Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Food for the spirit

Matthew 25:

A True Story from President-Elect Barack Obama’s Life (20 years ago)
[11-21-08]

We just received this from the Rev. Bruce Gillette, with the note that many preachers might find it helpful.
 

November 23rd’s lectionary lesson for Christ the King Sunday is Matthew 25:31-46. There is a true story from the life of President-elect Barak Obama that is a good illustration of spontaneous acts of mercy that Jesus praises in his final public teaching before his arrest.  

The past election includes far too many personal attacks and rumors that were false. It would be good to share this true story to help Americans get to know our new president. More importantly it is a reminder of how Christ calls us to care for the strangers that we encounter in our lives. 

This story was documented as true and told by David Emery in the fact-checking Urban Legends section of the “About.com” web site in the online story titled “Barack Obama's Random Act of Kindness”:

“The Norwegian newspaper VG has reported a truly amazing story about a newly-wed trying to get to Norway to be with her husband, and the stranger who helped pay an unexpected luggage surcharge. The blog "Leisha's Random Thoughts" has translated the story.

It was 1988, and Mary Andersen was at the Miami airport checking in for a long flight to Norway to be with her husband when the airline representative informed her that she wouldn't be able to check her luggage without paying a $100 surcharge:

When it was finally Mary's turn, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.

 - You'll have to pay a 103 dollar surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway, the man behind the counter said.

Mary had no money. Her new husband had traveled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call.

– I was completely desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions, says Mary.

As tears streamed down her face, she heard a "gentle and friendly voice" behind her saying, "That's okay, I'll pay for her." Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before.

– He had a gentle and kind voice that was still firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, Who is this man?

Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man.

– He was nicely dressed, fashionably dressed with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants, says Mary.

She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back. The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her.

Who was the man?

Barack Obama.

Twenty years later, she is thrilled that the friendly stranger at the airport may be the next President and has voted for him already and donated 100 dollars to his campaign:

– He was my knight in shining armor, says Mary, smiling.

She paid the 103 dollars back to Obama the day after she arrived in Norway. At that time he had just finished his job as a poorly paid community worker* in Chicago, and had started his law studies at prestigious Harvard university.

Mary even convinced her parents to vote for him:

In the spring of 2006 Mary's parents had heard that Obama was considering a run for president, but that he had still not decided. They chose to write a letter in which they told him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 18 years earlier.

And Obama replied:

In a letter to Mary's parents dated May 4th, 2006 and stamped 'United States Senate, Washington DC', Barack Obama writes:

“I want to thank you for the lovely things you wrote about me and for reminding me of what happened at Miami airport. I'm happy I could help back then, and I'm delighted to hear that your daughter is happy in Norway. Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama, United States Senator.”

The parents sent the letter on to Mary.

Mary says that when her friends and associates talk about the election, especially when race relations is the heated subject, she relates the story of the kind man who helped out a stranger-in-need over twenty years ago, years before he had even thought about running for high office. 

1223102914205_33.gif  

BEVISET: Her holder Mary Menth Andersen (51) frem brevet fra Barack Obama, mannen som hjalp henne til Norge. Ved siden av henne står ektemannen Dag Andersen (53). Foto: Roger Neumann
 

The above photo of Mary Andersen is from the online newspaper in Norway.

 

GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.
 

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.

 

Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.

 

John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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