Tuesday, November 29, 2016

advent 1. #GivingTuesday

"He began to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.” But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’ When they heard this, they said, ‘Heaven forbid!’ But he looked at them and said, ‘What then does this text mean:
“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone”?*
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’ When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people."

Today is GivingTuesday.  It is meant to inspire generosity in the aftermath of Black Friday and Cyber Monday--consumer shopping days to fulfill the Christmas wish lists.  My wife and I have done very little shopping since Thanksgiving and even less spending.  I think it's good to remind people to give.  Studies have shown that giving makes people happier than receiving.  Generosity is a way that we deny the self and think of others.  It comes out of and builds compassion and empathy.  Inviting children to give is great formation and teaches the power of greed and the need to let go in order to live a fuller and richer life.  Too often giving is an annual event or an end-of-the-year holiday expression, rather than a way of life, a habit or a routine.  The bible suggests that God is constantly giving and apart from daily divine generosity we cannot live.    
This parable of Jesus reminds us that God entrusts God's things to people.  God is like an absentee vineyard owner, who entrusts the vineyard to people.  When harvest time comes, the owner expects fruit.  But the tenants are greedy and willing to resort to violence in order to retain what does not belong to them.  Possessed by our possessions, we are unable to give freely and liberally to others.  We are afraid.  We believe in the myth of scarcity, despite our wastefulness and misuse of the abundance around us.
I struggle with time management.  I waste time sometimes.  I do not budget time wisely, spending too much on somethings and not enough on others.  I think time is a gift from God that I take for granted.  How much time do I really have?  The time I do have, I should use well.       

Some Christians believe that government is a function of God's provision, a way in which God orders human community.  Responsible government, according to the bible, looks after the innocent, the weak, the vulnerable, the poor, and the displaced.  Irresponsible government is greedy and self-serving. We have seen and heard governing authorities abuse their leadership and abuse the people they are supposed to protect and govern.  Like Jesus, we are called to speak against abusive powers and "bad tenants" who have been given authority, only to abuse it for selfish gain.  Jesus suggests that their power will be taken away from them.  Moral advocacy that holds leaders accountable to those they are required to serve is a work of public witness or faith in action.

We know that there is a cost to public witness, to accountable stewardship and faithful living.  Jesus paid it on the cross.  We will bear crosses, too.  But, the promise is true.  Those who pour themselves out, who give themselves away, put others before themselves, who love their neighbors and their enemies, will be rewarded.  The reward may be the act itself, since generosity brings joy to the heart.  The reward is also eternal life, a home with God, and everlasting peace.  So, on GivingTuesday, be generous with what God has given you; yourself, your time, your possessions.  Signs of God's gracious love.  God the giver gave all that you have to you, so that you might join God in that work. Don't squander it, hoard it, or keep a little for yourself.  Don't believe in scarcity.  Believe in abundance.  Believe in the reward of a generous life.  And look to Jesus as the best example of how to give.  Wholly.  Selflessly.  Lovingly.     


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What is Advent?

"Though Advent (literally arrival) has been observed for centuries as a time to contemplate Christ's birth, most people today acknowledge it only with a blank look. For the vast majority of us, December flies by in a flurry of activities, and what is called the holiday season turns out to be the most stressful time of the year." 

If this is your experience, then we need to talk.  We create stress.  We let the holidays overwhelm us and we forget why we're celebrating in the first place.  Look, I get that you may not be that religious or pious.  These festivals and seasons are not that important anyway.  We don't have time for these things, that are clearly for religious insiders, right? . You've gotten on fine without knowing about Advent or Lent or the Christian year.  Did you know the Christian year is marked differently than the secular calendar? Did you know millions of people observe the Christian year as the rhythm that keeps them connected to the life of Jesus and the ongoing creative work of God?  A lot of evangelical Christians have rejected the traditional Christian calendar.  They do not observe the seasons.  Roman Catholics and some Protestants, however, continue to keep an annual cycle of holy days by which they mark the passing of the weeks.  Both Jews and Muslims also keep a religious calendar of seasonal observances and holy days.  You've simply never participated as religiously or faithfully before. 
But, here's the thing.  In your rejection of some Christian traditions or your ignorance of them (and I mean that in a gentle way, like you just don't know what you're missing), you are not getting the whole meal.  Its like skipping the hors d'oeuvres and the salad and going right for the meat and the dessert. Many Americans will celebrate Christmas without knowing why.  What it means, whose birth we celebrate, why we celebrate Jesus' birth, or how to celebrate it apart from the consumer model.  There is another way! 

Advent starts on Sunday, November 27th this year.  Advent is the church's way of marking time, of slowing things down, of preparing for the things that matter.  Advent has been observed for centuries and consists in the four Sundays that precede December 25th.  It is basically the month before Christmas.  It has been mostly supplanted by a consumer calendar marking the number of shopping days until the 25th. 
Christmas, as you know, is one of the two major festivals of the Christian year.  It is a twelve day celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  The stories of his birth appear in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. 
Easter is, of course, the other major festival.  One could say that it was the resurrection of Jesus that made his birth so important.  No Easter, no Christmas.  But I think we can make a case for the significance of Christmas, primarily by living Advent. 
Advent is all about anticipation and hope, watchful waiting, and expectation.  It is about the longing of the human heart, the human community, for justice--the setting right and straight the things that are wrong and broken in this world.  Biblically, Advent is Messianic promise and fulfillment.  Jews longed for a just ruler, an divinely anointed King who would set them free from oppression.  The Messiah began to be seen as a divine man who would transform the earth, humanity, and all the creatures.  From winter to eternal spring.  From despair and desperation to hope and comfort.  From exile to homecoming.  From war to peace.  From death to life.  The expectation was that a Messiah would save the people from sin and death.    The Jews, long awaiting a savior, kept watch by prayer and Torah observance.  They practiced the law of God found in the books of Moses and the prophets.  They hoped, in times of slavery and exile, for a ruler who would vanquish enemies and restore their dignity as the chosen people of God.  A Messiah, which means anointed one or King.  Christ is the Greek form of Messiah. It is a title not a surname.  Jesus Christ means Jesus Messiah, or King Jesus.

Advent gives us a month to contemplate the meaning of Jesus.  Here are some ways we can observe Advent:

1.  Get a calendar.  Advent calendars are full of daily reminders and simple practices that make us mindful of the presence of God. 
2.  Get an Advent wreath or a set of four candles to light at evening meals.  One candle is lit on each Sunday in Advent. The Jews get 8 candles on the Menorrah for Hannukah.  Christians get four candles for Advent. 
3.Get a devotion book.  Daily readings that teach us, that enrich the spiritual part of life, and give us pause to reflect can really enhance the meaning of the holiday season.  Maybe God has something to say to you to help you grow in your relationships, or in how you use your time.   Start the day in 5 minutes of intentional silence before a single candle as a point of focus.  See what that days to your state of mind, level of stress, and will to live.   
4.  Find a local charity to support or volunteer with a local community outreach.  Nothing refocuses us in the life of Jesus like tending to the needs of others.   
5.  Go to worship in a liturgical church that observes ancient Christian tradition.  It may be that engaging in ritual activity (prayer, song, listening, eating and drinking, light candles) that has been shaped by centuries of spiritual practitioners, who were devoted to a spiritual path as followers of Jesus Christ, can nurture your inner soul in ways that shopping at Target can't.
6.  Invite someone to eat dinner with your family that has not been in your home before.  Hospitality is a hallmark characteristic of Christian observance and something we suck at in the United States.  We tend to live in isolation rather than in community.  Nothing makes community faster than food. 
7.  Go to a free community concert.  Churches and community centers often host musicians during the month of December.  Many churches will host community singing of Handel's "Messiah".  Enjoying beautiful music and the arts reminds us of the best of what humanity can offer.
8.  Decorate in stages.  Rather than put up the entire Christmas display on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, delay gratification Clark.  Build a festive atmosphere in your home, adding a little more each week.  Delay decorating a Christmas tree for as long as you can.  After all, Christmas itself is the 12 days from December 25 to January 6.  Too often, we've put away Christmas too early because we started observing and celebrating too soon. Do Advent first!  Wait for Christmas!  The meaning is in the waiting!

Let's start here and see what happens.  Try on one or two new habits.  What is it like to intentionally and mindfully focus on the coming of Christ? 


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

the one about leadership

Repeat after me, please:  There is a ruler. There is a leader. There is an authority.  There is a guide.  There is a shepherd.  There is a mighty protector.  There is a powerful Presider.  There is a King.  There is a Savior of the World.  And I know….it is not me. 

Two weeks ago, the Friday after the election, I wanted to clear my head, think prayerfully about Sunday morning, and get away from the constant drum beat of American politics.  I also needed to meet with a colleague to talk about a group exercise I would be leading, and led yesterday, with a group of church leaders on behalf of our synod staff.  Jennifer and some colleagues were meeting at Camp Kirchenwald for a morning prayer walk.  I asked if we could meet there and if I could join the walk.  That morning as I was preparing to go, Jen called and said that her 10 year old daughters were off school and wanted to know if my kids were, too.  They wanted to come to camp, but wanted something to do there.  I told her my kids were not off, but my puppy was available and would love to come and play with them at camp.  So I brought Katie along.  The plan was that I would lead the small group around camp on a silent prayer walk, because I knew the camp trails.  The girls would walk Katie on her leash to another part of camp to play.  We all started off in the same direction.  Suddenly, the girls unleashed Katie and disappeared.  Katie followed us, well, ran ahead of us and around as we walked.  I did not have her leash.  I figured she would stay with us.  Then we turned left to head toward the lake.  Katie didn’t.  I walked on about 50 yards and noticed her absence.  I told the group to continue down the trail, while I backtracked to retrieve my retriever.  I found her with a feather in her mouth just off the trail behind a large fallen tree.  I called to her sternly to come.  I approached her and she took off.  She ran back down the trail we came up.  I called her again, "Katie, come".  She took off.  I followed chase.  I was getting angry.  I had left the group and was running after her.  I called her again, "Katie, come".  She ran faster.  I ran after her.  Down the hill, across the log bridge, up the hill.  When I emerged, breathing hard, she was no where to be seen.  A little panic set in.  O God, I lost my puppy.  My wife and kids are gonna kill me.  I ran around calling after her.  Nothing.  I was thinking about how we disturbed the prayer walk.  I was thinking about the girls' promise to walk her and watch her.  What were the others thinking?  Were they annoyed that I brought her?  Were they concerned about us?  I projected my feelings on them.  I ran back to the lodge where we started.  There she was.  Huddled behind a chair.  When I yell, I scare her.  She usually runs into her crate at home.  This time, she ran back to the lodge.  I scooped her up, angry and relieved.  I wanted to kill her and hug her.  It was a cool fall morning, so I put her in my car with the windows down.  As I headed back down to find the others, I ran into the girls with the leash.  I told them they could get her out of the car and walk her on the leash.  They didn't.  As I headed the opposite way down the lake I felt anger, frustration, and anxiety.  What happened to the group?  Had they found their way without me?  When I came to the lake there they were. Sitting quietly, enjoying the warm sun reflected on the water, in the brightly colored leaves.  They were safe, at peace, resting.  I was a mess.  I sat by a tree and tried to let the earth and the sun take the toxic anger and anxiety out of my body.  Slowly, I began to recover and enter a place of quiet peace.  We got up and walked back to the lodge.  On the way, God spoke to me.  By the time we got back to the lodge I was practically in tears.  And I needed to share what God said.  The group convener asked us to share how we felt during the walk,  the intention was to spiritually center us in the beauty of creation.  I spoke. My experience on the walk resembled my current leadership.  I reflected:  Am I leading a community of people on a spiritual journey together or am I chasing after stray animals?  This is how pastoral leadership feels much of the time.  And it is lonely to be in front or to be the one who chases the strays.  Why does no one else feel compelled to help?  The girls left her off the leash.  They were complicit.  The group felt no need to stop what they were doing to help me retrieve the dog.  I was alone.  I felt the tension in myself, the occasional feeling of overwhelming responsibility, the insanity of going after those running in the wrong direction,  the constant nagging sense of failure.  I felt strongly that both those willingly going on the journey and the stray animal needed me. And for some reason, I loved that stray animal and would never think to abandon her, lest she get lost.  I thought of the parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd who abandons the 99 to find her and bring her home.  But I also thought of Jesus leading disciples.  He could somehow balance between investment of time with his disciples and going after the lost, the hurting, the broken, and the rejected.  I had not achieved this balance in my life.  And I was hurting because of it.  I thought that my faith community was struggling because of my leadership, too. 
And now this election said to me, we are in a national leadership crisis.  Half of the country is eager to follow.  Half of the country disavows the elected President. If it had gone the other way, the roles would be reversed and “Not my President” would still be chanted.  Congress, courts, state houses, Presidents.  Dems, republicans. We have a moral crisis in leadership and an erosion in trust, authority, and security. It did not begin in 2016 and it will not end on inauguration day.   There is a lot of fear and anger right now directed toward public leaders.         

But God also said to me, notice how the group ended up exactly where you wanted to lead them despite your absence.  Notice how content and placid they were by the lake?  Notice the stray dog ended up safe even before you could catch her and bring her to safety?  That was me.  My grace. My love.  My leadership.  My power.  My authority.  So you can rest.  Be at peace.  Trust me. Remember that you are a follower, too.  And you need to receive from me the Holy Spirit, again and again.  Or you will be led astray.  And lead others, too.  The blind often lead the blind.  But I have given you the eyes to see me.  The eyes of faith.  Do not take your eyes off of me.  I will lead you, give you rest, shelter you, heal you, forgive you when you fail, and welcome you to myself. You are mine. 

Here’s what I see on this reign of Christ Sunday.  When Israel’s rulers were corrupt and they faced a national leadership crisis, when their religious leaders were corrupted by power over people for selfish gain, God promised a shepherd that God himself would appoint and send.  This shepherd came in the form of a son.  He led people on a spiritual journey in the wilderness, offering grace and mercy and healing for all.  He went after the strays and the lost and the losers and invited them in to his life.  He was crowned as King and crucified on the same day.  Because authentic leadership rooted in love is dangerous and risky and unseen.  No President or congressional leader or pastor does what He did.  No one does.  On the cross, he is finally revealed as the one true shepherd King and savior of the world.  And the one who sees him for who he is, was hanging next to him.  A criminal.  Condemned by the world.  Sentenced to the ultimate punishment.  Death.  One we all face eventually, by the way.  And in that moment, King Jesus makes a promise to him, to me, to you, to all of us.  Today you will be with me in paradise.  The king has come.  His just and peaceful rule has already begun.  His resurrection confirms it and enthrones him forever.  Jesus is my Lord, my King, my master, my shepherd, my savior. And he is yours.  Forever and ever.  Amen. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

an uncertain future

"These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon...It said: 4Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,* for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord.
For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,4I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." Jeremiah 29.

Unsettling and unsettled.  These words describe how I have been feeling for awhile now.  Not just since the presidential election, which really intensified these feeling and thoughts.  I have been feeling like this for some time because life in American culture is unsettling today. 
My wife is a full-time teaching in a public school position that is stressful and exhausting emotionally, mentally, and physically for her.  My boys are growing up.  My oldest son is in middle school now.  Changes are happening with him that we anticipated, but feel ill equipped sometimes to address.  We want out kids to be well-adjusted, feel safe and secure, have good friendships, learn new and challenging things, and have activities they enjoy.  We want to them to feel successful in school and we want them to be compassionate and caring toward others.  We are well-intentioned parents, but sometimes feel like we don't devote enough time to the project of forming healthy adults.  We feel like we are still maturing, changing, learning, and struggling too.  And there are a lot of moving parts in daily life---Caring for ourselves, maintaining a calendar of activities, nurturing relationships outside our home and family, doing meaningful work, and maintaining a house are time- consuming and leave little room to pause.  We also don't want to project our anxieties and frustrations on our kids.  We want to breathe in peace and breathe out love.  We want to be consistent in our actions and show devotion to things and people we care about.  And sometimes we just want to check out.  We want our home to be a sanctuary and it sometimes feels like a production factory.  I see work every where I go.  Time set apart for reflection, rest, and relationship-building is hard to find.  I suspect we aren't alone in all of this.
Alongside these things, we are attempting to live in community with others who are called to be church, the people of God following the way of Jesus.  And not in a traditional congregation.  I am a mission developer helping a 128 year old congregation give birth to a new expression of Christian community.  And we are at a point in our development where both communities feel a little unsettled, uncertain, and tentative about their futures. Some people are moving on. Some people are experiencing life changes and challenges. Some people come and go.  Some people are finding their way, tentatively, into the community that gathers around an open table of welcome. It all feels very loose, unstable, and unsettling.  What if nobody comes to dinner church?  It sometimes feels like it could all just end.  And then it sometimes feels like its just getting started.  Its hard to know if we're on a right heading sometimes.   
Then I read this text from the prophet Jeremiah.  It is a reminder to me that when I feel unsettled, uncertain, and anxious I can trust that God is near.  I can trust that we will have what we need when we need it. I can trust that God has a future planned that I cannot see.  I can trust that God is at work to bring about that future. I can trust that I am where I am because I was sent, planted, exiled, and moved here by God for God's mission.  Though I sometimes feel like uprooting my family and moving on, I hear these words and trust that this is home.  For now.  And for now, that will be enough. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

the one after the election

Based on Isaiah 65:17-25 and Luke 21:5-19. 
In these weeks of November, we hear stories about the destructive ends of things as they have been and the promise of new beginnings.  A dying and rising, a decay and renewal motif embedded in the scriptures we read in the public assembly.  I think we would do well to pay attention to them as they pertain to our life together in America today. 
Tuesday was election day and it was not the end of the world.  Nor was it the beginning of a new day of peace, prosperity, and justice for all.  No President will embody the hopes and needs of all the people.  The vision of Isaiah does not rest on the shoulders of Donald Trump.  Talk of unification, the wolf lying with the lamb, is hardly to be anticipated after the inauguration.  Far from it.  This campaign season was not benign.  It revealed an ugly underside to our political life, a dark cynicism, that we have not seen.  Clearly many people are not happy, are indeed angry with our leaders and the direction we are going.  No hopeful vision, but rather collective grievances elected our next president. I get that some people just thought he would do a better job. But we all have to admit that the campaigns were polemical, mean-spirited, negative, and sought to bring out the worst in us.   Both sides demonized the other and their supporters.  There needs to be a way for healing, reconciliation, and peacemaking.

This has been a confusing week in our country.  For some of us, the outcome of the election was a joyful surprise.  For others, a frightening and devastating sadness.  I have heard from neighbors who are afraid of what will happen to them or their loved ones. I have heard from others who think those people are overreacting.   This election season has revealed deep division in our country, in our communities, even in our own families.  No matter who won the Presidency, about half of the country would have been angry, concerned for the future, and dejected.  It betrays a dark reality in which we find ourselves as Americans.  These divisions were not only about big versus small government, or taxes, or the economy, or international relations. Something else played a role in polarizing the electorate. We all have thoughts and feelings about this election.  But what do we believe?  This is what matters.  What do we believe? Where is God present?  What is God doing?  Separation of church and state is not separation of God and politics. Separation does not mean that church has nothing to say about or to the governing authorities.  We bring our faith everywhere, even into the voting booth.  So what do we believe?  I can only point us to the Word to seek the heart and mind of God. 

First, I want to say that the demonization of minorities, women, Muslims, people of color, immigrants, and refugees is not ok.  The law of God commands Israel to welcome and serve the widow, orphan, and resident alien in their midst.  And the way of Christ calls us to welcome the stranger, care for the most vulnerable among us (Women and children), serve ethnic and religious minority groups, indeed love the neighbor and the enemy alike. 
Second, public speech and the use of language matters.  As a public speaker, who is called on to say a word every week, I think it is important to be careful about what I say and how I say it.  And the intention is far more than to avoid offending people.  In fact, I expect people have been offended by what I have said.  I myself have been offended by what I have said.  I am called to listen to the judgment voice of God, too.  God’s law offends us.  Jesus’ call to discipleship offends us.  Love is offensive in the face of hatred and fear.  Mercy is offensive in the face of abusive power.  But we must publicly denounce hateful speech and abusive language.  It is not ok for anyone to speak the way Mr. Trump spoke.  I don't want my sons to think it is ok to speak about anyone the way he spoke about women, minorities, Muslims, or immigrants.  We have to be accountable for what we say.  Words have power and meaning.  They inspire behavior.   
This is why Jesus foretold that his followers will be dragged before the authorities on account of their relationship with him. Not because they were blowing things up, but because they were healing the sick, feeding the poor, speaking the truth to power, and pledging allegiance to a crucified Jewish Rabbi.  In effect, they declared in their words and actions that Jesus was their King, not Caesar.  As a Christian, our primary allegiance is to Christ.  Not to a political party or any elected official.   Not to any nationality or human system of governance.  We are called to pray for, respect, and help our elected leaders so that they rule justly, wisely, and mercifully.  We are called to stand, speak out, and act against policies, laws, and ideologies that exclude, punish, and reject minorities and vulnerable peoples.  We advocate for protection and care for the earth.  We advocate for adequate and affordable health care for all people.  We advocate for excellent public education for all children. 
Jesus reminds his disciples that they must not put their trust in wealth, in institutions of power and privilege, or in any political leader.  These things will pass away, fall down, fall apart, self- destruct. Wars and earthquakes destroy the things we build. Instead, they are to trust God alone.  They will indeed go before Kings.  And they will suffer for the gospel, for what is right and good and true.  And by their endurance they will gain their souls. Faithful endurance characterizes the church’s work in the world.  We are not called to private hopes in evacuation from the world.  We are called to endure the world for the sake of the gospel and in the name of Jesus. Isaiah reminds us that a time will come when the healing of the nations and the peace of God will reach all people.  This vision, however, came to Isaiah after 70 years of Jewish exile from their homeland.  In which they were displaced refugees, foreigners in Babylon.  They must endure hardship before rescue. Because there is no real privilege. All will be thrown down.  Exile precedes homecoming.  Suffering precedes salvation.  These days signal that tumultuous change is afoot in public life.  But this is not the end of the world. It is a call to public witness.  This is not a time of silence nor of random acts of kindness to counter act bullies, hate, and fear.  This is a time of public witness when the church is called to be the church.  To declare the intention of Christ---healing, economic rights of the poor, release of prisoners, love for enemies, an end to malice, bitterness, and violent means of problem-solving.  This is the time when we say evangelical Christians are those who stand with undocumented immigrants and Native Americans fighting for their land.  Evangelical Christians stand with African Americans suffering under the weight of invisible, structural racism baked into American culture in ways we often fail to see and understand.   Evangelical Christians proclaim good news for the poor, not for the rich.  We follow Jesus to halls of power and we hold them accountable for the ways they use power to threaten and hold down the weak among us. We cry out in prayer for justice, freedom, and peace for all people.  And we work tirelessly toward the day that is promised when all God’s children will come home, enter the promised land, and be saved. Our hope is in Christ the savior.  May he come soon and find us faithful.  Amen.