Sunday, November 27, 2011

There's Something About Mary

Invited to preach on the First Sunday of Advent at Palo Alto United Methodist Church, I offered Five Lessons of Mary of Nazareth on her Willingness to wait for the world to Change:

I.  The Annunciation (1:26-38)--"There's something about Mary"
Luke's account of the Annunciation (1:26-27), tells us a number of things about Mary: 
"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee with a bad reputation ("Can anything good come out of Nazareth?)

"to a  virgin named Mary," a peasant girl, probably about 13 years old, betrothed but not yet married. 

The angel "sent" from God is Gabriel, archangel and chief messenger fearsome to behold, with the announcement six months after Elizabeth (family member) becomes pregnant with John the Baptist (Jesus' older cousin?). 
Mary is to be married to a man named Joseph, a direct descendant of King David.  Mary's ancestry is more complex and lowly. 

LESSON No. 1--God calls ordinary people, young people, in the most unlikely times and places.  And calls them to do extra-ordinary things.
II.  Mary's Fear and Alarm (1:28-30)
"The angel went to her and said, 'Hail Mary, full of grace, there Lord is with thee..." A formal greeting from the Angel, preserved in the 'Hail Mary' prayer of Roman Catholics.  

If you were a young teen and heard an angel speak these words to you, about you, how would you feel?  perplexed, confused? scared spitless? 
Luke says: "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. "
LESSON No. 2--Fear is our first response to what God may asking us to do.   "Get of here!"  No way!"  
"But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.'" (1:28-30) Gabriel counters Mary's understandable fear with the simple words "Be not be afraid" and Mary accepted the angel's "Fear not" at face value, and held her fear and alarm in check.  [What a courageous young woman of faith!]
"'You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.' (1:31-34)

III.  Mary's Fear and Alarm turns to Utter Amazement at God's Power (1:34)
Mary's head was spinning by this time. 'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'" (1:34) How will God accomplish this, since I have not been with a man? 
Some people say we shouldn't question God, but Mary did. She asked "How?" Questions cause us to grow and learn. Questions stretch our minds and hearts and increase our understanding.
The angel responded to her question by elaborating a bit on the "how":  
"The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.'" (1:35)

Behold the Miracle of Advent.
Behold the Mystery of the Incarnation.  
Mary of Nazareth, humble servant, becomes the Mother of the Son of God: Theotokis--God-bearer.  Co-Redemptrix in RC.   Miracle of the Virgin Birth for Protestants. 
Lesson 3-- Nothing is Impossible with God (1:36-37)
After explaining that Mary's Child would be Holy and Divine, the angel lets Mary know that "even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, a miracle baby.  For nothing is impossible with God." (1:36-37)
God, however, does not do miracles alone; 'nothing is impossible with God' if God and we act together!  (synergy)
Mary, if you will loan your womb to God, if you will make yourself available for divine action, if you are willing, God can do the impossible and make you the mother of God, blessed among women, prophet of the Most High. 
IV. Mary's Willingness is the key for God's power to work her life, in our lives. (1:38)
"'Here I am, the servant of the Lord," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her." (1:38)

Exercise in willingness:  Repeat Mary's words as a mantra:   

"Here I am (Here I am)
the servant of the Lord. (the servant of the Lord.)
May it be to me as you have said." (May it be to me as you have said.)"   Three times.

Here is a teenager facing misunderstanding and rejection from her family, her betrothed, and her townspeople. For a betrothed woman to bear a child out of wedlock to someone not her husband could potentially even result in stoning (Deuteronomy 22:22-24). And yet she agrees. "I am the Lord's servant…" 

No wonder the Church holds her in highest esteem to this day. 
Mary's response of faith is what actualizes faith-in-action: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."(Luke 1:38)
May you and I be ready to respond with that same submitted willingness when God calls us to do something extraordinary for him.
Lesson No. 4--Willingness is the Key
Example of Willingness from AA:   occurs 31 times in the Big Book.  
  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
Until my friend, Susan (pastor's wife and mother of five), reached rock bottom, and came to a point of willingness to a Power greater than herself restore her to sanity and wholeness, she could not recover from her addictions.  Thank God she did, and now she's an incredible woman of faith and daring; able to be used by God in powerful ways. 
Describing the 12 Steps  in the Big Book
"There is only one key, and it is called willingness."
Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements. [of recovery). --Bill's story
Once we have placed the key of willingness in the lock and have the door ever so slightly open, we find that we can always open it some more.
We grow by our willingness to face and rectify errors and convert them into assets.
An honest regret for harms done, a genuine gratitude for blessings received, and a willingness to try for better things tomorrow will be the permanent assets we shall seek. (Step 10)

The key of Willingness unlocks hidden assets and makes them available for the common good.

Robert Linthicum writes: "It takes capacity plus ability plus willingness to act powerfully" (Empowering the People of God)  

What have you been willing to do for God lately?  (Personally, I've been willing to visit Occupy Wall Street in my clergy clothes, cross and stole in order to engage the occupiers who long for justice and shalom…)--see blog posts
The four lessons:  ordinary, fearful, amazing, willing…
But there is a fifth lesson in Mary's life of faith for us to emulate:   Prophetic imagination.
V. Mary's Prophetic Invocation of Shalom:
Will Willimon tells the story of a college student talking to him about how the virgin birth was just too incredible to believe. Willimon responded, "You think that's incredible, come back next week. Then, we will tell you that 'God has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.' We'll talk about the hungry having enough to eat and the rich being sent away empty. The virgin birth? If you think you have trouble with the Christian faith now, just wait. The virgin birth is just a little miracle; the really incredible stuff is coming next week."
Well, I won't be there next week, so I want to conclude with Mary's prophetic song of peace and justice (just reading and highlighting : Read key verses):
Still a teenager, Mary overcomes her fear, steps out on faith to do impossible things.  Inspired by the spirit of prophesy, she boldly sings the song of Shalom:  
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. (Mary knew herself to be a member of the underclass, chosen by God for  a special purpose)
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.  

His mercy extends to those who fear him, (fear can turn to amazement at God's mighty acts)
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones (Oh how some of the mighty have fallen this year around the world)
but has lifted up the humble (those who know themselves to be poor and needy on some level, dependent on God)

He has filled the hungry with good things  (like the Thankgiving turkey Glide Church shared with the Occupiers in San Francisco)

but has sent the rich away empty. (the "rich" are those who have accumulated wealth at the expense of the poor, ill-gotten gain, worship of Mammon)
(Luke 1:46-53)

"Throughout the Gospel of Luke, the proud, powerful, and rich are the opponents of Jesus.  They are portrayed as people who look to enhance their own social honor and prestige, and as people who are indifferent to those lower on the social ladder.  In Mary's child, God has intervened on behalf of the "lowly" and the "hungry."  God lifts them up, but "scattered the proud ones," and "sent the rich away empty."  
God is always on the side of those on the bottom, those who are excluded, those left out.  
Yes, God has favorites….and the list includes: “the poor, maimed, the lame, the blind, the sick and imprisoned, the hungry and homeless, the orphan and widow in their distress; the sojourner and the uninsured).  World history is a long struggle between the haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor, the great and the small.  And in the struggle of survival of the fittest, God takes sides. And the side God takes is the side of the underdog, the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, and the socially-disinherited.  In liberation theology we call this “God’s preferential option for the poor.” 
Yet, God does not triumph over the rich and powerful oppressors in a vindictive act, but rather a remedial and loving way.  God wants us to change our minds and hearts, and join his mission in the world to usher in the upside-down kingdom--where the first will be last and the last first. Where the greatest will be least and the least considered greatest. (Matt 25).  God is at work in the world, visibly right now, lifting up the lowly and pulling down the proud. 'For 'every valley shall be exalted, every mountain brought down.  Crooked places will be made straight and rough places plain.  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it through the prophets.'
Lesson No. 5--Pray, Praise and Prophesy for the Poor!   Step out and proclaim your own magnificat. 
Mary's prophesy is about justice and shalom for Israel and the poor.  Can we apply her prophetic vision to our country, our community, our church?  What would that look like?  What are the characteristics of a Just Church, a Shalom Church?  

Seven marks of a Shalom Church are 1) inclusive, 2) radically hospitable, 3) economically just, 4) caring of all creation, 5) redemptive of persons and communities, 6) focused on health, healing and wholeness, and 7) engaged in systemic change, sustainable transformation, and the mending of the creation.
(See ShalomChurch: The Body of Christ as Ministering Community by Craig L. Nessan)
"To be a mission station of Jesus Christ," according to Rober Schuller, "you have to put the needs of the un-saved a notch above the needs of the saved." Similarly, to become a ShalomChurch, you have to put the interests of the immediate community or neighborhood a notch above the needs of the church members."  That requires a willingness to identify with the poor and oppressed and make their cause your own  (e.g. Occupy WallStreet) 
Example of a ShalomChurch:  Church of the Village UMC in lower manhattan in solidarity with the poor of Occupy Wall Street…
Conclusion:  What are you personally and as a church community willing to do to become a ShalomChurch?
Five Lessons of Mary:
God chooses unlikely candidates for Greatness. 
Fear is our initial response, followed by amazement of what God is asking you to do.
"Nothing is impossible with God."  Believe, act on it.
Willingness is the key.  
And don't be afraid to pray, praise  and prophesy.  

During this Advent season, consider Mary:
AKA  Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Prophet of the Most HIgh
Willing and Waiting for the right time and place.
Willing to occupy and be occupied.
Willing to praise and prophesy
That the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
"to bring down rulers from their thrones and lift up the lowly; feed the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty..."

Now go into a frazzeled and broken world with peace and justice,
to mend and heal and make whole again with God's Shalom!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy Advent in Solidarity with the 99%

Jubilee Angel
Advent is a good time to Occupy.

I have been following, participating, and blogging about the OccupyWall Street movement for several weeks now, and I am ready to recommend some specific solidarity actions during this Advent season.

I'm calling on Ministers of Shalom, designated Shalom Zones, Communities of Shalom, Belivers Without Borders, and other faith-based groups and people of good will, to find creative ways to "seek shalom in the community where you have been sent" (Jeremiah 29:7).   I'm asking you to consider one or more of the following prophetic acts of kindness, hospitality, justice and advocacy in behalf of the so-called "99 %" during Advent--in the spirit of God's Shalom:

1. Open the doors of your church, community center, or home to some Occupiers for a warm meal, hot shower, or even for an overnight rest.  Several shalom zones and prophetic churches already have done this, including Church of the Village and Judson Memorial Church in Lower Manhattan, and Arch Street UMC in downtown Philedelphia.  Jim Wallis of Sojourners also has called for Christians to offer sancturary, hospitality and refuge to the young Occupiers: Sojo Net church-sanctuary-occupy-movement  If you decide to do this, here is some practical advise from one of the pastors of Judson Church:  Do's and Don't of Opening Sacred Space

2. Participate in an interfaith prayer service at an Occupy camp near you. OccupyFaithNYC sponsors a weekly multifaith service as Zuccotti Park (now called by its original name of Liberty Square).  Yesterday there was a special ceremony at Judson Church and march to Occupy Wall Street for 20th century civil rights leaders (Rev. Phil Lawson among them) to "pass on the torch" to the younger 21th century civil rights leaders (Rev. Eric Jackson from Drew Theological School among them). Passing the Torch at Liberty Square  See also  Council of Elders

On Sunday, December 4,  Communities of Shalom will be hosting and leading an Occupy Advent prayer service at Zuccotti Park (Liberty Square) near Wall Street.  United Methodist Bishop Alfred Johnson, Drew University Chaplain Dr. Tanya Bennett, and several others will speak and pray.   Join us after church at 3:30pm if you can.

3.  Join a protest march near you.  On Saturday night my wife and I joined a group of Religion Professors at the American Academy of Religion meeting in San Francisco. Together we marched in the rain from Union Square to the Hyatt Hotel (presenting red roses to service workers denied a living wage), passed the Federal Building on Market Street where many occupiers were camped, and on to Hermann Plaza where the main camp was established.  Last Thursday, on the second month anniversary of the movement, I joined other religious leaders march from Zuccotti Park (where the occupiers were evicted two days before) up to Union Square NY, and back down to Palmer Square City Hall for a rally and then across the Brooklyn Bridge en mass.  Most cities have Occupy Marches.  Join one.
Here's a few good links: 

4. Read the Bible:  During this Advent season of waiting and willingness to be used by God, go back and re-read the old prophets of justice and Jesus's teaching about "blessed are the poor"in light of the growing popular frustration and opposition to the economic disparity, political corruption, systemic dysfunction, and culture of greed in our time.   Here's a really good analysis of the role and function of movements like Occupy from Brookings:  Brookings article  If you find the spirit of this movement compelling, consider ways to identify and minister with the so-called "99%"
Here's short, faithful, biblical call to Christian solidarity with Occupy Vancouver from a young evangelical graduate student at Regent University in Vancouver:  Jubilee Economics

5. Prayerfully discern what time it is for you, for America and for our world.  When kairos (God's time, appointed time) has finally come, then we may perceive the "new thing" God is doing in the world to 'raise up the lowly and feed the hungry with good things'.   If you perceive it, then, then 'seize the time'.  "Who knows whether you have been chosen for such a time as this?"

There are many more ways to proclaim the gospel to the poor, speak truth to power, support Occupy or engage in prophetic ministry in your time and place.   What is important is to act prayerfully and courageously, in the spirit of God's Shalom, and with the biblical understanding that the Lord requires us to "remember the poor" and "not neglect the needy" (Psalm 44:1); and to 'do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).

Occupy Advent!  Occupy Shalom.

Dr. Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D.
International Director, Communities of Shalom
Drew University

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lord, Hear Our Prayers

On this 60th day of Occupy Wall Street, protestors camping at Zuccotti Park were removed by force early this morning, many arrested, as frustration escalates. Early morning photos of Un-Occupying the Park
Direct Actions for the two-month anniversary of the movement are being organized: 

Let us pray that this anti-greed and pro-economic reform movement does not turn violent.   And let us hope and pray that OccupyFaith finds new ways to support the highest ideals of OccupyWall Street and similar demonstrations around the world.
Eric Jackson, M.Div. at Drew, leads prayers at Occupy Wall Street

Latest News and Photos from New York Times
Latest News and Photos from Los Angles Times

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Does God Have Favorites?

Today is the 58th day of Occupy Wall Street, my fifth time to occupy with faith.  Three worship services on Sunday is certainly enough prayer, praise and protest for one day.
The Path Train from Hoboken delivered me to Christopher Street in the West Village which was an easy walk to the Church of the Village: A Progressive United Methodist Church.  “Bishop J” is senior pastor (who had set up several shalom zones when he was Bishop for New Jersey Annual Conference.  It was stewardship Sunday and the economic theme was “lend your heart, invest your soul, maximize your ROI.”  I loved how the worship team performed a Broadway tune—“I’m into Money” complete with tap dancing and showmanship.

The gospel text was the Parable of the Talents and the Separation of the Sheep and Goats (Matt 25:14-30).  District Superintendent St. Clair Samuel preached a very fine radical stewardship message on God’s ownership and our stewardship of has been entrusted to our care.  “What we have is not ours,” the preacher said, quoting Psalm 21).  “God has rights and we have responsibilities….  The question is--are we faithful in service?  Do we hide or do we invest our time, talent and treasure? ... There will be a day of accountability….  We will be audited by the Almighty….  What did you do with what I gave you? …  To whom much is given, much is expected…  If we are faithful with what we have been given, large or small, God will someday say”  “Well done good and faithful servant!”  

I learned from the sermon that Five Talents in Jesus’ day was equal to fifteen years of a laborer’s wages.  That would be over $300,000 in today’s currency.   Not all the servants were given an equal amount, but apparently only what they could handle. And they were held accountable for how they invested it.  Whether we have one, two or five talents, we are expected to invest it wisely and justly.  “Use it or lose it,”  the preacher said.

Since I was heading to Occupy Wall Street after the service, I could not help but judge my neighbors—the big boy bankers and tight-fisted tycoons who seem to conspire to rig the system to keep the 1% permanently rich and the 99% struggling to make ends meet.  It is easy for me to condemn the politicians whose votes can be bought by lobbyists, major contributors, and special interest groups that fund and shape their campaigns, and even outright bribe.   The prophets Amos and Micah certainly judged those who “sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals—those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted" (Amos 2:6-7).  

But then I remembered that I’m among the top 5% of the wealthiest people in the world, possessing silver and gold, shoes and sandals, homes and mortgages, a privileged job, and “all the cattle on a thousand hills” (at least metaphorically), compared to the 95% who have not.  Sure, I want to have my 401 (k) Plan invested in socially-responsible retirement funds, but I like my Chase Presidential Plus Card for elite access in boarding planes and enjoying Star Alliance Lounges.

Okay, I don’t want to think about that right now;  Bishop J. wants me to offer a Table Blessing, Benediction, and invite folks to join us at 3:30pm for the OccupyFaith Service on Wall Street.

 My next stop was the Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in Chinatown where Pastor Gabriel Salguero asked me to stop by on my way to the Financial District and speak to the college mission team they were hosting this weekend.  I arrived at 41 Rivington in time for the church offering and musical postlude.  When it was time to speak to the kids about Communities of Shalom, I shared by own journey from being a college student feeling called to urban ministry, working at the Lamb’s Church in Times Square in the 1970’s, and moving to San Francisco in the 1980’s to plant a church and start a mission for the poor of Haight Ashbury.  And how after decades of doing mercy ministry, relief work, charitable services, evangelism and discipleship for the poor, I finally understood the need for ministries of community organizing, community development, advocacy, doing justice, and peacemaking with the poor.  Mine was an evangelical journey from “Just As I Am” (without one plea) to “Justice I AM” (God calls me). 

I told the students about the six threads of SHALOM by which we re-weave the tattered fabric of communities with both obvious needs and hidden resources.  I shared the SHALOM acrostic of ShalomZone Training:  The S in Shalom is for systemic engagement, structural change and sustainable transformation.  The H in shalom is the focus on health, healing, harmony, wholeness—all that we mean by the big word shalom. The A in Shalom is for Asset Based Community Development (in contrast to Need Based Social Services). The L in Shalom is for Love of God, self and neighbor (and stranger).  The O in Shalom is for “organizing to beat the devil,” as John Wesley said.  And the M in Shalom is for multicultural, multifaith collaboration required to create a shalom zone in a particular community.   See

 Finally, I told them that God had favorites (the list includes: “the poor, maimed, the lame, the blind, the sick and imprisoned, the hungry and homeless, the orphan and widow in their distress; the sojourner and the uninsured); and that world history is a long struggle between the haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor, the great and the small.  And in the struggle of survival of the fittest, God takes sides. And the side God takes is the side of the underdog, the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, and the socially-disinherited.  In liberation theology we call this “God’s preferential option for the poor.”   I think it was a new concept to most of these college students.  But they listened respectfully and considered all that was said.  And they had their own thoughts and ideas about urban ministry and why they came to NYC to meet the poor.

My time at the Lamb’s was up and it was time to get to Occupy Wall Street for the Multifaith Service.  Rev. David Best joined me for what was my third service of the day, and several faculty and students from Drew University (home base of Communities of Shalom) were in the park as well.

Dr. Tracy West, Professor of Ethics at Drew, was one of the featured speakers. She lifted up the name of Mary, the Prophetess, who proclaimed truth and hope for the woman abused, the immigrant arrested, the working poor without a living wage.  For Mary was inspired and bold enough to proclaim:

 “My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.  
His mercy extends to those who fear him, 
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; 
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones 
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:46-53)

Other leaders of faith communities shared their witness in shouts, prayers, songs, and silent meditation.  Afterward, four us--Rev. David Best (Former Shepherd of the Lamb’s Church and Founder of Towel and Basin Ministries), Dr. Tanya Bennett (Drew University Chaplain), and Harriet Olsen (Deputy General Secretary of the Women’s Division) and I--spent an hour walking through the densely occupied Zuccotti Park, talking to many interesting people about why they chose to be here now.  We all agreed to return on December 4 for OccupyAdvent—a service in the Park to be hosted and led by Communities of Shalom.   Join us!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

OWS Organizers Meet with OccupyFaith Leaders

Minister Michael Ellick is a good and faithful pastor at Judson Church in Greenwich Village.  He also is a gifted and courageous community organizer.   Fully active in OWS since its inception, and contributing faith-based solidarity and support, Michael instigated OccupyFaithNYC within the first month of the movement. Michael, Eric Jackson, and several members of Judson captured national public attention on October 9 by bringing a  Golden Calf to the protest movement on Wall Street. 
Michael also is a gifted community organizer, bold as well as gentle, able to speak truth to power, and also give a cup of cold water in the spirit of Jesus.  Watching him in action, whether leading a direct action on the streets or facilitating a strategy meeting at the church, his Conservative Baptist roots, Union Theological School training, and seven years of study under a Tibetan Buddhist Teacher prepared him for prophetic leadership “in such a time as this.” see PBS Feature on Michael

Last Thursday, November 10, over 50 pastors, priests, Rabbis, Buddhist monks, interfaith reps, and other faith-based community leaders crowded into a board meeting room at Judson Church in the Village to plan their next set of actions.  At least six OWS organizers attended the strategy meeting to help coordinate direct actions of civil disobedience and legal demonstrations of protest as the second month birthday of the movement drew near.  I was pleased to have been invited to attend as representative of Communities of Shalom, with hope and interest in helping to shart shalom zones on Wall Street and in Lower Manhattan, as well as serve with the Protest Chaplains in Zuccotti Park.
OCCUPY Wall Street (OWS), according to Wikipedia, “is an ongoing series of demonstrations in New York City based in Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street financial district. The protests were initiated by the Canadian activist group Adbusters. They are mainly protesting social and economic inequality, corporate greed, corruption and influence over government—particularly from the financial services sector—and lobbyists. The protesters' slogan, "We are the 99%", refers to the difference in wealth and income growth in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.”  See 

OccupyFaith is an interfaith network of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, and others who find hope and inspiration in the Occupy Movement. 
As Rev. Michael Ellich, one of the members of the coalition, says in a sermon:  “I believe that what we’re seeing in Zuccotti Park is the first real movement of the national conscience to hit the street in a long time, and it has more than just one thing to say. This isn’t just a jobs issue, or a tax issue, or even an immigration issue. It’s a spiritual issue, about what the United States has become… We are no longer a Democracy, and that instead we have become a Plutocracy - a government run by the rich… I think the first step [to restore democracy] is to spiritually recognize that as a country, we are entering a kind of kairos moment. Now more than ever, it is the responsibility of all people of faith to realize that the great spiritual work of our times is to restore our Democracy and the people’s voice in shaping the American Way.” 

Personally,  while I would not express the root issue in political terms, I think Jews, Christians, and Muslims should offer their qualified support to a popular movement like OWS, at least for some of their demands (like publically funded elections, campaign contribution limits, and the limitation of independent expenditures from supper committees) and boldly join them in condemning corporate greed and political bribery, as did our prophets before them (read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Micah).  The Abrahamic religions stand squarely in the prophetic tradition as well as in the justice and Jubilee agenda of Jesus (See Luke 4)

Specially, people of Christian faith need not endorse all the factions involved in the movement in order to affirm, “Occupy Wall Street is a good thing.”  The Church of Jesus can stand firmly within our Jewish-Christian-Muslim prophetic tradition of social justice and moral reform, and call for an end to corporate greed, corruption and unfair influence over government that has caused the human family to grow apart: 

Six young OWS organizers (all recognized leaders in a non-heirarchical grass-roots movement, and who are part of their own working groups and general assembly) attended Thursday’s faith-based strategy meeting for the first time. Grateful for the support they receive (including tents and food), they admitted how surprised they were by the strength and commitment of faith-based, religious people from OccupyFaith. “I’m totally amazed that religious people want to be with us,” said Laura who is involved in the community watch working group.  The same thing was said by Collin who is part of the Outreach working group. Diego, Josh, and Amin (all part of the Direction Action working group) each expressed their own message and listened with to others.

I learned about the strong values and creative strategies of the movement, including: moral messaging, teach-ins and speak outs, ‘mic check’ and call and response method (the people’s mic), compassion for the 1%, democratic decision making, non-violent direct action, withholding judgment, the importance of supporting local business near where they occupy, cleaning up the park where they now live, when to surround trouble-makers and “vote” them out of the park, and how to protect occupiers from the negative effects of drugs and violence.

I must say that Minister Michael runs a good meeting in which these things and practical strategies are discussed; and he seamlessly empowers all voices to be heard while keeping us on point and schedule. We heard from a priest from South Africa who lost his hands from a bomb exploding during anti-apartied demonstrations.  We heard from a Jewish Rabbi and a Buddhist monk. We heard from human rights and living wage advocates, and from People of Color still a bit wary of what has been perceived as a young, white kids movement “takin at us and not with us.”  We heard from Latino leaders who want a voice in the movement.  Even the old-timer one-note protestor from the 60’s got to say his piece about Martin Luther King’s opposition to war.  Many causes, many people, with one thing in common--faith in GOD (variously experienced) in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. 

Upcoming actions and events were discussed, most significantly the two-month birthday of OWS on 17 November.  A mass non-violent direct action day is planned in NYC, coordinated with other demonstrations around the country and the world. Thousands of occupiers plan to resist and shut down Wall Street in the morning before the Trading Floor Bell rings.  Afternoon demonstrations at public transportation hubs in all five boroughs.  And an evening rally at City Hall followed by a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Clergy and other faith community leaders are invited to participate by wearing their vestments and joining their voices to “resist austerity, rebuild the economy and reclaim our democracy.”   See

I was most impressed with young man Zack (a natural leader, articulate and charismatic), who is part of Finance and Food working groups), who said “I have been waiting my whole life to be part of this kind of movement.  He admitted that OWS had utopian dreams and asked to borrow a Bible (Michal had one). Zack turned to Psalm 82 and read: 

 1 God presides in the great assembly;
   he renders judgment among the “gods”:
 2 “How long will you[a] defend the unjust
   and show partiality to the wicked?[b]
3 Defend the weak and the fatherless;
   uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
   deliver them from the hand of the wicked...

 6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”;
   you are all sons of the Most High.’
7 But you will die like mere mortals;
   you will fall like every other ruler.”
 8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
   for all the nations are your inheritance.

As the two hour meeting, Michael asked Fr. Juan Carlos Ruil to pray for us all.  His prayer was a powerful witness to the essential role of the faith community in OWS, and the recognition that God “hears the cries of the oppressed and seeks to set his people free.” (Exo 3)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy 11.11.11 Day

Old Age Quote of the Day for 11.11.11 on the Gregorian calendar

 The Power of Committed Action
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”      
                                                                                      --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)


Here's a New Age reflection I received today (author unknown)
A Time for New Beginnings 11.11.11

This a very powerful moment in time.

11.11.11 is a triple activation of the double digit
"Master Number" 11.

In numerology, the number 1 represents new beginnings,
so 11 symbolizes "double new beginnings."

The two 1's in 11 each represent a pillar.
Side-by-side the 11 looks like a gateway or portal.
This gateway symbolizes moving from the past into the present. 
In other words, walking through the 11 Gatewaymeans letting go of the known and embracing the present moment, which is unknown.

The date 11.11.11 activates the number 11 three times.
3 is the number of creative perfection - mother, father, child.

On this date, we have a profound opportunity to 'see'  through 
the triple 11 portal and create our vision of the future. Literally, 
to create a New Beginning.

11.11.11 also activates the powerful Mayan date next year 12.21.2012.
The numbers for that powerful Winter Solstice add up to 11,
thus symbolizing the undeniable shift that will occur for everyone in 2012.

11 in the positive is highly intuitive, visionary, creative, original, balanced and inspired.