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Fill

The red light was on.

The humidifier needed water.

As I was taking care of it, an old song floated through me: “Fill my cup, Lord…I lift it up Lord…come and quench this thirsting of my soul.”

What are you doing today to meet that need in your life?

I’d love to hear from you, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

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Which Way Today?

“It’s hard to follow Jesus if you’re going in the wrong direction,” says Adrienne Sparrow Trevathan in today’s entry in Disciplines 2018.

Boom.

Let me add some good news: “There’s still time to change the road you’re on.” That’s of course from a classic Led Zeppelin song. But it’s true.

So, to flip over to the Old Testament, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)

Let’s do. Today.

Let’s make whatever necessary changes are necessary to stop “going in the wrong direction.”

And join me in this prayer Adrienne offers: Empowering God, help us to orient our lives so that we can respond wholeheartedly to your call to follow. Amen.

 

Learning Lessons from Pew People

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22

As a newly-retired pastor, I’m still trying to get used to sitting in the pew.

I’ve spent decades leading worship and preaching, which put me up front. Patty’s in the Choir, so she’s still up front.

Fortunately, the people in the section where my mother-in-law and I sit are very friendly, as if they’re gregariously on steroids or something.

Okay, I’ll be honest: they’re a bunch of rowdies!

And it’s wonderful.

This past Sunday we were talking and laughing to the point that one of the ladies blurted out, “We’re not allowed to have this much fun in church!”

We all froze. Side-eyed each other.

Then we burst out laughing.

After all, The Bible does say,

A cheerful disposition is good for your health;

    gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.

— Proverbs 17:22, The Message version

Our section has yet to leave worship with a spirit of gloom and doom, nor are we bone-tired.

How about you?

 

Make a Fist — part 1

“Make a fist.”

That’s what the Physical Therapist in Cincinnati told our son recently. He’s getting help after a bicycle crash, some broken bones, a couple of surgeries and three plates in his arm and hand.

“Make a fist.”

What all’s hurting you emotionally or spiritually today? “Make a fist” in this sense becomes an invitation to gather that together.

To get a grip on them is a step toward what The Bible means by Let us examine our ways. (Lamentations 3:40)

“Make a fist.” What all do you have in your grasp right now?

 

If He Were Alive Today

Tex Sample is a faculty member at St. Paul’s School of Theology. He shared this yesterday, saying it’s a piece he wrote for the Kansas City Star this weekend of remembering and celebrating. I yield the floor

If Martin Luther King, Jr. Were Alive Today

The problem with celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory is that we have now so sanitized and romanticized the man, what he thought, and what he lived for that we have obscured his assessment of our country and his vision of what was required to turn the nation around.

One week before he was killed, he was at a party at Harry Belafonte’s apartment. Organizing for a massive poor people’s protest in Washington DC to mitigate poverty was already underway. Toward the end of the party King became somber. He acknowledged different opinions about tactics within the civil rights movement.

He spoke with feeling about the pain of especially young people who saw violence as the solution. “I feel their rage. I feel their pain. I feel their frustration. It’s the system that’s the problem and it’s choking the breath out of our lives,” he said. Later he added, “the trouble is that we live in a failed system. Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources…. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we’re going to have to change the system.”

For King the struggle had been around civil rights but now he knew it was economic, a more difficult and complicated challenge. He characterized the civil rights effort as “integrating into a burning house.” Belafonte then asked, “Damn Martin! If that’s what you think, what would you have us do?” King answered, “I guess we’re just going to have to become fireman.”

That was almost 50 years ago. Had King lived, especially the last 40 years, he would have seen the situation gravely worsen. Yes, there has been some integration of people of color in public accommodations, employment, schools (in part), and so on. But the situation in America has gone downhill rapidly in the last four decades, a prospect that would have called forth vigorous condemnation by King and prompted full scale nonviolent action by himself and others.

I do not have space to discuss the mass incarceration of people of color in America except to name it, but at least five areas would have called King into action.

The first are the inequalities of wealth and income that have profoundly increased and will increase all the more with passage of the Republican tax measure. Someone has said that supply side economics is feeding the horses so the birds can eat. I call it supply side sodomy.

Second, our legislators continue to increase the wealthfare for billionaires and big corporate America. For example, OXFAM AMERICA reports that the 50 largest US companies collectively received $27 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts for every $1 they paid in federal taxes. Further, these 50 companies with earnings of nearly $4 trillion between 2008 and 2014 avoided taxes through offshore tax havens reducing their tax rate to 26.5%, well below the 35% required by corporate tax law. Further, in 1952 corporations paid one third of the federal budget. Now, they provide just nine percent.

Third, obscene concentrations of wealth have now eroded democratic government. In In a recent study Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page studied a total of 1779 policy issues. Their results show that today the preferences of the average American had “a minuscule, near zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” We no longer have a government of, by, and for the people. It is rather a government of, by, and for the rich and corporate America. OXFAM, again, found that from 2008 to 2014 the 50 same companies spent approximately $2.6 billion on lobbying while receiving nearly $11.2 trillion in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts. Further, for each dollar these companies spend on lobbying they get back $130 dollars in tax breaks and more than $4000 dollars in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.

Fourth, from the end of World War II until the mid-70s, productivity increased 103% and wages kept pace with that at 103%. From the mid-70s to 2016, however, productivity increased 68%, but wages were flat or declined for most workers. Recently in a speech at the KC Public Library Thomas Frank reported that from 1930 to 1980 the bottom 90% of the population took home 70% of the gross income, but from 1980 to the present the bottom 90% of the population pocketed none of this growth.

Fifth, Raj Chetty and associates at Stanford University sought to research the reality of the American Dream to determine the likelihood that people born at different times would make more money than their parents had. They discovered that babies born in 1940 had a 92% chance of making a better household income than their parents. From that point on, however, the probability sharply decreases, so that those born in 1950 had a 79% possibility, in 1960, 62%, in 1970, 61%, and in 1980, 50%. Meanwhile in Kansas City a coalition led by SCLC pushed through a one-eighth cent sales tax for “East of Troost” and 70% of KC voters passed an increase in the minimum wage, only to be denied by a bought-off state legislature.

If King were alive today, his magnificent oratory would call us to organize, to take back our country, to throw out of Congress and state legislatures the gigolos and harlots of the rich, and to tell corporate America that wealthfare is ended.

 

Richly in You

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Colossians 3:16

Pop Quiz:

What’s something you’re gonna do today as part of The Church to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly?

Take your time answering.

A Prayer Not Just for Our Country

“I vividly remember Bishop Bevel Jones saying these words earlier in my ministry,” writes Ken Carter, United Methodist Bishop of our Florida Conference. He has graciously given me his expressed permission to share this prayer with you here —

We do not ask that you would bless us.

We ask that we would do the things

that you are able to bless.

Amen.

— Join the rest of us in this prayer, not just for our country, and not just for today.