Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Kay Spiritual Life Center
February 7, 2018
Deuteronomy 16:18-20, Romans 12:1-21, Matthew 5:9, Qur’an 49:13, 8:61; 25:63


By one count there are currently 54 conflicts raging around the world right now:  [1]

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    Internal conflict in Burma/Myanmar

  2. Moro conflict in the Philippines
  3. Oromo conflict in Ethiopia
  4. Somali Civil War
  5. Communal conflicts in Nigeria
  6. Insurgency in the Maghreb involving Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, Niger, Tunisia
  7. War in Darfur
  8. Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad
  9. The Libyan Civil War
  10. The Yemeni Civil War
  11. The Sinai insurgency in Egypt
  12. The south Kordofan conflict in Sudan
  13. The south Sudanese Civil War
  14. The Central African Republic conflict
  15. The Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan
  16. The insurgency in Balochistan (Pakistan and India)
  17. The insurgency in north east India
  18. The Columbian conflict
  19. The Maoist insurgency in India
  20. The Kurdish Turkish conflict
  21. Sectarian violence in Pakistan
  22. The insurgency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  23. The Kivu conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  24. War in northwest Pakistan
  25. Insurgency in the North Caucasus in Russia
  26. Sudanese nomadic conflicts
  27. The Syrian Civil War
  28. The conflict in Northern Mali
  29. The insurgency in Egypt
  30. Ethnic clashes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  31. War in Ukraine
  32. Unrest in Burundi
  33. Kamwina Nsapu rebellion in the DRC and Angola
  34. Oromo-Somali clashes in Ethiopia
  35. Arab separatists in Iran
  36. Kurdish separatists in Iran
  37. South Thailand insurgency
  38. The west Papua conflict in Indonesia
  39. The conflict in Israel and Palestine
  40. The CPP– NPA – NDF rebellion in the Philippines
  41. The Qatif conflict in Saudi Arabia
  42. Internal conflict in Peru
  43. The Casamance conflict in Senegal
  44. The LRA insurgency in the DRC and to the Central African Republic
  45. The nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Armenia and Azerbaijan
  46. Xinjiang conflict in China
  47. Internal conflict in Bangladesh
  48. Border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia
  49. Insurgency in Ethiopia
  50. Ituri conflict in The Democratic Republic of the Congo
  51. Conflict in the Niger Delta
  52. Insurgency in Mozambique
  53. ISIL insurgency in Tunisia
  54. Turkey ISIL conflict

Fifty-four conflicts. With estimates ranging between 3,969,812 and 5,590,594 people dead as a result. And those are the wars that are continuing. That’s not to say anything of the wars that have come and gone in the last century: WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Balkan War… Continue reading


A Light in the Darkness

Rev. Mark Schaefer
Kay Spiritual Life Center
December 6, 2017
John 1:1-18, Qur’an 28:83-88


Some years ago, I was involved in the process of finding a rabbi for a wedding. My then fiancée and I were looking to put together the perfect team of rabbi and minister to officiate our wedding. We wound up meeting with a rabbi who had had a lot of experience with interfaith weddings and interfaith couples. We enjoyed his wisdom and his reflections on the ways our children might find meaning across religious traditions. He noted, for example, that Jewish children could find a lot to admire in Santa Claus, who, he claimed, possessed a number of Jewish virtues. But then he continued by saying how much he himself enjoyed Christmas.

We were surprised by this but he explained: he’d grown up in New Haven, Connecticut and nothing was drearier than winter in New Haven. But when Christmas came along, suddenly the gloom of a New England winter was pierced through with light—there were lights everywhere!

That simple experience of seeing light in the midst of the darkness as a kid, some brightness to pierce the gloom, had had a lasting emotional impact on this man, such that Christmastime would always generate fond feelings in his heart. Continue reading


Rev. Mark Schaefer
Kay Spiritual Life Center
October 4, 2017
Exodus 1:15-17; Acts 5:27-35, 38-42; Romans 8:31-38; Qur’an 3:172-180


Fear is hard-wired into us. It is a function of biology that we should be afraid. Very often, the things we are afraid of are the kinds of things that can kill us.

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We dread the dark for fear of what predators might emerge from it. We jump at sudden noises for fear of the danger that seeks to surprise us. We feel our hearts race as we move toward the edge of a precipice, sensing our lives are in danger. We grow anxious when we lack certainty about our surroundings, because unfamiliarity and uncertainty often bring danger and death. Continue reading

Lessons of the Past

Kay Spiritual Life Center
September 5, 2017
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Hebrews 11:32-12:3, Qur’an 27:67-73, 22:39-48


A classmate of mine in seminary once told me that there’s a peculiar way that Southerners give directions. He was from eastern Tennessee and had observed this peculiarity having grown up in that region. He said that Southerners tended to give directions like: “Go down to where the Johnson farm used to be and turn left. Then when you get to the store that Mavis Williams used to own, take a right…”


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These are not directions that someone new to the area could possibly understand. They relied not just on good spatial reasoning and a good sense of direction, they relied on a personal experience of the history of the place you were in, which, if you think about it, would obviate the need for directions in the first place.

But I suppose I should not be quick to judge our Southern brothers and sisters, at least not as long as I keep referring to the East Quad Building as “the Old SIS Building” or struggle to avoid calling the American Café in Ward “Wagshal’s,” which it was called about a decade ago. And while we’re on the subject, it’s no longer the Ward building anymore, is it? It’s Kerwin Hall.

I suppose we all have an attachment to the way things used to be. We all have some relationship with the past. But do we have an honest relationship with the past? Continue reading


Rev. Mark Schaefer
Center Brunswick United Methodist Church, August 20, 2017
Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, August 27, 2017
Genesis 1:26-27; 1 Samuel 16:6–7; Galatians 3:26–29

Genesis 1:26–27 • Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.” God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them.

1 Samuel 16:6–7 • When they arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, That must be the LORD’s anointed right in front. But the LORD said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the LORD sees into the heart.”

Galatians 3:26–29 •  You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.


I might be a racist.

I don’t want to be, but I don’t know whether I do enough to be sure I am an anti-racist.


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I realize that sounds shocking, so let me break that down a little bit, because we in this country are terrible when it comes to talking about race, and we need to clarify a few things first.

White folks like me often get upset when we are accused of racism because we imagine ourselves to be good people who don’t wish anyone ill. And for the most part that’s true. But racism has nothing to do with our feelings. Continue reading

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral

Rev. Mark Schaefer
Dumbarton United Methodist Church
July 30, 2017
Deuteronomy 6:4-9; John 19:13-25

Deuteronomy 6:4–9 • Israel, listen! Our God is the LORD! Only the LORD! Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. Write them on your house’s doorframes and on your city’s gates.


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John 9:13–25 • Then they led the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus made the mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes on a Sabbath day. So Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
The man told them, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see.”
Some Pharisees said, “This man isn’t from God, because he breaks the Sabbath law.” Others said, “How can a sinner do miraculous signs like these?” So they were divided. Some of the Pharisees questioned the man who had been born blind again: “What do you have to say about him, since he healed your eyes?”
He replied, “He’s a prophet.”
The Jewish leaders didn’t believe the man had been blind and received his sight until they called for his parents. The Jewish leaders asked them, “Is this your son? Are you saying he was born blind? How can he now see?”
His parents answered, “We know he is our son. We know he was born blind. But we don’t know how he now sees, and we don’t know who healed his eyes. Ask him. He’s old enough to speak for himself.” His parents said this because they feared the Jewish authorities. This is because the Jewish authorities had already decided that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be expelled from the synagogue. That’s why his parents said, “He’s old enough. Ask him.”
Therefore, they called a second time for the man who had been born blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.”
The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.”


I started out as a child. Perhaps you did as well.

It’s interesting to reflect on the memories you carry from childhood. Some are vivid and are as if they happened yesterday. Others exist in kind of a nostalgic haze colored by emotional associations of the joys of what, for me, was a happy and largely carefree childhood.

Among the vivid memories I have from childhood, there are a couple from my experience of church.  In those days, of course, Sunday school took place before Sunday services not during, so we had no choice as kids but to squirm and fidget our way through services, the way our parents and their parents had before them.

Nevertheless, in the midst of that fidgeting, a few memories from church really stand out. Not always positive memories, unfortunately.  This is particularly true of my then pastor’s sermons. I can only remember a handful of things he said, and all but one of those things was unhelpful.

In fact, on one occasion I remember him saying clearly: “Homosexuals will not get into heaven.” I have no idea what the sermon was about or what prompted him to make this observation in the course of it, but I remember that statement thundering down from the pulpit in our modest little Upstate New York congregation.

But equally vivid in my recollection is my memory of my reaction: “Well, that can’t be right,” I remember thinking. Continue reading

Out of Many, One

Rev. Mark Schaefer
Kay Spiritual Life Center
July 5, 2017
Galatians 3:26-29 • Qur’an 23:51-72


What is the relationship between the many and the one?


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This is the question that preoccupied the thoughts of the ancient philosophers. They would look a forest of trees and note that all the trees were different, but yet also the same. Likewise, human beings all displayed individual differences but were obviously the same kind of thing. What was the relationship, they wondered, between the individual distinctiveness that they could observe, but the obvious sameness between all those different entities.

And so they began to posit that perhaps everything visible was merely a derivative “shadow” of some ideal. The trees you’re seeing are mere shadows of the ideal tree in the realm of forms. Or perhaps what we were seeing in the individuals were mere accidents, outward measurable variations and that which unified us was our substance.

That’s all well and good for the philosophers, I suppose, but how do we understand the relationship between the many and the one? Other than confusing undergrads in our philosophy and religion courses, what good does this do us in real life? How do we understand the relationship of the many and the one in our daily life? Continue reading