A Prayer for Ferguson and All People Everywhere
Mother God, pain-bearer and life-giver:
In Your eyes we are all precious – and the differences between us are the colors on Your canvas: bold, beautiful, stunning. When we are at our best, we are Your garden teeming with life and vitality. You were there when we took our first unique breath, and You will be there when we take our last – all of us. Different as we are, we delight You, each one made just as You intended.
But once we are birthed, You give us the freedom to choose how to grow in this world.
I believe that You would have us use our words to inspire and not to tear down;
use our hearts for loving and not for judgment
use our hands for binding up wounds, and not for making them.
I believe it is only possible for human life to thrive in this amazing universe of Yours if we embrace the unique beauty You seed in us. If we try to make each other all the same, we will die out, weak in our sameness. Help us to really see, to really hear, to really touch, to really feel, to really taste each other, and glimpse what You already know about us. Together, we can make this garden a place for all life to bloom in dignity, honor and freedom.
Help us to become the people You dream us to be. Amen.
© 2014 – 2015. Pastor Marisa Brown-Ludwig. All rights reserved.
Where do we come from? How did this all come to be? As far back as the earliest pictograms in caves we have found, it seems human beings have been looking up at the stars and asking the questions: Why? Who? How? Ancient civilizations around the world have creation stories that tell how life came to be, and as we look at the Genesis 1-2:4a story this week, we consider what this has to tell us about who we are, and the force that made us. Compare this to the 21st century understanding of Creation, the Big Bang theory, which some scholars suggest is the creation story of today. There are parts of Christianity that would say these two stories can’t co-exist. Our history shows Christians have often rejected the findings of human inquiry, a famous example being the Inquisition trial of Galileo in the early 17th century, after he published in 1630 that the earth was not, in fact, the center of the universe, but as the earlier Copernicus had seen, it revolved around the sun. His book was forbidden, and it was not until 1820 that the church permitted a book to be published that explained heliocentrism as fact.
Yet the scriptures tell us God made us as we are, with our hearts and our heads, to feel and to think, to love and to explore. Does it not make sense that our Creation stories would evolve as we do? And why do we assume that a day to God is the same as it is to us? And when God said, “Let there be light!” could it not have been the moment of the Big Bang? I have not yet studied a new finding of science that has taken away my faith. As we look more microscopically and can see life down to smaller and smaller particles, I am more amazed than ever at the wonder of life. When you look at Chaos Theory, elements in nature that appear random sometimes spontaneously shift into identifiable pattern, or start out with indicators that should lead to one outcome but don’t. Each time they occur, a different outcome is achieved. Quantum Physics suggests that when we turn our attention to light at the subatomic level, it’s action will change simply by being observed. Such marvelous discoveries still are miraculous.
Can we believe that our Creation stories tell the truth about life and how it came to be, and also are limited by our ability to understand and express our understanding? We have the ability to look at our stories side by side, the faith-based and the inquiry-based, and let God speak to us in the dialectic that results. When Genesis 1 tells us that God created human kind out of the dust, it does not tell us how long that took. And for me, whether that was what would be instant in my time, or whether it happened over millions of years in my time, it still fills me with wonder.
But in the end, is the most important question how? This week, I invite you to consider instead that the stories have another message for us – who? What do the Creation stories have to tell us about the God who made us? If Creation didn’t happen all at once, but instead continues to evolve down through time ever changing and adapting, what kind of God set that in motion? If there is such amazing action happening at such microscopic levels of life, is that force not always at work? Always moving? Always immanently close? What do you think? What comes out of your meditations and ruminations on our stories?
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
This week, more than any other time, my prayers are focused on you, that you may be blessed by God’s guidance as you minister in Christ’s name amidst the challenges and opportunities of Holy Week. Yesterday’s gathering at the Hynes Convention Center provides a most vivid reminder of all that we are capable of – from unconscionable violence to unlimited self-sacrifice. The themes of Holy Week and Passover are everywhere apparent. The need for hope, the temptation to despair, the opportunities for generosity and sharing have never been greater. I pray and trust that God will provide you with just what you need to be the minister God has called you to be.
I also ask you to please take a minute to join me in a timely opportunity for witness. On May 2, representatives of Better Future Project / 350 Massachusetts and Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF) will meet with Governor Patrick to ask the Governor to implement the platform outlined in the Climate Legacy Campaign: Ban the Worst, Build Only the Best, and Begin to Price the Rest. Click here to go to a Google Form to read the letter and add your name. Just as the UCC has led the nation in our vote to divest from fossil fuel companies, the Commonwealth can lead the nation in setting clean energy standards. Your name will add to the moral weight of this message.
Holy Week blessings,
The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal,
Conference Minister and President
During Holy Week when we contemplate Jesus’ death, we remember that the Christian scriptures emerged from a small, originally Jewish community of believers in Jesus, who functioned long years as a sect of Judaism before being “put out of the synagogues” (John 9:18-23). In John’s texts especially, the term “the Jews” refers to those among the people who do not accept Jesus as Messiah. It is a term that reflects the growing antagonism and mutual recrimination that developed in the later part of the first century between those who followed Jesus and those who didn’t. It did not then and does not now mean a condemnation of Jewish people in general. It is one of the bitter ironies of history that the sacred texts of a beleaguered minority (the early Christians) have been used to justify the subsequent persecution of the covenanted people who were and are forever God’s first love in our tradition.
May we witness that as Christians, we carry with us the Church’s lengthy history of persecuting the Jewish people, living still in the sobering shadow of the Holocaust and with painful awareness of the current struggles in the Holy Land. So as we read these scriptures and tell these stories surrounding the death of our Lord, we are accountable to hear them not as condemnation of Jewish believers, but as being about people of any community at any time who might have heard Jesus’ message and sought to stop it. May we listen with humility to the tragic progression of events that could have been done at the hands of any of us living even today.
Trying to Understand Jesus’ Last Acts through his Jewish Heart
One of Jesus’ last earthly acts recorded in scripture was the celebration of the Passover with his disciples in a small room in Jerusalem. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) In order to understand Jesus’ words about what was about to happen to him, and to understand the birth of our sacrament of communion, we attempt to understand what Passover meant to him and the Jewish people of his time. No one knows exactly what prayers and readings the Jewish people would have used in Jesus’ time to celebrate the Passover Feast but we can consider elements and themes of a modern day Jewish Passover Seder to help us dig deeper into the setting of Christianity’s most holy days.
Passover is the oldest Jewish holiday and it lasts eight days. It recalls the night some 3,000 years ago when the God “passed over” the houses of the Israelite slaves in Egypt during the tenth plague in the time of Moses, which were marked with the blood of a new lamb to identify them. God then led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt with miraculous acts through the hands of Moses. This history demonstrates God’s power, saving grace and faithfulness. Passover’s themes of freedom, deliverance, redemption, thanksgiving and renewal have meaning for Christians as well.
As Christians, we might hear then how Jesus’ disciples came to understand Jesus through the Exodus story as being the New Lamb who was sacrificed to God’s people, whose blood saved them from death. When Jesus broke the bread and instituted our communion celebration, he and his followers may have been blessing the unleavened bread of the Passover Feast, connecting Jesus directly to God’s acts of redemption throughout history, seeing Jesus as sent by God to feed God’s people, the Bread of Life. As Jesus raised the cup at the end of the meal to name it the cup of his blood poured out as a New Covenant, he may have been raising the Cup of Redemption in the Passover meal, identifying himself as the Messiah for whom the Jews wait, come then (and now) to free all God’s people. How fitting it would be for Jesus to have explained himself to his Jewish friends in such a way that whenever we celebrate communion, then, we are connected to all people everywhere who love God, strive to live God’s sacred teachings, and search for freedom and peace.
This year, as the Jewish celebration of Passover coincides with the Holy Week of Christians, let us honor that modern Jews and Christians alike strive to return to God during these celebrations of remembrance, and seek God’s redemption born anew in our time. May we see it together!
To all who are celebrating the Passover Seder: Chag Pesach Sameach! Happy Passover Holiday!
May Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter be deep blessings also for all who celebrate them.