Daily Devotional | Monday, February 15

Monday, February 15

John 1:45-46b – Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?


Mural artist Shane B. repairs his George Floyd mural in downtown Birmingham, AL, after it had been defaced.
Image from Birmingham Real-Time News.

What’s up with Nathaniel’s attitude toward Nazareth? “Because it was a No place: it is never mentioned in the Old Testament, the Jewish Talmud and Midrash, nor in any extant pagan writing.” The College Press NIV Commentary on John. Nathaniel’s reaction exemplifies a very human mistrust of the other. The idea of race, constantly evolving and re-weaponized against people of color, is rooted in our acquiesce to otherness.
“Hunky” has a simple derivation, though with arresting complications…Josephine Wtulich’s American Xenophobia and the Slav Immigrant attempts interestingly to untangle bohunk and hunky. Wtulich allows that between 1900 and 1930, bohunk came to mean not only a Bohemian–Hungarian but also a “Pole, Slovak and even an Austrian” or “any uneducated, unskilled immigrant from central and east Europe.” Thus when a Texas planter fretted that “Bohunks wanted to intermarry with whites,” and added, “Yes, they’re white but they’re not our kind of white,” it is by no means certain to whom he refers.” From Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White, by historian David Roediger.


Action step: today, with brutal honesty prayerfully consider the racist epithets of your youth. While we may have managed to bury the words themselves, in powerful ways their shadow remains. The trope that asks “do you cross the street when you see a group of young black males” asks us to examine the vulgar and derogatory words directed at otherness of race, class, disability, gender, and sexuality we carried forward from youth. Ask God to cleanse you today of the remnants of cultural indoctrination to which all of us were subjective no matter where we were raised, or our own ethnic, racial, class, denominational backgrounds.


Prayer: A Prayer for One Flesh in Christ

My Lord and my God, I see you being torn apart on the cross still, as we persist in tearing the body from the spirit. You dared to penetrate the flesh of humankind with the presence of God. You took on the flesh of every human being.

Help us now, after all these years of denial, to finally embrace your incarnation, to feel, in the depths of our beings, that we are part of each other’s bodies in your body, may we clasp to ourselves the flesh of all persons, especially those whose flesh looks different from ours, whose language is strange to our ears, whose music sounds dissonant, whose sexuality offends our sensibilities. May we have the courage to hold the sick and the old to our health and our youth. Thus may we behold the glory of the Word become flesh as he dwells among us. Amen.

Paul Moore, Jr., from Race and Prayer: Collected Voices Many Dreams edited by Malcolm Boyd and Chester L. Talton (Morehouse Publishing, 2003), 141.

Daily Devotional | Sunday, February 14

Sunday, February 14

Ezekiel 36:26 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.


Who hasn’t wept singing these words from Dan Schutte’s Here I Am Lord “I will break their hearts of stone give them hearts for love alone…”? Can we truly claim to have receipt of a “heart of flesh” if we have merely traded one heart of stone for a newer version? We must, with vigilant hearts, examine whether we are deceiving ourselves about race as pointed out in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age Colorblindness.
“The rules and reasons the political system employs to enforce status relations of any kind, including racial hierarchy, evolve and change as they are challenged. The valiant efforts to abolish slavery and Jim Crow and to achieve greater racial equality have brought about significant changes in the legal framework of American society—new “rules of the game,” so to speak. These new rules have been justified by new rhetoric, new language, and a new social consensus, while producing many of the same results. This dynamic, which legal scholar Reva Siegel has dubbed “preservation through transformation,” is the process through which white privilege is maintained, though the rules and rhetoric change.”


Action step: today, with brutal honesty examine your understanding of Methodism, have we as a denomination changed our hearts of stone or have we replaced them utilizing “preservation through transformation” into new, shiny forms of white, and frankly primarily male, privilege? What can you do about this? How can you address this within your church? How will you address this within the Conference?


Prayer: A Prayer of Lament

O God, our Divine Parent,

the truth is often uncomfortable,

disquieting, disturbing

but no less the truth.

The strife of racial tension claims another life;

someone pays the price for years of suspicion,

mistrust, separation, and hatred.

The bleak wilderness is once again our address,

where we cry with hunger and thirst

for what seems to be a false dream.

Is “liberty and justice” really for all?

You, O God, who know us so well,

we seem incapable of being comforted,

saturated with the aches and pains of

bitter language, scornful treatment, spiteful violence.

What do we do with our unresolved, unfinished, unending grief?

Where can we turn with unpalatable hurt

that pollutes our thoughts and soils our shoes?

“Anger and alleluias careen around

within us, sometimes colliding.”[1]

O God of tender compassion,

known for your steadfast love and faithfulness,

will our discomfort ever find resolution;

can’t you fix this – or inspire us to?

When we accept the phony gods of

persistent attitudes, arrogance and superiority

step up, step on, step in to quell our self-made idols.

Show us how wrong we are, how much we have lost,

how significantly more we have to learn,

how our hearts are frozen,

the kind of courage it takes to unclench our fist

and open our hand.

Confident that you hear our lament,

teach us the ways of peace, patience, hope and love

so that we may again praise you,

for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

George R. Crisp, OSL, September 17, 2020 ~ this prayer was shared on September 20, 2020  by UMC Discipleship’s Praying for Change: Daily Prayers for Anti-Racism E-mail

[1] Borrowed from Ann Weems, Psalms of Lament.

Daily Devotional | Saturday, February 13

Saturday, February 13

1 Samuel 16:6-7 – When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”


How beautiful would life be, how egalitarian would be the church, and how quickly would we adopt antiracist practice if we took to heart God’s teaching to Samuel? Ibram X. Kendi, writing in How to be an Antiracist, zeroes in on the heart of racism, which is the ease with which we generalize from an individual to a group. This generalizing upward is no accident, we were taught it overtly as well as through patterns deeply encoded in the dominant culture’s apparatuses. Kendi writes, “But generalizing the behavior of racist White individuals to all White people is as perilous as generalizing the individual faults of people of color to entire races. “He acted that way because he is Black. She acted that way because she is Asian.” We often see and remember the race and not the individual. This is racist categorizing, this stuffing of our experiences with individuals into color-marked racial closets. An antiracist treats and remembers individuals as individuals. “She acted that way,” we should say, “because she is racist.”


Action step: today, with brutal honesty allow yourself to examine ways in which you are programmed to think of groups not individuals. Try not to think of this as a shame exercise, we are all products of a racist structure. If we accept that racism isn’t the exception but the rule then we are free to embrace antiracism not as an accusation but as a call to redeem creation in a godly way. To look not on outward appearance but on the heart of those we meet.


Prayer:

Holy One,

In your image

You have created humankind, in great diversity.

We give thanks for the differences—

of cultures and ethnicities, of histories and life-stories, of skin colour and language and

hearts that love the world.

We watch in horror as Power desecrates Black and Brown bodies;

walks on their sacredness, kills and subjugates,

in thousands of ways, hidden and overt.

We must not stop at watching—

held back from right action by our horror or seeming powerlessness.

Grant us hearts that listen and learn;

egos that are willing to accept when our own racism is called out.

Grant us courage, to disassemble the systems,

the stories, the mythos, that privilege whiteness over all others.

Give us your Holy Spirit’s wind to call out racism in all its forms—

inside our hearts, inside the church, and in your world,

give us the strength, the wisdom and the will to root out White Fragility,

and White Supremacy, so that they would never again do harm,

never again take away, never again kill.

Help us to be anti-racist,

in all that we say, in all that we do, in all that we are.

It is time. It is well past time.

God of all creation,

bless us all with what we need, to march on.

To live this work of anti-racism.

Today.

Every day.

Always.

In Jesus’ name.

May it be.

-A prayer by the Right Rev. Richard Bott. https://www.united-church.ca/prayers/anti-racism-prayer

Daily Devotional | Friday, February 12

Friday, February 12

Matthew 7 – “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.”


Vivian Malone Jones arrives to register for classes at the University of Alabama's Foster Auditorium as Governor Wallace stands in the schoolhouse door. Image courtesy of the United States Library of Congress

In the New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age Colorblindness, civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander offers, unintentionally, this illustration of Jesus’ warning.

“When we think of racism we think of Governor Wallace of Alabama blocking the schoolhouse door; we think of water hoses, lynchings, racial epithets, and “whites only” signs. These images make it easy to forget that many wonderful, good-hearted white people who were generous to others, respectful of their neighbors, and even kind to their black maids, gardeners, or shoe shiners—and wished them well—nevertheless went to the polls and voted for racial segregation.”

Richard Allen was born a slave on Valentine’s Day in 1790 in Philadelphia, PA. He would go on to create the first independent Black denomination in the United States, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. (A.M.E.)  photo courtesy of Google Images
In 1968 the United Methodist Church was born out of a merger between the EUB and the Methodist Church itself a 1939 merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church. The 1939 merger was made possible by an overt act of corporate racism, the creation of the segregated Central Jurisdiction. In 1968 the Central Jurisdiction was erased but not its stain on our history. From the moment Richard Allen left to form the AME we, like the nation, have lived with the specter of racism. The only solution to racism is antiracism.

Action step: Today, with brutal honesty pray for clarity around the racism present in our corporate DNA. Are you ready, and who in your church will join with you, in the act of dismantling racism in your church?


Prayer:

Together we will create brave space

Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”

We exist in the real world

We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.

In this space

We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,

We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,

We call each other to more truth and love

We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.

We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.

We will not be perfect.

This space will not be perfect.

It will not always be what we wish it to be

But

It will be our brave space together,

and

We will work on it side by side.

By Micky ScottBey Jones, posted on https://oppeace.org/blog/2019/11/20/an-invitation-to-brave-space/

Daily Devotional | Wednesday, February 10

Wednesday, February 10

Genesis 9:20-25 Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father…When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers”.


“Turning the Curse of Ham Into a Blessing” image by Melinda Beck

A newly appointed GNJ pastor’s 16-year-old returned from Sunday school in early October visibly upset. “My new Sunday school teacher said, ‘blacks are descended from Ham and are cursed by God’.” When the pastor approached the leadership they were told, “she’s been teaching for more than 50 years, she’s a treasure”. It fell on the newly appointed pastor to remove this teacher who had served under many pastors over those 50 years.
In Stoney the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes: “On October 1, 1866, Benjamin Franklin Perry, the provisional governor of South Carolina, wrote about freed people in the Charleston Daily Courier: ‘The African, has been in all ages, a savage or a slave. God created him inferior to the white man in form, color, and intellect, and no legislation or culture can make him his equal…His color is black; his head covered with wool instead of hair, his form and features will not compete with the Caucasian race, and it is in vain to think of elevating him to the dignity of the white man. God created differences between the two races, and nothing can make him equal.’ Less than a year later, on June 3, 1867, in the Columbia Phoenix, Perry’s fear was focused on the voting booth. ‘[I]t will be impossible to maintain a just, wise and permanent republican form of government where a majority of the voters are ignorant, stupid, demi-savage paupers.”


Action step: today, with brutal honesty, question not only current but historic assumptions and teachings about race in your church. Ask have I taken the time to investigate what was taught in Sunday School and preached from the pulpit in my church? Identify members that can tell this story. We cannot be antiracist until we understand how we got to where we are. Is your church not-racist or does implicit and explicit racism fester in its DNA? What do you need to do about it?


Prayer:

Dear God,

In our efforts to dismantle racism, we understand that we struggle not merely against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities – those institutions and systems that keep racism alive by perpetuating the lie that some members of the family are inferior and others superior.

Create in us a new mind and heart that will enable us to see brothers and sisters in the faces of those divided by racial categories.

Give us the grace and strength to rid ourselves of racial stereotypes that oppress some of us while providing entitlements to others.

Help us to create a church and a nation that embraces the hopes and fears of oppressed people of color where we live, as well as those around the world.

Heal your family God, and make us one with you, in union with our brother Jesus, and empowered by your Holy Spirit.

Pax Christi, https://socialjusticeresourcecenter.org/prayers/racism/

Daily Devotional | Tuesday, February 9

Tuesday, February 9

In Galatians 3:28 Paul insists, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.


Like our new Vice President a 2015 Pew Research Center study found that the combined population share of immigrants and their US born children stands at 26% today. Thus “is projected to rise to 36% in 2065, at least equaling previous peak levels at the turn of the 20th century”. The racial identity adopted by those “peak levels at the turn of the 20th century” are at the core of Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White, by historian David Roediger. What will this one third of the US population in 2065 make of race relations? Two possible paths are described by Roediger:
“In the wake of World War I, young Stjepan Mesaroš, on his first day at a Philadelphia slaughterhouse job, noticed the torrents of abuse heaped on a black coworker. A Croatian, Mesaroš sat on a break with a Serbian radical who worked in the plant. “You soon learn something about this country,” the Serb explained. “Negroes never get a fair chance.” The exchange sparked a series of conversations that helped transform Mesaroš (renamed as Steve Nelson) into a socialist and an antiracist. But for many immigrants, caught in a world of dog-eat-dog competition, the lesson would likely have been that African Americans were decidedly among the eaten, and thus to be avoided.”
Roediger examines the creation of whiteness among the newly arrived immigrants in the early 20th c. What is the church’s role to be in shaping whether these new 21st c immigrants emerge as antiracist rather than converts to whiteness? Will the church avoid the seductive ease and pull that racial binarism provides? Or will economic forces render the 21st c church as complicit as the 20th c church was?


Action step: today, with brutal honesty explore how easily you accept the binarism of black and white. Are you committed to a binary understanding of race relations in America? What role, if any, does fear play in your acceptance of racial binarism and racial hierarchy?


Prayer:

God, give me a voice.

God of all that is, you have given me eyes to see,

and the pain is so great that I cannot bear it.

I see children whose sense of self-worth is stolen from them

before they are even old enough to go to school.

I see young men labeled as “criminal” whose crime is the color of their skin.

You have given me ears to hear.

and the cries of your children tear at my heart.

I hear victims being blamed for the crimes that have been committed against them.

I hear the gunshots and the screams of the mothers.

You have given me a sense of smell.

and I am overcome by the odor of fear.

Fear of scarcity; fear that my wealth is dependent upon someone else’s poverty.

Fear of the unknown; fear that makes it easier to embrace nostalgia than to risk change.

And yet, O God, you have also given me the gift of wonder.

You have given me eyes to see the beauty of a young artist’s mural.

You have given me ears to hear the soaring strains of music lifted in praise to you.

You have given me the smell of bread being broken as you feed us with your body.

And so I pray to you, O God, give me a voice.

Give me a voice to declare the dignity of all your people.

Give me a voice to demand justice where today there is no justice.

Give me a voice to quell the fear and to declare the truth and the depth of your love.

Lord, give me a voice that I may declare your praise. Amen.

 

Sr Abbot Elizabeth Moore, O.S.L ~ This prayer was shared on September 10, 2020  by UMC Discipleship’s Praying for Change: Daily Prayers for Anti-Racism E-mail

Daily Devotional | Monday, February 8

Monday, February 8

The author of 1 John 2:9-10 writes: “Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling.”


Writing in the epilogue to her powerful 2018 history of post-Vietnam white power movement in America, Bring the War Home: the White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, historian Dr. Kathleen Belew writes: “Understanding white power as a social movement is a project both of historical relevance and of vital public importance. Knowledge of the history of white power activism is integral to preventing future acts of violence and to providing vital context to current political developments. Indeed, to perceive the movement as a legitimate social force, and its ideologies as comprising a coherent worldview of white supremacy and imminent apocalypse—one with continued recruiting power—is to understand that colorblindness, multicultural consensus, and a postracial society were never achieved.”

Last month the flag of the Confederacy was carried through the halls of Congress. Church leaders must struggle with Belew’s words and the scripture above in light of Belew’s conclusion, “that colorblindness, multicultural consensus, and a postracial society were never achieved” not in the world and not in the church.


Source:     Wonder Media Network @ Twitter.com

Action step: today, with brutal honesty fearlessly ask whether you can face your creator and answer the question “do you live in the light?” How is it with your church? How is it with your community? Post-pandemic, returning into the architecture of your church, what changes are demanded by the question “do you live in the light.” A postracial society must first be an antiracist society, a postracial church must first be an antiracist church.


Prayer:

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.” ~ Matthew 5:14

We have seen ourselves as that light on a hill, O God of the ages;

we have believed ourselves to be the shining example of all that is good in the world.

But lately our light has been dim, and our good has been muddied by a hidden hate we try to deny.

 

We can’t help but wonder how the world sees us now,

We who have held a banner for rights and for equality,

We who have pointed fingers at those who abuse others,

We who have condemned acts of injustice in other lands,

How shines our light now?

Yet, despite our failings, our brokenness and our sin,

you still call us,

each of us and all of us,

to be the light of the world.

Even when we are ready to give up on us, even when our sin is too great to bear,

you still call us,

each of us and all of us,

to be the light of the world.

 

There is too little light around us and within us right now, God of mercy,

how can you still call us?

How can you still hope in us?

We long to be that light, Loving God. We long to be that hope.

Help us, now especially; help us bring light to a world roiling in the gloom.

Help us claim the hope that we can be light,

as a nation, as a church, as followers of the true Light of the World.

Help us find the way into the light. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Derek C. Weber, July 2020, this prayer was shared on July 22, 2020  by UMC Discipleship’s Praying for Change: Daily Prayers for Anti-Racism E-mail

Daily Devotional | Sunday, February 7

Sunday, February 7

John 8:31b – “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”


Image Source: James Cone, Black Theology and Black 
Power, By Birchett, Colleen; Philadelphia Tribune

In 1969, a year after merger, James Cone, writing in Black Theology & Black Power, laid down an ominous challenge writing: “To carve out a Black Theology based on black oppression will of necessity mean the creation of new values independent of and alien to the values of white society. The values must be independent because they must arise from the needs of black people. They will be alien because white American “Christian” values are based on racism.”
We United Methodists have both succeeded and failed in creating “new values independent of an alien to the values of white society” and in recognizing that American Christianity is truly based “on racism”. Answering God’s call the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference has resolved to dismantle institutional racism within our churches and our polity but are we up to the task?


Action step: today, with brutal honesty answer these two simple questions. “Am I willing to take risks in order to lead my church in adopting and a racist policy.” “Am I willing to search my heart and soul for my own racism?” Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to lead you through a time of soul-searching and to reveal those in your congregation ready to journey with you.


Prayer: A Prayer on Privilege

Merciful God, I claim Your promise to be with us when two or three are gathered. You know that each of us has a unique heart and history and so I can only speak from what I have seen and known and become as one who enjoys the privilege of being born white in the United States.

As I try to understand the ways in which I benefit from that history, or deprive others of life and happiness and all the things I take for granted, I pray that You will open my heart, my mind, my imagination, and my eyes to see this country as it is and not as I want it to be or think that it is.

Even as I utter words with the best of intentions about “the poor,” “those who are dispossessed,” “those who are disrespected,” “those who are subtly or overtly treated as less than,” those who fall in that thoughtless, painful category of “you people”, I feel that I am distancing myself from these “others,” and contributing further to the fissures that divide all of us from each other and You.

Help me, O God, to acknowledge honestly the ways in which white privilege in America is perpetuated, the ways in which racism thrives systemically, and the ways in which our “Common Prayer” furthers these divides.

Dear God, I trust your Spirit to guide us in our common life and enlighten us to the injustices of white privilege in this country. Make our common prayers occasions for your Spirit to break into our hearts and lives, that we may ” nally see our world with a glimpse of your love and light.

I pray that we may all be healed of our hurts and divisions, so that we may become agents of the reconciliation and peace that you desire for this world. This is my prayer. Amen.

Rainey G. Dankel, printed in the The Anti-Racism Prayer Book compiled by The Anti-Racism Team of Trinity Church Boston in 2014

Daily Devotional | Saturday, February 6

Saturday, February 6

In Mark 14:7 Jesus says, “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.”


In Jesus rebuke of Judas’ patriarchal denigration of the woman anointing Jesus’ head with nard is a chilling indictment of humanity’s toleration of poverty, which we could eradicate the way we did smallpox. As demonstration again in John 9, humans seem primed to see the misfortune of others as earned; “[a]s he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Privilege is born in the misguided belief that “what I have, I earned”. We accept this ignoring the evidence to the contrary that surrounds us. Poverty is criminalized as “we” protect “us” from “them” ignoring our participation in the sin of systemic poverty. We easily accept that “they” are poor because “they” have not done all that “we” have to escape poverty.
In Chapter 12 of How to be an Antiracist, which examines class, Ibram X. Kendi, raises questions that resonate with both the disciples’ question “who sinned?” and Jesus’ “you can show kindness to them whenever you wish”.
“When a policy exploits poor people, it is an elitist policy. When a policy exploits Black people, it is a racist policy. When a policy exploits Black poor people, the policy exploits at the intersection of elitist and racist policies – a policy intersection of class racism. When we racialize classes, support racist policies against those race-classes, and justify them by racist ideas, we are engaging in class racism. To be antiracist is to equalize the race-classes. To be antiracist is to root the economic disparities between the equal race-classes in policies, not people…Pathological people made the pathological ghetto, segregationists say. The pathological ghetto made pathological people, assimilationists say. To be antiracist is to say the political and economic conditions, not the people, in poor Black neighborhoods are pathological.” Jesus’ “you can show kindness to them whenever you wish” sets up an if/then proposition convicting us of the cruelty and evil present in our active and passive participation in criminalizing poverty. In this case the then in the if/then is implied; if we can show kindness to them whenever we wish, then why don’t we?


“Homeless Jesus” Photo Credit: Sculpture Timothy P. Schmalz/Methodist Central Hall

Action step: today, with brutal honesty, identify three prejudiced beliefs you hold about “those poor people”. Identifying ways in which these were formed by art, politics, the press, the church, or your family of origin. Then look for contrary evidence in those same places – art, politics, the press, the church, and your family of origin – where this privileged view of poverty is not supported.


Prayer: Litany for Social Justice

We pray for the strength of heart and mind to look beyond ourselves and address the needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world; for the rural and urban poor; for the rebuilding of our communities; and for an end to the cycles of violence that threaten our future.

God of generosity and compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray for all nations, that they may live in unity, peace, and concord; and that all people may know justice and enjoy the perfect freedom that only God can give.

God of liberty and freedom, hear our prayer.

We pray that the Holy Spirit may embrace the most vulnerable members of our society; we pray also for an end to the growing disparity between the rich and poor; and for the grace and courage to strive for economic justice.

God of all gifts and blessings, hear our prayer.

We pray for an end to prejudice throughout our country and the world; that we will respect all people as precious children of God; and that racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination will be forever banished from our hearts, our society, and our laws.

God of fellowship and equality, hear our prayer.

We pray for all immigrants, refugees, and pilgrims from around the world, that they may be welcomed in our midst and be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.

God of outcasts and wanderers, hear our prayer.

We pray for all prisoners and captives; that a spirit of forgiveness may replace vengeance and retribution; and that we, with all the destitute, lonely, and oppressed, may be restored to the fullness of God’s grace.

God of absolution and mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all children and families, and particularly for the orphaned, neglected, abused, and those who live in fear of violence or disease; that they may be relieved and protected.

God of children and families, hear our prayer.

We pray for the reconciliation of all people, and for the Church throughout the world, that it may be an instrument of your healing love.

God of outreach and restoration, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who have died as a result of violence, war, disease or famine, especially those who died because of human blindness, neglect, or hardness of heart.

God of eternal life and resurrecting love, hear our prayer.

Almighty God, you have promised to hear what we ask in the name of your Son. Watch over our country now and guide our leaders in all knowledge and truth and make your ways known among all people. In the passion of debate give them a quiet spirit; in the complexities of the issues give them courageous hearts. Accept and fulfill our petitions, we pray, not as we ask in our ignorance, nor as we deserve in our sinfulness, but as you know and love us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations, https://episcopalchurch.org/posts/ogr/episcopal-litany-social-justice

Daily Devotional | Friday, February 5

Friday, February 5

Today we look at Leviticus 21, a difficult passage too often abused through literalism. In Bring the War Home: the White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, historian Dr. Kathleen Belew writes: “Ideas about women, sexuality, and birth in this period (the 1970’s) were deeply intertwined with racial ideology, and not just on the fringe. American white supremacy had long depended upon the policing of white women’s bodies. In order to propagate a white race, white women had to bear white children. While white men’s sexual relationships with nonwhite women mattered less to white supremacists, especially if such activity was secretive, profitable, or part of systematic violence against communities of color, for a white woman to bear nonwhite children was tantamount to racial annihilation.”
The place of women is still debated in parts of the church by people employing arguments relying on poorly understood readings of scripture. We must approach scripture free of such prejudicial readings. White supremacists have abused scripture quoting out of context Leviticus 21 in support of fetishizing and suppressing women and as a false biblical foundation of anti-miscegenation laws.
“He shall marry only a woman who is a virgin. A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, a prostitute, these he shall not marry. He shall marry a virgin of his own kin, that he may not profane his offspring among his kin…”
To answer this misinformation we go beyond these cherry-picked passages seeking to understand the original context and intent. The challenge in this case is that expanding the passage forces a confrontation with the ableism of the following verses. Leviticus 21 states that the Aaronic priesthood should not include: “…throughout their generations…anyone who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.” Racist, misogynistic, homophobic; and ableist interpretations of scripture abound and remain a problem for the church.

                                     Photo courtesy of LA Johnson/NPR


Action Step: today, with brutal honesty ask if your study of scripture has become lax. Where might you improve in ways that challenge basic assumptions about race. Are you frozen in any one decade or century’s biblical interpretation? How can you allow scripture to breathe more and challenge you in new and fresh ways?  Think about the women in your church and in your community.  How has the misinterpretation of scripture over time aided to the continuing policing of white women bodies and the criminalization of bodies of black women and women of color?


Prayer:

God of liberty and justice, who hears the silent tears of those wearied by continued inequality and violence: open the ears of everyone in our society to hear the truth of continued racism in this stony land, so that we may return to the places where we will meet you, places of love and respect for all your children;

in the name of the One who was slaughtered for us, your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Drawing from “Lift Every Voice and Sing”

Sr. Heather Josselyn-Cranson, OSL

     Source: Google Images