Monthly Archives: May 2014

Martyrs and Collaborators

On Sunday, I preached on Acts 7:55-60, the story of the stoning of Stephen.  I focused not on Stephen but on the figure of Saul, who watches the stoning from a short distance while guarding a pile of coats belonging to the men doing the actually stoning.  I set up a comparison between the actions of Saul and the actions of those who collaborating with the Nazi regime in the 20th century.

Listen to the Sermon     Read the Sermon

Several of you spoke to me after church on Sunday with an interest in continuing the conversation on the church blog.    Here is an excerpt from the sermon to get the conversation going.

Two weeks ago I had the great privilege of spending a good part of a day at the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C.  The experience of walking through it was powerful and overwhelming.  There is a special exhibit currently showing entitled Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust.

The exhibit tells the story of the millions of ordinary people who witnessed the crimes of the Holocaust-in the countryside and city squares, in stores and schools, in homes and workplaces.  Across Europe, the Nazis found countless willing helpers who collaborated or were complicit in their crimes.  The exhibit poses the questions: What motives and pressures led so many individuals to abandon their fellow human beings?  Why did others make the choice to help?

That exhibit has haunted me.  I’ve been asking myself: How would I have responded in such circumstances?  Would I have risked my life to save my neighbors?   I like our neighbors.  I really do but would I risk my life and the lives of my family to help them?  Or would I have been a collaborator?  The exhibit makes clear that there were degrees of complicity.  In some circumstances, the local population worked directly with the Nazis and actively participated in rounding up their fellow citizens and executing them.  Others turned in their neighbors for alleged activity that the regime had identified as dangerous to the state.  

I like to think that I wouldn’t have actively collaborated.  But the most common form of collaboration was very passive.  Looking the other way.  Not saying anything.  Not taking any action to stop the momentum of events.  Standing to one side.  Focusing on the safety of close family and friends.  If I am honest – I can imagine myself doing that.

Questions to ponder and discuss: During the Holocaust, what motives and pressures led so many individuals to abandon their fellow human beings?  Why did others make the choice to help?  How do you think you would have responded?  What are present day ways in which we collaborate with injustice, as individuals or as a community?

You can learn more about the exhibit here.

To learn about a modern day Stephen and what you can do to support her, please click here.

Welcoming Little Children in Church

Mark 10:13-16
13 People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. 15  I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he hugged the children and blessed them.

In most churches we have been to, in or near the Sunday School classrooms, there is some mural or picture of Jesus with lots of children around him and in his arms, giggling, with a quote that says “Jesus welcomes the little children.”

It’s so nice to know Jesus not only loved lepers, tax collectors, and sinners, but he even loved the children.  Children are super cute in their little dresses and shoes; their laughs are infectious; and their smiles can make a bad day better.
It shouldn’t be difficult to understand that Jesus welcomed the children, but we also know the realities that come with having children in our community.  Children can be noisy.  They cry when they are upset or hungry (something we all wish we could do from time to time!). They wiggle.  They kick things that are just a leg’s length away, and they don’t always want the attention their younger siblings may be giving them.   Those also are qualities present in little children welcomed by Jesus.

In this passage in Mark, Jesus isn’t just welcoming our children.  He is challenging the adults to make room for the children, to let them experience him.  It’s so easy to get lost in the cute image of Jesus holding kids and not hear the powerful message for us as the church today.  Perhaps Jesus was making eye contact with these kids’ parents at the back of the crowd.  Maybe they were thinking… “No Sally, stop”… “don’t push,” “shhh,” “wait your turn!” These parents are probably exhausted from parenting and just trying keep their kids acting nicely in front of the Messiah.

We like to imagine Jesus eying them and nodding with the expression; “It’s okay, well done, you brought them to me, you are doing a great job!”

11In the spirit of this passage, we offer the following message to parents.  “It is so not easy being a parent in the pews, but it is remarkable what you are teaching and modeling in faith for your children, our children.  Let us know how we can support you and your family!”

Our worshipping community is not whole without the presence of children. Recently, we saw this article, which is a pew insert at  Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis about Why We Welcome Little Children To Worship.  Pastor Kara Root spoke at the Next Church Conference on this topic and there is much good to glean for us here at Broad Street Presbyterian Church.  If you don’t have time to read the entire article, focus on the first paragraph and either the section on suggestions for adults with children or suggestions for adults without children.  These suggestions are small, but mighty when considering how to be an intergenerational community of faith.

Post below and share your favorite experience of seeing a child welcomed in church.

-Amy Miracle, Ann Palmerton, and Brittany Porch