Saturday, December 3, 2016

Welcome To Gemeinschaft Christmas Open House This Sunday!

Check out Gemeinschaft's website and Facebook page
All of you locals are invited to the 2016 Gemeinschaft Home Christmas Reception and Open House this Sunday afternoonDecember 4at 1423 Mt. Clinton Pike.

Open house will be from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. At 1:30, there will be a short informational presentation in the Bender Building behind Gemeinschaft. An update about the program will be presented by staff, residents, and/or Board members, with time for questions and discussion.

Before and after this presentation there will be hot drinks and freshly baked Christmas cookies and treats from the Gemeinschaft kitchen. Residents and staff will also be available for brief tours of the house.

You can lRSVP at 540-434-1690 or, but if you find at the last minute that you can come, please do.

In either case you can show your support of Gemeinschaft by making a year-end donation!

So please come, and invite your friends and neighbors to join you.

Here are links to the Gemeinschaft website and Facebook pages:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Healthcare As Though Virginians' Lives Depended On It

VIC executive director Kim Bobo

Interested legislators, clergy and healthcare providers in the area are urged to attend a special meeting at the Trinity Presbyterian Church next Thursday noon, December 8, on "Which Direction for Virginia Healthcare--Repeal and Replace or Improve and Expand?"

The session, sponsored by the local Interfaith Association, the area chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Harrisonburg/Rockingham Faith in Action, will be led by Kim Bobo of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, a faith-based ecumenical organization with headquarters in Richmond (more information below on their healthcare initiative).

Kim is a nationally known promoter with a long history of faith-based organizing. She began work as the new executive director for the Virginia Interfaith Center on Feb. 10, coming to Virginia from Chicago, where she founded and served as the executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, the nation’s largest network of people of faith engaging in local and national actions to improve wages, benefits and conditions for workers. Prior to that she was national organizing director for Bread for the World and an instructor at the Midwest Academy.

The meeting is free and open to everyone.

Protect & Expand Healthcare Coverage for All Virginians

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act (ACA) in 2010, there were about one million uninsured people in Virginia and 50 million nationwide. Because of the ACA, the number dropped to approximately 750,000 statewide and 28.5 million nationally in 2015 and would have improved a lot more if the remaining 19 states, including Virginia, had expanded healthcare. The ACA not only expanded coverage but put in place important protections for consumers including:
  • Those with pre-existing conditions can’t be charged more or denied coverage.
  • Women can’t be charged more than men,  
  • Insurance companies couldn’t impose lifetime caps, and
  • Children under 26 years of age can stay on their parent’s health insurance.

United States healthcare costs are the highest in the world, and yet the U.S. has the lowest average life expectancy compared to economic peer nations.

The ACA's requirement that insurance not exclude people with pre-existing conditions and premiums be community rated was a major change to the health insurance marketplace. Since insurance companies must retain a balance mixed of healthy and sick people for insurance to work, this was to be offset by a mandate requiring all individuals to be insured, as well as the development of a Federal Marketplace to help individuals purchase health insurance, including provisions to provide additional help to companies that initially enrolled an imbalance between high and low cost participants.  Congress, however, did not appropriate the money, to compensate for this adverse risk, which was authorized in the law resulting in these companies having to bear the loss alone. As a result, some of them either dropped out of the individual market or raised their premiums by large amounts.

As a result of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act,  almost 380,000 Virginians receive healthcare coverage through the Federal Marketplace and 84 percent, 319,000, receive federal tax credits to offset the cost of premiums. About 220,000 of those receiving tax credits also receive additional subsidies for cost sharing because they have incomes under 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), less than $50,400 for a family of three.

Virginia also has about 1.4 million people, or approximately 16 percent of its population, who receive healthcare coverage through Medicaid/FAMIS.  More than three-quarters of these Medicaid/FAMIS recipients are children with average annual cost of a little more than $2,000 annually. Aged and disabled persons represent less than a quarter of Medicaid recipients but cost an average of more than $17,000 annually.

Because Virginia did not take advantage of the ACA that allow states to pull down federal dollars for expansion, Virginia also has about 400,000 people who are uninsured and have household income of less than 138% of the Federal Poverty Level,  about $16,000 for an individual or $27,000 for a family of three. Most of these residents are employed or family members of people employed. These people remain without insurance coverage because Virginia hasn't taken the federal dollars available for expanded coverage.

Medicaid expenditures have been increasing nationally due to growth in our aging and disabled populations and continual growth in health care expenditures. It is important to note that States that expanded coverage saw their Medicaid expenses increase at a slower rate than states that didn't. This may only get worse if Virginia doesn't figure out a way to provide healthcare coverage for the significant number of uninsured, low-income people in the state. People who go without the regular primary and preventative services that coverage affords are more likely to become disabled at an earlier age and, when they do become eligible for Medicare and Medicaid (if low income) at 65, they are sicker and require more resources.

  • Congress passed a reconciliation bill this past year that was vetoed by President Obama which would have limited future Federal Medicaid funding by eliminating money available to states for expansion and giving the states an option of receiving a fixed “block grant” or “per capita” amount (based on current Medicaid enrollees and some estimate of state costs) with any increase tied to general inflation, not healthcare cost inflation.  The amount would not be adjusted to account for increased need due to an aging population, an economic downturn, continued growth of healthcare costs above inflation, or other factors beyond the control of state governments. The only real “flexibility” a Medicaid block grant would give states is the flexibility to decide how to make up Medicaid funding shortfalls (e.g. services to cut, which provider payments to cut, which taxes to raise, etc.). Because of Virginia’s relatively low Medicaid cost and enrollment currently, it will be particularly hard for our state to respond to the healthcare needs of vulnerable Virginians with a change in the federal funding mechanism.

The ACA added several new benefits to Medicare such as a new array of preventive benefits, a new annual wellness benefit, legislation to close the "donut" hole in Medicare Part D, and several new steps to slow down costs by moving to outcome based payments. These changes reduced out of pocket costs for beneficiaries and extended the solvency of the Part A trust fund by almost 12 years. Contrary to what has been stated recently, the ACA has improved the solvency of Medicare. The repeal of the ACA would leave all of these provisions up in the air.  

  • Speaker Paul Ryan is on record saying that he wants to abandon the social insurance principles of Medicare and privatize it through a plan called "premium support". This essentially gives vouchers to seniors who will then buy their health insurance in the private market. Every reputable analyst has concluded that this would drastically increase out of pocket costs for seniors possibly costing some seniors as much as half their social security income annually.

What can Virginia do to protect & expand healthcare access?

Take advantage of every Federal dollar that becomes available for improved access.

  • With the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act and change in federal Medicaid funding, Virginia cannot afford to be one of the 19 states left behind.  We need to ensure we are able to maximize how much money we can bring back to Virginia to protect our communities and healthcare providers, to provide health care to thousands of hardworking Virginians, and to create jobs and stimulate the economy. 

Any proposed changes in funding of Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs need to be carefully evaluated to determine long-term impact on Virginians access to needed services, particularly for low-income and vulnerable populations.

  • Block grants and similar programs that limit federal responsibility for care of vulnerable populations only push the responsibility onto Virginia lawmakers and its citizens.  Moreover, the federal government’s ability to take on debt during economic downturns is not shared by Virginia and, therefore, has far reaching implications for our state’s economy.

Support the work of Virginia’s Joint Subcommittee on Mental Health to address access to and coordination of critical behavioral health services.

  • Untreated behavioral health conditions have far reaching impacts on our communities, economy and the individuals and their families with mental health/substance abuse. Virginia has made some progress with the implementation of the GAP (Governor’s Access Plan) Medicaid waiver program and its ARTS (addiction & recovery treatment services) waiver amendment to add improved treatment for Medicaid recipients (expected to begin April 2017), however, the opioid crisis and limited access to community based services statewide have created strain on our criminal justice, healthcare,  and economic development systems. The Joint Subcommittee is studying and is expected to develop recommendations to address these impacts.

  • The Virginia Interfaith Center supports the work of mental health advocates throughout the state. Some of the priorities for mental health advocates are:
    • Timely, appropriate, affordable services as early as possible;
    • Eliminate waiting lists through “same day access” throughout the state;
    • Integrate health and mental health services in the community; and
    • Support jail diversion for people accused of crimes for whom voluntary mental health or substance use treatment is a reasonable alternative to confinement.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Sobering $3.50 History Lesson

I actually felt a little hesitant about picking up a book about Adolph Hitler at the Green Valley Book Fair Saturday. But I've always been intrigued by the man who was able to persuade so many of his people to follow him into the dark abyss of hyper-nationalism and anti-semitism.

At a mere $3.50 (Green Valley's bargain price), the highly readable "The Life and Times of Adolph Hitler", an award- winning work by James Giblin, proved to be a great help in my better understanding Hitler, the times in which he lived, and the masses who became so devoted to their Fuhrer.

Just to be clear, I'm not posting this because of the results of the recent election. There are no perfect parallels in human history, and it's always a mistake to identify any political figure as being "just like" another. But we should also be careful to avoid the "nothing like" fallacy. And I was as interested in learning more about the mindset of the people influenced by Hitler as I was about the man himself.

In Giblin's closing chapter on openly Neo-Nazi groups who still revere Hitler, he addresses the question of whether another charismatic figure like Hitler could rise to power today:

"Much would depend on the political and economic conditions prevailing at the time. If a country experienced a sudden economic and spiritual collapse, as Germany did following World War I, and as the entire world did during the Great Depression of the 1930's, then a call might go out for a savior--a leader who could restore the country's pride and fiscal health and inspire new hope for the future in its despairing citizens."

Throughout my reading I was impressed by the role Joseph Goebbel's political propaganda campaign played in Hitler's success. During election season, the two of them traveled tirelessly throughout Germany, with a major speech scheduled for each day, and sometimes more. Radio broadcasts and ads were used extensively, and 50,000 propaganda discs were mailed to people who owned record players (p. 64).

Key business firms hurting from the economic recession also played a key role, with CEO's of major corporations like Krupp, Siemens, Mercedes Benz and I.G. Farben (chemical and pharmaceutical conglomerate, including Bayer) throwing their support behind Hitler (p, 69).

But most disturbing was the support of the churches (including many in my own Mennonite denomination, though that wasn't referenced in the book), in spite of Hitler's clearly unChrist-like rhetoric. In July of 1933, the Vatican signed an concordat with Germany in which it agreed not to interfere with German politics, and the German church ordered its bishops to swear a pledge of allegiance to the regime which included the words, "In the performance of my spiritual office and in my solicitude for the welfare and the interests of the German Reich, I will endeavor to avoid all detrimental acts that might endanger it." In other words, they pledged to remain silent no matter how many judges Hitler arbitrarily replaced, no matter if he withdrew from the League of Nations or declared war on nearby nations, and no matter what kind of atrocities were committed against Jews, Gypsies and dissidents considered enemies of the state (p. 80)

Not everything about Adolph Hitler was evil. In his personal life, he refrained from the use of alcohol or tobacco, was a vegetarian, loved art and music and expressed affectionate toward children and animals. He was clearly a power-driven individual with delusions of grandeur, and may have evolved into a psychopath, but he was also a human being as worthy of love as any creation of God.

I recommend this book as a reminder to everyone, in every society and in every community of faith, to learn whatever lessons we need from this tragic era of world history.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

From Inside The 'Big House', A Christmas Appeal To The White House

Wikipedia photo
I just received the following from a friend in one of our Virginia state prisons. He would be blessed by your forwarding a copy to the White House, the Governor, members of Congress, state legislators and others, or to copy and paste any part of the following you want to use as you express your own concerns via letter or email.

Dear President Barack Obama:

I wish you and yours a happy holiday season, celebrating One who came to "bring good news to the poor," "proclaim release to the captives," and to "let the oppressed go free."

I am writing on behalf of the many prisoners throughout the US who have been imprisoned for decades, have successfully completed mandated treatment, education and vocational programs while incarcerated, but are continuously denied parole release since the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 which brought about the Truth-in-Sentencing (TIS) Laws which has caused state jails and prisons to burst at their seams.

Currently states are targeting individuals who have committed sexually based or violent crimes and are locking them up and throwing away the key. Where is their second chance? What good are treatment, education, job and vocational programs if inmates are not being released to put what they've learned to good use?

President Obama, please consider calling a meeting with every governor within the United States and offer them assistance in establishing re-entry programs, halfway houses and job training centers for ex-inmates. Also, provide a substantial grant to states to place all prisoners under one sentencing structure. Currently Virginia has at least three. This is the only way to treat parole eligible prisoners justly and provide them another opportunity in society.

The Federal Government should also provide a grant to create a Microsoft Surface Tablet Computer that prisoners could use to educate themselves, with Microsoft Office pre-installed. Also, a grant to provide federal funding to provide a server internal internet system for educational services for inmates.

Please stress to state governors that they should have their Department of Corrections treat, educate, provide job and vocational training that would help facilitate release from incarceration at the earliest and safest time possible.

Also, please advise corrections officials that mentally ill prisoners should not be housed in jails and prisons but in certified mental health facilities for treatment.

Thank you, President Obama, for your time, dedication and service.

Signed on behalf of millions of men and women behind bars this holiday season

Friday, November 25, 2016

DNR: Mixed Messages On Climate Science

"And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it...  And I beheld, and heard an angel... saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth..."
Revelation 8:12-13 (KJV)

The editorial page of our local paper, the Daily News-Record, appears to have a generally optimistic view of the earth's future, and takes a consistently skeptical stance regarding any climate warming resulting from human activity. Yet it regularly publishes Associated Press articles that show otherwise.

The headline of an AP article in the November 23 edition, for example, was "Study Predicts More Heat Records In Future". It begins with, "The United States is already setting twice as many daily heat records as cold records, but a new study predicts that will get a lot more attention as man-made climate change worsens." The piece ends with, "In life we get alarmed when we have a fever... We are setting Earth on course for high fever events to be quite common."

It appears the paper's policy is to print such articles as verifiable and valid on the one hand, but on the other hand to deny their trustworthiness and truthfulness in its editorials.

There are always plenty of non-scientists, editors included, who feel they have the necessary credentials to dismiss organizations like the World Meteorological Organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Natural Resources Defense Council, NASA, the EPA, the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the National Geographic Society, the Union of Concerned Scientists and countless other groups as being just plain wrong in warning us to reverse the rate at which we are spewing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.  The so-called deniers, self-proclaimed "experts" who trust science in almost every other area of their lives, accuse climate scientists of either being grossly ignorant or willfully devious, willing to risk their professional reputations by conspiring with others around the globe to promote faulty science, apparently to gain the funding they want to promote their shameful research.

But does that really make sense?

The fact is that scientists tend to be a fiercely competitive and independent lot, all too willing to find errors in their colleague's research. In addition, there is an equally competitive press that will do anything possible to expose fraud in a way that gains attention to themselves and might result in a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism.

Having said all that, I do believe that ultimately God's "got the whole world in his hands". Yet I also take seriously the first and extremely important mandate we are given in scripture, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing upon the earth."

This means that we who are stewards of the planet are to care for it and for all life on it as our Creator intended.

Surely that means doing everything possible to avoid harming the fragile atmosphere on which all life depends.

Here's a link to another piece on the subject:

And there's this in today's New York Times:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Turkey Processing Purgatory

Michael Snell-Feikema photo
Not to ruin your Thanksgiving meal, but we should be concerned about the industry profiting from our annual feast and for the hard working folks processing our turkeys for us. 

Turkeys are now the fifth ranking agricultural product produced in Virginia, right behind broilers, cattle, soybeans and milk. They account for some $326,000,000 in receipts annually, of which poultry workers earn only 2%.

Yesterday I attended a community meeting celebrating the hardworking men and women, many of them immigrants, who are employed in processing plants here in the "turkey capitol of the world".

Working long shifts with sharp knives, and in damp and cold conditions, several workers spoke of the high incidence of injuries they have suffered, including cuts, carpel tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion disorders. They also reported a serious lack of medical treatment and/or compensation for work-related injuries.

The following is from local advocate Michael Snell-Feikema:

"The line is sped up during holiday season, with workers made to process up to 50 turkeys per minute. A Central American woman gets her hand slammed by a 30-pound turkey speeding down the line. Her hand loses feeling; the temperature on the floor is very cold. The poultry company pays for her physical therapy for a time, then tells her she has to assume responsibility for the injury. The company nurse even asks her, “Are you sure you got hit by a turkey?” They end up putting the injured woman on “light duty” (pulling feathers, etc.) that she has to perform with her uninjured hand. She’s transferred to a position involving cutting poultry parts with a pair of scissors held over her head, which results in extreme tendinitis. (Bear in mind, she’s performing the duty with one hand because her other hand is still injured.) She no longer has use of either hand. They send her home for 5 months with zero pay, zero workmen’s comp. She’s back to work now, but her hands are still injured.

"From another worker: After 8 years of employment with a particular company, she dislocates her shoulder trying to complete “500 plates in 20 minutes.” The company nurse advises her to go to a specific doctor. The woman goes, then receives a bill for $2,700. The woman is surprised because she assumed the doctor worked for the poultry company which would pick up the cost. The nurse tells her, “No, you actually went to a personal doctor.” The woman says, “You told me to go to this doctor.” The nurse says, “No, your injury probably didn’t happen at the plant. It happened elsewhere: at home, the shopping mall, etc.” The nurse then asks, “Do you want to continue your job?” The woman says, “Yes.” The nurse says, “Then sign this piece of paper.” The injured woman signs the paper. The nurse asks, “Do you know what you just signed? You just signed an agreement stating you did not get injured on the job.” The company didn’t even give her a copy of the document."

Snell-Feikema adds, "These two personal stories are a just a glimpse into a broader pattern of abuse that is pervasive in the poultry plants across the United States and in the Shenandoah Valley. Many studies have been done by various human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Recently, Oxfam America has launched a national campaign in support of the human rights of poultry workers and published an extraordinary report titled: Lives on the Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken."

Here is a link to a WMRA report on local conditions:

Here are OSHA safety rules governing poultry processing:

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Friend's All Saints Day 'Sermon In Verse'

Pastor Phil Kniss
I found Phil Kniss's November 6, 2016, message in poetry powerful and profound, and asked his permission to post it here. 

Each year the names of all of the deceased members of the Park View Mennonite Church are read on All Saints Day, over 200 of them on this Sunday. 

Here is his message in verse:

Putting Powers in Their Place
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149:1-9

Daniel 7, Psalm 149.
Who would have guessed
This awkward pairing of text
For All Saints Day sacred reading?

Juxtaposed, I suppose, by
Learned lectionary selectors
Thinking apocalyptic scenes of Babylon
And Belshazzar and beasts in the sea

Would inspire preachers like me.
They did not know I was Mennonite.
In psalms, the 149th is no 23rd.
And that sixth verse–could there be worse?

I quote, “Let the high praises of God
Be in their throats and 
two-edged swords in their hands.“
Must I preach this? 

“Sing praise to God and
Slay the enemy”? or 
“Praise the Lord and
Pass the ammunition”?

Do I tell these in Park View’s pews,
First sing, ‘Gloria
In excelsis Deo.’ Then
Execute vengeance on the nations.

Is there no other way to see this decree?
Are worship and war in such unholy alliance?
So let us see what the seer Daniel saw,
Lying in bed, visions in his head?

Did he dream a scheme to bump off
Belshazzar, for crimes against humanity?
No, the seer saw the Most High God
Put powers in their place.

Four winds of heaven, chapter seven,
Stirred up four beasts,
Four cold-blooded kings
Rising from the sea.

Yet take heart, have no fear,
to the holy ones of God Most High
God gives the kingdom in the end.
The Kingdom without end. Forever, amen.

Those kings get their due.
And we’re off the hook. But look, today,
The nations still wield awful powers.
Even ours, we deny our Ordainer’s aims.

Two days hence, November Eight,
Ballots cast will designate
Who will be the next appointed king.
Can hardly wait, but here’s the thing:

Regardless who we make our king—
Clinton, Trump, or Bruce Springsteen—
We must admit all kings that we esteem,
Emerge from earth, as in the seer’s dream.

Like us, they yield to force of gravity,
Pulled down by earth and our depravity.
Their might will melt before the kneeling throngs,
Someday, sometime…  but we can hurry it along.

Take heed to Psalm one-forty-nine.
You heard me right. The praise of God
In mouth, and sword in hand. No, I don’t infer
We stoop to use the weapons they prefer.

Listen carefully, I say
We do the deed another way.
We just refuse to bow to claims put forth
By any king that rises from the earth.

And by that brazen act of radical refusal
We rob our kings of what they’re used to.
Without our acquiescence, they’ve lost the essence
Of what they need to rule us.

Without a trace of violence, we drain the lifeblood
From powers of evil. The kings are bound
With fetters, every bit as much and more,
As if we’d taken them by force.

More awesome, more shocking than bombs
That shock and awe, and leave wicked ones
And innocent alike, to die or writhe in pain.
The way to gain the upper hand, is just to name

Whose power we choose to use. 
I suggest that we consider the Most High God,
Whose kingdom matters more than any other,
And will last long past the term of our next president.

And as for All Saints Day, you get it now?
We who, past or present, bow to God Almighty,
Place our loyalty, identity with One who reigns
On High. And everyone who’s gone before—

Viola, Martha, Lois, Robert, Ruth,
Anita, Alice, Anna Kathryn—gone, but not
So far removed as not to claim them as our own.
We’re all part of one offbeat community

That worries kings in power,
Since we don’t bow to those who claim a place
reserved for God Most High, who named us saints.
Alive or dead, all kneel at God’s high throne together.

Now I’m glad those strange and awful verses
Were put together in just that way. It forces
Preachers such as me to see a deeper truth.
This sleeping text has blessed me, and I pray you.

So let us now commence to give allegiance
to the only One whose Reign will last.
Glory to God in the Highest.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

A Glorious Inheritance
Ephesians 1:11-23

Addressed to Asian churches, Ephesus especially,
It’s just a simple letter, nothing more, from Paul.
“Dear saints,” he starts the missive, “Grace to you
and peace.” Of course, that’s how he starts them all.

But reading chapter one again I’m struck full face
In every place how much Paul treats the church
As one whole entity. Community. Humanity in
Unity of faith. It never seems to dawn on him

When speaking of theology, to talk of God
And us in private terminology. In Greek,
The second person pronoun—“you”—
Shows up in plural only. Never singly.

Not “you,” but if you’ll pardon me, it’s “ya’ll.”
I can say that. We are southern, after all.
But not to take it lightly, grammar here is
Crucial to our understanding rightly, that the

Good news of salvation never was a private gift
For me and you and you and you and you.
God marked us all, by Spirit sealed (in v. thirteen)
God’s own people set apart (that’s fourteen)

To be redeemed, a new community
Of saints, recipients of glorious inheritance.
A whole society that, marching to a different beat,
Is bound to meet resistance, and generate some heat

Out in the world where thrones compete.
Which makes the church, it stands to reason,
Guilty of committing treason against the
Powers of this world, such as they are.

So do not tremble, Saints of Ephesus,
And Antioch, and Philippi, and north Park View.
Your saintly church is overseen by Christ its Head,
Seated on a throne that overshadows every other.

At God’s right hand, our Lord is in position
Above all rulers, powers, and dominions.
Resurrection power put Christ there, but
God will share, with us, the new community.

So saints of old, who’ve gone before us,
And all saints here, let’s join the chorus,
Glory to God in the Highest.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Reverse of a Curse
Luke 6:20-31

Jesus gave a sermon once, that I, the seasoned
Preacher that I am, doubt I would have the
Nerve to give. Or, truth be told, would want to.
He gave it not on mountaintop, but level place.

This sermon on the plain, is plainly ill-advised,
You see. It makes no sense to gather ’round you
Massive crowds enthusiastic, then to get bombastic,
Cursing them who came to hear you. Make them fear you.

“Woe to you who have enough! And curses, you who
Laugh with stomachs full! A curse to everyone of you
Who neighbors think the best of, and assume are blessed of
God!” I think it odd, to preach to folks in such a way.

And then to say, to those who lack in every way, the things
That everyone agrees you need—some food, some cash,
Some happiness, respect, and honor—to say to those
Who stand far off, beyond the borders of the crowd,

Eyes averted, heads just tilted slightly, toes that
Dig into the dirt, who know where they belong—
To say to those—“You over there, you’re blessed.
Yes you! Beyond the rest, you’re blessed if you are

Poor and hungry, weeping, or excluded,
Hated or defamed because of me.
Rejoice and leap though now you creep
Along not knowing that God holds you dear.”

The lowest ones who loiter, linger at the edge,
Long lived thinking they’ve been cursed, and
Destined to be losers, now discover that they
Won the only trophy worth its weight in love.

A simple sermon on a plain, reversed a curse,
Worse than any curse against the Cubbies,
This curse held them in a death grip, nothing they
Could see to free them. Until the day that Jesus said,

“Just don’t look at it that way. Be glad you
Don’t have what they do. Their stuff owns them,
So pity them, the self-incarcerated. You are free, indeed,
To let God do his thing and give you what you really need.”

Now today, this All Saints text, in context with the rest,
Doesn’t tell us what to do, but where to be. It shows us
Where to set our hope and home. Situated in that same,
Trouble-making, power-breaking, slightly offbeat . . . community

Of saints both past and present, who together chose another
Road to greatness. So let us once again confess and sing,
Glory to God in the Highest.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

    —Phil Kniss, November 6, 2016

You can hear Park View Mennonite Church services (where our son and family attend) on WEMC, 91.7 FM, at 9:30 am each Sunday morning, or check out their podcasts of recent messages at