leaders

God's Passionate Vulnerability

One of the drawbacks intrinsic to liturgical worship is the length of time it takes to adopt expressions that are newly current and potent into the approved forms. Certain forms of language become deeply important to a generation—key words and symbols that are pregnant with meaning, yet haven’t been incorporated officially into our forms of worship. So we often feel a certain dissonance in church as the language of worship seems impoverished by the absence of expressions we value so highly in our own exploration into God today. I long for prayers that express, directly and passionately, that God suffers. I look forward to praising God’s vulnerability. I am impatient for the recasting of prayer to praise the Creator in terms that unequivocally embrace the evolutionary perspective. In the meantime, preaching is the key field for using this fresh language with passion, in an exciting conversation with ancient expressions and classic symbols that can never become out of date, as long as we use our imaginations to keep on releasing their latent powers.

The scriptures in this season provide rich opportunities for exploring great images of God’s transforming power in vulnerability. Has anyone coined the word “paradoxology” yet to express the essence of transformative Christian worship? Only paradoxical language can point with any degree of success to the mystery of God and the revelatory revolution that springs into life out of the action of Jesus, the passion of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus.

Martin L. Smith is an Episcopal priest serving at St. Columba’s Church in Washington, D.C.

[ June 3 ]
Leadership Reborn
Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29;
Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17.

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Praying for Peace and Looking for Jesus at #OccupyWallStreet

The new movement called Occupy Wall Street now has spread across the country, from the very seats of our political and financial power and our largest cities, to suburbs and small towns. In some communities small groups of a few dozen have formed and in some cities thousands have gathered.

In each instance, no matter the size, people's frustrations, hurt and feelings of being betrayed by our nation's politicians and economic leaders are clear and they want to be heard.

We will likely see images and hear things that will offend us and some that will inspire.

We'll hear demands that we agree with and some that we don't.

And that's OK.

What is 'Biblical Politics'?

Sojourners has always tried to understand and advocate for "biblical politics." But what does that mean now, especially as we approach another major election?

I was talking the other day to a Christian leader who has given his life to working with the poor. His approach is very grassroots -- he lives in a poor, virtually all-minority community and provides basic services for low-income people. He said, "If you work with and for the poor, you inevitably run into injustice." In other words, poverty isn't caused by accident. There are unjust systems and structures that create and perpetuate poverty and human suffering. And service alone is never enough; working to change both the attitudes and institutional arrangements that cause poverty is required.

When the Earth Shakes

It was over in less than a minute. Three miles below the surface of the earth near a town in Virginia called Mineral, a fault line shifted. As a result, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake was felt from Georgia to New England and as far west as Detroit. The National Cathedral lost several stone spires, the Washington Monument cracked, and Sojourners' office was closed for the afternoon, as our building was checked for structural damage.

Tectonic plates move beneath our feet in the part of the globe that scientists refer to as the lithosphere. Over the course of a year, an average plate will move as little as 3 to 6 centimeters. The speed of their movement is 10,000 times slower than the hour hand on a clock and even slower than the rate of growth of human hair. For decades, sometimes centuries or millennia, a plate's movement might go almost entirely unnoticed. Then, in less than a minute, the world shakes and everything changes.

The Works of the Flesh and the Debt Ceiling Deal

In Galatians 5:19-20, Paul lists the "works of the flesh," contrasting them to the "fruit of the Spirit" immediately thereafter (Gal. 5:22-23). Among the works of the flesh are hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, and division. Another translation puts it, "People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups ... I warn you now as I have before: those who do these things will not possess the kingdom of God."

Palestinian Nonviolence: Muslims, Not Christians, Are the Leaders

100216_090527-1503-palestineWhenever I give talks on the effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian livelihood, the status of nonviolence as a means to resisting the occupation, and how I believe nonviolence is the only way to move forward to resolve the conflict and create a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, one of the first and immediate questions I get from foreign visitors to my office in Bethlehem is, What you said is good, but what about the Muslims? Do they also believe in nonviolence? Do they understand it?" Even if I don't mention religion in my presentation -- and I rarely do -- this question always seems to make its way in our discussions.

A Response to the American Enterprise Institute's Ad in Politico

Today, "Values and Capitalism," a project of the American Enterprise Institute, sponsored a full-page ad in Politico (see page 13) in response to the Circle of Protection. While it is encouraging to see another full-page ad urging our nation's legislators to be concerned about the poor, it is unfortunate that the critique of the Circle of Protection and Sojourners work is based on an error.

Les Mis

I prefer my revolutions to be simple: A corrupt dictator/tyrant, an oppressed population, inspired reformers who risk their lives, calls for democracy, waves of marchers in the streets, background music from Les Misérables. The stories from Tunis and Cairo were epochal. The Arab spring was in full bloom as calls for participatory government could be heard from every corner of the Middle East.

Then there was Syria. The Assad government has been infamous in its intolerance to dissent. It is a military regime whose 30-year leadership under Hafez al-Assad (1930-2000) established it as one of the most severe in the region. In 2,000, after the death of Hafez, the world was intrigued to see his second son -- Bashar al-Assad -- ascend the throne. Bashar was an ophthalmologist who had studied in London, but because of his older brother's death in a car accident in 1994, he was called to follow his father. Bashar speaks English and French fluently and has been as critical of the U.S. as he has been of Israel.

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