hymn to freedom...

Here is a note I shared with my congregation yesterday...

Blessings and Happy New Year First Church!
After a full and satisfying Advent and Christmas Eve/Day, I took some down time to for

reflection and refreshment. While I was away, I began what will be a lengthy review of the legacy and writing of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Some may know him as the German Lutheran pastor who first opposed the rise of fascism in his country in the 1930s and later became an active resistor against Hitler in the 1940s. He worked to help Jews escape the Holocaust and was eventually imprisoned and hanged for his commitment to Christian love. To say that I see parallels and relevance in Bonhoeffer's words and deeds in 2017 would be a gross understatement.

Consequently, I have been closely working with the Four Freedoms Rally since its inception

before Thanksgiving 2016. What started as a few people talking about strengthening our deepest values of respect, compassion and solidarity with those who are vulnerable, threatened or hurting has now grown into a huge coalition of Jews, Christians, Muslims, arts organizations, civic leaders and more. Two things are important for me to share with you about our participation in this event (which will take place this Saturday, January 7th in our Sanctuary.)

+ First, you may recall that last year at Christmas time I spoke out about the rising bigotry and the consequences of fear in America.
I called for Christians to stand in solidarity against registering Muslims and demonizing immigrants. The Berkshire Eagle ran an extended article on this challenge - and we welcomed Muslim sisters and brothers, Jews and others, to last year's Christmas Eve late worship. The rally on Saturday, therefore, represents another step in our commitment to standing with and for the powerless. This commitment is greater than nationality, gender, partisan politics or economics. For me it is grounded in the fact that Jesus was a man for others and his life, death and resurrection must be my standard of faith, too.

+ Second, it is my deepest conviction that faithfulness to Christ is not simply about right belief (doctrine) but enfleshed love. The Word of God was revealed in Jesus. He made it flesh - and so must we. Bonhoeffer used to say: "The church must come out of stagnation. We must move out again into the open air of intellectual discussion with the world, and risk saying controversial things, if we are to get down to the serious problems of life." Our calling is to make visible the costly love Jesus gave to the world. For this is how faith is evaluated: living compassionately for others - especially the most vulnerable among us.

I hope to see some of you at the march and rally (it begins at St. Joe's Church at 12:30 and concludes with speakers at First Church starting at 1 pm.) Afterwards, various groups will have information tables set up in the Fellowship Hall to help you learn about ways to stand up against bigotry and prejudice. Already close to 700 people have indicated they will be present - so don't be late!

As a child born in the 1950s I remember when white privilege ruled the day: my grandparents freely used the "N" word about people of color without hesitation. De jure apartheid was the law of the land in the South and de facto segregation was real throughout the North. Given the witness for love and peace of Dr. King and others, a cultural shift took place that made it unacceptable to advocate for hatred and prejudice in public. To be sure, these onerous realities only went underground for a season and reappeared with the Tea Party after the election of President Obama - and now the current so-called "alt-right" organizations. 2017 has become another time to not only challenge this hatred, but to dismantle some of it with sacrificial love.

Later today I spoke with one of my musical colleagues who sensed that just before our rally at First Church begins, he should share a rendering of Oscar Peterson's "Hymn of Freedom." I had been thinking the very same thing last night. So to hear of his desire today gave me goose bumps of synchronicity in the presence of the Spirit. At midday Eucharist, a friend prayed for me as I prepare to move into part-time ministry and retirement. I was so moved I almost wept. My peeps are kind but this was particularly tender. Then, after breaking bread and sharing the cup of blessing, another person said, "Look at the communion plate... it is a dove!" Pretty wild, yes?  My closing meeting today was with a person who has recently moved to the area and wants to host a time of nonviolence training after this coming Saturday's rally. We both agreed that we need to start NOW cultivated a commitment to disciplined nonviolent resistance given our growing sense that the Trump regime will likely evoke violence and necessary civil disobe-dience.  AND... I heard back from my friends in Ottawa re: L'Arche whom I hope to visit in March or April!


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