I pledge allegiance…

by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

Oh say can you see by the dawns early light,
the dew left as gift upon the spider’s glistening web?

And at twilight’s last gleaming,
care not for stars and stripes,
but walk slowly waiting for the racoon to rise from slumber
and the great horned owl to begin his search.

Pledge not your allegiance to the flag,
but lie down in the grass and
whisper your unwavering allegiance
to the grasshopper and morel
who share the same rainfall
and will one day be mixed in
with the soil of our bodies
offering land to rest upon for future generations
of maples and earwigs and children.

Where is the liberty and justice
for the imprisoned?
for those sleeping below underpasses?
for those wandering heat waves and wading through floods?
for those living in the bombed out rubble?
for the vanishing insects and songbirds?

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Building a Tomb

Image credit: Compost artists Mindful Waste, Lilly Lawrence, Yehuda Arye Potaznik, Jerry Ingeman, Em Jacoby, and LiAnn Grahm.

By Justin Eisinga, published in Geez magazine’s Signs of Dawn

The stench of death is nearly impossible to contain when organic matter is left to decompose in the open air. If you live on or near a farm, this principle is one you encounter on a regular basis. But you do not need to be a farmer to understand that the scent of decomposition means something altogether wonderful is occurring. The smell of rotting food is a sign of life, indicating that intricate processes involving bacteria and fungi are at work. For people who compost, it is also an emblem of future food on the table – for the result of these processes contributes to the health of the soil in our gardens.

Compost, at its core, resembles a Shakespearean tragedy, as two lovers find themselves intertwined at their death. To generate healthy compost, two elements are required: carbon and nitrogen. We contribute these elements to our compost piles when we dump our green waste (in the form of food scraps and plants) and introduce it to our brown waste (dead leaves or straw). In their last days, the disintegration of these two types of matter introduces these foundational elements into the intricate dance of death and decay.

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The Tale of Two Women: The Priority of the Marginalized

By Ched Myers, for the 5th Sunday of Pentecost (Mk 5:21-43) 

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. 

In Mark’s tale of the Gerasene Demoniac (Mk 5:1-20), Jesus brings dramatic liberation to a man “occupied” by the spirit of Legion (i.e. Roman imperialism) on the Gentile side of the Sea of Galilee. Frustratingly, this powerful story is again deftly avoided by the Revised Common Lectionary (but you can read my comments on it here in “Sea-Changes: Re-Imagining Exodus Liberation as an ‘Exorcism’ of Imperial Militarism” in Challenging Empire: God, Faithfulness and Resistance, edited by Naim Ateek et al, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center)Jesus then returns across the sea to “Jewish” territory (5:21), where the next episode dramatizes how the poor were given priority in the ministry of Jesus. Mark 5:22-43 is yet another example of “sandwich-construction,” which wraps a story within a story in order to compel the reader to interrelate the two. The setting of the first half of this narrative sequence seems to be the “crowd” itself (5:21,24,27,31). Jesus is approached by a synagogue ruler who appeals on behalf of his daughter, who he believes to be “at the point of death” (5:23). Jesus departs with him on this mission, and we fully expect this transaction will be completed. On his way, however, Jesus is hemmed in by the crowds (5:24).

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God’s Been Framed

By Nichola Torbett

This sermon was preached Sunday, June 6, 2021–the first Sunday of Queer Liberation Month–at First Congregational Church of Oakland. The focus scripture is Genesis 3: 8-15. You can also watch a video of the sermon here.

The scripture you just heard about Adam, Eve, and the snake is an origin story, and like all stories we tell about ourselves, it has been crafted to make us look a certain way. But before we get into that, I’m hoping that, no matter how you have thought about this dusty old story in the past, you can hear it afresh this morning.

And this time, I hope you can feel the cool of the evening breeze and hear the way it stirs the leaves on the trees and wafts the seeds to the ground to foment more life. I hope you can smell the flowers that have grown from the processed food of the worms and hear the buzz of the drowsy bees as they fertilize their last fruit of the night. This time I hope you notice the way the trees sigh out oxygen that the lions and lambs and hiding humans breath in, and the way the Egyptian plover cleans the teeth of the dozing crocodile, the way all of it works together. I hope you can feel the way the garden grows pregnant with presence as God moves in and that you can sense the yearning in God’s voice as God calls out “Where are you? Where are you?”

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Now Let Us Sing!

By Johari Jabir, Juneteenth 2021, originally posted on University of Chicago Divinity School’s Sightings website (June 17, 2021)

Now let us sing
Sing til the power of the Lord come down
Lift up your heads, don’t be afraid
Now let us sing til the power of the Lord come down.
(Gospel Song)

June 19, 2021 marks the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, the celebration enacted by formerly enslaved Africans who received official word of Emancipation on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.  Juneteenth combines June 19th, the empirical date of the announcement of emancipation with the “Day of Jubilee” from the Jewish Calendar. This significant reference to Jewish calendar has its roots in the ingenuity of enslaved Africans. Letting the soul journey into that sacred temporality where past, present, and future come together to form a Divine Diasporic sense of time, I connect this early history of how enslaved Africans drew inspiration from the children of Israel to the troubled but valuable Black/Jewish struggles of solidarity in the twentieth century.

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A Storm Blowing From Paradise…

By Ched Myers (4 Pentecost: MK 4:35-41)

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

This Sunday’s gospel text is the poignant story of Jesus and his disciples caught in a storm at sea, which threatens to drown them. It is a profound, archetypal scenario that Mark narrates twice (again in 6:45-52). Because today is the day that Pope Francis’ historic encyclical on climate crisis is being published, I will focus on how this appeal addresses the storm that is Climate Catastrophe. A month from now I will return to Mark’s sea stories for Pentecost 8 (on which day the Lectionary inexplicably hops over the second boat journey in its piecemeal gospel selection, which we’ll rectify!).

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She Wove Us Together

Linda Marie Thurston, August 7 1958 to May 23, 2021. Re-posted from her obituary site.

Linda Marie Thurston, who spent a lifetime forging connections between and among people, organizations, and ideas in peace and justice movements, passed away in her Brooklyn, NY home due to natural causes. She was 62 years young.

Linda was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on August 7, 1958, the oldest child of James Thurston Sr. and Barbara Thurston (née Oliver). She attended Classical High School and excelled academically, where, as she liked to tell it, a bet between guidance counselors led to Linda applying and being accepted to Harvard University. Linda graduated from Harvard in 1980 with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology where she was a student organizer against South African apartheid and was the president of the Black Community and Student Theater. After working for some years at the American Friends Service Committee, Linda took time out to attend grad school at Temple University where she obtained an M.A. in Sociology in 1994. 

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This is Not News

A re-post from Shelagh Rogers (Facebook, June 6, 2021), who helped facilitate the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada in 2015.

When we learned about the 215 Indigenous children buried on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School while in the care of Catholic clergy who ran the school, the Prime Minister shared this tweet:

“The news that remains were found at the former Kamloops residential school breaks my heart – it is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history. I am thinking about everyone affected by this distressing news. We are here for you.”

I want to parse the tweet out a little.

May I start with “The news”? I don’t understand how could this be news when a whole volume of the TRC report (V.4, 266 pages) is dedicated to children who did not come home? That volume is titled “Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials”. Have you read it, Prime Minister? It’s been out for 5 and 1/2 years. Is it required reading for all your ministers? I was there in December of 2015 when the full 6 volume TRC report was presented to you, Prime Minister. I was in the company of fellow TRC honorary witnesses from Coast Salish territory, Andrea Walsh and Chief Bobby Joseph.

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