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Showing posts from February, 2017

Why Ashes, and Why Give Up things for Lent

Ash Wednesday - this year, falling on March 1st - is later in the calendar year than in many years, so I wanted to take advantage of the extra time to write a couple of "pre-Lent" messages about Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent.  Two of the most frequently asked questions about Ash Wednesday and Lent are  1) Why do we put ashes on our foreheads?  and  2) Why do we give up things for Lent? More about #2 next week, but a short answer to #1 is that we put ashes on our foreheads because  ashes are a sign of mortality and penitence.  "Mortality" means, bluntly, that at some point or another, we will die. "Penitence" means taking stock of one's misdoings.  Ash Wednesday, it is said, is a kind of Christian  Yom Kippur  - and as Rabbi Alexis Roberts says of that day,  "Many say we're practicing to be dead: looking over our values, accomplishments, and failures as though it was all over and now we have to make an accounting."  "T

Let's Unpack One Trump Tweet on Refugees

No one can  -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out. No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue.  A lthough I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees. But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal.  Take one of Saturday's tweets , for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this:  “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?”  Let's unpack:  "What is our country coming to..."  Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hop

"So-called" Judge Robart?

This clip is of the United States Senate voting, on June 17, 2004, on President George W. Bush's nomination of James L. Robart to be the U.S. District Judge for the Western District at Washington. Judge Robart is the one who issued a ruling yesterday that temporarily blocks one of the Executive Orders on immigration and refugees. As an exercise in democracy, watch the clip. It's only 51 seconds long. Wait for it -- notice whose vote was the last affirmative vote. Note what the final vote count was. After watching, ask yourself: are there any other steps in our democracy that necessary to confirming a District judge? After answering those questions, ask yourself: Why would the person currently holding the office of President of the United States refer to Robart as a "so-called" judge? “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump wrote.

Salt and Light: "Accountability is not about watching what you are doing. It is about being on fire."

There's a definition of "accountability" I heard some time ago, one I shared last Sunday during our Adult Forum's exploration of the Sermon on the Mount. "Accountability is not about watching what you are doing. It is about being on fire." That seems to be the point Jesus is making when he tells his followers that they - we - are "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." There is a great scene a in the movie  Walk the Line,  the movie about Johnny Cash, that makes this same point: It's where Johnny Cash is first auditioning, when he and two of his buddies are singing a gospel song to the famous producer Sam Phillips. Sam interrupts them and tells them he can't sell gospel, not the way they were singing it, because when he was singing it, he didn't believe him.   Johnny Cash is offended and says, "are you saying I don't believe in God?" Sam Phillips says, " You know exactly what I'