Finding America

In a time like this it helps to take a deep breath. Just stop for a moment. Breathe deeply.

But stopping to breathe isn’t easy.

This morning I jump out of bed to get the latest news reports of the dispute over the President’s travel ban executive order: Judge Robart Rules’s Federal District Court ruling in Seattle staying the travel ban; President Trump’s tweet calling Judge Rules a “so called” judge; the Ninth District Court of Appeals’ delay in responding to the Justice Department’s request to immediately restore the travel ban.

Where and how will it stop? How do you take a deep breath when the things you value and the things you fear are colliding as fast as atoms in a super-collider?

Stepping outside this little moment of time for some perspective helps me to stop and breathe. The story of Herod and the Wise Men (Gospel of Matthew 3:1-23) comes quickly to the mind of a retired preacher.

After a long journey to Bethlehem from their foreign country, the Wise Men (the Magi) “returned to their own country by another way”–which is to say, they refused to return to Herod who had sought to deputize them. They did not accede to Herod’s disingenuous, anxious request that they return to inform him of the whereabouts of the newborn child who would threaten his rule. “They returned . . .  by another way.”

The Wise Men were returning to a different country, thought to be Persia (our Iran). They had been wise to come; they were wise to return . . .  by another way than Herod’s. Although the rest of the story is gruesome – the slaughter of innocents before the death of Herod – the good news is that the world did not belong to Herod then, and it doesn’t now.

The story of the Wise Men helps me stop, take a deep breath, and find hope for the America I feel I’ve almost lost. If we “return to [our] own country by another way,” we may yet find American democracy again.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 5, 2017.



Verse – Mary’s Bastard Child

It’s dark and drear on the way
to Bethlehem where relatives
abound with rooms to spare
to welcome our coming.

Why are the lights all out,
the doors locked, the knocks
unanswered, no candles lit for
us from out of town?

Has news of the coming illegitimate
child scared them off, driven them
way inside bolted doors named fear
and blame and shame?

Has the buzz been mean, the
relatives praying to stay clean
of bedsheets soiled of a bastard
birth and bloody after-birth?

Have the men in town gathered
stones and the women
shrunk back from mid-wifing
Mary’s child into life?

A flop house on the other side
of town welcomes us with fires
outside the barn for black
sheep guests from Nazareth.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 7, 2016

West Bank Bethlehem

Arab American Christians

Three words not
Usually seen together

Palestinian Christians love
Hearing Acts two
Read on Pentecost

Arabs are listed
Receiving the Spirit

West Bank Bethlehem
Has had Christians
Two thousand years

Lutheran Arabs live
Next to Muslims
In Palestinian towns

The Pope’s prayers
May bring peace
Where three Faiths
Call land Holy

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL June 10, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis is a partner church with the Lutheran congregation in Bethlehem. The pastor of the Bethlehem church has spoken to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Once again this year’s General Assembly (national meeting that convenes this Saturday in Detroit) will consider a controversial proposal to divest investments in companies that support the subjugation of the Palestinian people, working against the Church’s commitment to human rights, justice, and peace. Prayers for the General Assembly as its Commissioners deliberate.  – GCS