Monday, March 21, 2016

Devotional for Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday
by J Herbert Nelson

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. 
(Psalm 33:8, NRSV)

The bible reminds us through the words of the Psalmist that we who inhabit the earth are to stand in awe of the Lord God. These words place a significant responsibility upon each one of us to be observant of God’s creation, including people, plants, animals and every living creeping and crawling thing. (Genesis 1)  This dominion over God’s creation does not mean domination. We are given the authority to act on God’s behalf as stewards or caretakers of the earth and all that dwells therein. This understanding makes domination of people, plant life, or animals a sin towards God. It is sinful, because we are led to believe that we are “gods” who control rather than acting on behalf of the one who gives us life, health and strength.

Dr. Benjamin Chavis, former Director of the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice and Executive Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), coined the phrase “Environmental Racism” in 1982 while engaged in activist work in Warren County, North Carolina. He used it to describe the way the powerful profited from toxic waste dumping by intentionally locating waste facilities in poor neighborhoods of color. The majority of those negatively affected by toxic waste sites in 1982 were African Americans.

In 2016, we witnessed a significant breach in our covenant with God when the headlines broke regarding the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Children, adults, and people of various races (the majority African American) were adversely impacted by a deal made with the enemies of God’s good graces who chose profits over people. As people in high places told documented lies regarding the cleanliness of the water in Flint, this community is still assessing the negative health toll. Flint represents one of the largest African American populations in the State of Michigan.

There are many faith questions that must be answered about this breach in care for the earth and its people. However, there is an accountability question that must be answered by those of us who claim to know the Lord, our God. Are we truly acting as stewards in our own communities on God’s behalf? Are we protecting our babies from toxic carbon emissions that prevent so many of them from attending school due to asthma and other respiratory problems? Are we relentless in our efforts to stop toxic waste dumping by private companies and government agencies that view such dumping as a means of revenue rather than a long-term health hazard? Are we building interracial coalitions to gain political traction to avoid the fallout we now see in Flint? Is your Church/Ministry engaged in preserving the planet and challenging climate change deniers with facts and the Gospel? It is our duty to be on God’s side as stewards of the earth and its people, for “the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.” 
(I Corinthians 10:26)

Prayer: Creator of life’s beauty, majesty, and mystery, we thank you for the gift of life – ours and those of all your creation. Teach us what it means to be human and to treat one another with dignity and respect. Show us our role in the stewardship of Earth. Grant that we might embrace our role with both conviction and humility. Amen.

Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson is the Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC.

Devotional for Good Friday

Good Friday
by Sung Yeon Choimorrow

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.  The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”  Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”  Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed. (John 18:15-18, 25-27, NRSV)

Denial of Christ can come in so many ways in our contemporary age.  For me the biggest form of denial of Christ is denying our fellow humans basic rights to a dignified life. If we remember back during Christ’s ministry, Christ calls us to “love our neighbors as ourselves” (Mark 12:31).  If we love ourselves by having basic needs met and even enjoying a few luxuries, how are we loving our neighbors when they are suffering disrespect, ill health and living in poverty?

Oftentimes we can get caught up in a just cause that’s focused on an issue that we’ve been most impacted by or that we see impacts people dramatically. However, I want to encourage us to see the connections between issues to understand the true devastating impact of injustice on our neighbors, particularly those who have little to no means of living. More than half of the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 a day. And these are the folks who are also most impacted by our environmental issues such as lack of water or constant flooding due to global climate change.  These are the people who are most likely being trafficked into slavery and working under dangerous, even fatal working conditions.

When we think about our world and how vast the issues are, I encourage us to remember that we have friends in the social justice movement and that when we band together, we are stronger.  At the end of the day, we are all working towards the same hope; that people can live in dignity in a sustainable earth.  It is my prayer that we continue to work together across issues to lift up and fight for solutions that protect the more vulnerable.

Prayer: Lord of grace and mercy, we are reminded of ways that we’ve denied you. Even as we work towards justice and hope, there are times we have failed to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We pray for mercy and wisdom, that as we continue to journey with you towards justice and hope, that we may live our lives justly to treat all people with dignity and treat our earth with care. Amen.

Rev. Sung Yeon Choimorrow is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Interfaith Worker Justice where she is committed to educating and organizing workers and the faith community across the United States for economic justice and safe and dignified working conditions for all workers. She is also a member of the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Advisory Committee. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Joseph and their daughter, Ella.

Devotional for Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday
Interview with Tiffany Immingan

Oh, Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the the courts of the house of the Lord...
Praise the Lord! (Psalm 116: 16-17, 18a, 19, NRSV)

Tiffany connecting with the Gulf of Alaska.
Let us connect.

Tiffany Immingan is an energetic young woman from Savoonga, Alaska. Savoonga is on the St. Lawrence Island in the Gulf of Alaska, south of the Arctic Ocean. As she notes proudly on her shirt, she is Siberian Yupik, an indigenous, (Eskimo) native. Yupik means "true people."  Very important in their culture are whales and walrus, connecting them to Creation in a very intimate way.

She is a member of the Alaska Community Action on Toxins, and as such, is an advocate for the health of her wider community and for our beautiful Earth. She represented Yukon Presbytery, coming to the 222 General Assembly in Detroit with Executive Presbyter, Rev. Dr. Curtis Karns, to serve as an overture advocate for the Precautionary Principle Overture. There she relayed the message that due to climate change and ocean warming, their village has suffered, in ways such as not being able to locate walruses, very important to their lifestyle. She came 4000 miles to help support Presbyterians, on behalf of Creation, as a plea for us all to care for our planet and each other.

I am grateful for Tiffany, for Curt, and for all who advocate in a sense of 'thanksgiving

sacrifice'.  Thanks be to God....

Tiffany sharing time with a whale carcass.
Let us reflect.

On this night, our Lord Jesus gathered around table, preparing to sacrifice himself for us all, indeed all of Creation, so that we might be healed and whole.

Yet we as children of our Creator, turn away. We forsake Christ. We forsake Creation. We do not hold each other up...nor hold each other accountable.

We may not travel 4 miles, not to mention 4000 miles, to advocate for healing and restoration.

We ask for forgiveness, for strength, for guidance.

Let us pray.

Tonight we pray.  We mourn. We hold vigil.  We sit alongside our Lord in the Garden.
Help us Lord, to stay awake.  Help us Lord, to know how to be sacrifice.
Grant us mercy.  Grant us wisdom.
Grant us a depth of soul-seeking so that we may know you, hear you, and feel your presence in each other; in the walrus, in the whale, in the Ocean, in all of Creation.
In the name the One who came, comes, and will come again. Amen.


Tiffany Immingan was interviewed by Presbyterians for Earth Care Moderator, Diane Waddell.