If you know that God's love embraces all persons equally, no matter their gender, race, or sexual identity...
If you understand that faith is a matter of mind as well as heart, and that taking the Bible seriously means it cannot always be taken literally...
If, for you, diversity, tolerance, and inclusion are strengths to be taught...
If you believe that Christ calls us to be nothing less than global citizens, that the social expression of love is justice and that spiritual concerns are inseparable from a commitment to the natural world...
If you have wished for a more open and embracing community of faith to nurture your spirit and raise your children, and haven't yet found a place of belonging...
... then please know that Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ is the place for you.
“What do we see, and what do we fail to see, in ourselves, our families, our neighborhood, our city, because we have decided that we understand all we need to understand about the people around us? What strengths have we left unappreciated? What offered creativity have we ignored? What injustice or harm have we walked passed, all unseeing? Jesus invites us into a relationship of trust where our inner and outer seeing are restored.”
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I’m a theme sort of guy. I like to find common threads and see connections across lots of scriptures, including the sometimes seemingly random weekly selections from The Revised Common Lectionary. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem to come to me.
This is such a week. Perhaps it is because we got back late Tuesday from celebrating our son’s wedding and our granddaughter’s playing Ursula in The Little Mermaid---both in Hawaii where they live---to find a message on our answering machine that Margie, my wife, was to start chemo on Thursday morning. It wasn’t unexpected, but seven hours at the oncology center made a long day. We have to go back this afternoon (Friday).
All that’s not to dismiss this week’s readings. In fact, I found them particularly rich. I just didn’t find an integrating theme. There are some references to light and seeing. “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light---for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true . . . (E)verything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:8-9, 13-14) Then there are the words are spoken by Jesus as he is dealing with questions of blindness and sight in the presence of “a man blind from birth.” "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:1 & 5) After restoring the blind man’s sight, Jesus says, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind,” prompting the Pharisees to ask, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” (vss. 39-40)
Last week during the Thursday morning Bible study I picked up my phone to google a passage to share with the group (the one from Ephesians about being rooted and grounded in love and having the power to understand the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all understanding....) When I picked up my phone I saw that my son and husband had been texting back and forth on our family group chat – unusual enough in the middle of a school day that I took time right in the middle of Bible study to check in.
Someone was drawing swastikas all over the public high school Jacob attends, and he was pretty freaked out. The school’s response? They called in lots and lots of security guards and said NOT ONE WORD to students or parents. Not one word about keeping kids safe. Not one word inviting community dialogue and education. Not one word. About swastikas. In Hillsboro, Oregon, in 2017. My heart breaks with sadness, fear, and outrage.
My first, somewhat inane thought was, “why is there such a display of anti-Semitism in a school with such a small Jewish community.” It took me a moment to connect the dots. Our school has many, many students whose parents are the first generation in this country. There are families who came originally from Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, Kosovo, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan. There are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and unaffiliated students. I have always thought that was the beauty and strength of the school community. Someone in the community disagrees and wants everyone else to know it.
This got me thinking again about being white in America: What does the social construct of “whiteness” mean, and what benefits does it confer – whether we white folks recognize it or not? What wounds are inflicted on our spirits by being part of the group who benefits from an oppressive system?
In his introduction to “White Privilege: Let’s Talk,” UCC General Minister John Dorhauer wrote:
“The truth is, the mental and spiritual health of even the oppressors is badly affected by the work of supporting or maintaining systems of injustice. One of America’s lingering realities is the unprocessed grief, shame, fear, anger, and guilt of living in a culture of racial inequality. It is a heavy price we pay to maintain our silence in the face of such evil...”
This month, as part of our Lenten journey, you are invited to participate in this chapter of the UCC’s ongoing Sacred Conversation on race. Together we’ll consider the work of justice and the work of healing our own spiritual wounds as we seek to be rooted and grounded in love.
Blessings to the community at Kairos-Milwaukie UCC. You have a special place in our hearts. Your community has walked with us to offer hope to those who had lost hope and provided opportunity for many vulnerable girls and boys to see a new beginning and start the life's journey a fresh. We are still praying that one day, we will get the opportunity to meet face to face. I wish to share briefly about the girls who did their exam last year 2016.
The mentorship and Education Support Programme had 15 students who sat for the Kenya Certificate for Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2016 with support from you all and Jack Courtney’s Endowment fund. The results were released on 29th December 2016. Out of the 15, 5 passed well and will secure direct entry to the university. The rest did fairly and will enroll to colleges for diploma, certificate or vocational studies.
We thank God for the sponsorship that has seen these girls through high school. Happy New Year full of God's blessings once again.