Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Remembering Pearl Harbor -- 75 Years

It was 75 years ago today that a force of Japanese naval bombers hit Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into World War II. Thousands died that day, and many thousands more in the years to come. Franklin Roosevelt called it a "Day that shall live in Infamy." Unfortunately it was not and will not be the only day of infamy to strike our world. War is something that has as yet not been overcome. We have yet to turn our swords into plowshares. 

I have been to Pearl Harbor twice, both times we visited the Arizona Memorial. The second time around, we also visited the U.S.S. Missouri, the battleship upon which the Japanese surrender was signed. In the picture above you  can see the Arizona Memorial from the deck of the Missouri. To the right you will find the names of those who died that day, those entombed in the waters below the memorial.  Below is what remains of one of the stacks. 

During my ministry in Lompoc, I had a parisioner who was a survivor of the Arizona. I heard his story. He was fortunate that day, but many of his shipmates were not. A few years later, my father would serve in the Navy, at the conclusion of this war. 

When you go out to the memorial you may get, as I did, especially the first time I visited, this eerie sense. If you pay attention, and keep quiet, you will sense that this is a sacred place. It is a call to remember those who died, much like the Vietnam Memorial Wall. 

I share a few pictures that I took in 2002, so that you might join me in remembering those who died that day. I would ask that you also pray that we would learn how to keep from repeating the past, so that peace might be made known. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Marching to Zion with Song - Lectionary Reflection (Isaiah) for Advent 3A

By Thomas [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Isaiah 35:1-10  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

35 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
    and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
    the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
    “Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
    He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
    He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
    but it shall be for God’s people;
    no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
    but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain joy and gladness,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

               On the third Sunday of Advent, we light the candle of joy. Even a casual reading of Isaiah 35 suggests that joy is a central theme of Isaiah 35. That is because the “ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing.” Isaiah 35 has an eschatological tone to it, at least as we read it today in the context of Advent. Looking at the text more broadly, this word of joy is part of prophetic promise on the part of Yahweh to deliver the people from captivity. The word begins in Isaiah 34, which offers a word of judgment on Judah’s neighbor, Edom.  There is a reason why we read Isaiah 35 and not Isaiah 34 in the season of Advent. Chapter 34 offers a rather bloody picture of God’s judgment. There’s no joy present in that chapter, but it is present in chapter 35.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Moments with Martin Luther (Donald McKim) - Review

MOMENTS WITH MARTIN LUTHER: 95 Daily Devotions. By Donald K. McKim. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016. Xvi + 105 pages.

                On October 31, 2017, we will observe the 500th anniversary of the launch of the Protestant Reformation. That is, if we assume as is traditionally done, that the Reformation began when a German Augustinian monk and professor of Bible nailed his “Ninety-Five Theses” on the door of Wittenberg Castle. In the statements posted to the castle door on October 31, 1517, Luther laid his grievances regarding the doctrine and conduct of the Western Church, the church we now call the Roman Catholic Church. Numerous other reformers would emerge in the coming years, but Luther boldly set out a new path for Christians, aided to a great degree by the German princes who embraced his vision (or at least hoped to make use of his effort to gain control of church lands). Whatever your view of Luther, he left a significant legacy to all who followed.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Prayer for Wisdom on Peace Sunday (Advent 2A) - Psalm 72

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the needy,
    and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
    and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.

I am not preaching today. The choir is sharing the message in music (I'm narrating the cantata). Since I've already written a reflection on Isaiah 11, the first reading from scripture, I thought I would share this reading from Psalm 72, which is the appropriate Psalm for the Second Sunday of Advent.  Considering everything going on in this nation, it seems like an appropriate reading. The Psalmist prays that the king would receive God's justice, so that he might judge the people, especially the poor, with justice. By judgment we don't mean something akin to the American justice system, where the poor often receive the short end of the law. The request is that the ruler will deal with those on the margins in such a way as to lift them up. Indeed, the prayer is that the ruler will deliver the needy and crush the oppressor.

I'm not very confident that the "rulers" of America, especially those coming into power, will respond positively to this calling. However, I must put my trust in God, praying that the vision of justice outlined here might come to fruition. We also need to remember that prayer isn't just something we do in the closet or in the church. Prayer puts us in a position receive God's wisdom and call to justice. So, let us give thanks to God that God has chosen to be present with God's creation. That is, God's glory will "fill the whole earth." That is a vision worthy of Peace Sunday!

Friday, December 02, 2016

CCCU Tries to Thread the Needle - Sightings (Kathryn Lee)

This week's Thursday edition of Sightings hits close to home. The essay focuses on a recent decision by the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities to require of members that they officially affirm a "traditional" understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman. Such a requirement is new to the Council. Why it hits close to home is that the college I graduated from and even served as adjunct faculty many years ago was an original member of the CCCU, and continues its membership. I don't know where the college stands on the issue at this point, nor do I know what kinds of conversations are underway. I do know that many alumni would disagree with the CCCU policy, and I expect that a number of current faculty would oppose it as well. That college, Northwest Christian University, is broadly affiliated with the churches of the Stone-Campbell Movement, including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a denomination that has in its General manifestation affirmed the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in church and society. I don't know how this growing understanding of sexual orientation is influencing conversations there, but as Kathryn Lee, who teaches at another mainline Protestant affiliated university, this is problematic for us. So I share this as one who has come to be fully affirming of LGBTQ persons, and hope and pray that my college will be a safe place for LGBTQ persons and their allies to live and learn and grow in faith.

CCCU Tries to Thread the Needle
By KATHRYN LEE   December 1, 2016
Eastern Mennonite University | Photo credit: Dyoder / Wikimedia Commons (cc)
Issues of human sexuality continue to challenge evangelical Christian higher education organizations. As Martin E. Marty discussed in the October 17, 2016, issue of Sightings, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship recently announced a new policy to let go of staff who support same-sex marriage. Now the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) is implementing a new membership policy which requires full-voting members to affirm that marriage is only to be between a man and a woman. Other “core commitments that guide [the CCCU’s] advocacy” are “sustainability and the preservation of the Earth,” “the well-being of the underserved and marginalized,” “the preservation and advancement of religious freedoms,” and a commitment to “humble and courageous action that honors the unity of the human race, values ethnic and cultural diversity, and addresses the injustices of racism.”