Homelessness, Prayer

youth group social justice worship service

I had a wonderful time leading a Vesper-like service for a youth group from Yorktown, NY. The theme of the service was faith and social justice. Tonight they also volunteered with food prep and will help out tomorrow at the soup kitchen. I thought I’d share the bulletin since I enjoyed creating it so much! 

Christ of the Breadlines.jpg

 

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.

– Thomas Merton


Tonight’s service will grapple with God’s calling for justice
throughout Scripture and our response.


Creation as a whole is very good

Genesis 1:29-31 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that was made, and indeed, it was very good.

Reflection: What goodness have you seen this last week? Has there been a moment when everything in world seemed to be working together?

“King of My Heart” by John Mark and Sarah McMillan

Let the King of my heart
be the mountain where I run
The Fountain I drink from
You are my Song

Let the King of my heart
be the shadow where I hide
the ransom for my life
You are my Song

Refrain:
You are good, good, ohhh
You are good, good, ohhh
You are good, good, ohhh
You are good, good, ohhh

Let the King of my heart
be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves
You are my Song

Let the King of my heart
be the fire inside my veins
the echo of my days
You are my Song

Refrain

When the night is holding onto me
God is holding on.

When the night is holding onto me
God is holding on


Yet the world is not as it should be

Habakkuk 1:2-4
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrong doing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore, judgment comes forth perverted.

Reflection: God has called the world and us good. Where have you seen us screw it up this week?

Prayer: Let us write down on post-it notes those places and situations where the world could be better. Once you’ve written it down, please place it on the prayer wall.

“Lord, listen to Your Children Praying”

Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying
Lord, Send Your Spirit in this Place
Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying
Send us love, send us power, send us grace


Jesus’ call for justice

Luke 6:27-36 Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Holy One; for God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be compassionate, just as God is compassionate.”

Reflection: Have you seen or heard about someone who follows Christ and performs such acts?

“For Everyone Born”
Shirley Murray (vs. 1,2,4) and Chris Shelton (v. 3)

For everyone born.jpg


James on how we judge the poor

James 2:1-7 My sisters and brothers, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen up: Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that God has promised? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

Reflection: Are you surprised that these verses are in our Scriptures? Ponder on those moments when you’ve judged another person based on how they dressed, or what they drove, or how they spoke.


All of creation yearns for justice

Romans 8:18-25 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for creation was subjected to uselessness, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that all of creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Prayer: Use the markers to color in the world based on what you think the world needs.

Love: Purple
Peace: Blue
Justice: Green
Compassion: Yellow
Kindness: Red
Healthy Relationships: Orange

Globe.jpg


We pursue justice together, not alone

“We have all known the long loneliness
and we have learned that the only solution is love
and that love comes with community.”
– Dorothy Day

“Guide My Feet”

Guide my feet while I run this race
Guide my feet while I run this race
Guide my feet while I run this race
For I don’t want to run alone

Hold my hand…

Search my heart…

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Christainity, Homelessness, Liberation Theology, Prayer

a prayer for justice

Clarissa Explains White Supremacy

 Oh God of this world and universe,
You constantly surprise us.
You bring about life where there is only death.
You sing to us sweet melodies that comfort those despairing.
And you guide us with hope.

The horrific acts these past few days have made our hearts heavy.
There was a bombing of a Colorado Springs NAACP office.
A group of armed men killed a whole staff of magazine writers in Paris.
And a kosher supermarket hostage situation ended in four deaths.

We are overwhelmed and frustrated.
These terrorists attacks distract us from dealing internally.
As in the US, we need to call out and end racism, white supremacy,
police brutality, economic inequality, homophobia, trans*phobia,
and so much more.

We are overwhelmed and angry
that national news cycles barely covered the NAACP bombing,
that our own President sent condolences the same night the two NYPD officers were killed,
but took days to say a word on Michael Brown.

We know, O God, that our world is unjust.
We are not asking to be rescued,
we are asking for the courage to speak out and act against injustice.
We are not asking to be more “heavenly-minded, that we are no earthly good,”
but that we are a people who show others the alternative life of your Reign.

We pray this in the name of Jesus, who stands in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, Amen.

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Christainity, Homelessness, Liberation Theology, Politics

unexiled and the us

The Prophet Jeremiah preached before and during the Exile. During this time of turmoil, Jeremiah cast down the hierarchies in Judah, decrying them to allow Babylon to take over. In spite of Jeremiah, King Zedekiah had other plans and started to build up the army to ward off the Babylonians. Yet, an unexpected problem occurred: Egypt, Judah’s ally, no longer wanted to aid Judah by pushing back the massive Empire. Needless to say, after a while the Judean forces could no longer handle the immensity of the Babylonians. And in 587/6 BCE, the Babylonians pushed their way into the city of Jerusalem, destroyed it, and took many of its citizens.

Jeremiah sided with the Babylonian Empire. Of course, pragmatically speaking, Jeremiah was right in claiming that Judah should abandon all of its forces to Babylon so that they may live in peace, at least the kind that Empire’s grant: peace through force, and loyal obedience. Yet this is the opposite of when I think of the prophetic tradition, logic and pragmatics does not come to mind. Immediately, I think of something that God/She hopes for in the world, like Second Isaiah or Amos, etc. Yet, Jeremiah speaks the language of the Empire.

In contrast, the kind of logic that Jesus taught was the logic of the kin-dom. God/She cares about humanity and the world, rather than a type of political gain, ultimately his was topsy turvy. Jesus claimed that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Those who think that they are first in the God/She’s kin-dom will be last. Certainly not the way of the world, especially during election season.

In the centre of his book, Jeremiah created a dichotomy between bad figs/good figs. The good figs are those in the Exiled community. In Second Kings 25:12 it read “But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vine-dressers and tillers of the soil.” The people who were exiled were the wealthy, those who had power, and influence in their communities. The homeless, the downtrodden, the impure were left. Jeremiah suggests that God left the bad figs to be no more (Jeremiah 24:10). This hints that the land was barren.

Thankfully, because of historical-criticism, we now know that the land was not barren during the time of the Exile. This raises many questions: Why did the author write that the land was barren? Was it because s/he was embarrassed of who was left? Did these Exiles only believe that they were the Chosen Ones of God? Those who wrote and stored the Hebrew Scriptures were those situated in the Exile. The people left in the land had to fend for themselves, they were forgotten people. The book of Lamentations probably written during the Exile in the land of Judah gives a perspective of what was happening after they were left.

Lamentation 5:1-10; 20-22 (NRSV)

Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;

look, and see our disgrace!

Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,

our homes to aliens.

We have become orphans, fatherless;

our mothers are like widows.

We must pay for the water we drink;

the wood we get must be bought.

With a yoke on our necks we are hard driven;

we are weary, we are given no rest.

We have made a pact with Egypt and Assyria,

to get enough bread.

Our ancestors sinned; they are no more,

and we bear their iniquities.

Slaves rule over us;

there is no one to deliver us from their hand.

We get our bread at the peril of our lives,

because of the sword in the wilderness.

Our skin is black as an oven

from the scorching heat of famine.

Why have you forgotten us completely?

Why have you forsaken us these many days?

Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;

renew our days as of old—

unless you have utterly rejected us,

and are angry with us beyond measure.

The lamenter believed that God gave up on them, that God utterly rejected them. They had no hope of one to come and redeem them from their plight. Today we are faced with the same challenge. Our myth in the US is that the only people who matter are the upper and middle class. Those who are poor and marginalized are left to fend for themselves. Thus political platforms are only for those with money. In the recent political conventions, the word God was infused in their lexicon, but homeless, poor, marginalized, were not granted such a measure.

The kin-dom of God/She contradicts the ways of the world. Any section of the ancient Scriptures, God’s love for the people on the margins can be found. The good news about Jeremiah is that he never left Judah, he stayed with the marginalized. If those in power do not care about the poor and their voice is silenced because our politicians ears are stuffed with money, how can we not, but help? We must give up the myths taught to us, and practice the truth of God/She’s love. This truth is beyond charity, this is about solidarity and compassion (to suffer with). We must seek to change the system, the metanarratives, and our habits to create a better world. While doing this, we must pray, pray for the impossible, pray with our feet, and pray with our hands.

Al Jazeera wrote and recorded a wonderful piece called the US ignoring the poor.

 

Killer Mike composed a song called Reagan that speaks of the 1980’s, drugs, and how people treat others specifically African American males. (profanity used)

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Anarchism, Christainity, Homelessness

moving mountains in the kin-dom

The summer staff eats dinner together every night. We talk about the evening program and our days with the groups. There comes a breaking point where laughter erupts and the conversation devolves into mindless rumble. Last week, this laughter evolved into playful criticism towards me. I lead the music for the evening program and I am not ashamed to say I pick songs that are indie. You know, songs from bands that no one has ever heard of or songs originally sung in different languages? The staff complained of hearing the same songs each week, although the youth love the songs that I play and every week sing with a different group. They called me a pseudo-hipster, which infuriated me and I proceeded in pretending to throw things and destroy the office.
One song that I adore is a Spanish worship song titled Montaña by Salvador. The lyrics are thus:
If you have faith like a seed of a mustard
That’s what the Lord has said
If you have faith like a seed of a mustard
That’s what the Lord has said
You can say to the mountain move away move away
You can say to the mountain move away move away
And the mountain will move away move away move away
And the mountain will move away move away move away

It takes the group at least two go arounds to really get into this song. Once this happens, the energy in the sanctuary is incomparable to other songs throughout the week. Youth, as well as adults, love it. I have come up with a few theories about this passionate energy. The youth are first filled with vigor, as they sing a song different from in their own churches. Second, the melody is catchy and resonates; they cannot help but jump around during the chorus. There are other responses, but I am going to focus on the fact that the youth are expecting/experiencing the kin-dom of God, where the world will be turned upside down. This is why they  jump in joyous presumption that God is participating with them in creating something new.

Post-modern philosopher and theologian, John Caputo, crafted the book “The Weakness of God,” which I have been devouring this week. Caputo
summarizes the dichotomy between the world’s kingdoms and God’s kin-dom, writing,
“The kingdom that Jesus called for was a kingdom ironically, one that was itself mocking the business-as-usual of the powers that be, one in which a divine madness reigned, even as it was, from the point of view of the Roman Empire, of the Brutality of the world, simple foolishness, outright stupidity” (15).
The kin-dom that we are expecting is one of reversals. The youth groups observe reversals of cultural normalcy through urban gardens, Narcotics Anonymous Meetings, in small neighborhood churches reaching out into their communities through play. Explosions of reality occur at every location, most of it concrete and tangible with the senses. For example, when the youth uproot weeds that choke vegetables and herbs, they smell soil, manure, and hay; soil slips in their fingernails, and sweat drips from their forehead. This contradicts the common pattern they are used to, such as going to fast food restaurants, standing on hard tile, receiving food wrapped in paper, and drinking sodas with unknown ingredients.Eruptions of the kin-dom gives hope to the hopeless. They force one to reconsider the way they have been living. One can see the mountains move before their very eyes, if not now, soon with the coming kin-dom. The role of imagination appears in the middle of kin-dom and reality. Imagination lends one to think of a different reality where the impossible is possible, where the food deserts in north Philadelphia become places of lush gardens of vegetables and orchards of fruit, where people are treated with respect rather than contempt.

Yet, it is much too simple to be cynical about reality, to allow the kingdom of the world to dictate our actions. For this reason, communities of believers must be the imaginative voices in their towns. A group of people where their imagination is intricate in their prayer life is those who practice the Ignatian Spirituality. One is asked to imagine scenes in their minds when praying, e.g. biblical scene of Mary and Elizabeth meeting while both are pregnant and John the Baptizer kicking in the womb while being near Jesus. These kind of imaginative practices must bleed into the very life in how we perform everyday. The imagination and the kin-dom to come should be intertwined and seek this new world, while trying our best to create something in the present.

Gustave Dore, known for paintings of biblical stories, painted this beautiful picture titled “Voyage to the Moon.” It speaks to imagination and going to a realm of impossibilities.

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