Violence breeds violence.  It’s a pattern described in scripture, recorded in the history of most cultures.  It’s what is experienced in our own time.  Revenge leads to revenge.  Retaliation produces retaliation. On and on and on and on. While it is undeniable that people of faith – including Christians – have committed terrible acts of violence in the name of God, there is a post-modern assumption that religion itself promotes violence.  We hear it so often from secularists that we almost fall for this straw dog. In fact, statistically, there is no evidence that faith – of any sort – is the genesis of most violence, including genocide and war. Sometimes the scriptures have been so routinely misinterpreted that we hear “violence” when there was no or at least less.  “Spare the rod and spoil the child” (Proverbs 13:24) has been routinely used to condone violence against children, ignoring that the proverb refers to the rod of the shepherd who – of course – would not use beat his sheep.  When Jesus says “you have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” he isn’t referencing a passage that initially advocated retaliation.  The passages he mentions are in Leviticus and Deuteronomy and actually encouraged the practice of proportional justice.  (Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21). That is, the punishment should fit the crime not be greater than the crime.  Yet, Jesus is going father and putting aside that guidance in favor of meeting violence, cruelty or hatred with love. But it is undeniable that in Hebrew scriptures, God prescribes the death penalty in some instances (e.g....

Why are we tempted?  Because when we have encountered God as the Lord of our lives the Spirit drives us to a place where we know the difference between our own desires and the will of God.  Where we know, as Archbishop William Temple wrote: The worst things that happen do not happen because a few people are monstrously wicked, but because most people are like us. At stake are the people of God and the creation of God.  The temptations we face decide whether we will fill the stomachs of the hungry, how we will treat the strangers and the sojourners in our midst, whether the addicted will be rehabilitated, if the imprisoned will be visited and set free, whether the beauty and purity of God’s waters, skies, and earth will be restored, the lonely, sick and dying loved and cared for. When we live with God at a deep spiritual level we are sensitive to God’s presence in every area of our lives.  We know God’s claim not just our patterns of interaction with those we love but on our participation in the broader world, not just how we treat our friends but how we treat our enemies, not just whether we make healthy choices but if what we choose is healthy for all people.  We measure our lives by the standards of God’s kingdom and not by those of the culture we live in. These struggles emerge from our meaningful encounters with God in Jesus Christ. When we are tempted, we grow morally and spiritually. If we experience that inner tension of temptation and resist the...
We’ve been to Binford Farmer’s Market

We’ve been to Binford Farmer’s Market

Getting know your neighbors isn’t all demographics, interviews, and getting the data right.  On Saturday, June 23, eight friends of Faith just walked the streets of the Binford Farmer’s Market.   Of course, some of us make a regular habit of marketing at the market.  Helen had to make an immediate trip to nab some rainbow chard, knowing it would run out quickly. Our job – besides shopping – was just to pay attention to who was present, engage in conversation and wonder about our community. We noticed: a lot of families with small children many – ahem – middle-aged people that the vendors were more ethnically diverse than the shoppers shoppers bought a lot of produce and not so much of the baked goods several organizations set up to get financial support many of the vendors are actually from very close to the church We wondered if: people with limit income would use the market, as produce is more expensive than at a large supermarket there is a program to assist people on SNAP to be able to purchase produce more economically people would purchase more if they had a chance to sample produce they aren’t familiar with Faith could have a presence at the market  to help people know about our congregation Turns out, taking photographs is a good way to start a conversation, which makes a good opportunity to say, “We are Faith Presbyterian up on 82nd and Hague and we are out getting to know more about our community.” When we headed home, Diane had some planting to do and I had an unorthodox breakfast.   ...
Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life.

Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life.

One of the gifts of General Assembly – the biennial gathering of the Presbyterian Church (USA) – is that it is a bit of giant family reunion.  As someone who has lived and served in multiple areas, it is a great chance to reconnect and catch up.  This assembly, in St. Louis, was extra fun for me because I got to introduce my daughter, who was a Young Adult Advisory Delegate (YAAD), to people she had only heard about but never met. Our first day, we ran into Peg True.  Peg threw up her hands and beamed a warm smile, a combination of gestures I have seen through the years of knowing Peg.  They are characteristic of her open-heartedness and welcome.  I introduced Peg and Rosina and we chatted about life and church. Peg was so interested to hear about what Rosina does apart from being a YAAD . Then she talked enthusiastically about the high school graduation she had just attended for one of her many and beloved grandnephews or grandnieces. As Rosina and I walked away, I told her about the amazing legacy the Peg has in the Presbyterian Church. She was one of the first women to be ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. She had felt called as a young person, yet she was only ordained after many years of waiting and service because there was so little encouragement for women in the ministry for so long.   Peg was an educator and deeply committed to causes of social justice.  She greeted everyone with the same enthusiasm she had greeted us but carried within...
Jesus said: I am the door.

Jesus said: I am the door.

Jesus has always been clear that real life – abundant life – is not found in playing it safe.  New life is found in taking risks for others.  Jesus drives us – less than compliant sheep – out of through the door of his being so we will not just live but live for others.  That’s the abundant and everlasting life that Jesus talks about.  Jesus casts us out of our secure spots and calls us to follow him so we will know the green lush pastures and so others have a chance to live in that abundance also. The sheep (and goats for that matter) that graze freely on the mountains of Crete are a sign of a quest for abundance to be shared. In the face of Greece’s long-faltering economy, people feel driven out of the confines of the urban areas where expenses mount as incomes drop.  In that atmosphere, they are resentful and fearful. As they are thrust of where they expected to live, some are finding and sharing a rich way of life.  There is a small but substantial movement of people – especially young people – who are returning to ancestral homes in rural areas, small islands and particularly to Crete. In those open spaces, it is possible for almost anyone to make a living.  With a very modest house, it is possible to grow a fertile garden. Climb the hills and pick the wild greens that are rich with nutrition. Perhaps care for the family’s ancient olive trees for a little cash. Learn the art of beekeeping to barter with honey.  Send a...