Disunity, Respect, and Hope

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Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first presidential inaugural address on March 4, 1933 gave us a powerful imagery of strength and unity in the face of crisis. Here is short excerpt of the opening section:

“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Because of enemies abroad and some who are homegrown, we now experience a tsunami of digital disinformation and deception, intentionally designed to create enmity. These forces wishing to harm us, are fully aware of their inability to overcome us militarily, yet are savvy to our vulnerabilities of division and disunity. The over-abundance of information of social media is a two-edged sword that keeps our population much better informed, yet unfortunately, painfully misled at times by disreputable sources. I do not believe the mainstream media is the enemy of the people. Though every news source has a bias—including mainstream news—there is a built-in accountability for traditional sources of news and information that is often lacking in social media.

You may disagree. Honestly, that is fine with me. We can agree to disagree, without being disagreeable. Without a doubt, if we will apply the “Golden Rule”, we can weather these troubled times together and come out stronger. While we will always have differences on political issues, simple decency and mutual respect can restore productive debate and give us hope for stability. Because truly, the only thing we need to be worried about is the spread of suspicion and paranoia. Unreasonable fear is volatile, and can rapidly explode into violence.

While accepting the nomination of his party for the race to become the senator from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln popularized a statement made by Jesus: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25). I believe we are approaching a crisis point as we draw closer to the 2020 national elections. We are on track for doing what no outside force could accomplish militarily: destroy ourselves by losing faith and trust in the goodness of our neighbor. It is not too late to turn this discord around.

At some point, hateful words become violent actions. History is replete with infamous examples of evil furor degrading into bloodshed, murder, and genocide. We are better than this; let us remember our fundamental values that allow for dialogue and dissent, without fear of retribution.

America is headed for a crisis unless we remember who we are and whose we are, especially those of us who self-identify as Christians. We must actively avoid demonizing our fellow citizens who support the opposing political party. These are our associates, friends, and family members. Let us remember to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for our anger does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Love God. Love our neighbor as ourselves. Make disciples of Jesus who reflect his character and priorities. The Church carries this responsibility, regardless of who wins elections. Let us remember that Christians are called to be “salt and light” in this world has little of either. Our actions can help rebuild unity and mutual respect across national and personal differences. Our attitudes can help bring calm in the middle of a cultural storm. We do this best by reflecting basic respect for all; even for those with whom we disagree. Respect for each other overcomes our disunity and gives us hope.

For the Sake of Others: How Shall We Respond?

In October 1066, a young man named Truelove happened to be on the winning side of the Battle of Hastings in England. For a deed of valor, he was granted the name, “Eyres” and gifted with farmable land that probably belonged to someone on the losing side. A thousand years of privilege began in that branch of my family with land ownership, opportunity, and access to education. The Ayers/Ayres never had excessive financial wealth, but because of these advantages, my family tree is replete with doctors, teachers, farmers, and ministers.

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Yes, this is White Privilege. Along with the rest of humanity, I had no control over who I was born, what my genes are, or who went before me. I stand on the shoulders of many women and men as now I take my turn to accomplish all I can in my lifetime. My success is passed on to me by my free, white, educated, landed ancestors. All my family worked hard to pay bills and feed their families—just like everyone else—but we did all this with an incredible advantage. It is like having a thousand-year head start on those without this legacy.

My wife and I built our family through adoption; all of whom were considered “special-needs” because of age or other challenges. Our oldest three are a white sibling group and came from a long legacy of poverty. The word privilege would not be appropriately applied their heritage. However, my white children DO have a societal advantage simply because of the color of their skin. Our other three children are non-white: one African-American, one mixed Black/White, and one Mestizo (mixed Latino/Indian).

Making a distinction between privilege and advantage in our understanding of white people might help us respect the differences between the haves and the have-nots, regardless of race. Even though my white children come from a long line of disadvantaged people who have been marginalized and oppressed, I never had to warn them about cutting through neighbor’s yards, or cautioned interactions with the police, as I did with my other kids. Our oldest three have a white advantage due to hundreds of years of systemic racism. They never feared for their personal safety when pulled over by police. They were never stopped in their own neighborhoods and asked where they are going. They move in and out of retail stores without the inappropriately-close surveillance experienced by people of color—their siblings.

Kathy and I have tried to live simply and authentically with friendships of mutual respect and appreciation for diverse people groups. We are fortunate to have families on both sides that modeled respect and inclusion. Our families supported the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, we grew up in desegregated schools and neighborhoods, have always and will continue to listen and learn to our African-American community.

We have done some hard things like marching in 1987 for “brotherhood” and being attacked by an angry crowd of rock-and-bottle throwing white supremacists, segregationists, and Ku Klux Klan groups. As we prepared for what we thought would be a peaceful march, we told our young children (who marched with us), “When you follow Jesus, you have to stand up for what is right even if unpopular.” Little did we know that we were walking into such an explosive, historic event on that rural highway in Forsyth County, Georgia.

We are not heroes for trying to live as we believe Jesus wants us to: Love God. Love Neighbor. The true heroes are the masses of dark people forced from Africa into chattel slavery, robbed of personal success through Jim Crow laws and lynching, degraded by portrayals in movies and popular media, victimized by the so-called “War on Drugs” that militarized the police and targeted African-Americans for incarceration. They are our heroes. The United States is made better by their courage, endurance, and vision. All people are created equal. Let us remember this. Our collective passion should inspire us to work for equality, justice, and the commitments enshrined in our constitution for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Our friends and family of color experience (and have suffered) many things we simply have not. We honor their strength and leadership; it humbles and inspires us. Our 400-year legacy of injustice requires repentance, confession, and reconciliation both individually and collectively.

Love God. Love others as yourself. Love one another.

I am reminded in scripture, Jesus has “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:4) and calls us to fulfill a “message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

I come from good people who tended to enter helping professions. One of my ancestors performed the wedding of Pocahontas and John Rolfe in 1614, a mixed-race marriage. We have relatively few skeletons in our family closet, but the fact remains, we owned those closets. Others without these advantages were victims of oppression, marginalization and violence. Our greatest sin was (and is) being complicit in a system steeped in segregation, marginalization, and injustice. Our sin is one of remaining silent while others suffer.

We are clearly accountable to God for how we use whatever advantages we have. Let us ask ourselves: “Are we using our white privilege for the sake of others?”

Peace, the Omniscient Ocean

The moon sparkled upon the rolling tides; its reflection wavered in rhythm

cool and fresh, the wind steadily blew her hair across her face.

She walked along for this is where she often came to listen to the omniscient ocean, the all-knowing sea.

The sand rubbed beneath her feet

as she strolled and strolled down the lonely beach. ‘How peaceful’ she thought as the waves lapped upon her bare feet

‘how much prettier this music is, than any that man can re-create.’

The sound of the omniscient ocean,

the all-knowing sea.

She soon stopped her walking and turned toward the sea.

Closing her eyes she held herself

and listened. The sky was crystal clear, the stars were a million-fold, the moon

floated there, bouncing upon the waves.

The clapping of the water, the rustling of the grass behind, the wind would nudge her gently, so gently, just enough to keep her there.

Slowly she opened her eyes and raised them to the sky, reaching out her arms,

‘I love you’ she whispered

‘become a part of me, make me peaceful as this night.’

And in her heart she heard the answer

through the sound of the omniscient ocean,

the all-knowing sea;

the love of the omniscient ocean,

the all-knowing sea.

“And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what do You say?” And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she had been, in the midst. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on sin no more.” Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

(John 8:3-12)

DEAFCHURCH Together

The journey through my doctoral program and deeper insights gleaned from a “think-tank” of Deaf leaders in ministry with youth and young adults were part of God’s calling in my life for launching DEAFCHURCH Together – a Liturgical Expression of the Christian Faith which can be found on both Facebook and YouTube.

Liturgical worship is designed to put the emphasis on God’s WORD and SACRAMENT and de-emphasize personality-driven ministry. As Christians, we follow an ancient faith inherited from our Jewish spiritual ancestors that was fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ.
This ancient yet vibrant faith is life-changing as the Holy Spirit leads us as part of the “ancient-future” church. The Deaf Liturgical Church is a three-streams church of the “Sacred, Scripture, and Spirit” with a connections with the historic Christian faith globally.

DEAFCHURCH 21The book “DEAFCHURCH 21: Vision for a New Generation” is not specifically written for the liturgical church and contains insights from two authors who come from completely different denominational backgrounds. This book was published in 2019 and is based on extensive biblical and practical research.

For me, as an Anglican priest (Church of England – GAFCON), the process leading to the book inspired in me, what I believe to be God’s vision of a regional Deaf Church with multiple small-group worshiping communities meeting in homes and other places. As Anglicans, we are tied together with Christians from all around the world (particularly in Africa and Asia) who follow a common lectionary and similar liturgy.

I encourage you to read “DEAFCHURCH 21: Vision for a New Generation” regardless of your denominational or non-denominational perspectives. Pray and seek the Lord’s will for how he is leading you to reach the next generations of Deaf/HH youth and young adults, with a life-transforming experience with God through Jesus Christ.

Blessings All,
Fr. Dr. Bob Ayres

The Apostles Creed in ASL

Thanks to Jared Diley for helping create an ASL version of the Apostles Creed. DEAFCHURCH Together is a ministry of Servants of Christ Anglican Church (ACNA).

God’s Greatest Love

“God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world. He did not send him to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

Passion of Jesus

Way of the Cross (ASL video)

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Fourteen events along the journey of Jesus to his death and burial in American Sign Language using the ASLV of the Bible produced by Deaf Missions. The “Way of the Cross” is based on the Stations of the Cross as a way to teach the biblical narrative of the crucifixion of Jesus.

As you prepare your hearts and consider all that God has done for us through Jesus, I hope this video is helpful for you in experiencing the fullness of Resurrection Sunday this Easter!

The Apostles Creed (video)

Holy Week is the most important week in the lives of faithful Christians worldwide and culminates with Resurrection Sunday (Easter). I hope you will find a worship service online this Sunday to join your hearts with brothers and sisters around the world. The Apostles Creed is a statement of our faith. “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Click on the photo below for a beautiful video of The Apostles Creed.

backlit cemetery christianity clouds
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Journey to Israel – Knowing Jesus

On the plane flying home from Israel, I recorded some thoughts about the 11-day experience of this Shoresh study tour. Yes, I learned a ton. Yes, I saw many historic, biblical sites. But what was it that seemed to touch my soul the deepest when it came to my own personal faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

What does it mean to really follow Jesus? It has much to do with a transformed life.

The video is subtitled for the signing-impaired.