July 2, 2021

Dear Prairie Avenue Family,

The calendar has tipped to the second half of 2021 since I last wrote an E-note to you. You may be planning the first family gathering in over a year during the Independence Day weekend (and have already decided whether you will attend worship in-person or catch up online later!). I feel like I'm doing something "illegal" being fully vaccinated and able to do errands without grabbing a mask permanently stored in the car just in case the masking is still mandatory.

We begin a new worship series this weekend dealing with prophets, calling, and responses.

We reflect on our nation's inheritance, expectations, and responsibilities.

We celebrate your generosity in supporting efforts to give the gift of scripture to military men and women and their families, as well as bringing the good news of Christ to places that have not heard nor seen it.

And we join our hearts and sympathy with those families who have recently experienced the loss of a loved one: Helen Kater & Marion Gardner.

And I begin my journey as a Leader's Lab student with the Lupton Center (the "Toxic Charity" book folks), where you will be invited to join, experience, and participate in changing traditional charity models and methods as we know them.

Worship This Weekend:
Everyday Prophecy: Ezekiel - React or Respond
We often associate prophets as doomsday, sign-waving, bearded men declaring God's condemnation and expected disaster. There are several stories where a prophet does what could be called street theater showing God's disapproval or response to the way the kingdom of Israel or Judah is operating and the sins of the elite and ruling class. Often "prophecy" gets conflated with "prediction," as if unchangeable future events are pending. God is going to get you, and there is nothing you can do about it, it seems.

But that is not what prophets and their prophecies were about. More often, they are offering a "last call" to justice rather than impending judgment. The judgment has already fallen, and both the nations of Israel and Judah will face the consequences of abandoning God's desire for justice and mercy in exchange for quick treaties, brief reprieves, and corruption.

In fact, this week, we encounter one who has already experienced the consequences of Judah's insolent attitude to God's voice. Ezekiel is already in Babylon, exiled after the first attack against Jerusalem (although it is not destroyed for a few more years) as a member of the priestly class. His "installation service" into full priesthood office at age 30 has been canceled since those ceremonies are held in Jerusalem, not along irrigation ditches of a foreign kingdom.

Yet God comes, in a wild vision of beasts, eyes, and wheels (read Ezekiel 1 for the wacky details), to appoint Ezekiel a message to deliver to Judah/Jerusalem. A message, like all those sent to Israel or Judah, will already be rejected. Like Pharaoh's heart, God's chosen are frozen in response.

Ezekiel could react with despair at an already failed message. Or he could respond.

We are given a choice when discovering God's desire and message for us. To rebel, or embrace. Rejection reveals our rebellion.

But God responds to our rejection not with condemnation, but mercy. It is a season of destruction, necessary to cast away those corrupting influences and powers. But it is also a season of healing and redemption, as God will do heart-work to make God's will evident on earth as heaven. At the hands of Judah's enemies, the Babylonians, God will bring about God's purposes for a new covenant between him and his chosen ones.

Join us (or reconnect) in worship at 5 pm Saturday, 8 am or 9:30 am Sunday, and online via Facebook or website: prairieavenuechristianchurch.org

Independence Day Weekend Reflections
Sunday is the 245th anniversary of the Continental Congress formally approving a declaration of independence in Philadelphia. We tend to seek simplified and idealized versions of history, calling to mind the great (and historically inaccurate) painting of the signing of the document by John Trumbull. Not all of the signatures were placed on the document until August 2, and of course, like Da Vinci's Last Supper, they all appear on one side of the room, rather than in the round that the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) is arranged.

Its preamble declared a dominant Enlightenment vision of equality before, rather tellingly, "nature's God" and "Creator" to "self-evident" truths: "All men created equal," and endowed with unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While we often associate these as individual rights, the context is actually as a community, a group, a colony, a nation. It declared the aim of good governance and proceeded to list how King George the III (as a proxy of British Parliament) had failed to deliver, secure, or protect these rights of the governed among the American Colonies.

Often the expressed ideals are inspired and aspiring but are confronted by realities of time and circumstance. The soaring rhetoric of Jefferson's Declaration contrasted with the practical aspects of establishing a constitutional republic where only land-holding men could vote. But like all ideals, it is passed from generation to generation, being revisioned and adapted to include new understandings, circumstances, and times. The preamble of the Constitution calls us to form a "more perfect union," and at times painfully, we work on these never-ending tasks. The rights of the privileged eventually become the rights of all. And neither the doomsayers nor optimists are ever completely accurate on their predictions (nor foresee all consequences) when withholding or expanding such rights. Life experience has taught me that neither the best nor the worst fully come to pass. At best, it is usually a muddling middle. With unfinished work to come.

Like prophets of old, we often reject God's messengers that place a mirror to our shortcomings and structural injustices. Many of the unquestioned rights and privileges we enjoy in life were once reserved for a few rather than the many. And there is a series of steps between denial and acceptance: ridicule of the message, abuse and character attacks on the messenger, the building of coalitions of resistance and acceptance of the message and messenger (often leading to the martyrdom of messenger), and embrace of the previously unimaginable message and its messenger.

We seem to be conflating critical with criticism these days. Critical is not necessarily criticism and criticism is not necessarily critical. Being critical means examining evidence in order to understand better. Criticism often devolves into unsubstantiated opinion and perception rather than the rigorous study of experience and circumstances. It does not reveal just shortcomings but can discover accomplishments. It sharpens our understandings, reveals our limitations, and challenges us to address the present challenges. Devotion to the country should compel us to work diligently towards confronting its systemic barriers placed in arrogance or ignorance to protect few from many.

Maturity teaches us that independence is derived from interdependence as much as freedom and liberty. As you reflect on our nation's inheritance of these values, I hope you will also critically recognize the necessity of collective work required to deliver, secure, and protect the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for everyone. When we seek it for others, we find it more secure for ourselves.

Enjoy your 4th of July Gatherings. But remember our interdependence in the midst of celebrating independence.


Thank you for your generosity in supporting our "noisy offering" response to Faith comes by Hearing Vision 2033 project. We collected $100 for this important project.

Invite friends to join you for worship
this weekend, in person, online
In-person on Saturday at 5 pm, Sunday mornings at 8 am or 9:30 am (masks and social distancing recommended for unvaccinated).
Online at prairieavenuechristianchurch.org, Saturday at 5 pm or Facebook Live Sunday at 8 am or 9:30 am.

See you this weekend online or in person,

Blessings to you all,
As a church family, we care for and pray for one another.

As a matter of online privacy, we will only disclose public sympathy to a church friend or family member whose passing has also been publicly disclosed.

The Family of Helen Kater, who passed on June 17, 2021.
The Family of Marion Gardner, who passed on June 28, 2021
The Family of Ray Batman, the first director of Dove, Inc., passed on June 29, 2021. Prairie Avenue Christian Church is one of the seven founding congregations of this community social service organization.

If you would like prayer, please submit your prayer request online, and Pastor Jason and prayer team members will pray for you.
Prairie Avenue Christian Church | Website