Monday, April 19, 2021

Mass murder every day

I am certain that all of us are grieved by the uptick of mass shootings that are happening all over the country at the moment.  This is of course not a new thing.  We have seen this pattern of clusters of mass shootings in the past in this country.

According to the Gun Violence Archive there have been 2,218 mass shootings since 2013 (in which at least four people are being shot at the same time and location), (

Almost every day in the cities of Philadelphia and Wilmington there have been homicides and injuries in large numbers. I ponder why that does not get more national news coverage.  We should never take a single violent act for granted; and as Christians we have some responsibility to address this pandemic.

Automatic weapons make it so easy to gun down multiple people in seconds.  Contrast that with the murder of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. During a meeting of the Senate in Rome.  It took the senators, led by Marcus Brutus, quite a long time to kill him.  They stabbed him 23 times. If they had an automatic weapon, this would have been quick work. 

Humans have found many efficient ways of killing each other throughout history, and I am sure God just shakes God’s head at us with dismay and grief.  I ponder the need for the proliferation of such weapons in our country.

Jesus addressed murder in the “Sermon on the Mount.” In just a few short words, he gets down to the heart of the matter.  Violence and murder are products of human anger.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. Whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”  (Matthew 5:21-22)

If this is the case, all of us are guilty of murder when we harbor anger and speak evil against a brother or sister.  Mass murders of the heart are happening every day, and it includes us good church people. 

What do we do with this?  Surely, we are not as guilty as the gunmen that stormed the Fed-Ex office, the massage parlor or the grocery store. Or are we? 

Jesus also calls us to “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)  It seems we can be “going on to perfection” a lot more when it comes to handling our anger.

Christians, let us study Jesus’ methods of anger management, take them to heart and practice them in the world. It is quite alright to get angry about things.  Jesus cleansed the temple (John 2: 13-16) when it was being desecrated. But no one was killed, the wrong was made right, and truth was embodied.  Here are some other lessons from Jesus:

  1. Jesus engaged people in an anger-provoking situation. When he was slapped on the face during his mock trial, he turned to the perpetrator and said, “If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Talking through a situation can often defuse escalating violence and call people to accountability in a peaceful way. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us, “A gentle answer turns away wrath; but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When you are in a difficult conversation keep calm and speak the truth.
  2. Jesus points out a wrong but does not take it personally. When asked if he believed in paying taxes to Caesar, Jesus named the question’s intent: “Why put me to the test?” (Mark 12:15). He was clear about the hypocrisy and the mean-spirited attempt to trap him; but he answered their question with integrity. He did not let this get “under his skin.” I think that is what Paul means when he writes, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26). If we are wise, we need to have “Teflon” (stick-resistant) hearts and let the anger-provoking thing slide off of our hearts and psyche.
  3. Jesus forgave the unworthy, the not-sorry, and gave them the benefit of the doubt. When being nailed to a cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness offered to those who anger us, hurt us, insult us and are not in any way sorry about it, is divine. Not only that, it is the key to peace in your heart that stems that internal rage. When you forgive, it doesn’t mean the person that hurt you is right. It just means that you are leaving it to God to handle. Paul reminded the Romans, “’Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) When you forgive, you can be free of the internal rage.

Let us vow to stop committing “mass murder” in our hearts. Live in peace with all people (the easy to love and the not-so-easy to love). Teach non-violence and practice civility.

As we prepare for sessions of Annual Conference, may we engage each other with gentleness and respect. Using Bible verses in the “chat” as weapons to vent anger does not accomplish the work of God.

Justice causes are an important part of our holiness as Methodists, but rage and hurtful rhetoric are not. The cause of justice, so well exemplified in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is always accomplished best through non-violence, love and grace. God’s Spirit can give us the strength to handle our anger and avert much violence and murder.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Creation-care: Working toward net-zero carbon emissions

Five General Agencies of the UMC are joining together this year to commit to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions* in their operations and as a resource for the whole denomination.  We look forward to their initiative and the harvest of responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources that it will produce in years to come. For more information, take a look at this YouTube resource from our denominational agencies:

What a timely agenda as we approach Earth Day 2021, Tuesday, April 20. Though not a program of the UMC, “Earth Day” is an annual reminder that this planet urgently needs protection, care and respect. Founded in 1970, it now engages 190-plus countries around the world in that quest.  It is a clarion call for public consciousness and political action. (

From the creation of the world recorded in the Book of Genesis, God’s people are called to “work the garden and also to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) “Keeping” it requires care and wise stewardship of the planet’s resources for all to enjoy. Our Earth is not to be exploited for monetary gain. 

Carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, climate change are a byproduct of industrialization and commercial enterprises of the wealthiest nations. We are reaping a baleful harvest of increasingly dire climate disasters as a result. The poor, disenfranchised and marginalized peoples of the world become the most harmed victims of these disasters, as they often live in the most undesirable and vulnerable places.

The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church call us to “recognize the responsibility of the Church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world, leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.” (2016 UM Book of Discipline, paragraph 160)

And from the 2016 Book of Resolutions (#1044 “Caring for Creation: Our Call to Stewardship and Justice”) we read “As United Methodists we therefore are called to participate in God’s healing of creation through acts of personal, social and civic righteousness.  Proclaiming and modeling a new lifestyle rooted in stewardship and justice, we work toward the day when all God’s children respect and share in the goodness of creation.”

So what does this mean for us personally and in our local churches? We can’t solve all the problems of the environment, but we can all do something to help make it better. Sometimes the enormity of the planet’s climate crisis causes us to overlook the power of the small but vitally important things we can do. 

According to the General Board of Church and Society’s “Faith and Facts: Environmental Justice,” we can all personally take action in the following ways:

  • Reduce: buy less stuff.
  • Reuse: pack a “no-waste” lunch using reusable containers instead of disposables; find innovative ways to repurpose old products.
  • Recycle: Paper, glass, aluminum and plastic.
  • Refuse: Do not use or accept plastic bags when you make purchases. Bring reusable bags with you.
  • Rethink: How much is enough? Once you decide you need an item make sure it was produced in a way that is both earth-friendly and worker-friendly.

We can all do these simple things.  Our churches are also places where numerous environmental protective practices can be employed and taught. In her book, Seven Simple Steps to Green Your Church, author Rebekah Simon-Peter invites churches to form a “Green Team” that analyzes the systems in the church building that can ultimately be adapted to lower its carbon footprint. 

Along with recycling practices, churches can install energy efficient forms of heating, cooling and lighting. They can create community gardens and encourage “green” practices in the kitchen and office—for example, the use of non-toxic cleaning products.

Most importantly, we can be teaching these principles and practices to our church members and our young people. That way, we can begin to create a culture of Creation-Care that can encourage Biblical principles of stewardship—stewardship of God’s Creation—far into the future.

I encourage you to do something new in your personal life and at your church that can demonstrate your commitment to “keeping the earth” and respecting God’s amazing gifts bestowed upon us. 

*Net zero means achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out. ... This state is also referred to as carbon neutral; although zero emissions and zero carbon are slightly different, as they usually mean that no emissions were produced in the first place.

Also see:

Friday, April 9, 2021

Celebrate and support Native American Ministries April 18

Every year on the third Sunday of Easter, The United Methodist Church observes Native American Ministries Sunday. It includes the opportunity to take a special offering for our many local and denominational ministries. 

Half of our total offering stays in our annual conference each year to carry on the work of our Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM). The rest is used connectionally to support seminary scholarships and mission efforts among Native Americans beyond our conference. 

This year the needs are greater due to the ongoing plight of the COVID-19 pandemic that has been especially harsh in Native American communities. Our special offering serves as a lifeline for numerous ministries such as training events, youth empowerment weekends, new church construction and participation in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on behalf of the UMC. 

Locally, the Northeastern Jurisdiction, which includes the Eastern PA and Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conferences, supports a very important social justice issue, “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: Invisible, Unreported, Uncounted.”

Statistics show that 84% of Native women and girls experience violence in their families. In 86% of the cases of sexual assaults against Native women and girls, the perpetrators are non-Native men. Native women are murdered at a rate of 10 times the national average (hhpts:// The advocacy work on behalf of Native American women and girls is another important mission that this offering supports.

(Indeed, it was recently cited as a grave personal concern to new U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deborah Haaland, who just made history by becaming the first Native American to serve as a U.S. cabinet secretary. She is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th generation New Mexican.)

Pastors, please take a special offering on Native American Ministries Sunday, April 18, or on a more convenient occasion. There are wonderful resources and video clips available on the United Methodist website to share with your congregations. 

Learn about Marilyn Anderson, a Seneca and a devoted member of the Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) in the Upper New York Conference. “I live a stone’s throw from the Four Corners Methodist Church and have gone there my entire … 75 years,” said Anderson. Read “Being a Methodist as a Native American.”

As we pool together our resources, so much more good work can be accomplished!  It is the gift of our connectional system and it is our commitment to inclusivity and our embrace of all as part of “the beloved community.”

Look for more promotional information prepared by our own hard-working CONAM in our media next week. And please plan to attend their annual spring worship and educational event on Sunday, May 2, at 4 PM, via Zoom. More information is coming.

Meanwhile, learn more at “Native American Ministries Sunday Did You Know?”