AS THE WORLD SQUIRMS (Quarantine Essay #9)

mlkBy Ric Hudgens (originally posted to Facebook March 31, 2020). Ric is posting all of his quarantine essays to Medium.

In his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote: “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is putting this perspective to the test and vindicating it once again.

If we attend to the virology of this moment our unity is dramatically highlighted. Within just a few weeks, this disease has traveled the globe, infecting thousands, regardless of race, color, or national origin. All are vulnerable, and it is a universal threat. Continue reading

Praying Like Jesus in the Garden

gethsemaneA timely post and prayer practice from Rev. Solveig Nilsen-Goodin

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, when crowds were pressing in on him, when thousands were needing to be fed, when he was discerning his next steps, he prayed. When the disciples asked him how to pray, he taught them. And when the death squads were coming, and even his closest friends were too exhausted to keep watch for him, he prayed. There, in the Garden of Gethsemane, alone, when death loomed near and his friends were close at hand but far away, Jesus prayed.

But how? How did he pray? How did he pray in the Garden?

He wasn’t reciting the rote version of what we know as the Lord’s Prayer, though perhaps that prayer brought him comfort and connection even in his isolation.

He wasn’t doing a breathing practice, though no doubt Jesus drew on his skills of meditation and contemplation to ground and strengthen him even to the end. Continue reading

A Complaint Before the Court of Coronavirus Justice

A-COMPLAINT-BEFORE-THE-COURT-OF-CORONAVIRUS-JUSTICE-1-pdf-791x1024By Rose Marie Berger

a communal lament

Blessed are you, Lord our God, Keeper of the Universe.
You have thus far kept us alive and preserved us.
Though Sister Death arrives with swiftness now into our circles of care,
We praise You and remember that You alone
are keeper of the Book of Life.
It is You who sends Your Angel Death into the world dressed as a broom;
You who fashioned us from earth, mixing straw and mud with Your own breath.
You blew Time into our nostrils, making our days like fruitful herbs,
which green up in morning, flower and flourish at noon, then fade by close of day.
In humility and grief, we stand before You now, mindful of all we have not loved.
We acknowledge through tears and fears, through our grief, sharp or dulled,
that You alone are God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
We, though many, are not gods. And now, small and frightened, we stand
before the power of viral death that sweeps through the corners of our world.
We are small and afraid of the media’s measuring stick of dead and infected.
We are small and afraid before the needs of our family, neighbors, and congregations.
We are small and afraid listening to tales told by rulers who are full of sound and fury.
We are small and afraid in the face of scarcity and those who demand to be paid.
We are small and afraid before our isolated, individual selves—
self-quarantined, sheltering in place, locked down—and we long for the casual
affections of others. Continue reading

The COVID-19 Chronicles, Part 1

Salvador Zuniga CaceresBy Tommy Airey

This is a fictional account rooted in reality. 

“We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism, and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction. Our Mother Earth — militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated — demands that we take action.”—Berta Cáceres (1971-2016)

A decade ago, Aden Alvarenga fled everything he knew in Honduras for a land flowing with milk and honey called “California.” He journeyed north with his Tio Tejada who had been working with Berta Caceres to save sacred rivers from foreign developers cashing in on dam projects. In the months after the military coup, soldiers who were trained in the United States, ramped up their threats and intimidation on Tio and their band of Indigenous troublemakers. His witness protection program required drastic measures so he recruited his nephew to head north to stay with a cousin he barely knew in a place called San Juan Capistrano, named after a white priest who came to Turtle Island to forcibly convert Indigenous peoples to colonial Christianity. Continue reading

Divine Disobedience

CPIBy Mark Van Steenwyk, the executive director of the Center for Prophetic Imagination

Christians in our society have a problem with authority—not that we are too disobedient, but that we aren’t disobedient enough. Howard Zinn once wrote: “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty.”

In the middle of the 20th Century, feminist theologian Dorthee Sölle coined the term “christofascism.” Sölle experienced an authoritarian church during Nazi Germany. However, she saw the same imperial authoritarian form of Christianity alive and well in the United States after the war…and even foresaw the way in which Christianity would be used as a weapon of supremacy in modern America.
Continue reading

Go Ahead and Weep

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By Pete Ashton, flickr, cc

Preached by Denise Griebler to St. Peters Episcopal Church Detroit via zoom.

John 11:32-54

I haven’t said or written much since we have begun sheltering in place.  I’m a little nervous to do so now.   I am humbled by the pandemic.  I am awed by it.

I believe that God is with us and that we are with each other – the profound truth that we are in this together.

There is a story about the Chinese Master, Lau-tzu and his disciples:

The disciples were absorbed in the teaching:

Those who know do not say;
Those who say do not know.

When the Master entered, they asked him what the words meant.

The Master asked them: “Which of you knows the fragrance of a rose?”

Of course, all of them knew.

Then he said, “Put it into words.”

All were silent.

I am grateful for the rawness of the gospel.  A man has died.  A brother.  A friend.  There’s mourning and crying.  Jesus is late, put he does show up.  The one who heals others couldn’t be there in time for his friend. He’s too late.

And it’s not like he rushed to get there.  There’s a back story.  Lazarus (who has died) along with his the sisters, Mary and Martha – were his good friends.  They regularly helped and supported and sheltered Jesus.  They were part of his trusted inner circle.   Mary and Martha – had sent for Jesus when Lazarus fell gravely ill.  But we’re told that Jesus lingered for days where he was sheltering-in-place, hiding out from the religious authorities who wanted Jesus dead.  Finally he decides to risk going to Bethany to see his friend, but he’s too late.  Lazarus has already died.

I’m grateful for the rawness.

And even Mary’s accusing question:  where were you?  You could have saved him.

I’m grateful that he doesn’t make excuses.  He’s silent.  He weeps. I’m grateful for his tears.

And for Martha recoiling from the stench of death – from her brother’s dead body.  I’m grateful for Mary and Martha’s anger and impatience with Jesus. And for Jesus’ anger.  And his second round of tears at the tomb.  I’m grateful for the kerchief-covered face.  And for the exposure of the betrayal of the ones who are plotting to keep their privilege and power, who are ready to make easy tradeoffs – one life for many.

I’m grateful for the rawness.  Because honestly, I have been feeling pretty numb.  And the rawness helps to break me open.   I’m glad for all of the weeping in this text.  I haven’t yet found my way to tears.  How is that possible?

Maybe I’ve been caught up in denial and fear. I hear it in myself as I worry for the “most vulnerable” in a way that serves to distance myself from suffering ever actually touching me in my own body.  I am vulnerable.  We’re all vulnerable.

And I’ve been caught up in trying to keep myself and my family safe.  And trying to do my part – our part – to keep others safe.  All of which seem so small and pathetic.  Especially when I think of people who need my help. Even as I know this is precisely the best thing  most of us can do to take care of each other.  Maybe I am too ashamed to weep.  But that would be a mistake.

What if grief is our calling right now?  Our vocation.  Grief is how we can stay human in the face of all of the suffering that has been happening at a distance and is now here and washing over us in Detroit.

I heard about a meme that was circulating on FaceBook.  Jesus is in his room, sheltering in place.  Someone asks: “Where should I tell them you are?”  Jesus replies:  “Tell them I’m working in mysterious ways.”

But there actually is a mystery that he stakes is own life and death upon.  I think some of the tears he cries are for himself.  He knows that death is closing in on him and there is not much more time to be with his friends or his mother, or to be under the beauty of the sky, or out on the Lake, or around the table, to see or smell the lilies, or see the little sparrows or hear the dove hovering or to feel the Wind.  Down to the bone he believes anyway: death does not and will not have the last word.

Maybe he’s weeping at the excruciating mystery of that.

I hope I come around to my deepest self and finally weep.  I hope you do. I hope we mortals become more human.  And that we come to know more deeply our place in the web of all life.

It’s hard to feel like we are doing nothing – especially if you are someone who thrives on the front lines.  There’s plenty to do from the place where we are sheltering in place if you are longing for that.  People have been busy advocating for the water to be turned back on.  And to be turned back on safely.   And now, not in 3 months from now.   And then to be made affordable for the long haul.  The work that we have done for years is having an effect.  Thank goodness.

People are restoring other connections as well.  Reaching out to family and friends with whom we’ve been out of touch for too long.  And there will be neighbors and organizations that will need financial help – be generous.  And water deliveries to be made – if you and others in your household are healthy and not among the vulnerable, you could help with that. There will be more opportunities.

But mostly we just need to stay put.  And wait.  And try to live as well as you can – with as much kindness and joy as you can – in your own household – whether that’s with family, or roommates or alone.  And keep ourselves and others safe as best we are able. And let life keep insisting in us.  Cindy Tobias reminds us that this is front-line work at this time.

But we can also open ourselves to the suffering and weep when we feel like weeping. Be angry at the ineptitude that could have prevented some of it.

Be awed by the terrible mystery of it and our own vulnerability.

Call on the accompaniment and wisdom of the ancestors – they are helping us.

Weep and rage and rest in God.   Amen.