Friday, December 18, 2015

Adele's "Hello" is the Best Christmas Song of 2015


It doesn't have jingle bells or sleigh rides.  It doesn't have any references to the Christ Child.  It contains not a mention of Santa and his reindeer.  It doesn't have any overt references to Christmas at all.  But I say Adele's "Hello" is the best Christmas song of 2015.  It's the song we need right now, and whether we know it or not-whether it was intended to be or not-"Hello" offers us a message from the Divine.
 
As far as I can tell, Adele may be the only voice this holiday season urging us to say, "I'm sorry."  From the first plaintive words of the song, we hear Adele describe the shame each of us knows and perhaps feels acutely during the holidays.
 
Hello, it's me
I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet
To go over everything
They say that time's supposed to heal ya
But I ain't done much healing
 
The song implies the words are intended for a lost love, but they could just as easily apply to an estranged child, parent or family member.  Today we can destroy relationships with a tap on our smart phones and share with the world our worst selves by clicking a mouse.  We don't think twice before posting unfiltered feelings, and because our news feed never stops, we never stop to apologize.  Only when we see the empty chair across from us at the holiday meal do we take time to think about what we've done to hurt others.
 
Adele's apologetic anthem seems like it's from another time period.  Perhaps that's why the makers of the song's video chose to have both her and her estranged lover use flip phones.  In the video, Adele even uses a phone plugged into the wall!  We've lost the art of apologizing via a phone call, much less through a face-to-face conversation.  Sometimes an apology by text just won't cut it.  As Adele sings, It's no secret that both of us are running out of time.  Surely this holiday season I'm not the only one with the nagging sense that I'm running out of time to say, "I'm sorry." 
 
This holiday season when news of mass shootings and vitriolic campaign speeches are piled on top of the usual overindulgence and rampant consumerism, Adele's "Hello" speaks to a desire in each of us to make right what we have done to hurt those around us.  
 
Saturday Night Live adeptly parodied the power of this song in a skit that had relatives around the Thanksgiving dinner table arguing over Syrian refugees and Black Lives Matter suddenly transformed when Adele's "Hello" is played on a nearby boombox.  Family members bitterly parroting cable talk show pundits each become "Adeles" complete with the fur coat and nail polish she wore in her video.  In 2015, maybe the stunning popularity of this song is because we are all "Adeles" concerned that it is too late to say, "I'm sorry."

 
If only Adele really had the power to transform our warring families, political leaders and nations into humble apologetic people capable of seeking reconciliation.  Sadly, not even Adele has that much power.  If only we had a holiday dedicated to someone with the power to show us how to make the words of Adele's "Hello" our own.

Grace and Peace,

Chase

Recent sermons on-line


You can click here to listen to my sermon from Sunday, December 6: "Light in the Darkness"

If you missed it, here's what it's about:

How do we find hope and peace of mind in the midst of difficult times? Where is the light of God in our time which is filled with so many stories of death?

This sermon is about the song of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, found in Luke 1:68-76. Specifically it's about the phrase in the song which says, "light in the shadow of death." John's father declares his son will reveal light to those in the shadow of death. How can we do the same?
Note about the audio:

As an intro to this sermon, I showed a YouTube video of Simon and Garfunkel's song "Silent Night/7 o'clock News. You can watch it here 
Also, we had a glitch with the audio-visual equipment and at the beginning of the sermon another Simon and Garfunkel tune began to play-that wasn't planned. As good as the song "Scarborough Fair" may be, it wasn't intended to be part of the sermon.

You can click here to listen to my sermon from Sunday, November 29: "She Said Yes"

If you missed it, here's what it's about:  

This is a sermon about the annunciation by the angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of Jesus, that she would miraculously conceive a child-not just any child but the long-expected Messiah. Discussions of Mary often center on belief/disbelief in the doctrine of the Virgin Birth or they locate Mary's significance solely in her role as Jesus' mother. Yet, the Gospel of Luke presents Mary as an example of a true disciple, one who hears the word of the Lord and does what it says. By seeing ourselves in Mary's story, we can learn what it means to say "yes" to God in our time and place.

Recommended Reading, Listening and Watching 12-15-15 Edition

Each week (more or less) I send out an e-mail to my congregation sharing my thoughts along with a list of things I’ve read, listened to or watched that I think are worth passing along.  Here's the latest.



Recommended Reading and Listening
CCCUCC Folks in the News
  • Jan Parks was quoted in another KC Star story on the use of TIF money to subsidize a development in the west Crossroads District.  She, along with other supporters of KC Public Schools and members of MORE2--including me, believe this is a case of the KC government continuing to subsidize developmen in areas that will be developed no matter what.  TIF money is supposed to be used for blighted properties.  TIF money is disproportionately used in west KC rather than east of Troost Ave. in poorer and historically African American neighborhoods.  Furthermore, using TIFS in this case would mean millions of dollars that will not go to KC Public Schools or public libraries.
United Church of Christ
Responding to Anti-Muslim Rhetoric and Actions
Climate Change
  • The deal struck at the climate change meeting in Paris is a positive step, but Bill Mckibben points out that it is twenty years too late.
Gun Violence
The (non-)War on Christmas
LGBTQ Equality
Gratitude
  • The story I shared in my sermon on Sunday about the boy saying grace and offering thanks for everything in the room came from this UCC Daily Devotional by Cameron Trimble, Executive Director of the Center for Progressive Renewal.
Misc. Stuff I think is Cool

You can find more stuff that I think is worth reading, watching and listening to by following me on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Letter to My Congressman, Kevin Yoder, re: Syrian Refugees

Dear Representative Yoder,

On November 19, you voted in favor of H.R. 4038, "American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015"  or the "American SAFE Act."  In your November 24 e-mail, you say this act serves"to pause the resettlement program for refugees from Iraq and Syria until various intelligence and national security agencies certify to Congress that each refugee is not a threat." I write as a voting resident in your district and as a Christian minister to express my outrage at your vote and my utter disagreement with the motivation behind it.  You, along with members of both political parties who voted for this bill, have failed to live up to the high ideals of our nation.

Although violent terror attacks are a real danger to our nation and the rest of the world, the "American SAFE" act does nothing to actually keep us safe.  Numerous media outlets have reported that the the process for vetting people seeking refugee status for U.S. Immigration is thorough and lengthy.  Those applying for refugee status can wait up to 3 years and must pass screenings by multiple federal agencies before their case can even be considered.  (For an example of the many articles detailing the intense process of screening refugees, see the October 2 article by Janell Ross in The Washington Post.) The "American SAFE Act" only delays further refugees from war finding a safe haven; it does not make the process better.  

In reality, the motivation behind this bill is not to keep us safer, but to keep you safely elected. Voting for this act is a way for you to appease voters whose fears have been stoked by right-wing media that turn fear into ratings and profit.  By demonizing  people from the Middle East who are primarily of the Islamic faith, the "American SAFE Act" resorts to the lowest form of political scapegoating.  It may make you look good to conservative primary voters, but it is despicable.  By pushing for further delays for Syrian refugees, you make them twice the victims of ISIS.  First, they must flee their homeland because of ISIS.  Second, their opportunity to find safety is delayed if not refused due to your supposed fears of ISIS.  The "American SAFE Act" is essentially doing the work of ISIS rather than making us safer.  As you enjoy the holidays with your family, I hope you take time to consider the thousands of refugees fleeing war and terrorism who will not enjoy the hospitality of our great country.

Further proof that your stated concern of making Kansans safer is nothing more than political theater comes when your record on gun safety is considered.  You have bragged about your "A Rating from the NRA," yet the most likely person to commit a terrorist act in our country is a white male with unfettered access to military-style assault weapons.  The killing of three people--including a police officer--and wounding of eleven more in Colorado Springs this week happens to be only the latest in over 1000 mass shootings which have happened since the slaughter of school children in Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I realize this does not concern you, since the killings of three people by white supremacist Frazier Glenn Cross at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom right here in your own district (2 miles from my house!) did nothing to change your voting record.  My children practice "active shooter" drills at school the way I grew up practicing fire and tornado drills in school when I was their age.  Even my own house of worship--as the murders at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. show--is not safe from domestic terrorism.  If you truly cared about keeping citizens in your district safe, you would work for common sense gun safety legislation rather than legislation that accomplishes nothing other than to punish people fleeing terror.

It is widely known that you are a person of the Christian faith, but as seems to be the case with all politicians, you are peculiarly selective in your use of religion to promote your political views. In the Hebrew Bible and the Christian scriptures, the message is quite clear of God's concern for refugees.  Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and his sons, Moses, David, the prophets, and even Jesus and his parents are all forced to leave their lands due to threats of political violence and/or economic deprivation.  From the Torah to the Prophets, from the Psalms to the books of Wisdom, from the Gospels to the epistles, the Bible is full of declarations that God expects people with the power to help refugees to do so.  

I realize that the demands of faith often run up against competing political concerns and even people of faith operating with pure motives can disagree, but the words of Jesus in Matthew 25 seem quite clear to me: "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  Christ expects us to treat those considered least in the world as we would treat him, including Syrian refugees.  Only people of faith who have given themselves over to a political ideology that really cares nothing for "the least of these" can find a loophole in these verses.

I urge you as a person of faith, a person of good conscience, and a duly elected representative who claims to care for his constituents to set aside political games like "the American SAFE Act" and use your power to make changes that will truly increase the safety of people in our society, a society great enough to welcome families fleeing war and terrorism.

Sincerely,

Rev. Chase Peeples

The Politics of Scarcity



On November 8th, I preached a sermon called "Scarcity vs. Abundance."  (If you missed it, can't remember it or just want to hear it again, click here.)  In the sermon, I made several points that I took from a great essay on the subject by UCC theologian and biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann, "The Liturgy of Abundance and the Myth of Scarcity."  Here's a taste of it:

We who are now the richest nation are today's main coveters. We never feel that we have enough; we have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us. Whether we are liberal or conservative Christians, we must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God's abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity -- a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly. We spend our lives trying to sort out that ambiguity."

Brueggemann persuasively presents the idea that one of the great themes of the Bible running from the creation story all the way through the teachings, life, death and resurrection of Jesus is about abundance.  God created the natural order with abundant resources for all, yet humanity continually seems to choose the way of scarcity.  The creation stories, manna in the wilderness, the miracles of Elisha and Elijah, the visions of the prophets, the poetry of the Psalms, the teachings and miracles of Jesus and more point to the reality that God provides enough for us if we will only acknowledge our place in God's creation and share it with one another.  Yet, despite what we say we believe, we live as if no abundance exists.  We only can have what we get for ourselves--getting that must come at the expense of others.  From our treatment of the environment to our rampant materialism to our lust for violence to our racism and xenophobia, we live according to the "myth of scarcity."

One needs only to watch the presidential race this week to see the ideology of scarcity at work.

Immigrants--documented or undocumented--all must be sent away.  Walls must be built.  There are not enough jobs, not enough wealth, not enough of America to share with the immigrants.  It is them or us.  Thee is no just way to share this wondderful and rich country.

The old, the disabled, the unemployed, the disenfranchised deserve their lot.  The spoils of our capitalist system belong to the strongest and the quickest.  Nevermind the lobbying, the backroom deals, the racism and the exploitation of workers and natural resources.  Those who have the most wealth deserve the most wealth.  All others deserve their failures.

More military spending is the only way to preserve the American way of life and keep America safe.  The needs of the rest of the world cannot be met.  They can only kept at bay to preserve our standard of living.

Climate change is a myth.  Our environment is not in crisis.  We can continue to use more resources than the rest of the world without facing any negative consequences for our never-ending consumption.

Marriage is for heterosexuals only.  By allowing same sex couples to marry, straight couples' marriages are devalued.  If marriage is for everyone rather than some, then everyone loses.

The voices of scarcity win votes.  Fear is a powerful motivator.  

My conservative friends would rightly say I'm picking on Republicans, and I guess they're right. Scarcity, however, crosses party lines.  I believe just about any politician, Republican or Democrat, will support the party platform of scarcity if it gets him or her elected.  We will see if the Democrats do any better than the Republicans this coming week at their debate.  I suspect the issues which provoke a declaration of scarcity may be different than the Republicans, but the politics of scarcity will make their presence known among the Democrats as well.  It's easier to run on fear and self-preservation than it is to offer a vision of a better world.

Whatever your political persuasion, listen carefully to politicians of all parties.  Do they inspire you to live in a world where there is enough for all or do they fill you with fear because there is never enough?

Grace and Peace,

Chase

Recommended Reading, Watching and Listening 11-30-15 edition

Each week (more or less) I send out an e-mail to my congregation sharing my thoughts along with a list of things I’ve read, listened to or watched that I think are worth passing along.  I’ve been neglecting my blog lately and this list is from a while back, but the stuff on this list is still worth digesting if you haven’t seen it already.

Recommended Reading and Listening
CCCUCC Folks in the News
  •  Jan Parks is quoted in a KC Star story on the use of TIF money to subsidize a development in the west Crossroads District.  She, along with other supporters of KC Public Schools and members of MORE2--including me, believe this is a case of the KC government continuing to subsidize developmen in areas that will be developed no matter what.  TIF money is supposed to be used for blighted properties.  TIF money is disproportionately used in west KC rather than east of Troost Ave. in poorer and historically African American neighborhoods.  Furthermore, using TIFS in this case would mean millions of dollars that will not go to KC Public Schools or public libraries.

Great Blog Post by CCCUCC Member
United Church of Christ
  • On November 15, the Missouri Mid-South Conference of the UCC--the one our church happens to be in--elected a new conference minister, Rev. Dr. Ginny Brown Daniel.  You can read about her by clicking here.  I went to seminary with Ginny and have known her for years.  I can't be more excited about her election!
  • United Church of Christ leaders condemned the violence in the name of religion and called on political leaders to welcome Syrian refugees.  More close to home, Edith Guffey, Conference Minister of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference UCC had letters inLawrence and Oklahoma City papers rejecting fear mongering and calling for help for Syrian refugees.
  • I had a blog post that made it on the UCC blog New Sacred last week.  It's an adapted version of something I wrote for "Thoughts From Chase."
  • UCC General Minister and President and life-long Missourian, Rev. Dr. John Dorhauerreflects on the courage of Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel responding to racism on campus.
  • John Dorhauer also has a weekly podcast called "Into the Mystic" containing words of inspiration for progressive Christians.  You can subscribe to it on Itunes or click here.
  • Is the UCC brand helpful or hurtful in attracting new people to church?  This report has an answer to this important question.
The Paris Terrorist Attack and Syrian Refugees
Racism 
LGBTQ Equality
  • Last week was the Transgender Day of Remembrance where people around the world remember the transgender women killed over the last year due to anti-trans violence.  Last Sunday, we took time in our worship to remember these women, including two transgender women in KC killed during the last year.
  • The Human Rights Campaign has a great video in which mothers of transgender kids share their experiences.  The video includes one mom from the KC area who has visited our church.
  • In the name of God, let's stop trans murders!
Justice
  • Don't give in to the myth of scarcity and the orgy of consumerism!  The United Church of Christ has "alternative Christmas presents."  Did you know that $25 can feed a refugee family?
  • The Church of England made a commercial to play in movie theaters in the UK.  The only text and audio in it is of a recitation of the Lord's Prayer.  The commercial was banned proving once again just how subversive the Lord's Prayer is and always has been.
Gratitude
Misc. Stuff I think is Cool