Friday, October 12, 2018

The Death Penalty Is an Abomination

The death penalty is an abomination. It fails on every count, other than the blood-lust revenge factor.
And, please, don't quote the Bible at me ... while I love the Bible, every cruelty can be found therein and justified. Bible quoters, at this point, and others, are notorious in their disregard for the large picture, and if they're Xns, more than eager to ignore Jesus as Jesus and reduce him to some kind of hyper-spirit saving-machine to get folks into glory, while more than happily leaving a whole of other folk in hell.
The death penalty degrades those who affirm it, those who manufacture the devices, the drugs; those who pull the switches, and those who witness it.
They are all, one and the same, killers, in spite of "state sanction," a despicable piece of casuistry used to defend the worst kinds of human behavior.
Hats off to Washington State for abolishing this stupidity. Of the people on death row, their sentences were immediately commuted to life.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Keeping the Job

I don't know what it's like to be a politician, always figuring on how to keep the job.

But I was a minister for 50 years, and "keeping the job" was often a part of it.

I learned that "keeping the job" could be a gift, a simple, if not a painful, reminder, of larger responsibilities, like my family, and folks who see things differently.

There were times when "keeping the job" graced my life; other times, it compelled me to compromise my values.

Hard, at the time, to figure it all out.

But given the scars on my back, I believe that a good many times, I took chances ... and paid the price. It can get ugly; real ugly.

A good politician will always try to keep the job, for the long haul, but a great politician will know when to take a chance, and even, if needed, lose the damn job.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 by Adam Hochschild
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When all else is said and done, America's refusal to help the Republic, while Hitler, Mussolini, and Texaco (yes, that's right), poured arms and oil into Franco's Nationalist effort, because the Republic was revolutionary and "red," with tremendous pressure on FDR exerted by the Roman Catholic Church, will remain in history as one of our greatest blunders. Like it or not, we "choose" fascism because we thought the Republic was red, and then, when Hitler moved into Poland, it was too late.

Hochschild has done a remarkable job of putting a human face on the Civil War, and the thousands of young men and women, from America and around the world, a number of whom were Communists, who understood the threat of fascism and decided to cast their lot with the Republic.

Those who made it home were forever tainted and held in suspicion, targets of the anti-red hysteria that gripped this nation, and still does - a most foolish, self-inflicted blindness.

Hochschild's writing is wonderfully clear, taking us to the war through the eyes of those who were there. Some of the best and the brightest put their lives on the line for the cause of freedom and hope - that Spain might well free itself from centuries of brutal feudal rule, and the cruelty of the Roman Catholic Church. But the western democracies, already afraid of revolution, and afraid of the Roman Church, refused to help.

If you want to know more about the Spanish Civil War, no better book than this.


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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Prayers from First Presbyterian Santa Monica

Prayer of Dedication before Offering
Our offering, O LORD, is given in thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving:
For the life we have in Christ.
And the world you’ve created for us.
For the love of family and friends.
For the joy of this place, wherein the stories of faith are celebrated, and we’re challenged to be more than we are, and reminded that what we are is glorious and good in your sight.

Be pleased, O LORD, to grant your blessing to these, our tithes and offerings … to be used for the honor and glory of Christ, the wellbeing of this church, and the welfare of our world. Through Christ our LORD we pray. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

We bow our hearts, O LORD, before the glory of your love.

Mindful of your Word of Life, given to us in the pages of our Bible, in the stories of our time, in the lives of those who’ve trod the pathways of faith and service long before our advent … the saints and sinners who’ve loved you, and often put their lives on the line for the sake of Christ … 

With them, O God, and for them, we do no less … so we pray for the fullness of your Holy Spirit, and the transforming of our hearts and minds according to the word of Christ, that in our time, we would be brave to speak words of kindness to those who are bullied and shamed, that we would challenge those impressed with their own achievements of wealth and success, that we would speak truth to power, and in all ways, dear God, embody the humble gratitude befitting those who follow the Christ. 

We give thanks for the mighty and wondrous ways in which you have been at work, to sustain your creation against the predations of those who bear your very own image … forgive us, we pray, for the wrong we have done to your earth, to your air and water, and the suffering we’ve caused for all your creatures, great and small.

On this day, Eternal God, we run not from the sorrows of our world … we do not seek shelter from the storms … but in you, O God, we find our courage, our voice, our purpose, our character, flowing from your eternal vision for our world, given to us in our baptism, sustained for us in the bread and drink of the LORD’s Table, and the daily provisions of life you so generously grant. 

We pray, O God, for our nation and its wellbeing … and for all the nations of the world … giving thanks that every day, and everywhere, there are women and men who bravely hold high the torch of truth, lighting the way for peace and justice. 

Those who would mock such things O God, as weak and worthless, those who know only the power and might of money and armaments, those who use religion to feather their own nests, to mask their cruelty toward the poor and the weak, LORD have mercy. Deliver them from the idols they’ve created, and deliver us all from such influence and infidelity.

We pray for loved ones, heavenly Father, for friends and family … some of whom are in distress, in danger, assailed in storms of doubt, and bereft of hope … we pray, O God, for your gentle hand upon them, to see them through the days of trial, and to use us, as instruments of your peace.

And so we pray for ourselves, too, O LORD, … because sin weighs heavily upon us, that which we have done heedlessly and cravenly, and the good we’ve often forgotten to do … our physical ailments, and the burdens of our soul … our fears for tomorrow and too many sleepless nights … O LORD, be merciful, and lead us with your kindly light.

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, ever-present and always faithful, who taught us to pray, saying:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Pathways of Hope

On a happier note:
My thanks to the strange geniuses
Who create our stories.

Novelists, of course.
Poets and artists.
Script writers and directors.

As long as we can tell stories,
We can imagine.
A world through which wind the pathways

Of hope.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Matthew 25.14-30 Parable of the Talents

Lectionary musings ...

Matthew 25.14-30 ... hmmm ... the business of the talents ... and business it is ... then or now, it's about work and profits ... sure ... that's what life is all about ... for those who have, and those who don't. I don't know of any other kind of life, other than a monastic vocation, which, however, relies upon the work and beneficence of others, even as the monks themselves must labor in the fields and barns and workshops of their monastery.

One commentator suggested that the original story made the third man the hero, because he refused to participate in the system. Well, that may be ... but in looking at Matthew 25, thinking a bit about what's intended in the gospel, I read and re-read the story, looking carefully at the third man.

Who was afraid.

So, maybe this question: Was his fear accurate?

Was his understanding of the "master" true?

The other two had no difficulty whatsoever in doing something good ... they gave it their best shot, whereas the third man was crippled with fear, and hid the talent, and in so doing, failed both himself and the master, not to mention the entire household.

Without getting all psychological here, I wonder how many folks misperceive God, and how many of god's preachers offer the misconception, compelling people to bury what's given to them, filling them with a fear of judgment, and so they never really use what's been given to them, thus denying themselves the adventure of life, denying the household of their labor, and the master of a fair return.

It doesn't help to micromanage a parable, looking for meaning in every tad and bit ... but if this parable touches upon the crippling power of fear, then it's a painful reminder that those who are trapped in it, for whatever reason, will lose everything. Fear is a terrible thing, and distorts reality, and closes doors, and life gets buried before the end.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Boom!

Boom!

Dogs are scared to death with all the noise ... so, to be mindful of their state ... it's the least we can do.

It's a crazy night, and here in LA, the sky around our place is alight with streaks and flashes and color in every direction ... screeches, crackles, booms and bangs.

For some, it's hamburgers and hotdogs ...
Cold beer or Margaritas ...
Friends and family.

Some will be thoughtful about the times.

Lady Liberty and Justice for All.

We can hope ...
A trait so profoundly human.
So daunting at times.

But hope is our lifeline to life.

And with the sky alight with color, with all the oohs and aahs of the crowds, and the cries of excited children, we hope for our nation and hope for our world.

So remember the dogs.
And the people, too.

For all of them, we hope.