Let us stand up for what is right.

Today is the first day of Black History Month, when we remember the heroes, the legends, the leaders, the groundbreakers, the myth-busters, the game-changers – Martin, Rosa, Jesse, Coretta, Medger, Thurgood, Pauli, Absalom, Merlie, Booker, Ella, Marian, Harriet and others.**

Today I would like us also to remember Everyman. Everywoman. Every person. The ones who stood up for righteousness, fought for equality, and did not have a spotlight on them. The ones who marched. Who stood up silently and perhaps in the shadows, but did so with conviction, with intent, with assurance, with promise of the future.

And I am compelled to tell us today, it is time for all of us to look at our black leaders, the ones who lived during our lifetimes, or perhaps just before you were born, or the ones of history, or the ones who are still alive, and I say to you we must emulate them. We must respect them, we must follow them, we must honor them, we must learn from them. They are our heroes. Let us stand up for what is right.  For what should be.  For that which is.  Stand up against what we are seeing and living and witnessing today.

I remember as a little kid watching on black and white TV the marches, the firehoses, the dogs. I remember thinking this just is not right. I remember protesting with my parents. I remember the assassination in April and just not understanding how something like that could happen. I thought the same thing about the assassination in the month that followed.

And I think to honor Martin, Rosa, Jesse, Coretta, Medger, Thurgood, Pauli, Absalom, Merlie, Booker, Ella, Marian, Harriet and others not in the spotlight – to remember them, to bow to them, it is up to us that it does not happen again in this country.  Enough.  It is time for us to say “enough,” just as they had the courage to stand up and say “enough”.

Martin, Rosa, Jesse, Coretta, Medger, Thurgood, Pauli, Absalom, Merlie, Booker, Ella, Marian, Harriet and others not in the spotlight.

There were revolutionaries. They were game changers. They were right.

As we walk through our doors today, on this first day of Black History Month, it is our duty, our obligation, to remember honor and emulate Martin, Rosa, Jesse, Coretta, Medger, Thurgood, Pauli, Absalom, Merlie, Booker, Ella, Marian, Harriet and others not in the spotlight.

Let us walk out our doors into our sad and broken and divided world, a world calling to us to be decent, fair and respectful to others. Let us walk out our doors in the manner of Martin, Rosa, Jesse, Coretta, Medger, Thurgood, Pauli, Absalom, Merlie, Booker, Ella, Marian, Harriet and others not in the spotlight. Let us walk out together, and not alone. Let us go forward. Let us stand up for what is right. For what should be. Stand up against what we are seeing and living and witnessing today.

** In case you didn’t know – but I’m sure you did – the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson, Coretta King, Medger Evers, Thurgood Marshall, the Rev. Pauli Murray, the Rev. Absalom Jones, Merlie Evers, Booker T. Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Marian Anderson, Harriet Tubman.

 

Where John baptized Jesus

At church today, we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus, and I was serving at the altar, reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah and Acts of the Apostles.  As Father Ron read the Gospel – Matthew 3:13-17 – I was propelled back to October 11, 2016, to the day when I stood at the actual locale of today’s Gospel, the Jordan River where John baptized Jesus.

Last October I was a visitor to the Kingdom of Jordan, a pilgrim with other Episcopalians, visiting Biblical, Gospel and historic sites.  We traveled to the waters of the Jordan River and we seven Episcopal pilgrims renewed our baptismal vows in the same waters where John baptized Jesus.

I remember the warmth of that October day and how refreshing the waters of the Jordan River were. We were shaded from the desert sun by a structure designed for pilgrims like us. The structure allowed us to stand over Jordan River, with steps providing a means to descend into the water, the same waters that Jesus and John waded in, where John baptized Jesus.

Without a doubt, that renewal of our baptismal vows was a spiritually-moving experience for me. And I discovered that today, listening to the Gospel, was just as spiritually-moving.

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

My experience in the Jordan River was soothing, calming, and sustaining. When I returned from the Kingdom of Jordan to my life in the USA, I found that I faced conflicts and issues and problems with a renewed spirit – my attitude was positive and my comment – uttered often – was, “I renewed my baptismal vows in the Jordan River with where John baptized Jesus – so bring it on.”

Today’s Gospel re-sparked those feelings in me, and I feel energized.  So bring it on – I shared the waters where John baptized Jesus. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Neva Rae Fox
January 8, 2017

The American people have spoken (or coughed-up).

It’s been nearly a week since the election and I freely admit I am still in shock. I wake up each day in disbelief that Trump is the President- Elect. But he is, and he is the duly elected President-Elect.  The American people have spoken (or coughed-up).

I have been bombarded with pundits and columns and analysis on what happened. But does it really make a difference to anyone as to what went right, what went wrong, what Hillary should have done, what Donald did, who voted for whom, etc.? The American people have spoken (or coughed-up).

Daily I look at political cartoons – and I love political cartoons – and they are not funny. They are not biting. They are not satirical.  They are a sad commentary on our society.  Or what our society has become.

And now today I have received reports about racist, pro-Trump graffiti marring Episcopal churches.

What have we become? The American people have spoken (or coughed-up).

One show I watched today heralded We Are Still Here.  And that we Hillary-supporters are members of the Resistance.  (Can’t help but remember the Borg’s Resistance is Futile.)

I preached at the Chapel of Our Lord the day after Election Day. Not an easy one to prepare and present.  But here is a portion which encapsulates how I feel:

Our Gospel is the very familiar story of Peter – who I consider Everyman – he is us.

 The Lord tells Peter, tells everyman, tells us, to care for one another. To feed and tend to each other.  That is love.  That is reconciliation.  That is what we are called to do today and tomorrow and continue until we see some glimmer of moving on.

 And that is a message we need to hear today. Who is we? – you and me and the country and the protesters outside the building and the blues and the reds and the winners and the losers and the hurt and the triumphant and the boastful and those of us who want to move one and those who refuse to budge.

 Moving on isn’t easy. Sometimes it isn’t pretty.  But isn’t that what we as Christians are called to do. 

So no matter what candidate or party you supported, let us collect ourselves, tend to each other, put our faith in God the father, God the son, God the Holy Spirit, and let’s move on. Together.

The American people have spoken (or coughed-up).

 

Goodbye but not farewell

Friday was my last night in Jordan.  I was in my room, packing for the trek home to the USA, with the balcony door open.  There was a wedding celebration below, blasting wonderful Middle Eastern music complete with a belly dancer.  It was warm (not hot), and I sat on my balcony, overlooking the Dead Sea, with the lights of Israel on the other side and Jerusalem on the horizon.

I am in a different culture in a different part of the world experiencing a different way of life.  And I had a blast. I am thankful for this opportunity, to have experienced all that was jammed into eight short days.  The people I met, the places I visited, the worlds that were revealed to me, from ancient civilizations to modern day Jordan.

What an adventure.  In Jordan  I saw the Sea of Galilee; floated in the Dead Sea; strolled among Greek and Roman ruins; visited the ancient and once thriving city of Petra;  renewed my baptismal vows in the Jordan River;  walked in the same areas and on the same ground as Jesus and St Paul and Herod and John the Baptist and Roman soldiers and Greek thinkers and caravans and Lawrence of Arabia; slept in a Bedouin camp; stopped where Jacob wrestled the angel;  added three more UNESCO sites to my growing list; roamed in the 9000 year old capital city of Amman, aka Philadelphia in the Bible; went to two mountaintops, where Moses saw the promised land, and where John the Baptist was beheaded; learned about a special Anglican school for deaf children; met the Mayor of Amman and the Jordanian Minister of Tourism; let history open up for me, connecting Bible passages I have read and known my entire life to the very spots where I was standing and touching the earth or water.

I know I will be seeing my fellow Episcopal Pilgrims and friends again – Rosalind Hughes, Tim Schenck, Heidi Shott, Joe Thoma, Hannah Wilder, Lynette Wilson. Thank you, Friends, for making this so special.

Thank you to all who made this trip happen – there are many of you.

There is so much to share about this trip to Jordan and the sights that I saw, modern and ancient, Biblical and political. My plan is to write and reflect and contemplate about the wonders of this trip for a long time.  You’ll see in my writings, and hear in my preaching, and note in my reflections, the influence this adventure has made upon me.

I woke up this morning with an old favorite hymn circling through my mind (I am sure you know it – we all do – even my friends who haven’t graced the inside of a church in years):
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Goodbye Jordan.  But not farewell.

October 15, 2016

Check Facebook for lots and lots of photos

Machaerus

On October 14, the Episcopal Pilgrims in Jordan, along with the entire group of Christian pilgrims, visited Machaerus (in Arabic, Mukawir).  A once great edifice now lies in ruins, barely excavated, on a hilltop near the Dead Sea.

What’s left in Machaerus are the remains of the Royal Place where John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod.  Built by Alexander, the site was a crossroads for caravans, soldiers, officials, merchants, those paying homage or partying with Herod, and everyone who had reason to be here, including John the Baptist.

We traveled high and low – sometimes wondering if the bus was going to make the steep inclines and narrow roads with dramatic twists and turns.  Caves dot the landscape and it’s clear that some are still inhabited.

From the perch we could see Israel over the Dead Sea.  Our guide Raed Hadid said this was not a military fortress, but clearly it would be an ideal military lookout.

I didn’t know that the Royal Palace where Joh the Baptist was beheaded was situated on a plateau.

I didn’t know that John the Baptist was imprisoned in a cave.

Machaerus is surrounded by wilderness now, and after traveling the terrain to get there, it must have been wilderness then, too.  Makes me understand bit more why Mark in his gospel called John the Baptist “a voice crying out in the wilderness” (Mark 1:3).

October 14, 2016

See Facebook for lots and lots of photos.

 

 

 

It was spectacular. That’s not an understatement.

I had experiences today that I never imagined, never even thought would happen.  And I will never forget.

After departing from the ancient city of Petra, we headed for the desert – in Jordan it’s called Waddi Rum but we know it as the Negev, from the Psalms.  We climbed on jeeps and raced through the desert, making circles in the sand, laughing with each bump, positive we were going to be flung from our seats.

The panorama of the desert was spectacular.  That’s not an understatement.

This is the area that was the 1900s quarters of Englishman T. E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia.  We stopped at the site where he helped to train the Bedouins in their fight for independence.  We viewed a stone carving of him, and I thought of my late father, Ray.  My father shared with me that when he was a boy in the 1920s, he read tales about the adventures of Lawrence of Arabia as well as the articles written by Lawrence.  I was channeling my father with fond thoughts and pangs of missing him.

The movie Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here.  The Martian was filmed here.  The barren landscape lends itself to movies, but a closer look proves that this area isn’t barren at all.

We stopped to view the sunset through the mountains.  It was spectacular.  That’s not an understatement.

At night, in the middle of the desert, at a Bedouin camp for tourists, I was able to slip out of the tent and scan the skies.  Stars and planets and the entire Milky Way put on a show for me.  Living in the Northeast, the light pollution doesn’t allow me to enjoy the show of the stars like this.

It was spectacular.  That’s not an understatement.

I was viewing the same stars in the same neighborhood as Abraham, and I naturally thought about what God said to him in Genesis 15:  “Then God brought Abram outside and said, “Look up to the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.”

It was spectacular.  That’s not an understatement.

October 12, 2016

A site of the ages

 

Petra is an amazing site, an amazing experience. A site of the ages.

Most are familiar with Petra from the scenes in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (not a great movie but still adventure fun on film).

We pilgrims started out to explore Petra at an early time – 6 am – which allowed us  to view the sandstone, the carvings, the Treasury (that’s the best known building), the paths ,and the site with few people, and in a quietness that showed the respect this place deserved.

Petra is ancient.  Older than can be determined.  At one time, and for a long time, it was caravan stop, thereby marking Petra as a major international city and trading post in long-forgotten world.  In the architecture, there is Greek influence and Roman influence, along with the ancient idols and Egyptian gods.  Many many tombs cared in the rock line the paths. An ancient temple stands partially uncovered – no one is sure to whom this temple was built, so it’s just called The Temple.  Carvings in the stone to ancient gods, important people are passed along the way.  There was a sculpture to the Djinn, an Arabic spirit that we know as a genie. My favorite  was a carving illustrating a caravan complete with life-sized camels.

We hiked for miles, learning about the peoples who came through here, the archeological efforts underway, and the Bedouin tribe who have inhabited Petra for centuries and still live here.

My return trek through the site was a different experience.  By that time it was mid-morning and the tourists, workers and seekers were heading in the direction that I had just left. And what I witnessed, I believe, was more like the Petra of ago. I saw the Petra that was a meeting point for caravans from all points of the world. I saw Petra the marketplace.

  • The multitude of languages reflected the people crowding the Petra site: I heard French, Arabic, German, Italian, English, Russian and a few I didn’t recognize.
  • Merchants hawking wares calling out to tourists as they walked by.
  • Shoppers eyeing the stalls and tables filled with figurines, scarves and sand-made wares.
  • Children yelling and running and playing.
  • Paths crowded with people and dogs and cats and camels and donkeys and horses with the animal sounds and behaviors.

Petra the marketplace, as it has been for ages.

Don’t let anyone tell you that Petra is dead city. Petra is quite alive.

October 12, 2016

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I will with God’s help

Today I walked in the steps of Elijah.

Today I walked the same paths as John the Baptist.

Today I visited the site where Jesus was baptized and Christianity began.

(Fellow traveler Tim called this area “the ground zero of Christianity.”)

Today our guide welcomed us “to the lowest point on earth and the closest to heaven.” (390 meters below sea level.)

Today I stepped into the waters of the Jordan River and renewed my baptismal vows in the same waters where John baptized Jesus.

Today was a spiritually moving day for me.

Today the Episcopal pilgrims celebrated Eucharist on the banks of the Jordan River. And we prayed familiar comforting words that took on added significance, considering our location. Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? Wil you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of Christ in the Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will, with God’s help.

October 11, 2016

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Acceptance

Brother Andrew didn’t start out expecting to establish and lead the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf.  But in his calm, soothing voice he explained that he accepted God’s call, accepted God’s plan for him, and developed the only institute of its kind in the region for children with cognitive disability of deafness.

Located in Salt, an ancient city in Jordan, the Institute’s children and staff are clearly enthused and dedicated to their studies and their work.  Brother Andrew stresses that the facility is a Sign Language School, an important distinction to him.  His students range from three years to 21 years old in pre-school to upper school.  A tour of the classrooms , dorms, vocational studies area revealed colorful surroundings and innovative techniques.

“How can you teach a deaf person about God,” he asked.  “It’s very abstract.” Not to him.  He has accepted Gods’ call and God’s mission for him in this world

Yes – more to come later about the remarkable Brother Andrew and the remarkable Holy Land Institute for the Deaf.

More delightful Mediterranean cuisine was followed by a trip to Mount Nebo, another example of a man accepting God’s will.  Mount Nebo is the point where Moses saw the Promised Land (a remarkable view) but accepted God’s path that he would not walk on the land that he spent years leading his people to.  Acceptance.

The pilgrims lined up for photos and posed with each other at Mount Nebo as a soft breeze whirled around us.  Another place of peace on our journey through Jordan.

October 10, 2016

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The continuing nature of Amman

Amman, the capital of Jordan, is 9000 years old.  That’s not a typo.

In the Bible it is also known as Philadelphia. It’s located on Kings Highway – and our guide noted that no one really knows how old Kings Highway is.  It has been called many names – including the current Rt 35 – but humans from the Bronze Age to Moses to the Greeks to the Romans to Jesus and the Apostles to St Paul to today have kicked up sand on this trail.  Kings Highway has witnessed the passing-by of tribes, animals, wares, wars and armies, refugees and immigrants, traders and merchants through the centuries.

As a student of history and an aficionado of ancient civilizations, Amman gave me untold opportunities to connect with those long-ago times – times and events that continue to touch our current lives.

The pilgrims visited the Citadel which sits atop the city of Amman overlooking the sprawling capital city.  An ancient community, it includes the Temple of Hercules, Greek influence, Roman styles.

Later, in the modern city hall, the mayor of the city provided an overview to the religion writers assembled for this pilgrimage.  He noted that in 1906 the population of Amman was 4000; in 1940 it was 40,000; and by 2016 it was 4.4 million, with 2.6 million being Jordanians.   The mayor shared his personal story of being a refugee who arrived in Amman in 1948. He also talked about the Iraqi refugees seeking freedom who have been traveling to and through Jordan, part of the headlines blaring across the world.

A trip through the Royal Jordanian Museum was another walk through the centuries.  The highlight for me was viewing the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Not the first time on this trip, I experience something that I never thought I would.  The portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Museum was Isaiah, and as a priest friend whom I always admired told me, you can never go wrong with Isaiah.

Our car wove through the crowded, narrow cities, providing a glimpse of everyday life and allowing us to experience the continuing nature of Amman.

October 9, 2016

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