Monday, December 26, 2011

The Audacity to Act

Ron McNair was a NASA astronaut who was killed in the tragic Challenger launch in 1986.  He was born in South Carolina in 1950 in a pre-Civil rights-era rural town.  Ron was brilliant even as a young child and he wanted more than anything to read books and to study mechanics and mathematics.  At the age of 9 he walked a mile to the public library by himself, something that a child of color was not allowed to do. He went to check out a book and the librarian called the police.  When the policeman arrived he saw a 9-year old boy sitting there with a book in his hand.  Ron had the audacity to act.  

Ron McNair later gradated as the valedictorian of his high school class and later graduated from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro magna cum laude.  He was a scientist, an athlete, a musician and an astronaut.

God calls us to be our best selves.  Ron knew who he was, even at the age of 9 and he stood his ground when people wanted to deny him an opportunity to learn.  It is my prayer for all of you in this New Year that you will have the audacity to act.  Be who you are being called to be.  Stand up against systems and negative thinking that would prevent you from following your calling.  Some of that negative thinking can even be your own voice of self-doubt.  Paul reminds us that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control.” (II Timothy 1:7)

Many your new year be bright with holy boldness and a clear vision for your future.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Special Request from Bishop Peggy Johnson

Indeed this is the season of giving.  John 3:16 reminds us that “God so loved the world that he GAVE his only begotten son.”  Giving is the greatest joy on earth.  People who know how to give generously are never without the things of life they truly need.  I pray that this season of giving will be a blessing to you as you bless others.  I am writing to ask if you would consider paying 101% of your apportionments.  In this way we will help our conference to make the budget for the end of the year and get us on a good start for the New Year.  Please prayerfully consider this request.  

My thanks to all of you for your hard work and service to the Lord.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Occupy Philly and the Christmas Village

I visited “Occupy Philly” two weeks ago on the day when those who were encamped at Dillworth Plaza were to be evicted.  There was much activity going on there because of the uncertainty of how the eviction would take place.  Some people were taking down their tents and moving out while others had decided to stay and see what would happen.  The United Methodist presence could be seen in the form of an informal worship service and some of our churches provided food and meeting space for the organizers. There were other faith-based groups present as well.  I met people who were assisting the many homeless people with bus tokens, counseling, food and money.  A good bit of networking was going on among the activists who were present.  There were people who were part of organized peace movements, homeless veteran groups, anti-war organizations, and groups that worked with ex-offenders who were homeless.   Most of the people there were homeless and had run out of options for life in Philadelphia.  The lack of job opportunities, the cutting of social service programs, the displacement of people with mental illness and those who had substance addictions were some of the reasons for this increasing number of people living in extreme poverty.  I was glad to see the church present offering support, food, counseling, and political advocacy. 
Across the street from Dillworth Plaza was the plaza where annual the Christmas Village is housed.  It is a well-decorated, colorfully lit shopping area with vendors selling Christmas greens, gifts and holiday foods.  The contrast between the two plazas was sobering.  Side by side were affluence and desperate poverty. 
Most of us live in both of these worlds, especially at Christmas time.  The malls are full-to-overflowing with clothing and housewares and gadgets for sale.   There is a joy in giving and enjoying the festivities that is a part of healthy living.  Another part of celebrating Christmas is to intentionally live in the Dillworth Plaza and to seek out ways to observe a holy Christmas in the way it was in the beginning.  Jesus came to us as homeless, poor, and unnoticed.  His family became refugees in Egypt.  His ministry was to bring good news to the poor. 
How can you do that this Christmas?  Don’t just live in Christmas Village.