30 August 2013

Stated Clerk of PC(USA) Calls on US and World Leaders to Refrain from Military Action

The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) issued a statement today (August 30) in the wake of the escalating violence in Syria, calling upon U.S. and world leaders to refrain from military action.
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
We are deeply concerned about events in Syria. We grieve for our brothers and sisters who have suffered so deeply for so long. We yearn for an end to the bloodshed and renew our call for a cease-fire and a mediated process involving all parties to provide new choices for all Syrians.

We condemn the use of chemical weapons. Regardless of who perpetrated the attack, such a usage violates a longstanding international norm.  We recognize the authority and the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council to deal with this violation of international law. We call all nations to encourage the Security Council to address this illegal and immoral act. We do not doubt that justice is needed, but question the unilateral and inevitably selective role the United States has too often played, too often leading to greater violence, terrorism, and instability.

We call upon the President and the members of Congress to follow the example of other strong leaders in the past by exercising the courage and wisdom to refrain from military action that is likely to escalate the conflict further, and to bring our country directly into another war in the Middle East.

We applaud the President's efforts to consult widely, conferring with international leaders and with Congress.  Now we ask him to spend time over this holiday weekend listening to what Americans want and fear.

Now is not the time to feed the violence and instability that has claimed the lives of over 100,000 Syrians, driven 3.4 million Syrians from their country, and displaced an additional 6.8 million Syrians from their homes. Most people affected by the conflict are noncombatants. Expanding the conflict will increase the suffering of the innocent. 

Now is the time to heed the voices of our church partners who pray and call and work for peace. Our partners look to us to challenge policies of our government that help to fuel conflict in Syria and proxy wars across the Middle East.

Now is the time to reflect on the lessons of 12 years of involvement in conflict in the Middle East by the United States. Limited engagement is never truly limited.

Now is the time to support the peacemakers of Syria who seek to end the violence and build a future. In any Congressional deliberations, we urge that nonviolent forms of intervention be considered, and that next steps beyond military force be grounded in defensible cooperative goals for the region.

Now is the time for all outside parties to cease all forms of intervention in Syria. States and and non-state actors must stop feeding the conflict in Syria by sending weapons to the government and to opposition forces.

Now is the time to renew the efforts for a diplomatic solution. The United States must work with the United Nations and other governments to contain the violence, restore stability in the region, provide humanitarian assistance, and encourage the building of an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens.

Now—in the grimmest of situations—is the time to build a coalition of nations and peoples willing to do the long, hard, and essential work of establishing interfaith relationships of respect and understanding.

Now—for Syria and all its neighbors—is the time to seek a new vision of cooperation and nonviolence that will support an intervention with the power of impartial justice that will lead to a just and lasting peace.
Now is the time to pray for wisdom for leaders, for courage to turn from violence, for grace to build and nurture relationships, for justice to roll down like waters, and for peace to prevail in Syria.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." For the people of Syria, may it now be a time for peace. 

23 August 2013

confession of brutal love

For the next few weeks, the Old Testament lesson from the lectionary comes from the book of the prophet Jeremiah.  One of the things I really love about this book is Jeremiah’s brutal honesty about his calling and ministry.  He bitterly hates the message that God has given him.  It would take someone who is vicious and insane to enjoy telling people what he feels he must:  the Babylonians are on the way, and you need to accept it.  And also, let’s cut out the idolatry and injustice which are rampant. 

Saying “yes” to God has meant dealing with name-calling and far worse:  slander, beating, imprisonment.  After the Babylonians invade, he’s labeled a traitor when he warns against fighting back. 

There are several poems in the book that are often called the Confessions of Jeremiah.  They sound a lot like the stuff that Job says.  More than with any other prophet, we see in Jeremiah a picture of his inner being.  At times, he verges on the depths of despair.

He feels that God has betrayed him, and he lets God know about it!  More than once, he decides that he’s done; he is not going to do this anymore.  But he finds it impossible to stop.  Chapter 20 has the perfect example of this.  If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (v. 9).  The Contemporary English Version puts it this way:  Sometimes I tell myself not to think about you, Lord, or even mention your name.  But your message burns in my heart and bones, and I cannot keep silent.”

That’s a confession that only someone who is in love can make. 

(The image is from dgroove.deviantart.com/art/Jeremiah-The-Prophet-1630662)

03 August 2013

hospitality in purple

There are not a large number of saints on the liturgical calendar that I keep up with:  St. Benedict, St. Francis, and a few others.  One from the New Testament that I especially like is St. Lydia, who we meet in Acts 16.  Because she is a dealer in purple cloth, a valuable commodity, she has a bit of wealth.  But more than that, she is an icon (literally) of hospitality.  She insists that Paul and his friends stay at her home.

The fact that they have met at a place of prayer figures significantly.  Before we learn of her trade, we are told that she is “a worshiper of God” (v. 14).  She has her priorities in order, and her influence has been transmitted through time and space.

On a personal note, this is also the anniversary of my baptism, which happened 27 years ago.  It pleases me greatly that it coincides with the day we remember our ancestor in the faith, Lydia!

(The top image is based on Lydia from the movie Beetlejuice, which I must confess I have yet to see.)