A Word from Our Pastor: 2017 October

Rise Up . . . and Do Something!

I hope these two phrases are familiar to you – they were the theme of our last week’s Choir Blast. We heard from the Philippines Solidarity Task Force about conditions in the Philippines (especially martial law); we sang (or heard) songs about faith and love, about resistance, about anger at injustice, about “With the people we have we can build a better world. . .”

BMU is one of those churches where people work extremely hard. There is a lot of activity, and so I am not saying that we aren’t doing enough. However, I think it would be good to have a conversation together about a (perhaps new) issue that we would like to address in the next few months. There is so much going on in the world now that needs our attention; there are epic-sized natural disasters, assaults against the rights and dignity of Muslims and Jews, against LGBTQ folks, people of Color and immigrants; the middle class and poor are being threatened with less and less health care, joblessness, inadequate or outragesouly expensive housing; the environment’s protections are being eroded away by legislation and presidential order.

As people who follow Jesus, we are called to “preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty all who are oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (this is Jesus speaking in Luke 4:19, where he is quoting Isaiah 61:2). It’s a big job, no question. It’s a job too big for our little church, and for us as individuals: but it is our calling. Since we can’t do EVERYTHING, where does it make sense for us to put our efforts?

A good place to start is to consider what we have to offer.

1. Our History. As an historically Japanese American church, we know the stories and struggles of immigrants; we know the terrible burden of living with racism; many in our community also faced prejudice because they practiced a “different” religion — Buddhism. Since we have become a more diverse congregation, we also know how to build bridges across these divisions, to worship and to work with people whose culture and whose ways of doing things are very different than the Japanese American tradition.

2. Our Passion. What keeps you up at night, worrying? Is it the hungry person who asked you for money on the street today? Is it the rows and rows of tents near the freeways, where the homeless are camped? Is it the fear that someone you love may not be able to afford medical care, especially if the Affordable Care Act is repealed? Is it the lonely college student who doesn’t know history, and thinks maybe Neo-Nazis might have a good point to make? Is it your friend who may be deported because they have not been able to find a legal way to work or citizenship? Is it your concern for people in Wadi Foquin, or in the Philippines, or elsewhere where oppression grows daily? Is it your relatives in Houston, Puerto Rico or Mexico, who have lost everything? Is it Black lives in the US that are at risk every day?

3. Our Vision: perhaps the most helpful statement to guide this consideration of what we should do is embedded in our “Core Values” statement from a few years ago:
1. We preserve and honor the memories and traditions of our Japanese-American founders, as we celebrate our multi-cultural present.
2. We serve families and all persons in deepening their relationships with God, by our Christian commitment to knowing, loving and serving God.
3. We believe in creating a community of unconditional acceptance.
4. We serve our community and the world by extending peace and justice beyond our walls.
5. We experience and share God’s presence through creative expression.

As you consider these three categories together: our history, our passions, and our vision, where should we begin?

On Sunday, October 8, during worship, we are asking people to have a conversation about what their hopes and dreams are for what we may do together. I invite to pray and think about this, deeply, so you may enter the discussion. The world is suffering so much, and we have so much to offer. Let’s ask God’s guidance to help us discern where we can make a difference.

–Rev. Naomi