Our Sister Phoebe, a Deacon

Theological musings inspired by the Spirit and totally Ellen…

Archive for the month “April, 2009”

>Mobilizing

>Today was the second hottest day of the year in the capitol, and it was definitely hot at the convention center when the Sojourners met with White House personnel and listened to what the Obama Administration wants to do to eradicate poverty in America, heard from President Obama and Jeffrey Sachs via video appearances and then gathered in state groups for our trip to Capitol Hill tomorrow, planning our strategies for discussing three important issues with legislators: health care reform, domestic poverty and fully fund the president’s foreign affairs budget request.

We learned that a budget isn’t just an Excel spreadsheet of numbers and bottom lines, but a moral contract that outline our nation’s values and priorities.

How is it that the most powerful nation in the world, and the wealthiest cannot take care of its poor and defenseless? Can bail out banks and insurance companies, but cannot offer its citizens medical insurance so that people needn’t go bankrupt trying to pay the cost of medical bills if they lose their insurance?

Rep. Lewis told us yesterday that Christians have an obligation to get in the way of injustice. Today one speaker said it in plain English – he said he was sick of “dumb, stupid, poverty” and wanted to do something.

Tomorrow I’m sure he’ll be on the Hill with us.

I don’t have a large bank account that I can use to contribute to food banks and shelters, but I have a gift that we all have – the gift of having a voice that I can use to speak with those in positions to make laws and change laws, to ask them to consider the needs of the poor and struggling middle class when allocating money and programs.

The President addressed the conference via video feed, encouraging us to speak out and fight for those without voices. Mr. Obama was proud that our government takes the problems of the poor seriously and want seriously to turn things around, e.g. the Half-in-Ten resolution put forth by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Cal.Dist.9): that the United States should set a national goal of cutting poverty in half over the next 10 years.

Impossible? Idealistic?

Perhaps.

But remember what thirteen colonies of Great Britain did over two hundred years ago?

Remember what a rabbi from Nazareth started up with 12 of his friends?

Go in peace, dear ones.

Ellen+

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>Excuse me, but get in my way . . .

>So it’s at least 75-80 degrees still in Washington DC and it’s 6:30 p.m. There really isn’t an inch of seating left in Shiloh Baptist Church at 9th and P Streets – the place to be. Tonight is the opening of the Mobilization to End Poverty Conference and I’ve never been in a room so charged with energy and the holy spirit. I thought the place was going to explode when Rev. Ferguson stood up and witnessed his life of struggle and redemption. If there is any proof that a loving God exists and works through us, it is in Rev. Ferguson, who as a young man was incarcerated but turned his life around thanks to the Holy Spirit. And then Rep. John Lewis preached eloquently and passionately. We’ve got to find a way to get in the way. It’s time for us to do something about ending poverty.

Another comment heard tonight from another speaker was that God is not outside Hell pulling people in, but standing outside pulling people out. Rep. Lewis asked why the government could bail out Wall Street but not Main Street.

So many people in that warm, crowded church, but so much powerful faith, too. This is the faith that truly can move mountains and bring positive, equitable change.

It used to be that we were safer staying out of the way of challenges, adversity, discord – now it’s in our best interest to get in the way of those who will not live out the Gospel and help their fellow brothers and sisters build new and better lives for themselves and their families, for all us for that matter.

Go in peace.

>The Deacon Has Landed

>Okay, yes I WAS scared to death and almost in tears getting on that plane this morning, but here I am in Washington DC at my friend Rebecca’s lovely brownstone, in an attic bedroom with a friendly tabby named Gabriel – Julian, you have competition for my heart!

The flight gave me an opportunity for evangelism. When people chatted about their destinations and I mentioned the conference, heads nodded and a few said, “Wow!” Comments like “If they (the government) can bail out the banks, auto companies, what about helping people feed their kids, pay the rent?” went around.

It’s a larger than life issue and the answers won’t come easy, but that’s why we’re meeting – to find scripture-based answers to the problem.

I’m still on California time, though it’s 11:49 p.m. here, and that would be way past my bed time. But I can’t sleep for the excitement of being in Washington DC for the first time – I saw the Capitol lit up as we drove into the city and I got chills. If anything good can come out of Washington DC it will be people getting together and working for a solution that will benefit everyone. Isn’t that a great way of living out the Gospel?

Back to the flight – I sat by a window – the best way to get over fear is to confront it – and stared down at the landscape when it wasn’t covered by clouds and fog. It was one incredible way to admire God’s creation. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see the great Mississippi River snaking through states. The man sitting next to me teased and said I needed to get out more often. That’s as may be, but it really showed me what a small place I take up in Creation, and even though I am not as grand as a mighty river, or as majestic as the mountains and canyons I saw from the plane, I have a place and I have work to do. We all do.

Go in peace,

Ellen+

>Ending Poverty – One Step at a Time

>In three hours I’ll be leaving Oakland Airport for Washington, DC. I haven’t flown in 18 years and I’ve never been a fan of the mode of transportation, but I felt this conference, The Mobilization to End Poverty, was important enough to suck up the fear and loathing and just go – just go and join my diocesan colleagues and sisters, Shari, Linda and Salying, and thousands of other people of like mind to get together and figure out how we can end this epidemic of poverty in this, the most wealthy nation, and throughout the world. Day One is Sunday evening. Before the conference, I’ll sightseeing and serving at St. Paul’s Rock Creek – including a visit to their historic cemetery – on Sunday morning.

So pray with and for me on this trip, and when I get back, we can work together to turn things around. We already said, “Yes we can,” now we have to show that words have action behind them.

Go in peace, dear ones!

Ellen+

>Believe!

>

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

If you responded with the words, “The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!” I bet you wouldn’t have said that if you didn’t believe. Brothers and sisters, you do believe Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, right?

Okay, so where do we go from here?

A week has passed, but the excitement, the joy remains. You want to flip that page in the Gospel of John and find out what those other signs were that Jesus did. You want the story to continue, and it does, in the Book of Acts, the epistles and in the lives of everyone who has heard the Good News and proclaimed it. The greatest story ever told has an epilogue, and we are it.

How is this possible, when you and I weren’t there when the stone was rolled back and Jesus walked out of the tomb?

It’s possible because Jesus said so.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Certainly good news for us, a slap on the wrist, perhaps for Thomas.

Thomas is one of those less-than-perfect disciples that one can find kinship with, for how many can truly say they’ve never questioned anything we’ve been told or seen, especially when the hour and the day are dark and feel without promise?

Those moments come, and then God puts into play or reveals something that turns one from being faithless to faithful, like the Resurrection. It happened to a group of scared, determined and faithful followers who kept the momentum going, from that morning to this.

I don’t buy into the dictum that you’ve got to see it, to believe it. We can’t see the air, but it is all around us. We see its action – in the movement of Creation when the wind blows, we feel it on our skin. It is there.

God is there. God came to us in the form and blessing of Jesus. So many prophets came before Jesus claiming to be the Christ, the redeemer and savior. They slipped away into obscurity, some suffered ignominious deaths. What made Jesus so different?

He was who he said he was. He did what he said he was going to do. The resurrection of Christ gave new life to the followers of the Jesus movement. What was promised by Jesus in his teaching, was and is being lived out. The apostles, the first followers of Jesus, proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom – what Jesus promised in his teachings and ministry was made true. The followers of Jesus live out the new commandment – that followers love one another as Jesus loved them, and in attending to the needs of one another, what Jesus commanded was made tangible and real.

The apostles became the leaders of the movement and strived to live as they were taught, showing that “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a great family of different people, living together, loving one another and all living in equality.” What Jesus demonstrated in his ministry was kept alive by the faith, belief and right action of the Apostles.

And this is where we come in.

We are now the disciples, called to keep the Good News in play, to keep the Word in our hearts and minds, and to keep it alive. How you and I do this depends on the gifts God has given each one of us, and how the Spirit moves within us.

I’m pretty certain we’re always looking for new ways to proclaim the Gospel – some have been quite successful haven’t they? And some, abysmal failures. What keeps us going is belief. If Jesus can die for our sins, we can return the favor by keeping at it, trying harder. I believe he is with us every step of the way – sometimes we have to open our hearts and minds a bit wider to see him, get past our own wounds so that we can see his. No, we haven’t seen the five wounds of Christ except in artwork and in scripture, but we know they are real. I believe that every time we say ‘peace be with you,’ Christ says it to us.

It’s time for us to write the next chapter of the greatest story ever told. I intend to put my mark on the page this week when I begin my sabbatical and travel to Washington for the interfaith conference hosted by Sojourners – the Mobilization to End Poverty. I’ll gather with three of my diocesan colleagues in ministry and others of like mind to find ways of ending the epidemic of poverty in America. When I return from Washington, I’ll spend some time with the information and tools I receive so that when I return from my sabbatical in September, I can offer new resources and ways that my congregation lives out the new commandment and follows Christ’s dictum that when we feed and clothe and attend to the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, we do the same for Him.

What will you write on the page?

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