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Friday, August 8, 2014, 3:10 PM
"Once upon a time, a visitor came to the monastery looking for the purpose and meaning of life.
The Teacher said to the visitor, 'If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else.'
'I know', said the visitor. 'To find Truth, I must have an overwhelming passion for it.'
'No", said the Teacher. 'In order to find Truth, you must have an unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.' "
photo from Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement
Why was it so difficult for the southern, white church to acknowledge segregation was wrong?
For some, this question may pose another question: why was it so difficult for southern white culture to acknowledge segregation was wrong?
My original question is based upon the assumption that the church does not accept without question or challenge the values and mores of the larger society. In this case, the church obviously did accept those values and mores. The few who spoke out for what was right were often labeled "enemy." Did the church lose its testimony because it refused to visibly and vocally challenge the violence that was needed to enforce segregation?
Was the southern church co-opted culturally by the larger society in which it lived and functioned? For the record, many elements in what was then called the southern Negro church did not support civil rights during its earliest days. Many conservative African-Americans feared the disruption and retribution that would come with a push for civil rights. Based on their (well-founded) fear, they also sat on the sidelines, or accused the civil rights workers of being trouble-makers and rabble-rousers.
Why was the southern white church also so afraid of change that those who spoke out for the righteousness of civil rights were excluded and ostracized?
How was it possible that southern white Christians did not see a brotherhood and sisterhood of faith in their African-American neighbors? Why was it so much easier to speak about "personal salvation in Jesus Christ" and "holiness and sanctification" that it was to say that all Americans should be treated as citizens? Who were "the least of these"
in this situation? How many sermons on the Good Samaritan
were preached in churches where African-Americans were not welcomed or even permitted?
How many ministers said "those people won't come to our churches anyway?" How many laypersons felt it was permissible to eat food and wear clothes prepared by women with whom they refused to worship? How many times did ministers preach on Lazarus and the Rich Man
without considering how their actions appeared to an unredeemed world?
Why was so much pseudo-science accepted as reasonable explanations for legally and forcibly separating
people who worshiped the same God, read from the same Bible, and looked forward to the same Heaven?
I suppose arguments could be made regarding social comfort and traditional practices. Still, I wonder how many of those outside of the church watched in wonder or mockery as church leaders and laypersons affirmed the right of the government to separate people based on race. I wonder how many atheists mocked the Gospel as so-called Christians remained silent while churches were bombed, busses were bombed, and peaceful demonstrators were set upon by police dogs and high powered fire hoses.
Why was it so difficult for the church to admit legal segregation was wrong? Can a testimony lost ever be regained?
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Thursday, July 3, 2014, 4:24 PM
Ladies, when you look in the mirror, what do you see?
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, your answer can be “I see a beautiful reflection of God when I look in the mirror.”
Why is it so difficult for so many of us to easily and honestly give that answer?
Perhaps no one has ever told us we are beautiful reflections of God.
Reflections of God must be nothing less than beautiful, if we believe God to be beautiful. If our God is beautiful, surely we must share at least a sliver of that beauty in our physical selves. We can see it every day and acknowledge it with gratitude and grace.
Do we let the world tell us what is beautiful? Did some of us get mixed up and lost at that point?
Basically, the world tells all of us that only a very tiny number of us are (or ever can be) truly beautiful and the rest of us must spend some of our spare time imitating, adoring, watching, and obsessing over “the beautiful.” When we are finished with the obsessing and the adoring, we are (directly and indirectly) instructed to head off to the stores and sites to buy something to bring us to a near approximation of beauty. We are offered no guarantees we will actually arrive at “the beauty destination.” We are, however, told we can never give up trying. Trying, by the way, often seems to involve spending lots of money and experimenting with lots of products and waiting in lines in salons, spas, gyms, and the like.
I am all for enhancing physical appearance. Of course, we all want to look our best. Healthy enhancement, however, begins from a place of self-acceptance, not a place of self-denial.
God tells us we are beautiful because we are His children. I like that approach to beauty. It’s possible for everyone to qualify to be beautiful in God’s approach.
How often have you watched family and friends smile over a newborn, certain the child will grow up to be beautiful because both parents are “good looking”?
Can any less be true for the children of God?
Recently, someone posted this quote on my facebook: “Do not fall in love with what’s on the outside. Fall in love with what’s on the inside, because that is what you will live with.”
I decided to memorize that statement because it is an ongoing reminder to me of how easily so many of us are seduced by good looks, of how easy it is to believe if someone is physically attractive they must also be good in the ways that really count and really matter.
Like many of you, I followed with interest and excitement this year’s media coverage of the Academy Award winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o. Her stunning expression of confidence in her own beauty (based on character and skill and preparation and courage, along with genes!) seemed to convince many that beauty had no single look. I hope that belief lives on.
Too many of us believe if we have dark skin, tightly curled hair, and full lips, we cannot be beautiful in anyone’s eyes, including our own. That belief is a spiritual problem, because that type of thinking elevates the legacy of colonialism and slavery over God’s permanent declaration of the goodness and beauty of His people.
Too many of us believe if we have fair skin and straight hair, we need to be “fixed” with tanning and (chemically caustic) perms. That belief is a spiritual problem, because these processes are known to damage the health of the physical bodies we need to continue living on the Earth.
Too many of us believe if our bodies do not match a certain size or number, we have no right to be seen in public, and certainly no right to go to swim at the beach or in a public pool, or to wear bright, happy colors. That belief is a spiritual problem, because God does not wait for us to reach a certain size before He expresses His love for us and sends His Holy Spirit to live in us.
Too many of us believe if we have reached a certain age, the best is behind us and we can never achieve any new heights because we are too old to be accepted or appreciated. That belief is a spiritual problem, because all of the life experience God has allowed you to have can guide and bless someone who waits to meet you around the bend on life’s road.
Beauty is a gift from God, and must always exist in whatever form He has chosen to create us. If that’s too difficult to believe, I invite you to spend more time listening to God
and reading His word, and less time listening to those who aren’t in “the family of God.”
Beauty was not created for some of us to generate envy or jealousy from the rest of us. Beauty exists at all because it is God’s expression of self, and must be good and can live always within and upon anyone who is His, who is in “the family”, who looks to Him for everything worth knowing and having.
P.S. “Family” membership is open to any and all, at no cost, and upon request. No sponsor is required for this membership. You can nominate yourself. That’s “the good news”, aka The Gospel.
(c)2014 Deborah Evans
Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 4:00 PM
Even Before Pentecost: Seeking and Finding Meaning in the Ascension
Ascension Sunday has fallen into obscurity and neglect in many denominations. I’ve posted about this previously, but I am still saddened by the trend.
I am beginning to create a small, at-home worship ritual celebrating the Ascension and based on meditative readings of Acts chapter one and Revelation chapters one and twenty-two.
The Ascension is important because it answers an important question: what happened to Jesus after his resurrection?
The answer matters.
The passage from Acts explains many things. One of them is this: Jesus is a supernatural person who arrived in an extraordinary manner and left in an extraordinary manner. Jesus will return in the same, extraordinary manner in which he left.
Also, Jesus told his disciples to wait before rushing off into “the next great thing.” He told them some things were not for them to know at that moment. Jesus did, however, give them a glimpse of their futures.
Jesus told his disciples they would receive power after the promised Holy Spirit came upon them and into them. Jesus told the disciples they would be his witnesses locally and, eventually, out and into the ends of the earth.
What is interesting is that Jesus did not tell his disciples what they asked him to tell them. Isn’t this the same Jesus who once said “ask, seek, and knock?” He didn’t tell them what they asked, but he did tell them what they needed to know. In the deepest way, he answered the question the disciples didn’t have the insight to ask.
He told them they would do something larger and more expansive than they’d imagined.
The disciples wanted to know if Jesus was ready to liberate Israel from Roman control and restore the nation to its historical independence.
Jesus responded by telling the disciples they would receive power—as opposed to waiting for him to do something in the earth. They would be his witnesses to people who had never heard of him.
In response to the disciples’ questioning of what Jesus would do next, Jesus tells them what they would do next. Then he leaves. He left them to do something bigger than they’d expected. In fact, he left them to do something no one had ever done, something
no one was expecting, and something many people we not ready to accept. He knew they needed supernatural empowerment.
I love this account of Jesus’ final “in person” words to his disciples because he reverses their question while at the same time telling them what they really wanted to know.
They wanted to know this: “what’s next”? That’s the question we often ask after a mountaintop experience.
Jesus’ answer to them—and to us—was, and is, this: 1) Wait to become empowered through God, and 2) After becoming empowered through God, think and act more expansively than you ever have!
Living as an authentic witness of God’s power and presence is the most important thing a Christian can do.
As we leave the details of the time, the place, and the circumstance of our witnessing up to God, we are enabled and prepared to do more than we had imagined. Witnessing means showing and telling what we have experienced in a way to points directly to the goodness of God, not to our own skills, willpower, or abilities. That type of witnessing cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading, guidance, and empowerment.
This is the promise and the meaning of the Ascension.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:22 PM
I got flowers today!
It wasn’t my birthday or any other special day.
We had our first argument last night.
And he said a lot of cruel things that really hurt.
I know he is sorry and didn’t mean to say the things he said,
Because he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today!
It wasn’t our anniversary or any other special day.
Last night he threw me into a wall and then started choking me.
It seemed like
But you wake up from nightmares to find they aren’t real.
I got flowers today!
It wasn’t Valentine’s Day or any other special day.
Make- up and long sleeves didn’t hide the cuts and bruises this time.
I know he’s sorry because he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today!
And it wasn’t Mother’s Day or any other special day.
Last night he beat me again, and it was much worse than all the other times.
If I leave him now, what will I do?
How will I take care of the kids?
What about money?
I’m afraid of him, but I’m too scared and dependent to leave him.
But he must be sorry because he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today…
Today was a very special day—it was the day of my funeral.
Last night he finally killed me. I was beaten to death.
If only I would have gathered the courage and strength to leave him.
The women’s shelter could have helped me, but I didn’t ask for their help.
So I got flowers today…for the last time.
I don’t know the author of this poem, but the message is clear: domestic abuse can lead to death and often the victim doesn’t believe it can happen to her until it is too late for her to escape with her life.
A good friend sent me this poem earlier in the year. I promised her I would write a post about domestic violence, but getting this together took longer than I’d planned because one question kept floating in my mind: why do so many churches tell women to stay in abusive marriages?
The imaginary character in this poem probably realized in the last few moments of her life that she had no time left. No time to escape. No time to call for help. No time to get to the women’s shelter. Yes, he really was going to kill her this time. The last things she would see in this world were an angry face and a pounding fist. No time left to make arrangements so that her children would not grow up as orphans: one dead parent and another parent in prison for a long time or for life.
I have listened to older women tell me of their life experiences.
Sometimes, the story goes like this:
“Yes I talked to Rev. So-and-So, or to Rev. So-and-So’s wife, or to the Deacon, or to the Elder, and they told me to try a little harder. They told me no one is perfect. They even said something about wifely submission in Christian marriage.
No, they were not going to talk to him because they did not want to get involved in somebody else’s personal business in that way. He had not asked for their advice and they did not offer advice to those who did not ask for it.
They said that no relationship is perfect. I needed to think about my children and how they were going to be supported. They said he’s just going through a bad time. They asked me why I couldn’t get along with him. They said if he’s irritable, just stay out of his way for the evening. Was dinner ready when he got home after working all day? They said if our sex life was better, he wouldn’t be so edgy all of the time.
They told me Scripture forbids divorce except in the case of adultery. Was he cheating on me? How did I know for sure? They told me about forgiveness and being willing to put the past behind me.
They told me all couples go through bad times. They said you can’t quit just because things are hard. They said they understood. They said maybe we needed to take a vacation. They said we should get a babysitter one night a week and go out to dinner and a movie.
They said there are not a lot of good men out there and that I am not a spring chicken. And I am not perfect either. They told me they really didn’t have an extra room in their house and that my children would be totally humiliated going to school while living in a shelter. They told me to pray and wait on Jesus They said He may not come when I want Him, but He’s always on time.”
To my friend M. and everyone else who reads this: I have not come up with a definitive answer for why some churches deny the seriousness of domestic violence and feel it’s OK for women and children to live in fear in their own homes.
Here’s my best shot:
Often, we (Christians and other “church people”) are too ashamed to admit we don’t have readymade answers for all of the craziness life can throw our way. So we rationalize things we should condemn. Some people have put up with things they never should have tolerated and don’t think you have the right to avoid it if they couldn’t avoid it. After all, you are no better than they are, right?
It may be difficult for someone to admit the church member or officer who sits proudly in a place of honor on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening is actually a raging bully at home to those he doesn’t feel a need to impress.
Some people believe you should sacrifice your honor and self- respect and safety so there isn’t another scandal in the church. Some people believe the worst things that can happen never actually happen.
Some people don’t really believe you have a right to be safe and in comfort in your own home. They just do not think you have a right to insist upon those things. Actually, they do not think you have a right to insist upon anything at all. You are supposed to take whatever someone wants to hand off to you. They don’t think you deserve the best because they have let the world tell them their value and your value…and it isn’t much.
What’s the solution? Love yourself, because God does. Make a plan and seek safety for yourself and any young person who depends upon you. God is with the courageous who seek His protection.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Monday, April 14, 2014, 7:26 PM
Several Sundays ago, we had a last minute emergency regarding a guest minister and I was asked to preach if the guest was unable to make it. I agreed, and began to think about what I would say to the congregation.
I meditated on what is the most important reminder the church universal needs regarding who we are and why we are here.
I was led to this passage from 2 Timothy 1:12:
“…I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
Here are the words of a man about to face execution, a man who has been abandoned by his associates and betrayed by those who thought he could rely upon. This man, Paul the apostle, is facing death because of his testimony for and about Jesus Christ.
Paul, a man who was widely regarded as a powerhouse intellectual in his day and time, had been cajoled and laughed at for believing in fairy tales and false truths as he traveled, taught, and preached the gospel. Still, Paul says he is not ashamed because of one fact:
“I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
What does this mean?
First, it means that for Paul, Jesus was not a concept, or an idea. Jesus was a person Paul knew, loved, trusted, communed with, was led by, and looked forward to seeing in eternity. Paul says he knew this One In Whom He Believed. How often have you been ashamed of someone you have known, loved, trusted, and found friendship in?
Second, Paul says he knew Jesus was able to guard what Paul entrusted to Jesus. This means Paul knew his earthly life and eternal self were secure because Paul trusted Jesus completely. Why so much trust in the unseen? Paul believed in Jesus because Jesus had kept Paul safe in his earthly life.
How much safety did Paul need? Paul faced stoning, beatings, legal troubles, jailing, nasty church politics, loneliness, constant travels under rough conditions, a mysterious physical ailment, religious controversies, and outright hostile opposition to his message and to his life. At the end of his life, Paul could look back and reflect upon how Jesus had kept him secure and on message through all of these experiences.
Third, Paul says he’s entrusted himself to Jesus “for that day.” “That day” or “in that day” is a phrase that appears throughout the Old and New Testaments, referring to that final re-arranging of reality, the final judgment, or the complete restoration of God’s original plan for humanity.
What Paul is saying here is that he sees himself as an eternal spiritual being that will live somewhere forever. He can’t anticipate everything about that future life, but Paul says that all he’s ever been is safe in Jesus’ care, and even after Paul’s physical body is destroyed, his life will be kept and restored fully in God’s will and on God’s schedule.
I didn’t need to preach this sermon that morning. The guest preacher arrived just in time.
I think Paul’s farewell message is one we can never hear too often: have no shame or silence regarding the greatest gift to humanity---God’s salvation from our failing selves and our failing world. Reflect upon what God has done for you through your fellowship with Jesus Christ. Finally, be the person who is not afraid to share who you are and what you know to be true. Every day, some event or person will challenge you to say or show who you are and why you are here. The answer should always begin with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans