Sunday, September 26, 2010

Week 44: Migration and Immigration

Migration and Immigration. How can one thrill the heart and the other weigh down the soul?

My eye is drawn daily to light and wings. At dawn a small flock of sandhill cranes pecks about a harvested corn field, backlit by rays of heaven, streaming and raising steam. At dusk dark shadows of flocks line up the length of power lines, facing the setting sun. Is this their form of prayer? These changes in time and season, in flying from one home to the next and back again, evoke wonder.

Changes of immigration law evoke dread. My friend, Gwen, described walking through the desert where many immigrants cross from Mexico to Arizona.

"There is nothing simple about immigration as it stands in these days. From a legal point of view there are no easy answers at all. But I am responsible for God's point of view. And there is only one answer in scripture for the stranger and the neighbor. That answer is welcome and respect."

If laws pass that make it a crime to aid immigrants without legal documentation, then our whole congregation could be sent to jail. Maybe that would be a good thing. Thirty eight states are considering such lawas. But hopefully another way through the wilderness will be found.

This coming week includes Worldwide Communion Sunday. If only the communion could be honest and equal between the communions of Mexico and the United States, between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, between Uganda and DR Congo, that would indeed be a miracle. Until then, the Mexicans and Costa Ricans, and Africans and African Americans and Native Americans (and German, Irish, English, Finnish, French and Swiss Americans) in our little communion seeks to grow in joy and justice.

The birds may lift my heart. But it is brothers and sisters I need to lift my soul. The flock of One God of All.

Week 43: Rural Prisons and Hope

One measure of vibrancy is "passion for life." This fall our congregation is looking for signs of this passion within and around us.

Mark offered to share his passion with us. He is a member of a Florence family. And he is in prison.

But his imagination is not.

Through words, collages, drawings, and selected music, he gave us a whole new picture of what hope looks like for him, from behind bars.

Here are his words:

Passionate Light

To me passion is priceless. Paid for by living life. I was in prison -- so I never paid to go see passion of the Christ. True passion is always right. Fueled with white light. Which we can only visualize -- through holding our hopes tight.

My passion probably came to me through infinite veins. Long before my soul took hold. Long before I became a name. While in the womb hearing the rain. Internal patterns linked like chains.

Our passion often gets cut down to limited lover’s tales. The excuse for such things as Jarreds, De Beers, and Zales. True passion can fill sails. And free mental ships from docks. Trust me -- it’s been my passion, for life -- while I’ve been locked, that keeps me creating my happiness -- with the limited tools I’ve got.

True passion never announces itself. Instead you find it there. In the part of your true being -- that is as delicate as air. .

My passion

In the last five years I have learned that prison is very much part of the reality of rural life in the counties around Florence Church. So much humanity, locked up and hidden away. I have much to learn about the power of imagination that sustains and stretches hearts and minds behind bars, but toward a future of vibrant possibilities.

Week 42: Villa-Miller Farm Meeting

More than sisty farmers gathered at Villa Miller, the seed corn and soy bean farm of Martha and Henry Miller. They were there to hear about land conservancy for farm acreage. I saw a small handful that looked under fifty. What will happen to all the acres in soy beans and corn in the next twenty years. Henry fielded many questions about strip farming -- including other crops in alternate rows and allowing him to drill in his seed without disking the field.

The sense of vibrancy was well grounded. While options for certification of ecologial farm compliace was explained by the young extension service worker, the room was quiet.

Most of the evening was a new foreign language for me. I learned more, as usual, through pictures. I never knew that different parts of the root systems of the corn plant grew at different temperatures.

(Maybe this is why my vegetables never grow well in the pots on my back deck. Hmmmm...the earth gets warm quite quickly.)

As the setting sun glinted off Henry's massive machinery, farmers scattered, and then talked in twos and threes among the trucks and tractors. I would have loved to eavesdrop.

What does the farm world look like to these professional farmers who manaage worlds of mathematics and machinery to produce more per acre than has ever been produced before. What is the future of this kind of wisdom and skill in soil care?

When I asked a pastor/farmer what he thought the future of these farms would be he said,
"Oh, the big companies will buy all these corn and soy bean operations up and run them."

What might that look like? Who will tend Henry's well cultivated land?

Monday, September 6, 2010

WEEK 41: Water, Bread, & Wine (with room for ice cream for dessert)

Our Well Endowed Aunt Lilly provided for us – all fifty of us – a weekend of vibrancy.

Amigo Centre, our friend, was our host:
What is this place where we are meeting,
only a house, the earth its floor.
Walls and a roof sheltering people,
windows for light, an open door.
Yet it becomes a body that lives
when we are gathered here
and know our God is near.*

We had our own rooms, private baths, abundant food and hot coffee, blue lake, crisp air and clear sky. There were long trails through the marsh lined with marsh marigold and fringed gentian and visited by deer. We ventured in canoes and sailboats on the water, on nature walks and treasure hunts in the morning, conversing in the “passion booth” at noon, and reveling in popcorn, Karaoke, dancing and games in the night.

Time comes to a fullness.

When Suzanne led us in worship on Sunday morning it was to gaze out on the forest and the lake beyond as we sang “What is this place.” We breathed new air. We became a new body.

A body of Vibrant Life, given by amazing grace, we walked down to the lakeside for a baptism. We sang and danced the old Shaker tune, “’Tis a gift to be simple,” bowing to one another and to God in our circle of friendship and faith. Water gathered from the lake poured new life over Nora. And, “baptized into ordination for ministry” as the Church of the Brethren understands this rite, Nora served us the bread and wine of the living Christ.

Here we accept bread at his table,
broken and blessed, a living sign.
Here in this world, dying and living,
we are each other’s bread and wine.
This is the place where we can receive
what we need to increase
God’s justice and God’s peace.*

*“Here in this place” by Huub Oosterhuis
Dayenu! This would have been enough! But David suggested that we end our time with dessert at Ice Cream Heaven, the famous Nottawa Sand Lake Party Store – on Aunt Lilly. So we filled the place with a long line, more conversation, and piles of ice cream that dwarfed the cones.

David says, “Food is God’s love made physical.” What a sign of abundant love, that after two nights and most of three days together, huge brunch and dinner meals, lots of laughing, walking and playing together, we still had room for dessert!

Yes, the Commonwealth of God is like a Great Banquet,with room for dessert…AMEN!