Lenten Reflection Guide: Easter Sunday
Excerpted from the NC Council of Churches Lenten Guide, “Journey to Justice” When the sabbath was over,… Continue Reading
Because the season of Advent is a time of awaiting the Christ child and the risen Christ, it is a perfect time to think about social justice issues. Christ’s ministry, which is explored in other seasons of the Christian year, focuses on lifting up those whom society regarded as worthless or weak, including the poor, the ill, the foreigner, women, and children. Social justice was at the core of Jesus’ ministry. Based on the Advent readings for Lectionary Year A, this guide will assist you in slowing down this season by taking 20-30 minutes one night a week to focus on social justice.
Rev. Michael Kinnamon (School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University)Where does this leave us today? How can the ecumenical impulse be revitalized in such an era as ours? The answer to this may be suggested in the distinction between optimism and hope. Optimism involves the expectation of a better future based on a reading of present circumstances; hope involves the trustful anticipation of genuine newness, perhaps beyond our imagining, based on the promises of God.
Sojo.netJesus was a peacemaking, blessed child of God, but he also was an “other.” Reviled and persecuted, he was the paperless son of displaced immigrant parents. The prophetic iconoclast. That guy who hung out with those people, the type most modern leaders would not associate with, except for a photo opportunity at a Thanksgiving Day soup kitchen. Let us remember on Sunday when we celebrate his resurrection, that Jesus was crucified because he was an outsider whose way of doing things scared and angered the powers-that-be.
From Acts of Faith: Free Lectionary Resources for Prophetic WorshipDate: 4th Sunday in Lent – March 10, 2013
From the laws and histories of ancient Israel to the life of Jesus and the letters of Paul, themes related to the treatment of farmworkers emerge consistently throughout the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Many of these passages suggest that a community’s relationship with God is in fact defined at least in part by its treatment of foreigners, laborers, the poor, and the marginalized. Below is a brief selection of Bible verses that support the idea that farmworkers should be treated fairly.
Thank you for your decision to conquer evil with good. You have decided to defeat opposition and resistance with diligence and perseverance. But above all, thank you for allowing love and hospitality to prevail over hate and hostility. When I arrived to this country it was precisely people like you, women and men of faith that practiced hospitably and your Christian love, who left an impression and transformed my life forever. Please don’t have any doubt that God uses every gesture of Christian love and radical hospitality that you make towards an immigrant in order to transform lives.
From Acts of Faith: Free Lectionary Resources for Prophetic Worship
Date: 4th Sunday after Easter, April 29, 2012
Topic: Interfaith Connections
Focus Text: John 10:11-18
From the pastoral reflection: In 21st century North Carolina we have many and various ways to come into contact with “other sheep.” Will we stick to our own kind, work to create a Christian enclave where we feel safe and secure, free from any risk? Or, will we be the welcoming face, the open hands, the purposeful feet, and the compassionate voice of Christ in the world so that all may know the love of God?
Rev. Jill Edens, United Church of Chapel HillThough the disciples have left everything to follow Jesus, the discussion as they travel to Jerusalem reveals that they are profoundly unready for what is to come. In this pivotal moment we encounter blind Bartimaeus who Mark holds up as a model for discipleship: “As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
Last week, Council Program Associate Chris Liu-Beers was invited to Shaw Divinity School in Raleigh to preach during their weekly chapel service. Chris preached on immigration issues, with a focus on the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
The American Diabetes Association has launched a new faith-based program called “Live Empowered” which is designed to assist churches with integrating diabetes awareness messages and life application principles into worship services. Also, in observance of American Diabetes Month, the American Diabetes Association is sponsoring “Super Diabetes Sunday” on November 13th. Super Diabetes Sundays will include materials and giveaways to help your congregation join the fight against diabetes.
In Ezekiel, we hear the cry of God for God’s sheep throughout the land and nations. As a shepherd, God makes connections across lands and regions where we have, time and time again, made divisions. For too long, we have defined health with a too limited view as to who my neighbor is and who my fellow sheep are.
The payment of taxes is one of the ways we demonstrate we are an extended family as citizens of this state and nation. While we hardly agree on how much we should be taxed, or how our taxes should be used, there is agreement that the burden falls to all of us in some measure. But here is where my family metaphor breaks down in discussing tax policy. Whereas we would never expect a family member with few resources to pay as much of his or her money for the family’s living expenses as another family member with greater resources, our current tax system does just that. Or worse.
This is the purpose of education wherever it takes place, moving beyond rote repetition to provide each learner the possibility of a future better than what might otherwise be expected. Psalm 78 invites humility, gratitude, and “the exercise of power in the form of love, not of force.
In Jesus’ economics, the one represented here by the generous landowner, all workers received the pay they needed in order to survive, even if it seemed unfair to those who had worked all day. Sabbath economics is Jesus economics. As Ched Myers notes, Sabbath economics is about the grace of receiving what the Creator (employer) gives and the responsibility not to take more than is needed. Wide gaps between rich and poor are not part of God’s plan, and God’s people are called to be part of God’s generosity so that all have enough on which to live.
In one month, our country will mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks on our nation on 9/11. Many denominations, faith groups and religious organizations have prepared materials for use in community gatherings and worship services in congregations – click here for links to those resources. You will also find pastoral care materials and age appropriate resources for children.
In a community of Christians, the hopeful possibilities present in conflict will only be realized when we deal with the tension in a productive way. When a congregation faces conflict openly and directly with the people involved, there is a good opportunity for the situation to result in positive change and closer relationships between people. When conflict is handled in a way that cuts off communication and silences questions, the conflict can escalate and become destructive.
Much of the book of Romans is given over to some pretty heavy theological work. What is the meaning of God’s righteousness? Where does Israel fit into this? What about justification by faith? What happens to the Mosaic law? What role does grace play? Heavy questions facing the newly developing church in the First Century.
Growing up in church, it would be fair for me to say that most sermons I heard were either concerned with A) theology or B) decrying certain practices in our contemporary Western culture. Neither of these is wrong or unimportant, as theology is the bedrock of faith, and there is much to decry in the world. The one thing I rarely heard preached on, however, was issues of social justice. And when preached on, it was through standard channels—witnessing/evangelism, donating food and clothing to our church’s pantry, and giving offerings. These are all well and good, but can we do more than these traditional categories?
It’s strange that despite earlier reforms, a country which took such richness from Appalachia left so little for the people. Great fortunes were built on the exploitation of Appalachian workers and Appalachian resources; yet the land was left without revenues to care for its social needs, like education, welfare, old age, and illness.
The cup of water that Matthew asks us to offer is a dangerous thing. It assumes we have looked at our visitor and noticed his or her thirst. We are willing to be inconvenienced, to go to the well and draw the pure clean water and offer it in hospitality—which might lead us to pulling out a chair and inquiring about the rest of the family.
It seems to be a prayer that we who love Jesus may be at one with him and with the Father and that, somehow, the world’s believing in him depends on our witness to him in unity. That is to say, if his followers are splintered into many varying and conflicting entities, the witness that could draw people to him is greatly diminished. This is not an accident – this is crucial to Jesus!
As I look from my living room window at the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd, I am compelled to rush to my car radio to listen to the news for further updates, if any are currently on! Tidbits of information from the streets come my way and it is shocking what I hear. Roads are flooded cutting off routes of escape from the city west toward Raleigh, east toward Kenly, and some say you can’t get through Rocky Mount.
If there were such a thing as a six o’clock news cast in the first century, Jesus the felon would appear walking down the street escorted by the police of his day—handcuffed—if you will. The announcer would tell us that the vandal who destroyed Temple property and repeatedly broke Jewish laws; the welfare king who relied on the generosity of unsuspecting middle class women to promote his suspicious doctrine; the man known to frequent the establishments of tax collectors and prostitutes—and claimed to be God, had finally been apprehended and was awaiting sentencing. Yes, in the minds of this first century felon’s accusers, he was little more than a common criminal.
A Reflection on Public Education in God’s World Today
Rev. Joe Brown, chair of the Council’s Public Education Committee and a Presiding Elder in the AME Zion Church, is encourging congregations across North Carolina to use a Lenten Study Guide which has been created by members of the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy.
The blind beggar healed on the Sabbath was a threat to them! His healing, his liberation was an assault on their traditions, their values, their power, their very lives. They felt attacked. And when we are threatened, we are reactive! We do not want to let go, holding tenaciously to what we know to be true. One slip, one exception, and everything we know would crumble. Must one person’s liberation be another person’s threat?
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
This Prayer for Unity and monthly prayer calendar include by name the judicatories and congregations that are members of the North Carolina Council of Churches and the names of their current leaders. Your pryers for reconciliation are invited for all Christian bodies in and beyond the state.
I grew up in the South where my Church seldom addressed justice issues. Most of the sermons were about personal behavior and the plan of salvation. In fact, there was a common vocabulary used in churches that suggested Christians should not be “worldly.” It was as if the task of the Church was to save people from the world rather than transform the world. This was a theological way of escaping the justice issues of our racist, segregated society.
For 10 years I have served a very poor church. The church’s total income is way below the poverty level, especially for a family of 45. Many of the folks who worship with and have leadership at the church are homeless or unemployed. Many have black or brown skin. Monthly fellowship meals are really a feeding of the hungry as the majority of guests at every meal are without work. The church pays utilities for a day shelter for the homeless in its small basement. With only weekly offerings for income, somehow the church has no debt and a little surplus. It must be that God cares about the poor and still makes a way out of no way.
Our lectionary texts, Isaiah 65:17-25 and Psalm 98, offer vision and hope for people of faith, a vision of ultimate peace among the whole of creation. The Hebrew word which implies such a state of being is shalom. The word shalom has a deep and rich meaning, implying not only a lack of hostility towards the creation and all God’s creatures, but also a state of general health and well being, a condition where there is “ecojustice” for all parts of creation.
The school year of 2006 began rather quietly as most school years do. But on August 30th, a boy with a gun walked into a high school in Hillsborough, NC, and the new school year was marked by violence.
Little did we know that this August 30th shooting at a North Carolina high school would be a harbinger of a national spate of school shootings. The young shooter in Hillsborough had a deadly plan and a number of guns; after killing his father he shot and wounded a student at a nearby high school.
Rabbi Mark Strauss-Cohn, Temple Emanuel (Winston-Salem)What is it about the rear side of a car that they are a primary location to display our affiliations: sports, political groups, rock bands, restaurants, ideologies, personal interests, vacation spots, synagogues (a very popular one here in Winston-Salem)… You see these signs everywhere.
We were on our tour bus, about to leave the dorm where we had been staying, when a few of us saw her. She looked about sixty years old, and she looked like she could have been my grandmother. She came quietly around the corner of the building, went straight to the big trashcan, and started digging out our thrown-away lunches. She put what she could find in a bag, and she was gone.Sheltered life that I had led, I had never before seen someone using a trashcan as a food source.
The biblical writers were, indeed, no strangers to the most painful kinds of suffering: they experienced it, they gave voice to it and often denounced oppressive systems which caused it, and they witnessed to a God who could hear their most heartfelt cries and still remain their God.
Welcome to our worship resources for Partners in Health and Wholeness (PHW). PHW is an ambitious program of the North Carolina Council of Churches designed to help people of faith to see health — their own health — as an issue of faith and to take action that will lead to healthier and more abundant living.
A Litany of Lament Over a Despoiled Ocean
Ken Sehested, pastor, Alliance-affiliated
Circle of Mercy, Asheville, N.C.
In the beginning, darkness covered the face of the deep.
Then the Breath of Heaven swept across the waters, blessing the sea with all manner of creatures.
The sea knows its Maker and roars its applause; the fish therein leap at the sound of God’s voice.
Through the baptismal waters of the Red Sea did the Israelites escape their tormentors and emerge to freedom’s demand.
This Prayer for Unity and monthly prayer calendar include by name the judicatories and congregations that are members of the North Carolina Council of Churches and the names of their current leaders. Your prayers for reconciliation are invited for all Christian bodies in and beyond the state.
In the United States, Mother’s Day was originally suggested by poet and abolitionist activist Julia Ward Howe. In 1870, after witnessing the carnage of the American Civil War and the start of the Franco-Prussian War, she wrote the original Mother’s Day Proclamation calling upon the women of the world to unite for peace. This “Mother’s Day Proclamation” would plant the seed for what would eventually become a national holiday.
The following are prayers offered for Middle East Peace during a 2006 interfaith prayer service in North Carolina.It is good that we have been here today, not because it changes a thing, but because it reminds us that as diverse as our traditions and convictions are, our hearts yearn for similar things. And if this is true, if we are hoping and praying and working for the same ultimate goals, then we are connected in a soulful way. And acknowledging that truth can change everything.
May the One who made us for peace, give us the courage to live in peace.
May the One who made us in love, give us the compassion to reach out in love.
May the One who made us with hope, give us the strength to persevere in hope.
And may all of our sisters and brothers in the Middle East know the fullness of God’s peace, God’s hope, and God’s love. Amen.
September is #HealthyAging month. Go to ncoa.org to learn more about what the aging process looks like and how we can help our friends, families, and neighbors in this process. @NCOAging pic.twitter.com/GJiW…
"This year our children and youth took hikes, zoo trips, swims in our local pools and participated in physical activities within our church." Click the link to hear how New Hope AME Zion Church's youth have started prioritizing health & wholeness. bit.ly/2mtfEcf #NC pic.twitter.com/Su5T…
RT @NRDC Waking up to photos of thousands of people taking to the streets for this historic #ClimateStrike is the best way to wake up! ⏰ We are READY to take action! ✊ #StrikeWithUs twitter.com/ZaynRahm…
RT @billmckibben It is all but impossible to get pictures out of lower Manhattan this afternoon--the crowd, which we're estimating at 300k minimum, has overwhelmed the cellphone networks. It is big, and it is beautiful #ClimateStrike