January 31, 2019

Scattered notes from January…

On Friday the 4th I traveled to Redlands to see my mentor, John Townsend. John lives with Parkinson’s disease and it is far from easy for him, Carol (his wife), his daughters, his caregivers. Like so many diseases, Parkinson’s engulfs those who live with it in a web of struggle, frustration (sometimes desperation) and uncertainty. We all do well to acknowledge this difficulty and honor the courage of those who experience most directly…At the Ontario airport the TSA agent (working without pay) noted that I had not signed my passport. I thanked him for catching my error. He responded, “No worries, that’s why they pay me the big bucks. No wait, they actually aren’t paying me at all.” The government shutdown seems so unnecessary and so unfair. I can’t imagine what I would do if I were a federal employee caught in the current shutdown. We forget that many so-called “bureaucrats” are patriots and servants of the public good…On January 13th I was honored to preach and represent the Evergreen Baptist Association at Grace Baptist Church in San Jose as they said farewell to their Associate Pastor, Nathan Brittsan. I took “endings” as my theme for the day. Endings are as much a part of life as “beginnings” although beginnings tend to be viewed more favorably. The Bible is honest about endings portraying them as frequently difficult but also as opportunities to exercise faith and receive grace…At the Minister’s Council Retreat, President Jim Brenneman of ABSW talked about the spiritual power of the written text in the Older Testament. What I heard him saying is that there is a level at which the text itself is inspired, a gift of the Eternal One, but the greatest inspiration is found in what the text awakens in us. It is inspired in that it calls forth wonder, joy and reverence as well as faith, hope and love…At the January meeting of the Interfaith Council of Alameda County, The Reverend Paul Bains, Director of a wonderful service organization, Project WeHOPE (We Help Other People Excel) talked about the crisis of homelessness. “We didn’t get into this crisis overnight and we won’t get out of it overnight. The two most important needs right now are the construction of ELI (Extremely Low Income) housing and many efforts like shelters, safe car parks, tiny homes, etc., to keep people from dying on the streets.”…I spent Friday morning January 18th talking at a Doctor of Ministry seminar (led by Dean LeAnn Flesher) which emphasized the church’s role in the work of social justice about religious liberty. My main point was that religious liberty, as called forth by the First Amendment and embodied in the historic commitment of Baptists to freedom, is not the sum and substance of justice but is an essential component in the infrastructure of justice. The title of a recent book by Professor Nilay Saiya of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, says it well, Weapon of Peace: How Religious Liberty Combats Terrorism…The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II on the need to distinguish between being anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist: “I want to say, as clearly as I know how, that the humanity and the dignity of any person or people cannot in any way diminish the humanity and dignity of another person or another people. To hold fast to the image of God in every person is to insist that the Palestinian child is as precious as the Jewish child.”… I close with this prayer written by Dale Edmondson and Chuck Johnston for MLK Jr. Sunday, “Heavenly Father, Illuminate for us your will and your way. Open our hearts and minds, allow us to receive your spirit, so that we can hear, receive, understand, discern and accept your word. Amen.”

Peace,

Jim H.

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