The Gospel & My People

The following is the result of an assignment from my Theology As Living Conversation course at the American Baptist Seminary of the West. Thanks to Dr. Davidson for assigning this as I found it most useful in articulating my own understandings of who I am and where I am from. Location is not just a physical concept but a theological one as well.

Maybe this will help you understand better the Paul Schneider from Oakland, CA that is writing this blog. The theological assertions may be bold, or not – perhaps this will help you see better why.

The Gospel and My People

I’m a fourth generation Californian,

Californian first, a citizen of my country second.

My Grandmother who raised me was a Georgia Peach,

Which makes me a gentleman from Georgia, once removed.

My Grandfather’s family is German and more German.

*

My Grandmother and Mother taught me family,

Some is given, some is chosen.

Baptist tradition: Feed first, ask questions later,

Everything in the world is easier to handle after a meal.

There are Georgian sayings that still make me smile:

“It’ll do you good and help ya too.”

“Patience is a virtue, catch it if you can.

Seldom in a woman and never in a man.”

“The English language works perfectly well already,

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.”

*

We celebrated birthdays with family dinners,

Family Given and Chosen, adults talking,

Because children do not speak unless spoken to.

We gathered at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter,

And at least once a month, filling the large dining room.

When someone new joined us, their words were as if dipped in gold.

At Christmas my Grandmother took us shopping,

An ornament for my mother, my brother and me, each year.

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Our hope was in God, in Christ Jesus,

And in regular attendance at Church.

Church was family too – chosen by us, but given by God.

We prayed to be compassionate and aware,

Lest we ignore the suffering of others.

We feared not trying our hardest,

Lest we become used to taking the easy way.

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We cremate, not bury. Ashes are scattered, not interred.

We remember our ancestors in their words

Coming from our mouths, in their features

Seen in our mirrors.

Line of brow, shade of eye, triggering laughter or tears.

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Good hard work, good music, good food and good God,

Love is only as rare as you choose to make it.

We value these things,

and try our best to shower out love liberally.

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It feels like there has always been Jesus for us,

Not as the warrior God the Germans first knew him,

But Christ our savior, archetype and hope incarnate.

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To live out the good news of God’s love,

for ALL people. To help people become,

Become the people God CREATED them to be.

The Church I grew up in affirmed

the humanity of all people, and the divinity therein.

Here I learned there are things worth fighting for,

Not in defiance, but from love.

Call me a heretic for love, and I’ll count it victory.

Even those who repudiated us we called

Our brothers and sisters in Christ,

acting from their convictions –

just as we acted from ours.

*

The gap widens between churches,

Those open to acceptance and liberation,

Are farther than ever from those who are not.

And still God’s people are becoming,

Becoming who they were created to be.

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I come from people who need to know,

God love all people.

Because it means God loves us too!

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Jesus, I pray for Californians,

For my American Baptist brethren,

That by your grace they may continue becoming,

Becoming who they were created to be.

May we reflect your acceptance, your understanding,

Your LOVE to all people at all times. Amen.

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