President Obama hosted his third annual Easter prayer breakfast for about 150 members of the clergy from across the nation in the East Room of the White House Wednesday morning. In his six-minute address, Obama reflected on the spiritual messages of Easter -- Jesus' triumphant overcoming of his own human doubts and fears so that all of humanity might do the same.
"For like us, Jesus knew doubt," Obama said. "Like us, Jesus knew fear. In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.' He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
"So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection. It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened -- that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, 'He is Risen!'"
It had been more than a week since the doctors had moved me into the ICU, and more than a week since I had tasted anything liquid.
My tongue was dry and felt like leather. At night, I would watch the machines around me blink. The IV bags hung next my bed and scattered the light across sterile white walls.
I tried not to cry when I could no longer control my bowels. I lay there in my own filth waiting for a nurse to rescue me.
I came into the world unable even to clean myself and now it seemed I would leave it in the same state.
Finally the nurse arrived to help me.
“I’m thirsty,” I told her. “May I have an ice cube?”
She said no.
“Please? My mouth is so dry. Just an ice cube,” I begged.
Oxygen tubes inserted into my nostrils had rubbed my nose raw. I pulled them out.
I felt relief. I watched the numbers drop on the LCD screen. An alarm sounded.
I tried to put the tubes back when the nurse ran in.
“Mr. King, you need the oxygen,” she chided, skillfully replacing al the tubes and checking all the machines and medicines that flanked my hospital bed — all the things that were keeping me alive.
Every Christian knows the story: Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. But what did he do on Saturday?
That question has spurred centuries of debate, perplexed theologians as learned as St. Augustine and prodded some Protestants to advocate editing the Apostles' Creed, one of Christianity's oldest confessions of faith.
Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and most mainline Protestant churches teach that Jesus descended to the realm of the dead on Holy Saturday to save righteous souls, such as the Hebrew patriarchs, who died before his crucifixion.
Lots of folks love preaching about the risen Christ on Easter Sunday without talking about what he went through to get there. It’s a bad habit we Protestants have, but plenty of us skip right over Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to Easter.
Trayvon Martin's slaying has ignited a national discussion on race and privilege.
Many of us recognize that Trayvon’s untimely death is not an isolated incident.
Racial profiling. Discrimination. Enmity. Suspicion. Intimidation. Fear. Hate.
For far too many Americans, these are everyday realities.
As Christians, we are called to fight injustice and work to heal the broken systems — and broken relationships — of the world. We act, with Jesus Christ, to bring about reconciliations — between people, people groups, communities; within (and between) organizations, institutions, and social systems.
Most every Sunday Ruth or Lily Janousek hands me a drawing on the way out the door. I have quite a collection.
Lily and Ruth are budding theologians. They may not know that about themselves, but that’s what they are: budding theologians — they do theology. They do their best to speak of God.
They draw pictures of God and us. Like the one from last Sunday — a drawing of a bouquet with the words:
“God doesn’t love us as a flower but as a bouquet.”
A note from the poet: Two years ago, our church opened its doors and began serving meals to our community. The immense and overwhelming feelings I felt scared me and so I penned them in this poem. Working with the poor among us has been eye-opening and has really pushed me to re-evaluate my thinking and life, for which I am immensely grateful.
~ The Rev. Dr. Martha FrizLanger
Galatians 3:22: Is it the faith of Jesus or faith in Jesus that’s the key?
Amy Reeder Worley: It is both the faith of and in Jesus that lead to salvation, which is another word for “liberation.”...
Pablo A. Jiménez: I have always preferred to speak about the faith of Jesus than about faith in Christ. Most people find this shocking and many have tried to correct my theological statements. However, I persist in speaking about the faith of Jesus....
Christian Piatt: I would tend to say it depends on whom you ask, but based on my personal experience, maybe it has more to do with when you ask someone such a question about their understanding of Jesus....
That whole camel through the eye of the needle thing: What is that about?
And, yes, the eye of the needle means exactly what you’re thinking. Not some gate in Jerusalem. Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle that you used to stitch that Noah’s Ark for your child’s bedroom — than for a rich guy to get to heaven.
Let. That. Sink. In.
Unless some freakishly unexplainable phenomenon occurs where camels all of the sudden start popping out of needles (imagine the Discovery Channel documentary on that one), I have to conclude that no rich person will be in heaven.
Except that’s not the end of the story…
In the Bible, Jesus even goes so far as to say that when we feed the poor, the “least of these,” we are feeding Christ himself. When Jesus speaks of the final judgment he says we will be asked by God, “When I was hungry did you feed me?” Can you imagine if our response was, “Sorry God, the city would not give us a permit?”
One of the stories of the Gospel involves Jesus doing a miracle where he takes a few fish and loaves and multiplies them, feeding hundreds of hungry folks. Jesus didn’t have a health permit to do that outdoor feeding. In fact if Jesus had tried to perform that miracle feeding in Philadelphia under these proposed laws, he would have gotten into serious trouble. As Jesus bids us come and follow – feed the poor, care for the hungry — we are not willing to allow unjust policies to be obstacles to love.
The following hymn celebrates our need for clean water and the Living Water:
Once a Woman Seeking Water
BEACH SPRING 220.127.116.11. D (“God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending”)
Once a woman seeking water at a well not far from home
Met a thirsty, waiting stranger from a people not her own.
Would she give a drink of water and respond to human need?
Could she know the joy and wonder she, the giver, would receive?...
I am on food stamps. This will surprise almost everyone who knows me. I have hidden it from friends, from family, from classmates.
I use self-checkout at the grocery store so I don’t have to face judgment from the cashiers. I read countless posts on Facebook and receive political emails telling me that being on food stamps makes me a degenerate, someone who is dependant and useless. I hear about how I should be kicked off of food stamps so I won’t be so lazy and will get a job.
At the time the economy crashed, I was studying to be a chiropractor. My (now ex-) husband was laid off from his good job. It took him over a year and a half to find a new job. During that time we lost our house and had to declare bankruptcy. Our marriage fell apart.
I’m now a single mom struggling to make ends meet. I was faced with the decision to quit school and go back to work and pray that somehow I’d be able to make the payments on more than $100,000 in student loans or to press on with my education. I prayed about it. I applied for aid. And through the grace of God, I received food stamps.
George Clooney and others were arrested on the steps of the Sudanese embassy last week to call attention to the violence in South Sudan. The actor-activist, along with Jon Prendergast, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations committee and conducted a series of media interviews to explain the situation in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation.
I applaud Clooney for using his star power to shine a light on the violence in South Sudan. Now that we see the problem the question for us is: what does this situation require of me personally?
Similarly, when we watch the Kony 2012 video that, for all of its flaws, informs people about the crimes against humanity of Joseph Kony and the efforts to bring him to justice, the same question arises.
The world is full to the brim with tragedy. We see the violence in Syria, people protesting their government are killed by their own government. We see world leaders who cannot come to consensus about the right thing to do.
What action will at once end the violence, protect the people, and depose an illegitimate government while not increasing violence in a complicated and volatile region of the world?
When I am faced with dishonesty and fraud on a systemic scale, I ask my questions of God. But I am continually directed back to humanity itself to find the origins of injustice.
So what can we do to end injustice?
The Washington Post reported on the massive falsification of documents by banks:
“Employees at major banks who churned out fraudulent foreclosure documents, forged signatures, made up fake job titles and falsely notarized paperwork often did so at the behest of their superiors, according to a federal investigation released Tuesday....
"‘I believe the reports we just released will leave the reader asking one question: How could so many people have participated in this misconduct?’ David Montoya, HUD inspector general, said in a statement. ‘The answer: simple greed.’”
I know, Christians, love everyone and everything, right? Mister Bluebird on my shoulder and all that jazz.
Well, that ain’t me. Not that I don’t try, but I also don’t try to fake it when I’m not feeling the love.
My wife, Amy, told me that one reason she married me was because she knew she could trust me. It seemed to her that I lacked the capacity to lie. And while this is reassuring on one level, the stark honesty can sometimes be a little jarring, I expect.
What I have found is that naming things out loud is the best way to help you get over them. Some of these might seem like relatively trivial things to you, but trust me – for a quasi-Aspie like me, they are often the bane of my existence.
So without further adieu, here’s a list of things that I can’t seem to shake, they annoy me so incredibly much. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...inside the blog.
Hearing about the injustice and suffering in our world can be overwhelming. The problems seem so insurmountable. Is it really possible to make a difference?
Well, here's some good news. We already are making a big difference. Consider these statistics cited by Dr. Scott Todd from Live58:
"We used to say that 40,000 children die each day from preventable causes. In the 1990s, that number dropped to 33,000 per day. By 2008, it dropped again to 24,000. Now it is down to 21,000. That means that in a generation we cut that number in half. 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty today. That's a staggering amount, but let's put those numbers in perspective: In 1981, 52 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty. Today it's 26 percent. Again, that means we have cut the number in half, and we did it in one generation."
Now, if you are anything like me then your reaction to poverty is a mixture of compassion and helplessness. If you're reading the Sojourners blog, then I assume that you already care about the least like I do, and that you know how big the problems are. I often find myself asking: What can I do? What can anyone do? We've heard the bleak statistics before. It's not news that there is a problem.
The news is that there is actually hope for real change.
When Marilyn and Larry Johnson sold their computer business in suburban Detroit about a decade ago, they figured they'd settle into the next phase of their lives with ease. Retirement meant more freedom, fewer pressures and ample time on the golf course. But a life of leisure turned out to feel terribly hollow for the Christian couple.
"I remember coming in from a golf game and Larry asking me how my game was, and I just started crying," Marilyn told Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom recently. "I said, 'My life has no purpose.' "
So the Johnsons began volunteering at shelters, treatment programs and soup kitchens. On Thanksgiving eight years ago, they wound up serving turkey dinner to the homeless. It was a turning point. An epiphany.
Yes, it's odd, having a rock star here—but maybe it's odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was… well, a little blurry, and hard to see.
I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays… and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.
For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land… and in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash… in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…
I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.
Even though I was a believer.
Perhaps because I was a believer.
~ Bono of U2, in his 2006 National Prayer Breakfast keynote address
Controversial radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has apologized for his awful comments against Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who spoke to Congress in support of a health-care mandate requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception. Fluke came to national attention when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee refused to allow her to speak at a hearing on the issue.
The refusal led Democratic women on the committee to ask: “Where are the women?”
Later, Fluke testified at a non-official forum organized by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. At this forum, Fluke spoke about the importance of hormonal contraception medication in treating other conditions that affect women’s reproductive health. Not all birth control pills are used for contraception. There was nothing about her testimony that comes anywhere close to the portrayal advanced by Limbaugh.
I have written about the clash of rights between religious liberty and equal protection under the law for women elsewhere, so I will not labor the point here.
No matter the reasons for Limbaugh’s objection to the mandate, clearly he has failed to learn one of the principle moral lessons that Jesus taught: “Judge not, so that you may not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
I have said and say again that whenever we make a judgment, we reveal more about ourselves than about the person against whom we are passing judgment.