A Vision of Beauty

By Rev. Solveig Nilsen-Goodin, Salt and Light Lutheran Church, Sunday, January 24, 2021, Mark 1:14 – 20

Well friends, it’s January 24. Far and away the most common response I’ve received to the question, How are you feeling since January 20? is…RELIEVED. Not a naive, “Oh everything is going to be fine now” kind of relieved, but a clear and palpable sense of relief nonetheless. 

Two images of the nation’s capitol, two weeks apart, have now been seared into our psyches and could not be more striking…one from January 6, and one from the very same place just two weeks later on January 20. Nearly everyone who spoke on Inauguration Day spoke to this stark contrast, though Amanda Gorman said it best:

“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”

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A Cadence

By Tommy Airey

It is significant that the federal holiday that honors Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated in January. On his birthday. Not in April when he was murdered. It is also significant that this year, Easter Sunday is penciled in for April 4, the anniversary of King’s assassination. Spirit is seconding the motions, putting our resurrection theology to the test. So that we might bear witness to Dr. King’s ongoing life and breath in America. King, like Jesus, was killed by empire—and, like Jesus, King is still with us. Not as a symbol or token, but in spirit and truth. Like Jesus, he lives forever to intercede for us.

Last month, I was texting with Rev. Dr. Timothy Adkins-Jones about resurrection. He got me contemplating how the death of Jesus does an awful lot of theological digging for me, especially in the wake of so much senseless dying. However, resurrection has the power to break the seal of empire with subversive energy. The empty tomb opens up a kind of wonder. I’m not referring to a resurrection that just moves on by holding our loved ones in our hearts because they are in heaven. I am awakening to a brand of resurrection where the dead transition to a new realm in our midst, where we can renew our relationship, where we listen for an ancestral cadence calling us beyond the grave to re-connect with them in a redemptive dance on earth as it is in heaven.

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Interview with Art Laffin on The Risk of the Cross

Art Laffin is one of those deep and beautiful souls worth listening to in these historic days. You want to be standing beside him holding a protest sign at the Pentagon or cooking in the kitchen with him at the Dorothy Day House Catholic Worker listening to him sing and pray “Rejoice in the Lord Always.”

I believe that the best writing on discipleship comes out of lives that are living the Gospel. Art Laffin is one such person and this is one such book. I had the chance to interview him recently on The Risk of the Cross: Living Gospel Nonviolence in the Nuclear Age (Twenty Third Publications, 2020)

RD: What is this book about?

“Jesus tells us, “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust” (5:36). These words from Mark’s gospel capture the spirit we wish to bear witness to in our lives and to express in this book.” This excerpt from the Introduction to the first edition of The Risk of the Cross, which I co-authored with the late Chris Grannis and Elin Schade in 1981, conveys the spirit of this new edition as well.

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A Prayer for the Reckoning

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann and Kateri Boucher for Geez magazine.

School of Americas Watch in Georgia, November 2008 by Geez staff

Oh God,
whose spirit rests in the contours of Indigenous lands,
whose breath rises in the streets chanting “Black Lives Matter.”
whose rage boils when the cross is raised as weapon,
whose being is re-imagined by the honey bees, 
the mycelium, and the snow covered cedars.

We stand at a time when
the powers of death are gasping for air.
We are witnessing the ways that
Christianity’s tentacles have bound themselves
to patriarchy, nationalism, and white supremacy.

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A Cop-Out

By Cynthia R. Wallace, PhD,  Associate Professor of English, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan, re-posted from her IG account

Just a gentle reminder for the nice white ladies that opting out of politics is still a deeply political choice. 

I’ve seen several post this week from beautifully curated accounts, mostly homeschooling and white evangelical-adjacent, touting the idea that when the news gets “too confusing” we can/should pull back into our homes and focus on making them beautiful and comfortable, raising our children with kindness, pouring into our families. 

To be clear, there are absolutely times for rest and retreat, especially for folks who’ve been retraumatized by current events. Doomscrolling, obsessively deep dives, and incessant news updates are probably not conducive to our wellbeing, parenting, or social action. And I’m not talking about performing or proving our political engagement on social media (although I think those with broader influence have platforms that carry certain responsibilities). Much of the meaningful work to understand, connect, and act happens offline or away from social media. 

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Justice Defines Love

From James Cone in Martin and Malcolm and America: A Dream or a Nightmare (1991):

King’s words have been appropriated by the people who rejected him in the 1960s. So by making his birthday a national holiday, everybody claims him, even though they opposed him while he was alive. They have frozen King in 1963 with his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. That is the one that can best be manipulated and misinterpreted. King also said, shortly after the Selma march and the riots in Watts, ‘They have turned my dream into a nightmare.’

Mainstream culture appeals to King’s accent on love, as if it can be separated from justice. For King, justice defines love. It can’t be separated. They are intricately locked together. This is why he talked about agape love and not some sentimental love. For King, love was militant. He saw direct action and civil disobedience in the face of injustice as a political expression of love because it was healing the society. It exposed its wounds and its hurt. This accent on justice for the poor is what mainstream society wants to separate from King’s understanding of love. But for King, justice and love belong together.

Dr. King and the Constellating Light

By Ken Sehested

Admiring Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is not the same as being captured by it. Too many find it possible to respect the man but relinquish the mission. It has become too easy to revere the dreamer but renege on the dream. So let us now recall the deep roots of that vision as spoken in ages past:

We remember when Hannah praised God by saying: The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.

We dream of the day when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb. For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord.

We long for the day when all shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord.

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To Disrupt Narratives of Oppression

A word from Rev. Roslyn Bouier (right), re-posted from Unbound: An Interactive Journal on Social Justice.

As an unapologetic Black female, senior clergy, serving on the frontlines as community pastor, advocate, and organizer in a community 200% below the poverty level, in one of the most depreciated and disenfranchised sections of Northwest Detroit, I see the age-old constant appropriation and commodification of bodies and choices. Most especially regarding women of color, and most often by men in power. As uncomfortable as it may be, I challenge each of us to experience this text not as a sacred text but as a window into the life of a young girl of color. This young girl who is grappling with decisions that her young mind should not have too. Having to accept decisions made for her and her body. It is incumbent that the lens that this text be read through be that of a Womanist lens, one of empowerment and liberation.

The deep waters of intersectionality that most women, most especially women of color, are forced to wade in and out is often-times murky, muddy, and polluted. The expectation that is placed upon one person to be the acceptable spokesperson for an entire group is too heavy a weight to bear. Yet we see this continually in our communities, movements, churches, and more so in our sacred texts. Far too often, women have been expected to toe the line and operate in accordance with what others—usually men, more specifically white men – have designated as acceptable behavior. Our originality as individuals with unique lives, thoughts, dreams, and ideas is often-times disregarded for the ‘good of all.’

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The Story Creating Us Still

By Rev. Denise Griebler, St. Peter’s Episcopal Detroit, January 10, 2021 (Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:4-11)

In the beginning…

In times like this it’s good to turn to the stories that ground us – that remind us who we are, who we are not;  to Whom we belong and to Whom we do not belong. 

The creation story that begins the story of the people of Israel is one of those stories.  In the beginning…

It was written during a time of crisis – their country invaded and occupied, the leaders had been executed and the ruling and professional classes were captured and forceably removed from their homes, land and country and exiled.  It was during exile that the people turned to the old stories to remember who they still were, and to Whom they still belonged.

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Stumbling Into the Kingdom: How the “Share Your Stimulus” Project Is Showing Us God’s Heart

By Nichola Torbett

Whenever an idea comes to me that does not a) make me look heroic (ego), b) have a high drama factor (also ego), or c) involve a whole pile of complex work that I can lose myself in (addiction), I figure it is probably from God.

That was the case with the Share Your Stimulus initiative. It was right after my prayer time in late December, and I was reading a think-piece someone had posted on Facebook. The piece explained that the $600 stimulus checks that had just been approved by Congress were not effective at targeting relief to those who need it most—those who have lost jobs, don’t have bank accounts, don’t have a relationship with the IRS, don’t have mailing addresses, etc. In fact, many of those people would not get checks at all.

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