Faith Reflections

January 8, 2019
(Excerpted from Rabbi Jill Jacobs and the Position of the Reform Movement on Housing - both on the Union for Reform Judaism website.)

When we say that we support housing for all, we tend to base it on religious ideals such as “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and Treat others as you wish to be treated.”


Judaism and the Homeless
The prophets themselves exhorted us to follow a longstanding tradition of hospitality among the Jewish people. According to one source, Abraham is judged to be greater than Job because while the latter “opened his doors to the road” (Job 31:32), Abraham left his tent to seek guests among the passers-by (Genesis 18:1-8). Furthermore, Abraham “got busy and built spacious mansions along the highways, and stocked them with food and drink, so that whover entered ate, drank, and blessed Heaven” (Avot d' Rabbi Natan 7). More recent Jewish history, with its exiles and expulsions, is a powerful reminder of our special obligation to provide for those with no shelter.”

A Religious Duty
A few Jewish sources explicity speak of the provision of housing as a means of Tzedakah (charity or commandment). Most famous among these texts is the exhortation in Isaiah to “take the poor into your homes,” (Haftarah on Yom Kippur). This prophetic cry defines the relief of homelessness as a religious duty, preferable to fasts, sacrifices, and other ritual observances.

In addition other texts specifically define housing as one of the obligatory types of tzedakah (charity). The Bible commands that a poor person be granted “sufficient for what lacks, according to what is lacking to him.” One text from the talmud understands each phrase in that command as referring to a specific type of assistance one might grant a poor person.
“Sufficient for what he lacks'-this is a house.
“What is lacking'--this is a bed and table.”
Significantly, this text imagines the primary needs of a poor person as being related to housing.

Adequate Housing
...permanent housing should allow a person to live a full and dignified life year-round, and not only for a week (a reference to a skimpy, open dwelling built for the harvest festival of Sukkot). Furthermore, permanent housing should look permanent....In the contemporary context, we might consider whether a homeless shelter or transitional housing would meet these criteria....

Landlord-Tenant Relations
Jewish law also offers much insight into the ideal landlord-tenant relationship. ...the primary concern ...seems to be the question of permanence. Landlords are forbidden from evicting tenants without due warning, and may not evict tenants during the winter months....According to Moses Maimonides (a very important 12th century commentator), a landlord must give the tenant sufficient notice before terminating a lease “so that (the tenant) can look for another place and will not be abandonned in the street” Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot S'khirut 6:7).

In addition to protecting tenants from … eviction, Jewish law requires landlords to keep rented units habitable....At least one authority emphasizes that it is the tenant, and not the landlord, who determines what repairs the home needs (Jacob ben Asher, a 14th century sage).

Central to all of these laws is a concern that housing be safe, secure, and permanent, and that every home allows its inhabitants to live a full and dignifies life.

Job versus Ministry
Adapted from a piece by Shirley Dahlquist and shared in a sermon 

If you quit because someone criticized you, it's a job;
if you keep on serving, it's ministry.
If you do it only so long as it doesn't interfere with your other activities, it's a job.
if you'r
e committed to staying with it, even when it means letting go of other things, it's ministry.

If you quit because no one ever praised you or thanked you, it was a job;
if you stay with it even though no one notices your effort, it's ministry.
If you do it because someone else said it needs to be done, it's a job;
if you do it because you think it needs to be done, it's ministry.

It's hard to get excited about a job.
It's almost impossible not to be excited about ministry.

An average person does a job.
A Spirit-led person does ministry.

If you concern is success, it's a job;
if your concern is faithfulness, it's ministry.

MICAH South Meeting, Faith Reflection, September 12, 2017
Based on the book: Archbishop Romero : Memories and Reflections
Author: Jon Sobrino SJ

The Burden and Duty of Being Prophetic

I had selected this book a year ago because I wanted to know more about the life and times of Archbishop Romero. By faithfully living out his role of being the Archbishop he had caused controversy and conflict in the Catholic Church, with the current government in San Salvador and in the wider world, including in the United States.

I read this book for inspiration and motivation, hoping to better understand and apply, especially to MICAH’s work, our prophetic role as we follow our namesake. Our challenges are certainly not the same as those that Archbishop Romero faced in San Salvador, but they are the much more suble challenges of our time.

I’m using many direct quotations from the book: Who was he? Who was he in solidarity with? How did he live out his faith?

In a memorial service three years after Archbishop Romero’s assassination:
“Three years ago today (March 24,1983) Oscar Arnulfo Romero was felled by an assassin’s bullet, spilling his blood before the altar of God. Thus he found his life fulfilled: in sharing the life of so many Salvadorans whose death is by murd

‘It is also of the greatest importance that we recall the 24'th of March (1980) on which the Salvadoran people - so accustomed to tragic news and to having death as their companion - stood thunderstruck at the report: archbishop Oscar Romero, that good, compassionate person, that defender of the poor, that voice of the voiceless, that prophet, that excoriator of oppressors, had been murdered.”

His last public words, his last sermon on March 24,1980: “In the name of God, then, and in the name of the suffering people, whose screams and cries mount to heaven, and daily grow louder, I beg you in the name of God: Stop the repression!”

This is the description of Oscar Romero given by one of the peasants who he stood with in solidarity until the end, “ “Monsenor Romero spoke the truth. He stood with us, the poor. That is why they killed him.” and “…As Monsenor once said in a funeral homily for an assassinated priest, “People get killed when they get in the way.”

“Archbishop Romero’s faith in God made him a defender of life, and especially a defender of the lives of the poor…. The anguish of the poor touches the very heart of God…” “The world of food and work, of health and housing, the world of education- this is God’s world.” “He placed himself on the side of justice.”

In the role of PROPHET…. Our question: How can we apply the way that Oscar Romero lived out his prophetic role to our work in MICAH?
Archbishop Romero spoke about the role of Prophet: “The first basic characteristic of the prophet is that a prophet proclaims the will of God.” His firm belief that: “ …the poor touch the very heart of God…” led him to always stand in solidarity with those who are poor.
And MICAH has a prophetic role in addressing the housing needs of the poor:
The author tells us that, the prophetic word is “conflictive” “because it’s uttered on the radical, absolute levels of “yes” and “no”… Archbishop R.: said, “if it is the genuine word of God , it contains explosive material….” The prophetic word WILL provoke conflict. 

Oscar Romero in 1979: He didn’t act alone, was not a lone figure - he was one with the people of God and said “I know that you and I, the people of God, together, compose the prophetic people.”

Some possible actions that we, as MICAH, might take from the life and spirit of Oscar Romero:
We are called to seek the will of God.
We are called to be with those who are living in poverty even when it causes conflict.
We are called to be courageous.
We are called to be generous.
We are called to speak the truth.
We are called to persevere in ‘struggling with the evils of this world’

In closing: With the grace of God may MICAH always be willing to answer its prophetic call!

Deb Lande is former MICAH board member. When asked to open a MICAH board meeting a few years ago with an intention, she chose to write one specific to the important work of housing instead of trying to find one written by someone else. Home Healer is now part of the book Universal Intentions which Deb co-authored with Ursula Pottinga.

From the book Universal Intentions
© 2013 Deb Sakry Lande
At: http://universalintentions.wordpress.com

Prayer for Global Citizenship
God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow
You created a world of beauty and plenty for us all to share.
You gave us responsibility for this earth,
Rich in life and variety.

Create in us a desire to act in solidarity,
sacrificing some of our freedom and self-interest
for the sake of the common good.

Enlighten and strengthen us to that we may challenge
the social and economic systems
that create and sustain poverty.

Show us the paths that lead
to mutual assistance among peoples,
to a deepening of human knowledge,
to an enlargement of heart,
and to a more human way of living within society.

Inspired by Paul VI. Populorum Progressio, 1967

Home Healer

Choked tight,
Lumps in my neck fight.
I walk dark alleys in fear.
I walk alone, quiet, and afraid,
Longing for a healer to appear.
Self-hate cuts through bone.
The easy fix tempts me, alone.
Hopelessness clogs my aching soul,
Intoxicated by
Shame, blame and tears.
I hold my breath.
I wander. I roam.
My soul and soles exhausted.
Where, I beg,
Is my refuge, my home?
Where is the pillow, I own?
Breathe deep, a voice comforts,
Healing breath suddenly surrounds.
Thank you, Great Creator,
For sending a healer
To guide me
And bring me home.

Rabbi Adam J. Titcher
Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC) Day on the Hill 3/10/2015
St. Paul, Minnesota

It is written in the book of Deuteronomy: Justice, Justice, You shall pursue!
We have gathered today to pursue justice, as an organized group of prophetic voices to make our world better using the visions of all our faith communities.
We read from the Hebrew bible and understand the simplest meaning: we are commanded to pursue justice, so we pursue after it!
But why is the word justice written twice?
The rabbinic sages were curious about this doubling and suggested that the two uses of justice was to emphasize our need as a community, and even as a country, to have a properly working court system that rules in favor of right over wrong.
But is justice always about right and wrong? Are we always satisfied with the justice we receive?
Is justice always fair?
The rabbinic masters realized that justice was never balanced and further taught that justice was written twice to teach us that even when two sides come before judgment in any human court, one side will win, and that side’s justice will prevail, but the other side will lose. Its justice will fail.
There will always be two sides of justice, in any system regardless if it is failing or succeeding.
It is our obligation therefore to pursue justice from both ends and find what is right and just for everyone, even when our system complicates our path.
It is our mission to raise up human dignity with just causes and we must pursue our causes from both sides. Only then will we find the justice that we need to balance our world.
Let us pray on this:
Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask Your blessings – for our community, our its leaders and advisors, and for all people who understand and recognize the need for a just and rightful authority.
Teach us from the insights of all of your divine books that we may pursue justice in our community that is fair, that human safety and family care, economic security and prosperity, and justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst.
Creator of all flesh -- bless all the inhabitants of our country and the state of Minnesota with
Your spirit. May citizens of all races and creeds forge a common bond in true harmony, to banish hatred, bigotry, selfishness and greed, and to safeguard the ideals and free institutions that are the pride and glory of our country.
May this land, under Your providence, be an influence for good throughout our world uniting all people, helping them to fulfill the words of your Torah: Justice, Justice, You shall pursue!
Justice, Justice, we will find and justice, justice we will uphold.
And let us say: Amen!

The following Faith Reflection was shared with MICAH from Jennifer Peterson. She is a Cottage Grove City Council member where she is actively pursuing bringing affordable rental housing to her community, and is also a Case Manager at Community Resource Center. Jennifer also continues to be an active advocate on the matter of homelessness through non-profit boards, organizations, and committees.

I really do feel incredibly blessed to be working here. It is completely a God thing that I am able to be here working in the Community Resource Center (CRC)! A long time ago, I was in the very same situation as many of the guests in the CRC. It was back in the early 90's. I was a divorcing single mom of 4 kids (under the age of 7) who was leaving a violent marriage and seeking housing. I was given support from a housing program in Mpls that was mainly supported by many area churches, businesses and foundations, as well as some government funding. These were people who didn't know me and my family, but yet cared enough about us that they gave their time, talent and treasure to help us get stable and back on our feet.

Part of the housing program was that the mom's had to be actively pursuing a better life. For me that meant going to college. I went to St. Kate's and was able to get it fully funded without loans, through grants and scholarships. I earned an AAS in Occupational Therapy in 2 yrs, graduating in 92. Back then in my prayers I used to complain to God about the situation I was in and would ask why did God let this happen to us. It was a very tough time in my life, I prayed for the strength to get through this time and to come out on the other end stronger, wiser and more faithful. Sometimes it felt like I was all alone in the struggle, but mostly I felt great support from the case workers, child advocates, family therapists, support groups, church volunteers, my college professors and many more. The housing program and all those that supported me back then were answers to my prayers. I made a promise to God back then that if He got me through this, somehow I would be on the giving end of the story. That experience in life was key to my growth in my faith and spirituality, and personal confidence.

Over the years since then, I have been able to look back and understand that those tests, stumbling blocks and struggles I went through weren't really that at all. They were lessons, stepping stones and blessings! They taught me so much about myself and others. Important things like: how to be more tolerant, more understanding, more compassionate, more merciful, more giving, more kind, more faithful, less self-centered, less judgmental, less critical and other things. These were things that I don't know that I could have learned elsewhere or in a
different way.

So this job is the answer to my prayers from almost 25 years ago! This job IS the promise that I made to God, just as He promised to me in Jeremiah 29: 11-13, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart".

Our Father
Who Lives within us
Hallowed be Thy name

One Step at a time.
Thy will be done.
To each in a most
Miraculous way.

Help us today
To walk sober and pray.
To reach out in kindness
With Love and Compassion.
For all who are stricken,
And all who have fallen.
Come lead us
And guide us
And show us Your Way.

Come cleanse
Our hearts now, From hatred and envy
And keep are minds open
To Your wisdom and knowledge.
For You
Are our Hope,
The Truth
And the Light,
That we look to
Just for today.

Our Father
Who lives within us.
Hallowed be Thy many names!

Jehovah, Jira, My Provider,
Abba, Creator, The Great I Am

By Edward George
(A prayer of Recovery inspired by the Lord’s Prayer)

As sent to us from Joy Smith [mjoysmith@gmail.com] on October 24, 2013

Luke 10:25–28 and Micah 6:6–8

John Westerhoff, a former professor at Duke Divinity School was once invited to lead a conference on baptism in Belfast, Ireland for both Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy. There was also time for both Protestant and Catholic children from these communities to get to know one another and hopefully break free of the prejudice and hostility they were learning at home, school and - their church.

Each morning Westerhoff began the day with simple prayers that would be acceptable for both Catholics and Protestant. He would also tell a story from the Bible, with the themes of healing and reconciliation.  Westerhoff asked the participants to sit in silence and absorb the scripture.  Westerhoff says: “The two groups had spent much of the week arguing with each other and talking past each other. I felt like a failure as a teacher."  But one morning, a Roman Catholic monk chose to step  outside his comfort zone, to break the status quo of adults sitting in chairs while the children sat on the floor.  He decided to sit with the kids.

Westerhoff remembers: "I had chosen to tell the story of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' cloak and was healed.

In the silence that followed, whispers could be heard between a little Protestant girl and the Roman Catholic monk.

'Can I touch you?' she asked.

'Of course', he said.

'I'm scared.'


'If my father knew I touched you, he might beat me.'

'Perhaps he does not need to know.'

Then she reached out a finger and touched him. Looking at her finger she exclaimed, 'Nothing happened!' With tears welling up in his eyes, the monk said, 'Yes, it did. You and I will never see the world the same again.” 

Micah’s question was reflected in a question Jesus was asked one time: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” It’s a variation on “What does the Lord require?” And Jesus’ answer is as simple and elegant as the prophet’s: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” “Do this and you will live,” Jesus said.

Let me be very clear if you are thinking I am being political from the pulpit. I am not telling you the circle to fill in or what President to vote for on Election Day – but I am asking you - to make sure – your choices are always about justice, kindness,  - and humility.

The good news is God intends to transform you and me—to bring us to life, to full and deeply satisfying and fully human -  life. God wants that for you and me so much, so desperately and strongly, that God sent Jesus to show us what it looks like.

You just know the real thing – and so does God.  Amen.


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