November 8, 2014
Blog Number 24
Each Saturday night our congregation has a study group of various books. Over the years we have studied a variety of books. Currently we are studying “Unbinding The Gospel.” Our group is made up of anywhere from six to ten people. The group takes place not in the church or in a home but in the Riveredge Diner in Riveredge, NJ, just a few miles from the church.
People ask us at time why we do this? Why not? The meals are good, the price is affordable and the hostess is very accommodating in getting us a round table whenever possible. A round table allows easier conversation than a rectangular one.
Another perk of doing this is that we have a chance to influence those around us. No other customer has asked us about what we are studying but I have seen a number of folks tilt their heads toward as indicating that they are listening. I don’t know how many seeds of faith that we have planted nor do I know what God will do with these seeds. That is not my business. Our business is to plant those seeds.
This is a shout-out to the 6-10 people who join me each Saturday at the Riveredge Diner as we study matters of faith. Thank you. You are doing fine work. Anyone care to join us?
Blog Number Twenty-Two
In the Lord of the Rings movie, “The Return of the King” Gandalf the wizard tells Pippen that “Not all tears are bad.” He is certainly correct. There are times when tears are the only appropriate response. We all endure times of sadness when if we don’t cry one has to wonder why.
This past Monday I had the honor of speaking to the Bergenfield Friends of the Library about my experience of being a Chaplain in the early days of the opening of the New York City 911 Memorial Museum. I was honored to be allowed to minister to the survivors, families of the victims as well as the responders.
During my Library presentation one man in particular was deeply moved. He was a retired New York City firefighter who knew many of the men featured in the 911 movie shot by the two French brothers. Some of the men in the video did not survive. This retired firefighter was moved and apologized for crying. I assured him that he had no reason to apologize. Afterward my wife and I spent time speaking with him.
Crying over death and destruction should never cause us embarrassment. Perhaps we need to apologize for not feeling as much sadness as we could for the suffering that we see. Let us all cry for those in pain. It seems appropriate to me.
“Not all tears are bad!”
Election Blog Four of Four
Please vote today. Without massive participation in the vote we risk loosing the government that Abraham Lincoln envisioned when he described a government “of the people by the people and for the people,” in his Gettysburg address. We are the people. We do not have a government of the people without our participation.
Each year the voters go to the polls to evaluate the work of our employees in elected office. Without our vote, these employees might feel that their work is acceptable, even at times when it clearly is not. Your evaluation of our employees is needed at the polls today.
Please vote. Voting is one of the activities that makes our nation a great nation but our nation can only stay great with the participation of all of us. The government is “of the people” and we, not the politicians, are the people. Please go vote.
Your influence counts. Use it!
It is a commonly held myth that our country was founded by white men who allowed all white men to vote. In fact, when this country began most white men were kept from voting. To vote one had to be white, at least 21 years old, and be an owner of land. Most people did not own land. In other words most white men could not vote when this great nation started.
Non-land owning white men did not begin to receive the right to vote until the 1820’s and 1830’s and state governments, not at the national level, did this. This was a major change in our nation’s thinking, people of lower classes were now allowed to participate more fully in the political process.
So why do so few whites vote? Less than two thirds of registered white voters voted in the last presidential election according to the US census. I don’t pretend to know what percentage of whites is actually registered. Why do we sit on the sidelines and let other people make political decisions for us? If we don’t vote do we have a right to complain when government is not doing as we feel it should?
From one white to other whites, please vote this Tuesday. It took fifty years from the founding of our country to break up the “land-owners only” monopoly on voting, let us show our appreciation by voting. I’m not asking you to vote any particular way, just that you vote.
Blog Number 19
Election Blog 2/4
People of Color, Please Vote
It is sad, atrocious, and evil that the power structure of our country deprived blacks the right to vote until 1870 when the 15th amendment was passed. Even the passage of this amendment did not lead to substantive changes in many parts of the country. Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, literacy taxes, and violence kept many people from voting. It was not until the voting rights act of 1965 was passed that black people could easily vote with no obstacles.
What was the point of the marches, petitions, lobbying and passage of that legislation if the right gained by these actions if one third of the people effected stay home and don’t vote? In honor of those efforts, please vote this Tuesday. Your influence counts. Use it.
Native Americas suffered a very similar history in voting in this country. They were here thousands of years before the white Europeans arrived. These Natives were not allowed to vote until 1924 when they were granted citizenship of the United States of America. That is a pretty sad history.
A major nightmare of the white power structure from the founding of the country until the Great Society was the thought of an active population of Black people voting. Whenever you stay home from the polls, you comfort those folks who didn’t want you to vote.
This year, support those who fought for civil rights. Vote!
Blog Number 18
Election Blog One of Four
Women, Please Vote
Tuesday is Election Day. This blog is a pea to get out the vote. No, I will not ask you to vote a certain way. I will, however, ask that you vote.
Women, please vote. No matter how busy you are with jobs, family and socializing please get out and vote. Your foremothers sacrificed a lot to get you the right to vote. Please don’t disrespect their work by not using the right that they fought to get you.
The movie “Iron-Jawed Angels” chronicles the fight to nationalize a woman’s right to vote. This did not happen until 1920. There were states that allowed women to vote prior to 1920, but this right was not nationalized until the 19th amendment was passed at this time. The movie shows the imprisonment, commitment to mental hospitals, force-feeding, and beatings of women suffragists who fought to give women the right to vote. It is a shame that all women don’t vote. I believe that not voting is disrespectful to the women who suffered so much to make the 19th amendment happen.
According to US census website in 2012 only 64% of registered women actually voted. One third of women stayed home and wasted their right that was paid for at such a high price. I encourage, urge, and respectfully ask all women to vote this Tuesday. Please don’t disrespect those who fought to give you this opportunity.
It was two years ago that Hurricane Sandy swept through our area. According to the news more than 180 people were killed by this storm and untold dollars were lost in destruction. There are still people who have not been compensated for their losses and still people whose homes have not yet been repaired. In our area our damage was minor. We were subject to annoyances by Sandy, but not devastated by it.
Unlike our ancient ancestors, we often feel in control of the world. Lights come on at the flick of a button and microwaves help us to avoid waiting for our dinner. Electricity surging through our Internet keeps us connected to people all around the world. We feel powerful and in control but we are not.
God is bigger than we are. Nature is bigger than we are. Sandy humbled us but have we learned anything from her? We are mostly back to our human arrogance thinking that we are the center of the world in control of everything around us. God is bigger than we are and so is nature. When we get proud we only invite trouble. Let us walk humbly before our God.
We had cats for thirty years that lived inside but enjoyed the outdoors most of the day. They wandered, hunted and played. Three summers ago, one by one they disappeared. It was not just my cats that disappeared. Cats all over the neighborhood disappeared. The deer disappeared also. For years the deer that lived in the woods across the street would come to our yard to drink out of the brook. They vanished as well. What was happening?
Coyotes began to be heard at night near the neighborhood golf course. A few sightings followed next. I heard of one report of a small dog and it’s owner getting charged by a coyote. Deer, cats, a dog and a woman all being attacked as the coyotes moved in. There was anger, fear and anxiety on our part of town as people feared to be outside with animals and walker and joggers began to get nervous after dark. I missed my cats and missed seeing the deer in my yard in the morning.
That was then and this is now. Last spring a DPW worker told me that dead coyotes were found next to the golf course when the snow melted. The winter was too severe for them and/or not enough food could be found. This morning I drank my morning coffee and watched six deer graze in my yard. The predetors are gone and things are peaceful and well.
The bad times of a few summers ago are now a memory. Bad times don’t last. If you are having troubles, grief or difficulties don’t give up hope. Pray to God, sing praises. The coyotes will be no more and the deer shall return. Wait for the Lord!
Blog Number Fifteen
This is a tribute to the four wonderful young people that I teach in my confirmation class.
Confirmation class frequently stirs up apprehension among ministers. I remember as an intern being assigned confirmation class teaching. My supervising minister told me that he enjoyed having interns who could do this job because that was one job that he never enjoyed doing. Since that time, over my past thirty years of ministry I have heard a number of my peers decrying having to teach these classes. Call me odd but I enjoy these classes. I enjoy teaching kids.
Maybe I missed my calling and should have become a schoolteacher. Maybe I spent too much time listening to my father talk about being a schoolteacher. Maybe I simply enjoy doing what most people don’t like to do. I don’t know what the reason is but I find teaching confirmation class to be a wonderfully fulfilling part of being pastoring a congregation.
I get in late on Sunday evenings after teaching the class. It takes a few hours of my week to prep for each class. Are these things burdens for some? I find them to be joys. What is a greater thrill than being with a child who asks the difference between having a sports role model and a sports idol that would break the commandments against idol worship? What is better than answering a teen-agers question about why there aren’t more commandments over and above the existing ten? I can’t think of a better way to spend my time than to talk with teens about what honoring you father and mother really means when parents can be totally “annoying.”
The minds of children really are curious. They ask some of the best questions I have ever heard. They have a love of learning that is genuine and refreshing. Jesus tells us to make disciples and that is what confirmation class is all about. What better joy could a pastor have?
Thank you, students. You are a joy to me each and every week.
Blog Number Fourteen
Friday I celebrated my day off by doing my annual ritual of preparing my back porch for the cold weather. This involves taking fourteen screens out of the window frames out, taking storm windows out of the storage space, washing the windows and placing them where the screens were. This is a job that I don’t like to do but is seasonally necessary. Perhaps the most difficult part is washing each window. They collect a great deal of dirt throughout the year. This reminds me of a great truth in life: dirt collects naturally but it takes effort to keep them clean.
None of us are pure. We can collect dirt without even thinking about it. Our thoughts are often not pure and our behavior is not always what we expect it to be. It takes regular cleaning to keep ourselves from getting consumed by the things that can make us less than as pure as we strive to be. The Holy Spirit daily renews us but we need also to be striving through prayer, worship, good thoughts and actions that honor Jesus to do our part in keeping the dirt at bay.
Feeling a bit dirty? Get cleaning. The cleaner we are the more we can attract others and then we are in a better position to tell others who we work for; Jesus the risen Christ. Men and women of Jesus, let’s get cleaning.