Monday, February 26, 2018

Abundant Health, Abundant Life


Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)  Our God is not a God of scarcity but of abundance. Nothing could be more precious than life: abundant life in this world and eternal life in the world to come. 
The health of our bodies is important to God, and so is the health of our soul and spirit. That is why The United Methodist Church has “Global Health” as one of its “Four Foci” (four areas of ministry focus). Health is important to us all; and the things that make for abundant and healthy bodies should be stressed emphasized as a part of our personal Christian stewardship.
Along with that, we need to be doing the things that promote abundant health around the globe. According to UMC Abundant Health, “Children are our future, and yet nearly 6 million children under the age of five die every year.  Millions of children and adolescents still don’t have access to the life-saving information, services and supplies they need for a healthy fulfilled life.”
The goal of the Abundant Health program is for UM congregations “to bring better health to people in every place, from our own backyards to around the world.” The UMC is in partnership with the United Nations initiative “Every Woman Every Child” to assist in this health agenda.  Our local churches can do something as well.
Last year at our session of Annual Conference we made a presentation about the “Abundant Health” project that was launched by the General Board of Global Ministries.  Quite a few of our churches signed up to be a part of the solution, which includes taking concrete action of some kind on one or more of the following areas of health:
  • Promoting health and wholeness for all people
  • Addressing nutritional challenges and promoting breast feeding
  • Advancing prevention and treatment of childhood diseases
  • Ensuring safe births

Something we all can do locally is to promote the physical health of our members by encouraging exercise and proper diet.  Obesity and high blood pressure is an epidemic in our country and sadly even among our clergy.  The Abundant Health office is launching a “Hulapalooza” to encourage exercise.  Hula-hooping is a way to get moving and have fun at the same time.
I am encouraging all churches to get hula-hoops or find other ways to get our members and pastors moving. We need exercise programs that can improve our physical health and draw awareness to the importance of the enhanced life a healthy body can bring.
The hula-hoop is a call to “get moving” to do something tangible to help heal our world.  Youth groups and Sunday School classes could sponsor a “hula-thon” to raise funds for global health. 
Many curable diseases are still taking the lives of people around the globe. Maternal education, clean water projects and inoculations for developing countries are just a few of the areas of need.
Let’s be local and global in our approaches to health. Everyone can commit to at least one thing that can lead to Abundant Health.  The possibilities are endless, and the life-giving Spirit of God goes with you as you do.

Watch this cool YouTube video on how to do the hulapalooza.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Octavius V. Catto

On September 26, 2017, a statue of Octavius V. Catto—who lived from February 22, 1839, to October 10, 1871—was erected in Philadelphia in the southwest apron of City Hall. It is the first statue of an individual African American to rise among the city’s 1,700-plus statues of white people.

This great leader was shot in the back Oct. 10, 1871, at age 32, the night before a closely contested mayoral election, according to John N. Mitchell, writing in the Philadelphia Tribune (Sept. 22, 2017).  Catto was a civil rights advocate before the phrase was coined; and in his young, abbreviated life he accomplished twice as much as most people.  

He fought for desegregation of ridership on the city’s horse-drawn streetcars. He transformed the Institute for Colored Youth (the only school for Black children) into one of the best schools in the city. He served as a Major in the National Guard. 

Most notably, Catto came alongside the iconic civil rights icon Fredrick Douglass to fight for the abolition of slavery and the right for African Americans to vote. This energetic, dedicated visionary also worked tirelessly to assist newly freed slaves who arrived in the city in search of a better life. 

His life was taken as a result of his support for a progressive mayoral candidate. There were tensions between the African Americans and the large Irish American community at that time. Many police officers were of Irish heritage, and some were found to have interfered with African Americans trying to vote.

Catto was the third person to be murdered during this election. His assassin was not tried for the heinous crime until five years later but was acquitted by an all-white jury.

Catto was the son of freed slaves, his father a Presbyterian minister. He was raised to believe in the equality of all people and to work for this cause despite persecution. Catto had a vision for a better day to come, one that we are still trying to realize nearly 150 years later. He said, “There must come a change, one now in the process of completion, which shall force upon this nation not so much for the good of the black man as for our own industrial welfare.”

Isn’t that the point of civil rights?  It is not just for the good of oppressed people struggling for freedom. It is for the benefit, the welfare of all. There is only true peace in this world when there is justice that allows everyone to benefit from that peace.

The majority race and culture is in dire need of the giftedness, the leadership and voices of people who are in the numerical minority, who are too often marginalized. But some erroneously think that by sharing power and influence they will lose. This losing, privileged attitude is born of the sin of bigotry and a crippling fear of scarcity. The truth is, only when everyone is seated at the table—the “welcome table”—can everyone have a chance at the best that life has to offer.  And God’s best is truly there waiting for us in abundance, if we would but open our closed eyes, minds, hands and hearts.

Yet, the battle wears on in our generation. It is imperative—today as much as ever—that we continue to work together, peaceably but persistently, and yes, sacrificially, to achieve equality and justice for all. To do so is to turn our claims of emulating Christ’s love into real action—for as Christ tells us, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another. (John 15:13)

This is holy work. The heroic stories of those in the “cloud of witnesses,” those who have gone before and given their lives for others and for justice, should inspire us all to try harder, to do better.

During Black History Month 2018 I honor the vision and valiant sacrifices of Octavius V. Catto. I am grateful that Philadelphia, this self-described “City of Brotherly Love,” finally has a statue of him for all to see. Take time this month to go visit this hero and learn his story. And let him and others like him inspire your story as well.