What Will We Do? A Faithful Response to Poverty in Advent

Did you ever have one of those bracelets that said “What Would Jesus Do?” Maybe a bumper sticker? Did you get the T-shirt — WWJD? This was all the rage in the 1990s.

In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?, a novel written by Charles Sheldon in 1896, grew out of sermons he preached about imitating Christ. In His Steps was not about personal redemption but about making the moral choice when encountering the poor and marginalized. Sheldon believed all people — including Blacks, women, Jews, and Catholics — were equal and should be treated as such...

Read the latest post by Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis on Huffington PostWhat Will We Do? A Faithful Response to Poverty in Advent.

One Year Later... 10 More Things to Do

We just got an invitation to re-connect with our friends at Lab Shul in a Primal Prayer event. We attended it at Washington Square last year the day after the election. Before we screamed, we sang, we prayed, we cried, we hugged. The scream bubbled up out of our bodies, our grief, our surprise. It felt good, to let it out, let those feelings rise on the winds, rustle browning leaves, reach the heavens. 

More than screaming, what healed me was being together in the beautiful diversity that is Manhattan. Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, people of no faith and people who had lost faith. Students, older people, clergy and lay leaders; a rainbow of ethnic, gender and sexual orientation diversity. One woman held her toddler close to her bosom, like she was a life raft. Maybe our children will save us from these swirling waters.

In the midst of more and more revelations of sexual misconduct by powerful men in the arts and in the media, one such man was elected to the highest office in our land. This shocks me to my core, still. A liar, a cheat, a sexual predator—our president. How desperate must so many have been for a change for this to happen. I feel like we are cast in a horrific reality show, and the premise of the show is: How far can POTUS push the envelope on decency and have our nation’s most vulnerable citizens survive?

While I was grieving last year, I posted an article on HuffPost’s religion page—“10 Spiritual Responses to the Election.” You can still find it there. Brokenhearted, still, and more resolute than ever that we must persistently resist this administration with everything we have; I am calling us once again to ask, what would love demand of us? In these precarious times, what does Revolutionary Love and Resistance look like as an organizing principle? We need answers, and here are 10 NEW things to help us get there: 

    1.     Get with some people you love and hug them, and cry with them, and let them love you back.

    2.     Make Revolutionary Love a spiritual practice. Antiracism, LGBTQ advocacy, caring for the poor and marginalized, supporting women’s gifts, mentoring children, supporting common sense gun control, and demanding that everyone have enough healthcare and resources to thrive—this is the spiritual practice of Revolutionary Love.

    3.     Have some honest conversations with your friends and family members who voted for Trump. Ask them about how they see this administration now. Can we recruit some people to a worldview based in love and justice? We need to do that now! 

    5.     Watch news from many perspectives; follow many viewpoints on social media. Let’s learn what we need to do on the way to 2018. The political is personal AND spiritual. Jesus was political, never forget.

    6.     Come to church often, and bring friends. Join a Bible study. Let’s learn about Revolutionary Love from the experts. Register for the Revolutionary Love Conference 2018.

    7.     Pray, eat, love, breathe, exercise, sleep, laugh, play, take sabbath. We need to re-create in order to survive.

    8.     Donate to Middle Church, your one-stop hub for love and justice.

    9.     Invite your friends into a book and/or movie group. Watch 13th or Crash. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kelly Brown Douglas. Learn. Make strategies. Invite them to join our movement.

10.       Call Congress, write your senators. Demand commonsense gun control laws, needed now more than ever in the wake of recent horrific shootings.

You give me such hope, Middle Family. You are resilient, loving, powerful, generous. You are revolutionary in your faithfulness, you are revolutionary in your love.

Tell Congress: No Silence on Gun Violence

As the families of those slain in Las Vegas bury their beloved; as the wounded struggle to survive; as detectives and forensic scientists piece together the what and why of yet one more mass shooting, what can we do?

After Sandy Hook and Oak Creek; Charlotte and Orlando; it can feel like it’s too much—like nothing’s going to change—but I need to tell you what I see. As each of these horrific days pileup, I see more and more people standing up and standing together. Sooner or later, something is going to give, and I think it starts right here, right now, with us.

Tell Congress: No Silence on Gun Violence 

Prayer is not enough. We come from people who put prayer and activism in the same breath to battle Jim Crow; to ensure voting rights and marriage equality; to protect health care and the rights of religious minorities.

Now we are breathing prayer in order to push for justice —to speak up, vote, lobby, march, protest, blog, tweet and insist on the value of every person. In the midst of prophetic grief too painful to describe, we are raising our voices in the name of Sandy Hook and Oak Creek; Charlotte and Orlando; and Las Vegas.

Tell Congress: No Silence on Gun Violence

First, we’re going to stop things from getting worse. There are two pieces of legislation moving through Congress that would make it easier for people to carry and use guns that we can stop, right now. If you sign and share the petition, we’ll connect you to an easy system to call your member of Congress to make sure that happens. 

Then, I'm going to personally deliver your names to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell, with as many people as are willing to join us as possible. Voices of faith and moral courage will be crucial as politicians try to hide behind their “thoughts and prayers” or small concessions.

Tell Congress: No Silence on Gun Violence

We can be a part of turning this all around. Already, I've been joined by two sisters of different faiths, Valarie Kaur and Rabbi Sharon Brous. When you join us we’ll be among those people standing up in new ways to stop these tragedies from happening again.

Let's lift our voices, let's flood the phone lines. Let’s be the groundswell that changes the tide.

In solidarity, 
The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis
Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
Auburn Senior Fellow

This petition was originally shared on GROUNDSWELL: Inspiring faithful action to heal and repair the world, powered by Auburn Theological Seminary.

We Should be Shouting, Not Silent, on Gun Violence

John F. Kennedy. Martin Luther King, Jr. Robert Kennedy. Malcolm X. Medger Evers.

In my growing-up years, the murders of these leaders were a hideous stain on the fabric of our nation. Against a backdrop of television movies of bad guys and good cops; of settlers and Indians; of mob hits and army battles, these were my heroes, cut down by gunfire...
 

Read more of Rev. Jacqui's response to the tragedy in Las Vegas on Huffington Post.
Sign the petition here: Tell Congress: No Silence on Gun Violence! 

With Washed Eyes: Care for God's People

In the parable at the center of my sermon on Sunday, God’s Economy, Jesus told the story of a landowner who hires workers to pick grapes for a day. Some start before dawn, others are hired at about 5:00 PM in the evening. In the end, they are all paid the same wage (Matthew 20:1-16)

Of course, there was grumbling from those who worked the longest, out in the heat all day. They don’t mind that the last to the fields get paid, they just believe the ones who worked the longest should get paid more.

Not in God’s economy, not according to this parable. The last shall be first; this is what Jesus is saying. And that just—well, that just blows our minds!

We can be left disquieted by the radical and lavish way God loves ALL of the world, including the people in it that seem unlovable. We struggle in our ‘that’s not fair space’ with this story. Although we are taught to share with others when we are little children, this parable and the teachings of Jesus make us question what it means to share. How much? With whom? When is it enough? What is fair?

Those are really important questions, and we will keep talking about what it means to complete God’s dream this year, to live the ethics of the beloved community. This text is clear, though; it is meant to wash our eyes, to change the way we see. Everyone should have enough. Everyone.

Enough food, clothing, and shelter. Enough healthcare, and enough opportunities to live safely, learn and grow. This is why Middle Church is committed to feeding God’s people and working for a living wage. Even when we don’t know all of the answers to all of the questions, we are trying to do our part, with washed eyes and open hearts.

Here are two ways to do our part right now.

1.) Let’s share what we have with those devastated by these horrific storms and earthquakes. You can give here to a variety of relief efforts: 

—Hurricane Maria/Puerto Rico relief efforts: click here
Also, consider attending the Center for Puerto Rico Studies (Hunter College) event on 9/26/17 at 6:30 PM to learn about other ways to help with relief efforts. More information is available on their event page

—Central Mexico earthquake relief efforts: click here

—Hurricanes Harvey & Irma relief efforts: click here.

2.) Let’s keep the pressure on our elected officials, so they fix the Affordable Care Act as needed, but they DO NOT PASS the Graham-Cassidy bill. It puts the most vulnerable Americans at risk, guts Medicaid, and removes protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Make a call right now; light up the phone lines, and speak up for the vulnerable.

If you missed my sermon, listen to it here, and tweet what you think about it @RevJacquiLewis. I pray for more washed eyes among us, Middle family. More revolutionary lovers doing more to make God’s reign here on earth. I am SO glad we get to do this work, together.

Love and Light, 
Jacqui

Condemn White Supremacy and Violence

Join me and other faith leaders to "call on all elected officials to explicitly and publicly condemn white supremacy and the organizations that advance and seek to give it mainstream credibility." And "call on President Trump to remove Steve Bannon and other supporters of the alt-right from his White House and stand against the racist policies they propose". Sign the petition here

The petition was started by Faith in Public Life.

Rev. Jacqui Lewis Speaks at Chautauqua Institution

Photo credit: Erin Clark.

Photo credit: Erin Clark.

The Rev. Jacqui Lewis gave a lecture titled “Speaking Truth to Power When the World’s on Fire!” as part of Week Five’s Interfaith Lecture Series “The Supreme Court and Religious Communities: Holding America Accountable?” on July 27 at the Chautauqua Institution.

Read about her lecture here. 

Watch a video here.

What is Your Sign?

Long before that Mel Gibson movie called Signs, back in the olden days when I was a teenager, and there was no such thing as a smart phone, or tweeting, or texting or …

Rev Jacqui J Lewis What is your sign God is Love Period Blog

One would go to a party, in a basement with blue lights and R & B music that had lyrics. And if you were this particular one, you were built like a tall, brown Gumby with a big Afro; you’d be totally awkward and wish you had breasts—even little ones—and you’d make your mother buy you a training bra by begging her and getting on her last nerve. You’d wear it under some V-neck ribbed sweater to that party, where any piece of lint in your Afro pulsed with an eerie, neon, nuclear waste-type glow. Some boy, also linty and glowy, would sidle up to you and—rather than ask your name—he’d say, “What’s your sign?” And you’d say, with your clarinet-playing overbite, and your big afro, and your limited astrological knowledge, “I’m a Gemini.” Then he’d say—straight out of some R & B song—“Cool, Gemini. I’m a Capricorn.” And because you had no idea what that meant, you’d say, “Let’s go get some punch.” 

Fast forward to that movie, Signs. I can watch it over and over again and see something new. Mel Gibson is an Episcopal priest, a father to a boy and a girl, and big brother to Joaquin Phoenix—a washed-up baseball player. Father Mel’s wife is killed in a car accident, pinned against a tree by a car (a driver fell asleep, so tragic). Mel rushes to the scene of the accident, where his wife is saying things, good-bye type things, and her husband is just hanging onto every word. Telling him to swing away, aim high, things like that. When she dies, her husband’s faith dies.

He thinks her death is a sign of the profound absence of God.

At those special times I had with Mom, while she was dying and leaving us, she’d wake up from a dream, and say some pretty fascinating things. “Where is my dress?” “Put it between the wall and the picture frame, no between the door frame and the wall.” And then, clear as a bell, “Trials and tribulations will come, but everything’s going to be alright.” “Don’t cry, it’s going to be alright.” That last one—oof—that one really got me. Once she was staring at me when I thought she was sleeping. I said, “What are you doing, are you watching me?” and I stood up to go and sit near her. She said, “Don’t come over here,” in this mischievous way. Mom was in so much pain, her medication made her charmingly loopy. But she was right there, in what Black folks call her “right mind” until the end. This was a sign of her resilience and bad-ass strength.

Back to Mel and the signs in that movie. Some aliens—pretty ugly, really—have made signs in cornfields to help each other land. These are not cute ET types. They have an agenda that is not about harmony with humankind. I don’t want to give it all away, but suffice it to say that everything the lovely dying wife says—all the things—end up being the things that save the family. The things she says are the things that save Mel from his devastating break-up with God.

In the end, he recognizes the signs of God’s presence. Even in the unbelievable, almost unbearable sorrow at the loss of his wife, Father Mel is reminded God is there.
As I write, a man has set off a body-bomb in a concert venue in Manchester in England; 22 are dead, dozens are injured. The sense of security and safety of hundreds of young people, a city, and a country has been murdered. POTUS 45 has fired a man investigating him and is systematically dismantling health care, education, voting rights, environmental justice, and the hope imbedded in the so-called American Dream.

Sometimes I feel like we are in a sci-fi movie, and there are malevolent aliens all about; I feel sometimes like a stranger in a strange land, don’t you? Still, I am collecting signs, every day. Though trials and tribulations come, it’s going to be alright. That, from Mom, is a sign.

People help people get out of a stampede in a stadium—a sign. Justice Sally Quillian Yates stands up against the Muslim ban; Palestinian-American Feminist Linda Sarsour speaks out for the rights of Muslims, and Rabbi Sharon Brous speaks out for Linda’s freedom to speak—a sign. 

People gathered in our sanctuary, and outside our doors at the Street Fair. A church full of African American and Latinx justices and court officers worshiping with us, saying in a chorus, “This is what love looks like”—a sign. When we march down Fifth Avenue on June 25—that is a sign. Butterfly sandwiches delivered with love are a sign of God at work in the world. 

Our interfaith play dates are a sign that indeed little children will lead us to a future of love, peace, and justice.

Whenever you take communion at Middle Church, or you break bread and share a cup at home, at a bar, or in a restaurant, you enact a sign of the presence of God, who is with you in that essential life-giving moment of nourishment and community. 

When you are baptized, or when you bathe or shower or jump in the ocean, you enact a sign of the presence of the Holy. God is present in our joy, and in our pain; in our celebrations and in our sorrow; in our grief, and in our working for justice. God is here, God is Love. Period. The pictures gathered in every monthly newsletter are signs of God at work, in and through us.

What’s your sign? 

We’d love to hear of the ways you are experiencing the presence of the Holy in your life in the world and at Middle Church

Tweet me @RevJacquiLewis, find Middle Church on Facebook at facebook.com/MiddleCollegiateChurch, and share at our Revolutionary Love virtual community—L2O.com/org/RevolutionaryLove.

You, Middle family, are a sign, for me, that love is power, that multi-everything communities can thrive.
Thank you!!
Jacqui

 

I Love You More

I Love You More

I lost my Mom on April 25, just two weeks after her 80th birthday, and five days after she and Dad celebrated 58 years of marriage. Mom was a fighter who gave stage four metastatic lung cancer an amazing fight for seven years. Whenever we told her we love her she replied joyfully, “I love you more!”

Rising

Rising

On Good Friday, my mom was hospitalized with pneumonia and the doctors confirmed that her cancer had spread throughout her body. She is in hospice now. I flew to Chicago that day and flew back to New York for Easter morning. As I wrote this year’s Easter sermon, my Good Friday and Easter Sunday theologies took on even more poignant meaning. I love Mom SO much. Even in the midst of grief, she resists her cancer and its power to end her life. She is the most resilient person I know. Even in these twilight times, Mom just keeps rising! After you listen to the sermon, let me know how you experience resistance and resilience in the face of your Good Friday moments and how the rising of Easter is real in your life. I’d love to hear from you!!

Feeling Sheepish

Tweet your reactions to my sermon "Feeling Sheepish" and I'll add it here! I'd love to know what you think.