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My Lenten Devotion: Lazarus, Come Forth

Some years ago when I was an active member of the Northridge Wesleyan Church, I participated in a four-part Lenten study — that included a lot of good food. The theme of the study was : “Let this Mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Each week, we focused on a specific scripture and members shared their contemplation on that scripture — in poems or responses they had written. These responses were edited and assembled with pictures into a little book we distributed on Easter Sunday. To make the cover of the book, we photoshopped trees and flowers and the location of and message on the sign. The scriptures chosen for the study were:

  • For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve … (Mark 10:45)
  • Before Abraham was born, I am. (John 8:58)
  • Father if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. (Luke 22:15)
  • I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you. (Luke 22:42)

I wrote a response and last summer this response came to mind when I visited a friend — a retired preacher and Bible scholar — and she asked if I had written anything interesting lately. I thought she would enjoy my efforts to contemplate the meaning of the miracle of the raising of Lazarus. In February, for her 95th birthday, I dug up this Lenten Devotion to send to her. It’s my best effort, I think, to explain my understanding of the message of Christ.

Lazarus, Come Forth

In John 8 we read these words of Jesus, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” To me, this saying of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John, shows that the Mind of Christ, as revealed through Jesus, is one anchored in its true identity. If we are to have the Mind of Christ, we must have a mind that is anchored in reality. We must be grounded in our right mind.

We read in Mark 5 of a mentally deranged man who was dangerously divided from his own self. The scripture says about this man:

“No one was strong enough to control him. All day long and through the night he would wander among the tombs and in the wild hills screaming and cutting himself with sharp pieces of stone.” (Mark 5: 4-5)

In this familiar story, Jesus commanded the demons within this man’s mind to leave, and, as they did, the demons entered a herd of hogs. The entire herd plunged into the nearby lake and were drowned. The ending of the story is fascinating:

“And they that fed the swine fled and told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.”

Cutting yourself, wandering around tombs and screaming constantly are indicators of a sick mind, a mind divided from its true self. But “acting normal” doesn’t mean a person is in his or her right mind. Even crazy people can “act.” To be in one’s right mind means more than simply adhering to social norms. It means to be fully aligned with one’s true being — the being whom God created. To be in one’s right mind means to be anchored in reality.

The first book of the Bible gives these insights:

  • “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Genesis 1:26)
  • “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

These verses from Genesis make the astonishing revelation that our rightful mind is the mind that God created and deemed “very good.” Our rightful mind aligns with God’s thinking, His values. These verses say, in short, that a person grounded in his or her true identity has the Mind of Christ, the Mind of Love.

And what does such a person look like? The first Psalm gives a nice description: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth fruit in his season.” I love the first Psalm and I can hear its horticultural point of view resonate in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians when he urges them to be, “rooted and grounded in love.” It is when are roots are immersed in love, it is when we are grounded in Christ, who is Love, that we grow into our true identity.

We can imagine the dark place with the entombed body of Lazarus wrapped in its funeral garb. We can imagine the commotion and anguish outside of this tomb as Jesus gathered there with Mary and Martha and other individuals from the nearby town. There was an outpouring of grief. John’s narration of that scene contains the most touching, yet shortest, verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Lazarus was dead, dead, dead.

The story of Lazarus is the report of a miracle — and a miracle is something far beyond our capacity to understand. The dead cannot hear, but Lazarus heard. He heard the voice of Love calling him: “Lazarus Come Forth.” He moved from death to life. He emerged from the tomb that had contained him.

My friends, we, like Lazarus, also are captivated within a small space. It is the tomb of who we think we are; it is the tomb of our narrow understanding of truth. It is Love that is calling us to come forth from death to life, from the tomb of our self-absorption to the world outside of our selves. It is Love that is urging us to come forth and awaken to our true identity as a child of God.

 

In this pilgrim journey, Oh Lord, may we ever respond to the voice of Love and encourage others to do the same. May we ever grow into your likeness.

Help us to emerge from the tomb of our selfishness, the tomb of our wrong thinking, wrong motives. Help us emerge from the tomb of who we think we are and to grow into the fulness of our true identity. Help us to be so rooted and grounded in your Love that we will grow into our right mind — the Mind that was in Christ Jesus.

Three things we pray: To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly — day by day.

Amen.

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153 Montgomery County Democrats Are On May 8 Ballot — Seeking Election To The MCDP Central Committee



The Board of Elections shows that 153 Democrats from 141 precincts are seeking election to the MCDP Central Committee. The election will be at the Democratic Primary on May 8. Here is the breakdown:

  • There are 99 precincts that have one candidate whose name is on the ballot. Of these, 47 are current members of the MCDP and are seeking re-election.
  • There are 32 precincts that have one write-in candidate. Of these, 7 are seeking re-election.
  • There are eight precincts with two candidates; of these, four have candidates seeking re-election
  • There are two precincts with three candidates; all have candidates seeking re-election.

At most, there will be 141 Democrats — representing 141 different precincts — who will have the right to vote at the June MCDP Reorganization Meeting. Of these 141 Democrats, if the incumbents win all of the contested precincts, there be 58 Democrats elected to the MCDP Central Committee who are currently serving on the Committee. There will be 83 new members elected who are not currently serving on the Committee.

Montgomery County has 360 precincts. Only about 36% of the county (141 precincts) will elect a MCDP precinct leader / Central Committee member in this quadrennial election. The showing this year is a small improvement over 2014 when 132 precincts, or 33% of the total possible, elected a MCDP precinct leader / Central Committee member

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Last Chance To Be Elected To MCDP Central Committee — Deadline To Be A Write-In Candidate Is Feb 26

The final deadline to seek election to the Central Committee of the Montgomery County Democratic Party is Monday, February 26 at 4:00 PM, the last chance to become a write-in candidate. Becoming a write-in candidate requires submitting this form with your signature and correct precinct name.

As a write-in candidate, your name will not appear on the ballot. For your election to be certified, you will need to receive at least five votes. The names of Democrats who met the February 7 deadline — submitting a petition with at least five signatures — will appear on the ballot for the May 8 Democratic Primary.

Each precinct can elect one member to the MCDP Central Committee. Of the county’s 360 precincts, the list posted at the Board of Elections shows that only 109 precincts will have at least one candidate on the ballot. Ten of these precincts have two candidates, and two have three candidates. So far, there are only two write-in candidates. This means that as it stands now, 249 precincts in the county will have no elected member of the Central Committee. You can check to see if your precinct has a candidate in this list. After the May 8 Primary, individuals may be appointed to the Central Committee, but only elected members are eligible to vote in the Reorganization Meeting.

The MCD Reorganization Meeting happens every four years — after the election of the MCDP Central Committee. It usually occurs the last week in May. At the Reorganization Meeting, by majority vote of those in attendance, MCDP officers are selected and revisions, if any, are made to the MCDP Constitution and by-laws.

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Imagining The Montgomery County Democratic Party as “The Party Of The People”

I’ve met and interviewed only one “great man” — W. Edwards Deming, when he was in his ninety’s. The “Deming Prize” is a yearly award that is a big deal in Japan. Deming was an early leader in understanding how organizations can be successful. He helped Japan rebuild after WWII. Deming taught that successful organizations and businesses are mission driven. He emphasized that business leaders must have a clear understanding of the mission of their company.

The goal of business is to make a profit — but making a profit is a poor mission. A successful business is customer-centered. An automobile company wants to make money, but it defines its mission as producing high quality automobiles at a competitive price. By centering its attention and resources on advancing a customer-centered mission, it achieves its goal.

For political parties, the mission has come down to winning. This is like a business being all about making money. The customers are not fooled. The cynicism and apathy of the electorate is a logical response to a political system that is all about winning. What animates our political process, with the help of hate radio and propagandized TV, are wedge issues that divide and polarize voters. Harsh partisan divisions empowered Trump.

What would the Democratic Party look like — if it saw its mission as acting as the party of the people? A party of the people would:

  • Empower all interested Democrats within the Democratic Party.
  • Prepare and advance candidates who are “of the people” who are committed to being public servants.
  • Seek to win elections by creating unity — rather than through sowing discord.
  • Help build nonpartisan civic groups that center on advancing local civics education.

Each of Ohio’s 88 counties has a Democratic Party organization — each with its own constitution and bylaws. This means that each local organization can make its own rules. Each is in control of its own structure and processes. Every four years these county organizations are required by state law to conduct elections. This year’s May 8 Democratic Primary will determine the membership of MCDP Central Committee. Those chosen in this election will conduct a Reorganization Meeting where officers will be selected and a MCDP Constitution approved.

The Democratic Party at every level is in need of big improvements. The transformation that is needed must start at the grassroots level. The MCDP should seek to lead the building of a 21st Century Democratic Party that acts as the party of the people. I’m wanting to work with other Montgomery County Democrats to find consensus on possible changes to the MCDP Constitution that could be approved at the Reorganization Meeting.

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Only 114 of Montgomery County’s 360 Precincts Have Democrats Seeking Election To The MCDP Central Committee

There are 130 Montgomery County Democrats who met the deadline to submit petitions to seek election to the Montgomery County Democratic Party Central Committee. The petitions are not yet certified by the Board of Elections, but, as it stands now, of the county’s 360 precincts, 100 precincts have one candidate, 12 precincts have two candidates, and 2 precincts have three candidates.

Of the 130 Democrats who turned in a petition, 35 were elected to the Central Committee in 2014 and 18 were appointed to the Central Committee after the election. So there are 53 Democrats who are current members of the Central Committee who are seeking election and there are 77 Democrats seeking election who are not current members.

Seventy-three of the 132 Democrats elected to the Central Committee in 2014, failed to meet the deadline to turn in a petition. Of the 73 precincts, only 22 precincts have a Democrat seeking election to replace the exiting member. This means that, as of now, there are 51 precincts that are losing a precinct leader and that will have no replacement.

Some Democrats who failed to make the February 7 deadline for petitions are intending on making the deadline to be a write-in candidate. That deadline is February 26 at 4:00 PM to complete and submit Form No 13 to the Board of Elections. Meeting this write-in deadline means that the name of the write-in candidate will be on the accepted list. To be elected to the Central Committee, a write-in candidate must get at least five votes (the same as the number of signatures required for the February 7 petition).

Interesting that many Democrats seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for elected office seem to have no interest in being engaged in the local party organization. The following Democratic candidates live in one of the 246 precincts with no Democratic candidate for the Central Committee:

  • Walter Hickman — State Representative for OHD-39
  • Albert Griggs Jr — State Representative for OHD-40
  • Ryan Taylor — State Representative for OHD-40
  • Zach Dickerson — State Representative for OHD-42
  • Autumn Kern — State Representative for OHD-42
  • Daryl Ward — County Commissioner
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