Battling our ‘insidious search for domination, power and authority’

 

Preacher deftly combines observances of Earth Day, Armenian Genocide

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Denise Anderson leads worship in the Presbyterian Center Chapel Wednesday. Beside her is a plate with a peacock, a symbol for Armenians of eternal life. (Photo by Tammy Warren)

LOUISVILLE — Caring for God’s creation — especially for our fellow human beings — requires constant attention and daily effort, the Rev. Denise Anderson said during the Chapel Service Wednesday at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Ky.

This week marks two significant anniversaries — the 49th celebration of Earth Day Monday and Wednesday’s 104th observance of the beginning of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, which saw up to 1.5 million Armenians put to death by the Ottoman Empire, the precursor of modern-day Turkey. Turkey denies that the word “genocide” is an accurate term for the crimes.

Anderson spoke alongside a communion table featuring a plate decorated with a peacock, a bird whose flesh many Armenians believe does not decay and is thus a symbol of eternal life.

At the heart of both the genocide and the exploitation of God’s creation is dominance, said Anderson, coordinator for Racial and Intercultural Justice with the Presbyterian Mission Agency. She called that sin “the insidious search for domination, power and authority over people and the entire planet.”

“Our ideas of dominance are dangerous and deadly,” she said. Using Luke 8:22-25 — the story of Jesus calming a storm — Anderson noted that Jesus took that action “for the safety and security of his friends and disciples.” God, she said, “shows us dominion rather than dominance, leadership rather than rulership, and calls us back to the purpose for which we were created: to care for each other.”

After Jesus rebuked the storm, he asked the others on the boat, “Where is your faith?” Anderson had the same question for the two dozen or so worshipers gathered Wednesday.

“Friends, where is our faith when we view whole communities as threats to our existence, when we extract from the Earth until she has nothing to give us, when we recognize creation as a zero-sum game, when we feel we must consume or be consumed?” She paraphrased Wednesday’s other text, Psalm 23: “Goodness and mercy can follow us all the days of our life — if we will only let them.”

The Rev. Denise Anderson listens as Dr. Bill McConnell, mission engagement advisor for the South region, plays piano before worship Wednesday. (Photo by Tammy Warren)

Worshipers sang the hymn “Lord, to You Our People Cry,” for which the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the PMA’s Office of Theology and Worship, wrote these lyrics four years ago for the 100th observance of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide:

“Even now, across the years,

we recall those days with tears.

Even now, with grief we see

present pain and cruelty.

Make us bold to act and speak

when the strong oppress the weak.”

A Discover Armenia Tour is scheduled for Sept. 26 through Oct. 6. Participants are invited to connect with Armenia’s people and see faith in action through the Jinishian Memorial Program, including discussions with ecumenical church partners — Apostolic, Catholic and Evangelical. The deadline to apply is June 1. Learn more about the Discover Armenia Tour here.


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