Thursday, October 29, 2015

An All Saints Prayer

We thank you Lord, for the lives of those who gave their lives to you. The world does not see them as wise. But you know that the wisdom of the world is foolishness.

Thank you for those who freely offered their lives to you. They offered their family, fortune and fame. They expended their lives as a gift in Jesus name.

We thank you Lord for your prophets and for their words of truth and love. Thank you for those who fought for justice for all. They stood up for human need even in the face of persecution and suffering. They teach us that in the end justice prevails.

Thank you for saints remembered, for those we never knew, and for your church and all its members.

Use our lives for transformation that we might bless the poor and lift the burden of oppression in this world. Help us be the saints you seek for today, serving you, saving lives and making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

-- Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

Thursday, October 22, 2015

In Praise of the Emmaus Walk Movement

In 1986 I attended my first Emmaus Walk as a pilgrim on Weekend #37 in the Northern Virginia Community.  That community gave birth to the Maryland Emmaus Community, and from that time on I was involved in the movement regularly as a team member, sign language interpreter and sponsor. 

There was hardly a season that I wasn’t heading off to New Windsor, Maryland, for another Emmaus Walk weekend.   Every weekend was unique.  God moved in powerful ways in the lives of the men and women who attended these retreats. 

Many, many members of the Deaf congregation I served went as pilgrims and later as team members.  We even had an entire Deaf Emmaus weekend when the entire leadership team was made up of totally of Deaf leaders. 

There are Emmaus Communities literally all over the world, including the Eastern PA and Pen-Del Conferences.
This retreat movement had its origins in the Roman Catholic Cursillo retreats in Spain.  Its intent was to form Catholic leaders.  The Emmaus Walk is a United Methodist version of this retreat with the purpose of forming Christian leaders and deepening the discipleship of Christians. There are separate weekends for women and men. 

On the first Easter night, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24, Jesus walked with two disciples who were walking to the town of Emmaus.  They were downcast about the news of Jesus’ death and did not realize that the risen Jesus himself was walking with them on the road. 

The Emmaus Walk retreat is like a little walk with Jesus for three days.  Christians gather for talks, small group discussion, communion, singing and praying.  The team leading the event and the wider Emmaus community spend many hours preparing for these weekends, which they also cover with intensive prayer.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Being true 'Christ-bearers' in search of peace

When I was a child in elementary school we proudly sang, “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” There were assemblies and plays and words of praise for Christopher Columbus, who we learned “discovered America.” While the claim of discovery is a dubious one, he was indeed a brave explorer. He sailed west across an ocean that many believed would send one off the edge of a world that everyone knew was flat.

His name “Christopher” means “Christ bearer,” and part of his goal was to bring Christ to the lands he hoped to explore. He was an entrepreneur who was able to get funding for his expedition from the Spanish crown. He made not only one voyage but four, and he faced enormous hardship, dangers and political intrigue.

Much later in my life I traveled to the Dominican Republic with a mission work team that taught Bible studies at a Deaf School in Santo Domingo. While visiting the island we took a tour of the history museum that spoke much about the history of the island. There we saw evidence of much cruelty and sadness.

The Taino people, who were living in Hispaniola at the time of Columbus’ arrival, were forced into slavery. Over 98 percent of the nearly 3 million native peoples died from the labor regime and war of this time period. (History of the Indies, New York: Harper and Row, 1971). Sadly this was the lot of many indigenous peoples at the hands of European explorers who traveled to the Americas in the years that followed.

Human rights violations abound on this planet we live on. It is hard to go anywhere and not notice the abusive way humans treat each other, especially those who are deemed “less than” or different. Humans abuse one another for wealth, power and sometimes even for the cause of religious superiority.

Jesus called for us to love one another and treat our brothers and sisters as we would like to be treated. It is that simple. It is that hard.

As some prepare to celebrate Columbus Day on October 12, let us all be educated about the whole picture of global exploration across vast canvas of the world's history. Let us learn and acknowledge with repentance grievous sins committed against indigenous peoples and also live in such a way that everyone can have respect and dignity in this world.

Let us call that second Monday of October “Indigenous Peoples Day” instead, and as true "Christ bearers," seek to live and move gently on this earth in loving peace with all of God’s people.