As we’ve traveled the road from Easter to Pentecost, my mind keeps drifting back to the church where I grew up…The First Presbyterian Church in Boonton, NJ. This was especially true on the Sunday our text was about the Road to Emmaus.
Every Sunday, we saw this beautiful stained glass depiction of Christ on the Road to Emmaus at the front of the sanctuary, serving as a reminder that we may never know who the strangers we encounter on our road really are.
Leonard Pitts, Jr., in an Op Ed piece written for the Miami Herald, comments that Christianity has failed, time and time again, to come to the forefront on issues of Social Justice. We’ve dragged our heels, waiting for someone else to take the lead, and, as a result, Christianity has become known as “conservative.” We may or may not feel that we deserve that label, but see what Mr. Pitts has to say and judge for yourself. His editorial is well worth the few minutes it takes to read.
Thanks to Julie Pohlman for calling our attention to this most timely editorial.
From FCF: What do you think about the views expressed in this editorial. Has Christianity really been hijacked by conservatism while we have stood aside passively? How & how not? What can we do to influence the popular message of Christianity – impact the message that is delivered to the world at large?
Where it is that you feel “be-wildered”?
Recently, on our pilgrimage to Israel, we encountered the wilderness of Judea…an unfamiliar and, indeed, a barren and unforgiving place. This journey reminded me of a piece I’d written five years ago, on returning from a trip to Haiti. I’d like to share it with you now.
Reflections on Wilderness and Baptism
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Mark 1:4
When we think of “wilderness”, a number of things can come to mind. It can be a natural place – a deep, dark forest filled with threatening animals, or a barren desert of rock and sand where no living thing is to be found. It can be a place where humans have never left their mark. We think of being alone and perhaps frightened, literally bewildered, not knowing what to do.
In the Bible, prophets were often going into the wilderness to be tested. It was a place where solitude could be found – they could remove themselves from their day to day lives and the comforts and distractions of home. They could examine those lives, put their priorities in order, and listen for the voice of God.
But “wilderness” is not necessarily a desolate place. In looking for more definitions, I went to the internet, and my old friend Google. There I learned that the word the Hebrews used for “wilderness” is midbar, which translates as “that which is beyond”. It can be beyond anything…beyond civilization, beyond the city, beyond government control…or beyond ones level of comfort.
And John was there in the wilderness calling the people of Judea out, away from their level of comfort, to a place where they could examine their own lives, recognize their sins of omission and commission, and receive his baptism of immersion and repentance.
I feel that our mission in Haiti has been just such a call…out of our comfort level to a new wilderness. The maze of streets in Port au Prince, where people speak an unfamiliar language and one is surrounded by poverty, can be just as frightening a wilderness as the darkest forest or bleakest desert. Our baptism in Haiti has been one of immersion — immersion in a totally different culture. We have been brought face to face with the realities of the lives of the very poor, who are continually hungry yet filled with the Holy Spirit. We are forced to examine our own lives, how we live them, what we might have done – or might do – differently. We examine our own sins of omission and commission, and come to an awareness of the role governments – our own and others – have played in perpetuating the plight of the Haitians. In this way, we have perhaps experienced yet another baptism – one of enlightenment.
Over the years, and guided by a real sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, our relationships with our friends in CONASPEH and the people of Haiti have grown.
And as we grow and work together, I hope – I pray – that Haiti will continue to become less of a wilderness to us and more a place of comfort.
January 11, 2009
What’s YOUR Generosity Quotient?
This article by Andy Gustafson recently appeared in the Mass Conference Emailing. It’s a timely…and helpful…exercise for us all!