2017 Advent Season Week 1 – Hope

Week 1 of the 2017 Christian Advent Season is ending. The theme – Hope – focuses on the  possibilities embodied in the Messiah.  Those possibilities inspire optimism. The Messiah’s arrival:
• encourages and empowers the oppressed;
• critiques oppressors and gives them room for repentance;

• lifts up the least of us;
• delivers from the burden, consequences, and power of sin;
• makes possible reconciliation between humankind and God, their Creator;
• redefines the term “family;”
• challenges the legitimacy of corrupt institutions and systems;
• affirms the value of all humankind;
• promises redemption, regeneration and resurrection of all that is useful and valuable;
• demonstrates godliness- unconditional love, peaceable living, forgiveness, empathy, unselfishness, and generosity.
The previous list highlights why Advent is both festive and somber. It is the celebration of the possibilities that Christ’s birth provides. It also causes believers to bow in reverent humility when they, self included, comprehend the God’s great love for creation. Like the psalmist we are compelled to sing out:

Psalm 8 (New Living Translation)
For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by a stringed instrument.
1 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
2 You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, by
silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.
3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned theme with glory and honor.
6  You gave them [responsible for taking care of ] everything you made,
putting all things under their authority—
7 the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.
9 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Footnotes:
a 8: title Hebrew according to the gittith.
b 8:2 Greek version reads to give you praise. Compare Matt 21:16.
c 8:4 Hebrew what is man that you should think of him, / the son of man that you should care for him?
d 8:5a Or Yet you made them only a little lower than the angels; Hebrew reads Yet you made him [i.e., man] a little lower than Elohim.
e 8:5b Hebrew him [i.e., man]; similarly in 8:6.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007.
Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.
All Rights Reserved.

Happy Advent!!!

 

 

First Sunday in Advent 2017, A Morning Prayer

Dear God, glory to your name!

We acknowledge you as Creator, Redeemer, and sustainer of life.

In your mercy hear the prayers of your people.

Forgive our sins and grant us the strength and wisdom to resist and overcome concerted and sustained attacks.

Heal our wounds and restore us to wholeness.

Open our hearts to share our material wealth and talents.

Remind us that time is a gift; help us wisely use it to your glory.

Create in each of us a clean heart and renewed spirit that seeks only to glorify you.

Restore to us the joy of your salvation.

To that end, send a spiritual revival.

Help us live in such a way that others come to believe: Jesus is the only reason for the Christmas Season.

In His name we pray, amen!

Shame on Donald Trump!

Donald Trump’s characterization of professional athletes as S.O. B.s for kneeling and praying for justice for all during the playing of the national anthem at sporting events is indefensible and reprehensible. The President’s comments were disrespectful and they encouraged and incited divisiveness.
It is almost inconceivable that the elected leader of a democracy sought to denigrate citizens for peacefully exercising their constitutional right to free speech, by referring to the athletes’ parents as “bitches.” It is equally unimaginable that thoughtful Americans would cheer the President as he shamelessly insulted private productive citizens.

Unfortunately, that is what happened. Some members in the crowd cheered heartily in response to the President’s lewd characterization of athletes and their parents. Two frightening and tragic images came to mind as I listened to the crowd erupt in cheers.

First, I thought of what it must have been like during the age of the gladiators – mad crowds cheering wildly to encourage atrocities against other people. And more recently, angry, unruly mobs frenzied about witnessing public executions.
Shame on Donald Trump, one of the most influential people in the world, for abusing the power of his office to bully everyday citizens, and to inspire disunity among Americans -the people he is supposed to represent. In Alabama, Mr. Trump did not behave presidentially! He showed no concern for the common good.

 

Ways to Stay in Love with God

Several years ago I read Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living. The small but compelling book was written  by the late United Methodist Bishop Rueben P. Job.  Ever since my  initial reading, the book’s theme: “stay in love with God, do good, do no harm,” has tugged at my spirit.  In fact, over the years I  have frequently found myself thinking about it, reciting it to myself, trying to apply it to my life, and sharing it with others. Two questions that arose from those contemplations, and the answers, are noted below.

The Questions

How does one stay in love with God?

How is that love manifested?

The Response –   

  1. Get to know God intimately through Scripture.
  2. Put God first.
  3. Look for ways to please God daily.
  4. Memorize verses of Scripture for personal spiritual growth.
  5. Meditate on Scripture day and night.
  6. Practice godly living.
  7. Pray always and about everything.
  8. Praise God!
  9. Have faith in God!
  10. Worship God (Worship stems from and takes place in the heart.)

 

Dick Gregory: the passing of a legend and a prophetic voice

I have read and received the news of Dick Gregory’s passing with sadness. His presence will be greatly missed and his absence from the world of social activism deeply felt.

To his credit, he has left an indelible mark in history. Dick Gregory made the world a little bit better by trying to do good. He was a force to reckon with because he exercised good stewardship over the gift of superior wit that he received from the Creator. He honed that gift and used it to try and improve the quality of life for others. He did so in part by raising consciousness about the need for social justice, including equality.
What a wonderful way to live: to influence the world for good!

My hope is Mr. Gregory realized the positive impact he had on many.

God rest his soul and comfort all those who love him.

Peaceful Protestors – living banners for unity and justice for all

Thank God for people of goodwill who exercise the courage to stand against injustice and intolerance! Such people are, I am convinced, the backbone of civilization. They have, do, and will continue to exist for as long as humanity occupies this planet.

Contemporary, peaceful protestors like those in Chralotesville, Virginia, Boston, Massachusettes, and other places present a counter vocie to bigoty, bullying, hatred, and oppression. They stand in the shoes of America’s Freedom Riders (civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and following years to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional.) They also tread the trail of the abolitionist, people who worked to end the African and Indian slave  trade and to set slaves free.

Hooray for peaceful protestors, they are walking banners for unity and justice for all!

Hold Guilty Police Officers Accountable

The recent acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez, a former Milwaukee, Wisconsin police officer, for the murder of motorist Philando Castile, during a routine traffic stop, has once again spotlighted a serious flaw in our criminal justice system.  A police officer has gotten away with killing an innocent civilian, and with demonstrating reckless disregard for the lives of the murdered victim’s daughter and girlfriend, both of whom were in the car at the time of the traffic stop. None of the car’s occupants posed a threat to Yanez. 

In almost every profession there are consequences for behaving recklessly on the job or for neglecting to exercise reasonable care while performing one’s duties. The exception seems to be law enforcement.

The acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez coupled with the other recent spate of police officers murdering African Americans, and walking away from those murders with no criminal punishment is all the evidence one needs to understand that police officers are the one group of professionals who get to violate their professional oath- to uphold the law and to protect all the people they are paid to serve – without severe consequences.

When charges are not filed against officers who commit murder, and when charges are filed but juries refuse to convict guilty officers, several troubling messages are sent. The first two messages suggest police officers are above the law, and that the lives of those victimized by police do not matter. Both messages are wrong. Everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law. Police are not above the law and every life matters!

Police officers who commit murder should be held criminally accountable. An innocent person is dead. The deceased person’s family and other loved ones are left to suffer through a great tragedy that was completely avoidable, but for the actions of a corrupt or reckless police officer.  

The financial settlement that some families of persons murdered by cops receive may provide financial relief. However, the settlement does not take away the grief or compensate for the snuffed-out lives of those killed. Moreover, monetary settlements paid by an agency fail to satisfy the need for guilty police officers to be held criminally responsible for their unlawful behavior.

Unfortunately, in most cases, the police officers directly responsible for the deaths of innocent people are not held accountable. Instead, the officers are given a pass and in some instances coddled by various groups who try to paint the officers, not the deceased persons, as victims. That is dishonest, immoral, and unjust!

Police caught in the commission of crimes, who are either not charged for the crimes they are guilty of, or who are charged and stand trial; but who juries refuse to convict are free to enjoy the rest of their lives in relative peace. That is wrong and unjust!

As previously mentioned, the acquittal of a guilty police officer completely dismisses the value of the deceased victim’s life. It says the murdered victim’s life did not matter. Therefore, the person directly responsible for that murder, the police, will not be held accountable. The second message is a consequence of the first, it says police officers are above the law and they have the right to, without just cause, take the lives of innocent, law-abiding citizens. Both messages are wrong!

When juries in criminal cases refuse to convict guilty officers, they reinforce the notion that all lives are not deemed equally valuable, and some lives don’t matter at all. Furthermore, the acquittal of guilty cops causes additional harm to the murdered victims’ families, and creates or exacerbates tension between law enforcement and the communities they are paid to serve and protect.

Another consequence of acquitting guilty police officers sends the message to corrupt or irresponsible officers that there is no penalty for wrongfully taking the life of an innocent human being. That message is wrong! Police are not supposed to be above the law and every life does matter.

The unjust killing of nonthreatening African Americans by police officers cannot continue. Law enforcement communities must adopt a zero-tolerance policy for police brutality.  Officers guilty of police brutality should be rooted out and banned from working in any peace officer capacity.

Such action will send a strong message to police officers that it is against the law for them to hide behind the cherished blue uniform and a deadly weapon to act out their personal biases. It will also affirm the truth that: all lives matter and police are required to treat every human being with respect and dignity!

Changes in the way police officers respond to citizens, especially to African Americans, must come from within the law enforcement community. Police must objectively police themselves. They must hold corrupt and dishonest cops to the same standards to which they hold suspects. Only then will there be a semblance of justice for all.

Obviously, no system is perfect and even the best attempts to build a just community will not root out every bad apple. However, law enforcement can create a climate within the force that makes it unacceptable for dirty cops to use their shields as weapons to do wrong. 

Police officers need reminding that they are hired to serve and protect all citizens; they will be punished for the reckless use of their firearms, and their position does not give them the legal right to act out their prejudices and fantasies.