Meditation on Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 Deus, Judicium

IMG_0291
Paper Cutout, Phillip Schwartz

 

 

1. Give the King your justice, O God, *and your righteousness to the King’s Son;

2. That he may rule your people righteously *and the poor with justice;

3. That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *and the little hills bring righteousness.

4. He shall defend the needy among the people; *he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

5. He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *from one generation to another.

6. He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *like showers that water the earth.

7. In his time shall the righteous flourish; *there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more.

10. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, *and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.

11. All kings shall bow down before him,*and all the nations do him service.

12. For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, *and the oppressed who has no helper.

13. He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; *he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

14. He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

 

At this point it seems that all we can do is pray for God to Give our president a true sense of justice and righteousness, at least until he and his cadre of evil jesters can be brought to justice for the crimes which they have committed. Our president and the speaker of the house call themselves people of faith, but whatever faith it is to which they devote themselves, it is a faith which is not recognizable as one which springs from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Perhaps it is their faith in capitalism which drives their callous agenda. Their’s is a capitalism which has no mercy. It is a capitalism devoid of humanity and devoid of common sense. Ultimately it is a capitalism which is self destructive on it’s face, because it redistributes wealth to the advantage of the wealthy, thereby rendering it impossible for anyone other than the wealthy to spend money which is what keeps an economy going. Their faith has no inclination to help the poor and the needy. Their faith doesn’t seek to deliver the oppressed who have no helper, in fact, their faith apparently commands them to become the oppressor. Their’s is a bully faith which only seeks to protect the powerful from the powerless and and to feed the wealthy food from the tables of the poor.

Phillip Schwartz

Advertisements

Meditation on a Photograph

2BDC50E7-0C6B-442E-B8BD-DF256696E691
On the back of this photo was written, “Our light will outlast their flag.”

 

“Our light will outlast their flag.”

This past Chanukah I became especially mindful of European Jews of the 1930s. A photograph reignited a question I’ve had ever since I was a child.

Throughout my life I’ve wondered why more European Jews who had the means to leave didn’t. I’ve wondered why they stayed when all the signs were there that their way of life, and indeed their lives were in danger. I’ve wondered why they stayed and endured the humiliations and hardships which were imposed upon them with the adoption of the of the anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws. I’ve wondered why they stayed even after Kristalnacht. I’ve wondered why my father’s family stayed even when my grandfather travelled to Europe in an effort to bring them to the US. I’m beginning to realize just how difficult it must have been to make the decision to leave. When is the right time to leave everything we know to live as refugees? What has to happen before we get to that point? Is it witnessing torch bearing Nazi’s marching through the streets of American cities chanting “Jews will not replace us?” We’ve already witnessed that, and yet, here we are. We’re still here uncomfortably trying to ignore the fact that there are many Americans who would love to be rid of their Jewish fellow citizens, and there are masses of Americans who would not lift a finger to help their Jewish neighbors should they be attacked by mobs or have their houses set ablaze. I wonder when, if ever, did these Jews of the 1930s no longer feel that they belonged in the countries in which they were born and raised and where their ancestors lived and died before them. When does one no longer feel at home? Is it the first time one is spit upon, or the second? What does it take to make one choose to leave rather than stay? Does it take witnessing the brutalization of others like us? We’ve seen an increase in hate motivated attacks, and yet here we are. When should we lose hope and flee? Is it when our government becomes complicit with hate groups? Our president is certainly complicit, he has failed to condemn white supremacists, and yet here we are. Do we wait to leave until we’ve marched in the streets and been fired upon by our own government’s soldiers or police? When is the right time to leave, and how will we know when it has arrived? If we leave are we betraying our country? Has our country betrayed us? Do we become somehow complicit if we don’t stand our ground and fight? Are we all obliged to become heroes, or do some of us get to leave without being judged cowards? I’m not young. I’m not trained in combat. I have never shot a gun. Should I be seeking out training? Do I need to learn to use weapons and arm myself? I understand that many people reading this, especially people who were not brought up in Jewish households, will think that I’m being melodramatic, or that I have some type of severe, neurotic fear, syndrome. For those of us who grew up hearing stories about relatives who perished at the hands of the Nazis or their allies, I may not seem quite as crazy for thinking about fight or flight as it pertains to us here and now. The truth is I still feel like this country is my home, but I am deeply concerned about what is happening here. I am appalled that condemning white supremacists has somehow become optional. I am disgusted that there is not more outrage over almost everything our president says or does, from his denial of climate science to his undermining of the judiciary. He is quietly stacking the courts with right wing extremists, even as he pursues policies, the constitutionality of which is questionable. There is no question in my mind that he is doing terrible damage to our country and there is no question in my mind that the Republicans in the congress and the senate are complicit in all of it. My two big questions are, when will it be too late to stop the destruction of our democracy, and for those of us who fit into categories of people likely to be targeted, when will it be too late to get out?

Phillip Schwartz

 

I realize that this is a departure from my usual mediations. I have not written this in response to a biblical passage. I have not brought up Jesus and how we are, or aren’t following his directives or commandments. I wrote this in response to a photograph which brought up a lot for me as an ethnic Jew and as a gay man, both of which were groups targeted for destruction by the Nazis.

 

 

 

Meditation on Mathew 21:23-32

IMG_0531
Riddle Me This, Paper Cutout, Phillip Schwartz

 

What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”

 

What do you think? There are many baptized, Christians who proclaim their faith loudly, yet act out of piety and not out of love. They support the election of an abuser of girls to the the senate and they seek legal permission to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove. They want to pass tax cuts for the wealthy while increasing taxes on the poor, and they long to take health insurance away from those who cannot afford to pay for it. There are others who do not profess any faith, but they love their neighbor and care for the widow and orphan and they seek justice for the poor and the marginalized. Which of these groups do you think is doing the will of Jesus?

Phillip Schwartz

Meditation on 1 Peter 3:13-4:6

A7D29B30-FB5B-498E-922C-BFF8FD139EF1
Paper Cutout, Phillip Schwartz 

 

Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.

 

Hope is a precious gift which we must protect. We can nurture hope, even in an uncertain and confusing time, by sharing our hope with others and by worshipping in community. It’s difficult to maintain hope in isolation; we are strengthened when we join hands and minds and hearts to resist anything which might cause us to despair.

Phillip Schwartz

Meditation on Hebrews 12:12-24, Saint James of Jerusalem, Brother of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Martyr

IMG_0450
Paper Cutout, Phillip Schwartz

 

Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.

 

I have become defiled. Like so many others, I am bitter and angry that there is a corrupt, and possibly fascist, liar in the Whitehouse, who surrounds himself with other bigots and other liars. I have given power to the very people to whom I object so fervently. I have allowed that root of bitterness, of which Paul warns, to spring up in my own heart. I’m glad that this particular reading came up today because I needed to be reminded of whom it is that I want to be. I want to be a loving and caring man. I want to love my neighbor as myself. I want love to be what governs my life. It’s not wrong to be angered or upset by injustice, but if I let my anger define me, then I have lost my humanity and my identity. I resolve right now to repent for my stubborn refusal to love those people whom I find it difficult to love.

Phillip Schwartz

Meditation on Day 366

IMG_0616
Self Portrait With Calendar, Paper Cutout, Phillip Schwartz

 

When I started writing daily meditations I decided to blog them, in part to share them, but also to give myself a tangible goal which I had to meet. I thought that I’d do this for a year and then decide whether to continue going, or to stop. I’ve come to realize that it takes a lot of time for me to write and make a piece of art to go with each meditation. It’s been a wonderful discipline for me, but it’s also been a huge surprise that people actually read them, and for that I’m truly grateful. When I began I thought of the blog as sort of sending radio communications out into space, not knowing if anyone would pick up the signal. I’ve gotten some wonderful feedback and some incredible messages of support which have really helped me to continue at those times when I’ve felt too tired or uninspired to write. I’ve learned that when I read scripture there are times when I’m not sure on what I’m meant to focus. Those are the times that I’ve read and reread the day’s passages countless times until finally I give up and I just ask God to help me figure it out. I know that there are days that my writing is better than others and I apologize for any sub par meditations that I’ve put out there or will put out in the future. I reached my three-hundred-sixty-fifth meditation yesterday, and so I’m going to make a change. I am going to switch from a daily meditation to a weekly meditation, which I’m hoping will give me more time to work on my other artistic pursuits, which have suffered over the past year due to my spending so much time on the blog. When I began the blog I was feeling uninspired and blocked artistically, which is another part of the reason I started blogging. Today I’m feeling renewed and disciplined enough to get myself back to my painting and iconography. I’ve fallen in love with paper cutouts as an art form and I’ll continue to make them to illustrate my future meditations.

Phillip Schwartz

Meditation on Psalm 19

IMG_0613
Self Portrait With Dove, Paper Cutout, Phillip Schwartz

 

The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

Following the law of the Lord should bring us joy. If living a life of faith is drudgery and constant struggle, then maybe we’re overthinking it, or missing the point altogether. God’s law is love above all else. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with and all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) It isn’t always easy to follow a law based on love, but if it doesn’t come from love, it doesn’t come from God.

Phillip Schwartz

Meditation on Mathew 8:18-27

IMG_0608
Grant Me Strength O Lord, Paper Cutout, Phillip Schwartz 

 

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Sometimes it feels as if we have hit the limit. We’re tapped out, there’s just no strength left in us to face a challenge that appears overwhelming, but we reach deep inside of ourselves and we find a well of strength that we didn’t know we had. That’s the strength that God gives us when we need it most.

Phillip Schwartz

Meditation on Psalm 102

IMG_0606
Self Portrait in Green, Paper Cutout, Phillip Schwartz

 

 

My heart is smitten like grass and withered, so that I forget to eat my bread.

 

What can one do but feel anger, frustration and sadness in the face of an avoidable tragedy? Our lawmakers have the will to protect the right to bear semi automatic weapons, but they don’t have the will to ensure access to healthcare if we are shot. It appears that their belief in the right to life extends only to fetuses, once we are born we’re on our own.

Phillip Schwartz

Meditation on Psalm 25

IMG_0604
Paper Cutout, Phillip Schwartz

 

Look upon my enemies, for they are many, and they bear a violent hatred against me.

For LGBTQI people the world over, the sad reality is that we do have enemies that bear a violent hatred against us. In The US we are luckier than in many places, but there has been a significant increase in attacks against LGBTQI people over the past year. In Chechnya gay men have been rounded up, beaten, tortured and killed. In some other Islamic countries consensual, same sex relations are a capital offense and people thought to be gay are executed regularly. Isis proudly and routinely kills gay men, often by throwing them off of the roofs of buildings and then stoning their bodies. This week the United States voted against a resolution condemning the use of capital punishment for homosexuality at the UN. The State Department stands by the vote, claiming that it was too broad a resolution to endorse, because the US uses the death penalty at both federal and state levels.

Phillip Schwartz