When You’re Summoned to Write to Your Representative(s)

Dear Readers and Friends:

In response to the humanitarian and environmental crisis that continues to unfold in occupied Palestine and the egregious loss of lives on both sides, I’ve written to representatives concerning the passage of HR 2590.   It is a bill to promote and protect the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.   I would encourage you to consider reaching out to your representatives as well.   A copy of the letter is below:

May 19, 2021

The Honorable Senator…(followed by address)

RE: H.R. 2590 A Bill to promote and protect the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and to ensure that US taxpayer funds are not used by the Government of Israel to support the military detentions of Palestinian children, the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law.

 Dear Senator…,

My name is Rev. Dr. Jessica McArdle.  Ordained in the United Church of Christ,  I am an Environmental Justice advocate whose work includes challenging the systemic impact of unjust and predatory practices directed against communities of color, indigenous, and other vulnerable populations.  In particular, the occupation and aggression against Palestine and Palestinians in favor of illegal Israeli settlements, has devastated the already limited water supply, uprooted established agriculture, accelerated soil erosion, and has increased toxic waste and dumping.

I support this bill for the following reasons:

1) As we strive to reposition ourselves as a world leader in terms of humanitarian rights, holding the Government of Israel or any nation that benefits from US taxpayer funding accountable, is paramount: Humanitarian Rights at the Center of Current US Policy

2) Along these same humanitarian lines, the displacement of Palestinians in favor of Israeli settlements, violates international law: Violation of International Law.

3) The continued occupation and aggression against the Palestinian peoples including the illegal seizure of their property, has devastated arable land, led to the depletion of water resources and increased toxic waste and dumping: Environmental Degradation of Land Due to Occupation

On a personal note, I saw this flagrant violation of the land and its people firsthand when visiting Palestine several years ago.    Traveling with a seminary delegation, we stayed overnight with Palestinian families in occupied Bethlehem, toured a Palestinian farm whose lush olive trees were later uprooted by Israeli soldiers, and met advocates who against overwhelming odds sought to provide a measure of protection and well-being for their communities.   Throughout our visit, the barrier that cut deep into Palestinian-occupied territory loomed large.  Still, through it all, I observed an unparalleled commitment to human dignity, was afforded generous hospitality, and experienced a quality of kindness that touched me deeply.

As a minister, advocate, and constituent, I urge you to support the passage of this bill.   Given the current escalation of violence in this region, I believe this bill addresses some of the root causes behind it.   As your constituent, I would appreciate knowing where you stand, relative to this issue and in particular, this bill.

Thank you, Senator…, in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Jessica McArdle, (followed by your address)

 

 

Earth Day and the Spring Song of Justice

Commemorating the 51st anniversary of Earth Day while speaking to the “spring song” of justice long-denied for those in the black community, a poem by the late African-American poet, Langston Hughes.  Given the events of this past week, his words are timely.
               An Earth Song 
            It’s an earth song,
                    And I’ve been waiting long for an earth song.
                  It’s a spring song,
                     And I’ve been waiting long for a spring song.
                        Strong as the shoots of a new plant
                        Strong as the bursting of new bud
                        Strong as the coming of the first child from its mother’s womb.
                  It’s an earth song,
                     A body song,
                     A spring song,
                    I have been waiting long for this spring song.

Changing God’s Mind

 

Book of Jonah - YouTube

 “When God saw that the people had changed, how they turned from their destructive ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that would be brought upon them.”   Jonah 3:10

How often does God change God’s mind?

The story of Jonah is recorded not as an account but parable.   Here, a prophet called, Jonah, after emerging from the “belly of a whale” astonishingly succeeds.  Cut to the heart by the prophet’s warning, the entire city mends its ways.   When seeing that the people had turned from their evil ways, God changes his mind and spares the city.

But what if God wasn’t poised to destroy the city of Nineveh?  What if Nineveh, like the fall of the Roman empire or the rampant deforestation leading to the collapse of Easter Island and Norse Greenland, were well on their way to destroying themselves?  What if the figure of God in this parable and elsewhere, isn’t bent on bringing about the destruction of whole civilizations as much as trying to get our attention – using prophets like Jonah  – before it is too late?

Prayer: God of the Whale and the Dolphin, who broods over the waters of the deep, in your steadfast love summon us to make amends for the harm we have committed against each other and this planet we call home.   Teach us to turn from the violence that readily insinuates itself into every corner of human life.   Quell our voracious appetite for hoarding, while abolishing the meanness that festers and the parsimony that corrupts.

 In your mercy, transform us by thy grace.  So that you can change your mind about us, once more.  Amen.

 

 

Stepping into the Woods

 

Stepping into the woods and down a narrow path of gnarled branches on both sides, within the span of a heartbeat I entered nature’s womb.   Sometimes straight, other times the trail would veer off and curve into an unbidden direction.   Though not sure what lay ahead nevertheless I walked on, held fast by its raw but tender embrace.

Wrote the psalmist, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” [2]  Though heavy-laden with grief, the tightly knit trees, and forest floor held fast incarnating the Spirit’s embrace.    Lovingly hemmed in from all sides, the sweet caress of your hand was upon me and this sojourner felt secure once more.

Creation’s Glory, be upon us this day and those ahead, we pray.   Lay your hand upon us, and smooth our furrowed brows.    Through your incarnation, surround and sustain our broken hearts, so that we may be strengthened for the work that lies before us.    For just as the path before us is uncertain, hem us in from all sides – so that whatever we say or do – will illuminate your mercy, justice, and steadfast love.  We ask all this in Christ’s name.  Amen.

[1] Photo image by Barry McArdle, Fells Reservation

[2] from Psalm 139:5

Epiphany is no stranger to Herod’s Shadow

 

“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, the foreign kings and ambassadors left for their own country by another road.” Matthew 2:12
Of all the dimensions of human experience, some of the most compelling are dreams.   While Herod was compelled to grant three distant Persian kings audience while they sought a newborn child (and even feign interest in seeking him out as well), to their credit the Magi were not fooled.  Perhaps they are best remembered for not only seeking and paying homage to the Christ Child but paying heed to the ominous signs before them.
Writes minister and blogger, Ken Sehested, “By now you may have noticed the odd coincidence of today, Wednesday, January 6th being the date of Epiphany AND the Electoral College Presidental Tally.   [Usually, a proforma ceremony, opposition fueled by the current president is challenging the states’ votes.]” [1]  But then, Epiphany reminds us that blind ambition, feigned motives, and deadly violence are not remnants of a distant past but like Herod, continue to cast their ominous shadow.
Resisting all attempts to sentimentalize this narrative, Epiphany asks, ‘Like those travelers of long ago, will we pay attention to the signs before us?   Will we, like those ancient travelers, risk returning by another way?”

[1] Ken Sehested  www.prayerandpolitiks.org

When saying “yes” changes everything…

Divine Interuper, what were you thinking? Surely you knew that having Gabriel show up unannounced and speak openly to an unchaperoned fifteen year old girl would place her at risk? You knew, did you not, that she was already betrothed to another? You knew that the society Mary inhabited was rigidly patriarchal and would never tolerate any deviation from this norm.

Yet when Gabriel informs her that she will be impregnated outside of the only acceptable option at the time, she responds by saying, “I am a servant of the Lord,” But then this is what sets her words apart. Given a frightfully risky endeavor, a ‘mission impossible’ nevertheless, she consents. “May your word to me be fulfilled,” she then adds.

Have you ever regretted saying, ‘no?’ Have you wondered if your life would have take a different path if you had not clung so closely to the expectations of others and yourself? Have you pondered what it may have been like, if you took that ‘leap of faith’ and in spite of everything put your trust in God?

Advent Prayer-December 13

Holy One, we are a people mired in the land of mourning. Not merely hundreds or hundreds of thousands have perished, but almost two million globally. Many, who only weeks or months ago were making plans for the morrow, were consumed by a predator virus that shows no sign of abating. Fear has overtaken us, invading our waking hours and haunting our dreams.

Yet you have promised your people beauty instead of ashes, the balm of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of stumbling and faint spirits. In reclaiming those who are bent down with grief, torn asunder by fear, consumed by anxiety – you transform weary souls into mighty oaks of rightfulness. You do this, so that all may see this as revelation of your radiance.

So in your mercy, in your steadfast love where the fullness of grace in Christ Jesus abounds, deliver and restore us, we pray. So that through your Spirit, we may build up whole communities torn asunder by contagion, and raise up a people devastated by hatred and division. By your audacious Spirit, equip us once more to repair what was devastated and even ruined:

rundown urban centers and neglected national parks,

decimated reservation outposts and ravaged inner city neighborhoods,

struggling small towns and migratory farmhands,

fragments of civil discourse and frayed legislative bodies,

vacant seats at the dinner table and traumatized families,

overrun hospital wards and exhausted care providers.

In this Season of Advent, hear our prayer, O God. In your mercy, let your light once again shine in our darkness. In your steadfast love, let your garland of gladness brighten our days. Amen.

From Isaiah 61:3-4, “…to provide for those who mourn…to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

And they shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
” Isaiah 61

Mercy and truth have met…

“Mercy and truth have met; justice and peace have kissed.” Psalm 85:10

Mercy. Truth. Justice. Peace.

Mercy, as in showing compassion when it is within your power to punish.

Truth, as in what is genuinely based in reality.

Justice, as in righteousness or moral rightness.

Peace, as in Shalom, signifying completeness, wholeness and wellbeing.

Here mercy, truth, justice and peace not only belong together but as declared ty the psalmist, they meet and embrace.

In this Season of Advent but in the wake of an escalating pandemic, economic peril, perpetual chaos and disquieting uncertainty – if seemingly oppositional qualities of mercy AND truth, justice AND peace were brought together – what might that look like or be?

When reflecting on this, I kept fast forwarding from when this psalm was written to the time of the Gospel of John’s composition, centuries later. This particular Gospel does not open quietly. If anything, the writer begins by making an audacious if not thunderous claim, unequivocally stating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In other words, if you and I sought to come up with one element of speech or writing that would be the culmination of all that is merciful, all that is true, all that is just and all that is peaceable – it would be this singular WORD.

“The Word became flesh,” wrote John’s author and then added a few verses later, “…from his fullness we have received grace upon grace.” Perhaps even as we long for the coming of the Beloved One of God – we will discover rest in the singularity of this wondrous WORD that became flesh and dwelt amongst us. That through his fullness, we can at last taste the unfathomable riches of mercy, the assurance of truth, the equimity of justice and the sweet splendor of peace.

May it be so.

[1] Image from Crosswalknapa.org

Awaken Us, a prayer…

A Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent

Advent One, awaken us from our self-induced slumber, we pray.  Numb from uncertainty and isolation, our senses have dulled. We confess it is easier to nurse diminished hope, than respond to the suffering of our neighbors, or the hurt lodged deeply within.

Yet we know that just as you came before, you will come again.  You who seek to awaken our innermost self. You who come to us in the inconspicuous, the marginalized and the forgotten. You who know our fear of being released from this numbness. Yet in love you urge us on, saying, “My children, keep awake!”

So, God of All Awakening, in your mercy awaken us, we pray. Rouse us from this deadened slumber. Sharpen our senses and set us on our feet. For we want to prepared when we see you – be it in glory or in the least of these.  

So we may be counted, as blessed, once more. Amen.

[1] Image from Kekovacs.blogspot.com

[2] Based on The Gospel of Mark 13:37, “And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

A Thanksgiving Prayer for the Weary

Grateful for this sheltered place
With light in every window
Saying, “Welcome, welcome, share this feast
Come in away from sorrow”

from the Thanksgiving Song, by Mary Chapin Carpenter

As we continue to shelter in place, O God, will we ever be able to sing your praises?   Will these anxious hearts weary and heavy from sorrow be lifted?   Can Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas even be celebrated this year, when we’re separated from those we love?  

Before you and you alone, we acknowledge these painful uncertainties.   Loss of employment, housing and health, are ravaged further by inequality.   Loved ones lost are unable be mourned.   Events that once sustained us have been put aside.   Deep divisions and threats to our democracy persist.   Our planet and her peoples crumble under the weight of injustice and exploitation.

So, we cry out, when will we be able to throw our doors wide open, O Lord?   When will lighted windows signify the sharing of the feast?  When will the Thanksgiving Song be joyfully lifted up even as we clasp hands with others?

Yet you remind us that you are always in the face of the least of these.   You come as the ignored, the marginalized and the hungry.   Yours is the face lined with sorrow.  Yours are the eyes who have seen too much.   You come as the one who is incarcerated, the one who is sick but without adequate health-care, the one who stands outside a food bank wondering if there will be enough.

Great Redeemer, in our searching and longing for you, be with us in the light of your countenance and shine through the windows of our hearts.   Let your welcoming affirmation accompany us when we bring food to the shelter, make a phone call to the lonely and write a message of cheer to the imprisoned.  So that all your children – through your unfathomable grace – may come away from sorrow, seeing one another not as strangers, but as long-lost brothers and sisters who together share in the feast of gladness.   May it be so.  Amen.

[1] Photo image from Goodfon.com