Reading the Obituaries for Lent

Some Christians stop eating meat.  Some give up Facebook.  Some read the Psalms.  When I was a young minister in Indiana, I began reading the obituaries for Lent.  The Paoli News-Republican came out on Tuesday and Friday.  A normal edition included two or three obituaries that were written by the newspaper’s staff.  No family was ever charged for an obituary.

The writers interviewed the deceased’s family, friends, and ministers to help them express their gratitude for the person’s life.  These tributes included sentiments like, “He never met a stranger” and “She laughed every day.”  Reading the obituaries reminded me that people are often good and that I need to make my days count.

The obituaries in The New York Times are different from the ones in The Paoli News-Republican.  Most of the people in Paoli would balk at paying $263 for the first four lines and $52 per line thereafter with 28 characters per line.  Most of the people in my old church would not be able to read the tiny seven point san serif font without a magnifying glass.

But it is Lent, so on Sunday I sat down with my hometown newspaper to look for what matters in that day’s obituaries.  Here is what I found—still in alphabetical order:

Lerone Bennett, Jr., 89, wrote Before the Mayflower in which he noted that the first blacks arrived in the colonies in 1619, the year before the Mayflower.  He worked to prepare students to live in a multi-racial society.

Leonard Gubar, 81, was a dedicated fan of the Mets, Giants, Rangers and Knicks.  He was a nationally ranked Scrabble player and a routine finisher of The New York Times crossword puzzle.

Marvin S. Hans, M.D., 91, was a music lover—especially Frank Sinatra.

Robert B. Hiden, Jr., 84, served as a vestryman and Junior Warden of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Zita Kremnitzer was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1922.  She survived the Holocaust and immigrated to New York in 1947.

Elizabeth Landauer, 80, served as a Girl Scout leader for many years.

Patricia Rashkin, 74, chose a career as a guardian for those unable to fend for themselves—spending more than three decades with the City of New York’s protective services.

William Selden, 70, businessman, philanthropist, sportsman, dog-lover, and innate comedian.  He was a long-time supporter of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.

Alan Lewis Stein, 88, founded the not-for-profit affordable housing entity, Bridge Housing.  Bridge has participated in the development of more than 17,000 units of housing, providing homes for 42,500 people.

Constance Sultan, 84, worked for 30 years at Mt. Sinai Hospital, where she was the charge nurse in the baby nursery.

Reading the obituaries sounds gloomy, but that has not been my experience.  I am glad to be reminded that people are often good.  Being encouraged to make my days count feels like preparing for Easter.



Ministers Tired of Praying

The first picture many of us saw was of a broken-hearted woman with an Ash Wednesday cross on her forehead holding another woman as they cried together. The tragedy in Parkland, Florida, was the eighth school shooting so far this year—and it is February.

Here is what I was sure would happen next. I was going to get an e-mail from the clergy association. The ministers would organize a prayer vigil where we read the names of the victims. We would grieve for the families of those who died. We would read scripture. We would pray for an end to gun violence.

Here is what actually happened. Nothing. No e-mail. Apparently I am not the only one tired of going to prayer vigils.  We are in danger of growing numb to these horrors and seeing this as the new normal.  We cannot keep feeling the same pain, so one option is to stop feeling it.

But this is the time to work to make it harder to die from gun violence. More than 30 people in our nation are murdered by guns on an average day.

Gun violence is a domestic violence problem. In an average month, 51 women are shot to death by a current or former husband or boyfriend.

Gun violence is a child abuse problem. The number of children and teens killed by guns in one year would fill 126 classrooms of 20 students each.

Gun violence is a mental health problem. There are 21,000 suicides committed using guns each year.

Gun violence is a safety problem. More than 45 people are shot accidentally each day. (Statistics are from,, and

Gun violence is a faith problem. We have to be broken-hearted by the gun deaths in our country. We cannot pretend we cannot do anything.

We can work to strengthen background checks. Forty percent of the guns sold legally in the United States are bought without a background check. No records are kept. No questions are asked. Criminals buy guns online from unlicensed sellers.

We can insist that background check laws work. Common sense demands we keep guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers and those adjudicated as mentally ill. We can regulate guns as closely as we do cars.

We can require locks that make it harder to pull a trigger and lower the number of accidental shootings. We can work to ban the automatic weapons that seem to have no purpose other than mass shootings.

We can disagree on how best to address the epidemic of gun violence, but we cannot disagree on the tragic nature of gun violence. Support courageous politicians. Replace the ones who are not courageous. Speak up for common sense gun laws that make our streets and schools safe. Defend the right of children to live without the risk of being shot.

I keep thinking about the cross imposed with ashes on that mother’s forehead.  The sign of the cross calls us to grieve for those who are hurting, confess our apathy, and work for a time when we have no list of victims to read.



Eating burgers, sinning boldly

brett-blogIf you are leaving New York to visit Texas, these are socially acceptable comments:

“I could use some warm weather.”

“We’re looking forward to seeing friends.”

“I miss driving more than forty miles an hour.”

“I haven’t seen an armadillo in a long time.”

“I enjoy the jealousy on people’s faces when I say ‘I’m from Brooklyn’.”

This is not a socially acceptable comment:

“I want a Quarter Pounder with fries.”

I know how unsophisticated that makes me sound.  After two years in a culinary mecca, a center for gastronomic delights, and the world’s best pizza, I am supposed to be beyond mass produced fast food, but I am not.  Mine is not a sophisticated pallet.

This is a difficult confession to make.  I know how bad ordering off the dollar menu is.  I saw Supersize Me.  Finger lickin’ good is not good for me.  I can see that the Burger King is creepy.  I have read studies that say that if you eat a bacon cheeseburger, you have a 75% chance of a heart attack before you get to the Frosty.

But I live 250 miles from the nearest Cook Out.  None of the arguments against driving through a drive-thru—and staring at the menu until the guy behind me starts honking—are enough to keep my mouth from watering with anticipation at driving south on IH-35 knowing there are six fast food places at every exit.

Fast food is democratic.  Working people can afford everything that you have to stand in line to order—and you do not have to tip.

There are no surprises.  Every Whataburger tastes exactly like the Whataburger you had five years ago at the Whataburger 500 miles away.  Why have it your way when you can have it the same way every time?

I do not know how to explain to New Yorkers that fast food fountain drinks are better.  Free refills are a right guaranteed somewhere deep in the Constitution.  A liter of Coca Cola from Key Food is a pale imitation of a Cherry Coke at Sonic.  Anyone who has had the pleasure of eating a meal in their car at a Sonic Drive-in knows there is no better ice in all the world.

No one asks, “Are we dressed well enough?” before going to Dairy Queen.  No one worries that their preschoolers might act up at Subway.  Children do not get a toy with their meal at Ruth Chris Steak House.  There is no playground at Del Frisco’s.

As I sat on the plane heading to Texas I thought about the options:  Whataburger’s Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit (sugar and butter make food wonderful); Jack in the Box’s two for $1 tacos, the perfect level of greasiness; KFC’s original recipe anything; the chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-a (the pickle chips are the key); an Oreo blizzard at Dairy Queen (Oreo crumbs are to ice cream what bacon is to everything else).

I ended up thinking inside the bun—a Homestyle burger (an ironic name) and an iced mocha.  This is nothing to write home about—but I’m lovin’ it.  I know that if they served a McDonald’s iced mocha at Starbucks it would cost twice as much.

When Martin Luther wrote, “Love God and sin boldly” he was not in a fast food restaurant, but he could have been.  Luther was calling us to recognize what is important and what is not.  There are times when you should order the salad, but sinning without worrying about it too much is, on occasion, good for your soul.

As Lent approaches some of us are deciding whether to give up soft drinks, sugar, or Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme.  We would do better to give up envy, anger, and greed.  We have many things about which we should feel guilty—how little we give to feed hungry people, how quickly we dismiss people who dismiss us, and how much time we spend on our own amusement.  Because there is so much about which we should feel guilty, we can feel free—every now and then—to eat curly fries boldly.



If “The Post” was a Church, We Should All Join

Here are 10 reasons to see The Post:

  1. You have already seen Star Wars.
  2. Films set in the 1970s make you nostalgic for better government.
  3. You want to see a movie with old people in the audience.
  4. You want to see a movie with old people in the movie.
  5. You like films that make your wardrobe seem up to date.
  6. You want to see if Meryl Streep can do an American accent (SPOILER ALERT: She can!).
  7. You are relieved that Tom Hanks has finally gotten a good role.
  8. Steven Spielberg needs your support.
  9. You love movies about Robert McNamara.
  10. You want to remember how good the church could be.

As a New Yorker for almost two years, I am happy to point out the movie begins with the Washington Post getting scooped by the New York Times.  (Our hometown newspaper is surprised that a movie about the Pentagon Papers is called The Post.) Daniel Ellsberg, a former aide to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, exposed the government’s decades-long history of lies about Vietnam by sending the long report known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. Each administration knew the war was unwinnable, but kept that fact from Congress and the American people.

After a court order halted the New York Times’ publication, the Post got its own copy and had to decide whether to step up, tell the truth, and defy the court order. Kay Graham, publisher of the Post, got the job after her husband’s suicide. As the movie begins, Graham is hanging on to a naïve faith in American leaders.

The newsroom is filled with idealistic reporters who smoke constantly, pound typewriters, pour dimes into pay phones, and send copy to the printer through those cool pneumatic tubes. You feel like there should be ink on your fingers at the end of the movie.

The old-school editor of the Post, Ben Bradlee defends the freedom of the press: “The only way to protect the right to publish is to publish!”

Ben Bagdikian, an old-school reporter, says, “I always wanted to be part of a small revolution.”

When Bagdikian asks Ellsberg why he is acting so courageously, Ellsberg responds, “Wouldn’t you go to prison to stop the war?”

Publishing the papers could land Bradlee and Graham in prison. The Post’s board of directors does not want to take on the government because they are afraid of losing money.

Graham argues for the board’s position: “We can’t hold [government] accountable if we don’t have a newspaper.”

Bradlee counters, “If the government is telling us what to print, then the

Washington Post has already ceased to exist.”

This would be an unpopular movie if Graham did not find her footing, courage and voice. Putting the good of the country before your own financial interest sounds corny, but it shouldn’t. The mission of a newspaper is the welfare of the people. The Post chose its mission over its security.

Churches should see themselves in this movie. The First Amendment is about a free press and a free church. The church, like the board of the Post, is tempted to focus on survival. When well-meaning Christians worry only about the budget, the church ceases to be the church.  Institutional Christianity, like a bad newspaper, is organized, conventional, and uninteresting.

Martin Luther said, “Churches that preach the gospel, except where it addresses the issues of the day, do not preach the gospel.”

The church has to tell the truth, be a voice for peace, and make it clear that our culture’s values are upside down. Every community has a story which tells them who they are, offers a sense of what made them great, and guides them in their decisions. Americans have the Constitution. Christians have the story of Jesus.

When the Post stood up for truth, they went from being a nice local paper to being an important national one. When the church is brave, the church attracts those who want to live with conviction.

In the Supreme Court’s response to the Pentagon Papers, Justice Hugo Black wrote that America’s founders affirmed freedom of the press “to serve the governed, not the governors.”

The church is to serve the world, not the church.



Prince Harry and Me

brett-harryWe questioned their judgment when the Coopers asked us to take care of Harry for a week.  We are good people, but we are not dog people.  I have not lived with a dog since my Chihuahua Catastrophe lived up to his name in an encounter with a brand new 1968 Ford Mustang.

Our only goal was to keep Harry alive until his family got home.  We were so afraid that something would happen, but Harry slept most of the time.  He disappears like Harry Houdini into blankets and pillows.

Harry is a combination of Harry Styles and Harry Truman—hip, but wise.  He’s a little Toto, a little Benji, and a lot Ewok.  He is nine years old, so if he was human he would be seven years older than I am.  Harry is a Shih Tzu, a breed not meant to hunt, herd, or protect.  If I fall into a well, Harry will keep the news to himself.

I want us to be Turner and Hooch, but Harry sees our walks as an opportunity to train me to take orders.  My attempts at “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Heel” are met with Harry’s you-don’t-know-what-you’re-doing look.  Several of our walks take place in freezing weather, but Harry likes being a chili dog—though he does not care for that joke.

Harry walks faster than I do so that he can pretend I am not there.  He is fascinated with finding the right pile of leaves, hibernating squirrels, and the backsides of other dogs.  Walking with Harry is interactive.  We speed up.  We slow down.  We move from side to side.  We get excited about parked cars.

New Yorkers ask, “What’s your dog’s name?” more often than “What’s your name?”  I wonder why these people did not talk to me before I borrowed a dog, but I like the subculture of dog people.  They may not speak to one another if they do not have their dog, but there is not a lot of judgment.

I assume Harry and I are friends after our week together, but he could be thinking Cujo thoughts and I would never know.  Though Harry seems unimpressed with me that does not keep me from being wild about Harry.  Petting Harry is like singing the blues.  You feel better though you are not sure why.

Hanging around Harry is good for my soul.  Politics is ugly.  Work is stressful.  People can be difficult.  Harry does not care about any of that.

I talk to Harry a lot.  He is not attentive, but he does not interrupt.  Talking to Harry is like talking to myself, which is just a little bit like praying.

Abraham Lincoln said, “I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog is not the better for it.”

Caring for animals may seem unimportant with all of the problems in the world, but the message of loving one another, loving animals, and loving creation is a hopeful word in a troubled time.  When good churches have food drives they include dog food.  They take pets to visit the sick and host adoption events.

When St. Francis talked to animals they talked back, but I can only imagine what Harry is thinking:  “You could learn a lot from me.  The past is gone.  The future isn’t here yet.  Enjoy the moment.  I appreciate what I have.  I don’t sit around wishing I was Lassie.  I don’t want to be a terrier or a boxer or a poodle.  I am fine with who I am.  Be happy with who you are.  There’s a reason all dogs go to heaven.  We don’t care about money.  We don’t worry ourselves to death.  Dogs don’t hold grudges.  We aren’t judgmental, like cats.  You are too easily frustrated.  You should chase things.  Jump for joy when you’re happy.  Get excited about whatever is in front of you.  Wag your tail because life is good.”

We grow in our faith in a variety of ways.  We worship.  We read.  We pray.  We listen.  We walk the dog.



Christmas Lights

Every once in a while I see a jogger and react in a way that is incomprehensible to thinking people.  I say to myself, “I should start jogging.”  One spring a few years ago, during such a period of insanity, I began running around a couple of blocks.  The highlight of my stroll was passing an out of the ordinary yard not far from our house.  At night, when the lights are on, it can’t be missed.  The most striking feature is the Christmas lights.  The lights, which cover a Mulberry tree, are a startling variety of colors.  A red birdhouse with a black roof invites passersby to “See Rock City.”  A big red bow adorns a holly wreath.  It’s hard not to smile at the yard.

In a conversation with someone who lived a few doors down I asked, “What’s the story with your neighbor’s Christmas lights?  That’s an interesting yard.”

The yard is not as amusing to him as it is to me:  “Those stupid Christmas lights have been up for years.  It makes me furious when I think about what that yard does to my property values.  I am sorely tempted to buy a BB gun just to shoot those &%$* lights!”

I started to rethink my feelings.  Perhaps the yard wasn’t as wonderful as I originally thought.  Maybe I would feel differently if I lived next door.  Then one evening, as I was leisurely making my way I saw a woman working in “the yard” just up ahead.  I sped up so that ten minutes later, when I was in need of a break anyway, I was able to stop and say:  “Your yard is really interesting.  Is there a story behind the Christmas lights?”

She smiled, “Yes, there is.”

She pointed to the house across the street and identified a particular window:  “The elderly woman who lives there came to stay with her children seven years ago.  She’s in her nineties now and seldom leaves her room.  After her first Christmas here she went on and on about how much she enjoyed looking at the lights and bright colors in our yard.  We’re the only view she has.  When Christmas was over, we didn’t have the heart to take the lights down.  We decided that as long as she’s around, we’d leave the lights on.”

In a world full of darkness, we need to leave the lights on.



Questions Ginsburg should ask the baker’s lawyer

The most famous bakery in Lakewood, Colorado, is focusing on birthday cakes for a while. In 2012, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop to purchase a cake for their wedding reception. The owner refused to serve them because they are a same-sex couple.

Jack Phillips’ lawyers will soon be before the Supreme Court. Their argument is that Christians should be allowed to discriminate against those who do not agree with their interpretation of the Bible. Phillips is now a favorite of the right-wing for standing up for Christian business owners’ right to say who should be married.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission thinks it would be simpler to treat everyone equally under the law. They argue that acting like a bigot is not a right, and that since Phillips’ shop serves the public he has to serve all the public.

Most assume that the Supreme Court’s job in this case is to decide if religious beliefs are a license to discriminate, but there is another way to look at this. If Phillips is really committed to biblical laws, then he should be committed to all of them. Instead of asking if it should be legal to run a heterosexuals only bakery, we should ask who else a biblical legalist should turn away. Refusing to make devil’s food cakes for gay couples may not be enough.

Should Masterpiece Cakeshop make cakes for the weddings of divorced people? Jesus never mentions gay people, but he says, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery (Matthew 19:9).” If Phillips is claiming a Christian exemption from U.S. law, how can the baker enforce shaky interpretations of a few obscure texts and ignore the words of Christ?

Should Masterpiece Cakeshop make cakes for people who are overweight? “The glutton shall come to poverty” (Proverbs 23:21). Should the bakery be encouraging sinful behavior?

Should Masterpiece Cakeshop make cakes for people with tattoos?  “You shall not … tattoo any marks upon you” (Leviticus 19:28). Recognizing tattooed customers is easier than recognizing gay customers.

Should Masterpiece Cakeshop make cakes for witches? “You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live” (Exodus 22:18). The bakery’s order form could include the question, “Are you a female sorcerer?”

Should Masterpiece Cakeshop make cakes for people who wear jewelry (1 Timothy 2:9), own a gun (Isaiah 2:4), or say the Pledge of Allegiance (Matthew 5:34-35)?

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on December 5. The Court should not let prejudiced people use the name Christian as an excuse to act in opposition to God’s love. Christians should be the first in line to argue for equality for all.

When Christians go to court to defend their own bigotry, they should be forced to admit the inconsistency of what they claim to believe. Citizens are allowed to have deeply held beliefs that make no sense, but citizens should not get to discriminate.

Religious freedom is the freedom to worship without fear of persecution. Religious freedom is not the freedom to decide who gets angel food cake.



Someone’s praying, Lord, that we sing Kum ba Yah

The next time someone says, “We don’t need a Kum ba Yah moment,” tell them, “I think we do.”

Musicians who did not know how to play Kum ba Yah were once afraid to take their guitars to camp.  Many of us remember sitting in front of a crackling fire, trying to find the distance at which our front side was not about to burst into flames and our backside was not frozen.  At a deep Kum ba Yah level, the warmth of the fire was catching.  Singing “Someone’s praying, Lord” felt like praying, “Someone’s crying, Lord” felt like shared sorrow, and “Someone’s singing, Lord,” felt like hope.  Lots of us felt that way—and we thought it was cool to sing an African song—even if that was not actually the case.

I learned Kum ba Yah with hand motions.  You can guess the movements for “Someone’s praying,” “Someone’s crying,” and “Someone’s singing.”  I wrote new lyrics for which the motions write themselves:  “Someone’s fishing, Lord,” “Someone’s itching, Lord,” and “Someone’s bowling, Lord.”

Children of the sixties sang Kum ba Yah with Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.  Joan Baez’ version included the stanza, “No more wars, my Lord.”  Raffi recorded it for his Baby Beluga album.  There is a mashup involving Ozzy Osbourne that is not helpful, and a rap metal version Kumba Yo! that ministers cannot recommend.  Lots of singers have pleaded for God to “Come by here.”

We do not know who to thank for Kum ba Yah.  One story is that Rev. Martin Frey of New York wrote Come by Here in 1939 and taught it to an eleven-year-old boy.  The boy’s missionary family carried it to Africa where it was put into the Angolan dialect and brought back to the United States.  The problem is that no word close to Kum ba Yah exists in any language spoken in Angola.

Versions of the song were recorded in South Carolina as early as 1926.  The phrase “Kum ba yah” may be a Gullah version of “Come by here.”  The first ones to sing “Someone’s crying, Lord” were African Americans suffering under Jim Crow.  (Indefensibly, most hymnals continue to give Martin Frey credit.)

When people mention Kum ba Yah today it is usually with cynicism.  An African American spiritual in which hurting people plead for God’s help has been turned into a term of derision.  You have to wonder if racism is at work when someone says “I’m not interested in holding hands and singing Kum ba Yah.”

Our culture tends to denigrate compassion.  To join hands and sing Kum ba Yah is to pray together asking God to care for the hurting.  Who decided it was helpful to mock the longing for God or the history of an oppressed people?  Far from pretending everything is fine, Kum ba Yah springs from a much-tested faith.  Someone’s crying and yet they are still strong enough to sing.

In the civil rights era, Kum ba Yah was a call to action.  Kum ba Yah is now shorthand for hopefulness that should not be trusted.  A song about looking to God for courage is laughed at for being naïve.

I have grown weary of the way our culture considers cynicism smart and optimism naïve.  We have more than enough skepticism, sarcasm, and negativism.  We need more compassion, warmth and hopefulness.  We need to debate less and care more.  We need to impress each other not with how many facts we know, but with how honest we are about what we are feeling.

The older I get the more I long for Kum ba Yah moments.  I have spent years learning to be suspicious of warm feelings.  Now I ache for genuine love.

We do not need sharper reasoning nearly so much as we need new hearts.  When we get tired of words, we need to pray for God to fill our souls.  We need hope that pushes bitterness away.

Last weekend at our church retreat, we sat around a campfire and sang Kum ba Yah.  It felt real, and the s’mores were delicious.



Hope is elusive, so look harder

Many of us are exhausted, sad, and angry.  We need strength.  We need hope.  We need God.  When the world is hard, we have to look harder.  We are detectives searching for clues.  Hope does not shout, but if we listen carefully we hear whispers.  Hopeful things are happening, but we have to pay attention.

This week, a child in California gave a firefighter a hug.

A congressperson had second thoughts about assault rifles.

A relief worker in Puerto Rico handed a bottle of water to someone who was thirsty.  He did not throw paper towels.

A diplomat from North Korea and a diplomat from the United States shared a pizza.

A 60-year-old ordered his morning coffee in Spanish for the first time.

A white NFL player asked an African American player why he was kneeling during the anthem, and listened to his response.

A black judge acquitted a white racist of a false murder charge.

A white police officer asked a black teenager how the police could be more helpful.

A Christian minister invited an imam to talk to her church’s youth group.

A senior citizen who has never been to a protest marched in support of immigrants.

An office manager sent a memo to the CEO pointing out that women are still paid less.

A father who thinks of himself as old school told his gay son how proud he is.

A homeless veteran went to Plymouth Church for dinner and a good night’s sleep.

A shopper at a car dealership decided to buy a hybrid.

A neighbor talked to an elderly woman sitting on her stoop.

A sophomore changed his major to social work.

An angry man started to make an angry phone call, but then hung up.

A book group picked Frederick Buechner for their next book.

A fan at a Bruce Springsteen concert believed again.

A scientist who usually watches MSNBC watched Fox News and thought, “I can understand how someone would feel that way.”

A bald man decided that hair is overrated.

A mother gave in and got her eight-year-old a puppy.

A couple going through a divorce decided to put the children first.

An architect received a text from an old friend inviting her to lunch.

A cabdriver picked up a fare in a wheelchair and took her to Key Food for free.

A doctor told an artist that she is going to have a girl.

A retired teacher laughed out loud for the first time since his wife’s death.

The world’s problems are devastating, so we keep looking for hope.  We do not need to pretend everything is okay.  We need to pay attention to the hope that surrounds us.





The Face of Jesus

I grew up going to church three times a week, but I was in college before I heard anyone say that Christians have a responsibility to feed the hungry.  What could be more obvious?  If someone you love was starving, you would do everything you could to save his or her life.  The gospel Jesus taught makes it clear that someone God loves is starving.

What do we look like from God’s perspective?  Imagine that you have two children.  One child is trapped in a country where hard-working people are starving.  The second is in a wealthy country and has more than enough.  What would you think if the second child did not try to save his or her sibling?  Would you wonder if the child who does not give is a real Christian?  How is this different from how God views us?

At the close of worship this Sunday we will give an offering to feed the hungry in Cameroon through the Mission School of Hope.  (Click here to see how our gifts will be shared.)  In general, our responses will fall into three categories.

  1. “If only I had read The Plymouth Blog I would have known this was a Sunday to stay home in bed. I don’t come to church to hear ‘If you are a Christian, you will care about these people.’  I refuse to feel guilty because I have more than other people.”
  2. “I can’t think about starving children without breaking down and crying. I feel awful about it, but the problem is so overwhelming.  My heart breaks every time I think about it, but what can I do?”
  3. “I wish I could come up with a good enough excuse not to help, but if I listen to Jesus at all, then I have to admit that the face of each starving child is also the face of Christ. As hard as it is to give, it is even harder to imagine looking Jesus in the face and explaining why I didn’t give.”

The statistics on hunger are overwhelming.  800 million people around the world are hungry.  Every 4 seconds someone dies from hunger.  About 24,000 people die every day from hunger-related causes.  Most of the victims are children.

The statistics are so overwhelming that it is possible to forget that our offering will make a real difference for real children in Cameroon.

The Talmud says:  Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.  Do justly, now.  Love mercy, now.  Walk humbly, now.  You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

On Sunday, you and I have the opportunity to do the right thing.   Here are the details on how you can make a difference.