• Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development

Friday, March 13, 2009

Third Sunday in Lent, Year B - The Ten Commandments - Exodus 20: 1-17

The Ten Commandments displayImage via Wikipedia

The Propers for the third Sunday in Lent include the Exodus version of the Ten Commandments. They are set in the context of God's redemptive act of release from slavery in Egypt. The preface reads, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" (Ex. 30.2). Jewish tradition considers this to be the first commandment, but most scholars see this as a preface, leading to the first commandment about fidelity to God. In any event, it is important to note that the commandments are a response to the call of a people. God first chose the people of ancient Israel, freed them from slavery, and then gave them the law to guide them into right relationship with God and with each other.

A few days ago, I blogged about the importance of a rule of life. I think it fair to view the Ten Commandments as a rule of life for the people of ancient Israel, both as they wondered in the desert and later as they settled in a new land and became a nation.

The Decalogue became a liturgical text in ancient Israel, recited in the context of worship, as it used to be in the Anglican tradition (provision is still made in the Book of Common Prayer to do so in the Penitential Order used by some during Lent). The Ten Commandments were used, as were so many liturgical texts, to wrestle with what it meant to be the people of God. They served as a standard by which their actions could be judged and challenged. The Apostle Paul certainly saw the law (oracles as he called them) in this way - guidelines that made people aware of their condition (see Romans 3.1-20)

We can use the Ten Commandments as guides to our behavior today. For instance, take the first commandment - "You shall have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20.3). When it was first articulated, the people of the just forming Israelite community lived in a polytheistic world. It would have seemed strange, perhaps, to consider offering fidelity to one God only. However, this is what the God of Israel asked of them - that they choose to offer allegiance to Yahweh alone in response to Yahweh's gracious and generous prior saving act.

In our world, we don't think in terms of multiple gods. However, if we chose to define God, as Paul Tillich and others have, as "that which is of ultimate concern," we can see that, in fact, many gods exist in our lives and in our world. So, the first commandment calls us to examine that reality, to consider what really is of ultimate concern to us. What do we really worship? What is of ultimate concern in our lives when all else is stripped away? This is an important question that deserves our attention, especially during this season of Lent.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Powerful Noise

Countries fall into three broad categories bas...Image via Wikipedia

Last week, I wrote about the A Powerful Noise event that was to take place in 450 theaters around the country as part of the International Women's Day celebration. The evening consisted of the film, A Powerful Noise, and a live panel discussion moderated by Ann Curry and including Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE, Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, Madeleine Albright, Natalie Portman, and Christie Turlington Burns, all outspoken advocates of the effort to lift women out of poverty. You can read a news article about the event on CARE's website here, and can view a substantial preview of the film here.

For those who did not see the film, a DVD will be available sometime in May or June. Preordering starts on May 5 (click here for more information). You can find discussion guides on the A Powerful Noise website as well.

I'm telling you this with the hope that you will plan an event using the DVD and study guide at your place of worship, your school or office, or even in your living room. It is so important that we hear the stories of the three women featured in the film - women who overcame tremendous personal obstacles and found small nonprofits to empower others to make better lives for themselves. As CARE makes clear, helping women to move out of poverty is the surest way to lift whole families and communities out of poverty.

So, start planning now to use this fabulous resource to educate and inspire the people of your community!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Living the Life

"Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Je...Image via Wikipedia

Today's Propers for the Daily Office include readings from Jeremiah, Romans and the Gospel of John. Each reminds us that God always stands ready to receive us, to reconcile us to God's self, and to bring us into right relationship with God. In Romans, Paul says, "Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance" (3.4b). In John, Jesus heals a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years - a true act of generosity and kindness. This kindness led Jesus to attend to the man's spiritual well-being as well, offering him the gift of right relationship with God (5.14).

In Jeremiah, the prophet laments that both Israel and Judah have strayed and lived "faithlessly." Both have "played the whore." God sends Jeremiah to say to the people of Israel, "I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful" (3.12). Then, in a prose addition that is probably later, Jeremiah has God say, "I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding" (3.15).

Jumping a couple of chapters, we read a challenge proclaimed by Jeremiah in a sermon at the temple: "For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly with one another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever" (7.5-7).

These texts each remind us that living as God's disciples requires commitment, a conscious choice, and a willingness to repent and reorient when we go astray. Discipleship requires that we create for ourselves and our spiritual communities a rule of life that shapes our thoughts, our decisions, our interactions with other people and the world around us, and that makes provision for return when necessary.

Episcopalians find this rule embodied in the words of our liturgy. We celebrate the presence of God in our lives as we hear the good news of the Gospel, pray for ourselves and others, ask for forgiveness and receive absolution, and then break the bread of God's presence as a community of redeemed people. As we live out that liturgical drama during the week by functioning in the world, we recognize that God continues to call and guide us and to push/pull us towards the reconciled relationship that God has for us.

There are many rules of life, of course. Some take the liturgical ebb and flow and apply it to our daily living. Others modify existing trditional rules in creative ways. John McQuiston has written a little book called, Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living, in which he takes the Rule of St. Benedict and applies it to the busy modern world. You can read this little book at Google Book Search.

McQuiston states his first rule: "Live this life and do whatever is done in a spirit of thanksgiving. Abandon attempts to achieve security, they are futile. Give up the search for wealth, it is demeaning. Quit the search for salvation, it is selfish. And come to comfortable rest in the certainty that those who participate in this life with an attitude of Thanksgiving will receive its full promise" (17-18). Tough, counter-cultural, perhaps counter-intuitive words - but words to consider carefully as we travel the spiritual path!

Another rule was written by the folks at Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, and can be found here. This rule incorporates careful attention, through prayer, study, and action, to the Millennium Development Goals as part of a broader spiritual discipline that will help us to live faithfully according to God's purposes and desires. It fits particularly well with the words of Jeremiah 7 quoted above.

To summarize, regardless of our shortfalls, our fits and starts, our turning away, God responds with kindness, reaching out with God's unconditional and gratuitous love with the singular intention of restoring us to right relationship with God. As we exercise the discipline of discipleship, we find that we turn from whatever distracts or pulls us away and move back onto the path that God has set for us. How blessed we are that God is with us regardless of the challenges that we face, regardless of the stubbornness of the human heart, regardless of our spiritual blindness. God opens our eyes to God's truth, to love, to compassion, to generosity!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

International Women's Day

International Women's Day rally in Dhaka, Bang...Image via Wikipedia

March 8 is International Women's Day. IWD is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. You can learn all about its history and all the events planned for this year's celebration by clicking here. Two hundred and forty-four events are scheduled to take place in the UK, 175 in the USA, 156 in Australia, 28 in India, etc. Click here for a list of gender facts, such as, "Women use 20,000 words a day while men only use 7,000," and "Of 1.2 billion people living in poverty worldwide, 70% are women."

The well-being of women is central to the Millennium Development Goals, of course. Goal #3 is to promote gender equality and to empower women and #5 is to improve maternal health. In fact, women play at least an equal role in each of the goals. Since more women live in poverty and less women receive adequate formal education, the plight of women is central to the fight against global poverty.

CARE is an humanitarian organization that believes that working alongside poor women has the potential to lift whole families and communities out of poverty. Tomorrow evening, March 5, CARE and ONE will sponsor a grand event called A Powerful Noise Live. A Powerful Noise is a movie that follows three women from different countries who overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to bring lasting solutions to their communities. The movie will be followed by a a town hall discussion with Madeleine K. Albright, Natalie Portman, Nicholas Kristof, Christy Turlington Burns and Dr. Helene Gayle (President and CEO of CARE). Click here to get information on participating theaters and ticket information.

I'll be there tomorrow night and will blog about it afterwards. If anyone out there in the Jacksonville, FL area wants to meet up for it, send me an email.

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