Homily on Family Violence – You are seen. You are heard.

This is my final project, a five minute homily, for the weeklong intensive class at Lancaster Theological Seminary: Family Violence and the Theological and Sociological Response, with Dr. Elizabeth Soto.  After hearing about family violence, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, psychological, financial, spiritual and emotional abuse as well as visiting a Domestic Violence shelter, I decided to speak to the anonymity that  church communities often give abusers and their victims.  

Anonymity or normalizing violence is not helpful and goes against our Christian mandate to take care of all in the family.  It goes against the sacred acts of setting the oppressed free, releasing captives,  helping the blinded to see, bringing words of hope to the poor and declaring a year of the Lord’s favor.  I taught my classmates the opening lines of a simple song by Karen Drucker, “I Am Loved”, from her CD, Songs of the Spirit III. I think the song can sing hope into the hearts of all of us who have doubts about our own value and role, but particularly to the woman or man (men too can be victims of abuse), child or elder who is in the dark and lonesome hole of abuse or neglect.

Here are my thoughts titled You Are Seen. You Are Heard.

I’d like to teach you a new song today, a few lines from a song that you can teach to others. You know the power of music, the power to inspire, the power to plumb the depths of human emotions. You know the power of music to help in memorizing Bible stories, like “Father Abraham had Seven Sons”.  We know the power of song to teach and reinforce theological statements, that takes theology from our head to our heart like, “Jesus Loves Me”.
The opening lines of the song by Karen Drucker goes like this:
You are seen. You are heard. You are loved for who you are.

You are enough. You are complete.  You are loved.

There was a pop song in the 70s called, “We are Family” (I got all my sisters with me.) by Sisters Sledge. It gives us a great image of a family unit.

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights
High hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight

They convince us that families like to have fun together; they share in the world’s wonder as well as having shared family goals. But in some families the high hopes of the future are clouded with worry, frustration, abandonment, fear and violence. Someone who is crying can’t sing.

Often the church looks off to the side when they suspect there might be violence or abuse in a family.  They say, “Oh, Let the police take care of it.” or “I have my own family to look out for.” or “I don’t want to get involved with that”.

But a church that reads the Gospels can’t do that without looking hypocritical.  We can find a narrative in Matthew where Jesus was speaking to the crowds and his mom and brothers showed up looking for him. In chapter 12:46-50 (NRSV), Jesus gives us a new and enlarged image of family by saying, as he pointed to those around him: “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

You know that Jesus proclaimed that his ministry was to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blinded, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor. Anyone who desires to follow him in ministry, whether clergy or layperson, is responsible for the same.

So, when we see an adult, a child or an elder whom we think may be living in a violent situation, we are required to speak to that, to ask after them. But Rev. Marie Fortune, in Family Violence and Religion, cautions us to judge the violent behavior, not the person. In this regard, Matthew 12 verses 36-37 are helpful. “I tell you, on the Day of Judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Likewise, we will be judged by our words which can cause further harm victims of intimate violence, if we aren’t educated in how to respond to family violence.

Perhaps a simple song, sung in church at the closing of a prayer time can open a door for them and replace the lies they’ve heard about themselves. Lies such as “You’re invisible, no one cares about you. No one will listen to you or believe you. No one could love such a wretched, ugly, person like you.”  Or, the abuser might be saying “Only I can love truly love you. Everyone else is just pretending to like you”. “They don’t love you; I do.”

We can use the power of this simple song and teach it to others so that they know that they are seen and heard and loved. They are enough just as God made them. They are complete with all their faults and foibles. They are loved by God.

Let’s sing it until the victims of family violence are able to sing it and believe it for themselves.
You are seen. You are heard. You are loved for who you are.

You are enough. You are complete.  You are loved.   


Ashe, Amen.

New Palestine Museum of Natural History

Also posted at http://popular-resistance.blogspot.com/2015/05/dream.html
where you can leave comments

Compassion fatigue is a term I heard many years ago perhaps when there were
a number of natural and man-made disasters and conflicts in the late 1980s.
The term came to my mind in the last few weeks. Another saying: think
globally and act locally. So thinking globally, I was thinking how humanity
could descend to such barbarity around the world.

How could African migrants risk their lives to leave countries wrecked psychologically and
economically by colonial Europeans to seek to arrive in the same continent
that subjugated them? How could Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims be slaughtered
in the thousands by the majority Buddhists and surviving people end up in
boats and sent back to starve and die at sea rejected by nearby countries
including countries like Indonesia with Muslim majorities? How could
relatives of Jewish holocaust survivors engage in racism and ethnic
cleansing for native Palestinians while relatives of Armenian holocaust
survivors lead amazingly rich productive caring lives? How could a very
wealthy country like “Saudi Arabia” (the quotes are needed because it is an
imposed name for a country stolen by the Saud Family) spend billions to
support the US/Israeli agenda of destruction and mayhem in countries like
Yemen and Syria? How could a pilot who claims being Muslim drop bombs on
Muslim civilians? How could a powerful and rich country like the USA be so
occupied by the Zionist lobby that they send their “police” to train in
racism and oppression in Apartheid Israel and then go back to kill blacks
in American cities? How does the world tolerate the continued siege on Gaza
and its starving and dying population (the largest open air prison with 1.7
million inmates whose only crime is being born in Palestine)? How could the
world stand by and let Egypt execute political dissidents or imprison them
for decades simply for demanding freedom from the entrenched military
dictatorship funded by US taxpayers?
The US and Canada Zionist lobbies just might succeed in getting unconstitutional
laws passed to ban standing up for human rights (supporting BDS against the
apartheid regime).  It might get worse with the lobby getting the subservient
governments to force the political neutered Palestinian leadership to accept a
version of apartheid (and no refugees’ right of return).  But then that is what the PA
leadership knew would happen when they signed the articles of surrender
known as the Oslo accords.

So did humans develop compassion fatigue and does this bode ill for our
future as a species? I do not know and cannot predict the future. I can
only act against the negative trends and draw closer to other activists.
When we do find people who still cares, we latch onto them and try to do
something together to keep our sanity. Palestinians were genuinely happy
that the Pope decided to canonize two 19th century Palestinians nuns as
saints and conclude an agreement recognizing “state of Palestine”.  Those
positive people trying to do good things are so needed when so many are
either apathetic or directly benefitting Israel while getting rich. Without
the few lights in the darkness, we would all be lost and very depressed.

Perhaps this is why the presence of volunteers around us in the museum and
the botanical garden/integrated ecosystem is so crucial to our health. When
we walk or work in the garden with others, we feel reinvigorated physically
and psychologically. In fact when we do any work together, we feel
empowered. On Nakba memorial day last week we had a number of activities
including installing a large visible plaque that included sections of the
famous poem by Tawfiq Ziyad (“here we stay”). The next day, we hosted a
workshop on trauma relief through herbal medicines and working on gardens.
We then hosed 44 Nazareth colleagues on a tour of Battir then lunch at the museum.
Yesterday we attended a meeting on biodiversity, did field work
and got two Bedouin children to help us near their camp by picking up some
round rocks we needed for our pool at the museum. They were so nice and so
friendly and their smiles even after the sweaty job will always be with me.
Their community spirit is strong even when they are threatened as a
community with evictions (was done to them before). So while thinking
globally we are able to act on location and keep going based on a vision
that all these borders and divisions and conflicts they foist on us will be
gone one day. We dream of an interconnected free society and of traveling
free from Bethlehem to Jaffa to Nazareth to Beirut and Damascus without
anyone stopping us at any border.
On my desk is a quote from the Dalai Lama “Never give up. No matter what is
going on around you. Never give up…”
Sometimes we do not know the best way forward but we should never give up.
I have a friend in Gaza whose son had spinal cord cancer and now partly
paralyzed and the family constantly calls for support. But that is one of
dozens of stories, needs fulfilled or unfulfilled etc. It is natural
occasionally to have doubts about our future as a species and frequently to
reassess our methods. But we must keep the hope alive. We must keep
dreaming, keep trying, keep working, and keep living. We must never give
up. We must “stay human” as Vittorio used to write to us.

South Africans apologize over forest planted on Palestinian village
(incidentally our studies and those of others show how environmentally
destructive was the planting of European pine trees to cover-up the
destroyed Palestinian Villages)

In Gaza, the Nakba is ongoing and you can help us end it

US press blacks out Israeli defense minister’s citation of ‘Nagasaki and
Hiroshima’ as model for dealing with Iran – See more at:

I was asked about Palestinian heroes:

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Professor and Director

Palestine Museum of Natural History

Also on facebook
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Sabeel Wave of Prayer 5/21/15

Wave of Prayer: This prayer ministry enables local and international friends of Sabeel to pray over regional concerns on a weekly basis. Sent to Sabeel’s network of supporters, the prayer is used in services around the world and during Sabeel’s Thursday Communion service; as each community in its respective time zone lifts these concerns in prayer at noon every Thursday, this “wave of prayer” washes over the world.

abeel Wave of Prayer

May 21, 2015

Last week the Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine in a treaty between the two. This news came just days before the canonization by Pope Francis of two 19th-century Palestinian nuns, the first Palestinian saints of modern times.  Lord, we are grateful for the hope and joy their sainthood brought to the Palestinian people and for the inspiration they gave for lives dedicated to God and community work. Lord in your mercy…

Thousands of young Israelis mostly from right-wing yeshivas danced and sang throughout the Muslim Quarter of the Old City during the annual “march of the flags” on Jerusalem Day.  This march marks Israel’s seizure of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later its annexation, a move never recognized by the international community.    Lord, we pray that instead of declaring Jerusalem the capital “of the Jewish people alone” and showing domination over the indigenous Palestinian population, Israeli leaders and right-wing groups will seek peace based on true justice.  Lord in your mercy…

In the West Bank this past weekend, a photographer captured shocking images of Israeli soldiers spraying a young child with “skunk water” during the town of Kafr Qaddum’s weekly march.  Lord, we pray for the Palestinian people, especially the children, living in dangerous and inhumane conditions under Israel’s military might.  Lord in your mercy…

Lord, we pray for our programs this week, including a joint Sabeel Jerusalem-Nazareth youth educational trip in Jerusalem.  We also ask for your blessings as we plan for our November 2015Witness Trip to the Holy Land, led by Sabeel founder and father of Palestinian Liberation Theology, Rev. Naim Ateek.  Lord in your mercy…

We pray alongside the World Council of Churches for the countries of Malawi and Zambia.  Lord in your mercy…

Centering Prayer Day 2

Last evening I nearly forgot to attempt Centering Prayer again. I was ready for bed and realized I needed to put this piece in before I went to sleep.  So, I sat up on my bed and tried to find that quiet center within me.  I did find it easier, since it was dark, to begin the travel away from my daytime material world and into a deeper awareness.

But, still plans and wonderings and scenarios kept flying into my mind.
In our group on Sunday I used the images of boats row boat bowslowing coming into view as a metaphor for how our thoughts trickle in to push into our quiet time. Well, my boats don’t gently nudge in, they are just, BAMMM!, there. I don’t get much warning. Before I realize it full blown scenarios are playing out in my mind.

I decided to use a word mantra to sort of focus my attention to get past random thoughts. And what came back to me was questions about why I chose that word. What was it about that concept that I wanted, that I feared, that I harbored anxiety about.

Ok, so a word mantra didn’t work to empty my mind.

Dang it, this is hard.  It sounds so simple, just empty your mind. Seek only the presence of God. Detach from what holds us – what holds our attention, our emotions,  our biases

This morning I’ve decided to read Nan Merrill’s version of Psalm 78:1-3 and let the ancient psalmist lull me into the presence of Holiness.

“Listen well, O peoples of the earth,

to inner promptings of the Spirit;

Let Silence enter your house that

you may hear!

For within your heart Love speaks: 

not with words of deceit,

But of spiritual truths to guide you

upon the paths of peace.

Centering Prayer Day 1

Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer.

This past Sunday I began a pre-worship time of Centering Prayer at church.  I knew that I wanted it to be more experiential than a lecture or an informational Sunday School class.  I wanted to give people time to actually practice centering prayer together.

I also knew I needed to explain it a bit and prepare people to incrementally develop time of silence and stillness in order to practice this ancient and yet new again way of praying.

From the Contemplative Outreach website I began to pull together language to use in class. http://www.centeringprayer.com

Centering Prayer prepares us to receive a sacred gift.

In this prayer time we experience God’s presence, gentle as a butterfly, within us; closer than breathing; closer than thinking; closer than consciousness itself.

We detach from what holds us – what holds our attention, our emotions, our biases, so we can be open to God’s presence. “I sleep but my heart is awake.” (Song of Songs).

It is a visceral way to be in touch with the deeper yearning inside you. Cynthia Bourgeault (Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, 130).

In centering prayer, the inner observer’s job is to connect your mind’s lofty ideals with your embodiment’s actions. (Bourgeault, 131).

This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.

“The actual work of centering prayer is consenting to God’s presence and letting go of the present moment and all its content.” Thomas Keating (Intimacy with God, 26).

In the quiet of centering prayer, the consent to return to a sacred word, or your breath, or a sound, is all the activity you need.

At this point in the group (ok, it was only two of us this first week) after getting to know each other a bit and butterfly outlinelearning a little about what Centering Prayer is, we took an outline of a butterfly to trace with our finger and then focus on the image to use as a signal, when our minds strayed, to come back to center.

We ended our time together agreeing to practice Centering Prayer for 10 minutes twice a day – morning and evening. We are not necessarily expecting to get to that blissful state in the first week :0) but we are intending to practice settling in and looking for the Sacred One inside us.

So, this morning, after my morning walk (thank you for no more snow), and some yoga to release my bound up muscles, I sat on my mat in search of a quiet mind.

It was illusive.  It’s really ridiculous how many thoughts come into my mind.  I admit I AM a creative person and it seems to be on all the time! Some people tell me I have too much going on inside my head. Whatever, it’s the way I’m made.

I felt like there were moments when I was on the edge of it and then I’d think “Oh yea! I’m getting it!”  Darn… I’m not supposed to judge or think. I’m to be aware, but not analytical. So, I didn’t get it – yet.

I resolved to say to my mat “To be continued”.sitting by water in the country