November 28, 2014

never say that you did not know

You may choose to look the other way but you can never say that you did not know – Wilbur Wilberforce

Wilberforce (1759 – 1833) was an English politician, philanthropist, and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. He began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent member of Parliament for Yorkshire. In 1785, he underwent a conversion experience and became an evangelical Christian, which resulted in major changes to his lifestyle and a lifelong concern for reform. In 1787, he came into contact with Thomas Clarkson and a group of anti-slave-trade activists. Wilberforce was persuaded to take on the cause of abolition, and he soon became one of the leading English abolitionists. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

Wilberforce was convinced of the importance of religion, morality and education. He championed causes and campaigns such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, British missionary work in India, the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone the foundation of the Christian Mission Society, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His underlying conservatism led him to support politically and socially repressive legislation, and resulted in criticism that he was ignoring injustices at home while campaigning for the enslaved abroad.

Twenty years later, Wilberforce supported the campaign for the complete abolition of slavery, and continued his involvement after 1826, when he resigned from Parliament because of his failing health. That campaign led to the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire; Wilberforce died just three days after hearing that the passage of the Act through Parliament was assured.

November 25, 2014

Open up the graves

The earth was established to be in common for all, rich and poor….Nature makes no distinctions among us at our birth, and none at our death. All alike she creates us, all alike she seals us in the tomb. Who can tell the dead apart? Open up the graves, and, if you can, tell which was a rich man. – Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose is right, isn’t he? Our planet is home to all of us. All of us are born, live our lives and then die. In the end our socio-economic status makes absolutely no difference.

The shame is that during our brief sojourn on this blessed sphere we do our best to magnify every possible distinction between us. It’s a shame because we are all one family.

Instead of loving each other as we have been loved, we all “have to have someone we can look down on” as the saying goes. We have completely lost sight of the fact we are all connected. And I am not just talking about our social, economic and ethnic distinctions. We have forgotten that all of humanity is one and every single one of us is integrally connected to this wonderful planet.

Everything is connected, and all of us are part of an exquisite interwoven whole that is earth. How sad it is that we no longer understand that. We allow and take part in destruction of each other and our environment with absolutely no conscious thought.

That’s a damned shame. Rich or poor, what does it matter?

So open up the graves. Maybe it’s not too late.

November 23, 2014

prayer for insight

Most merciful and gracious Lord, we thank you for another night of safety and rest. We praise you for another glorious day filled with the promise of your presence and power.

We pray today to be more mindful in all we do.  We pray today to have more understanding, especially for those in dire circumstances and deep difficulties. Help us to see beyond the superficial. Help us, Creator God, to glimpse the same beauty in those in need  for which you allowed your Son to go to the cross.

Allow us to be fully open to your leading. Allow us to be perfectly useful to you in touching those that crave a loving touch, those who shiver with the chill of neglect, and those whose hunger is far deeper than just bread.

Help us this day, o Lord, to have insight in how best to meet the deepest needs of those you place in our path. AMEN.

November 22, 2014

covered in filth and dying of hunger

How can you say you have fulfilled the law and the prophets, when it is written in the law that you should love your neighbor as yourself? Look, many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are covered with filth and dying of hunger. Meanwhile your own house is filled with goods, and not a thing goes out of it to them. – Origen

Faithfulness is never about what we say we believe. Even the early Church Fathers understood this. Faithfulness is about living out our beliefs in real and tangible ways. Faithfulness is about daily decisions.

Loving our neighbor as ourself means doing whatever is most necessary for his salvation, his shalom. That must start with meeting her need for bread and shelter. Everything else is secondary.

November 20, 2014

because we don’t recognize him

If sometimes our poor people have had to die of starvation, it is not that God didn’t care for them, but because you and I didn’t give, were not an instrument in the hands of God, to give them that bread, to give them that clothing; because we did not recognize him, when once more Christ came in distressing disguise, in the hungry man, in the lonely man, in the homeless child, and seeking for shelter. – Mother Teresa

Jesus is clear that on the day of judgement some will inherit a kingdom while others will be cast into the outer darkness. What sets the two groups apart is how differently they treated those most in need, those in desperate circumstances.

Those inheriting the kingdom are those who reached out in love and compassion to those who were hurting and needed help. Those being cast out will be those who ignored the cries of those in need.

In the end, Jesus tells those who will be inheriting the kingdom that when they showed mercy and demonstrated love to the oppressed, the ugly, the despised, and the lonely, they were actually demonstrating love to Him.

Mother Teresa is right. How often do we hurry by the homeless Christ, refusing to look at him? How often do we ignore the hungry Christ, simply because we don’t recognize him?

November 17, 2014

an early start…

The day started well. I decided to get an early start, so I left JoAnna’s house about 8am, even though my US Airways flight to Charlotte and Akron was scheduled for 12:45.

I knew I needed to eat some breakfast. I also knew I wanted to try to buy a pair of gloves before I got to the airport. According to the weather report the temperature in Alliance, Ohio was expected to be between 10 and 15 degrees.

I ate a nice breakfast at the Shiny Diner then was at Dick’s Sporting Goods when the doors opened at 9am. I found a good pair of gloves and was parked at RDU by 10am. Check-in was a breeze, as was getting through security. With time to spare, I even spent a half hour in the 2nd Edition Bookstore.

After getting to my gate I again checked emails before I started rereading my notes for the Carr Lecture I am scheduled to present tomorrow evening at the University of Mount Union. I was thankful for how smoothly the trip was progressing.

We began boarding for the flight to Charlotte right on time. But after the first four first-class passengers had started down the jetway the captain announced a “slight delay.” Within 20 minutes we were informed the slight delay was caused by smoke in the plane’s cabin (never a good sign), and were told the flight was cancelled.

I called US Airways and was told I could fly the Philadelphia at 3:30. My flight from Philly to CAK (Canton-Akron) would not get me there until 9:30.  But, even before I left Raleigh I received word that the flight from Philly to Ohio was delayed due to crew being late.  Then, we boarded the plane in Raleigh and had barely pulled away from the gate when the captain announced that Philly had a ground stop. No planes we landing or leaving.

We set on the plane for an hour and 15 minutes before we we allowed to take off for and hour and 10 minute flight. Oh, and I received a second notice that my connecting flight to Ohio would be further delayed.

So now it’s 8:30 and I have just finished a bowl of soup in the Philly airport. My flight to Ohio is now scheduled to leave at 11:15. That means I should arrive in Akron about 12:30 tomorrow morning. Then, after I pick up my bag, I have a half hour ride to Alliance.

Nothing like getting an early start.

November 16, 2014

prayer for comprehension

Today is yet another perfect day that You have made for us. Thank you for such a glorious creation. Help us take the time to properly appreciate the beauty that surrounds us and the perfection of the world You have formed.

Forgive us for the brazen contempt with which we treat such magnificence and splendor. Forgive us for our lack of caring and our refusal to be good stewards of this gift that sustains the entire human family. Forgive us for our willful wastefulness. Open our eyes that we might see the world as a home that we are wantonly destroying.

Grant us the grace necessary to pull our family together. Help us treat one another with the same love and respect we all seek and deserve. Allow us to fully comprehend that we are all connected, that all creation is one.

And then empower us to start cleaning house. Let each of us do whatever is in our power to make our perfect planet a place of sublime beauty, free of all the ugly and far too visible signs of misuse and lacking of caring. Help each of us walk far more gently and grant us the grace to treat our planet with the respect and reverence such a gift deserves. Amen

November 15, 2014

recognizing we are all one family

Whether people are beautiful or plain, friendly or cruel, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and be happy is equal to one’s own. Now, when you recognize that…you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. This wish is not selective; it applies equally to all. – the Dalai Lama

Ending hunger in our lifetime is possible. We all know it is the right thing to do. My prayer is that we recognize that we are all human beings, we are all one family, and we all have a right to life in all its fullness. Once we recognize that, the feeling of responsibility will lead us to do whatever is necessary to make sure each of us has bread.