July 16, 2017 - Dan Kershner

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    SunJul162017 ByDan KershnerTaggedNo tags
    Good morning. 
    I am thankful that we have a church where members have opportunity to share their faith witness and tell of their struggles to find God’s way in their lives. Today, I want to share my despair and my hope, the reasons my heart is troubled and the reasons I have to believe that change is possible.

    I am troubled today because I live in a different country than I lived in a year ago.

    A year ago I lived in a country 
    where accepting people of different races, religions and cultures, was honored by the leadership of our nation,
    where our government leaders had a commitment to reducing environmental pollu-tion and advocating for clean energy, 
    where science was honored and research was supported to bring about progress in healthcare, the environment, and creating clean energy jobs.   
    where members of the LGBT community were being granted civil rights and human rights and accepted into full participation in our society,

    A year ago I lived in a country 
    where immigrants could escape horrible and violent living situations and find a path to citizenship, to make a contribution to our society and to keep their families to-gether, 
    where healthcare was seen as a right and not a privilege and access was  being ex-panded to include more and more people, 
    where civil rights were upheld in our courts and minority rights protected,  
    where common sense regulations were imposed on Wall Street to prevent a reoc-currence  of the great recession caused by their unregulated greed,  

    A year ago I lived in a country
    where international relationships were based on mutual respect and solutions to problems were addressed by negotiation and diplomacy and not ignorant and arrogant threats, 
    where our highest executive leaders were people who could identify with the common American and who were equipped for their office by their training and exper-tise, not given jobs for which they are not qualified simply because they were rich and bought into an elitist philosophy. 
    where our nation’s executive leaders respected the institutions, values and demo-cratic process that held leaders accountable and maintained a balance of powers,
    where a free press was seen as an essential watchdog of how our government op-erates and leaders were held accountable to the American people. 

    For the last 8 months I have been in despair that all these values have been turned upside down.  I perceive that our current national executive leadership that holds so much power is operating from a core belief that none of these values matter.  They operate in ways that disparage diversity, minority cultures and religions, they denigrate democratic institutions and processes, and a free press. They seek to implement policies that reverse environmental protections, reduce access to healthcare, defund education, by-pass ethical requirements, and by their tax proposals increase the disparity between the rich and the poor.

    Under their leadership the trust level of our international relationships with major na-tions throughout the world have declined by over 50%.  The current leadership of our nation operates in a nepotistic and elitist manner similar to how fascist and autocratic governments operate. 

    I wake up many mornings anxious about the direction our country has taken in the last 8 months. I am afraid for all the people who are being harmed and will be harmed by this autocratic form of government and their elitist policies.  I believe the values they espouse are destructive to our democratic form of government and more importantly, are in stark contradiction to the values that God revealed throughout the whole history of the Bible and in the life and teachings of Jesus. I have often felt alone and powerless to change these destructive powers in high places.

    So what brings me hope?
    First, I believe that God is on the side of every effort that seeks to bring good to others. That our God is a God of righteousness who both calls us to righteous actions and participates with us in our attempts to heal the wounded, restore justice, and create pathways to grace that honor and love all people and protect God’s creation.  In many respects our theology is a theology of HOPE, a recognition that things are not the way they should be but in which God calls us to be agents of justice and reconcilia-tion.  We are called to resist evil. We pray each week as a congregation. “Deliver us from evil and  “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Our prayer is both a plea and a calling.  I am thankful that our church believes in a God who is not only “still speaking”  but “still acting”.  I am thankful that our church believes and practices “speaking truth to power” as that prophetic word is needed in this hour. In our corporate worship each week, I am reminded and strengthened in these hopes and beliefs.  I am reminded of who God is and how the Spirit is at work in so many ways. I am glad to be part of a church who responds to God’s love in its many forms of ministry - from work camps to urban ministry, from empowering people in Central America to South Africa, from Angels and Stephen Ministers at work to care for members of our congregation, for programs that enrich the lives of children and the elderly,  In my moments of despair about the crisis of our nation, I am reminded in our corporate worship that God is alive and active in our efforts to follow his call to justice and grace.

    Secondly, my faith commitment to God’s way is supported by realizing that I am not alone in my concerns or despair.  One of the most helpful things for me has been to participate in the new Ministry Team that has formed within our congregation. We call ourselves the SJammers - or Social Justice Advocacy Ministry.  We formed out of a mutual concern to these reversals of values in our government’s leadership and felt a need to advocate for those threatened by these changes and to support one another in working toward restoring justice and opening pathways to the blessings of our nation to ALL people. We had 28 people show up at our first meeting and there are now 60 people who have participated in our group. We had 60 people participate in the White Privilege curriculum designed by the UCC.  

    The purpose statement of our Ministry Team is as follows: 
    The Mission of the Social Justice Advocacy Ministry is to be a voice and witness to God’s love for all people and Creation and to advocate for justice for those who are marginalized, discriminated against and denied their inherent rights as children of God and citizens of the world.

    We plan to provide more educational opportunities and form action groups to support the kinds of change that restore our democratic values and as Christians to respond to God’s call to honor all people and minister to those whose lives and well being are threatened by the current elitist policies.

    I am also encouraged by the thousands and thousands of people who are gathering to protest and work together to oppose these harmful policies that threaten our democra-cy and the essential needs and freedoms of many Americans. The Women’s March in January drew a half a million people in Washington DC with over 4 million people in pro-testing nationwide.  There are hundreds of groups throughout the United States who are resisting these hurtful elitist policies and seeking to restore the kinds of policies that honor all people and provide opportunity for ALL Americans to share in the bounty that God has given us. 

    So I live in hope - hope in God’s purpose for our nation, hope in God’s spirit calling people to resist evil and to work for justice, hope that the good in people will be energized to bring about the changes we need.   I live in hope because I believe that good will triumph over evil and that as more and more people stand up for what is right those seeking to hurt and oppress others will be defeated. 

    Let us pray:
    God of justice and compassion, help us to see our world through your eyes, to hear the cries of those who are oppressed, and to be instruments of your love to in bringing about restoring justice to our land. Amen
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