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  • karen horst cobb: June 2006

    Friday, June 30, 2006

    Meditation: Liberty

    Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Gal 5:1

    Independence and liberty are words which make us stand a little taller. The gem-toned paintings of our founding fathers, images of spacious skies, amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties cause our hearts to beat a little faster and ignite our national pride. Some boast we are a “Christian nation” and blessed by God because of our good deeds. Jesus said “no one is good, no not one.” He whom the Lord has set free shall be free indeed.

    History is filled with the perpetual cycle of freedom and bondage and of powerful oppressive leaders alternating with more permissive egalitarian rule. The psychologist Erich Fromm in his book Escape from Freedom explains that it is human nature to flee the individual and national responsibilities of freedom. He came of age in Germany during WWI and was influenced by the war hysteria and the claims of the greatness of “German Christians.” at war with England. This lead him to explore the nature of freedom and oppression.

    He says individuals escape freedom in three ways. Many seek a strong authoritarian leader or a king to assume responsibly for their welfare. Some, he explains, lash out with destructive acts and seek to destroy themselves or others rather than be free. Most people seek to escape freedom by going along with the crowd and disappearing into the masses.

    Citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven requires courage. Modern day Christians like many early Christians, referred to in Galatians, seek to return to religious laws rather than accept grace and freedom. King Jesus rules with love and compassion. We do not need an earthly savior to rescue us from enemies, we do not need to kill those whom we fear. We do not need to hide in the crowd.

    “Proud to be an American” is the refrain we will hear this week. Followers of Jesus will remember with awe the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, and the discovery that the flag is still there. Many hearts will swell with pride. It’s unpopular to remind the followers of Jesus that humility is a better indicator of our true allegiance. Rulers and Governments will come and go and citizens of earthly kingdoms will experience cycles of freedom and tyranny but citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven will remain free. Those who the Lord has set free shall be free indeed.

    Prayer: Prince of peace ruler of my heart, may I remain free in my spirit and never seek salvation in earthy institutions. Help me to not give way to human fears and join with others who seek authoritarian rule. Help me not to escape freedom with acts of violence against myself or others and help me never to allow your identity on earth to be swallowed up by the crowd. Thank you for liberty and the opportunity to bear the burdens of those who are oppressed. May I remain faithful in love. All Hail King Jesus! Amen

    Action: Read the first six chapters of Galatians

    Friday, June 23, 2006

    Meditation: Fig Trees

    He shall rebuke the strong nations …they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…They shall not learn war anymore but every one shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree and no one shall make them afraid. -Micah 4: 3-4

    I found faith at the farmers market. It was just a stick in a rusty coffee can but now broad leaves and sprawling branches overshadow the garden. Fig trees provided the first clothing, generous shade in the heat of the day, a year round supply of fresh and dried fruit and rich metaphors and parables. The fruitful fig tree represents faith, wisdom, and peace. These are the elements of the kingdom of heaven.

    In The closing chapter of Jesus’ life on earth he cursed the fig tree for not having figs. Most think he was looking for lunch but he was looking for hope. The first fruits of the fig tree appear in early spring and are called breba. An abundance of breba predict a bountiful harvest.

    He searched one last time within the Sanhedrin, the temple, the religious institutions and the religious government and found no hope. Then he issued the curse; “No man shall eat fruit from you hence forth forever.” The word “curse” did not carry the connotation of a magic spell as in modern usage. It was much more a matter of fact and the prediction of a wise gardener based on what he observed.

    The first fruits, the breba were not there. When the disciples discovered the withered tree the object lesson was complete. Fig wood is weak and decays easily so every trace of the tree would soon be gone. A foretelling of the fate of man’s trust in institutions.

    Adam and Eve demonstrated our human tendency to fashion, with our own hands, the garments of institutions and governments to cover our vulnerability. Modern day Christian, Jewish or Islamic governments which separate, alienate, dominate and punish bear no fruit. These trees only produce the cane for punishment.

    On the other hand, the loving wisdom of the eternal gardener plants us in fertile soil and sustains us with his wisdom. The flowers of all fig trees are buried deep within the fruit and can not be seen just as the origin of the kingdom of heaven is hidden in our hearts. We thrive and produce an abundant crop of spirit fruit.

    Prayer: Heavenly gardener, tender of my soul, help me not to give way to fear and seek refuge in church or state governments. May the first fruits of faith bring abundant rewards. Let love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control issue forth from me to satisfy hungry hearts. I pledge my allegiance to your law of love. Amen

    Friday, June 16, 2006

    Meditation: Father's Advice

    A card with just the right sentiment is hard to find but Melvin Horst, my father, deserves a worthy tribute. He was a chicken farmer and is forever a sage. He planted corn and planted the seed which became my faith. Two messages he "drove home" (his expression) have served me well. He said, "Just remember who you are" and when I'm criticized for doing the right thing to "Just live above it."

    His voice followed me as I left the safety of his house to enter the world, "just remember who you are...." The slapping screen door propelled the truth deep into my sprit. I knew I was to remember what I've been taught, don't go along with the crowd, and don't bring shame to my father's name. These are also the admonitions of our heavenly father.

    As a child I practiced living above playground bulling, taunting, and name calling. I tried to turn the other cheek, go the second mile and practice returning kindness for insult and injury.

    As an adult I practiced living above comments and accusations during divorce, rebellious actions of temporally wayward children, and irregular church attendance. Some insults are just tantalizing gossip, some are fueled by envy, some by insecurity, and many by misinformation and ignorance. Love is the answer to them all.

    I write against war and social injustice and speak for peace and compassion for others. I am compelled to try to "drive the message home" on the narrow path which leads to life. In response, I have been called a "a communist", a "socialist" , a "paid propagandist", a "secular humanist", a "fake", a "phony", a "resident of La la land", "a liberal" and deemed "ignorant", "unpatriotic" and "shameful." Learning to "live above it" is a life long education.

    I am encouraged as his words tumble forth, he tosses his head to the side with a shrug and a smile and my father reminds me to , "just live above it... "remember who you are." With gratitude I am forever my Father's child.

    Prayer: Heavenly father whose house is filled with many mansions, we honor your love and compassion as we endure the assaults and insults which circle beneath our feet. We thank you for your secure dwellings in spiritual places where we find rest. Thank you for earthy and heavenly father love. - Amen

    Action: Read about a father who forgives the greatest transgression of all, the brutal killing of his son Nicholas Berg. Michael Berg’s Father’s Day statement can be found at http://bergforcongress.us/events/FathersDay2006.php Read and prayerfully consider signing the voters for peace commitment at http://www.votersforpeace.us/ and share your commitment to peace with others in your own words and in written admonishments from others. Pass it on. http://www.peacefultomorrows.org/article.php?id=543

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    Meditation: Cultures and Yeast

    Make me an Instrument of Peace
    Meditations for God’s peaceful people

    Who Do you say I am ? Matthew 16: 13-18

    Who do you say that I am? Each of us must answer this question. In the verses before this Jesus warned the disciples to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. “ Their words sound good and are socially acceptable. Then he asked, “who do men say that I am?“ There were various ideas but Peter boldly proclaimed, "you are the Christ the son of the living God.”

    Jesus was teaching us to look in our hearts rather than to others for the truth. He blessed Peter for having the courage to take the risk and proclaim what he knew, in his heart, to be true. Jesus continues to ask us “who do you say that I am”. Am I the Prince Peace or the God of War? Did I come to bring judgment and punishment, or did I come to teach love?

    Many today who confess to be followers of Christ see themselves as soldiers in God’s holy army literally fighting a holy war. Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a violent video game to be released this October. The player chooses either the identity of a “Christian” or that of the antichrist. Those left behind must make a choice or be blown away by the Christian soldier who is racking up points. This game is set to be marketed through the mega church network.

    It would be easy to dismiss this as just a sensational one time event but given the popularity of the Left Behind book series and the growing militarism within America’s churches it should be seen as a warning to the followers of the Prince of Peace.

    It is often hard to take a stand. The churches which teach the dominionist end times messages appear to be doing many good works. Some raise money for AIDS, or famine relief. Some operate food banks and shelter homes. All of them are involved in foreign missions. But, the goal is “Christian nations” and an accepted method is “holy wars”.

    Again Jesus asks simply, who do you say that I am? Don’t look around you, don’t grab a religious book, don’t try to remember a phrase from Sunday School. Look inside and decide. His sheep know his voice.

    Prayer: Help me listen to my heart and not be influenced by my culture. May I never be lukewarm where the leaven of today’s Pharisees can grow.

    Action: Learn more about Left behind: Eternal Forces. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11567350/site/newsweek/
    Continue the studies on non-violence http://www.salsa.net/peace/conv/index.html
    Boldly proclaim Christ’s love for humanity to a Christian who supports war.

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    This weeks meditation: Graduation Day

    The scripture is given for instruction in righteousness that we may be complete, thoroughly equipped for ever good work (II Tim 3:17)

    Commencement often ends with the nostalgic march Pomp and Circumstance written by Sir Edward Elgar in 1901. The march was inspired by the speech in Act 3 of Shakespeare’s Othello. “pride pomp and circumstance of glorious war.” Many who graduate feel they have emerged from battle and are now set free to create for themselves a new life.

    A 50 year old person with perfect Sunday School attendance has approximatly 2,190 hours of religious education. This is the equivalent of a doctorial degree. Historians debate the exact origins of the modern Sunday School but no mater which date one chooses it was started to meet the needs of society and to respond to social injustice. Many consider Robert Raikes (1780 Gloucester England) the founder of the Sunday School movement. He was the Owner and editor of the Gloucester Journal and was concerned with the injustices of child labor, debtors prisons and workhouses.

    Children forced to work 6 long days a week in factories began to attend Raikes Sunday School to learn to read and write. Before the forming of a Sunday School these children formed gangs and converged in alleys. Other Sunday schools were designed to meet the needs of illiterate women in the lace and hosiery factories who were subjected to abusive working conditions with limited options. The purpose was to address the deep social disparities between rich and the poor. An employee described Raikes as “a good liberal master who paid good wages”.

    Today Sunday School serves many purposes from study of scripture to discussions of current events and informal socialization. We are encouraged, gain insight and personal edification. It is a school from which one does not graduate. Injustice occurs in all nations and communities past and presence. Let us commence….

    Prayer: Lord thank you for the opportunity to teach and to learn. May we remember why we assemble together and may we walk in confidence that we are thoroughly equipped for good work. Speak to the quiet places of our hearts and give us courage to face the injustices and to respond in righteousness. Amen.

    Educate yourself about the School of the Americas. http://www.soaw.org/new/ It is a US military school of torture for Central and South America. Among the graduates are Manual Noriega and other terrorists from Panama, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador .The alumni of this school have participated in massacres, assassinations and the overthrow of democratically elected governments. We remember the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the massacre of 14-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador and hundreds of other human rights abuses. Closing the school would send a strong human rights message to Latin America and the world. let your voice be heard.

    Next week, the week of June 5, Congress will vote on an amendment to close the School of the Americas (also known as WHINSEC) Rep. McGovern (MA) will introduce an amendment to the Foreign Operations appropriations bill to cut the funding.

    Also, Continue with lessons in nonviolence. http://www.salsa.net/peace/conv/index.html