Monthly Archives: December 2017

Real place, real people


As we approach Christmas, we remember that Bethlehem is a real place with real people whose struggles are not dissimilar from Roman occupied Palestine in the first century.  We also remember that the nativity story, and the subsequent response of Herod, is a story of sanctuary, forced migration, and every day families subject to the violent whims of powerful state actors.

Below are two images that the Mennonite Palestine Israel Network (MennoPIN) is inviting us to ponder this year.  Both are new works by the street artist Banksy in Bethlehem.  Note the crowbar in the hands of the angel attempting to create an opening in the separation wall.  The “Peace on Earth*” sign with the Christmas star asterisk is on the door of a new business venture: “The Walled Off Hotel,” which boasts “The worst view in the world,” the towering concrete separation wall around Bethlehem.  It hopes to bring in Israeli and international tourists, providing jobs and drawing attention to the daily life of locals living in the Occupied Territories.

Below that is an image of Jose y Maria (Joseph and Mary) by the artist Everett Patterson.  See how many nativity references you can find (e.g., Mary’s sweatshirt says “Nazareth High School.”)

This is our world.  Today.

So too is the astounding birth of Jesus who proclaimed a kingdom defined by loving kindness and justice.  So too is the persistence of a people who believe that the angelic proclamation of “peace on earth” is our life’s work and hope.


Banksy, Bethlehem



You just got an award

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Last evening four of us from CMC attended the annual Faith in Public Life celebration, downtown.  Faith in Public Life is a national organization with several state chapters, including Ohio.  In Columbus they convene a monthly faith leaders breakfast which I attend, have been active in addressing the need for crisis intervention training for city police, and have been in the center of the swirl of our sanctuary work, especially in relating with the media.

Last evening, on behalf of you all, we accepted their award of “Faith Community of the Year.”  It was their way of acknowledging this congregation’s willingness to risk stepping forward in offering sanctuary to Edith and the Espinal family, highlighting the plight of immigrant families in our community.  As a gift, we received this plaque with the quote from King.

FLP award, MLK Jr. quote

This reminds me of the joke about the person given a button for being the most humble, but had it taken away because she wore it.  We’ve joked a bit in the office about how we as humble Mennonites might display this (In a closet in the basement?), but are opting to hang it in the foyer, at least for now.  Unfortunately, the gender exclusive language from the 60’s remains.

This has always been primarily about Edith, and answering the call to be in solidarity with her family.  But we can receive this as a sign of gratitude from the wider faith community, challenging all of us to better live out our convictions as sanctuary people.  With Mary as our guide this Advent, I think about her visit to Elizabeth soon after she accepted the call to carry the Christ child.  She knew if she was going to do this, she needed support and companionship.  Elizabeth greets her with the words, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of our womb,” assuring her that she is not crazy.  Even though she doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into, she is and will be blessed, and others will be blessed through her.  And Elizabeth will be by her side all the while.

Blessed are you, Columbus Mennonite Church.  And blessed is the one who has found sanctuary within you.