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Prison Ministry Sermon

Sermon   August 28, 2016 Prison Ministry    Matthew 25: 31-40   The words of Matthew 25 about visiting the prisoners have challenged me throughout my ministry.  I have made various stabs at prison ministry:  a jail class in seminary, almost doing a CPE at Vacaville Prison  ( I chickened out)  and numerous visits over the years to persons I knew in prison or jail and recently being a mentor for Sponsors.   One of the things the jail chaplain who taught my seminary class said has stuck with me.  “  You are not bring Christ and the church to the prison. Christ and the church are already there.  Just look for them.”    All across the country there are jail and prison ministries doing just that.   This morning I invite you to look with me at two aspects of ministry with prisoners.  One is a personal level, one is societal. 1.  On the personal level, each of us, if we so choose can make a difference in a prisoner’s life.    One the things that prisons and jails do is to separate persons from the rest of society in ways that often dehumanize them.   Spoon Jackson, who was incarcerated at age 20 for life without parole has written, “ No cage, physical, mental or spiritual can be my home.”  For him letters were so very important,   “Letters were like blood veins or lifelines: I lived through them and only ate and slept in prison.”  (p. 79  By Heart Poetry, Prison and Two Lives by Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson , New village Press, Oakland, CA , 2010) Writing letters, visiting when possible someone in prison helps them to know that they are still human beings and that someone cares about them.   These personal connections are a way of being in ministry, sharing the love of Christ. Spoon Jackson is also a poet and writes about the importance of relationships: “ For self rehabilitation or any kind of restorative work to succeed there must be constant contact and exchange with the public, people of all ages, colors, and cultures. There must be continuous dialog and programs that put mirrors up to everyone’s faces not just the prisoners.”  ( p. 86) Because incarceration is a traumatic experience, there is always need for ministries which foster relationship,  healing and hope during and after the experience. There is also another reason to make personal connections.  Prisons and jails tend to want to keep regular citizens out.  Yet, it is important for us to stay aware of what is happening in our prisons and jails.  Even when they are sometimes contracted out to private industries, they are still part of our public criminal...

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Sermons: Faiths of Abraham

Islam – August 21, 2016 Faiths of Abraham- Islam  by Rev. June Fothergill Genesis 12: 1-3; Genesis 16: 1-16; 21: 8-21; 25: 9, 12-18 Earlier this year I attended a gathering at the local Islamic Center.  It was an interfaith celebration hosted by the Center.  It was my first time to be at such a gathering.  In Boise, I had invited some Muslim students to come to talk at a youth group meeting but I have had little real contact with Muslim people.  So, I was in hopes to make some connections at this event in Eugene.  I made a few tentative ones.  After the meal I had an interesting conversation with a young woman from Indonesia.   She wore a hijaab, or head scarf.  I told her about my time in Indonesia 30 years ago when I don’t remember seeing women wearing the hijaab.  Her response surprised me, “Oh,” she said, “That was back in the dark times. “     I think what she meant was times when it wasn’t acceptable to be an outwardly devote Muslim. Our short conversation reminded me that Muslim, Christian conversations and dialogues are operating in a cross cultural reality.  I have much to learn about Islam and what it means to the people who practice and believe.    So, once again, I am not speaking as any kind of expert and this is a topic much too big and complex for a sermon.  I will simply share with you some of what I have learned in my study. I want to recognize up front the truth of what Pim  Valkenberg, a professor of religion and culture wrote in  Christian Century in July,  “ It’s easier for Christians to recognize their elder sister Judaism than it is to recognize their younger sister Islam. “  (p. 29 “Sibling rivalry among three faiths God(s) of Abraham” in Christian Century, July 6, 2016) This was especially true as I explored some of the Quran in English translation.    Compared to my love for the Hebrew Bible, I had trouble appreciating the Quran.  Yet, I realize that it is a text meant to be experienced in its original language.  I have heard that the Quran recited in Arabic is quite beautiful.  And of course it comes from a whole different culture and time period than my own.  In other words, just like with the Bible, it needs interpretation. The Quran is important because it is the principle revelation for Muslims.  It provides the basis for the whole fabric of the world religion we know as Islam.  In the 600’s c e in the Arabic peninsula (Saudi Arabia today)   Mohammad, an illiterate trader who was well regarded...

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Native American Ministries Sunday Sermon

Sermon July 31, 2016       Carol’s Story  by Rev. June Fothergill  1 Corinthians 12: 12-26 In the letter to the Corinthian church Paul tells them to rejoice together and suffer together because they are the one body of Christ.  Yet in our world today there are so many ways we’re divided and conflicted there is a temptation to just run to a homogeneous bubble and live there surrounded by people who seem like us.  But the relationship with Jesus the Christ leads us down a very different path, as Paul discovered. In Paul’s day the city of Corinth was a Roman colony made up of people from all over the Mediterranean. A church from there, founded by Paul had great diversity: Jews and gentiles- differences in culture; slave and fee- differences in social economics; male and female, difference in status. NO wonder the church in Corinth had its share of conflicts. Yet, Paul gives them a way to think about their life together.  You are members of the One Body in Christ, he tells them.   Just like the human body has hands and feet, eyes and ears, etc, you too are made up of a diversity of persons. Yet, you all matter and you are all connected.  You need each other to be whole. If one suffers – all suffer. If one rejoices- all rejoice. I chose this scripture for today for Native American Ministry Sunday because I think such ministries are about acknowledging and nurturing our connections with each other- people descended from the native peoples of this land and those of us who came as immigrants.  Through Christ’s love for us all we need each other; we suffer together and we rejoice together My friendship with Carol exemplifies this truth for me.  When I first met Carol she was then named Carol Colley. She was an influential Native American lay leader of our Annual Conference.  IN fact one year she was elected the head of our delegation to General Conference, a great honor.  AS a young pastor interested in racial justice issues, she and I worked together on what was then the Board of Church and Society.   We helped organize a Consultation on White Racism at Wallowa Lake Camp, put together the first Native American Council, a worked to recruit racial ethnic person to the various leadership positions of the Annual Conference.  She was a joy to work with, capable of leadership and yet a team player. I was her when our Board met a couple times a year. I also began to intentionally arrange to have a meal with her at every Annual Conference.    In this way we built our relationship over...

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Sharing with Others Sermon

Sharing with Others   by Rev. June Fothergill July 17, 2016 Luke  12: 13-21;  Acts 2: 43-47; 4:32-35 ( Mark 8:35)   Eric Law in his book called Holy Currencies: 6 Blessings for Sustainable Ministries tells the story of dinner at his home growing up.  “ When I was a child my family always had guest for dinner. On any given day, there might be 12 10 15 people at the dinner table. Dinner was a time of joyful sharing gof food and stories.  I thought we were quite wealthy , feeding so many people every night.  Only when I was older , while talking to my mother about the good old days did I find out that we were not rich at all . My mother told me that some days when only had three dollars to feed 15 people. How could that be? I did not remember a day when there was not enough food.”   Eric learned that his mom was a very savy shopper and cook, but he thinks it is more than that, “ Not only was everyone around the table filled every night; there were always leftovers.  I believe the way we dealt with the leftovers at the dinner table is indicative of how this miracle of doing ‘more with less” was accomplished. Toward the end of dinner there was always something left on a place in the middle of the table, Everyone would be staring at it, especially when it was a piece of meat… But no one would make a move to take it. Then someone would say, “ Why don’t you take it Grandma? You are the oldest.” But my grandma would say, “ NO I’ve been eating this stuff all my life. Give it it the little eone. He’s the youngest and needs the nourishment to grow up to be big and strong.” Now all eyes were on mem, who was the youngest. But I who also learned this ritual would say, “ No not me. I am completely full because I have the smallest stomach. Give it to my older brother. He has an examination at school tomorrow, He needs it so he can do well.”   … And so it went , each person would find an excuse not to take the leftover piece of food and instead offered it to each other, and “affirmed each other’s worthiness in the family.  AS a result the leftover would remain left over and be transformed into a new dish the next day.” ( p. 14-15  Eric Law, Holy Currencies, Chalice Press, St Louis, 2013) The lesson Eric learned from these dinner table experiences was a spirituality that...

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