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Stay vigilant!

They were not just eleven Jews. The worshipers killed in Pittsburgh were persons:
Joyce Feinberg, 75
Richard Gottfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Cecil Rosenthal, 59
David Rosenthal, 54
Bernice Simon, 84
Sylvan Simon, 86
Daniel Stein, 71
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Younger, 69

I heard their names read out loud at a vigil at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston. I had been choking and fighting my tears all through the vigil because the moment we arrived a lady walked up to us, recognizing us as Christian clergy and she opened her heart, “Thank you for coming. I am sorry. I am so sorry because I am so angry. My parents fled from South Africa to the Congo and eventually to America. We thought Jews were safe here. Here in this country. I am so angry”. Her tears became my tears.


We gathered with well over 1,000 people – Jews, Christians, and Muslims and we sang, “Hinneh mah Tov umah naʿiym sheveth aḥiym gam yaḥadh”, the first verse of Psalm 133, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” All the speakers stressed our unity against hate and violence, the Muslim representative being the most powerful, “the entire Muslim community stands with our Jewish brothers and sisters.” Let that sink in! That’s how peace-making works!

Mayor Sylvester Turner had a sobering thought, “It will happen again.” And he is right. That’s why vigils matter. Because we have to stay vigilant! We have to stay awake and alert! Wherever hate speech gets normalized, wherever one group is pitted against any other, people of faith need to find the strength to stand up for love. If you weren’t there on Sunday, do not dismay. There is another vigil on Thursday, November 1st at 7pm. And it’s even closer to home at Congregation Beth El, 3900 Raoul Wallenberg Ln, Missouri City, Texas 77459. Come out and stay vigilant!

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Church, Vets, or Pets?

Between my wife and I we juggle three jobs, two major educational programs and three kids each with a different sport. Our schedule is crowded and we embrace it. However sometimes it is hard to set priorities. I am inviting you into a glimpse of my Saturday schedule for this coming weekend.


For about six months I had planned to attend the Fall Meeting of the Houston Association of the United Church of Christ. Our denominational family has 16 congregations in the Houston area. We meet twice a year. 5 lay members plus the clergy of all our churches are invited to come and live our covenant commitment with one another. This meeting is being hosted by St. John UCC, located at 4606 Mangum Road, Houston, TX 77092. Lunch will include spaghetti, salad, kimchi, garlic bread, and dessert and will cost $5 per person. Please RSVP to ucchoustonassociation@gmail.com Registration begins at 8:30 AM and a short worship begins at 9:00 AM. Following worship we’ll have a business meeting that will include approval of the minutes from the Spring Meeting, a 2018 Financial Report, the 2019 Budget, and a presentation about the grant given to the association by Bethel UCC. St. John will present a program entitled “Local Church Leadership Points.” It will deal with a variety of leadership needs within the local church and include questions and discussion from those present. The association meeting will conclude with lunch. This is an inspirational time and for me also a professional obligation. High priority on the scheduling scale.


As a military chaplain I make it a point to stay involved with veterans organizations in the community. Our local VFW Post 3903 also has a good portion of our church membership in its ranks. They are my second option for this coming Saturday: VFW Post 3903 will be having a breakfast for Veterans 7-10am at 1903 1st St., Rosenberg, Texas 77471. All veterans in the greater Fort Bend county area are welcome to join them for a time of food and fellowship. With free food and good company, this one is hard to pass by. Also there will be booths from other vet organizations educating about benefits. This one is sure to be yummy and important.


Finally there is Bark in the Park. A church member is heavily involved with the local arts community and she is in charge of the dog festival in downtown Rosenberg. Besides the dogs in the park, this event will feature a street fair with lots of live music, food trucks, vendor booths, art cars, art receptions, puppet shows, jugglers, and special appearances by both an autumn faerie and an autumn queen. I find it crucial to get involved with our thriving downtown community. It’s such a fun place to be.

To be honest, I haven’t decided where I’ll be yet. Discernment is an important spiritual exercise as Paul reminds the Corinthians, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) It almost sounds like Paul would be pressuring me into the following madness: Be at the VFW at 7 am to eat breakfast. Rush into Houston to make it on time for the Association meeting. After lunch head to downtown Rosenberg and relax with the puppies. If I wanted to please everybody I could try to pull that of. But honestly, I would not be fully present anywhere because my mind would always be in the car already, driving to the next thing. So I’ll stick with Paul’s first phrase there, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” I will probably do one thing and do it right – to the glory of God. I still haven’t decided which one. But where are your priorities: Church, Vets, or Pets? I look forward to seeing you on Saturday wherever that may be!

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Be a Responsible Citizen

The deadline for voter registration in Texas is fast approaching on October 9th. Please check with the secretary of state that you are properly registered. Why would a pastor have to remind me of that? Church is not supposed to be political! Well, I am following the example of the Apostle Paul reminding the Romans to be responsible citizens:

“Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live. That’s also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.” (Romans 13, The Message)

The greatest danger to our system of government is when citizens do not do their part and the most formidable thing you can do to fulfill this commandment is to vote. You know the consequences of what happens when you don’t:

There is a biblical example of that as well. If you don’t follow Romans 13 and check your voter registration you may end up with worse than Taco Bell – the beast of Revelation 13:
“The Beast had a loud mouth, boastful and blasphemous. It could do anything it wanted for forty-two months. It yelled blasphemies against God, blasphemed his Name, blasphemed his Church, especially those already dwelling with God in Heaven. It was permitted to make war on God’s holy people and conquer them. It held absolute sway over all tribes and peoples, tongues and races. Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world’s foundation in the slaughtered Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the Beast.”