The Gospel According to Rizpah

A sermon from Dr. Wil Gafney (right), October 17, 2021) on 2 Samuel 21:1-14; Psalm 58; Revelation 6:9-11; Luke 6:43-45

*Re-posted from Dr. Gafney’s website. Click here to watch or listen to the video.

Yesterday, we talked about the women’s stories in scripture that we do and do not hear taught and preached. Sometimes we don’t hear stories of women because their pieces are scattered like breadcrumbs throughout the scriptures and it takes a major archaeological excavation to gather all of those pieces together and far too many preachers say, “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Well, I got time today.

Let us pray: May the preached word draw you deeper into the written word and kindle in you the matchless love of the incarnate word. Amen.

Before the mothers of the Black Lives Matter movement, there was Rizpah. Before the mothers of women and men and children swinging in the southern breeze as strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees, there was Rizpah. Before the mothers of the Maafa, the African-Atlantic holocaust, there was Rizpah.

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On the “Blind” Following the “Blind”

BartimaeusBy Ched Myers, for the 22nd Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 10:46-52), originally posted in October 2015

Right: A relief sculpture of the healing of Bartimaeus by artist/minister Charles McCollough, done in honor of our ministry at BCM (at right is the rich man and one of Jesus’ disciples).
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Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015. This is a longer post because Sunday represents the feast day of “St. Bartimaeus,” whose story has accompanied Ched through his entire ministry (see second half of the post).

In this culminating episode of Mark’s “discipleship catechism,” there is one more polemical role reversal to shock our propriety, and one more blind man healed to give us hope (compare Mk 8:22-26). On the outskirts of Jericho, the final stop before arriving in Jerusalem, we encounter a beggar sitting “beside the Way” (10:46). Bartimaeus will provide a dramatic contrast to the previous two stories of “non-discipleship”—the rich man’s refusal and the disciples’ ambitions—and will symbolize for Mark the “true follower.” Continue reading “On the “Blind” Following the “Blind””

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Facing Apocalypse with Eloquence

By Jim Perkinson, a sermon for Detroit Unitarian Universalist Church (9-26-21)

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Climate Catastrophe Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Voter Suppression Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Collapse Health Care with Cavalier

COVID Response Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Right Wing Authoritarianism Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Billionaire On-the-Take Booty Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Flee to Mars If You Are Elon Musk

 Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: You Fill In the Blank—What Time Is

It For You!

This title question was a favorite litmus test query any time someone met with the late great Eastside Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs over the last ten years of her extraordinary life.  In vernacular counterpoint to Boggs’ more philosophical probe, garbage-art impresario Tyree Guyton of Heidelberg Project fame—also on the Eastside—festoons many of the trees of his bright throbbing block with clocks whose hands salute the hours every which way.  Each asks outside the politesse of our typical interactions, what hour do you think it is—really?  

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The Spirits of the Lynched

By Dwight L. Wilson, originally posted to Facebook on October 3, 2021

I have been a social activist since my first marches before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In this week alone, I was involved in on-going projects in separate cities with police oversight, warrant resolution, and public health; in the county I worked on environmental protection; nationwide with responsible gun control.

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The Subversion of Hierarchical Power

zebedeeBy Ched Myers, for the 21st Sunday in Pentecost (Mark 10:32-45), originally posted in 2015

Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015.

The last cycle of the discipleship catechism begins, as did the previous story of the rich man, “on the Way.” Here the journey is finally revealed as headed to Jerusalem, the place of final confrontation with the Powers (10:32a). Jesus “goes before” the discipleship community, who are amazed and afraid (10:32b). This snapshot will be important to remember at the end of the story, where at the empty tomb we are told that Jesus “goes before” disciples who are both afraid and “ecstatic” (16:7f).
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All the time in the world

A sermon by Bill Wylie-Kellermann
Given at the Homecoming Service at North Central College, Naperville, IL commemorating 50 years since graduating in 1971.

“To a Young Activist” A Reading from the Letter of Thomas Merton to Jim Forest:

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the righteousness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

Gospel Reading: Luke 4: 16-21

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,    
to bring good news to the poor,
Sent me to proclaim release to the captives  
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

In the Name of the One who was, who is, and is to come, Let all of this be…

All of us, to one extent or another can identify with the Homecoming of Jesus to Nazareth – returning to where he began. He’s back to the shul where he learned Hebrew and its texts, back to his synagogue, from which, first as an infant, then as a young person, he made the pilgrimages to Jerusalem. On one occasion to sit with the rabbis and learn from them; or if Luke has it right to astound and teach them.

I’ll wager another pilgrimage in his student days: to the ruins of

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Blistering Hope

By Ken Sehested, the curator of Prayer & Politiks

Given the quivering state of our body politic, assailed from every side, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to sustain hope by way of persevering toil. As Daniel Berrigan once noted, the struggle for justice, the pursuit of peace, the advocacy of human rights in all their varied shape and kind, is sometimes “like pulling a piano through a plowed field.”

Thinking on these things, I remembered an older poem written from my years as a stone mason, “Blistering hope.”

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Blistering Hope

A stonemason’s meditation on perseverance

When cutting capstone, carefully measured, from a larger block with nothing but hammer and chisel, you come to know the necessity of blister-raising toil to achieve envisioned result.

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The Call of the Rich Man as a Text of Terror

JesusBy Ched Myers, for the 20th Sunday in Pentecost (Mark 10:17-31), originally posted on October 8, 2015

Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015. This post is 2-3 times longer than previous ones because of the importance of this text to our struggle to be disciples within a capitalist culture.
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The story of Jesus and the rich man lies at the crossroads of Mark’s narrative. From here Jesus will turn toward Jerusalem, a destination of confrontation with the Powers that evoked dread and denial among his disciples then (10:32) as now. But the encounter between Jesus and this affluent gentleman represents a theological crossroad as well.
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Reading Jesus and the Rich Man on Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Redistributive Justice and a Discipleship of Decolonization

Saskatoon Catholic cathedral doors, where Indigenous activists have planted red handprints to remind us of the children whose graves are now being discovered at Indian Residential Schools.

In preparation for Indigenous People’s Day on October 11, we share this edited excerpt from Elaine Enns & Ched Myers, Healing Haunted Histories: A Settler Discipleship of Decolonization(Cascade, 2021), pp 275, 281f.

Christians are too often responsible for injecting what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” into public conversations that seek to reckon with historical violations through reparations. Our sentimentality would presume to resolve centuries of oppression with ritual apologies. But healing historical injustices and violence requires systemic transformation, not rhetorical contrition. The problem is, the culture of capitalism in North America has few ethical resources that consider seriously wealth or power redistribution of any kind, much less as reparation. Indeed, redistributive justice as a concept is roundly condemned as heretical here.

But the biblical imaginary can reinvigorate our political imagination. As an example, let us reread the infamous gospel story of Jesus and the rich man—the Revised Common Lectionary’s gospel reading for 10/10/21—with our eye on Indigenous Peoples’ Day (10/11/21). 

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Love Reckons with the Past

An excerpt from Kiese Laymon’s classic 2015 essay “Black Churches Taught Us to Forgive White People. We Learned to Shame Ourselves,” published in the wake of the white supremacist mass murder at Emanuel AME in Charleston, SC

Many of us have made a life of hoping to get chosen for jobs, chosen for awards, chosen for acceptance from people, structures and corporations bred on white supremacy. We’re hoping to get chosen by people who can not see us. Knowing that they hate and terrorize us doesn’t stop us from wanting to get chosen. That’s the crazy thing. Everything about this country told Grandma, a black woman born in Central Mississippi in 1920s, to love, honor and forgive white folks. And this country still tells me, a black boy born in Mississippi in the 1970s, to titillate and tend to the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of white people in my work.

I told my Grandma that we should have chosen ourselves. I tell her that we should have let us in. We should have held each other, and fallen in healthy love with each other, instead of watching shame make parts of us disappear.

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