Category Archives: social justice

God is Faithful: An Audio Teaching on Romans 9-11

Father’s Day or Juneteenth on June 19 2022?

Father’s Day stirs mixed emotions. 

On the one hand, I love being a father and always had. I became one quite early – I was only 20 when Elliott was born. I have loved every phase of fatherhood. Today, I have four living children and one with God. I’m grateful for all of them. Their personalities and life trajectories are quite different from one another, but I am proud of all of them. I love it when they call me. I love their expressions of love. I love who they are.

I honor my son Josh, who is probably the best father I’ve ever met. I hope his kids recognize that. 

I also honor my own father, now passed these many years. He gave me unique gifts and insights. He was a Naval officer in WW2, an oceanographer, a marine ecologist, a university administrator, a skilled artist and woodworker/furniture maker, widely read, deeply educated, and good at most everything he did, from coaching baseball to gardening to building radios. He was quiet, introverted and deep. I miss him.

But …

I’m also very aware of the many people who had absent, abusive, neglectful, emotionally distant, or disconnected fathers. I realize that Father’s Day is painful for them, that it stirs up horrible memories in some cases and inflicts deep pain. 

So, this year, instead of Father’s Day, I celebrate a more worthy holiday – Juneteenth, African American Emancipation Day. 

Slave owners in Texas chose to ignore President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863. Slaves in Texas had no idea that they were free until Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston on June 19, 1865 with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. 

General Granger issued “Order No. 3,” which read in part: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.” 

President Biden made Juneteenth an official federal holiday on June 17, 2021 when he signed a bill Congress passed the previous day.

Between 1525 and 1866, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America depriving the African continent of some of its healthiest and ablest people.

Slavery began in this country in 1619 when a privateer ship called The White Lion landed at the Jamestown Colony with 20 enslaved Africans. Throughout the 17th, 18th, and half of the 19th centuries, people stolen from Africa were forced to work land, much of which was stolen from Indigenous people. 

Enslaved women were frequently raped; obedience was rewarded, and even perceived rebelliousness was brutally punished. A strict hierarchy among the enslaved (from privileged house workers and skilled artisans down to lowly field hands) helped keep slaves divided and less likely to organize against their masters. 

Marriages between enslaved men and women had no legal basis, but many did marry and raise large families. Most owners of enslaved workers encouraged this practice because it added to their wealth. Many did not hesitate to divide families by sale or removal, however.

After emancipation, Jim Crow, black codes, red-lining, convict leasing, “war on drugs,” mass incarceration, and unabated white supremacy have prolonged oppression and inequality. No follower of Jesus can ignore that.

Yet, in spite of slavery, oppression, inequality, and racism, African Americans have given us a wealth of art, music, culture, inventions, and achievements. Most importantly, they have gifted us all with a deep spirituality and dedication to truly following the ways of Jesus. My African American friends are gifts from God to me. People like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others, are gifts to humanity.

All of us would do well to learn from them.

We Rose

From Africa’s heart, we rose

Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,

We rose

Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose

Survive we must, we did,
We rose

We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose

To become the knowledge we never knew,
We rose

Dream, we did
Act we must

Living in the Holiest of All: an audio teaching on Romans 5-8

Good News for the Universe! An audio teaching on Romans 1-4 with Dr. Larry Taylor

The Deepest of all Possible Levels of Fellowship with God: Genesis 12-22, audio version

Religion & Empire: A Bad Mix. An audio teaching on Genesis 4-11

Precious Death

I.

My name is Ahyoka. In Cherokee, that means “she brought happiness,” but I have known no happiness. We tried to accommodate, to live like the white man. We dressed in the clothes of the white man, learned his language. We built houses in villages with stores and shops; we tended farms and sold our crops in the market. We had art, music, and culture, religion, and language for centuries before the white man came. The white men called themselves “Christians.” We lived peacefully in what the white man calls “Georgia.”

Then they said an order came from Chief Andrew Jackson. Our homes, shops, and lands were stolen. My mother was one of the women raped. They stole all our belongings. We children hid in the woods, eating roots and berries until they found us. In rags we walked the trail of tears. Our grandparents died on the way. We were “given” land where crops would not grow, and left in squander to starve.

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.

II.

In my native Ghana, my name, Nyamékyε means “gift from God.” I was given that name because my mother was long childless. I was the answer to her prayers. I grew strong in our village. My father was a mighty hunter. I was given in marriage to a handsome man who was also a hunter. The entire tribe rejoiced when I gave birth to Quaashie. Quaashie means Sunday. We often name our children after the day of the week they were born. Quaashie was a strong, healthy boy. 

I was sitting on a log by the river outside our village nursing Quaashie one warm afternoon when they threw a net over us and we were trapped. They beat us and packed us into a large boat. We lay chained on shelves with others inches below and above us. From above, the excrement fell down on us. We were covered in dung and sweat. The white men took us out of chains every few days, brought us up on deck, dumped salty water over us, then raped us. My vagina bled and my belly hurt. We ate horrible tasting swill. When we finally reached shore, they stood me, holding Quaashie, naked on a block wearing chains. White men stuck their hands in my vagina and squeezed my breasts. They spoke strange languages.

I wailed when they ripped Quaashie from my arms. I never saw him again. I never saw my husband again. I never saw my mother, or father, or villagers again. Chained, I was thrown in a wagon and taken to what they called a “plantation” that was land stolen from native people like me. The white people are Christians, but not like what our preachers tell us. The one they call “master” rapes me every week. I have born three babies by him. They have all been sold away. And here I must pick cotton under the overseer’s whip until I die.

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.

III.

I am Adinah, which means “gentle delicate one” in my native Poland. We are Jewish. My daddy was a professor of literature at the university. My mother was a concert violinist in the symphony. I had a little brother named Aleksander. Our home was filled with fine art, books, and music. Daddy’s library had tomes from floor to ceiling. His big mahogany desk always covered with papers. A large globe sat on a stand in the corner. A baby-grand Steinway sat in our drawing room. We all played it. My mother practiced her violin for hours every day. The sunlight streamed through curtains and danced off the crystal chandelier. 

There were screams in the streets the day the Nazis came and kicked open our door, seized each of us, then looted our house, stealing all of value. They threw us into trucks, then packed us like cattle onto trains. I never saw my mother, father, or little brother ever again.

The camp had barbed wire and men with guns who called us names and said we were not human. They were Christian and called us “Christ-killers.” They said we drank blood at our feasts. Women in tan uniforms yelled at us, beat us, kicked us. We were packed into drafty wooden buildings. We slept on shelves like slaves on a ship. We dressed in rags. Most of the girls and women in my bunkhouse died of cold or starvation. Others were taken for “medical research. We never saw them again. 

A foul-smelling smoke wafted continuously from chimneys and ash fell on us all. I remember the nauseating feeling I got when I learned it was the ash of humans like me.

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.

IV.

The brutal Russians and the helpless Ukrainians are Christians. My name is Yuriy. I am Ukrainian. I am 14-years old. Invading Russian soldiers stopped my father Ruslan, and me when we went out for humanitarian aid. We raised our hands. We were unarmed. They shot my father dead. He was shot twice in the chest, right where the heart is. Then he fell. They shot me in the arm. As I lay on the ground, they shot at my head, but the bullet went through my hood.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord protects the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest,
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling.
I walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

    
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.

LRT 9 April 2022. Scripture is from Psalm 116, NRSV. The story in section IV comes from the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60989121

Joining with God in God’s Work. A study in Hebrews

Relentless Love (a meditation on Psalm 107)

How long had she been wandering?

Alone, lost, confused, disconnected 

From her true self, unable to find her

Way into authenticity?

How long had he been in this dungeon?

Chained in dark dampness, warmed only

By vermin vying for crumbs of stale bread?

Addiction’s vile tentacles wrapped around his spine?

How long had her body been wracked with pain,

Shivering and vomiting, sweating, delirious?

Attached to dripping tubes and whirring machines

While physicians prodded, poked, and ignored?

How long had they endured this eternal hurricane?

Tossing the tiny ship to the sky,

Plunging it to hell, chaos, darkness, 

Watery grave from which none return?

How long must they withstand this tyrant?

Suffering the brutal oppression of bitter totalitarianism?

Where no one dare call their soul their own,

And injustice sits enshrined alongside of greed?

There, on the horizon lies the bright city

Garden city

City of lights

City of peace

City of connectedness

Freedom city

Beloved city

City of health and vitality

Peace and equanimity

Justice and joy

City with foundations 

Whose architect and builder is God

Redeemed from wandering, into the fellowship of the city

Redeemed from bondage, chains, and prison into freedom and light

Redeemed from sickness and pain, into health, vitality

Redeemed from the storms of watery chaos into safety, peace, equanimity

Redeemed from oppression by evil rulers into familial freedom

The unwavering, 

eternal, 

universal,

unconditional

steadfast love of YHWH never ceases.

Why Did Jesus Have to Die & Where Was God When He Did? A study in Hebrews

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