Author: Katelin H

#Charlottesville

What else is there to say? Have we not convinced you?Were you surprised at the images and videos this weekend?Did you think we were exaggerating when we said the nation's demons were being released?"I can't believe this is happening"Aren't you persuade...

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We ARE the Body of Christ: #AllPeoplePractices

Image result for donita harrisThe following is taken from a sermon by Pastor Donita Harris on this the 10th anniversary UM Church for All People being in its building. Her scripture text for the morning was 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 Today as we celebrate 10 years of ministry in this building, Apostle Pauls’ message aligns perfectly with the evolution of who we continue to become as a worshiping congregation.  Paul’s message to us today emphasizes the reality and importance of our diversity. The basic point of the entire 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians, is that all the members of a church/ a faith community contribute to the over well being, the health of the church. No one in the church is an extra that the church can just as well do without. Paul will inform us that everybody is somebody because we’re in this together. Paul is so intent on driving home this point of our oneness in the church that he refers to Christ as the church. Paul, has learned that every believer is a member of Christ’s body. Likewise, you and I are members of the body of Christ.  I chose a translation that uses the term parts instead of members to identify limbs and organs, to emphasize we are not as members of the Jesus club but as a part of a living breathing entity. He continues to drive this important analogy between the human body and the body of Christ, using the fearfully wonderfully connectedness of our human body. Image result for church for all people columbus umI love the imagery! I don’t know if Paul means to be humorous, because he has a serious point to get across. However, I must admit after I read this passage a couple of times I thought about just one body part trying to do the Hokey Pokey. It is hard to picture this huge eyeball rolling around, or even better, a gigantic ear hopping about?  How can we dance with God if we don’t embrace all of God’s parts as valuable? When Paul was writing his first letter to the Corinthians, he was dealing with a problem of division. It turns out the Corinthians had fallen into this worldly trap of creating a hierarchy where there was no need for one, and some people were setting themselves over and above the others. Others unfortunately, who lacked the more spectacular gifts of others were discouraged and began to ask whether they had any place or function in the church. The church was dividing not uniting. When Paul refers to the foot and ear he speaks to members suffering “I am not good enough.”  Think about it if the foot could speak, it most likely would reveal a feeling of insignificance.  Hands seem to have such value. During a church vote, no one in a meeting says, “Raise your foot” it’s always “Raise your hand!” The foot thinks, “The hand has so much dexterity, it can pick a scalpel and do delicate operations. Hands play the piano or violin. There was a reason why washing a guest’s feet was a common act of courtesy – in Paul’s day they were dirty. Feet come in contact with dirt and mud. They are the lowest members of the body. Yet, the body would be in bad shape without a foot. Did you know that you use more than 200 different muscles to walk? If your feet and their muscles are not working well you aren’t going very far.  Their role to play in the body is absolutely essential. They literally hold up the body. They permit the body to move about. Without them, the body would not be whole. If can’t Hokey Pokey and turn yourself about without your feet. Stay with me, we are dancing with God! Similarly, the ear feels inferior to the eye. It may be up high on the body, but it does not compare with the eye in receiving praise.  The eye is out front. Lovers gaze into one another’s eyes; the only one I can remember looking onto my ears my mother and all she ever says is, “Wash those dirty ears!” Poets write poems about the eye but never about the ear. Yet when we listen to the music that soothes our soul we often close our eyes to better hear. Often after reading beautiful poetry or a powerful scripture passage we close our eyes. To better hear and imagine. And what about the nose? Referred to in passage as the sense of smell essential to the whole. How many times have we taken pleasure in smelling flowers or a fresh baked pie? How many times have we avoided something harmful because of the foul odor? Smelling serves a needed service, though we would not think to rate in high on the list of essential body parts.

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Now, the feet and the hands, the ears and the eyes, even the nose all exist according to God’s plan. There are no spare parts. The issue is addressed on several occasions in this letter, self-importance was indeed a problem among the Corinthians. Folks suffering from I am enough and all the church needs. The eye and the head no matter what it sees or thinks need feet to put it thoughts and visions into action. If you don’t elevate your thinking about lowly feet the body doesn’t move. Unity in diversity is a concept of "unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation" that shifts focus from unity based on a mere tolerance of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences towards a more complex unity based on an understanding that difference enriches human interactions. From its apostolic beginnings, then, the Church has always been thought of as a community of diverse members with diverse gifts, and the diversity of the saints continues to testify to how differently the same Christian faith and life may be expressed in this world. The idea is sometimes rooted in our teaching about the Holy Trinity: God is a unity, one God, in a diversity of persons, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Image result for church for all people columbus umIt is not difficult to see where Paul is heading with this body analogy even as he turns in his metaphor, to what most likely are internal organs and what we refer to as our “private areas.” In verses 22-25, Paul argues that every member of the body is necessary. There are no exceptions. Those body parts that are deemed weaker, less honorable, or less presentable are all critically important. Paul rejected the Corinthians criteria for evaluating which gifts were most honorable. Internal and external parts of the body needed to create a balance whole. In 12:26, Paul pens one of the most powerful verses in the Scriptures: "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it."  Indeed, it is through suffering that we learn how important the parts of the body are. If the head forgets about the feet, just stub a toe; the head will pay attention! Furthermore, if you dislocate a tiny bone in your foot your whole body is miserable. The converse is also true. The head might ache if the back is in pain. Cure the back pain, and the headache disappears. Or if you’ve ever been sick with a cold or the flu you know that a simple cold, cough, or sore throat can affect your entire body. Appreciate the solidarity of the body. Fearfully and wonderfully made.  No spare parts.
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We are not here by chance. Can you remember what originally attracted you to this place and why you stay?  I believe it is because of the Body itself—all of us as members; all of us who have allowed the call of Christ to be lived out through our relationships together. We are here because we know we are deeply connected to one another.   As members of the same body we are so closely bound together that we actually share the same feelings. What causes joy for one member delights all of us the whole body. When one member suffers we share the pain, the entire body hurts. When I look out at your I am often astounded by how deeply your connected to my soul. Look around you. Is it true for you? Our ten years in this place is fruitful because you graced this place with your entire body. We have experienced the truth that not all differences divide. We know in fact, some differences make for an even deeper unity. We also know not all differences can be held together. Some differences between us really do divide us and truly challenge us to appreciate our “Unity in Diversity.” We tend to forget that many of the strengths we so admire in one person are often incompatible with the strengths we admire in another. The grace of a figure skater is useless to a Sumo wrestler.  We need the diversity of each person for the body of Christ to function. Image result for church for all people columbus umAgain I say Paul’s metaphor of the many “parts” (or members) of the body is one of the most powerful in scripture. The diversity of the body is something beyond debate. No two parts of the body are identical, not only are your hands and feet different but your left hand and right hand are different. I have a cousin who has one blue eye and one brown eye.  Yet it easy if not natural for us to see in our mind’s eye the picture of a body working in perfect harmony. The ears listening to the sounds as the eyes take in the surroundings. The brain processes the information, while the hand writes—taking notes, and the mouth speaks, sharing the experience. And that, says Paul, is how the body Christ works, too. Each member with all of its parts working together. Each part being fully aware of the Spirit that holds us together and directs our work; guiding us to use our gifts for the “common good.”   The Church is to be the place where, together, we learn how to be God’s genuinely human beings. Worshiping God and serving God by reflecting God’s diverse image into the world and to one another! In today’s world it is a beautiful image that that cannot be realized without intention. God created a great physical body and an opportunity for us to an indispensable part of a spiritual body. God invites us through Christ to all be heading in a common direction. Able to face this paradox of being so dramatically different, while seeing ourselves the same in the marvelous light of Christ. Here at the Church for All People we know keeping the Body of Christ as diverse as possible keeps on the path of experiencing the fullness of God. The only way to dance with God through this life into the other is with each other.  And there are many others to invite to the dance be it a waltz or the Hokey Pokey. We know there are others who are the same kind of different as us. Let’s invite them to the dance.

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Implicit Bias vs Explicit Bias

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Deciderata Explains Implicit Bias
For most of U.S. history, racism has been overtly on display and at a conscious level. Signs designated separate seating. Slurs were common designators. Racially-targeted violence went unchallenged. Laws unabashedly identified people of color as less than human. After the Civil Rights Movement, the explicit bias of previous eras largely gave way to the more subtle, but still pernicious, era of 'colorblind racism'. With its being no longer socially acceptable to display blatant bigotry, racism had to evolve, surviving and thriving amidst a strategy of ignoring race all together. It was this colorblind era that gave us mass incarcerationstop-and-friskthe school-to-prison pipelinechildren at our borderdetention centers, and racist mascots. These systems emerged and expanded largely due to implicit bias.  Implicit biases are the "judgments and/or behaviors that often operate at a level below conscious awareness and without intentional control." We all have them, and they develop out of our brain's beneficial ability to identify patterns. But it goes awry when we inappropriately affix significance to social identities resulting in adverse outcomes for others.
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It affects us all
Racial implicit bias manifests itself in everything from assumptions about sports prowess, to who we hire/fire, to who we are afraid of as we walk down the street. To combat our implicit biases, we must first become aware of their existence (try an IAT test!), so that we can consciously combat their effects on our thought processes and actions. Implicit bias can’t be fixed with colorblindness, in fact colorblindness makes it worse. While overt racism never really went away, over the years implicit bias was allowed to take root and fester, unexamined and unchecked. The result has been decades of accumulated disparity, often perpetuated by unwitting 'basically good' people. Resumes were overlooked, mortgages and leases were declined, school applications were denied--indeed innocent people were shot. All because largely well-meaning people, acted on their implicit biases, often without even realizing they are contributing to systemic racism in our society. Image result for moving sidewalk racismWe each have the opportunity to confront our own biases and begin to combat their effects on our lives adn the lives around us. Dr. Beverly Tatum describes racism as a moving sidewalk in society--even if we are standing still we are still moving with the system and allowing racism to persist. Changing the situation requires actively turning around, indeed repenting, and walking against the way things are currently set up. Let us each identify and walk against the many moving sidewalks on which we find ourselves. Most recently, explicit bias has made comeback. We've observed a resurgence in overt fear and hate in ways we largely haven't seen since the Civil Rights Movement. If we’re not careful, this dynamic will lower the bar for racial progress, and allow well-meaning individuals to rest in the comfort of knowing that at least we’re not like those ‘bad apples.’ But let us not be lured into thinking explicit racism is its only form. Instead, we must continue to uncover and counteract our own implicit biases, understanding the profound role they play in perpetuating systemic injustice around us.

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Looked with Compassion

Image result for bad eyesightThe following a sermon from Pastor Greg Henneman that he preached based on Matthew 14 after Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted for shooting of Philando Castile. I was born with bad eyesight. I have one eye that is not horrible, it is around 20/80, but in my other eye I am legally blind. However, I have lazy eye in the good eye so my body primarily uses the bad eye. Basically, I am blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other. All of my life I have had to wear glasses in order to see the world clearly. In fact, three out of four people in the United States wear some kind of corrective lenses, whether glasses or reading glasses or contact lenses. The vast majority of us need some help to see the world around us more clearly. While most of us need glasses to improve our physical vision, all of us need help to learn how to see the world as God sees the world. We all need to learn how to see one another like Jesus. In Matthew 14, Jesus had just learned that his cousin, John the Baptist, was brutally executed through the influence of the king’s sister in law. John, a faithful, religious man, the one who baptized Jesus, was beheaded. Image result for crowdJesus hears the tragic news and decides to get a break from it all and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He gets on a boat, crosses the sea, but when gets there and who is waiting for him? The crowd. Crowds of people made it around the lake and got there before Jesus, looking for a healing miracle, listening for a teaching, wanting for something to eat. Jesus just wanted to get away from it all, and there was the ever-present crowd, just wanting more from him. Have you ever been in a situation like that when you just need a break and the phone keeps ringing or people keep calling your name or the kids ask from you or the boss wants from you and life just won’t give you a break? When we are there, it is easy to begin to look at the people around us as a drain, as a source of stress, as someone else wanting something from me, taking my time and my energy. We begin to look at the people around us as obstacles to be overcome. Jesus doesn’t do that. Despite the fact that he is stressed out and the crowd wants from him he doesn’t look at them as if they are a burden, he looks at them with compassion. glass.png He doesn’t see them as needy, he sees them with compassion. Through the eyes of compassion he provides for them, he heals the sick, teaches, and feeds. He does all of that, because he starts from a place of compassion. Jesus looks at people through the eyes of compassion. How do we look at people? We start by observing the outside. A Harvard University study found that brain scans show that the first things we notice about someone when we look at their face is their race and their gender. We look at a person and the first thing we notice is the color of the skin and whether it is a man or a woman. This is a natural, evolutionary response. But then from there, our brain not only makes this initial observation, but assigns meanings to the observation. We make assumption about people based on whether the person is a man or a woman. I know that if I go to get my car worked on, I will often get a different response than my wife. That kind of stuff drives me crazy and I hate it, but that is the world that we live in.

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And we not only make assumptions about someone because of their gender, but because of their race. We saw it again this week in the exoneration of the police officer who killed Philando Castillo. Castillo was not only brutally shot in front of his family and killed, but he had been pulled over 52 times in his life for minor traffic violations. 52 times. This is someone who was a model citizen, who worked at a school, who had a quiet and unassuming personality, who was described by the students of the school as “Mr Rogers with dreadlocks”. But because of the color of his skin he was pulled over 52 times and killed. This is how the world looks at people. We look at someone and judge them as a threat by their appearance. The world has conditioned us to look at each other as opposites and to categorize. Rich and poor, black and white, male and female, gay and straight.
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While this is how we look at the world, this is not God’s design. On the first page of the Bible, in Genesis, Chapter 1, it says “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Every person is created in the image of God. Every face you see in this room reflects something different about who God is. The person who is different from you is not a category to be labeled or feared, but is a sister or brother in Christ who has been created in God’s image. It is in the diversity of humankind that we see a little more clearly who God is. The invitation we have is to begin to see one another not as our culture and society teach us to see where we divide people by race, color, creed, sexuality, and national origin, but to see each other as God sees us, to see Christ reflected in the eyes of the stranger, to look with the eyes of compassion. So how do we do that, how do we get compassionate eyes? How do we learn to see each other as God sees us? Unfortunately it is not as easy as going to the eye doctor and getting a new pair of glasses with compassion lenses. Often, the way we begin to see others differently is when we go through some struggle and suffering ourselves.
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Remember, that this scripture follows right after Jesus has learned of the execution of John the Baptist. Jesus has lost a cousin in a horrific way. He is mourning, he is grieving, so when he comes upon this crowd of people who are hurting, Jesus is hurting himself. It is the fact that he is going through some stuff himself that he is able to have compassion for others who are going through some stuff. This compassion that Jesus shows is deep. The Greek word for compassion, splagchnizomai, means to be moved at the very depth of our being. It is a gut-wrenching compassion. Splagchnizomai is not looking at someone from a distance and having pity for them. It is not about looking down on someone and saying how unfortunate they are, to look with compassion is to connect their struggle with your own and know that we are all united together in Christ. In the world’s eyes we are very different. One of the things that makes us special as the Church for All People is our diversity. And yet, one thing that we have in common is that we all have been through some stuff. We have all mourned the loss of someone we loved. We have all faced addictions of one kind or another, whether to a chemical substance or to our pride and ego. We all know what it feels like to be rejected and to have experienced a broken relationship. We all know what it is like to just have a bad day. When we are able to be honest with ourselves and recognize our own brokenness, then we can be compassionate about the struggles of someone else. However, our temptation is to forget where we have come from. We look at the other with judgmental eyes, not remembering that we were there 10 years ago or recognizing how much God’s grace has changed us. What would it look like to see a person behaving badly through the eyes of compassion? It would mean seeing the person for who they are and not defining them by their behavior. Image result for splagchnizomaiWhen you see the person behaving in a way that you would consider wrong, that person is not their behavior. That person is a child of God and their behavior comes from a place you probably know nothing about. We all share a lifetime of pain and struggle and abuse and suffering. And we have all been hurt. When we can see our hurts and can be understanding of another person’s hurts, than we can begin to look at one another through the eyes of compassion. And when we can do that, amazing things can happen. The rest of this scripture is the familiar story of the loaves and fishes. The disciples see the hungry crowd and instead of looking at them through the eyes of compassion they look and see mouths that need to be fed. They ask Jesus to send them away, but instead Jesus says you feed them. They argue that they don’t have enough. But our God is not a God of scarcity but a God of abundance. There is more than enough. From the five loaves and two fish thousands are fed with 12 baskets of leftovers. But the full miracle here is not only the miracle of abundant food, but the miracle of abundant compassion. Our fear of scarcity is not limited to having enough money or food or stuff, we also often think we may not have enough love or kindness or generosity or compassion. o much so that we try and protect our pride by putting limits on how much forgiveness we are willing to show or understanding we are willing to extend. But our God is not a God of scarcity, but is a God of abundance! The more we show love, the more we receive love in return. The more we offer forgiveness, the more we are forgiven.
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The more we extend compassion, the more compassion spreads like a ripple effect across our community and our world. The more we look at one another and see God in the eyes of the other, even in the person who makes us most uncomfortable, the more we are a part of God’s work of creating a world where people are seen for the content of their character instead of merely for the color of their skin. My prayer for us today is that we will all get some new glasses, that we will see each other differently, that we will look at each other with eyes of compassion.

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