here in Littleton, NH. I'll try and post interesting thoughts and questions! Keep checking back, whether or not you live near Littleton!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What Must I do?

(A sermon on Mark 10:17-31, preached at All Saints' Episcopal Church 10/11/2009)

A man ran up and knelt before him.

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Trap,” Jesus thinks to himself. Another trick question...another question loaded with places to stumble and get in trouble. So Jesus answers in his skillful way, turning the tables and using the sacred texts.

“Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”

“A good answer,” thinks Jesus to himself. “Let them find fault with that!”

The kneeling man replies “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth.”

I imagine Jesus doing a double take at this response, and for the first time, he takes a good look at this man. The Gospel of Matthew describes him as a young man, The Gospel of Luke as a ruler. The key thing I think Jesus sees is a genuine man. Unlike the previous questions, this is not a trap, but honest questioning and concern.

I imagine this man in crisis of sorts. He has tried to live a good, honest life. He has followed all the rules and principles about righteous living. And yet...he senses there is something else. His life, at times, seems to lack meaning and purpose. Sometimes he feels lost, afraid, lonely, and even incomplete. There must be something that he missing.

So when Jesus lists the commandments, the man’s reply “I have kept all these things from my youth” is not a boast, but honest frustration with discovering that doing the commandments, while providing framework and discipline, has not produced enough meaning in this man’s life. There must be something else that he must do! Perhaps earning the promise of eternal life will be enough...

We are told that Jesus, after really looking at him, loves him. Jesus then replies “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mk. 10:21)

We are told that he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

I wonder a great deal about this answer from Jesus. Jesus has been teaching that we don’t “do” our way to heaven. We don’t earn God’s love, it’s given freely: it’s grace, God’s gift to us. It is as a child: vulnerable, and completely dependent on God, that we receive the kingdom.

Why then does Jesus give the man something else to do, and such an extreme thing at that? “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”

I don’t think I can fully answer this question. It’s not a simple new law to follow: if you do “a”, give away everything, you will earn “b”: eternal life. That runs counter to everything Jesus has been teaching.

There is, however, a clear message from Jesus here that wealth makes it hard for people to enter the kingdom of God.

Looking again at the man who poses the question, it is clear that he's got some things wrong. No one “earns” an inheritance. It is something given by virtue of blood relations: it is not to be won or earned (although, that doesn’t keep some family members from trying to earn more over others.) The kingdom of God is not to be earned by doing.

The man also seems to stress the “I.” What can I do? How can I save myself? How can I create meaning in my life?

When we learn of his many possessions, we can hear another dimension to this “I.” I have so much...I have so many things, but what I really want is more meaning...more love...more purpose. What is the one thing I must obtain to have these things, in this life and the next?

Consider the connection in this time (and to be honest, in our time as well) to having things and being blessed. The conventional wisdom is that if you have a lot, it is because God blessed you. The flipside is the often unspoken thought that those with little, those vulnerable, and those without power are not blessed by God. Jesus has been turning this thought upside down...saying that in truth God blesses the vulnerable.

The wealth of this man has kept him from being vulnerable. Charles Campbell writes, “Jesus confronts the man with his weakness, his captivity to possessions that prevents him from living into the full life of the kingdom. Jesus here names the “power” that holds the man captive and invites the man to step into freedom.” (Feasting on the Word, Vol. 4., Ed. David Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 169)

David Howell writes: “The disciples have just witnessed a painful moment for the wealthy man who leaves grieving. Christian tradition has assumed that he went away sorrowful because he was unwilling to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus. Another possibility is that he went away sorrowful precisely because he had decided to sell all he had and follow Jesus. That bold action would not have been emotionless. That would have been a decisive step into the future, resulting in an emotional letting go of all that he had and the relationships that came with his possessions.

In any event, the disciples are privy to just how painful steps into the future can be (whether the man did or did not give away his possessions). The kingdom of God is unfolding, but joining Jesus in kingdom activity and behavior is not easy and often is excruciatingly painful.” (Feasting on the Word, Vol. 4., Ed. David Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 166)

First steps are painful: attending the first AA meeting, calling the marriage counselor, talking with the son or daughter about sex or drugs, coming “out of the closet”, leaving a financially secure but spiritually bankrupt job, or perhaps even coming back to church after an absence. All not only require courage, but painful humility and sacrifice. And, yes, most of us the good fortune of being born in the Western World and not somewhere else, by the hard work of ourselves and/or our parents, and by our access to opportunity and education...most of us find ourselves wealthy in comparison with the vast majority of the world. Wealth is dangerous because even when you have it, you feel like there’s not enough, or you’re fearful about what happens if you run out, or envious of those who have more. Wealth ultimately teaches us that we can rely on ourselves rather than God or anyone else. (Mostly from David Howell in FOW as well, with a few things from me.)

And yet with wealth, something still seems to be missing.

Teacher, what must I still do???

My hunch is that most of us have encountered the traps of money. I also think that many of us have encountered the guilt associated with having money as well.

I don't have a solution for you, or even for me.

So, to be clear, I’m not here to say that you and I have to give everything we have away.

I’m also not going to tell anyone here what you must do with your money and wealth. But I do feel called to say that life in the kingdom of God is about caring for and sharing with everyone, and not about business as usual. Doing so is sure to create some anxiety, and even some grief...but there is also joy to be found.

Howell writes: “Those thick-skulled disciples had finally understood something: just how hard it is to change and to live out kingdom ethics. For them and us, Jesus holds out the hope that, with God, change and first steps are not only possible, but are already happening.” (Feasting on the Word, Vol. 4., Ed. David Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 168)

Perhaps that's what really happened with the man from this morning's Gospel. He may have gone away grieving that day. It's my hope that, by the light of the next day, he was ready to try and walk the first steps in making the kingdom of God a reality: for himself, and for the world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marriage and Divorce

(A sermon on Mark 10:2-16, preached at All Saints' Episcopal Church 10/4/2009)

“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Once again, we are faced with a troubling text from the Gospel of Mark. Last Sunday, I suggested some choices a preacher has in dealing with a difficult text that does not seem to offer the Good news: choose to preach on the Old or New Testament, pick out and focus on a good phrase found in the Gospel passage, or, as one visitor suggested: dump the preaching responsibility on the deacon. This week, we have another option. It is a common trait of the lectionary to have two occurrences in the Gospel. We have the teaching on divorce, and we have the “let the children come to me” story: two occurrences that do not seem to have a lot to do with each other.

Considering the rather short time one has for a sermon...or at least, the short amount of time most people should limit their sermons makes a lot of sense to preach on either one episode or the other. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that one of these excerpts is a lot more inviting than the other for preaching the good news of the Gospel. The children story is much more inviting and it seems more likely to encounter the Good News.

For the sake of argument...or perhaps to keep anyone from suggesting that I’m taking the easy way out...I want to start off with the section on divorce.

The first thing to notice is that Mark frames the passage with the suggestion “some Pharisees came, and to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?'” The point is that this is a loaded question. A trap has been set. There are other such traps found in the Gospel of Mark, like “should we pay taxes to the emperor (Mark 12:14), and “if a woman successively marries seven brothers, whose wife will she be in heaven (Mark 12:23). Those asking the question knew full well that Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife. Under Jewish law, men could issue a “certificate of divorce” to their wives. A woman receiving such would lose most of her rights, including losing any property she owned. Those asking the question are looking to drag Jesus into the debate of the times: what are the legitimate grounds for divorce. “Was divorce justified only in cases of sexual impurity, or could a man legitimately divorce his wife for any fault, including perhaps the “fault” of simply being less appealing than another woman.” (Feasting on the Word, Vol. 4., Ed. David Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 141-142)

The Pharisees question assumes the practice of divorce, and it is here that Jesus refuses to go along, saying that the intention of God is that those joined in marriage remain so. The phrase “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate,” says that ideally there would be no such thing as divorce. Jesus doesn’t say that divorce isn’t allowed, but instead says that it’s not what God, (and hopefully, anyone who enters into marriage), ever intended. Jesus chooses not to enter this debate in the legalistic way the Pharisees are hoping for.

The trap for us, hearing this today, is to think that Jesus’ words are against anyone who divorces. David Howell shares this story:

She did not look like a Pharisee. She appeared harmless: a flowered-print dress, short in stature, glasses too large for her rounded face. I thought she was going to welcome me to the church. It was the reception at my very first pastorate. I extended my hand as she approached, opened my mouth---but before I could say anything, she said, “Preacher, do divorced people go to hell?”

Almost dropping my fruit punch, I thought, “I just passed my ordination exam. What is this? Another test of some sort?”

I raced through my mind’s data bank for something I had learned in pastoral care, or even New Testament courses, that I might offer her. (and get myself off the spot),

Finally, I spoke, “Better people than me get divorced.

During a longer conversation in her home, she told me about her son who had recently divorced. Behind her question at the reception was a deep concern for her son, who had chosen to end a troubled marriage and was about to remarry. As a serious student of the Bible, she knew Jesus’ words to the Pharisees (who put him to the “test” with the question about divorce) and his words to the disciples (“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her”). Although her faith would mature later, at that time my parishioner was a distressed mother who held rigid beliefs about sin and punishment. She believed that her son was endangering his very soul.” (Feasting on the Word, Vol. 4, Ed. David Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 140-141)

We error if we take Jesus’ words about divorce and marriage as rigid, legal principle. Jesus is moving beyond the technique of the Pharisees, where a legalistic approach can answer everything. We must remember that everything in the Gospel of Mark is framed by Jesus’ opening words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” So, naturally, Jesus focused on what it means to be the kingdom of God...and in terms of the intent of marriage, it is a deep mutual respect of the covenant between two people that God is part of. Howell writes that Jesus preached what was now possible in the unfolding kingdom of peace, love and justice. Jesus was declaring the beginning of a new era in which relationships could work if each party approached the other with mutual respect and concern. It was now possible to go beyond what was just permissible to what was kingdom enhanced. Unfortunately, then and now, not everyone chooses to live out the ethics of Gods kingdom. Abuse and neglect are substituted for respect and concern. The reality is that marriages, having great potential as places of mutual respect and concern, are also sometimes breeding places for abuse and neglect. In a broken world, divorce is sometimes necessary. (FOW)

I think that it is helpful now to bring in the second occurrence in this morning’s Gospel. For the third week in a row, we have Jesus’ speaking in the midst and on behalf of children. “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15)

I do not believe it is a coincidence that children and vulnerability have been part of these difficult texts. Charles Campbell writes that Jesus reminds his disciples that one enters the kingdom of God only by receiving it in complete dependence on God. One does not enter the kingdom through the fulfillment of any abstract legal principles, including those related to divorce and remarriage. (Feasting on the Word, Vol. 4, Ed. David Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 143)

With this reference to let the children come to him, Jesus offers comfort to those divorced persons who may feel that they are unworthy of God’s love and God’s kingdom. Remember again, children are compared to the “servant of all,” meaning the one without power and the one who is vulnerable. Any woman divorced in Jesus’ time was certainly one without power and was vulnerable, and Jesus insists that the kingdom of God belongs to them. Thankfully, the Good News found today in the Gospel text is not only that the kingdom of God is near, but also that those who suffer the pain and brokenness of divorce are invited not to remain alone, but are welcomed into the loving arms of Jesus, and claimed to be part of the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Bishop on Health Care

My Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, writes "Where are Christians in the Health Care Debate?"

It's really well written, and I wanted to pull out a few moments (and, in reality, almost entirely reprint the whole statement here on my site):

Now that we are finally having the health care debate, you never seem to hear from (or about) those 50 million uninsured people – women and men who span all age groups about equally. Nor do we hear from the voiceless 10 million children in similar straits.

Listening to the angry public hearings being held by Congressional members, one wonders how many of those objecting to health care reform are among those without insurance or care. Rather, we are hearing from those who already have insurance, don’t want it to change, and don’t want it to cost them anything to insure all those without. Has there been a single person at one of these hearings that has said, “I lost my insurance a year ago when I lost my job, but I don’t think we should change the system we have”? According to both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, God judges us by how we care for the most vulnerable among us. Where are the Christian voices calling for care for all of us?

Bishop Robinson weighs in on the quality of our current health care in the United States with an eye-opening clarity:

There is much talk insisting that we in America have the best medical care on earth. Actually, that’s not true. What IS true is that a FEW of us have the best medical care on earth, while the rest have some portion of that care, and some only at the hands of charity work by hospitals and caregivers. In truth, our “best medical care on earth” gets us a ranking of 23rd in infant mortality, 20th in life expectancy, and 67th in immunizations (just behind Botswana). To our shame, race and income prove to be the most trustworthy indicators of how bad one’s health care will be.

Tough words indeed. Bishop Robinson, like myself, is not professing to have all of the answers or is using his position to advocate a particular plan over another:

There are many strategies and issues to be debated. Honest disagreement is entirely appropriate. And I am not arguing for one plan or another. But, what is not acceptable, from a Christian standpoint, is “I’ve got mine. To hell with you!”

The solution, however, clearly involves a change in tone as well as a willingness to compromise for the sake of all.

As Christians, we are called to be in constant conversation with the world. It’s time we weighed in as Christian voices to demand progress on this vital issue which threatens the lives of so many vulnerable people – many of them sitting beside us in the pews, just one illness or operation away from bankruptcy, disgrace and tragedy. And as Christians and citizens, we must decry the hostile tone of this debate, and call for a return to the goal of the common good. Members of the early Church gave up ALL their goods to the community, and then those resources were re-distributed “as each had need.” Surely, we can sacrifice a little for the good of all. Can’t we?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

U2 Pilgrimage UPDATE: Video of Emmett

I just realized I have video of Emmett's trip around the stage with Bono (from my earlier post)!!!

At one point, you can here me say to Jason: "He's getting tired." How cool is that???!!!

U2 Pilgrimage: An Unforgettable Moment

Ok...I still haven't shared my views on the three U2 shows I saw: would you believe me if I said I'm still processing?

Work has been busy as well.

So, I thought I'd share a great article I just found from the 9/13 Chicago concert we were at. This ten year old kid's birthday present was going to the U2 concert with his Dad. There was yet another present awaiting him. The article was written by Sara Clarkson of The Doings-Clarendon Hills, and the whole article can be found here on @U2's website:

When Emmett Grundberg went to the U2 concert for his 10th birthday on Sept. 13, he certainly did not expect lead singer Bono to ask him personally if he was having a good time."Then he asked if I wanted to go for a run," Emmett said. Bono and Emmett circled the massive stage at the concert, drawing cheers and applause from the tens of thousands of people at Soldier Field that night.This would be an unbelievable story for Emmett's friends and classmates and even for Emmett's family were videos not posted on You Tube as well as on Flickr.And, it's a good thing that there's proof because Scott Grundberg--Emmett's dad, the purchaser of the concert tickets and Emmett's "chaperone" for the evening--suddenly found himself at the concert alone. Without a bird's eye view of the stage he was unable to follow the whereabouts of his son after Bono led him away."Emmett's on stage with Bono,"

Scott texted his wife, Jane. Back home in Clarendon Hills and confused by the message, Jane tried texting and even phoning Scott to no avail. It wouldn't be until 1:30 a.m. with Scott and Emmett safely home that she would find out that the text was serious.Meanwhile, back at the concert, Scott said he was thinking: "Okay. Bono just stole my kid. How cool is that?"

Images and video of Emmett's run with Bono have been pouring in from concert goers so that Emmett (and his dad) can prove that they didn't make the story up. What a great birthday!!!

(Turns out I have a video of Emmett running around the stage!!!)