Archive for May, 2008

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor…

May 24, 2008

“That We All May Be One” is usually understood on this blog to have something to do with the unity of the Church. But, of course, it has broader implications. Not the least of which is the desire that all humankind be one — living together in some kind of peace and harmony.

How then do the draconian raids by the immigration service on defenseless undocumented workers in Iowa and California advance that end? Some 270 have now been jailed from the Iowa raid (after being retained in, of all things, a building known as “the Cattle Congress” in Waterloo, Iowa!).

These are people, of course, who were recruited to come to work (documented or undocumented) by flyers and other material sent to Guatamala, Mexico, or wherever) and who are simply doing the best they can to support their families, both here in the States and back home. Just as immigrants have done for generations in this ‘land of the free and home of the brave.’

But who’s in jail? The bosses and corporate moguls who bring these people here or the workers trying their best to make a new life? Guess.

I’m not naive. I know we have to pay attention to security at our borders. I know that unbridled “illegal” immigration must be checked. But surely there are more thoughtful and compassionate ways to address the issue than herding people into a cattle congress and jailing them with little or no due process.

The only witness to our prayer “that we all may be one” in this sad spectacle is that the churches — Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal and others — have been united in their oppostion to these raids.

I guess that’s something.     

Jewish – Christian Dialogue

May 20, 2008

Over the next couple of days, I will be participating in a Jewish – Christian dialogue at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This conversation has been underway for several years now and is made up of Christians from various member communions of the National Council of Churches and Jewish leaders from such major organizations as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai Brith and others.

The attempt is to once again strengthen Jewish – Christian relations which has become strained in recent years because of disagreements over the Middle East. Clear in our support of Israel’s right to exist and flourish within secure borders, Christians are also concerned about the plight of the Palestinians and particularly Palestinian Christians who are leaving the Holy Land in record numbers because of the ongoing conflict there and despair over any apparent solution.

Christians and Jews share so much in common and have stood together for so many years in the country around fighting anti-Semitism, the civil rights struggle, and often issues of war and peace as well. It is sad to experience estrangement over differing perspectives on some aspects of the peace process in the Middle East.

Our group has made good progress even including a joint trip to the Holy Land where Jews could show Christians what they wanted us to see and we could show our Jewish colleagues what we wanted them to see. We have discussed such volatile issues as Christian Zionism, Palestinian Liberation theology, and just what a “two state” solution might look like.

We have wrestled together with how to understand the Old and New Covenants and just what it might mean to say — as Vatican II (and St. Paul!) did clearly — that God’s Covenant with the Jewish people is “irrevocable.”   One thing we know: Christians are “branches grafted on to the root of Israel” and we are bound together in adoration and service of the One True God.

May that which binds us together keep us faithful to God and to one another.



Thinking on Pentecost

May 11, 2008

The preacher made a couple of interesting points in his Pentecost sermon: One was that, while we often hear that the “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, etc.” who were in the crowd and recipients of the Holy Spirit were representative of the universal salvation proclaimed by the Gospel message, actually they were in town for the Jewish festival of Pentecost, most of them would have been Jews!

And his second point was that that — contrary to the message of corporate identity the Jewish people had always majored in — one of the messages that Jesus brought was that God was interested in the individual as well…in establishing a relationship with humankind as individuals, not merely as a race or nation of people.

Well, of course, like all such observations, these are too simplistic. There were surely Gentile “believers”, God-fearers in the Pentecost crowd who also received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And, in any case, even if the “Parthians, Medes, etc” were representatives of the Jewish Diaspora, there is still a universal message sent by that pentecostal Gift.

And, while Jesus certainly was interested in individuals, his message of the Kingdom of God surely had something to do with nations and peoples as well. And, even though St. Paul does talk about the Holy Spirit’s gifts being “inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (I Cor. 12:11), isn’t the whole point of this chapter and section of First Corinthians that “the body does not consist of one member but many” (I Cor. 12:14)?

So…I might want to enter into conversation with the preacher about all this. Because…I’ve been thinking about what he said.        

And isn’t that what good preaching is supposed to make us do?



Preparing For Pentecost

May 6, 2008

O Giver of life,

who brought all things into being,

sustain and replenish your whole creation

that it may reflect your glory.


Come, Holy Spirit.

fill all ife with your radiance.


O Spirit of Truth,

who convinces the world of sin,

consume, as a mighty fire,

the powers of evil that bind your people

and set us free to walk in your light.


Come Holy Spirit,

and illumine our hearts and minds.


O Spirit of unity,

judge, restore, and call us again.

bestow on us the gifts

that build us up into your people.


Come Holy Spirit,

and light the flame of love

on the altar of our hearts.


O Holy Spirit,

transform and sanctify us,

that we and all people

may have life in all its fullness.


Come Holy Spirit,

Renew the whole creation



(A prayer from the Seventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches)