The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

In it but not of it (sermon for May 24)

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An older version

An older version - with the same problem!

My first regular job was in a small jewelry store in Burlington, Iowa. I was about 15, and I worked for the princely sum of $.65 per hour.  I’ll tell you about it in a moment.

First, listen to Jesus as he prays for his followers, just hours before the mob comes to take him to his death.

John 17:6-19 (NIV)
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.

They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.

That must have driven them crazy.

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Great comments of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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In honor of Martin Luther King, several great quotes.  All are sourced at Wikipedia.

  • True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.
    President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Marti...
    Image via Wikipedia
  • I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway … I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
  • Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time — the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts… man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
  • What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
  • [T]hrough violence you may murder a murderer but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.
  • This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. …  I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.

And today on the National Mall—where 40 years ago “I have a dream” became a part of the world’s lexicon of ideas—men and women again gather.  This time they face the other direction—not toward the Lincoln Memorial, but the platform on the steps beneath the dome of the U.S. Capitol.


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“To live now as we think humans should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us…”

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UPDATE: I found some good encouragement in the comments of friends at Clipmarks today, and was reminded of this post from nearly two years ago. Here’s a re-post—’cause we all need hope.


Sometimes I think of the enormity of darkness which our world contains, and find the tragedies involved simply too crushing.

How small I am! How seemingly powerless! I find myself in need of hope.
I found some, today, in the conclusion to Howard Zinn’s 1994 book You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times. If you’re invested in bringing good to your world, perhaps you’ll find these words encouraging.

. . . In 1992, teachers all over the country, by the thousands, were beginning to teach the Columbus story in new ways, to recognize that to Native Americans, Columbus and his men were not heroes, but marauders. The point being not just to revise our view of past events, but to be provoked to think about today.

What was most remarkable was that Indian teachers, Indian community activists, were in the forefront of this campaign. How far we have come from that long period of Indian invisibility, when they were presumed to be dead or safely put away on reservations! They have returned, five hundred years after their near annihilation by invading Europeans, to demand that America rethink its beginnings, rethink its values.

It is this change in consciousness that encourages me. Granted, racial hatred and sex discrimination are still with us, war and violence still poison our culture, we have a large underclass of poor, desperate people, and there is a hard core of the population content with the way things are, afraid of change.

But if we see only that, we have lost historical perspective, and then it is as if we were born yesterday and we know only the depressing stories in this morning’s newspapers, this evening’s television reports. Read the rest of this entry »

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July 7, 2008 at 4:06 pm

Israeli and Palestinian former fighters start peace group together

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Here is the most heroic story you’ll read all day. I excerpt just a couple of comments from ever-excellent DemocracyNow! Do click thru to the whole story here.

Combatants for Peace

At tremendous price, a former Israeli Army pilot and a former Fatah fighter long imprisoned by Israel stand for peace and against revenge.

AMY GOODMAN: In the midst of this deepening crisis, I spoke to an Israeli and Palestinian peace activist: Yonatan Shapira and Bassam Aramin. They are from a group called Combatants for Peace that’s made up of former fighters from both Israel and Palestine. Bassam Aramin spent seven years in an Israeli prison, was an armed member of Fatah, the Palestinian political faction once led by Yasser Arafat. Bassam’s ten-year-old daughter Abir died one year ago after being shot by Israeli soldiers while she was on her way home from school. Yonatan Shapira is a captain in the Israeli Air Force and Black Hawk pilot squadron—well, he was. In 2003, he authored the “Pilots’ Letter,” refusing to participate in attacks against Palestinians. . . .

YONATAN SHAPIRA: [W]e decided that it’s important to refuse, but just refusing to be part of something illegal and immoral and just refusing to be part of war crimes is not enough. You have to try to fix the wrongdoing that you were part of. And then, with many other people who refused to military service and to be part of the occupation in the Israeli side and Palestinian ex-fighters in the Palestinian side, people who were many years in Israeli prisons, we formed this group, which we called “Combatants for Peace.” . . . Read the rest of this entry »

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January 22, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Koreans make peace when no one else will

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Korean citizens, long in the shadow of a war made by others, decide that if peace won’t come to them, they will become peace. Click here to read the whole piece. As with most of Joan Chittister’s writing, it is inspiring.

clipped from ncrcafe.org
peacebellKorea is involved in the longest unfinished war in modern history. Caught between the interests of the Four Great Powers — China, Japan, Russia and the United States — the Korean War, an appendage to World War II — a by-product of World War II — broke out in June 1950 to stop the spread of Communism in the region and, at the same time, to secure a foothold for the West in Asia. “We never went to war ourselves,” the Koreans say. “We have only fought surrogate wars.”
one day in 2005 … the local mayor … and the local philosopher … determined that if peace would not come to Hwacheon, Hwacheon would become it themselves. (www.peacebell.co.kr) “Peace begins in Hwacheon,” they decided, “in Hwacheon, the Peace Capital of the World.”
To prove it, they would create a World Peace Bell out of spent cartridges from around the world. They would begin to turn the DMZ, a monument to death, into a Wildlife Preserve. And they would become a center for the study of the relationship between ecology and peace, with the otter, an endangered species in their midst, as the symbol of it. “After all,” they tell you, “bells can be heard across borders and otters swim freely on both sides of the DMZ because they cannot be stopped by wire and dams.”

  blog it

Hmm. Where does peace begin?


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November 8, 2007 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Hope, Social change

How Jesus Feels About Failures (sermon of April 22, 07)

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GasselThird Sunday of Easter: April 22, 2007
John 21:1-19; Acts 9:1-6; Revelation 5:11-14; Psalm 30

We sang: Come, Now Is the Time and Every Move I Make
And the band members read John 21.1-14:

Fishing
1-3After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”
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Robinson Jeffers, burnout and beauty

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My friend Honestpoet Robinson Jeffersencouraged me to look into the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. I looked for him in Wikipedia, and found some pretty compelling comments:

…Jeffers continued to explore the questions of how human beings could find their proper relationship (free of human egocentrism) with the divinity of the beauty of things.

Mankind was too self-centered, he complained, and too indifferent to the “astonishing beauty of things”.

In January of 2002 I had what we used to call a “nervous breakdown.” Utterly disabled, off work for months, I could feel almost nothing but loss.

Beauty was the path that opened the possibility of healing. It started with a counselor’s suggestion that I learn about delight (which, in those parched beginnings, meant a cup of coffee and a newspaper at the health-food co-op).  Eventually, I came to agree with Joan Chittister, who wrote, “A loss of commitment to beauty is the surest sign that we have lost our way to God.” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of God).

Much has happened since then. But as I read this poem of Jeffers this morning, I felt called again to the life of healing-by-beauty, thus permitting (what seems to me to be) one gentle, feather’s-weight sensitization to its inventor’s whispers.

Thanks, HP – you have helped me.

Love The Wild Swan
“I hate my verses, every line, every word.
Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try
One grass-blade’s curve, or the throat of one bird
That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.
Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch
One color, one glinting
Hash, of the splendor of things.
Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax,
The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings.”
–This wild swan of a world is no hunter’s game.
Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast
Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.
Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self?
At least Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can
Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.
Robinson Jeffers


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Written by Monte

April 18, 2007 at 12:16 pm