What to the Immigrant is Veterans Day? -- Sightings (John Sianghio)

My maternal grandfather was an immigrant from Holland, who served the United States during World War II overseeing the Port of Embarkation in San Pedro, CA. By that time he had become a citizen, which I think back then was a bit easier, at least for Europeans. While only a small percentage of Americans serve in the military today, quite a few are immigrants. Some have died in service to a country they have yet to become citizens (indeed some vets have been deported because of undocumented status prior to enlistment). John Sianghio, a Philipino-American and doctoral student at the University of Chicago, asks the question "what to the immigrant is Veteran's Day?" It's an important question, and he raises important issues. So, I share this Sightings piece with you. What do you say in response?


Streams of Righteousness - A River Crossings Reflection (Amos 5)

18 Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
    Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light;
19     as if someone fled from a lion,
    and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
    and was bitten by a snake.
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
    and gloom with no brightness in it? 21 I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
    I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos5:18-24 NRSV
As my River Crossings journey (sabbatical) nears its end, I continue to discover texts and readings that are suggestive of what it means to walk in the presence…

Vesper Time (Frank J. Cunningham) -- A Review

VESPER TIME: The Spiritual Practice of Growing Older. By Frank J. Cunningham. Foreword by Joyce Rupp. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017), xxviii + 146 pages.
I am growing older. My hair is getting thinner and grayer; my joints can get stiff; I don’t have as much energy as I once did. Then again, I've entered my seventh decade of life, so what should I expect. As I look back on my sixty-one plus years of life, I have a lot of memories, some are good and some are not. Although I’ve not yet retired, I spend time wondering about what is next. What will retirement hold for me? After all, if I’m like growing numbers of older Americans, I might live into my 90s. Being that I find myself in this place in life, a book on the “spiritual practice of growing older” seems appropriate. Indeed, I found Frank Cunningham's book Vesper Time to be insightful and encouraging. He might be writing as one fifteen years or so my senior, but the wisdom present in the book is worth attending to even fo…

The Day Will Come . . . A New Creation -- A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 23C (Isaiah 65)

Isaiah 65:17-25 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
17 For I am about to create new heavens
    and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
    or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
    in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
    and its people as a delight.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
    and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
    or the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
    an infant that lives but a few days,
    or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
    and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the wor…

Prayers for Veteran's Day -- 2019

I have been asked, once again, to offer the invocation and benediction at the Veteran's Day observance in Troy, Michigan. I offer these prayers, modified somewhat from the prayers I offered at the same event in 2017, in honor of those who have served and with a prayer for peace on my heart.
God of peace,
We gather today to give honor to women and men who have served their country with dignity, honor, and courage. We seek to recognize the willingness of our veterans, who have shown a willingness to serve in difficult and often dangerous moments, whether they were drafted or volunteered.
As we gather here today, we pray that a spirit of peace will come upon the nations of this world, so that young women and men will no longer be called away from family and friends and put in harm’s way. We look forward to the fulfillment of the prophet’s words, who spoke of a day when the nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall no…

By the Rivers of Babylon (Psalm 137)

This interpretation of Psalm 137, by Boney M, which draws from a Psalm that speaks of the experience of the Jewish exiles being separated from their homeland, is a bit untraditional, but worth listening to as part of our River Crossings Journey.

As you listen/watch the video of the song "By the Rivers of Babylon" from the 1970s, you can read the opening lines of the Psalm, and consider the idea of exile and being a refugee. 

Psalm 137:1-4New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
1 By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows[a] there
we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?

Berlin Wall -- 30 Years Back

The Berlin Wall was erected a couple of years after my birth. It fell a few months prior to the birth of my son. For nearly half of my life, the Wall stood as a barrier in Berlin, dividing a free city from one that was not free, all of which was surrounded by a nation ruled by a totalitarian government that was beholden to the Soviet Union. Then came the fall of the Wall.

I remember the night vividly. Along with the rest of the world (including KGB agent Vladimir Putin), I watched as the infamous Berlin Wall was mounted by mostly young people from the West. Where once guards from the East might have shot at them, there was no response. Change was in the air. The Wall which symbolized the divide between East and West, between totalitarianism and freedom was soon torn apart, piece by piece. As the Wall fell so did the Soviet Empire. It would take time for East and West Germany to reunite, but what a powerful day it was.

I must admit there was great euphoria in parts of the world, inclu…