Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Angels of Los Angeles

IV.    Vows of Voluntary Sacrifice
We freely offer up our appetites, wealth, and pride to relieve the suffering of the world, for the sake of our neighbors and God’s joy.

  1. I will accept with grace any suffering for myself resulting from my affirmations, rejections and witness; I will do all in my power to reduce the suffering in the world, including the suffering of victims and my adversaries in confrontation.
Reginald Denny and the LA Four
*Watching the live TV newscast in their homes, Titus Murphy and Terri Barnett, Lei Yuille, and Bobby Green saw the rock-wielding rioters rip the semi-truck driver from his cab. One man held the driver’s head to the ground with his foot while the others kicked at his body and hit him with a hammer and chunks of concrete. Reginald Denny was knocked unconscious by the blows to the head and one of the attackers pranced victoriously over Denny, flashing gang signs at the news copter.

Twenty years ago on the 29th of April 1992, South Central and Southeast Los Angeles exploded in six-day riots killing 53 people and wounding thousands in wide spread violence and murder. The looting and arson cost nearly one billion dollars and destroyed over a thousand buildings. Long simmering anger over inequitable poverty, segregation, lack of educational and employment opportunities, police abuse, interracial violence  and unequal  services ignited into open rage in the poorest sections of L.A. the day the court acquitted four of black Rodney King’s white and Hispanic police assailants.

It was into this South Central inferno that Reginald Denny, a white truck driver, unwittingly drove. Seeing his brutalization by black youth on the live helicopter news feed, four separate African-American strangers sprang from their couches several miles away in the neighborhood to rush to Denny’s aid out at the intersection of Florence and Normandie.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Struggling With

III.    Vows of Nonviolent Witness
We pledge to act in allegiance to God alone, and to resist injustice with goodness”

  1. I will speak up in defense and protection of anyone, even enemies, who are attacked with violence of word or action, even at the risk of my own life.
(Isaac Beachy, Fellowship of Reconciliation Colombia)
Isaac discovered at least one very important thing from the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community in northwest Colombia: struggle for God’s shalom is not easy! In his February 2011 blog entry, Isaac admits: “When I first wrote the title to this blog [‘With the Struggle’] I had no idea what a struggle meant. Before, a struggle was an exciting story full of graffiti, marches, people power, powerful Spanish protest songs and was victorious. Struggling or being with a struggle seemed like an adventure to me... Now fully understanding the emotional and often physical cost of being in a struggle, I see it’s not something you do for fun.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This Is Your Weapon

II.      Vows of Rejection
We renounce violence of the heart, tongue and fist, neither willing nor working harm to any”

  1. I will reject violence of the fist: I will not retaliate toward anger or assault, provocation or violence, in word or action; I will not seek or inflict any injury, harm or death toward any person.
(Idi Amin testing a new weapon)
Idi Amin has been referred to as Africa’s Hitler. His eight-year reign of terror over Uganda in the 1970s resulted in hundreds of thousands killed. Amin perpetrated gross human rights abuses, violent political repression, ethnic persecution and extrajudicial killings. When church leaders spoke up in protest, they were interrogated and killed. Festo Kivengere, an Anglican bishop who escaped into exile after Archbishop Janani Luwun was murdered for speaking out against Amin’s tyrannical regime, was asked if he would strike back at Dictator Amin if he had the opportunity: “If you were sitting in Ida Amin’s office with a gun in your hand, what would you do?” Bishop Kivengere responded, “I would give the gun to Amin and say, ‘This is your weapon; my weapon is love.”* 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Terms of Engagement

I.        Vows of Affirmation
“We devote our daily life to God, and to serving our neighbors as images of God”

  1. I will daily read the Scriptures and meditate on the witness of Jesus Christ.
La Bible, Notre-Dame du Taur, septembre 2011Why this messy holy book? So many different voices, so many different genres, so many different pictures of God. For Christian people who believe Jesus calls us to a peacemaking discipleship that is always nonviolent, the Bible doesn’t always seem to yield a message in line with that calling. So why search for God in this messy book (anthology, really)?

Pastor Barbara Brown Taylor describes untidy scripture,  “God’s story has its own twists and turns, its own chapters of rage and repentance along with some magnificent cruelties, but it is above all the story of a God who does not break promises, a God who entered into covenant with humankind and who remains loyal to that bond, no matter what we may think of its terms…That is the God who walks toward me in the Bible…The Bible is the book in which the terms of that relationship are explored” (The Preaching Life, 53)

Our central confession is that Jesus—not anyone or anything else—is our Lord, our ruling authority. And when we see that Jesus himself was profoundly shaped by the Hebrew scriptures and that the earliest Christians searched those same texts trying to figure out what God had done through Jesus and how to order their lives accordingly, we are compelled to do likewise. In their example we see the pages of the Bible as the best way to discover God’s reconciling ways shown in Jesus. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


I.        Vows of Affirmation
“We devote our daily life to God, and to serving our neighbors as images of God”

  1. I will daily seek to do good for someone without reward or recognition.
Heard about guerilla goodness, anonymous or random acts of kindness, paying-it-forward?  People voluntarily giving up their right to be recognized, to be thanked, to be pleased with themselves, to receive some kind of gain from their good actions? Most Western economic thinkers who trust the “invisible hand” of self-interest see giving it up as unlikely human behavior—and they are right. Yet this is exactly what Christ calls his followers to and models the same himself.  One of the earliest Christian confessions about Jesus, Philippians 2:6-11, makes clear that he gave up his right to gain from his privileged status and obedient actions—willing to suffer for doing good rather than receiving his deserved reward for it!

God’s ironic way left Jesus with far more reward and recognition than if he had initially demanded what he deserved for his status and good works, “regarding equality with God as something to be exploited.” Jesus gave up his privilege and rights for recognition and suffered for doing good, but in the end “God highly exalted him” because of it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

From one little mouth

II.      Vows of Rejection
We renounce violence of the heart, tongue and fist, neither willing nor working harm to any”

  1. I will reject violence of the tongue: I will not speak or write any curse, insult, abuse, slander, deception, falsehood, or gossip
(by Helga Weber via Flickr)
The tongue is certainly a difficult thing to manage well. We humans are curious. We like to tell ourselves that we have things under control. How quickly and easily we say something in an effort to be humorous or to put someone in their place, and then eventually wish we could inhale those same words back in because of embarrassment or regret. The notion of “control” evaporates, and we realize that our words have caused injury that can’t be ignored.

In the Bible, James knew this quite well... “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing” (James 3:10). The things we say with our mouths reveal the kind of person we are. Cruel or nasty words can come quite easily. Kind words spoken in patience are not always on the tips of our tongues. But the habits of “good speech” can be formed. It might mean responding more slowly or even remaining quiet when a flippant response would be easy. So James writes in 3:13 urging us to “show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” Speaking good words that come from this gentleness is a skill that for most of us takes time to develop into a virtue that we do well. It does take a little bit of patience and wisdom to learn deeper patience and wisdom.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

That Pitter-Patter

II.      Vows of Rejection
We renounce violence of the heart, tongue and fist, neither willing nor working harm to any”

  1. I will reject violence of the heart: I will not harbor anger, resentment, envy, prejudice, or hatred.
("heartbeat" by Alesa Dam via Flickr )
Rarely can I forget the times the pitter-patter intensified.  Instantaneously in those moments the regularity of my heart rate is gone.  Everything has been ratcheted up.  I seethe.

Had I know that a backyard baseball game would get me this worked up; I probably would have gone swimming.  Had I know that my life would cross paths so frequently with that of a friend, and at each juncture, he would laud his accomplishments above mine; I probably would have chosen a different career track.

All too often I make room to harbor anger.  I allow for comparisons.  I make space for this to continue day upon day.  Elbowed out of the way are the things I have to offer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I.        Vows of Affirmation
“We devote our daily life to God, and to serving our neighbors as images of God”

  1. I will live, speak and act with courtesy, respect, and honesty toward friend and enemy, neighbor and stranger.
A World without Words
("A World without Words" by Christian V. via Flickr)
We live in a world of many words. More words flying around than at any time in history. Twitter, blogs, 24-hour news, billboards, morning radio shows, sermons, email marketing campaigns, newspaper editorials. Words are cheap, words are abundant, words have to out-shout the others to even be heard and “go viral.” Many of our words end up unheard, ignored, misunderstood, simply drowned out. Or they bring undo fear, pain, division, hatred. Or worse, they distract us, deafen us, numb us and cause us to miss God’s voice. 
Long Christian history (and other spiritual traditions) offers a forgotten spiritual discipline that is a key to following Jesus as peacemakers: Silence. When we are truly silent (including our own interior chatter) we are left to pay attention to God. To overcome the violence, misunderstandings, and anxiety in the world God calls us to listen carefully to God’s own words rather than ours. In attentive silence we listen for God speaking, telling us how to carry out the peaceable actions of today’s vow: “I will live, speak and act with courtesy, respect, and honesty toward friend and enemy, neighbor and stranger.”