Remember All the Souls

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In the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, the last Sunday of October is when All Souls Day is commemorated. We ring the bell and name the people in our congregation and in our hearts who have died during the past year.

I think every day of the anonymous souls around the world who have died in violent circumstances in recent months, as well as the souls who die in the US and whose names we generally know.

I think of the fact that each of these souls had a mother and father, possibly children, possibly siblings, and hopes and dreams for their future.

It feels as if it has been a particularly violent year, so I made up this list of deaths from unnatural causes in 2017 so far; I know there are deaths I have missed. I didn’t look them up in any particular order and yet, as you can see, there is an order to them; there is also a sad, sad pattern.

Niger                                     4

Barcelona                            14

England                               34

Puerto Rico                         51           probably higher

Las Vegas                            59

Harvey                                 82

Irma                                    134

Mogadishu                         500

Unarmed black men killed by police        977 since Jan. 1

Rohingya Muslim             3,000 plus

Yemen                                 5,000 plus

Syria                                    3,000 in one month reported Oct 1

Baptist minister Robert Lowry (1826 –1899) wrote some of the most beloved hymns that we still sing today. “Shall We Gather at the River” refers to souls crossing the great divide:

Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?

Refrain: Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.

Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.

At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.

Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.

Please take a moment this Sunday, or today, or tomorrow, or every day, to think of all these souls and hope that they did reach the silver river.

You can hear the hymn at https://youtu.be/6Z3pMfCTQHU.

 

 

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Prayer As Action

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For people in power to respond to a disaster by saying “My thoughts and prayers are with them” is a meaningless gesture unless that person follows it up with action to avert another disaster.

Yet there are times when prayer is the best action one can take.

I was privileged to see Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry last week and hear his powerful preaching. It was in a city I’m not really familiar with, and as I wandered around trying to find the place where the post-service luncheon was to be held, I was approached by a man.

He asked whether I would donate something toward bringing his brother from Puerto Rico to the mainland in exchange for a chocolate bar. I hadn’t brought sufficient cash with me to do so, and I explained this to him and also that I had now made two donations to the Hispanic Federation to help Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Marie.

Then I told him that I would pray for his brother, and the man’s face lit up as if he’d just been told he’d won a lottery. “Will you?” he exclaimed with joy. “Absolutely!” I said. “May I hug you?” he asked. “Absolutely!” I said. And we hugged.

I’m not sure who felt more blessed.

We talked a while about Puerto Rico’s travails, and he told me that he himself had only moved to the mainland shortly before the hurricane. He seemed glad to be here, and I hoped the mainland was treating him well. When we parted, something special was going on for each of us.

I believe that prayer is action; sometimes it is the only action one can take. I don’t pray for specifics much these days, and I don’t pray for a situation to go “according to God’s will.” Many people, and I have been one of them, hear in those words that God’s will might be that one has to endure a crisis without complaint; that suffering lies ahead and one just has to suck it up.

What comes after “Thy will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer is the most important part: “on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

In other words, may God’s will for perfect reconciliation, perfect love, perfect peace, and perfect understanding come to human beings as it has come to those who have met God “not through a glass darkly,” but face to face.

I do pray that an afflicted person will know themselves to be surrounded with love and support and encouragement. I do pray that that person’s heart will be open to accepting help that might be unrecognizable at first. I do pray that they be strengthened and inspired by the Holy Spirit to see a solution where there wasn’t one before. And I do pray that Jesus may break down any barriers to healing inner wounds that prevent someone from accepting all the help that is available, divine and earthly.

At the luncheon I went up to the head table to get a picture of Bishop Curry, who had that morning preached prophetically about going to the mountaintop where heaven and earth come together to get strength to return to the trials and tribulations of our world and seek solutions to them.

An elderly woman next to me was telling the bishop that she prayed for him every day. The same light shone out in his face as I had witnessed a short time before on the Puerto Rican man. The bishop fairly lunged across the table to grasp her hands and thank her and then insisted she come up onto the dais and have her picture taken with him.

I’m not sure who felt more blessed.

You can hear the Bishop’s prophetic preaching below. The video was started long, long before sermon time, so you might want to advance it.

As The World Spins

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The US continued to spin out of control last week. To recap:

  1. #POTUS wants Congress to decertify the Iran Nuclear Deal, saying that Iran has not kept to its agreement (it has), that he consulted with all our allies on this step (couldn’t have; we don’t have any allies who would agree with this and who are all still solidly part of the deal), and that it will make us much safer (it won’t).
  2. #POTUS signed an executive order ending ACA subsidies, saying that will lower premiums (it won’t) and give Americans better health care (it won’t) and claiming that the subsidies went into the pockets of insurance companies (they won’t).
  3. #POTUS blamed Puerto Rico for Hurricane Irma’s devastation, then said he’ll always be with them (he won’t).
  4. #POTUS said he met with the president of the US Virgin Islands (he didn’t, mainly because for better or worse, he is the president of the US Virgin Islands).
  5. #POTUS told the white supremacist Values Voters Summit that “we will return to Judeo-Christian values,” obviously not understanding that Judeo refer to Jews and the Values Voters constituents hate Jews. Also, what values: homophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, sexual predation? But on the bright side, “We will say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
  6. #POTUS and Sean Hannity laughed and talked while seated at a retreat ritual on a military for which everyone else stood in silence. But black athletes who kneel respectfully during the National Anthem are sons of bitches.
  7. I could go on, but I really wanted to talk about the strange bedfellows that resisting an unbalanced, moronic, corrupt government makes. Did I ever think I’d have anything in common with Eminem? Surely not! But he perfectly expressed the rage I and so many others are feeling in the video presented at the Hip Hop Awards. No, I wasn’t watching the Hip Hop Awards; wasn’t even aware of them. But the video went viral and more power to Eminem.
  8. Did Puerto Ricans ever think that their saviors would be heavily tattooed, back-country looking military veterans? Probably not, but Jason Maddy and his 11 comrades, acting as volunteers, are bringing water, food, and hope to the most isolated parts of the island. Why? “Because they’re fellow Americans, and if we were in that situation, we’d want someone to help us.”

    If I were ever to have the honor of meeting these gentlemen, I’d kiss their feet. I hope I never have the misfortune to meet Donald Trump because I would probably be arrested after the encounter.

  9. Meanwihle, while Twitter fuels my outrage because I see bad news so quickly, it has also been a source of some comic relief from unknown fellow tweetweetters who yet feel like good friends. Shoutout to @casey for best tweet of the week:
  10. And a special shoutout to England, who will not dignify a visit from POTUS as a state visit and will not allow him to meet the queen. I’ m sure officials are afraid he’d touch her inappropriately. On the other hand, if he did meet her and did touch her inappropriately, that would be lese majesty, off with his head.

Cruz Bruises Trump Ego

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I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the GOP, and especially the current White House regime, hates women.

These privileged men especially hate women who stand up for themselves.

These white privileged men especially and truly hate women of color who stand up for themselves.

Enter Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz of San Juan, who not only stood up for herself but also for the entire American citizenry of Puerto Rico.

She went high when they went low, so low as to ignore for many days the disastrous aftermath of a hurricane on American soil.

I hope that FEMA director Brock Long has nightmares about her. He ought to; his agency has miserably failed Puerto Rico despite his official bio on the FEMA website that credits him with years of “robust” (I think that word needs to be retired; way overused in the past three years).

And oh, right, the FEMA website that took down anything to do with how FEMA continues to fail Puerto Rico.

They have retained a timeline of the supposed federal response to Puerto Rico beginning on September 17 that cannot possibly be true, according to reports from Mayor Cruz and other eyewitnesses including anyone who’s been watching video coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Somebody’s lying. I know who I think is telling the truth.

Mayor Cruz, 54, is one of those people who did not seek out greatness but has had greatness thrust upon her.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts Magna Cum Laude from Boston University in political science and a Master of Science from Carnegie Mellon University in public management. After working in the private sector in human resources on the mainland, she returned to Puerto Rico in 1992 and immediately began her career in public service, working as an advisor to various mayors.

Mayor Cruz was elected to the Puerto Rican House of Representatives on her second try, serving from 2009 to 2013, when she made the successful run for mayor of San Juan. She has been deeply involved in women’s issues as well as urban renewal of poor sections of the city. She has also forged an alliance with the city of Chicago with Illinois Representative (?) Luis Gutierrez, who has been outspoken about the shabby treatment of the devastated island by the Trump administration.

Mayor Cruz has become the face of all of Puerto Rico, not just San Juan, as she refused to stop crying out about the desperate situation there. She has refused to kowtow to the Disaster-in-Chief as the governor of Puerto Rico did, and she has called out Brock Long when he patronizingly told her to get with the program, when there was really not program to get with.

In so doing, she has joined Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Warren in the Nasty Women Club. She’s in great company. But such is the insane whirlwind of news that bombards us daily, it could be that many people forget her in the days to come. I hope that doesn’t happen. She’s got brains, she’s got compassion, and she’s got intelligence. The US needs her.