Friday, May 30, 2008

Big Sunday Report

Presbyterians were out in force over Big Sunday weekend. Multiple churches signed up for weeding at the White Point Nature Preserve. Land that formerly was used for military purposes (sites for sixteen inch guns during WWII and Nike missiles with nuclear warheads during the Cold War), was transferred from the government to the City of Los Angeles and will be allowed to return to its original state. The volunteers helped eradicate an invasive species of weed from the land. What an example of our role as peacemakers and caretakers of the earth to help transform land that was formerly needed for war to land that will be used for recreation. Several connections were made with in the groups of Presbyterians, a volunteer from one church found a long lost relative who was serving with another church.

Another group was helping in a neighborhood when a resident approached them to thank them and ask who they were, when he discovered they were Presbyterians he responded “I am too” and joined the team for the rest of the day.

The hubsite at Bel Air attracted people of all ages and from the surrounding community. People gathered in groups to decorate cookies for the homeless (over 1000 were decorated, bagged and sent out), make flower pots for shut-ins, cool ties for firefighters and gifts for mothers in shelters. Groups of people gathered around each project to complete it and enjoy each other, a warm sense of community hovered over the entire day.

Thank you to all of the churches that participated in Big Sunday. Consider keeping in touch with the organizations where you worked. For those churches that were unable to join us, consider jumping in next year, it’s always the first weekend in May.

The Big Sunday Lead Team:

Kim Allen-Niesen, Bel Air Presbyterian Church 310.476.0065; Rev. Heidi Worthen Gamble, Presbytery of the Pacific 310.670.5076; Elizabeth Evans, Westwood Presbyterian Church; Rev. Charles Suhayda, First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood; Leslie Boatwright, Bel Air Presbyterian Church 818.783.3639.

Forty Years of Mission in the Presbytery of the Pacific: Offering Ourselves, Becoming Transformed

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sen. Ted Kennedy

The Lion of the Senate by Jim Wallis of Sojourners

They call him a lion. John McCain, on Tuesday, called him the "last lion in the Senate ... because he remains the single most effective member of the Senate." I've always liked lions. I have a beautiful painting of a South African lion on the wall of our living room at home. My boys think it is Aslan, the lion of Narnia, of whom Mr. Beaver said, "'Course he isn't safe. But he's good."

The nation got a shock this week. Edward Kennedy, the lion who has been in the United States Senate for nearly 50 years, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. I know Ted Kennedy and his wife, Vicki, and have enjoyed personal conversations with them on a number of occasions over a wide range of issues, including the application of Christian faith to public life. I've found them both to be serious Catholics. And I have worked with Sen. Kennedy on a variety of issues, including legislation for a long-delayed increase in the minimum wage and for comprehensive immigration reform.

When it comes to fighting for economic justice, civil rights, health care, and education, and to opposing unjust and mistaken wars, there has been no greater champion in the Senate, no stronger lion than Teddy Kennedy, as his friends like to call him. And what has been most impressive and inspiring during these last few days since the Massachusetts senator was stricken with seizures is hearing how many friends he really has - on both sides of the aisle. Despite being the archetypal "liberal" in the U.S. Senate, and the favorite whipping boy and consistent poster child for the right-wing ditto heads of talk radio and the egomaniacs of Fox News, the outpouring of respect and affection for Ted Kennedy from his colleagues in the Senate, including Republicans, has been just amazing.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky., Republican leader), said: "Senator Kennedy enjoys great respect and admiration on this side of the aisle. He is indeed one of the most important figures to ever serve in this body in our history."
Conservative Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who has become a close friend of Kennedy, said: "He's like a brother to me. I love him. I love the Kennedy family. He's given so much to the country, and he has one of the greatest senses of humor of anyone I've known in my life. You can't help but like him if you get to know him."

This genuine and generous outpouring of love and concern for Sen. Kennedy proves a very important thing. It shows that one can be an advocate, a passionate and relentless champion for clear and controversial causes, and yet still be a bridge-builder, a reconciler, and a seeker of common ground. The conventional wisdom says you must be one or the other, an advocate or a bridge-builder, but never both. Ted Kennedy, once again, proves the conventional wisdom wrong. It is because he is a lawmaker who genuinely wants to get things done, to find real and concrete solutions -- especially for people who really need them. Kennedy is known as a senator who truly wants to be effective and not just right, as so many others, on both sides of the aisle, are too often content to be.

As a Wall Street Journal story said: Long known as a liberal lion, partisan warrior and scion of a Democratic family dynasty, Sen. Kennedy has, in the gridlocked environment of recent years, played a role as a key deal maker in nearly all significant domestic policy achievements. Many of the most important domestic milestones of the Bush years ... could not have happened without Sen. Kennedy's role as finder of common ground between the two parties.

Ted Kennedy represents a tradition of public service almost unparalleled in American political history. Three of his brothers literally gave their lives in service to their country and the Kennedy family has consistently shown how "the haves" can decide to use their wealth and power to help change the world for the sake of the "have-nots." At 77, his colleagues will tell you that nobody works harder, day in and day out, on the nuts of bolts of lawmaking than Sen. Kennedy, instead of retiring to sail off to his beloved Cape Cod.

On a more personal note, I have met several of the Kennedy children, nephews, nieces, and cousins. Guess who always calls each one on their birthdays -- and often in-between. The youngest of the Kennedy brothers has become the patriarch of the family now, the lion who takes care of all the cubs. Hearing that impressed me as a father and an uncle myself as to the "family values" of one of the most public figures in American political life.

So pray for Ted Kennedy, Vicki Kennedy, and a family that has both given and suffered so much, as more tests, diagnosis, and critical treatment decisions lie ahead. And whatever your political views, thank God for a very human public servant who has focused his entire political career on those whom Jesus called "the least of these," and who once told me one of his favorite biblical texts comes from the book of James, who reminds us all that "faith without works is dead."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hagee and Parsley

There's a dark and violent Christian underground feeding on twisted interpretations with a lust for violence leading, they hope, to the Second Coming of Christ.

They're called Dispensationalists, Christian Zionists, are highly legalistic, sometimes called Reconstructionists - that is, wanting America to adopt Old Testament law, especially those parts that support punishment. If they had their way, they'd create a society similar to the Taliban. They pluck from the Old Testament proof texts that, when lifted out of context, can be used to support the worst possible ideas.

Though supportive of Israel, they believe that war in the Middle East will bring about God's intervention and the ultimate destruction or conversion of Israel. Their interest in Israel is purely utilitarian - neither loving Israel nor respecting it.

They despise the Roman Catholic Church and consider all other Christians to be either deluded by Satan or servants of Satan.

And, by the way, all the quotations assembled from the Old Testament in support of their views are without legitimacy - within the Old Testament, both Isaiah and Jeremiah offer an alternative vision; Jesus and the Apostle Paul, picking up on Isaiah and Jeremiah, offer an alternative view of things further refined, as God moves beyond the borders of Israel, and canceling, if you will, the alleged promises of a return to the Land and a restoration of the Monarchy. Israel ceased to exist as a nation in the 6th century BCE - and though harboring dreams of restoration, it never came to pass. Jesus was a Jew, so was Paul, and they took a very different tact; rather than promoting the dream of restoration, they crafted a view of God's people without a specific land, citizens of the world.

The sad and broken history of anti-Semitism that erupted within Christianity is not so much the result of the New Testament as it is the result of the conversion of huge numbers of Gentiles (all the first Christians were Jews) and the subsequent transformation of Christianity into a state religion under Constantine (325 CE). The long smoldering ill will of the Roman Empire against the Jews was quickly and decisively translated into the Christian Church as it now buttressed and then replaced the Roman Empire.

Christianity named the Jews "Christ Killers" and resented their convictions, standing apart from the church as they did. Sadly, the Church decided that as long as the Jews exist, they are a threat to its power and its view of the world.

The State of Israel today, created in 1948, is a political entity no different than any other nation. To believe that moder-day Israel is a special dispensation of God and therefore deserving a special place in the sun is to profoundly misread the Bible.

Yes, let Israel be safe, but let's understand the plight of the Palestinians, and let's not turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by Israeli authorities every day against the Palestinians. Israel is bent upon the eradication of the Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian - hundreds have been killed and thousands have fled, being subject to inhuman treatment and the constant threat of injury or death.

Hagee and Parsley are just plain wrong, but highly effective in their organizational abilities and powerful speakers. Sadly, American Christianity in the last 150 years has deteriorated, surrendering its intellectual heritage and becoming increasingly Biblically illiterate.

Too many lambs, and too many shepherds who fleece the flock (see Ezekiel 34).

The flap with McCain is at least bringing this dark underside to view and exposing its hideous face.

God does move in mysterious ways.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Lord's Prayer Rewritten

The Lord’s Prayer as Rewritten by:

Gail Artinian

You are Almighty God in Heaven and Maker of the Universe, yet at the same time you are my Father, so close to me, so caring, so loving and willing to hear my every concern. For the short time I am here on Earth, help me to look to your word and to search my heart for ways I might help to bring a little of your kingdom to this troubled Earth, by sharing the Good News and showing kindness and compassion to others. Help us to put our trust in Your plan for our lives and for this world. Please help me remember that I need only what is really necessary just for this day. For I know that you have and will continue to provide. For this I am truly thankful. Father, please open my eyes to the needs of others who are truly in need. I trust that you will find a way for us to love and care for each other in this world. I know that because of Jesus my sins are forgiven and I also know that if I am to follow his example I need to forgive, but not just silently. I need to humble myself enough to show forgiveness to others outwardly through words and actions. The messages of this material world seem to urge us to focus on ourselves, on what we want and what we think we need. Deliver us from this evil. We know that if we listen with a servant’s heart we can trust that the Holy Spirit will help us to resist this temptation to look only inward. I look to you, Lord, for salvation. You have the power. The glory is yours and I pray that I will be worthy of your Amazing Grace forever. Amen.

Pat Baker

Divine Creator of things seen and unseen, we honor you above everything. May your kingdom come to Earth and your will prevail over all. Provide our daily needs and let us not yearn for more. Forgive us when we stray and help us to be forgiving of others. Help us to avoid evil deeds and thoughts. All power and glory is given to you. Amen.

Jim Day

Almighty and Sovereign God, how great thou are. Your will shall rule on Earth, just as it does in Heaven. Provide for our daily needs and teach us to be forgiving of others, just as you are forgiving of us. Prevent us from straying in harmful and sinful directions and guide us to your holy kingdom. Your power and glory are forever. Amen.

Barb DeLong

Dear God, who is in a much better place, your holy name fills me with awe. May we always follow your will so that the Earth will become as perfect as it is in Heaven. We trust you to give us everything that we need every day of our life. Please listen to us in spite of all that we do wrong and forgive us for these acts of weakness. May we, in turn, forgive those who have hurt us. Help us to always follow the right path to you by making right choices and never to succumb to the evils of this world. For you are the only one that truly matters in our lives. Amen.

Gary Earnley

Father God, hallowed is your name. Bless us with thy will on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Let us nourish our bodies and forgive us our debts, as we extend your grace to our debtors. Make us mindful of temptation and deliver us from evil. Help us to remember that your way is the kingdom, power and glory, forever. Amen.

Dave Kulisz

Creator and Heavenly Father we glorify your name above all others. May your Spirit dwell within us all so that your kingdom may break forth on Earth. We thank you for all the blessings you bestow upon us daily and ask your forgiveness for our transgressions and for the strength to do the same to others. Focus our minds and hearts upon you, Father, so that we may turn away from whatever separates us from you. For your kingdom and power and glory endures forever and ever. Amen.

Joan Newberry

Father, Mother, Everything God, I praise and glorify you. Thank you for giving me everything I need for today. I pray that you would lead me to how I can bring your kingdom to Earth. Please forgive me of my sins of omission or commission that I have committed to others and ask you to forgive through me the offenses of others. Keep me in your care so that I may not bring harm to others. I ask this in the name and through the power of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

Stacy Peterson

Abba! Most holy God on high. We praise you. May we live each day to give honor to your kingdom. We ask for your continued blessings on our daily lives, as we live out your love for us. You are our Lord and Savior for all things. Amen.

Barry Steele

Our Father, who is everywhere and in everything, holy is your name. May your kingdom break through on Earth just as it has in Heaven, so that we joyfully do your will. Provide us with our needs, not our earthly desires. Just as you have forgiven our sins by your grace, may we forgive others. When we are tempted, as Jesus was, may we follow his lead and turn away from the evil one and turn to the Lord. For it is your kingdom, your power and your glory that we worship, and your love and compassion that we pray for. Amen.

Susan Steele

Our Father, closer than the air that we breathe, Holy is your name. May Earth become like Heaven, where strife is no more and love never ends. Let us be anxious for nothing; You always provide. Forgive the hardness in our hearts and let us reach out to those who would do us harm. Help us surrender to all your ways and may all our thoughts lead to love, peace and joy. Your power, goodness and mercy endure forever! Amen.

Meta Tulley

Dear Father, who surrounds us and is in the air we breathe, we honor you through our good times and bad. You forgive all our sins when we ask and we thank you for teaching us how to forgive others and to avoid temptations we encounter. May we obey your teachings through our deeds here on Earth so that we may someday join you in our eternal Heavenly home. Amen.