Posts Tagged ‘earth’

Death and the Possibility of New Life (Gun Violence Sabbath Sermon)

// March 17th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

(This was my sermon from Sunday’s Gun Violence Sabbath.  – Scott)

Erbie Bowser was a school teacher who worked with special education students. He was an imposing figure at 6-foot 7-inches and 335 pounds, but was described as a “gentle giant” by those who knew him. He liked to have fun, entertaining crowds before Mavericks games with the a dance troupe for overweight men, the ManiAACs. In 2010, he quit his teaching job to form his own non-profit to provide clothing, tutoring, and food for children. By all accounts, he was a good man.

In 2011, Erbie and his wife Zina began divorce proceedings. Court documents show that he warned her against taking any of their property, saying, “I will bury you.” He emphasized the point by opening a pocket knife and adding, “Call the police and I will execute your kids.” The judge granted a protective order, which barred Erbie from coming within 200 yards of Zina or her children. The judge wrote in his report: “Family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future.” On August 7th of 2013, the judge’s prescient words were fulfilled.

Erbie Bowser began his shooting spree at 10:30 pm in the home of his ex-girlfriend, Toya Smith. He killed Toya and her daughter Tasmia as well as injuring Toya’s son Storm and family friend, Dasmine. When the police arrived at Toya’s house, Erbie was gone, but Dasmine bravely identified him from a photo lineup. The Dallas police suspected that he might go after Zina next, so they alerted the DeSoto police that he might be on his way. As the DeSoto police made their way to Zina’s house, they received a 911 call that there was an incident at the home. Erbie Bowser shot and killed Zina and her daughter Neima and wounded her two boys, aged 11 and 13, before running out of ammunition.

I don’t know what happened in Erbie’s life that sent him down this path of violence. It’s possible that he had a breakdown of some kind in 2010 that caused him to quit his job and created marital problems. It’s also possible that, like many cases of domestic abuse, the threats and violence went on for years, but was well hidden outside his family. Since his arrest, neither he nor his lawyers have said anything publicly while he awaits his capital trial in prison. In any case, it wasn’t exactly beyond reasonable supposition that something like this could happen. The divorce judge predicted it and did what he could to prevent it. Interestingly, one thing he could not do is prevent Erbie Bowser from having a gun.

The discourse around gun violence quickly descends into a series of claims and counterclaims, with statistics flying around like the bullets they represent. We argue about how to label things. Is it a mass killing? A shooting spree? Is it gang violence? We slice and dice the numbers into murders and accidents and suicides. We even compare the number of gun deaths to other ways we might die. These are all important distinctions because they point to multiple causes and multiple possible solutions.

However, they also become ways to distance ourselves from the problem. Mass killings are committed by kids who are mentally ill – they either aren’t medicated enough or they are medicated too much, depending on who you ask. Gang violence is only a problem for “them,” for “those people,” the people that live wherever I don’t live. Because why would you live in a place like that, anyway? That’s why it’s so important to distinguish between North Oak Cliff and South Oak Cliff, right? By dividing things up into a myriad of smaller problems we convince ourselves, first, that each problem is not really so bad, and, second, that the possible solutions are so varied and complex that we can’t possibly solve them all. Why even try?

We seem to overlook the one common denominator: guns. Across class, race, and geography, whether unjustified or justified, accidental or purposefully self-inflicted, guns remain the most efficient way to destroy a life. Bullets cannot be dodged or outrun. The damage they do is immediate, devastating, and longlasting. There are an infinite number of ways that someone might die, but there is one way that is extremely effective and absolutely pervasive: guns.

Frankly, when I consider the damage done, the easy availability, and the total inaction on the part of our representatives, I am mystified and I am angry. How many times do we have to turn on our televisions or our computers to see that someone has once again shot up a school or a mall or a theater or an office building? How many times must we be outraged? How many times must we be disappointed and lose interest and go on with our lives? Until the next time. Until the time it happens across the street or to people that we care about. At some point, all the isolated incidents add up to an epidemic. Something has to change.

In John, chapter 3, Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about being born again, born from above in the Spirit. This seems like nonsense to Nicodemus: a grown person can’t return to the womb to be born again. Jesus gently mocks him: How can you be a teacher of Israel and not understand this stuff? Jesus is simply explaining what he has seen and what he knows, but Nicodemus does not get it.

I feel this way when we talk about gun violence. We know that background checks work. In states where background checks are required for all gun sales 38% fewer women are killed with a gun by an intimate partner; there are 49% fewer gun suicides; 39% fewer police are killed with a handgun; and 64% fewer “crime guns” cross state lines. Yet, in spite of all that we know, people do not believe. Instead, people believe that we need more guns with unfettered access to them. It seems like nonsense to adopt anything other than a posture of opposition and defense. This is often the nature of the things of heaven: baffling to people of the world.

But Jesus speaks of earthly things. Jesus is in the flesh describing the human condition and the need to be reborn, but Nicodemus does not believe. What Jesus is saying should be obvious. We have all experienced that need for new life. How can Nicodemus, one of the wisest people in Israel, not understand that need? And if he can’t understand that, how could he possibly understand the things of God? To know God is to be reborn, to be transformed into new life in the Spirit. Flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit, it’s true, but we must understand both. In fact, understanding the things of the earth is a prerequisite for understanding the things of God. The two go hand in hand. To understand heavenly things, we must understand earthly things. We must see the world as it is.

We have a tendency to forget about gun violence. In between the heartbreaking tragedies, we convince ourselves that it was just that once. It’s just one disaffected youth, one disgruntled worker, one kid from the wrong side of the tracks. We don’t see the world as it really is. We forget that in America 1 in 3 people know someone who has been shot; every day 32 Americans are murdered with guns; 51 people every day kill themselves with a gun; and every day, 45 people are shot by accident. Our gun homicide rate is 20 times higher than our global peers; the only nations with more gun violence than the United States are countries torn apart by civil unrest. You have to go to a war zone to find a place more violent than America. Beyond the numbers, we forget the names of the victims and sometimes even the perpetrators. We stop seeing the families destroyed, the lives torn apart by loss and grief. For most of us, these awful tragedies have no face that persists in our memory. If we don’t see these things, if we don’t believe the epidemic all around us, how can we possibly know God?

God sent God’s only child so that the world might be saved. All we have to do is have faith. First, we must have faith that what God tells us about the world is true. We must have faith that the world was created for everyone to thrive. We must be passionate in that faith. Second, we must be faithful to God’s ways. From where will my help come? It comes from God and God alone. Do we trust in firepower or the powerful ways of God? Do we live in such a way that our thriving is set over against the thriving of another? Is reality at its core one of opposition, conflict, and struggle? Is that God’s way?

Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York, is having a raffle next weekend. One lucky attendee of their Sunday morning service will receive an AR-15 assault rifle. The flyer promoting the event, mailed to all gun owners in Troy, backs itself with Scripture, the Gospel of John, in fact. It quotes John 14.27: “…my peace I give to you…” it says. It has ellipses before and after the quote, so it’s dot-dot-dot my peace I give to you dot-dot-dot, which usually indicates that there is something both before and after the text quoted. That made me curious, so I did a little investigating. It turns out that what is hidden behind the ellipses is very important. This is Jesus’ Farewell Discourse where he tells the disciples he is leaving and gives them an idea of what to expect after that. In 14.26, he tells them that he will send the Holy Spirit to teach them everything and to remind them of all he has taught them. Then, in the full text of 14.27, he says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Life in God is not a life of fear and opposition. The new life, life born of the Spirit, is a life of peace and wholeness.

The Lenten journey is a journey toward death. However, it is a death that promises new life on the other side. But where is the new life for those caught up in the cycle of violence? The world does not believe the testimony of experts. It does not believe the great witness of our civil rights leaders who achieved great change without firing a shot. The world does not hear the grief and anguish of the victims. It does not see the brokenness of the perpetrators. We see Erbie Bowser on the TV and call for vengeance, death at the hand of the state, blood on our hands. The child of God came into the world to save it, but we fail to believe the testimony. We fail to see the death all around us. As a result, we continue to experience death – over and over and over. But this death is only death. There is no new life in it. At times, it seems hopeless.

But just as the world no longer runs on a global system of slave trade, just as women can now vote, just as same-sex couples can marry in 17 states and counting, there is a way through. That way is God’s way. From where will our help come? It comes from God and God alone. God’s way is the way forward. But what is God’s way? God’s way is certainly to mourn the dead, see their faces, hear their names, weep with the families left behind. But we must also change. God’s way is not to simply mourn as the bodies pile up around us. God’s way is the way of peace and wholeness. Do not let your hearts be afraid. As we mourn the victims, remember that on the other side of that gun is a broken person who, for whatever reason, has run out of options. God’s way is to reach out to those people. God’s way is to create new options and new life. God’s way is to take the option of gun violence away from them.

But most importantly, God’s way is to shine light into the shadows where our representatives creep. Jesus ends his conversation with Nicodemus saying, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” We can be instruments of peace and we can live our lives without opposition – and we should – but a problem of this magnitude requires systemic change. Attitudes must change, but so must laws. God’s way is to turn over tables in the temple. God’s way is to preach the good news in the presence of those who hate you. God’s way is to go to the house of Caiaphus and the palace of Pilate and, finally, to the cross. God’s way is to shine light on evil right to the end. This is the way to new life.

Reasoning from Above

// March 14th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

This Sunday, Church in the Cliff is proud to participate in the Gun Violence Sabbath Weekend, in partnership with the Washington National Cathedral and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence.  In preparation, I’ve been looking at a lot of statistics.  It’s upsetting.  I remember the day of Sandy Hook.  I was in California for Lisa’s company holiday party.  We were in a hotel right on the beach, waves literally washing up underneath our balcony, the soft sound rocking us to sleep at night.  The morning of Sandy Hook, I had gotten up early to read in preparation for the next semester of seminary.  I was taking a class on evil, suffering, and death, and the first assignment was to read “Rebellion” and “The Grand Inquisitor” from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov.  Included in the first of those chapters, Ivan, in conversation with Alyosha, philosophizes on the nature of evil:

Do you love children, Alyosha? I know you love them, and you’ll understand why I want to speak only of them now. If they, too, suffer terribly on earth, it is, of course, for their fathers; they are punished for their fathers who ate the apple— but that is reasoning from another world; for the human heart here on earth it is incomprehensible. It is impossible that a blameless one should suffer for another, and such a blameless one!

I finished my reading and turned on the TV to see that twenty children had been shot to death along with six adults and the shooter, Adam Lanza, who killed himself.  It turned out he had also killed his mother in her sleep with the gun that she had bought for him.

Lent is a time of preparation, as we have said.  It is a preparation for death that leads to new life.  In the liturgical calendar, we rehearse the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, so that we are prepared for all that life has to offer.  Coping with small losses, even (or perhaps especially) symbolic losses, creates a deep reservoir from which we draw when the big stuff hits.  But nothing can prepare us for this.

At least this will serve as a trumpet blast, I thought, the call that wakes us up to the epidemic in our land.  Certainly, this tragedy can be redeemed.  We’ll pass new laws.  Restrict clip sizes.  Require background checks on every gun sale, so we at least know where they all are.  Maybe people will voluntarily give up their guns, refuse to be a part of this cycle of violence and death, say enough is enough.  Maybe we’ll finally beat our swords into plowshares after all.  Two years later, there has not been one significant change in state or federal policy regarding guns.  In fact, the only thing that has been done is to arm teachers and school administrators in some states, putting more guns in our schools.  Every morning, millions of parents send their kids to militarized zones to learn.  The result: forty-four school shootings since Sandy Hook; twenty-three mass shootings in the year following Sandy Hook, including four within a stone’s throw of Dallas.  It seems that the sins of parents are indeed visited on the children.

Our lectionary text this week is Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John, chapter 3.  In it, he promises Nicodemus that he could see the realm of God if he will only be born again, born from above.  This new life seems nonsensical to Nicodemus.  We often imagine in our modern world that God speaks only of God’s things: heaven, the spiritual, and the great hereafter.  But Jesus testifies to earthly things.  If we cannot believe those things, we have no right and no way to know the things of heaven.  If there is new life on the other side of a tragedy like Sandy Hook, we must believe that Ivan is wrong, that the reasoning from heaven is one of hope.  At this point, it seems nonsensical to believe that there is a life not dominated by the threat of violence.  However, we must believe God’s great witness to the things of this earth: that we are here to thrive and love and mourn and change.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about earthly things: tragedy and the possibility of new life.  Note that we will be taking up a special collection to be donated to a non-profit working to end violence.

Grace and Peace,
Scott

The Great Reversal: Birds, Lilies, and Climate Anxiety (Luke 12.22-34)

// February 8th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

This weekend, houses of worship around the country will participate in the annual “Preach-In” on climate change hosted by Interfaith Power and Light.  IPL started as a “religious response to global warming” fifteen years ago when a coalition of Episcopal congregations in California joined together to purchase renewable energy. Since then, they’ve broadened their focus and partnered with a wide array of faith traditions in state and local chapters to help connect the moral and spiritual dots around climate change issues.  We’re even trying to get one going here in Dallas.
Church in the Cliff is going to join the conversation on Sunday. This year, the focus of the Preach-In is on the ways climate change effects the poor – pretty timely given our current focus on Luke’s view of the Christian gospel.  Here in the U.S. and around the world, the challenges posed by the extremes of a changing climate hit those who don’t have the cushion of a comfortable lifestyle the hardest, something that pokes uncomfortably into our day-to-day worlds.
In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus gets to the uncomfortable heart of the matter, as often is his way. He flat out tells people that worrying about material security is pointless, that takes our focus away from things that matter (note: his message here isn’t to the poor, who don’t have these things.  It’s to those who already have those basic needs met).  I don’t claim to hold a candle to Jesus’ words, but I will say that the painful effects of our collective material worries are having some real effects.  “Affluenza” takes away more than a spiritual sense of having an abundant life, filled with meaning and spiritual insight.  It’s raising our sea levels, lowering our water tables, melting our ice fields, raging in wildfires, and creating climate refugees around the world.
The really painful part of this is that, conspiracy theories aside, no evil mastermind really meant for this to happen.  We can critique the oil companies, coal companies, and big agricultural corporations all day (and perhaps we should), but the reason they’re so successful is looking back at me in the mirror.  I really like this comfortable life – it got created with many good intentions, to make people’s lives easier and better.  But, the crazy bandwagon of the material rat race is now a runaway train, and it’s a system that is pretty challenging – if not almost impossible – to step out of.  Talk about anxiety.
Join us Sunday morning at Kidd Springs Recreation Center, 11AM, to talk about living faithfully in this brave new world.  It’s a hard problem, and I have a feeling we’re going to need each other if we’re going to resist the temptation to look out for number 1.  I think there may be some good news in this, but it’s going to require something from us, too.  I love how one of the people I interviewed for my dissertation put it: “To love one another, we have to be sustaining.  To be sustaining, we have to look around and see what’s happening.”
-Genny

What I Meant to Say Was…

// July 11th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

It was a great conversation on Sunday about the earth as neighbor.  Thanks again to Genny Rowley for poking her head out of thesis-land to share with us.  A couple of things came up that I wanted to follow up on.

First, Genny mentioned a retreat for the Interfaith Dallas Environmental Action group.  It will on Saturday, July 28th, at the Dogwood Canyon Audobon Center in Cedar Hill.  From Stephen Fuqua:

Please join us for a retreat from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM at Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center in Cedar Hill*. We will begin the morning with a short guided hike in the beautiful woods of the White Rock Escarpment (at 9:30), and then continue with an agenda for defining our group’s mission and goals. With those in hand we can begin planning our “big event” in October. To keep the logistical planning low key, let those who wish bring their own sack lunch.

If you are not able to join us, but wish to provide input, please send a private message to Stephen Fuqua, Anna Clark, or anyone else whom you know will be attending.

Second, Mikal asked about sustainability in the restaurant business.  It’s important to recognize all the restaurants here who support local farmers, urban farmers, and sustainable agriculture.  It’s one of the things that makes the Oak Cliff food scene so exciting.  However, commercial operations often have trouble with things like recycling and up-cycling.  It is a challenge to efficiently sort and dispose of so much.  I did a little googling and found that the National Restaurant Association has a Sustainability and Social Responsibility section.  There is a short “how-to” brochure that might be helpful.

Undone by Love: The Earth (Program and Sermon)

// July 9th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Program

Genny’s Introduction

The journey of becoming an ecotheologian of sorts began for me through caring about people:  I have a distinct memory from my first semester of coursework at Brite, where I was reading a text by Eleazar Fernandez where he asks the question: What does it mean to have hearts as large as the world?  I was already a nature-lover, beginning gardener, runner and hiker, but I hadn’t yet made the connections between the things that I found enjoyable in my personal life and in my professional life.  That started to shift for me through a couple of different things: as a pastoral counselor, I began to notice how deeply things in people’s physical environment affect their sense of happiness, as well as their health.  As a hospital chaplain, my long-term patients (especially the CF kids who were in a really tightly controlled indoor environment), talked about how much they missed being able to go outside – and on the rare occasions where Dallas air quality was good enough to allow this, they came back with joy on their faces…and many times got better faster.

I began to look at the ways our tradition invites us to relate to the world that sustains our lives – and found a really mixed heritage, both in our sacred texts and in the theologies that have developed our relationship with creation. A really common interpretation you’ve probably heard of takes the genesis passage that talks about “dominion” and reduces that to the right to use and control the earths resources to the benefit of humankind alone.  This is a real challenge for us, I think: we live in a culture that fits this kind of model to a t: it’s a culture of individual happiness and material gratification, so its really comfortable to look at the earth as an object and tool for us to use so we can be happy.

There are two things that might help us pick through this today:

1) Playing out this scenario with 7 billion other people on the planet: what happens?  We end up storing up lots of earth’s resources and making lots of waste in some parts of the globe (like ours), and others are left with fewer resources and dealing with the waste that gets created (like most of our electronic waste, which is shipped across the world to dump and salvage operations, in which children are exposed to toxic chemicals as they try to make enough living to survive.

2) I think this is not a very rich or respectful way of looking at how God calls us to relate to the rest of the world, the “otherkind” of creation – many other stories can help us live a little more thoughtfully with our traditions.  Larry Troester, a GreenFaith Scholar in Residence and Conservative Jewish rabbi in NYC, offers us three models from the Hebrew bible that help us cast our relationship with creation in more complex ways.  Caretaker (Psalm 8 – praising God for creation and for making people “masters” of it), Farmer (Gen. 2.4b-7, 15) creation story – placed in a garden to keep and till it – reciprocal relation), Citizen (Psalm 148 among others: litanies of creation offer praise – all are citizens of creation that offer praise to the divine), & Creature (Eccl. 3.17-21 – we all return to the dust).

The interesting thing to note about these models is that even at their most anthropocentric, we are still to play a responsible and caring role with regard to the creation, because it is ultimate God’s and part of God’s activity in the world.

The creation isn’t a passive resource, but an active subject with whom we are in relationship: how does this change our engagement with it?  Are there ways you are already doing this in your life?  What was a meaningful time you felt like you were relating to the creation? How would you like your relationship/our relationship as a culture to creation to be different?

Scott’s Conclusion

Our understanding of God as the tip-top of a system of power begins at the very beginning.  In Genesis 1, we commonly read: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

As is often the case, some things get lost in translation.  First, we often think that the earth is nothing here, but that is not the case.  The Hebrew, tohu vavohu, is often used to describe a wasteland left in the wake of a calamity.  It is definitely a something.  Second, the wind does not merely sweep over the face of it.  It actually hovers, like a mother bird feeding her young.    And third, when God says, “Let there be light!” – well, this is where it gets really word-nerdy, but hang with me.  The form of the verb here is called a jussive.  It expresses the wish, desire, or command of the speaker.  When a king says something with a jussive, it is usually translated as a command.  When the subject speaks to the king, it is translated as a supplication.  But why assume that power structure here?  Let’s try reading it a little differently.

God encounters this desolation, the site of calamity and feels compassion for it.  God hovers over it, nurtures it, and speaks to it.  God says, “I wish there were some light in you.  I wish you could be something again.  I wish you could be restored.”  And when God calls out to this broken place, the broken place responds: There is light!

If reality is a chain of command,, then we might as well all just get in line, do what we’re told, and use it all up.  For our own survival, we might want to be careful about how we use it, stretch it out as long as possible, but that’s about us.  As long as we control what is below us and let ourselves be controlled by our betters, things will play out as they should.  When it’s over, it’s over.  It’s all in God’s plan.  It’s just the way things are.

But I believe that the order of reality is relationship.  God sees brokenness, desolation, a place where life cannot be, and changes it.  Restores it.  Heals it.  Makes life possible by speaking to the brokenness of the world.  We’re going to look at a lot of issues in this series and each one can be viewed as simply the way things are.  But, as we discussed last week, God is in the business of the impossible.  The way of the world is not God’s way.  So it may seem impossible that the earth’s resources are enough, that humans can live on the earth without consuming it, that the earth is, in fact, a place for life to live and to thrive.  But God is in the business of the impossible.  As Christians, so are we.  We can speak to the broken places of the world and find some light.  We are small and our resources are few, so let’s start with love.  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  Love the earth that gives so much that we might have life and have it abundantly.

Table Litany (written by Genny)

The central symbols of our communion celebration are bread and wine: fruit of the earth, and gift of the vine.  They are imminent, practical symbols: without eating and drinking, we could not live.  Without sharing these things together, we cannot live fully.

In our prayers at this table together, may we remember:
Those who planted
Those who harvested
Those who transported
Those who loaded and packed and unpacked
The soil and water that brought these gifts of life to us,
And the animals who made the soil and the plants their homes.
May they all be cared for and renewed, as loved neighbors in the web of life.

Our stories tell us that on the night he was handed over, Jesus shared a meal with his friends.  He took bread, and broke it, sharing it with those he loved, saying, “Take this, and eat it.”

Then he took a cup of wine, and poured it out for his friends, saying, “Take this, and drink it.”

In doing these things together they loved each other more deeply than they had known before.

Hoping for a world where we share a table together, celebrating even our differences, sustained by a blessed garden in a circle of abundant life, is faith worth acting upon.  There are places at this table for all: you are invited to come, whether you believe a little, a lot or not.  The table is ready, and we welcome your presence.

Undone by Love: The Earth

// July 7th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

It seems that as I think about this series more and more, I keep circling back to the question asked in the Luke 10 version of the greatest commandment story: “Who is my neighbor?”  It’s a reasonable question.  If we are to love our neighbor, surely we should know who that is.  The answer, presented in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is, “The one who showed mercy.”  If we really think about it, who shows more mercy than the vast expanse of creation on which we depend?

So often, we think of the earth as an object, a resource for our use.  There is strong biblical warrant for this, as there is for most power structures.  According to one reading of the first creation narrative found in Genesis 1, God, the ultimate power, has delegated to humans power over every living thing.  But maybe there is another way.

What if we instead thought of the earth as a subject to which we relate?  A neighbor who has shown us mercy?  A neighbor who we might love?  How might that change the choices we make and the kind of justice we work for?

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at the Kessler, as our friend Genny Rowley joins us to talk about the earth as neighbor and friend.

Grace and Peace,
Scott

Genny Rowley is currently a doctoral student in the dissertation phase of Brite Divinty School’s Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care program.  Her project involves connecting with people of faith who are working for ecological justice in their local congregations.

Series Schedule

July 1 – Introduction
How can love deconstruct power and create justice?
July 8 – The Earth
How do we relate to the earth and how does that frame our relationship with everything else?  How (and why) do we divide it up and fight over it?
July 15 – The Alien
How do we relate to the people “over there,” especially when they come “over here”?
July 22 – The Neighbor
How do we relate to the people all around us?  Who do we consider to be our neighbor and why?
July 29 – The Other
How do we divide ourselves from the people closest to us, in our families and our friendships?  How do we decide who is “the other”?  And do we have to?
August 5 – Decisions
As a church, how and where do we direct the resources that we have to create a more just world?