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A Prayer of Consecration

As we lament and repent, we are also called to a new hope, a new obedience rooted in love and the fear of the Lord. Here is a prayer for us to align ourselves with God’s reign. In the coming weeks I will be offering serious critiques of issues and policies from the new administration, as well as insights on geopolitical hot spots around the world. All of this must be rooted in prayer.

Holy and Loving Lord,

We offer these words of consecration with humility, trusting only in your mercy. We plead that you will empower us to put off all that enslaves and ensnares us, and put on a new heart, mind, and will that honor you and serve others well. Help us, O God:

  • To put off all idolatry. Forgive us for crafting a deity to our own liking, either reducing you to a feeling or capitulating to fatalism. We put on awe and reverence and submit to you on your terms. We put off using our perceptions of your guidance as an excuse for manipulation of power. We put boldness and courage that aims to serve. We put off the idols of ideology, cherry-picking Bible verses to suit our opinions and refusing to listen to the voices of others who also cry out to you. We put on engagement in the public square with prophetic distance, allowing us to confirm and critique from a pure heart. We put off the idolatry of self-fulfillment, choosing to follow in the pathway of Jesus, who, secure in his identity, became a servant, our sacrifice for sin, and now as the Risen Lord, a preview of our future.
  • To put off all immorality. Forgive us for excusing the sins of those we like and magnifying the mistakes of those we hate. Forgive us for replacing intimacy with you with unholy substitutes objectifying others and escaping from reality. We put on agape love, seeing everyone we meet as sister or brother made in your image. We put on delight in prayer, learning to listen to you as well as pour out our hearts. We put off the immorality of greed and lust for power and put on the virtues of diligence, generosity, and stewardship of your gifts and opportunities.
  • To put off all injustice. Forgive us for blindness to systems that keep too many from access, equity, and opportunity. Help us put on advocacy and actions so all can flourish. Forgive us for ceremonial gestures without substance and hospitality that is hollow, expecting others to conform to our expectations. We put on listening ears, and an open table where you are present. We put off avoiding uncomfortable contemporary and historical issues and our tendencies to choose narratives that conform to our preferences. We put on a fearless pursuit of the truth, knowing you are at work in and through all circumstances.

Gracious Lord, empower our repentance and resolve. Keep our hearts tender and our minds discerning.  We put off our self-deception that displaces your eternal principles with our human preferences. We put off naïve nationalism and visceral hatred of our country and put on humility for our deep flaws and hopefulness that our highest values may be realized. Have mercy on our land, and every land. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Remembering the Promise of Liberty: A Tribute to the WWII Generation

This week we remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the formal entry of the USA into World War II. While we were already defacto allies with Great Britain and the Soviet Union against Germany, the events of December 7-11 turned a European conflict into a World War and awakened the “sleeping giant” of our industrial and military capacities. Though we directly responded to the attack in the Pacific, Hitler and Mussolini’s declarations of war made the conflict global.

The events of 1941-1945 are well-known. In this essay I want to highlight the sacrifices of a generation and the consequences of the conflict for increasing the love for liberty in the USA and around the world. The soldiers in all theaters knew they were fighting for freedom against totalitarian regimes that regarded other races as inferior. Japanese treatment of conquered nations and prisoners of war was inhuman, for they regarded Chinese, Korean, and other Asian populations as created to serve them. POWs were starved and tortured, seen as cowards for surrendering rather than committing Hari Kari (suicide). The Nazi genocides and oppressions stagger the imagination as six million Jews and six million other non-combatants are destroyed in the demonic labor and extermination universe crafted by this evil regime. This is why millions of American men and women enlisted and gave their all.

A special note here: I am generalizing about the German and Japanese governments and people in power at the time, not declaring every Japanese or German person guilty.

One story coming out of World War II that deserves more attention is the millions of African American women and men that signed on for civilian and military service. In spite of the oppressions of Jim Crow and the segregation in the military, these brave folks fought and worked for their country, believing in the promises of liberty and justice in the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen is one of courage against great odds. Black civilian workers and soldiers were paid less, given less prominent positions, and, in general, relegated to the lowest rungs in the institutions. Yet, they shined in their bravery and sacrifice.

Another triumph out of tragedy narrative is the story of Japanese Americans serving in the military in spite of the oppression of the internment camps. The story of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team soldiers in the Italian campaigns of 1944-45 is one of courage and sacrifice. Soldiers in the 442nd RCT and their partners in the 100th IB earned seven presidential unit citations, two meritorious service plaques, 36 Army Commendation medals and 87 division commendations between them. Individual soldiers from both units earned 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, 15 Soldier’s Medals and 9,500 Purple Hearts, among many other honors. In 2011, 450 Japanese American soldiers from the 442nd RCT and 100th were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the United States’ highest civilian award for service.

These are wonderful stories, and their impact was felt far beyond the battlefield. After the war, the Civil Rights Movement found new life, with a simple question, “If someone is willing to die for America, why are they kept from voting, education, housing and jobs?” President Truman integrated the military and by the mid-1950s, with the Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court ruling making segregation in schools unconstitutional, momentum for justice increased. By 1965, Civil Rights and Voting Rights were the law of the land. By the 1970s and 1980s, the injustice of the internment camps came to light and reparations started.

America mobilized for liberty in a global war. As a result, she was able to mobilize for liberty for her own citizens, especially African Americans and immigrants. It is fitting that we honor this “greatest generation” by expanding its members to include the marginalized and oppressed, who, through sacrifice, paved the way for opportunities for their children. Though there is much work to be done, we have come a long way due to the work of these humble women and men

Two Questions

As we consider the turmoil in our streets and online, there are two guiding questions that may help us with a civil and insightful conversation. First, what does “there” look like as we aspire for a more humane, just, and loving world? Second, what are some practical steps toward this vision?

It is much easier to agitate and destroy than it is to build just and sustainable structures that help offer a flourishing future for all. Tearing down monuments to an unjust past is emotionally understandable. Yet, thinking deeply how to teach and understand the many narrative of American history will require more thoughtfulness that current reactions.

Conservatives tend to ignore the historical and systemic shortcomings and focus on personal opportunity and responsibility in achieving the ideals of the Founders and Framers. Some (not all) progressives find it hard to affirm anything positive about the past but offer few practical and economically feasible solutions for all the crises we face.

What does “there” look like? I long for a day when every (of every color or culture, class and gender) person – from conception to coronation – lives in a world with access, equity, and opportunity and can, with the help of others, flourish personally and add to the goodness of our world. “There” includes immigration reform, so America is hospitable and welcoming immigrants ready to contribute. Neither open borders nor separating families are good solutions.

Practically, serious reforms are needed in all sectors (business, criminal justice, education, political accountability, mental health, strengthening families, and more) so that these pathways are created and sustained. We can forge and better future without extreme deficit spending and defunding law enforcement.

Will we find the courage and wisdom to get past anarchy and ignorance, nostalgic and utopian dispositions and work toward justice? The road ahead is perilous but full of promise.

A Time for Repentance and Reflection

In the wake of the events following the murder of George Floyd, Made to Flourish issues the following statement. I think it is a clear, fair, and wise expression and I hope you will pass it on.

We join a chorus of voices in the unequivocal condemnation of the brutal killing of George Floyd, which followed the recent tragic killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Of course, these are only the most recent examples among the long scourge of institutional and systemic racism and brutality against black and brown brothers and sisters who bear God’s image. We lament in the fullest biblical sense the injustice that has been perpetrated towards people of color which events like the killing of George Floyd continue to expose.

Above all, our righteous God is angered by injustice. And because the church is the visible representation of his voice and work in our world—the body of Christ—the church has a responsibility to offer prophetic critique and model a new way forward. Many churches have understood this calling, especially among our African American brothers and sisters. For many others, there is much work that needs to be done, undergirded by humble listening and sincere repentance. Corporately, we confess not only our sins of commission, in ways that the church has been complicit in racism, but also our sins of omission, as we have not loved justice and sought change that is consistent with God’s character and will.

As an organization, we exist to empower pastors and their churches to integrate faith, work, and economic wisdom, for the flourishing of their communities. Safe to say, our communities are not flourishing, and they haven’t been even long before the unrest of these past few weeks. Why? In part, we believe that the church has not been all that it is called to be in society. We say this not merely as a critique, but in humility, realizing that we have not embraced the totality of God’s mission in our world, the reconciliation of all things to himself, which entails reconciliation to one another.

While there are many ways to frame our current moment, one could say that our current crisis is a crisis of work, vocation, and economics. How will the people of God respond and live in their work environments? Will city government workers seek to build bridges in their communities? Will police chiefs and departments continue to inspect every system and incentive that leads to injustice? Will workers in unions not only protect their own but also embrace accountability? Will pastors and churches seek unity and partnerships, first among themselves, and also among the many non-profit, governmental, and for-profit companies engaging in redemptive work in our cities? Will each individual recognize and act on their responsibility to seek the common good of all in their community?

And of course, economics. Much has been written on the racial wealth disparities in our country, and how they undergird many of the challenges we face in our communities. The causes are myriad, some as old as the founding of our country. But how might the church embrace and call for expanding economic opportunity, rooting out bias in hiring and promoting, support for those looking for jobs, expanding access to social and financial capital, and calling for equal pay for equal work? In the model of sphere sovereignty, the institutional church is not always or even usually the final actor. But the scattered church, followers of Jesus deployed in every sphere of society, bring the aroma of Christ wherever they work.

We long for churches, alongside so many other important initiatives, to embrace the integration of faith, with work, and economic wisdom, for the flourishing of their communities. And we need to hear your stories of creative response and engagement. God’s Spirit is not done with his church. Through repentance and in humility, the church plays a central role in God’s redemptive plan, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

We end by praying for justice in our communities, that God’s justice would be made known in our cities where there has been rampant injustice. We pray for peace, not merely the absence of conflict, but the holistic flourishing of our communities under the reign of God. We pray for conviction in the face of our apathy and the seeming entropy of our concern. And we pray for hope, among what seems like a hopeless situation. Our God is more than able.

“And now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13