By Rev. David Rommereim
Long ago at Trinity Wall Street, Professor Ann Ullinov from Union Theological Seminary spoke about "the other." She reminded the 375 Christian and Jewish leaders about the need to place a value on the "other." It was a seminar on race, racism, and the unique American patters of historic immigration. Her voice was clear. She said, "each of us has been an 'other.'" She coined the term, "other-wise" to remind us that there is wisdom in the other. Alone we are idiosyncratic and unhelpful. Dr. Ullinov challenged us to get poised to practice our faith in the midst of those who may be otherwise, whether conservative, liberal, or progressive. What is at stake is not the victory from any particular side but the integrity of faith itself. Faith demands the "otherwise."
My favorite Christian Biblical scholar, Dr. Walter Brueggemann writes: "Through worship, prophetic word, and protest, we are called to expose oppressive social realities and insist: It could be otherwise. The good scholar brings another wisdom from the memory of 'other'." His is "otherwise" from the Prophetic tradition of our faith.
Each of these theologians, Ullinov and Brueggemann, capture the vital force of Jesus' ministry imposed upon you and me because of Baptism. Dr. Brueggemann has located the Jesus often lost in the church. That is, Jesus as prophet. His voice reminds us that worship begins revealing the sounds of the prophetic word that we are able to see then when we practice justice and utilize the soul force of Agape/divine Love.
The primary role of the prophet, writes Dr. Obrey Hendricks, "Is one who effects social and political change in a society." When the inequities became inhuman and without hope for those on the margins, the prophet is used by G*d to dismantle what has become anti-G*d. The prophets' ministry allows us to see the sounds of injustice and its reciprocal violence on human community.
Many people in our community find those words from Dr. Brueggemann hard to listen to. Many of us shut off our ears when someone speaks about the need to oppose oppressive social realities. We want the meek and mild Jesus. Others think we must separate religion and politics. However, this past Wednesday at the Lent Vigil #1, there were 30 persons who engaged in a public conversation about the role of the church and politics. The energy was enlightened.
The Vigil is using the book Politics of Jesus, written by Obrey Hendricks. The conversation was safe and hospitable to those who otherwise didn't know each other before the night began. We learned how to correctly use the word "politics" without quickly globing onto rhetorical clichés. We learned that Jesus is a public prophet and shepherd. The gospels are full of Jesus' prophetic ministry among us.
Those in attendance remembered that Jesus understood his very being to be a partnership with Adonai/G*d. Once the prophet receives the call to speak majestically for the renewal of Divine presence in the life of the community, then inequity is noticed, injustice is attended to, and love becomes the driving force to all private & public behavior.
If you want to continue this Lent Vigil in a dialogue on these vital issues of the faith, then begin on Sunday at 10:45 for public worship. Our growing community wants you there. Then, come on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. for pizza dinner. The Lent Conversation begins at 7 p.m..
Jesus' prophetic ministry is all around us even if it seems otherwise. Yet, perhaps to see the sounds of his prophetic work we need to work together.
I remain living hope,
Rev. David H. Rommereim
by Rev. David Rommereim
When we think of seasons we do not think about church or schedules for special mid-week services. We think about the sun, clouds, snow, or the wind that brings good waves on to the shores of Coney Island or along Shore Road. Lately we understand more about "global warming" and our responsibility to curb our fossil fuel consumption because of the violent changes in weather.
Yet, the season of Lent is one of the great opportunities for Christians; it is an opportunity to focus on yourself, your faith, and your commitment with God and neighbors in the process of changing a disheveled society. Worship with your neighbors, friends, and strangers will give you health.
Twenty to fifty years ago, the tradition of Lent had something to do with giving up something. That is, you had to give up smoking, drinking, chocolate, jellybeans, or whatever during the five weeks of Lent. This process was to prove your piety and work on your discipline to increase your faith.
The discipline did work. You are a stronger Christian because of it; giving something up was probably good for your health and, thereby, good for your soul.
When I gave up something, I thought I had a chance to "get right with God." That is what Lent meant for me. However, behind 'getting right with God' there was a subtler agenda. I wanted and needed to control my world; I wanted to control the politics and social engagement; I knew who was right and who was wrong. Moreover, I was usually right. Each of us thinks of ourselves as "right." Lent asks us to evaluate those assumptions.
What I learned, however, through my 61 Lent experiences, was that "getting right with God" never produced certainty; it only produced faith. Even though I wanted to be certain about the church I chose, the religion I was committed to, and the theology I was called to herald, Lent asked me to question basic assumptions. What I actually received was a better understanding of following, looking, listening, and moving with God as a partner rather than an antagonist.
The best Lent I ever had came when I learned how to lose myself and discover that there is more to life than my little world. I learned that the world I know is more than I think; I learned that the God of my ancestors is as distant as the stars and as intimate as each breath; The 61 years of practicing Lent taught me to broaden my perspective and the way I perceive the world as I practice the Christian Way in these times.
The French writer, Helene Cixous, in Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, said "We don't know we are alive as long as we haven't encountered death...and it (the encounter with death) is an act of grace." Perhaps that is why we begin Lent by placing the Ashes on the foreheads to remember that "we are dust and unto dust we shall return". It is normal to remember that we are mortal. This Ash Wednesday, I remembered that it was one year to the moment my father died. Lent is a completely new arena when your Dad dies on the first of its 50 days. It is almost liberating.
The longer I live in the city, the urban concrete landscape, I am led to remember that you and I borrow the earth for our brief stay here (four score and ten+ years), even if the earth does look rather stilted in concrete. Yet, ashes are only the beginning of our pilgrimage.
Each week this Lent we will open a door to the "Prophet Jesus." We will look at this amazing epoch of a new way of understanding God. We will look at the teachings of Jesus and his amazing truth telling wisdom. I invite you to these events each Wednesday during Lent for a NY Pizza at 6:30 pm. Then at 7:00, we will discuss the teachings and ministry of the Jesus who has a prophetic calling to the well-being of God's earth.
There are no requirements for Lent. In fact, the purpose of this Lent pilgrimage is to receive a blessing ~ the renewal of our soul and the satisfaction of living gratefully - a most amazing challenge for North Americans.
THE DANGER OF FOSSIL FUEL INDEPENDENCE
by Rev. Robert Emerick & Rev. David Rommereim
IMAGINE THIS – 150, or maybe just 80, years from now: the fossil fuel sources in the U.S. are almost entirely gone because, back in 2013, we chose to pursue a policy of “energy independence,” and in the years following 2013, we drilled and mined and hydro-fracked everywhere we possibly could. But, the good news - and the bad news - is that, even though our country’s fossil fuels are almost gone, there are still productive fossil fuel sources in other nations. What choices will the U.S. face then?
At that point in time, Americans will face a horrible choice: either allow our economy to completely collapse, or send our armed forces to seize and occupy the fossil fuel sources in other countries. Certainly, other major military powers will try to seize the same sources. If we are not willing to have our economy collapse, we will sacrifice the lives of young Americans (and the lives of those fighting against us in the defense of their own nation), who will be sent to seize and occupy fossil fuel sources in other countries - indefinitely. Americans will be sending our children and grandchildren to injury and death so that that we can keep the heat and AC going in our homes.
Both of these choices are catastrophic – and avoidable. Clearly, we must find a way to spare future Americans this horrifying choice. The only way to spare our descendants this horrible choice is to establish a rational and moral energy policy - remaining in the world energy market while we use and develop clean, infinite, and safe sources of energy that do not poison our land, air, and water, and do not raise the price of food.
NOW IMAGINE THIS – 150, or maybe just 80, years from now: American armed forces will not have to sacrifice their lives just to heat and cool their parents’ and grandparents’ homes because, back in 2013, the U.S. decided to achieve energy independence by making the necessary investment in the research and use of infinite and clean energy sources. Can you imagine solar panels on every roof in America? Can you imagine wind, solar, geo-thermal, and yet undiscovered or undeveloped sources of infinite and clean energy powering our nation?
The policy of fossil fuel independence in the U.S. sets the stage for perpetual wars of unimaginable dimensions. Are we willing to put our descendants in such great danger? Let’s not exchange the lives and well-being of our great-great-great grandchildren for our own short-term financial gain. Instead, let’s invest in our descendants’ security.
Rev. Robert Emerick, Pastor, Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, Brookyn
Rev. David Rommereim, Pastor, Lutheran Church of The Good Shepherd, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
by Rev. David Rommereim
For the last week, I have served on a jury for a civil case in Brooklyn's Supreme Court. It was good to see our legal system work with dignity, proper etiquette, and standardized procedure.
For many who have served a jury trial you will remember that most of your time is spent waiting. First, your fellow jurors are quiet. Then slowly personal stories are shared. As instructed, you never discuss the case until the proper time. Then, after a few stories, jurors return to the isolation of cell phones. For me, at that moment, I begin to let my mind wander with the dissonant notes attached to the word "justice."
As a pastoral theologian who pays attention to the Lutheran hermeneutic of sacred scripture I am fully vested in the fact that however pure our constitutional democracy and its rules of order are, they remain accountable to the ultimate sovereignty of G*d (malkuth shamayim). As people of faith, we are also spiritually and morally nurtured by the memory of the prophets (Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, John the Baptist, and Jesus). They restore the principles of fair and equitable relations in society through the actions of justice (mishpat).
As a juror, I wandered the memory-lane of the prophets who speak and act Divine mishpat. That is, I am a person dedicated to the public exposure of our prophetic faith. Therefore, I soulfully remember my experience as a white-man-of-privilege, leading congregations in the Bronx, Manhattan, Oakland, California, and Brooklyn. Through that experience I am fully aware that the mishpat (justice) of G*d has a racialized memory. That is, some, like me, have good come because of status. My opportunity story is distinguished through a white lens.
I am fully aware that I have to work hard for what I accomplish despite whiteness or any coded category of status. Yet, there are neighbors of mine, who, because of the color of their skin, have their "backs against the wall." Good comes to me often through the lens of my status as a white man. Good, for those whose backs are against the wall, comes after they have overcome an impediment to fulfill their soulful response to G*d (malkuth shamayim). I have learned that, as a white man, I must be honest with the conditions that offer me an opportunity not offered others. For some that seems to be old news. But, for most we remain in an hegemony of disparity in a racial dynamism of the American society. I must be honest (`emet) that the goal, as faithful stewards of Christian faith, is to heal the wounds of our racialized society.
During African History month, I always read Letter from a Birmingham Jail by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He wrote it while serving time for non-violent social resistance to the Jim Crow laws dividing our country. It is dated April 13, 1963. We have come a long way since 1963, but the lengthy letter specifically addresses my colleagues, white clergy. He challenges me to pay attention to the divine disclosure of justice where G*d is satisfied only when there is a complete restoration of relationship (mishpat).
So, my soulful wandering at this jury trial turns to wonder about God, self, and our common desire to "perform a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure the domestic tranquility." As you and I turn to the ritual season of Lent, we have an opportunity to be truthful (the Hebrew word is `emet - spoken as hemet). The grace filled glory is that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice" (M. L. King, Jr.).