Monday, October 14, 2013

Swords into Farm Programs

Micah 4:1-5
Children’s Sabbath 2013
Chatfield United Methodist Church
Rev. Debra Jene Collum

I have shot a gun once in my life. 
I was having a terrible time with woodchucks in my gardens. I enjoy sharing with the natural world. However, when I have put effort into a garden and when there are plenty of other things for the critters to eat and when I have fenced, sprayed and otherwise set up barriers to keep the animals at bay and they still insist on eating my garden produce.

I take matters into my own hand.

So I was battling the woodchucks in my suburban garden on the edge of a protected wetland.
like I said, they had plenty to eat they didn’t need my shoots and leaves.

I bought a live trap, baited it with industrial strength d-con and peanut butter and went to bed. I heard the trap spring and figured in the morning I would find a d-con poisoned woodchuck that I could dispose of in a dignified grave out back.

When I woke up, the d-con was eaten the woodchuck was very much alive.

I tried all sorts of ways to kill the trapped woodchucks. I even borrowed a gun, an air rifle. I figured it would be quiet enough that I could discharge it in the city limits and no one would hear it. I pumped up that air rifle and aimed it right at the forehead of the woodchuck in the live trap. Ping. The pellet bounced right off that woodchuck’s forehead, he blinked and looked at me as if to say, what was that? Is that all the better you can do?

Well, I took to drowning the critters after that.

My other experiences with guns were not quite so comical. When I worked with the Brooklyn Park Police department I encountered street guns lined up on the evidence bench. Their serial numbers scratched out. Their owners untraceable. Their victims unidentifiable.

I encountered street guns in houses with children playing. The guns hidden within sight in the rafters of the garage. Children playing gangsters on the front lawn. Officers and me trying to protect the children, find the adults and hold someone accountable for the danger and crime these children were living in.

I encountered guns that were used to threaten mothers and children into submission and fear.

I encountered benign hunting guns used to entice police to a suicide attempt. Man wielding a gun, 911, a tense hour negotiating, keeping the wife away from the scene, finally the sound of a gun shot, the zipping of a body bag, the wife unable to view her husband one last time because of the damage done, helping her tell her children that their father was no more.

Here is what I know about guns: they can be used for purposeful and good things, like providing meat for family tables. Protecting livestock. Cash crops. They can be beautiful, heirlooms handed down from father to son.  Teaching children the awesome responsibility of holding in their hands a means of death.

I also know that the combination of guns and poverty can be, often is deadly. The guns I saw lined up in the evidence room came from persons who were involved in drug trade in a feeble attempt to make it rich without a legitimate job.  

The homes in which children and guns are mixed up together without adult supervision are often, not always, but often homes where parents are working too many jobs or not enough jobs to make ends meet and to provide for a stable, safe home for their children. children are unsupervised, children are hungry, children are distracted, children are living with poverty.

The families whose lives were shattered by the violence or threat by gun were often, not always, but very, very often, families who were on the brink of poverty. Even if their lives and homes looked ‘suburban.’ Overwhelming bills, debts, family obligations, social demands, school costs, bad choices. Violence boiled up in the home and when guns were present, death over shadowed the family. Death of body or death of soul.
I have looked into the eyes of children whose lives have been shattered by this kind of poverty. And while I was able to provide comfort, food, job help or life skills to a few, I knew that there were many, many more lining up behind them. While feeding one child with bread and hope was noble and good, it wasn’t enough.

As we observe children’s Sabbath today, we are called to remember the children of our nation who live under the threat of the violence of poverty and guns. We are called to envision a nation where children’s eyes are full of life rather than death.

Micah, the prophet lived in the eighth century before Christ. The situation of ordinary citizens was of great concern to him. He felt compassion for the poor and dispossessed, and held the leaders responsible for their suffering. Micah called out the leaders of the nations for their mistreatment of the poor, and the mismanagement of the nation’s resources which created wealth for the wealthy and power for the powerful. He spoke against the economic systems of his time that promoted violence and in efforts to hold off the threat from foreign empires and took resources from programs that fed the needy and cared for the widow. (sound familiar)Micah was not a popular person among the wealthy and powerful..

Micah’s solution was radical but not impractical. Micah did not call for a simple ban on guns, or elimination of violence. Micah proposed a solution, a way out, a reordering of the economics that would assure prosperity for the nation and safety for her citizens.

Micah recommended, in very poetic language, that the nation’s economic resources be directed to food production. “Let us beat our swords into iron plows, and our spears into pruning tools. Then let us safely sit under our own fig tree and grapevine. Keeping our gardens and fields.”

In other words”  Let’s invest in food production. Let’s make sure everyone has enough to eat. Let’s make sure everyone feels as if they live in the land of overflowing with milk and honey, bread and wine, good things to eat and plenty.

In other words: Let’s eliminate one of the causes of a violent culture: Hunger and Poverty.

Micah! It’s brilliant! It’s doable. We have the land, the farmers, the know how to feed the world. or at least America.

Yet, we sit here this Sunday with a government shut down, no farm bill, food support systems that will feed our children, poor, elderly and vulnerable, threatened and with our hands tied and our faces embarrassed for what our nation has become.

We are not yet living on God’s holy mountain, are we?

But God has given us the words of the prophets who know what it is like to be us.

They have lived it before and give us words of hope.
Look up to God they entreat.
Stream to God’s holy mountain, they plead.
Hear God’s wisdom they implore.
Then do what it is God calls you to do:

Work, pray, vote, advocate so that there will be enough food for all, fig trees and grapevines to shade little boy and little girl, resources so that every mother and father has what it takes to feed their family, programs that support families.
EVEN farm programs that allow for this country to feed it’s own with plenty and goodness.

Let us beat our armament programs into food programs that will feed the world.

Listen to the wisdom of God. Act on behalf of the wisdom of God. Pray for our children.

United Methodist Church’s Position on Gun Violence

Violence and, more particularly, violence to children and youth is a primary concern for United Methodists. We recognize and deplore violence which kills and injures children and youth. In the name of Christ, who came “and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:17) and challenged all his disciples to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), we call upon the church to affirm its faith through vigorous efforts to curb and eliminate gun violence.

In light of the increase of gun violence affecting the lives of children and youth, we call upon The United Methodist Church to:
·      educate the United Methodist community (parents, children, and youth) on gun safety, violence prevention, adult responsibility around gun violence prevention, and the public health impact of gun violence;
·      discourage the graphic depiction and glorification of violence by the entertainment industry, which greatly influences our society, and recommend that these issues be addressed through education and consciousness raising;
·      reflecting the traditional role of The United Methodist Church has been one of safety and sanctuary, every United Methodist Church is officially declared a weapon-free zone.
a full report can be found at: search for ‘gun violence’

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