Meditation Monday- A Saint for the Whole Church

Yesterday in Rome, Pope Francis canonized several saints including Oscar Romero, the late Archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated as he stood at the altar on March 24, 1980. He is a witness to the whole Church of commitment to standing up for justice for those on the margins as an essential aspect of living the way of Jesus. He was initially seen as a conservative supporter of the status quo, but he allowed God to open his heart to the plight of poor people in El Salvador who were being brutalized by the regime in power. In his daily reflection yesterday, the Franciscan priest and spiritual leader Richard Rohr shared the following quotes from the last days of Oscar Romero:

In his homily on March 23, 1980, the day before he was murdered, Romero addressed the Salvadoran military directly:

Brothers, we are part of the same people. You are killing your own brother and sister peasants and when you are faced with an order to kill given by a man, the law of God must prevail; the law that says: Thou shalt not kill. No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. And it is time that you recover your consciences. . . . In the name of God, then, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise up to heaven each day more tumultuously, I plead with you, I pray you, I order you, in the name of God: Stop the repression!

The next day, following his sermon, a U.S.-supported government hit squad shot him through his heart as he stood at the altar.

Only a few weeks earlier, Romero had said:

I have often been threatened with death. I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. I say so without boasting, with the greatest humility. . . . A bishop will die, but God’s church, which is the people, will never perish.

The video clips below provide more information about the life and witness of Oscar Romero. The first clip is a report focused on his canonization as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. The second in the trailer for the 1989 movie Romero starring Raul Julia. It is a powerful presentation of the events that transformed Oscar Romero’s life and that led him to give his life in faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I recommend this movie with the disclaimer that it is not suitable for children because of the vivid depictions of the evil and violence against which Oscar Romero stood. Thirty eight years after his enemies thought they rid the world of Oscar Romero, his spirit and witness live on and continue to inspire people all over the world.

Meditation Monday - Called to a Different Way

Before followers of Jesus were known as Christians, the book of Acts tells us they were called The Way. That’s because following Jesus is not so much about professing a set of theological beliefs as it is living into a new way of life through the power of the Holy Spirit. In our deeply divided nation, we would do well to recover what it means to be followers of The Way. In a recent online newsletter, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund, summarized the way of Jesus by quoting the well known Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and contrasting each one with the ways of division and hostility that characterize much of our current national life. Any of us who “believe” in Jesus are called to a daily commitment to grow into living the Way of Jesus and to resist the world’s way:

Lord, You told us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
The world says, “Blessed are those high on spirits.”

You said, “Blessed are those who mourn.”
The world says, “Blessed are those who maim and torture.”

You said, “Blessed are the meek.”
The world says, “Blessed are the arrogant and the strong.”

You said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
The world says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for fleeting power and fame.”

You said, “Blessed are the merciful.”
The world says, “Blessed are the mercenary and punitive.”

You said, “Blessed are the pure in heart.”
The world says, “Blessed are the hard of heart.”

You said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
The world says, “Blessed are the weaponmakers.”

You said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”
The world says, “Blessed are those who persecute for the sake of riches and race.”

You said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil about you falsely on my account.”
The world says, “Blessed are you when people applaud and praise you for your own sake.”

Help us, Lord, to find our way to You.



Meditation Monday - "I Am Here" - The Voices of Jesus' Little Ones

Yesterday’s lectionary gospel passage was Mark 9: 38-50. It included the following challenging words of Jesus, "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.”

At New Community Church, Rebecca Cole gave the morning message. She works for the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and shared about a recent trip she took along with other United Methodist leaders to an immigrant detention center along the US-Mexican border. She reminded us that there are still hundreds of children separated from their families as the result of US policy. The message became much more personal as Rebecca read from two note cards she brought home on which were written the prayers of two children shared during a worship service at the detention center. The following words were originally hand written in Spanish:

Please my God, help me leave here. I want to go with my family in New York, please God. Thank you brothers and sisters for praying for us immigrants.

Thank you, my God. You give me once again this day. I ask you to the favor of praying for me and my family members also and for me and my travel, too. And also I give thanks to my God. I am here.

These simple prayers remind us that the injustice of immigrant children separated from their families is still very real even when the news cycle moves on to other “issues of the day.” In light of Jesus’ words from Mark 9 quoted above, we know what matters to Jesus and what should matter to any and all of his followers. I am grateful that Rebecca reminded our church of the voices of these little ones. Hearing their voices, we are called to use our voices to affirm God’s love for them and to stand up for justice for all the little ones near and far.

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Mediation Monday (on Tuesday) - Remembering the Witness of 4 Little Girls

A few days ago on September 15 was the 55th anniversary of one of the great tragedies of the modern civil rights movement. On that Sunday morning in 1963, a bomb planted by KKK members exploded beneath a stairway in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL killing four girls - Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair. These precious children were preparing for to go to a worship service where the sermon was to be titled “A Love That Forgives.” Three days later on September 18 (55 years ago today), Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the eulogy at the funeral service for three of the girls. In that eulogy, Dr. King emphasized that God can redeem the most evil acts in ways that transform people’s hearts and minds:

And so my friends, they did not die in vain. God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force  that will bring new light to this dark city. 

The spilled blood of these innocent girls may cause the whole citizenry of Birmingham to transform the negative extremes of a dark past into the positive extremes of a bright future. Indeed this tragic event may cause the white South to come to terms with its conscience. 

 

Dr. King went on to challenge those suffering from that violent evil act not to respond in kind but to dare to believe that even those white people who perpetuated racism could be changed:

And so I stand here to say this afternoon to all assembled here, that in spite of the darkness of this hour we must not despair.  We must not become bitter, nor must we harbor the desire to retaliate with violence. No, we must not lose faith in our white brothers. Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality.

In the face that great tragedy and suffering 55 years ago, Dr. King called those people to actually believe and practice the way of Jesus. As we face division, racism, and acts of hatred in our time, Dr. King’s words and the lives of those four little girls still call us not only to believe in Jesus but to dare to live the way of Jesus. Posted below are some pictures from the park located across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church. The witness and legacy of the four little girls continues to touch the lives of thousands of people reminding us that hate can never defeat love.

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