Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Double Share

2 Kings 2:9-12

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10 He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

What would a “double share” of the spirit of a modern prophet or saint look like? The one who received a double share of the spirit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer would likely not rest while there were unjust governments in the world. A double share of Rosa Parks would mean resisting oppression wherever it appeared, and putting oneself in a position to resist it.

Twice the spirit of Malala Yousafzai could mean moving forward even in the face of certain death for the sake of others and one’s own self. Doubling the spirit of Mother Teresa would mean walking past no one in need, even as one fears and grieves the perceived absence of the Lord. A double share of the spirit of Pope Francis I might mean defying the unspoken traditions of your denomination to lift up your deeper understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A double share of the spirit of Jon Stewart means skewering the loud voices of our time, on all sides, that seek their own advancement over the welfare of their neighbors. A second helping of the spirit of Fred Rogers would mean seeing all people, including children, as your neighbor and doubling the effort to lift them up to better circumstances. Twice the spirit share of Nadia Bolz-Weber means looking past what you think you are worth and fully embracing what God knows you are worth.

Elisha dared to ask for a double share of Elijah’s spirit. Would we dare to ask for a double share of the Spirit of any of these? More than daring to ask, would we (could we) dare to want it?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Undisposed (Sermon, Easter 4)

This story has an enslaved young woman in it. What’s her name? Why doesn’t she have a name?

What does Paul do to her? (Cast out the spirit of divination)
Why does he do it? (Because he is annoyed)
What happens to the girl? (She is no longer useful as a commodity for her owners. She is not free; she is now considered worthless.)

Does she matter?

If we keep reading, we go on to Paul and Silas praising God in prison. Their impromptu hymn sing and prayers intrigues the other prisoners and leads the jailer, himself an enforcer of Roman laws, to seeking salvation.

But what happens to the girl?

You may think it does not matter. She served her purpose in the story- moving the plot forward to get to the imprisonment part. That’s all we need to know about her. She’s not a Roman citizen. She’s probably not even a follower of the Way of Jesus, even though she is able to recognize that Paul and Silas are. Even though the story of Lydia, a woman who comes to the Way with her whole household, is what immediately precedes this story in Acts… this slave girl, enslaved young woman, is not to become Lydia’s sister in the faith. At least, not so we know about it.

This matters because she is treated as disposable to the story. She has a function and when her function is complete, she is gone. Even for Paul’s purposes, he does not heal her or speak the story of Christ to her. He just wants her to stop annoying him. For even Paul, she is inconvenient and unnecessary- disposable.

While we may never know what happened to her, it is important to register a sense of injustice and even outrage at the idea of a person as disposable. When other people become means to an end, we stop seeing them as people. When they are no longer people, we know longer acknowledge Christ in them and the work of the Spirit in their lives. They become nameless, then faceless, and then… gone. Disposable.

On April 14th, 276 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from a high school in Chibok, Nigeria. A radical group that opposes education, particularly “Western education”, for girls kidnapped them. Some of the girls have escaped back to their families, but most remain missing. The leader of the kidnappers has said that they intend to sell most of the girls off to be married, but they can be ransomed for $12 a piece. On May 1st, the president of Nigeria vowed to do all he could to get the girls back.

This story did not become international news until nearly 3 weeks after it occurred. Why not? Is it because these girls are the wrong color, wrong nationality, have no money? Do we care that some of these girls may be made mothers against their will on this very day? Countries that poured significant resources into searching for the missing Malaysian airplane, into training and transport for the Olympics, into oil and gas exploration have not yet offered that kind of money to find these girls.

Are their lives disposable? Is what happens to them regrettable, but simply a cost of the way the world is? We live in a world where many countries have a surplus of men because female babies are less desirable and are eliminated. In order for the men to have wives, girls are kidnapped. Because girls are not desirable, women who bear girls are often considered failures. This happens even in our own country. Even certain “Christian” sects value the lives of women less than lives of men. Women are disposable- less valuable to men and so perceived to be less valuable to God.

What can we do? Let’s do a little biblical imagining here. What happened to the slave girl?

(My imagining: Her employers beat her and cast her out without references. They will not even give her the “dignity” of being sold to a new owner. While crouching over a trash heap, she observes a man taking food to Paul and Silas in prison. She follows him back to his house. She sleeps on his doorstep and is found the next morning by his wife. The girl tells the wife the whole story. They bring her into their home, share the gospel with her, and keep her as a valued employee (and spiritual equal) for the rest of her life.)

If we can imagine what might happen to a character who received 2 sentences in a historical record, surely we can imagine greater things for real people all around us. If we can imagine great things, we can, with the help of the Spirit, act to make our imaginings, reality. 

The gospel, the good news, of the story we heard today is actually that no one is disposable to God. Not a jailer who serves the Romans, not other prisoners who may have committed real crimes, not even a slave girl who annoys the Great Apostle. Not one life is disposable to God. We are to remember that for ourselves and for those around us.

Thinking about the people on the fringes draws our eyes and attention to where Jesus stands in the fringes of our society and our world.
In our city, people sleep on the couches of friends and family because we have a very low availability rate for affordable housing. We don’t see them.
In our state, we have the second highest incest rate in the nation. This is not about culture; it’s about failure to draw lines. We don’t see it.
In our country, a person of color who commits a crime with a white victim is much, much more likely to get the death penalty than a white person who commits the same crime (regardless of the victim’s race). We don’t see them.
In our world, hundreds of millions of girls die every year because they are considered not worth the effort to keep them alive. We don’t see them.

I realize this seems like a downer of a sermon, but a failure on my part to speak these truths out loud means that I have contributed to these stories, these people, these facts, these children who have mothers… I have made them disposable because it is not comforting, uplifting, or amusing to talk about them. I cannot do that. The gospel will not let me.

What can you do? You can pray for the girls on your paper and for those who are unnamed. (Only the names of the Christian girls have been released.) You can talk with friends and neighbors about what you think a safe intervention would be. You (and we) can look for charities that support the education of girls and women and give them solid backing. We can sing hymns and pray and refuse to accept that a culture that seems loud and powerful determines the worth of people. No child of God, born into this world, has a two-sentence life. No one is disposable. Let anyone who sees you know that you are servant of the Most High God, that you proclaim a way of salvation, and that you see them- just as you yourselves have been seen, forgiven, and loved. Amen.

Deborah Abge                         Awa Abge

Hauwa Yirma                           Asabe Manu 

Mwa Malam Pogu                  Patiant Dzakwa

Saraya Mal Stover                  Mary Dauda

Gloria Mainta                           Hanatu Ishaku

Gloria Dama                            Tabitha Pogu

Maifa Dama                           Ruth Kollo

Esther Usman                           Awa James

Anthonia Yahonna                  Kume Mutah

Aisha Ezekial                           Nguba Buba

Kwanta Simon                   Kummai Aboku

Esther Markus                           Hana Stephen

Rifkatu Amos                           Rebecca Mallum

Blessing Abana                  Ladi Wadai        

Tabitha Hyelampa                  Ruth Ngladar

Safiya Abdu                           Na’omi Yahonna

Solomi Titus                           Rhoda John

Rebecca Kabu                           Christy Yahi

Rebecca Luka                           Laraba John

Saratu Markus                           Mary Usman

Debora Yahonna                  Naomi Zakaria

Hanatu Musa                            Hauwa Tella

Juliana Yakubu                  Suzana Yakubu

Saraya Paul                           Jummai Paul

Mary Sule                           Jummai John                 

Yanke Shittima                  Muli Waligam

Fatima Tabji                           Eli Joseph

Saratu Emmanuel                  Deborah Peter

Rahila Bitrus                           Luggwa Sanda

Kauna Lalai                           Lydia Emmar

Laraba Maman                  Hauwa Isuwa

Comfort Habila                  Hauwa Abdu

Hauwa Balti                           Yana Joshua

Laraba Paul                           Saraya Amos        

Glory Yaga                           Na’omi Bitrus

Godiya Bitrus                            Awa Bitrus

Na’omi Luka                              Maryamu Lawan

Tabitha Silas                           Mary Yahona

Ladi Joel                                    Rejoice Sanki

Luggwa Samuel                      Comfort Amos

Saraya Samuel                           Sicker Abdul

Talata Daniel                              Rejoice Musa

Deborah Abari                           Salomi Pogu

Mary Amor                               Ruth Joshua

Esther John                              Esther Ayuba

Maryamu Yakubu                  Zara Ishaku

Maryamu Wavi                  Lydia Habila

Laraba Yahonna                  Na’omi Bitrus

Rahila Yahanna                  Ruth Lawan        

Ladi Paul                                    Mary Paul

Esther Joshua                           Helen Musa

Margret Watsai                  Deborah Jafaru

Filo Dauda                           Febi Haruna

Ruth Ishaku                           Racheal Nkeki

Rifkatu Soloman                  Mairama Yahaya

Saratu Dauda                           Jinkai Yama

Margret Shettima                  Yana Yidau

Grace Paul                           Amina Ali

Palmata Musa                           Awagana Musa

Pindar Nuhu                           Yana Pogu

Saraya Musa                           Hauwa Joseph

Hauwa Kwakwi                  Hauwa Musa

Maryamu Musa                  Maimuna Usman

Rebeca Joseph                           Liyatu Habitu

Rifkatu Yakubu                  Naomi Philimon

Deborah Abbas                  Ladi Ibrahim

Asabe Ali                                    Maryamu Bulama

Ruth Amos                           Mary Ali

Abigail Bukar                           Deborah Amos

Saraya Yanga                           Kauna Luka

Christiana Bitrus                  Yana Bukar

Hauwa Peter                            Hadiza Yakubu

Lydia Simon                           Ruth Bitrus

Mary Yakubu                           Lugwa Mutah

Muwa Daniel                           Hanatu Nuhu

Monica Enoch                           Margret Yama

Docas Yakuba                           Rhoda Peter

Rifkatu Galang                           Saratu Ayuba

Naomi Adamu                           Hauwa Ishaya

Rahap Ibrahim                  Deborah Soloman

Hauwa Mutah                             Hauwa Takai

Serah Samuel                           Aishatu Musa

Aishatu Grema                  Hauwa Nkeki

Hamsatu Abubakar                  Mairama Abubakar

Hauwa Wule                           Ihyi Abdu

Hasana Adamu                  Rakiya Kwamtah

Halima Gamba                  Aisha Lawan

Kabu Malla                           Yayi Abana

Falta Lawan                           Kwadugu Manu

Friday, May 9, 2014

Open Letter to My Kids for Mother's Day

My darling children-

I love you so much. With each of you, I remember learning that I was carrying you and immediately talking to you and praying for you. That's what Momma does still does for and with you!

I was recently on a trip to NC to help some other members of our family. I missed you both terribly while I was gone. D, I got to talk to you on the phone, but, V, you're still a little small for phone conversations. This was the longest I've been away from you. I looked at pictures of you both all the time.

When people would ask about my children, I would speak of you with obvious love in my voice. People would comment on how much I must miss you. I would confirm that I did. I want you to know how much I love you, every day, no matter what. I'll never not be your Momma. I will always do my very best by you and I ask in advance for your forgiveness when it turns out that my best isn't the best for you.

Because I love you so much, I want you to know the truth. You're not the center of my world. Besides the fact that role is filled by God, my central human relationship is with the person you know as Daddy. Our family is Momma, Daddy, D, and V. In our house, we also live with our dog, Ivan, and your uncle/my brother Uncle DD. So there are a lot of connections. 

My relationship with Daddy precedes my relationship with either of you. Daddy and I have been through a lot of hard things together. He has listened to me talk out some very painful things that have happened to me. I have waited while he worked out frustrating things in the garage on his projects. We have not always understood each other, but we have tried to support one another. 

I think you need to know that it isn't that I love Daddy more than you. I love Daddy different than you. We're not best friends or even soul mates. We have made a commitment to living together, to loving each other, and to helping one another to live in the world and not go crazy. It's not always easy. The only way we can keep those promises to each other is by making each other first. Our relationship- its solidity and solidarity- is what makes your lives good. (Surprise! It's not toys, books, or chicken nuggets.) 

There are all kinds of potential questions you might have about this revelation. Would I choose if I had to? Absolutely. If I needed to, I would do whatever was necessary to keep you safe. Your well-being is my priority in any emergency. However, part of the way I look after that for you, day to day, is by spending time with Daddy, making sure we communicate, solving some of our problems, and letting him know how much I love him. 
So, on Mother's Day, I want you to know that I love you so, so much. I miss you when we're not together. I'm always thinking of fun things we might do or try. I want you to grow up- strong, secure, and spiritually maturing- knowing that you are loved and beloved. I also want you to know, in the midst of all that, in the kisses and the hugs, in the wrestling and the hide-and-seek, in the family bed mornings and the long nights to get you to sleep alone… I need you to know how much I love Daddy. Our relationship, our love and life together, makes your happy life possible. It's that important. 
Happy Mother's Day, pumpkins. 



Moving in the Spirit (Prayer)

This medium feels inadequate for physical contemplation- thinking and moving at the same time- but here we are.

D Seymour Stretching, September 09
D at 3 weeks, circa 2009
Take a moment or two. Stretch in whatever way your body allows. 
If you can, raise your arms and reach, reach, reach.
Or you might stretch one leg or the other. Rotate an ankle. Wiggle your toes.
Maybe you can just shift your hips at little- either while sitting and standing.

Whatever your ability, feel the pull, not the burn, but the pull of a good stretch.

Imagine the Spirit supporting your body, gently holding and supporting, while also flexing and guiding.

Oh, God of our muscles and sinews, stretch us today. Bring our bodies strength, rest, and peace.
Do not allow us to be led astray by voices that do not speak the truth about our bodies, our capabilities, or our gifts.
Let us feel, in our bodies, loved and beloved.

Orginally posted at