Rev. Raafat L. Zaki
1 Corinthians 4:1-2
Reflection: Faithfulness is measured not only by our commitment to God, but also by our service to one another. Love and service are intertwined concepts: We serve whom we love, and we love whom we serve. With the unconditional blessings of life and sacrificial love of God revealed in Jesus Christ, our love and service to one another are in fact love and service to God, in whose image all humanity is created.
As a necessary corollary, dehumanization and discrimination against any human being are offenses against God the creator. Just as Genesis calls us stewards of God’s creation, the Apostle Paul writes that we have been entrusted as stewards of the gospel and God’s mysteries. When we buy into and perpetuate systems built on racism and xenophobia, we show ourselves to be untrustworthy stewards and betray the gospel of Jesus Christ.
False religiosity and pride mislead us to compromise or distort our stewardship. They cause us to ostracize, harm, control, or manipulate others. Sometimes we assume racial, ethnic, or cultural superiority. These are the times when Christ calls us to repent. The Holy Spirit is ever reminding us that no one has exclusive rights to God’s mysteries or promises. No one person, race, culture, or ethnicity could ever claim a monopoly on God’s blessings.
Action: Take some time today for self-examination. How does your racial identity affect the way you treat others? In what ways do you intentionally or unintentionally perpetuate racist systems or buy into false homogenizing concepts like whiteness? Allow yourself to confess, repent, and ask for the Spirit’s help to live as a faithful steward and servant.
Prayer: Holy God — Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all creation — forgive us when we fear the unknown and meet strangers with hate. Forgive our sinful pride and prejudices, forgive our racism and xenophobia. We humbly repent and turn back to you. Help us, Creator God, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Help us to love our enemies, to befriend the stranger, and to show hospitality to the outcast. Amen.
Rev. Raafat L. Zaki
Reflection: Suffering and injustice are human realities from which Christians falsely believe they are exempt as a benefit of their faith. At the center of the Gospel is the saving grace revealed on the cross and at the empty tomb. Jesus’ last documented prayer before he died was: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus’ crucifixion was an act of both religious persecution and political execution targeting an innocent man. Yet Jesus did not waver, even when he felt God had abandoned him.
As Christ’s disciples, we are called to demonstrate Jesus’ love and teachings practically and concretely in our daily lives. Like Jesus, we will suffer the consequences. We may encounter betrayal and opposition from within, from family, from society, and even from the church community. Still we serve faithfully, responding with love and patience.
God calls us to seek righteousness. This is a lifetime journey, and we are works in process. We are called to be patient as we labor for the truth to be revealed. As Jesus told his disciples before heading to the cross, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)
Action: Take time today to consider where you face opposition and negative consequences on your Christian journey. Identify three spiritual practices to help you build patience and overcome discouragement.
Prayer: Creator God, thank you for creating me in your hold image. Thank you for calling me to follow Jesus. Thank you for being present in my life. Thank you for your promise never to forsake me, even when I feel alone and forgotten. Thank you for forgiving my sins and for loving me unconditionally. Amen.
SYNOD OF THE COVENANT
August 8, 2019
We mourn the tragic loss of life, injury, and hatred. We mourn the rise in violence and mass shootings, in particular the 250th mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, on August 4, 2019. We mourn the abuse of weapons of war and destruction in our cities and escalating violence in our communities. We pray for healing and wholeness for the victims and their families. We urge our members, congregations, and councils to serve in unity to help restore our broken world and demonstrate solidarity, compassion, and genuine love.
WE MOURN with deep sorrow the loss of life.
WE MOURN with disbelief the violence, the hatred, the inhumanity.
WE MOURN the violence, the hostility, the bigotry.
WE MOURN the intolerance, the prejudice, the indifference.
WE MOURN the injustice, the darkness, the emptiness.
WE MOURN because life is precious, invaluable, irreplaceable.
WE MOURN because life is a divine gift, a divine grace, a divine blessing.
WE MOURN because humanity is so fragile, so unique, so dear.
WE MOURN the escalation in gun-violence, the upsurge in mass-shootings, the rise in homicide, fratricide, and suicide. The deliberate and premeditated murder and extermination of life, and the intentional infliction of harm and injury, pain and suffering, on innocent victims, our families, our neighbors, and our communities.
WE MOURN the growing insanity of mass-shootings, and the senseless hatred of family, neighbors, and strangers, and the unjustifiable use of force and violence. The deplorable failure to deal with anger and the catastrophic inability to see humanity in us and in them. The insanity of disrupting the peace and the disastrous violation of life.
WE MOURN the gun-violence and mass-shootings, including the 250th mass shooting in 2019, the death of nine and injury of 29 in Dayton, Ohio, on August 4, 2019. We mourn the use of weapons of war in our streets and destruction in our cities and violence in our communities. We mourn the unjustifiable escalation of violence anywhere and everywhere.
WE MOURN wars and endless military interventions around the world. We mourn training US and other nationals to kill and slaughter human beings; the manufacturing of weapons and machineries to exterminate innocent people of all ages, ethnicities, and cultures. We mourn funding and gloating over military campaigns.
WE PRAY and SERVE for healing and wholeness for the victims and their families. We urge people of faith, congregations, and councils to serve in unity to help restore our broken world and demonstrate solidarity, compassion, and genuine love.
SYNOD OF THE COVENANT: A JUST-PEACE CHURCH
“We, the Synod of the Covenant, in partnership with our presbyteries, congregations, the General Assembly, and other faith communions, are called and sent by God to be a living, active, and inclusive witness to the love of Christ.”
Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call — Approved by the 219th General Assembly (2010)
Resolution on Violence, Religion, and Terrorism — Approved by the 216th General Assembly (2004)
|“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28|
|In March, the Synod of the Covenant, the judicatory body of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) approved a covenant partnership with Samaritas, naming Samaritas as the official refugee resettlement agency of the PCUSA in Michigan for the next five years. This is the first official partnership between Samaritas and the PCUSA, and it will be the first time that the Synod of the Covenant has established a covenant agreement with a body outside of the PCUSA. We chose Samaritas because they are one of Michigan’s largest refugee resettlement organizations.|
|Now in its 85th year, Samaritas also serves foster children, seniors, persons with disabilities and homeless families. Click here to learn more about Samaritas. We are excited by the possibilities that this partnership holds for serving more people in need.
Our new partnership with Samaritas affords all of us with the opportunity to “welcome the stranger” in ways that resonate far beyond our individual congregations. New Americans often arrive to this country with little or nothing but the clothes on their back. Our church families can help them assimilate, settle in and thrive so they become productive members of our communities.
|Four important ways you and your congregation can make an impact:
• Host a Drive: household supplies – anything from appliances and furniture, to dishes, utensils and bedding. Educational tools such as notebooks, pens and pencils as well as tablets and PCs can help with job readiness and training.
• Volunteer: Immediate volunteer needs are in-home English language tutors and in-home and / or community based English conversation groups.
• Attend an Event: There are many exciting events planned with New Americans that can help introduce your congregations to the people that Samaritas serves and this exciting mission opportunity.
June 20th is World Refugee Day and to celebrate, Samaritas is hosting a soccer tournament and picnic in Dearborn, Michigan with its refugee families and members of the Oakland County Football Club. Also, in Lansing, there is a refugee art show at the Tabooli Gallery. Opening night is Monday, June 17th from 6-7 pm.
|Samaritas also is looking for families in Metro Detroit to host refugees for 2-8 weeks, until the families can secure long-term housing. Watch how temporary housing efforts have made a positive impact in the life of a New American we serve.|
|For more information on how you can help provide temporary housing for New Americans, please contact Samaritas New Americans Program Manager, Mihaela Mitrofan, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (248) 663-8125.
For more information about any of the information or events listed above, please visit www.samaritas.org.
We are excited about this partnership and welcome your ideas for collaboration and support, in addition to the ones featured in this email.
Through Christ, all things are possible!
In Common Mission,
Raafat L. Zaki
Executive – Synod of the Covenant
Chief Advancement Officer – Samaritas