Friday, January 15, 2016

Compassionate Change

By Rev. Lee Anderson

This is the time of year when many people are thinking about change, resolutions, new habits, and new beginnings. Whatever you are attempting to do differently, I invite you to take a journey of self-compassion while doing so. 

In her book Making a Change for Good, Zen Buddhist teacher Cheri Huber describes the difference between self-discipline and self-improvement. She states that “Self-improvement…is based on a false premise (that there is something wrong with you) and results in suffering.” Sure, self-discipline is important in leading a life that allows us be who we want to be, and who God designed us to be. But this is different from believing we are inherently flawed, that something is wrong with us and needs to be fixed. This kind of self-beating leads us further away from connecting to God’s love; we hide our faces in shame rather than turn to God with an open heart. Transformation can and does happen when we are healed and made whole. However, and this is important to remember, even up until your time of healing, you are still worthy of love. God loves you just as you are, and longs for the connection that brings wholeness. You do not need to earn this.  

When there is something you want to change about yourself, it is important to remember this belovedness. First, change does not happen simply by beating yourself up or putting yourself down. I am sure that some have experienced changed habits by doing this, but what about the emotional suffering that comes with it? Does that suffering reflect God’s goodness of creation? Second, if you believe you are already loved, you will be that much more willing to open up and let God in to touch those places that need healing, so you can be the person you long to be. A friend of mine, who is a student of the aforementioned Cheri Huber, taught me this wonderful phrase to start the day: “Your goodness is already established.  How do you want to be today?”

As followers of Christ, we believe in new life and the hope of the Resurrection. This belief is rooted in love. Jesus modeled compassion; shouldn’t we share in that compassion toward ourselves as well as others? As you work toward change for yourself, don’t forget to call on the One who can make all things new. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

This Year, I Pledge to Be Outraged...

By Rev. Jasper Peters, Associate Pastor

Heading into this New Year, I pledge to be outraged.

I should probably explain. I grew up chewing Big League Chew, pretending it was chewing tobacco. I had candy cigarettes. I played cops and robbers with toy guns. I did all of this because I was a child, and they were play things. The Big League Chew and candy cigarettes didn’t lead to cancer, the guns didn’t fire real bullets, and I had the blessing of growing beyond adolescence into adulthood.

12-year-old Tamir Rice never had that chance. More than a year ago in Ohio, he was shot and killed while playing with a toy gun in a park. (Ohio is a state with open carry laws, yet that didn’t stop John Crawford from being murdered while holding a toy gun in Walmart a few months earlier). A police officer exited the passenger side of his vehicle and fired two shots within two seconds of laying eyes on this precious child. He was so quick to use deadly force, in fact, that his police vehicle had not fully come to a stop. Young Tamir lay there for several minutes, bleeding —dying —yet no first aid was administered. He died the next day. 

That this is a tragedy, there can be no doubt. Yet, as a civilized society, we are taught to expect justice to be a remedy, when possible. For over a year, the Rice family and many who have watched the progress of the case, hoped for the machinations of justice to produce some semblance of a resolution to this case. Recently, that hope was squelched when a grand jury decided not to indict the officer involved in the murder. 

For this, I am outraged. Some might say that, in time, it would be best to let go of this outrage and make peace with the situation. In years past I very well might have done so. But not this time. Outrage is popularly defined as:

  • ·         anything that strongly offends, insults, or affronts the feelings.

  • ·         a powerful feeling of resentment or anger aroused by something perceived as an injury, insult, or injustice.

The murder of Tamir Rice produces an outrage in me that I am not willing to put aside. If I did, then life would continue as it has, the world largely unchanged. This prompts the question, are we willing to accept a world in which a child’s life can be taken by those charged to protect and serve? I must say, I cannot. I will not live complacently in such a world. Instead, I choose outrage. After all, there is biblical precedent for such outrage. In Matthew 21 we find the story of Jesus overturning tables and whipping those who had turned the safe and sacred temple into something lesser and vile. I’m sure that the realities that cause outrage in Jesus disturbed others. I’m sure that there are those who saw the money changers, were disgusted by their actions, and then made peace with the situation and moved along. Yet, Jesus decided that complacency was not something he could tolerate in that moment, and instead was prompted toward action. 

This season is usually filled with a hope for new beginnings, changes, and a better life than we’ve had thus far. For some, this might prompt them to make peace with a situation and move along. For me, I am committed to retaining a sense of outrage in the hope that it might give me energy to create a change in this world that is in desperate need of justice. If Tamir was robbed of his life, and cannot receive justice, the best I can give him now is my outrage. 

Some start with the question of who is to blame for this case, and the many other cases like it. Should we blame and villainize the police? Or is the gun industry is to blame? Perhaps it is our legal system that needs to be revamped. In general, I find blame to be of very little use. Rather, I maintain a desire to direct energies toward positive changes that can help to maintain a hopeful vision of the future. The question then becomes how this outrage can and should be directed. Clearly it is possible to express outrage in ways that are less conducive to a future hope for peace and justice. Instead, I’m opting to speak with a loud and clear voice, naming the wrongs and instances of injustice wherever and whenever it might be effective. One such opportunity is coming up in just a few weeks here at Trinity. We are hosting a forum and community discussion for the candidates for Denver’s District Attorney in 2016 on January 18th. (Click here for details.) Is this a definitive answer to the problems that led to the untimely death of Tamir Rice. Absolutely not. Nevertheless, though outrage may not provide all the answers, it can certainly equip us to ask the right questions.