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Turns out the Texas shooter abused his wife, his child and various animals. Then there’s the guy who snapped a woman’s neck and gouged out her eyes for daring to reject his marriage proposal. And the ongoing accusations of exploitation and rape by Hollywood power brokers against women and children. Seems like hurting someone smaller and weaker than yourself is so endemic, it’s become part and parcel of ordinary life.

It probably always was, of course. Landowners abused serfs. Queens abused ladies-in-waiting. Children attack smaller children. It’s a jungle out there, folks, in the truest sense of the metaphor: Unless you’re an apex predator, watch out.

If you want to know where God is in all of this, look down, to the smallest and weakest of us. God always stands with the abused, the poor, the people on the fringes. That’s where God lives. Don’t believe me? Read the Sermon on the Mount again. Count the number of times and ways Jesus says that the last will be first, and the first, last. Picture poor Lazarus in paradise while Mr. Dives smolders away for all of eternity. And (at least from what we know), Dives never actively abused Lazarus; he just ignored him. How much greater will the punishment be for those who do mete out abuse?

So what can be done? Must we patiently wait for the next life for justice? Me, I’m going to pray The Litany of Nonviolence, written by the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, IN. Feel free to add your voice.

Provident God,
aware of our own brokenness,
we ask the gift of courage
to identify how and where we are in need of conversion
in order to live in solidarity with Earth and all creation.

Deliver us from the violence of superiority and disdain.
Grant us the desire, and the humility,
to listen with special care to those
whose experiences and attitudes are different from our own.

Deliver us from the violence of greed and privilege.
Grant us the desire, and the will, to live simply
so others may have their just share of Earth’s resources.

Deliver us from the silence
that gives consent to abuse, war and evil.
Grant us the desire, and the courage,
to risk speaking and acting for the common good.

Deliver us from the violence
of irreverence, exploitation and control.
Grant us the desire, and the strength,
to act responsibly within the cycle of creation.

God of love, mercy and justice,
acknowledging our complicity
in those attitudes, action and words which perpetuate violence,
we beg the grace of a non-violent heart.
Amen.

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Human beings are fallible.  We prove that on a daily, or sometimes on hourly, basis.  Yet, we so often choose another human being as our touch stone.  When that person fails us, we feel lost.  We get angry.  We pitch a fit.

I truly think that’s half the reason we feel so shocked when our idols stray.  How dare they mess up when we are looking to them for guidance?

But people stray.  Check out the book of Judges and see how often “the people sinned in the eyes of the Lord.”  I’m always a little surprised that the author didn’t add “again.”  The people sinned in the eyes of the Lord AGAIN.

So why do we keep looking to each other to guidance when we have God?  God who stuck by Israel?  God who hears our prayers?  God who shows us the way if only we will remember to listen?

–SueBE

 

 

 

Recently, we’ve been working as a congregation to discern God’s plan for us.  Discernment is tricky.

We want our marching orders to involve the things that we consider our strengths.  Studying Judges has brought home for me that that is not how God works.  The people God picks are often too unsure to be military leaders (Gideon), to tangle-tongued to speak publicly (Moses), and just too self-centered to be religious leaders (Mathew the tax collector).

And yet, these are the people God chooses.  From day-to-day they may not have known what the big picture was.  They just knew what God wanted them to do.  Now.  Tomorrow? That wasn’t always entirely clear.

But that’s okay.  Step by step, we can build something grand.  We just have to hear the instructions.

–SueBE

When my friend Lill and I started working on Inaugurate Light together, we had a goal.  We wanted to add something consistently positive to social media.  We were tired of watching our friends and family snipe at each other about politics and all the baggage that entails.  Why couldn’t people just be nice?

And we’ve done it.  Since January 1, we have posted a different image and quote almost every day.

But I have to admit.  I’m not always positive.  Sarcasm is my native tongue and sarcasm, as we all know, is rarely kind.

When I saw this verse from Ephesians, it really hit home.  I may pop if I can’t speak my mind, but I’m going to try and try hard.

Since y’all are the praying kind, I’d appreciate whatever back up you can give me.  I know when I remember to look God’s way, I’ll have His help as well.  But I can use all the help I can get.  As one of my son’s favorite TV characters would say “Please and thank you.”

–SueBE

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Mark 8:36 NIV

There have been a lot of scoundrels in the news lately. I’ve seen a lot of people say this: “It’s a sickness.” But that’s not true.

People who use power to demean are not addicts. They live in fear and hate themselves. The world is very big, so they put on the trappings of power so they don’t appear so small.

While it is certainly a pathology, it’s not a condition that can’t be controlled.

When a young (at the time) actor inappropriately touched a VJ on MTV as a way of saying “hello,” what he was really doing was trying to gain leverage. He seemed to be unsure of himself and felt a pressure to be larger-than-life, so he did something to discombobulate her.

Emma Thompson described the scandal surrounding a predatory Hollywood producer as a manifestation of “extreme masculinity,” but I would suggest that the opposite is true.

I think such men don’t feel strong and powerful at all. They more likely feel utterly bereft. On paper, they’ve got everything that should lead to fulfillment, confidence, and peace. But somehow, they still feel as insignificant as they did before they achieved “success.”

I don’t know if there’s a “rehab” for this kind of situation. Some would say the answer is church. Getting right with God. That would be true, of course, but it wouldn’t be genuine for such an individual to find faith if it’s forced.

Going forward, maybe it’ll be easier for victims and bystanders to speak at the moment of impact. To say, This isn’t right. Cut it out. Speaking truth to power isn’t easy, but if we all stood up together, it could make a world of difference.

God never promises that it is going to be easy.  Today in Sunday School, we began our discussion of Gideon.  Gideon was one of the people who God chose as a judge.  Except for Deborah, judges weren’t judges in the sense that we use the word.  They didn’t sit in judgement.  They were leaders, warriors.

But Gideon was a timid man.  He lived at a time when the Israelites hid in caves.  They had to sneak out to harvest their crops and thresh grain.  If those occupying their lands saw them preparing grain, they would swoop in and take it.

Gideon was hiding what he was doing, threshing grain in a wine-press.  He was not a bold man.  He asked for sign after sign, unsure that he was hearing God’s message correctly.  Gideon had a lot to overcome.

What is God calling you to become?  It probably isn’t something easy.  If it is, you would have done it already.   There are almost surely obstacles in your path.

Still, you hear God calling.  Look up.  Look around.  What are you being called to do?

–SueBE

 

 

Wildfires in California, mass shootings, disease, distress, acts of God…the last few weeks have pushed us all to the very brink. It is almost shocking that we can still be shocked. And yet.

When I am upset, the words pile up in my head in messy heaps, struggle like fish vying to surface. My brain bubbles and freezes, too knotted up to make sense of things. Sometimes, when life has you all but beat, there is nothing you can do but pray.

Where is the sense in senseless?
How do you mean for us to parse
a life sentence that confounds us?
Where noun is chaos and verb can
never be undone? What then?
Now is the time for old words,
rich in thous and thees.
When nothing comes
but humble prayer,
the rest, at last,
is silence.

I find myself wondering this as I listen to the people around me use various tragedies to further their own agendas and gain screen time for themselves.  I will continue to post images but I’m not going to have much to say.  Why?  I’ll be offline looking for those who are helping quietly.  In the background.  Out of the spot light.  Christ’s hands on earth.

–SueBE

We live in a strife-filled age.  No, really.  I’m not joking, but I am stating the obvious.  This weekend, I listened to a class descend into chaos as people talked one over the other.  One of the class members had brought up the situation in Puerto Rico.  “How dare that mayor be so rude!”

cricket cricket cricket

We never got past this one particular comment because one person would say X.  Then the next person would say Y.  Back to someone else supporting X.  Ooops, now we’re back to Y.

It wasn’t until I saw this Aristotle quote that it all clicked.  Each and every person there expected everyone to agree.  If they were listening, wouldn’t that be in the end result? Wouldn’t they naturally see the superior nature of X opinion and just cave?

But people don’t work that way.  If there are 9 people in the room, there are at least 26 opinions on any given topic.

In calling us to care for the widow and the orphan, I can’t help but believe that God wants us to listen to these people.  Their experiences may be very different from our own, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t listen.  And part of listening?  Acknowledging that you’ve heard.  “I hear you.”  You don’t have to restate that you disagree and that you are oh-so right.  You can listen and still hold on to your belief all the while letting someone know that you hear.

–SueBE

 

It seems like justice should be easier to achieve.  Why can’t we get the supplies to Puerto Rico that the people so badly need?  And get these supplies off the docks and out into the country itself?  Why do Americans have to go overseas for life saving surgery?  Why does the ACLU have to get involved before a city requires just action from its police force.

The reality is that it is a lot easier for us to look after our own self interests.  To ask ourself ‘what is this going to cost?’ instead of ‘who is this going to save?’

God knew that.  Christ knew that which is why he reminded his disciples – this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  (John 15: 12).

–SueBE

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