Here is the link to Adult Christian Formation.
Please take note of an upcoming book study: Who Will Be a Witness by Drew Hart. To begin, you can listen to the Jesus Has Left the Building podcast episode Get Your Blue Jeans On! [9/26/2020] You can access the podcast on Spotify (earlier link) or Apple podcasts. The group will gather on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. in the Forum Room and we hope you join us.
Don't hesitate to reach out if you need help getting the book or listening to the podcast. I'd be happy to get you set up.
Stay warm and cozy and light that candle!
Yesterday was the Martin Luther King holiday.
What a wonderful evolution for our country, to be officially celebrating a saint whose FBI and CIA files were thicker than the Oxford Dictionary, and who was imprisoned for his civil disobedience.
Rev. Dr. King is one of my heroes. I used to listen to his speeches on drives to and from college. What inspires me is that he (and the many in that movement with him) was foremost a person of faith whose commitments and actions came directly from that faith in God. It certainly was a social gospel faith, knowing that we are called by God to address the social conditions that make for suffering and injustice, and that God affirms the freedom and dignity of all humanity. Yet, as concerned with the moral life of humanity as he was, Dr. King’s faith was deeper than simple formulas of right and wrong, or of doing good because it is nice.
Dr. King’s faith was rooted in a trust and a connection with the God of the Universe, the Creator, whose majestic mountains dwarfed the manufactured goods so many seemed to prize and whose eternal presence made the existence of great civilizations as enduring as a passing breeze. And, perhaps most importantly, perhaps most often overlooked in his spirituality, is that Dr. King had a faith, had a trust, that the great eternal Creator was also the Source of Love, that somehow the universe itself is set up in love. Not love as something merely sentimental and soft, this is love understood as something deep, something rooted, something steely, something fierce, something that withstands the water hoses and the barking biting dogs while still walking on and loving the enemy, while still keeping eyes on the prize of the Beloved Community, the full realization of God’s Dream and intention for Creation. This is love as a soulforce, as a power stronger than violence, even stronger than death.
I believe Dr. King would be most pleased about the commemoration of his life if it called us back to that vital faith and to the causes to which that vital faith directed him, even unto death.
MLK’s life of faith is an inspiration that keeps me on the journey of following Jesus. And, since he was a church pastor and involved in a movement, MLK’s life also keeps me involved in a community of faith and believing in the church’s potential for empowering the soulforce known as love that brings justice and healing.
As we each and together journey with Jesus, let’s keep the life and vision of the Rev. Dr. King close, close enough to inform us we discern our life as Plymouth Church.
To conclude, a poem by the late great American poet Gwendolyn Brooks titled simply "Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1968"
A man went forth with gifts.
He was a prose poem.
He was a tragic grace.
He was a warm music....
read whole poem
An elder fish passes by two young fish and says, “Hey, how’s the water today?” A few moments later one of the young fish turns to the other and says, “What the hell is water?”
This old story is a wonderful metaphor for unconscious realities. Whether in our family systems or our social norms, powerful realities can remain invisible and therefore beyond the reach of examination and reform. Since we’ve always known them, we might not even see they are there.
MLK Day, like Christmas, is not the only time to seek the healing of racism, but it does serve at least as one reminder. And racism, or perhaps racial identity, has been like the unconscious water we swim in if we are white. While people of color have been aware daily of the waters of racial identity, white folk have the option, the privilege really, to not see or think of it. Over the many decades and centuries, white folk could view themselves as the norm. The old box of Crayola crayons had a salmon-pink-peach-ish color they called "flesh," as did a box of Band-Aids. This is all part of swimming unconsciously in the waters of white supremacy where white is normal, centered, and right.
If you are white, ask yourself “when did I first know I was white?”
Some of us white folk might have a hard time answering that because white norms were unconsciously assumed. People of color can usually tell you when they knew they were identified as black or brown or red. By conscious memory, my knowing started when I was a toddler. My mother volunteered at a migrant farm worker shelter and took me along and I played with kids with light brown skin who spoke a different language. I’m still working on being conscious of the racial waters of whiteness and white supremacy, still trying to see how the things I think, say, or do might keep white identified, Euro folk as the more valuable centered norm.
I was never raised explicitly or intentionally to see people of color as less than me, less than white, but, because of the unconscious American cultural waters I swam in, it happened at some level anyway. I’m hoping to be an elder fish one day who knows how to fully be aware of the waters in which I swim, the waters in which we all swim.
Jesus said that “the Truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). This is true collectively and individually, and in the matter of racial unconsciousness for white folk. Through conversation, reading, and reflection may all white folk awaken to their whiteness so that we can all be free. In honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, not to mention the women leaders like Coretta Scott King, JoAnn Robinson, Fannie Lou Hamer, and many others who sought and acted for the Beloved Community, let us faithfully go and do likewise.
The Rev. JT Smiedendorf has been a UCC minister since 2001, serving churches in Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington. He has a particular passion for reclaiming the earthy, embodied, and experiential aspect of Christian spiritual practice. He and his wife Allison are co-founders of The Sanctuary for Sacred Union, an inter-spiritual initiative, and he is currently earning a postgraduate Certificate in Psychedelic Therapies and Research. Read more about JT here.