Acknowledging ‘White Privilege’

privilege and racismThe words ‘white privilege’ have been bandied around by pundits, the media and in general conversation, and while many of us accept that it exists, we are not sure what it means. The best definition of ‘white privilege’ that I have found came from a class in women’s studies at the University of Massachusetts:

a set of advantages and/or immunities that white people benefit from on a daily basis beyond those common to all others. White privilege can exist without white people’s conscious knowledge of its presence and it helps to maintain the racial hierarchy in this country.

The biggest problem with white privilege is the invisibility it maintains to those who benefit from it most. The inability to recognize that many of the advantages whites hold are a direct result of the disadvantages of other people, contributes to the unwillingness of white people, even those who are not overtly racist, to recognize their part in maintaining and benefiting from white supremacy.

White privilege is about not having to worry about being followed in a department store while shopping. It’s about thinking that your clothes, manner of speech, and behavior in general, are racially neutral, when, in fact, they are white. It’s seeing your image on television daily and knowing that you’re being represented. It’s people assuming that you lead a constructive life free from crime and off welfare. It’s about not having to assume your daily interactions with people have racial overtones.

White privilege is having the freedom and luxury to fight racism one day and ignore it the next. White privilege exists on an individual, cultural, and institutional level”.[1]

To quote African -American author, James Baldwin, “Being white means never having to think about it.

Many of us at Saint John’s benefit every day from our ‘white privilege’. We don’t even acknowledge that we have it, and indeed, enjoy a life that people of color can only dream of, but do not often attain. Life’s path is smoothed for us; the entire world is set up to give us every advantage, allow us to come out on the top. Moreover, we don’t want to talk about the fact that we are privileged, or even think that our privilege directly affects the lives of millions of people of color. We do not have to worry about whether our children will return safely as they walk home from school, or if they are driving, will they be stopped for the most minor of offenses and jailed. I have an African-American friend who does not drive in Bexley because the police consider ‘driving while black’ a reason to stop him. We don’t have that worry. And even if we are stopped by the police, we don’t fear that we will be assaulted or shot. We don’t have to teach our sons how to avoid harassment when they are doing nothing wrong. People don’t cross to the other side when we walk down the street, or hold tight to their purses when we pass by.

Racism is about much more than our feelings toward one another, or about differences that we can fix with talk of tolerance or color blindness. The story of race is an ideology of difference that shapes our understanding of ourselves, the world we inhabit, and the communities in which we live. Racial thinking assigns value to human beings who are grouped within artificial categories. We do not need to embrace contrived notions of racial differences, in the name of inclusion, but to examine to the depth of our hearts how we really feel about people of color. Tolerance is not acceptable; we must search until we can truly look at any other person as equal to ourselves. By minimalizing another person, we are dehumanizing not only them but ourselves.

In light of the murders and shootings of people of all colors in the past few months and most recently, we, may be appalled or anguished, but may not see these events are directly related to the long-standing racism in our nation stemming from slavery. Progress for people of color has been slow, and halting; cultural attitudes and habits have changed at a glacial pace. We think we have made progress, but we have become so used to the ‘racial divide’ in our nation, that in many cases, we do not even realize it is there! The sad and shocking thing is, these killings will continue. Too much of white America doesn’t see the problem. Many subconsciously believe that the shooting victim(s) “deserved it”!

None of this means the situation can’t change. However, until the white people in America can see clearly this injustice occurring, and realize the freedoms and values that we as Americans believe in are not available to everyone, it will continue. Until it tugs at our own sense of fairness and justice, a lot of white people in America will remain unmoved to act. Denying the impact of white privilege on this country’s judicial system creates more injustice, more inflamed rhetoric, more grief, more rage. . . and more deaths!

I saw a sign held by protester at a rally that said: ‘White Silence is Violence’.

Truly, if you do not listen to others who are not like you, keep silent when disparaging words are spoken, don’t hold people accountable for their discriminatory conduct, you are just as complicit in racism as those who hold a gun or burn a cross or lynch a man.

White people are in a position of power in this country because of a long-standing power structure that they control. In the opinion of many, much of the political unrest that we are now experiencing stems from the fact that we fear we are losing that control. Are we brave enough to use our ‘white privilege’ to correct that system or power structure? Are we, as white people, willing to do what it takes to stop the systemic murder of young black men, the institutionalized school-to-prison pipeline, the deep, bleeding wound that is racism in America. It is a hard pill to swallow that, in many ways, white people are the source of the problem and only we can change it! People of color may yell, scream, cry, plead or demand justice, but until we are willing to get really uncomfortable with our own participation in a racist society, nothing will change.

Don’t delude yourself that you do not have the power. You may say ‘I’m not racist — I have black friends! I’m a good person!” You may not be rich and you may truly struggle with daily aspects of your life. You probably are a good person, and you may have black friends. BUT, you still benefit from institutionalized racism.

Andrew Rosenthal, a writer for The New York Times, stated:

“The point of the “Black Lives Matter” movement is not that the lives of African Americans matter more than those of White Americans, but that they matter equally, and that historically they have been treated as if they do not.[2]

Speak with people of color, listen, to learn — or perhaps more appropriately, unlearn the racism that has been instilled in us by our country. . . and our churches.

It’s time for white people in America — especially the white American church — to start putting action behind our prayerful social media memes. The unfortunate reality is that America has a really big race problem, and it is white people must take the leadership to fix it. We, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, should be leading the charge, not arguing about the semantics of whose lives’ matter’.

I call on ALL congregations, but especially white congregations, to unite in protest, to refuse to stand in silence, to speak out against racial injustice, to examine our individual lives and attitudes until we understand our participation in racism, and wipe it from our lives!

We must build a society where we no longer see people of color bloodied and broken. . . or dead, due to racial violence.

We must ensure that our children do not take on the racial attitudes and habits that we were so subtly taught.

Join me in acknowledging, understanding and shedding the mantle of our ‘white privilege’.
 
 
[1]      The Social Construction of Whiteness and Women, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

[2]      Andrew Rosenthal, “The Real Story of Race and Police Killings“, The New York Times; September 4, 2015

 
Written for the Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 18 July 2016

Who Will Speak for Them?

Mark 4:35-41

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of your hearts be inscribed on our souls. Amen.

Today’s Gospel reading, a story of Jesus calming the winds and waves also appears in Matthew and Luke in some form as well, and was surely meant to show the ways in which Jesus’ disciples were brought to faith in Him early in His ministry.  Control of nature is a characteristic attributed to the Divine; so here, as Jesus calms the storm that arose when He and his disciples were crossing the sea, this ragged group of young men, who had left everything to follow Jesus of Nazareth and His revolutionary teachings, were strengthened in their faith and belief—so much so that in a few years they could face mockery and suffering to spread His message across the known world.  Few of us who call ourselves His disciples today are called upon to endure the struggles and suffering of those early disciples. . . being a Christian in this strong Christian nation is easy. . . or is it?

I have been accused of being too political. My friends, let me remind you that the Gospel is about social justice, and social justice IS political, not partisan politics, but absolutely political. And as a Vocational Deacon in the Episcopal Church, it is my duty and ministry to preach and act for social justice. I will make no excuses for my calling – to speak truth to power.

Let me share with you some other quotes that I find meaningful:

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”  — Thomas Jefferson

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

“The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”  — Plato

As we near the 234th celebration of the founding of our nation, we find ourselves in such a needless and cruel national crisis that I am compelled to speak about it in relation to our promise and mission as followers of Jesus. As national figures use our Bible to justify heartless treatment of innocent and desperate people, I believe we cannot — we must not let our Savior die again because of our silence. As we often use the cross as an adornment, a decoration, can we forget that it is a symbol of agonizing death and injustice dealt to the Son of God by people mindlessly following laws of a government and church devoid of justice and compassion? Can we rejoice in our buildings and organizations and committees and gloss over the fact that this good Son of Man came to teach us a revolutionary ideal of brotherly love, and to challenge us to work daily for His beautiful vision of a Heavenly Kingdom on earth – a world in which all are brothers and sisters who treat one another with the love, respect, and compassion that we yearn for ourselves?  Can we seize that cross of suffering and realize that human beings today are suffering and dying on our southern border—looking to us for help and safety, and it is our job—and our privilege to care for “the least of these”?

The “least of these” are the men, women and children who have risked their lives to come to the United States without documentation. In a similar fashion as the disciples, these people are terrified, leaving their own country because of gangs, drug wars, rape and murder. The disciples may have been terrified on the water, but the desert that these people have crossed to get to the U.S. border is far more cruel than a storm could ever be. It is their faith in Jesus – and us – that led them to make the dangerous trek to the safety of the United States to seek a better life, a safe future, and freedom.

But they haven’t found safety when they get here – they found cruelty and separation and unspeakable horrors. Children are dragged from their mother’s arms, potentially never to see their family again. They are warehoused in buildings hot and sterile, sleeping on a mattress on the floor with a survival aluminum blanket for cover. They are assigned a number, and herded into rooms created by chain link fence. The children are separated by sex, and we have seen only a few pictures of any girls in the detention centers. Toddlers are place in a separate area, where, unlike most toddlers, they sit motionless, crying and asking for their mother or father. Infants under a year old are separated into ‘tender age’ centers, away from their mothers.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for the care of these children. In the time of their greatest need of human contact and comfort, no worker is allowed to touch or comfort these children.

The current administration is detaining these children as pawns to achieve political goals. These innocent and scared children are being used as a ‘tough deterrent’ to discourage others from entering the United States, seeking asylum or entering illegally when they have no other choice. Under any other circumstance, detention would be equal to kidnapping and the border officials would be subject to prison – kidnapping is a federal offense. Even though the policy of family separation appears to be discontinued through an executive order, over 2400 children are now orphans. There appears to be no plans for the rejoining of families – some of the parents may have already been deported, and their children housed in 17 states, as far spread as Washington state, Texas, New York, and Connecticut. These families will likely never be whole again.

I have to say that I am so ashamed of this conduct, yet feel helpless to do anything about it. America has always been a place and people and compassion for others, welcoming those who are strangers escaping for their lives from areas of extreme cruelty and possible death.

The Bible’s first stories of the life of Jesus emphasize that he would not have escaped death at the hands of a tyrant if his parents had not ‘illegally’ crossed into Egypt. Jesus’ ministry focused on reaching out to foreigners, usually commending them above those of his own kind. “The Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:25–37 is just one of many stories that emphasize the goodness of foreigners and the need to break the rules, if necessary, to give aid to the stranger. When some asked how to cross the border into God’s eternal kingdom, Jesus said, according to Matthew 25:35

“whoever feeds the hungry and gives drink to the thirsty and welcomes the foreigner welcomes me’.

God’s realm is made up of ‘those’ kind of people.

Jesus told us again and again that we are to

Love each other as he loved us. (John 15:12)

And we there are many admonitions to welcome the stranger

And you are to love those who are foreigners/immigrants, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19)

And furthermore,

“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:22)

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19:34)

These scriptures are fundamental to the Christian and Jewish faiths and to following the teachings of Jesus. We, at Saint John’s, offer the love of Jesus to one another and those who are visitors and neighbors. And we are a member of the communion of all believers, who preach and teach and live into the teachings of Jesus.

Our Presiding Bishops Michael Curry and Katherine Jefferts Schori, numerous bishops in The Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church, and many leaders of other interreligious groups have publicly protested this heinous separation and detention of immigrants.

We as a nation, and we as a global family – really, we as human beings – can’t survive unless we learn to give shelter to refugees, aid to the stranger, welcome to those fleeing terror elsewhere, and comfort to children who are not our own.

If you are not enraged by these conditions, YOU SHOULD BE.

This is the time to act!

To quote Albert Einstein:

Can we have the faith of those early disciples and follow Jesus at all costs? At perhaps great risk?  Can we stand by as our country—for decades the best hope on earth for justice and equality for mankind – can we let it disintegrate rapidly into a hypocritical and heartless mass of people paralyzed by a government of greed, lies, and racism? The United States of America is not a perfect nation nor are you and I as human beings, but too many people have fought and sacrificed to make this country a place of freedom and inclusiveness for us to let it fade into history as another failed civilization. And moreover, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man died 2000 years ago so that you and I could have the opportunity to live, love, breathe free air, and not fear death – have we the faith to not let Him suffer again and again at our southern border?

I close with a passage many of you will know by Pastor Martin Niemöller – but I am changing his words a bit:

First they came for the blacks, browns, and the yellow-skinned people
And I did not speak out
Because I was not black, brown, or yellow.

Then they came for the disabled, the homosexuals, the transgender, the addicted,
And I did not speak out,
Because I was not disabled, homosexual, transgender, or addicted.

Then they came for the Jews, the Muslims, the refugees, and the immigrants
<And I did not speak out,
Because I was not a Jew, or Muslim, or refugee or immigrant.

Then they came for me,
And there was no one left to speak for me.

 
There is a handout on the Information Table which contains a list of resources, groups and organizations that are valiantly fighting to right this wrong. Feel free to take one and act as your conscience would dictate. Or you can find it on the Saint John’s website later this week with links you can click on.

Let us pray:

The voices of the persecuted children ring in our ears and we cannot stop them (and we must not!)
And we know these are only echoes of the myriad voices we have not heard over the years;
Refused to hear
Excused ourselves from knowing about.
“That was then”, “we would never do such a thing”, “we are better than that now.”
Evil is everywhere, everywhen.
Hear our prayers, O God: Let our cries come to you.
And strengthen our hands and feet, our spirits and our courage, because
We have a lot of work to do, along with our screaming.
Amen,
may it be so.[1]
 

[1]      Mary Beth Butler, North Texas
 
 
 
Groups to Support.

• The ACLU is litigating this policy in California.

• If you’re an immigration lawyer, the American Immigration Lawyers Association will be sending around a volunteer list for you to help represent the women and men with their asylum screening, bond hearings, ongoing asylum representation, etc. Please sign up.

Al Otro Lado is a binational organization that works to offer legal services to deportees and migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, including deportee parents whose children remain in the U.S.

CARA—a consortium of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association—provides legal services at family detention centers.

The Florence Project is an Arizona project offering free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody.

Human Rights First is a national organization with roots in Houston that needs help from lawyers too.

Kids in Need of Defense works to ensure that kids do not appear in immigration court without representation, and to lobby for policies that advocate for children’s legal interests. Donate here.

The Legal Aid Justice Center is a Virginia-based center providing unaccompanied minors legal services and representation.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras is an organization that provides humanitarian aid and shelter to migrants on their way to the U.S.

RAICES is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas offering free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families. Donate here and sign up as a volunteer here.

• The Texas Civil Rights Project is seeking “volunteers who speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ and have paralegal or legal assistant experience.”

Together Rising is another Virginia-based organization that’s helping provide legal assistance for 60 migrant children who were separated from their parents and are currently detained in Arizona.

• The Urban Justice Center’s Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project is working to keep families together.

Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution.

• Finally, ActBlue has aggregated many of these groups under a single button.

This list isn’t comprehensive, so let us know what else is happening. And please call your elected officials, stay tuned for demonstrations, hug your children, and be grateful if you are not currently dependent on the basic humanity of U.S. policy.

CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations project offers case assistance to hundreds of smaller organizations all over the country that do direct services for migrant families and children.

American Immigrant Representation Project (AIRP), which works to secure legal representation for immigrants.

CASA in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and Pennsylvania. They litigate, advocate, and help with representation of minors needing legal services.

Freedom for Immigrants (Formerly CIVIC), which has been a leading voice opposing immigrant detention.

• The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center represents all of the immigrant kids placed by the government in foster care in Michigan (one of the biggest foster care placement states). About two-thirds are their current clients are separation cases, and they work to find parents and figure out next steps.

• The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is doing work defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education.

Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights works for the rights of children in immigration proceedings.

• The Women’s Refugee Commission has aggregated five actions everyone can take that go beyond donating funds.

• The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)—which organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons—just filed suit challenging the cancellation of the Central American Minors program.

Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative has a guide to organizations throughout Texas that provide direct legal services to separated children. Also listed within the guide are resources for local advocates, lawyers, and volunteers.

Immigrant Justice Corps is the nation’s only fellowship program dedicated to expanding access to immigration representation. Some IJC fellows work at the border, and others work in New York, providing direct representation in immigration court to parents and children resettled in New York City and surrounding counties.

• The Kino Border Initiative provides humanitarian aid to refugees and migrants on both sides of the border. They have a wish-list of supplies they can use to help migrants and families staying in the communities they serve.

The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network supports undocumented immigrants detained in Aurora, Colorado.

• Several companies also match donations—if your company does this, you need to provide the tax ID of the charity you have given to, which is usually listed on these organizations’ websites.

• The National Immigrant Justice Center represents and advocates for detained adults and children facing removal, supports efforts at the border, and represents parents in the interior who have been separated from their families as a result of aggressive enforcement.

 
 
Dahlia Lithwick, Margo Schlanger, The Slate, June 19, 2018
How you can fight family-separation at the border

What Can We Do about Family-Separation and Detention?

As Legislative Liaison to the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, I have been asked by members of the parish and the Diocese what we can do. I offer you a list from Carter Heyward and an article from The Slate which might be helpful.

“Dear friends, sisters, brothers, and sibling Americans, we are living increasingly in a nation in which an authoritarian is ruling via fear, hatred, and lies. This can only get worse before it finally breaks apart. So what do we do at this time?

(1) SPEAK THE TRUTH BOLDLY about what you see happening. Speak, write, preach, draw, paint, sing, dramatize, or otherwise communicate the Truth in whatever contexts and ways you can. Communicate with your legislators — relentlessly. Make a nuisance of yourself if you’re met with unresponsive legislators. Use newspapers, social media, and other media to communicate whatever is true and important. Do this as often as you can. Don’t let a day go by without your truth-speaking-voice being heard by someone!

(2) CONNECT WITH OTHERS. Don’t let yourself get isolated or depressed. Join together with others who want to do something constructive. There are countless organizations from which you can choose ones that appeal to you.

(3) VOTE — and not only you personally. Make sure your friends, family, and neighbors are registered to vote. Use whatever power, skills, and clout you have to help folks register and make sure they vote. Consider joining the Get Out the Vote campaigns of your local Democratic Party or of organizations like the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, AAUW, ACLU, Indivisible, and other groups committed to getting folks to vote.

(4) GIVE $$, however much or little, to organizations and people who are working for justice — for immigrants and refugees, communities of color, women and LGBTQ persons, environmental sustainability, universal health care, quality public education, etc. Even sending $5 or $10 to several groups from time to time is GREAT — and with lots of us doing it, it builds up.

(5) DEFEND DEMOCRACY! Remember that our democracy is under attack both from without (Russia) and within (Trump). Don’t let yourself be distracted from this concern or lulled into thinking that the Russian connection has been overblown — or is in the past. No question the Russians will be/are trying to confound the USA in our upcoming elections.

(6) PROTEST! Join others in taking to the streets whenever the times are right, and to the offices of your legislators, locally and at state and national levels. Be inspired by the kids from FL who are 100% committed to gun sanity and safety. Be inspired by the outpouring of rage and resistance to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the borders, in which babies and children are being taken from parents. Be inspired by the courage of all who are speaking out, marching, refusing to be silenced. Be bold and outspoken in speaking truth to power.

(7) MUTE TRUMP’S LIES. Don’t give Trump’s tweets, rantings, and self-indulgence center stage. Marginalize his voice. Call his lies what they are: LIES. If you have to quote him to make a point, make clear to your readers/listeners that whatever it was Trump said is a LIE being used by him malevolently to sow confusion.

(8) BRIDGE DIFFERENCES. Do your best to speak truthfully and candidly to people who don’t agree with you about what is happening, whether they like Trump or not. Speak truthfully, and invite them to do the same. Don’t argue, much less fight, with those who disagree. But hold your own perspective — and never, ever, make peace with your own oppression — or that of others.

(9) TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. Don’t disregard your own needs for fun and fellowship, or for spiritual renewal, in order to keep on keeping on. Take some time everyday simply to relax. You don’t need to apologize for taking some time away. Get restored whenever you need to. Don’t run yourself into the ground. You’re too important! We need you — and you need yourself.

(10) TAKE HEART. Consider the truth and wisdom in the poetry of Renny Golden, who wrote that “struggle is a name for hope” and take heart! We are in this struggle together. You are not alone.” – Carter Heyward
 
In addition, here are some resources that are working to help those in detention, who can always use some help:

Here’s How You Can Help Fight Family Separation at the Border

Lawyers, translators, donations, protest.

Members of a caravan of migrants from Central America wait to enter the United States border and customs facility, where they are expected to apply for asylum, in Tijuana, Mexico April 29, 2018.Members of a caravan of migrants from Central America wait to enter the United States border and customs facility, where they are expected to apply for asylum, in Tijuana, Mexico, on April 29.

This list is being updated with new information. Last updated Tuesday, June 19, 2018, 12:58 p.m.

If you’re horrified by news of families being separated at the borders, here’s a bit of news you can use.

First, the policy: It helps to be incredibly clear on what the law is, and what has and has not changed. When Donald Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders say that the policy of separating children from their parents upon entry is a law passed by Democrats that Democrats will not fix, they are lying.

There are two different policies in play, and both are new.

First is the new policy that any migrant family entering the U.S. without a border inspection will be prosecuted for this minor misdemeanor. The parents get incarcerated and that leaves children to be warehoused. The parents then typically plead guilty to the misdemeanor and are given a sentence of the few days they served waiting for trial. But then when the parents try to reunite with their children, they are given the runaround—and possibly even deported, alone. The children are left in HHS custody, often without family.

Second is a new and apparently unwritten policy that even when the family presents themselves at a border-entry location, seeking asylum—that is, even when the family is complying in all respects with immigration law—the government is snatching the children away from their parents. Here, the government’s excuse seems to be that they want to keep the parents in jail-like immigration detention for a long time, while their asylum cases are adjudicated. The long-standing civil rights case known as Flores dictates that they aren’t allowed to keep kids in that kind of detention, so the Trump administration says they have to break up the families. They do not have to break up families — it is the government’s new choice to jail people with credible asylum claims who haven’t violated any laws that is leading to the heartbreaking separations you’ve been reading about.

So that is what is happening. Whether or not that is what the Bible demands is the subject of a different column. Good explainers on what is and is not legal detention of immigrants and asylum-seekers can also be found here and here and here.

Next: Which groups to support.

• The ACLU is litigating this policy in California.

• If you’re an immigration lawyer, the American Immigration Lawyers Association will be sending around a volunteer list for you to help represent the women and men with their asylum screening, bond hearings, ongoing asylum representation, etc. Please sign up.

Al Otro Lado is a binational organization that works to offer legal services to deportees and migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, including deportee parents whose children remain in the U.S.

CARA—a consortium of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association—provides legal services at family detention centers.

The Florence Project is an Arizona project offering free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody.

Human Rights First is a national organization with roots in Houston that needs help from lawyers too.

Kids in Need of Defense works to ensure that kids do not appear in immigration court without representation, and to lobby for policies that advocate for children’s legal interests. Donate here.

The Legal Aid Justice Center is a Virginia-based center providing unaccompanied minors legal services and representation.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras is an organization that provides humanitarian aid and shelter to migrants on their way to the U.S.

RAICES is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas offering free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families. Donate here and sign up as a volunteer here.

• The Texas Civil Rights Project is seeking “volunteers who speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ and have paralegal or legal assistant experience.”

Together Rising is another Virginia-based organization that’s helping provide legal assistance for 60 migrant children who were separated from their parents and are currently detained in Arizona.

• The Urban Justice Center’s Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project is working to keep families together.

Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution.

• Finally, ActBlue has aggregated many of these groups under a single button.

This list isn’t comprehensive, so let us know what else is happening. And please call your elected officials, stay tuned for demonstrations, hug your children, and be grateful if you are not currently dependent on the basic humanity of U.S. policy.

Update, June 17, 2018: Thanks to readers who updated us with more organizations fighting this policy. Other good work is being done by the following:

CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations project offers case assistance to hundreds of smaller organizations all over the country that do direct services for migrant families and children.

American Immigrant Representation Project (AIRP), which works to secure legal representation for immigrants.

CASA in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and Pennsylvania. They litigate, advocate, and help with representation of minors needing legal services.

Freedom for Immigrants (Formerly CIVIC), which has been a leading voice opposing immigrant detention.

• The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center represents all of the immigrant kids placed by the government in foster care in Michigan (one of the biggest foster care placement states). About two-thirds are their current clients are separation cases, and they work to find parents and figure out next steps.

• The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is doing work defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education.

• The Women’s Refugee Commission has aggregated five actions everyone can take that go beyond donating funds.

• And finally, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)—which organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons—just filed suit challenging the cancellation of the Central American Minors program.

Update, June 18, 2018, 8:19 p.m.: Listed below are more organizations that are helping separated families at the border. Thanks again to readers who sent in information:

Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative has a guide to organizations throughout Texas that provide direct legal services to separated children. Also listed within the guide are resources for local advocates, lawyers, and volunteers.

Immigrant Justice Corps is the nation’s only fellowship program dedicated to expanding access to immigration representation. Some IJC fellows work at the border, and others work in New York, providing direct representation in immigration court to parents and children resettled in New York City and surrounding counties.

• The Kino Border Initiative provides humanitarian aid to refugees and migrants on both sides of the border. They have a wish-list of supplies they can use to help migrants and families staying in the communities they serve.

The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network supports undocumented immigrants detained in Aurora, Colorado.

Several companies also match donations—if your company does this, you need to provide the tax ID of the charity you have given to, which is usually listed on these organizations’ websites.

Update, June 19, 2018, 12:58 p.m.: The National Immigrant Justice Center represents and advocates for detained adults and children facing removal, supports efforts at the border, and represents parents in the interior who have been separated from their families as a result of aggressive enforcement.

 
 
Dahlia Lithwick, Margo Schlanger, The Slate, June 19, 2018 
How you can fight family-separation at the border

Finding Our Way in Life

John 17:11-15


Do you enjoy working puzzles? I do. One kind of puzzle I like is called a “maze”. You each have a copy of a maze and here is a big one like you have (put maze on easel).

You may have worked a maze puzzle before, but to solve the puzzle, you take your pencil and begin where it says, “start” here (put pen on START) and try to find an open path in the puzzle that will lead you all the way to the picture of Jesus. The trick is you are not allowed to cross over any lines! Of course, you aren’t allowed to cross over any lines. That would be cheating! A maze puzzle like this can be very difficult. Sometimes it can make you very upset! Traveling through this maze, you will often have to change the direction you are going. For instance, you may find that the path you have chosen leads to a dead end – like this (show a dead end on maze on easel). When this happens, you just have to back up and start again. When the puzzle gets too difficult, you may need someone to help you, like your dad or mom. Even though finding the right path that leads to the finish may be difficult, still you will feel great when you finally reach the goal!

Growing up and making your way through life is usually a lot like finding your way through a maze. Almost every day you have to make important choices and decisions and it is sometimes difficult to know what do – which way to go – which choice to make – who you want to be friends with. Shall I put off my homework? Do I help at home with the chores? Can I ignore someone who says hurtful things about me, or fight back? Worse even – should I take up for a classmate who is being bullied or hurt – or pretend not to see? Shall I play football? Join the band? Can I say ‘no’ if people try to get me to do something I know is wrong? Sometimes we may make a bad choice – choose the wrong path, and end up at a dead end.

When that happens, we have to back up and start over again. Maybe apologize for our mistake or pay the consequences for not doing our chores or homework. Life isn’t easy and it can sometimes be very frustrating when we don’t know which way to turn.

Jesus knew that growing up and living life in this world is difficult – remember he was once a boy, too. That is why he prayed to God for his disciples when he knew that the time had come for him to leave this world.

And he prayed for us too, in this prayer:

“I am about to come to you, but my children will still be here in this world. Protect them, Father, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one. Protect them from whoever wants to hurt them.” (John 17:11-15)

Think about that – Jesus is asking God to watch after us – you and me – as we grow up and make our way in the world. This is pretty fantastic, isn’t it?

So, how do we find our way in this world?

We put our trust in God, our Creator, to show us the way, as Jesus ask God to do. We have his Word, the Bible, to help us. And we also have our parents and teachers and loved ones to help us. Today is Mother’s Day, when we say a special ‘thank you’ for our mothers and all they do for us (so don’t forget to tell your mother “thank you” and that you love her!)

Any time we don’t know which way to turn, we can also talk to God in prayer and ask God to guide and protect us. It may not be easy, but with the Creator of the universe leading the way, we know that we will never get lost. We will find our way through the mazes of life and always arrive safely home!

Let us pray:

Dear God, as we search for the path that will lead us safely through this world, we place our trust in you and ask for your guidance and protection. And we thank you for our mothers and fathers, and all those who help show us the way. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
 
[1] Adapted from ‘Maze Puzzle’, Sermons4Kids.com
 

Delivered at Formation Eucharist, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 13 May 2018

Jesus Prays for Us!

John 17:6-19

Eternal and ever blessed God, grant this day light to the minds that hunger for truth, and peace to the hearts that yearn for rest. Grant strength to those who have hard tasks to do, and power to those who have temptations to face. Grant unto all within this place the ability to find the secret of your presence, and to go forth from here in the strength of the Lord. Amen.

Today we celebrate two important and seemingly very different things – one – Mother’s Day – is a secular sort of “made up” holiday that indeed fulfills a wonderful purpose: to remember, honor and thank our mothers, whether alive or not, whether biological or not – that woman or those women who love, nurture, and guide us through life – often from our first breath of air.

The second is a truly sacred day – Ascension Day – the day we mark Jesus’ ascension from earth to be with God – after he appeared several times to his disciples following his resurrection. After Ascension Day, no one sees Jesus again, but in his loving prayer in the gospel today, he asks God to be with us and protect us – to show us the way – and so God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts and minds – if we will but seek it and listen.

Much of what we human beings experience involves our emotions. Whether we like it or not, we respond to everything emotionally. Our emotions are involved when we experience love, hurt, anxiety, stress, anger, jealousy, depression, happiness, joy. The most important growing experiences that we will encounter as we travel along the journey we call life, are emotional experiences and feelings. Certainly, they affect our mind and body, but they really reside in our spirit: that part of us that we Christians believe is eternal and connects to other spirits – and to the Holy Spirit of God. Our minds cannot fully comprehend the spiritual depth and breadth of our lives, for it is woven into our very nature – and we believe it is that part of us that exists before and after our life on earth.

The Gospel of John, from which today’s reading comes, is very different from the other three gospels. Written some sixty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection, it is less a narrative and more philosophical; in many ways, it seeks to summarize all of Jesus’ teachings and work. In John, after washing their feet and sharing the Passover feast with his disciples, Jesus began a long series of sermons, known as the ‘final discourses’. In them, he reiterates again and again that God is love (1 John 4:8), and we are to love and serve one another (John 13:34-35); that he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5); and that we are to draw nourishment and direction from his teachings and examples.

Jesus reminds us that if we follow him, we cannot be ‘of this world’. If the world hates us, hurts us, demeans and wounds us, we must know it hated him first, and that we are part of a different kingdom – God’s Kingdom. Following these discourses, Jesus prayed. In the other gospels Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and we are told he prayed for strength for what he knew lay ahead. In John, however, this prayer, which we read today, is almost entirely for us – his disciples, for those he loved then and for those he loves today – you and me!

In the discourses, he promised the disciples that God would send them a companion – the spirit of truth – to guide and protect them, and so in this final prayer, he fervently asks God to do this.

He prayed, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they kept your word. Now they know everything you have given me is from you; of the world that you gave to me I have given to them, and they received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours and yours are mine; and I have glorified them.” (John 17:6-11)

Jesus continued to pray for the protection and unity of his followers, but then his prayer shifted to praying for all of his followers in times to come.

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes, I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:14-19)

In the years following Jesus’ death and ascension, his disciples would endure difficult and painful days as they spread his word throughout the known civilized world. They would be imprisoned, tortured and beaten, murdered; they would be alone and reviled. But we can only believe that the power of ‘the Companion of Truth’ that God sent – the Holy Spirit – was so strongly with them, so vibrant and clear, that they all endured, prevailed, and made sure that the work of Jesus of Nazareth changed the world forever.

We are all well aware that our world today is far from the Kingdom of God, but with all its flaws, it is closer to that Kingdom than it was 2000 years ago. Here we are, followers of Jesus, still facing difficult journeys of life, still encountering hate, deception, greed and consumerism, lust and depravity, violence and war, poverty and despair, addictions and destroyers, evil things and evil doings, just as Jesus acknowledged we would in his prayer. Each of us carries, in some way, the marks and scars of battling our way from birth to death in this world.

But, we, too, still have the Companion, the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth, the God of love which protects and guides us, and we reach The Companion through our spirits, usually through our emotions. I have come to realize that what one truly feels in their heart is more real, more true, than most things we can study or read. We can use prayer, meditation, intuition, dreams, sudden ‘ah ha’ moments. All of these can reveal the Holy Spirit, can speak to us, guide our ways, just as we are taught in Matthew:

seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you”. (Matthew 7:7)

This, and this alone, gives us the strength and clarity of vision to not be of this world – to turn the other cheek, to walk away from conflict, to be the Samaritan who crosses the road to help and serve others in need, to face pain, illness and suffering with hope; to return hate with love, lies with truth, deception with reality, vengeance with forgiveness, and evil with goodness and love.

In short, our work is in this world. Jesus left physically, but we remain. What he began, we must seek to carry on. And Jesus left us the Holy Spirit, or Companion Protector so we may care for and serve others, love and forgive our brothers and sisters. We are promised no hedge, no short cuts, no escape routes, no end to the battle until we at last cross the River of Death to enter, once again, Eternity – and realize Death is not the victor. We are here, and we must stay here for a time to do his work.

Ultimately, we will always find the sheltering arms of God protecting us. Life is not easy, and if it is, we are probably not doing our jobs. But the reward is great and the Truth and Love of God will keep us strong!

So, take a minute today to look ahead to the coming week; read the prayer that Jesus prayed in John. Focus on how Jesus makes us holy for the sake of oneness with our fellow believers, and gives us courage along the journey, no matter how difficult the path. Ask yourself how God might use you to bring love to our broken, hurting world. How can God use you to transform the pain and darkness of our earthly life and turn it into the promise of resurrection and new life for others, as well as ourselves? Consider how Jesus guides you through his Holy Spirit, when you feel lost; don’t shut out your deepest emotions and feelings, – listen to them! Remember that Jesus prayed for and prepared a way for his disciples, and that includes us!

God answered that prayer then, and does so now!

Jesus’way is

‘the way, the truth, and the life”. (John 14:6)

Let us all seek to follow him.

Let us pray:

“Holy Father, keep us in your name … that we may be one … Sanctify us with the truth of your words. As you sent Christ into the world, so send us into the world, consecrated in truth, armed with your protection and love, and the good news of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. Help us to turn our lives toward bringing the fullness of God’s Kingdom to all, sustained by the hopes and belief that when we reach the end of our lives, there will be no fear, no sadness, but real joy as we hear your trumpet sounding for us on the other side. Amen.

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 13 May 2018

What Is Elder Abuse And What Can We Do About It?

I recently attended a seminar on ‘elder abuse’. The severity and pervasiveness of this issue surprised me, and so I am passing along some key points from the seminar which I hope will be enlightening and helpful to all.

A recent U.S. Census reported that over 45 million Americans are 65 or older.[1] As ‘baby boomers’ age, elders become an ever-increasing portion of the U.S. population. No longer do families necessarily live near one another, resulting in a need for non-familial persons and resources to care for aging relatives. These resources may take the form of ‘care givers’, distantly-related ‘care takers’, continuous care facilities, retirement communities, or nursing homes.

All too often, these persons of facilities regard their work as just a ‘tough job’ and have no real interest in those they are caring for. Unfortunately, statistics show that 1 in 10 elder Americans Age 60+ experienced abuse, and many experienced it in multiple forms of physical, mental or financial abuse for as long as a year.[2]

WHAT IS ELDER ABUSE?
Elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that lead to, or may lead to, harm to that vulnerable elder. Physical abuse, neglect, emotional or psychological abuse, verbal abuse and threats, financial abuse and exploitation, sexual abuse, and abandonment are considered forms of elder abuse. In many states, self-neglect is also considered mistreatment.

Who is at Risk?
Elder abuse can occur anywhere – in the home, in nursing homes, or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socio-economic groups, cultures, and races. Based on available information, women and “older” elders are most likely to be victimized. Dementia is a significant risk factor. Mental health and substance abuse issues –of both abusers and victims – are risk factors. Isolation can also contribute to risk.

  • 90% of abusers are family members and friends
  • 1 in 10 seniors are victims of elder abuse
  • 1 in 15 cases are actually reported to authorities
  • 50% of adults with Alzheimer’s are victims of elder abuse
  • Victims are primarily females, but also older males
  • People of ‘non-normal’ ethnicity, orientation, social-economic or religious backgrounds

 
TYPES OF ELDER ABUSE

  • Physical abuse: Use of force to threaten or physically injure an elder
  • Emotional abuse: Verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain, or distress to an elder
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or otherwise coerced upon an elder, including anyone who is unable to grant consent
  • Exploitation: Theft, fraud, misuse or neglect of authority, and use of undue influence as a lever to gain control over an older person’s money or property
  • Neglect: A caregiver’s failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elder’s safety, physical, or emotional needs
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a frail or vulnerable elder by anyone with a duty of care
  • Self-neglect: An inability to understand the consequences of one’s own actions or inaction, which leads to, or may lead to harm or endangerment; excludes a person mentally competent to make and understand consequences of decisions

Warning Signs

  • Physical Abuse: Slap marks, unexplained bruises, restraint marks, most pressure marks, and certain types of burns or blisters, such as cigarette burns – – change in physical appearance
  • Neglect by caregiver: Pressure ulcers, filth, lack of medical care, isolation, malnutrition or dehydration
  • Emotional Abuse: Withdrawal from normal activities, verbal aggression, unexplained changes in alertness, or other unusual behavioral changes – change in personality
  • Sexual Abuse: Bruises around the breasts or genital area, genital or anal pain or bleeding, difficulty walking or sitting, torn/stained or bloody underclothing, and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
  • Self-Neglect: refusal or inability to provide for self, filth, hoarding, over or under medicating, isolation
  • Financial Abuse/Exploitation: Sudden change in finances and accounts, altered wills and trusts, unusual bank withdrawals, checks written as “loans” or “gifts” and loss of property
  • Any changes in home environment

[3]

Consent & Capacity
Legally, a person who periodically provides assistance, by law, are termed caretakers. This person has no legal responsibility to provide this care. A caregiver is legally responsible for the care of the elder; normally, this care is given under a contract. Neglect or abuse by the caregiver must be reported to either the police, the facility, Department of Aging or the appropriate ombudsman.

An elder victim can only offer consent when they have:

  • Ability to understand and make knowledgeable decisions.
  • Knowledge of the true facts/situation
  • Ability to act freely and voluntarily

Consent is not valid if obtained by force, lies, coercion, manipulation; any condition that illustrates the elder does not have the mental capacity to make decisions.

Who Are Abusers?

  • Intimate partners
  • Adult children or other family members
  • Caregivers (paid or non-paid)
  • Others in position of authority over the elder person

How big is the problem?
Research indicates that more than one in ten elders may experience some type of abuse, but only one in 23 cases are reported. This means that very few elders who have been abused get the help they need. One thing is for certain: elder abuse can happen to any older individual – your neighbor, your loved one – it can even happen to you.
 
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT ELDER ABUSE?

  • Report Your Concerns – Remember: Most cases of elder abuse go undetected. Don’t assume that someone has already reported a suspicious situation. To report suspected abuse in the community, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency. For state reporting numbers, visit the NCEA website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.
  • If You or Someone You Know Is in a Life-Threatening Situation or Immediate Danger, contact 911 or the local police or sheriff.
  • To Report Suspected Abuse in a Nursing Home or Long-Term Care Facility contact the Attorney General’s Adult Protective Services or the Long Term Care Ombudsman at http://www.ltc.ohio.gov

Remember: You do not need to prove that abuse is occurring; it is up to the professionals to make a determination.
 
HOW TO PREVENT ELDER ABUSE
The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study found that for every elder abuse case known to programs and agencies, 23.5 were unknown. In the same study, they examined different types of abuse and found for each case of financial exploitation that reached authorities, 44 cases went unreported. The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse comes to the attention of the authorities.[4]

  • Report Suspected Mistreatment to your local Adult Protective Services agency or law enforcement. Although a situation may have already been investigated, if you believe circumstances are getting worse, continue to speak out.
  • Keep in Contact – Talk with your older friends, neighbors, and relatives. Maintaining communication will help decrease isolation, a risk factor for mistreatment. It will also give the elder a chance to talk about any problems they may be experiencing.
  • Be Aware of the Possibility of Abuse – Look around and take note of what may be happening with your older neighbors and acquaintances. Do they seem lately to be withdrawn, nervous, fearful, sad, or anxious, especially around certain people, when they have not seemed so in the past?
  • Contact the Ohio Adult Protective Services to identify local programs and sources of support, such as Meals on Wheels. These programs help elders to maintain health, well-being, and independence – a good defense against abuse.
  • Volunteer – There are many local opportunities to become involved in programs that provide assistance and support for elders.
  • Observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – Elder abuse is a global issue. Contact your local aging services organizations to find out how your community will observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (commemorated on June 15 every year). Help to raise awareness by talking about the issue.
  • Learn More About the Issue – Visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website, www/ncea.aoa.gov.

More research is needed, but it is clear that elder abuse is a major public health problem with significant impact on millions of people. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) is at the forefront of the national fight against elder abuse.
 
Note: this article was adapted from a presentation delivered by Sylvia Pla-Raith, Director of the Elder Justice Unit of the Department of Consumer Protection, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, at the Giving Voice to LGTBTQ Older Adults Conference, held at North Congregational Church, Columbus, OH.
 

The Rev deniray mueller

 
[1]      U.S. Census Facts for Features: Older Americans Month: 2013
[2]      Acierno R, Hernandez MA, Amstadter AB, Resnick HS, Steve K, Muzzy W, et al. (2010). Prevalence and correlates of emotional, physical, sexual, and financial abuse and potential neglect in the United States: The national elder mistreatment study. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 292-297
[3]      National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Late Life, Abuse in Late Life Wheel, 2006
[4]      Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc., Weill Cornell Medical Center of Cornell University. New York City Department for the Aging. (2011) Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study. New York: Author. National Center on Elder Abuse, Westat, Inc. (1998). The national elder abuse incidence study: Final

OF One Heart and Soul

Acts 4:32-35

This is Formation Eucharist Sunday, I am going to start the ‘grown-up’[1] sermon with some of the points that I made to the children in the first service.

This is the first Sunday after Easter, and Jesus is no longer there to lead the disciples or the people. They are all sad and kind of lost and missing Him. We heard in the Bible reading from the Acts of the Apostles today that the people who followed him began to live together like one huge family. The way they could share stories of Jesus so they wouldn’t miss him so much. Stories always remind us of a person who is no longer with us, and makes us feel better. In this new big family they created, no one owned anything, everything anyone had belonged to everyone. They shared food and clothes and all their possessions. That is pretty amazing!

Think for a minute about all your toys and things that you like. Can you imagine sharing them with every other child? Think about how your little brother or sister may get peanut butter in the hair of your favorite doll, or break your favorite car or truck. That doesn’t sound like very much fun, does it?

Well, one of the main things Jesus taught us was that we are to care for and share with each other. Do you remember the verse in Matthew:

Do unto others are you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12)

We all want to be good followers of Jesus, showing other people the love of Jesus. Sometimes we do a good job of it, and other times not so much. But you know what? God loves us anyway. Isn’t that great? As long as we try to be good examples, even when we don’t quite make it, we are all beloved children of God, even if we are 95 years old!

And Jesus asks us to share. I have a flower for each of you. Aren’t they pretty? Flowers are the sign that Spring is here(or at least we hope) – and another sign that, like all living things, Jesus rose from the dead. Lots of people really like flowers because they brighten up a room, smell good, and make people happy.

Don’t you like to be happy? Who doesn’t like to be happy?

So, like Jesus taught us, we should share with others. I want you to take a flower, and when you go back to your seat, give it to someone that you would like to make happy. It could be your parents or sister or brother, or maybe someone that you think could really use it to cheer them up.

This is what sharing is about and what our community here at Saint John’s should be like: some place where we care for each other and share our love. We hope, by doing that, we can help the whole world to learn to love and share.

So, pick out your flower – there are so many kinds in the vase. Take one that makes you happy, then give it to someone else – and make them happy!

Sometimes children, and adults, don’t grasp the significance of striving to live as one large family. But, as we heard in the reading from Acts, that is what we have been commanded to do. And I would add to that, that we need to live together in a Christian community which lives out the teachings of Jesus. We all need to put our faith into action.

But, what does “faith in action look like?” Fortunately, we have the acts of the early church recorded for us in Scripture alongside the words and deeds of Jesus in the gospels. So, if we want to see what we ought to be doing today and why, we only need to look at Scripture. In the fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we heard:

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

When the early followers of Jesus, before they were even known as ‘Christians’ lived together, they were a small number and it was easy for them to do this. But there are fewer communes and intentional communities today, an exception being the group of Episcopalians and AmeriCorp interns who work and live together in Franklinton, which follow these instructions. Most of us can’t go as far as that in our modern lives. We don’t all feel called to pool our money and move in together. But this picture of the early church should still move us to be a certain kind of people. These verses in Acts 4 should challenge us to carefully consider what it does mean for us to be a community that shares life together – taking care of one another and those less fortunate – the homeless, the abandoned, those suffering.

When we pray the Prayers of the People, we ask

“comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles”.

We pray this weekly, but what do we do to help God accomplish this? How do we reflect God’s love in our personal and communal lives?

So, what does it mean for us to be a life-sharing community? First of all, it means that we embrace a common purpose. Acts 4:32 tells us that

All the believers were one in heart and mind.

A ‘Christian’ sense of purpose. A determination to spread the gospel of Jesus, and try to live into his teachings and commandments. And very casually inserted in the middle of these passages is the reward for living a shared-life:

And much grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:33)

So today we must ask ourselves who are Christians living here in America: “How are we reflecting this model in our churches today.” Are we preaching and singing one thing, and doing the opposite? Is the Kingdom of God furthered by our service? I would think, if this were so, there would be great power in the church today. There would be powerful witness to the resurrection of Christ in the life of the church. There would be great grace flowing from her to a hurt, rebellious and dying world. There would be people added daily to church membership. There might even be true miracles in the church. But if our churches are divided by race, riches, and culture, then what are we preaching? Should we expect great power in a church such as this? It seems to me that we need to seriously reconsider who we are as a church. Another word for reconsider is “repent.” Do we really want a powerful spirit-filled and led church, or are we happy just to be a fading mirage of what the church once was?

We all need to search our hearts and decide what we want to be, personally, and what we want Saint John’s to be for our community and world.

Let us pray together as the children prayed.

Dear God, you have created a world that is full of beauty, which you tell us to share with others. Thank you for sharing this beautiful world with us! Sometimes, when we don’t feel like sharing, forgive us. Help us to be nice to all those whom we meet and show them the love of God that you showed us!  Amen.

 
[1] Emphasize with fingers in air
 
Note: except for scripture, text in italics is part of the children’s sermon, “Jesus Tells Us to Share”, Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 8 April 2018
 
 
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 8 April 2018

Jesus Tells Us To Share

Acts 4:32-35

This is the first Sunday after Easter, and Jesus is no longer there to lead the disciples or the people. They are all sad and kind of lost and missing Him. We heard in the Bible reading from the Acts of the Apostles today that the people who followed him began to live together like one huge family. That way they could share stories of Jesus so they wouldn’t miss him so much. Stories always remind us of a person who is no longer with us, and make us feel better. In this new big family they created, no one owned anything, everything anyone had belonged to everyone. They shared food and clothes and all their possessions. That is pretty amazing!

Think for a minute about all your toys and things that are special to you. Can you imagine sharing them with every other child? Think about how your little brother or sister may get peanut butter in the hair of your favorite doll, or break your favorite car or truck. That doesn’t sound like very much fun, does it?

Well, one of the main things Jesus taught us was that we are to care for and share with each other. Do you remember the verse in Matthew:

Do unto others are you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12)

We all want to be good followers of Jesus, showing other people the love of Jesus. Sometimes we do a good job of it, and other times not so much. But you know what? God loves us anyway. Isn’t that great? As long as we try to be good examples, even when we don’t quite make it, we are all beloved children of God, even if we are 95 years old!

And Jesus asks us to share. I have a flower for each of you. Aren’t they pretty? Flowers are the sign that Spring is here (or at least we hope) – and another sign that, like all living things, Jesus rose from the dead. Lots of people really like flowers because they brighten up a room, smell good, and make people happy.

Don’t you like to be happy? Who doesn’t like to be happy?

So, like Jesus taught us, we should share with others. I want you to take a flower, and when you go back to your seat, give it to someone that you would like to make happy. It could be your parents or sister or brother, or maybe someone that you think could really use it to cheer them up.

This is what sharing is about and what our community here at Saint John’s should be like: some place where we care for each other and share our love. We hope, by doing that, we can help the whole world to learn to love and share.

So, pick out your flower – there are so many kinds in the vase. Take one that makes you happy, then give it to someone else – and make them happy!

And then we will pray.

(children pick out flowers)

 
 

Let us pray.

Dear God, you have created a world that is full of beauty, which you tell us to share with others. Thank you for sharing this beautiful world with us! Sometimes, when we don’t feel like sharing, forgive us. Help us to be nice to all those whom we meet and show them the love of God that you showed us!  Amen.
 
 
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 8 April 2018