July 4, 2020

“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their creator certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Declaration of Independence

Not women. Not indigenous people. Not slaves.

In 1852 Frederick Douglass, a former slave, spoke on the Fourth of July. It is a painful speech for me to read as he outlines the evil of slavery and the complicity of the church.


Today, in the midst of fearful and hateful rhetoric, I pray for reconciliation and justice.

I pray for and with those who are white and afraid and experience black live matters signs as a personal threat.

I pray for and with indigenous people, immigrants, and people of color who have not been welcomed into the dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I pray for my nation, our nation, that we may come together in this time of crisis. I pray, O God, that You will lead us into your realm where peace, justice, and mercy reign.

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What is truth? (From Difference to Revelation)

Every day we tell stories, recount events, and share insights about our day, our lives, and our world. How we tell the story impacts what comes next.

Today I share a Ted Talk podcast about how to create podcasts. But I don’t think that is what the story is about. It is also a story about Dolly Parton but that isn’t what it is about either. Instead the story is about how we write the story so that understanding and reconciliation is the result.

Here are links to a podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/how-dolly-parton-led-me-to-an-epiphany-jad-abumrad/id160904630?i=1000479634541

Or to the talk on the Ted Stage https://www.ted.com/talks/jad_abumrad_how_dolly_parton_led_me_to_an_epiphany

And let me know what you think.

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St. Mary the Harlot: A sermon preached 6/28/20

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, “See that no one knows of this.” But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.                                                       

Matthew 9:27-31

Jesus was not seeking recognition or glory.  When folks came to him seeking healing, Jesus handed the responsibility back to them. Jesus saw in them and sees in us the potential for wholeness.  He showed people how to believe in their/our capacity to heal and to be the light of the world.

Jesus sees in us the potential for wholeness. God desires wholeness for each of us.

Jesus took the time to be alone, to be far from the crowd, to pray.  He would disappear or fall asleep in the boat in the middle of the storm.  He did not have a savoir complex.

The story about Mary, the harlot, captured my imagination. When orphaned at the age of 7, she lived with her Uncle Abba Abraham in the desert. One day while her uncle was away, a man posing as a holy monk came by and raped her. Filled with shame, she ran away and became a harlot. “Me too” is not new.  Silence around sexual assault is not new. Shame is not new.  

Even though Mary knew her uncles love for her and even as she had lived in the shelter of the desert, she felt shame.  Shame propelled her into a life with more shame and unhappiness.  The violent act of another, she took on as her responsibility. 

When we look at aggression solely on individual terms, we miss the power of the community to care for one another and create appropriate standards of conduct.  When we understand rape only in individual terms, we miss the systemic violence against women. When we understand violence against people of color only in individual terms, we miss the power of systemic racism.

Mary saw herself as damaged.  She internalized the shame and disappeared, walking away from her uncle’s love and care for her.  She also walked away from God, closing her heart to God’s love for her.  But God remained with her.  She was still beloved.  God was still waiting and holding her.

Her uncle, searched for her for two years.  After learning of her whereabouts, he left the holy home he had created.  He left the lifestyle of austerity and went to the brothel.

Imagine him eating and drinking in the brothel—eating and drinking food he avoided for a life of faith. His prayer life and the love it engendered moved him to enter a different culture where he ate and drank while disguised as one seeking to hire a prostitute. 

It is too easy in our busy culture to separate prayer from action.  Worship and prayer is mission; when we are grounded in God, we know ourselves and God well enough to calmly enter into the places of danger or discomfort.  Even if he’d been recognized, even if pictures of him in the brothel were to go viral, Abba Abraham knew himself and knew God.

He walked into the brothel not as an imposter though he was disguised but as the holy man that he was, willing to risk his reputation. But then again, he was so grounded in God that the brothel couldn’t sully him.

He was able to enter that place not as one at risk of temptation but as one there to share love and God knows love was needed in that place.

When Mary, his niece, recognized her uncle and the lengths he went to speak with her privately, she experienced her uncle’s love as God’s love and God’s call to return home.

So often our fear and our shame get in the way of God’s love for us; Jesus wants healing and wholeness for us. 

Ashamed for actions that were not hers, Mary ran away from God but God’s love and her uncle’s love did not abandon her. But even if the actions were hers, God’s love endures. Mary, a victim of trauma who tried to run away from God became a trusted spiritual guide.  

Jesus wants healing for us. A life of prayer, contemplation, and calm, provides the tools, the muscle, to enter into the hard places with love.

So dare to enter into the hard or dangerous places with love, knowing that your love is God’s love and will transform lives.  

Note: Information about Abba Abraham and Mary taken from The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane. p. 175-6.

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Not back to normal

“Dear God, I am weary. When, O Lord, can we return to normal? Please. Pretty PLEASE.”

Rev. Donna Schaper stated the obvious in her devotional today. “We are not going back. We are moving forward.”

“How do we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” the psalmist asked as he sang God’s song in a foreign land.

We are singing God’s song in these challenging days and we will keep singing God’s song even if are consigned to sing in the shower.

As we continue to live in this time of pandemic, we are learning new ways to love God and love our neighbor.   A phone call, a driveway conversation, an online gathering, and a bouquet of fresh flowers bring joy and hope.  

Greeting one another in worship takes on a new format as we wave and speak into a computer screen welcoming people not just from our neighborhood but from around the country. 

Our sanctuary has expanded to kitchens, living rooms, and back yards in Lincoln, Knox, and Waldo counties as well as California, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida.  We bless bread, celebrating communion, in kitchens and living rooms and backyards. 

As cracks in our community are revealed (racism, poverty, for starters), we lean into God’s presence and the resilience of our people to continue to share God’s light, love, and justice.   

The pandemic has not closed the Broad Bay Church.  We are expanding into new ministries and as we deepen relationships with each other and God.

It is easy to focus on what we have lost. But what are we learning about ourselves and God in this time?

To read Rev. Donna Schaper’s devotional: Not Going Back

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Ruby Sales

Krista Tippett has a powerful interview with Ruby Sales, an activist in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I found it to be very powerful when I first heard it several years ago and it is no less relevant now.

How do we create a theology of whiteness? How are children taught to have an internal sense of their own self worth?

Ruby Sales observes that there is a spiritual crisis in white America. I wonder if we are up against that crisis now with both the fear and powerlessness we feel due to both Covid 19 and the years of racial injustice. What do those of us who are white Christians lean on when times are tough? The theology is there but our muscles to live with that which we cannot change are weak. And until we embrace a theology where all people are God’s beloved children, we will be missing one of the most transformative teachings of Jesus.

Sales asks:

How do we raise people up from disposability to essentiality? And this goes beyond the question of race. What is it that public theology can say to the white person in Massachusetts who’s heroin-addicted, because they feel that their lives have no meaning because of the trickle-down impact of whiteness in the world today? What do you say to someone who has been told that their whole essence is whiteness and power and domination, and when that no longer exists, then they feel as if they are dying?

There’s a spiritual crisis in white America. It’s a crisis of meaning. We talk a lot about black theologies, but I want a liberating white theology. I want a theology that speaks to Appalachia. I want a theology that begins to deepen people’s understanding about their capacity to live fully human lives and to touch the goodness inside of them, rather than call upon the part of themselves that’s not relational. Because there’s nothing wrong with being European-American. That’s not the problem. It’s how you actualize that history and how you actualize that reality. It’s almost like white people don’t believe that other white people are worthy of being redeemed.

Ruby Sales

Please join me as I seek to live and preach a deep and liberating white theology. Our faith tradition knows suffering and uncertainty as well as joy and resurrection. Let’s dig deep into God’s abiding love to discover the strength and wisdom when so much is out of our control.


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Bad Theology/Bad History

Too often we read the Bible in ways that make us look good. Too often we read history from the view of the winners.

Erna Kim Hackkett observes that the Bible is focused on the community of all the people. It is not simply “Jesus loves me,” but the corollary, “Jesus loves us.”

When we focus our faith solely on our individual relationship with God, we miss Jesus’s commandment to love one another; we ignore that being in right relationship with God requires us to be in right relationship with our neighbor.

Erna Kim Hackett clearly articulates some of the ways in which bad theology and bad history are used to maintain a system of injustice built on the backs of people of color.

Read Erna Kim Hackett’s full article here:


Thanks to Jim Gussen for sharing the article.

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Maya Angelou: “Still I Rise”

In this poem by Maya Angelou, there is power and hope.

With poetry and the arts, Maya Angelou showed people a way of strength and power.

When do the work of seeing and nurturing the God who lives in us,
When we do the work of speaking with our own voices,
When we do the work of seeing and nurturing God who lives in the stranger, the alien, and the one who looks and acts differently from us,
When we love God, love ourselves and love our neighbors, the world will be transformed.

Thank God, for Maya Angelou who by example, showed us how to rise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDyTu9wg_JU

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“White Folks Don’t Care”

Image result for White Fragility Book

“Robin DiAngelo, the author of “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” doesn’t mince words. “I actually don’t think that most white people care about racial injustice. I really don’t,” she says.”

Listen to this interview between Jonathan Capehart and Robin DiAngelo. Jonathan Capehart is an African American journalist and opinion writer for the Washington Post. In this interview, Robin DiAngelo, who is identified as white speaks of her work on racial justice with white people. She is both funny and profound. At the end of the interview you will hear the impact her words, the words of a white woman, directed to Jonathan Capehart, a black man. She demonstrates how we can make a difference, one conversation at a time.

Below are two links to the same podcast: one that takes you to the Washington Post and the other to Apple podcasts.



If the links don’t work for the way you access podcasts, you may need to search for the Podcast, Cape Up with Jonathan Capehart and look for the interview with Robin DiAngelo published on June 2, 2020. You can listen to this over any computer.

I’ll be curious to hear your reactions.

Holy One,
Reveal to me the fear and racism that lives in me. Help me to see truths that are painful and to live with love and compassion toward myself and those around me. Amen.

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Spiritual Ground–Howard Thurman

Image result for thurman howard images
Dr. Howard Thurman

As we celebrate Juneteenth, I wonder how we ground ourselves in the work that we need to do to build the realm of God where all people are loved as God loves each of us. I wonder how those of us who are identified as white would have responded to the news that slavery was no longer the law of the land and that life as we knew it would shift dramatically. Would we have rolled up our sleeves and gotten to work to build a new south where the talents of former slaves and former slave owners would be used to rebuild a community racked by war and economic devastation? Would we have stepped into the unknown with love, curiosity, and hope? Or would we have found ways to return to what we knew and worked to end reconstruction?

Howard Thurman, the grandson of slaves, a scholar, a mystic, a liberation theologian, and in many ways the architect of the theology of the non-violent civil rights movement remains relevant today.

Below is a link to an hour long PBS documentary about Thurman’s life and influence. I love Thurman’s commitment to creation, silence, arts, prayer, and justice. It features many leaders in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s as well as Rev Otis Moss, whose work I shared a few weeks ago. May this video challenge, nurture and inspire you.


Dear God,
Open our eyes and our hearts to the injustice we do and live without even realizing it.
Open our eyes and hearts to the deep hurts within ourselves and between ourselves and our neighbors.
Help us to accept your love for us, for others of all races and faiths, and for all of creation.
May we be your loving and faithful people. Amen.

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Juneteenth Invitation

Let’s talk, pray, and weep together about race/white supremacy. For the next few weeks, I will be sending out resources, poetry, prayers, and links.

The first one is podcast from Krista Tippett On Being. It is under an hour. I found it to be particularly powerful. https://onbeing.org/programs/resmaa-menakem-notice-the-rage-notice-the-silence/

I am grateful for the way in which Resmaa Menakem links issue of race to trauma in our bodies, trauma that goes back generations. He speaks of white body supremacy.

Join me at 11 am tomorrow, Tuesday, June 16 from 11am–11:45 to reflect on this interview.   Questions to consider.

Menakem suggests that the situation in Dark Ages and Middle Ages in Europe impacts us today.  What do you think? 

Menakem speaks of the importance of symbols and story to young people.  What stories are we telling 13 year old white boys? What stories should we be sharing? Menakem says:

“White tears, white women’s tears, can move a nation. They will move people to mobilize. An Indigenous woman’s tears ain’t gonna move nothing. A black woman’s tears ain’t gonna move nothing. And so the piece that I say about that is that this idea of being able to land this race question in a way where white people are comfortable is a fallacy.”

Menakem says to Krista Tippett, “Your niceness is inadequate to deal with the level of brutality that has occurred.” What supports or practices do we (white folk at Broad Bay) need to begin to deal with the brutality that has occurred?

What else should we talk about?

If you want to join the conversation, email me at broadbayucc@gmail.com and I’ll send you a Skype link or arrange to give you a call.

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