Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Holocaust--A Day to Remember

photo reserved b USACE Europe District / flickr

One of the great Biblical words is remember. The people of God always got into trouble when they forgot. This is why the Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust is so important. At sunset tonight this remembering one of the most painful experiences in our history begins. George Santayana once said that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” No wonder the Jews mark this day and say: “Never again.”

This whole sorry picture of hatred and vengeance boggles our minds after all these years. But this day should
photo reserved by lapidim/ flickr
give us all pause to remember. Do we leave Palestinians out? Can we push the immigrants out of the circle? What about the Muslims? Or the black folk after all these years are scared every time one of their own leaves the house. Will they ever come back? What about sexual trafficking and rape and abuse, abuse, abuse. What about all the lies and smears that have rained down on this black President and his family? What about the gridlock so powerful in Washington that, falling through the cracks are so many with enormous needs?

I am told that a group from the US Army Corp of Engineers European District volunteer to clean the individual memorials found all over Weisbaden, Germany. Maybe it is time for all of us to pick up our brooms and rags and buckets and cleanup the mess that we, and so many others, have made.

We say never again and yet we know that across this troubled world we must have forgotten all the tears and the graves and the mental illness and the horror of so much. Maybe it is too much to ask everyone to help make this world better—but we can in that tiny spot where we live and work and do.

I keep hoping the gospel writer of the book of John was right when he said: “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out.” The vision and the dream is still with us. Dear God: Let it shine, let is shine, let is shine.

"Abraham, Father of Faith, could it have been
  what you thought was God's voice, commanding you,
then only with Isaac bound, the Divine hand
  dragging down your wrist
to halt the war on your boy?
  And Sarah, what of Sarah? Did the two,
did the three of you, speak again, ever,
of that or anything else again, ever?'
    --excerpt from poem, "In a Bar in Chicago,"
          by Michael Dennis Browne

Names of more than 2400 people inset in pavement slab of Jewish victims in Mannheim.
photo by lanier67 / flickr

--Roge Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Bible--Club or Hammer?

photo by knowhimonline  /  flickr
Every once in a while I just have to rant. I am so tired of the media writing about Christians as if we were all narrow-minded, judgmental and self-righteous. Well, maybe sometimes we are.

But with this current tempest in the Indiana tea-pot the Church has come across looking like a bunch of mean-spirited Yahoos. Well, maybe sometimes we are.

The press takes one group of Christians--say the Fred Phelps' folk and implies this is what it means to be a Christian. But there a whole lot of good folk totally unlike the Fred Phelps crowd that have simply been misled in their understanding of the Bible.

The Bible, written over thousands of years by many people from varying cultures reflect two different strands. One: culture. Other: time-tested faith. Every book usually reflects the time in which it was written. So--we can't expect folk that were blood-thirsty and downright cruel to reflect anything but their own time. Consequently, it was perfectly all right to "bash the heads of little children against the stones." It was ok to stone those committing adultery and even kill your children if they back-talked. It was a time in which ax-handles really could float and the world was flat and had four corners and night demons could gobble you up at night. It was a book that was deeply suspicious of whatever their idea was of blood transfusions and a whole lot of different foods. No wonder some groups think women should be not only submissive but should be treated like women are still mis-treated in many parts of the Middle East today. All this and more is culture representing primitive times and primitive ideas in many places.

Now let's turn to time-tested faith. In more places than I can foot-note in the Old Testament (as well as the New) the blinding light of a faith that heals, sustains and enables can be found. John Calvin and others said if you want to understand the Bible you need to filter the whole book through the prism of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus was and is the high-water mark. And if this idea is true--so much of culture just falls away in the light of the teachings and life of Jesus. He never, ever used the Bible as a hammer or a club to hurt people. (But he did raise hell in the Temple when people were desecrating that holy place.)

So when I read in The Daily Kos this article on "I am a Christian Business Owner in Indiana" I wanted to share it with you. This writer, tongue-in cheek talks about all the people he could not serve if he were a real Bible-believer. The list is long as well as hilarious. It reminds me of something that H.L. Mencken said of Puritanism: "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." I could even paraphrase his remark like this: "Speaking of Atheists and maybe some Christians--"The haunting fear that someone, somewhere will find joy through the Christian faith."

(Sorry I couldn't make is easier for you to read the article from The Daily Kos--but you can dig it out for yourself. I am still a babe in the woods when it comes to computers.)

                                                                   --Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspotcom


Monday, April 6, 2015

A Post-Easter Poem--What Now?

photo by kaiyanwong / flickr



The service  yesterday was glorious.
"Jesus Christ is Risen Today!
Alleluia! Alleluia!"
And  we move toward the altar
   to get the lily we bought.
The flower that remembered someone
    living or dead.
From all over the church people came--
   picking up lily after lily--
Until the altar was sparse and bare--
With only a lone lily or two left here and there.

 One by one we moved to the parking lot.
We carefully placed our lily
    so it wouldn't fall over and break--
With luck I'll dig a hole today or tomorrow
    and hope next Spring I will see my lily again.

So I start the car
   and move toward home.
All over town others follow the same ritual.
The music has stopped.
The Alleluias are over.
 I take the key out of the ignition.
I am home.
What now?
What now that the Alleluias are over?
                       --Roger Lovette

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com






Saturday, April 4, 2015

It's Easter!

photo by Sheree / flickr
Every Easter I remember a scene at the Passion Play in Oberammergau in Germany I saw years ago.The play opened with Jesus riding into Jerusalem for the last time. The play ended with the . Resurrection. And in-between, the drama of the last days of Jesus’ life took six hours to tell.

I was not prepared for the Resurrection scene. The crucifixion had been particularly graphic. The stage went dark after Jesus was taken down from the cross by his loved ones. In the last scene of the drama the weeping women move through the darkness and stood behind these huge doors that represented the sealed tomb. They knocked on the door and nothing happened. Then an angel came and without saying a word she unrolled an aisle cloth from the door down, down the steps toward the audience. As the women looked on, the door slowly began to open. Light, dazzling light slowly filled the stage and bathed the darkened room where we sat with light. After a long pause through that open door and the streaming light Jesus came. He walked down the steps and from stage left and right a hundred children come running forward and grabbed his legs laughing and laughing as the chorus sang joyously.

That’s Easter for me. Year after year, the memory never grows old. Light and hope and new beginnings and love and laughter. Somehow my old nine-to-five appointment book is disturbed once more. The predictability of my days is thrown off kilter. The thus and so-ness of my life--worries about money or health or children or just the weary world—is suspended for just a moment. And I can make it another year.

(This is my favorite Easter memory--I have written about this more than once. It expresses for me what can really never be expressed fully in words.)

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com



 

Jesus is Laid in the Tomb -- Station 14

"Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble...tremble...
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?"
          --Negro Spiritual

"So we have come to the last Station, " the Priest says."We have moved," he continues, "from the trial and sufferings and nailing and death--all the way to the end."

The disciples knew it was all over.  Thank God," we whisper, "that's over. The suffering. The pain. At the last it was just unbearable. She's better off".

But us, you and me--what about us? Where do we go now as we leave this last station. This is the last stop.The tracks just run out. This is the getting off place. So we gather up our belongings, making sure we have everything, and begin to shuffle out into the sunshine. We go our separate ways.  Back to life--our lives.
But we are different having made this long circuitous journey. Different, different indeed.

It was the same back there. Mary Magdalene the other Mary, the well-heeled Joseph, Nicodemus, the soldiers that stood guard. The frightened disciples. Weeping broken-hearted Peter. Even dead Judas.

What now? This is interim time. Somewhere between the no longer and the not yet. Later, because it still had not sunk in they moaned sadly, "We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel."

Leaving this last station we hoped too, didn't we. Doing something about our loved one's cancer. Taking on ISIS, for God's sake. Changing the stupid, pathetic American political system. Turning back the old age clock. Doing something, anything to reach out to him or her and help them off this destructive road. Bringing home those 150 plus girls in Africa that were kidnapped so long ago--they have almost slipped from our memories. But not their parents.We had hoped we could resolve once and for all the crazy madness of  the Middle East. We had hoped even our lives and the lives of all those we love would be kept safe from harm's way. Walking into the sunlight--heading for home with our satchels or little suitcases. We had hoped when we opened the door things would be better. We had hoped.

So this is interim time. Maybe the quietest of the Stations. When a friend lost his little daughter at age nine he wrote me back after I had called him and said, "Thank you for what you did not say." This is the time for grieving and weeping, weeping and just feeling flat and empty and numb. It really is not-saying time.

This is the last station. But not really. There is more to be continued. But in this Interim time--it seems like the end of the line.

photo by dmelchordiaz / flickr

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com



Friday, April 3, 2015

The Religious Freedom Act and Good Friday

On this Good Friday as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act swirls around our heads, I am thinking of the cross. Not just a two thousand year old cross—but the green wooden cross that hangs on a picture in my office.

Last summer our son and his partner decided to get legally married. They had been together twenty-five years and thanks to their state of Pennsylvania’s new law they could be joined in holy matrimony.

My son asked me if I would do the wedding. Knowing no couple whose love runs deeper, I agreed. So one morning after breakfast  last summer we gathered by their fireplace in their living room. Mark, my son’s partner said, “You may want to wear this cross” And he handed me a green wooden cross.

So I slipped the cross around my neck and they pledged their vows to one another. It was a holy moment for me and for them  too, I think. Tears ran down all our faces. And that morning I simply did what I have been doing for over 40 years—I married two people in love.

What does my little green cross and Good Friday have to do with the hoopla over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? Everything. And even though Indiana has backed off parts of this bill—this battle is far from over. This law would allow businesses to refuse to serve gays out of religious conviction. A whole lot of Christians in Germany felt the same way about serving Jews. I thought of all the Christians that stood at the front door of their churches and shook their heads to blacks. In the name of religious conviction both groups thought they were protecting their faith and their values. Some even cited Biblical evidence on both occasions.

The word religion comes from the root word, to bind. Faith should unite and not separate or divide. Real religion should never discriminate against fellow human beings.

The word freedom is also misunderstood. Whose freedom are we talking about in this law? Sponsors say we infringe of the freedom of those of religious convictions if we do not pass laws that allow people to pick and choose whom they will serve. This freedom is narrow because it excludes many in the name of the few. Martin Luther King was right when he said, “Unless all are free no one is free.”

So on this Good Friday we remember a hill long ago and far away. And we recall the One who stretched out his arms to everyone. And I think of my little green cross and a day last summer.

(I took this picture in my office. The self-portrait is of my son who drew this years ago.)

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com


Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross --Station 13

photo by timabbott  /flickr
"Near the cross of Jesus
there stood his mother,
his mother's sister,
Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene."
       --John 19. 25

“We’re almost finished,” the Priest said. But not quite. Grieving takes a long time. We must linger here before this sad Station. Looking up we now know that it is over. It must have been hard for that little cluster that came—the Mary’s and the Mary and that one disciple. Hard to believe that the one that held them and healed them and listened to them and loved them—was dead.

But like that long line of grieving mothers and sons and daughters and fathers and friends—there is nothing to say, really. And little to do. "Do something.” they tell us. "Don’t just stand there.” But looking up at the dead Jesus there really is nothing to do.All the casseroles and flowers and sympathy cards will not change this scene.

Joseph and Nicodemus and some we do not know will tenderly take the dead Jesus and place him in Joseph’s tomb. The old Negro spiritual captured this scene: “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?” And looking up we nod a yes.

What does it all mean this dark Station with the mother and the other women and the beloved disciple and those that did the dirty work? Who knows really?

The story goes that after the great Abraham died and the crowds gathered up and down the Washington streets where his body would pass—there was a black woman holding her tiny child. And as the caissons and the horse drawn carriage passed she held up her baby and whispered, “Take a long, long look, he died for you.” And perhaps all we can do as we stand looking up is to know that once upon a time there really was one who, knowing us through and through—loved us more than we will ever, ever know.

Prayer


Lord—on this holy day we know this is Friday. So much of us and ours sloshes through Friday after Friday. The headlines tell us the breaking news is all there is. Fridays everywhere we turn. Help us to remember that time they lifted Jesus’ body down from the cross. Help us to know that this Friday—or any Friday--is not the last word. Amen.

                                   --Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com