Wild Lectionary: The Very Edges of Your Field

wheat.jpgSeventh Sunday After the Epiphany

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am YHWH, your God.” (Lev 19.9-10)

By Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

More than any other biblical text, the book of Leviticus claims to express the direct voice of YHWH. Of the 160 uses of the phrase, “I am YHWH” in the Hebrew Bible, 49 uses are in Leviticus. And yet, the book may be among the least respected or understood scriptural texts. It is to this very chapter in Leviticus that Jesus turns when asked about the greatest commandments. Just a few verses down from the quote above we find: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Lev 19.18; cf. Mk 12.31). Indeed, not only Jesus, but also Paul and James—made into opponents of each other in the post-Reformation culture wars—cite Lev 19.9 as central to discipleship (Rom 13.9; Gal 5.14; James 2.8). Continue reading

Prophetic Moral Challenge

barberFrom the Intro to Rev. William Barber’s recent Op-Ed:

President Trump’s first appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast met awkward silence on Thursday (Feb 2) as he began his comments by touting ratings when he was on “The Apprentice.” Unpracticed in the public performance of piety, the candidate who was praised for “telling it like it is” made even his white evangelical base momentarily uneasy as he demonstrated the impotence of their religion to overcome his narcissism. Excused as a “baby Christian” during his campaign, the teen-like Trump continues to expose the hypocrisy of white evangelicalism.  Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Direct Laction

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 8.51.14 AM.png

The abandoned land from our Direct Laction in Camden, NJ

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany
by Andrea Ferich

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul’, and another, ‘I belong to Apollos’, are you not merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labour of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.     -1 Corinthians 3:1-9

A few years ago I lived for a decade in the Delaware River Watershed in Camden, NJ in an abandoned and contaminated landscape. Amidst the industrial collapse we planted orchards and took literal and symbolic action to reclaim the landscape. The reading from 1 Corinthians calls to mind the watering, the planting, the miracles and milk that were poured onto the land. Here is an excerpt from our “Direct Laction” to reclaim the land with milk, land that was not ready, nor suitable to grow food. Continue reading

Radical Friendship

radical-friendshipAn exclusive RadicalDiscipleship.Net interview with Ryan Newson, professor of religion, philosophy and ethics at Campbell University.  He is the author of Radical Friendship: The Politics of Communal Discernment, coming out on April 1.

RD: Describe how this project started.

RN: This project began during my doctoral studies when I was immersed in Anabaptist theology and political theology, respectively. As I read Anabaptist theologians in depth, I was drawn to a communal form of reasoning about spiritual and moral questions that seemed to haunt that tradition—always lurking even if it was not always perfectly implemented. This picture of radical disciples drawing near one another in order to figure out what God would have them do, or who God would have them be, was magnetic. It reminded me of the form of Christianity that had always appealed to me, and that I had seen practiced by house churches in Camden, NJ, and New Monastic communities in Durham, NC, and Catholic Worker communities in Silk Hope, NC. In particular, I was attracted to the way in which this practice had the potential to guide communities into new waters without fear, acquiescence, or retreat. It certainly carried much more power, it seemed to me, than the way many of my fellow Christians approached questions of discernment: through a wooden, legalistic application of scripture. Continue reading

Sermon: Stories of Salt and Light

Anneke_jans.jpg

Anna Jansz

By Katerina Friesen, February 5th, 2017, Fellowship of Hope Mennonite Church

Matthew 5:13-20

In recent sermons and reflections here at Fellowship of Hope, we’ve pondered how Jesus’ wisdom teachings and the way of the cross are foolishness to the world. Foolishness, to love our enemies. Foolishness, to be persecuted and blessed. Foolishness, that those who hunger and thirst are the highly favored ones. Yet this foolishness is the wisdom of God that we are given to chew on, the bread of life. Today, we draw our attention to a crucial ingredient in bread baking, the seasoning of our dough: salt. Continue reading

The Anti-Trump

rileyBy Tommy Airey, a letter to his nephews who call him “Uncle Coo-Coo”

Riley and Mason,

I want so badly for you to grow up with a deep awareness of what it means to be “a real man.” You have a big advantage because you have parents and a Nawny who are committed to recovery: fearless and thorough in their commitments to mutual and rigorous honesty, to establishing boundaries and assertiveness and to pursuing gentleness with themselves and others in the process.  They have been important models in my own journey of re-claiming open-heartedness and emotional expressiveness.

Unfortunately, the man who gets the most attention, who you will see over and over on TV and the internet, whose name you will hear about more than any other man on the planet is a President who lives off a steady diet of name-calling and fear-mongering, who paints those from south of the border as “criminals” and “rapists” and says if refugees from Muslim-majority countries “are allowed in, it’s death and destruction!,” who magnifies deeply ingrained racial stereotypes of inner-cities as “in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested),” whose whole ethos is shaped by bullying and “locker room talk” and whose policies favor the securing of enormous profits for a few over relieving the suffering of everyday people. Continue reading

Sermon: Grounded in the Bedrock of Faith

beatitutudesBy Joyce Hollyday. January 29, 2017,
Circle of Mercy, Asheville, NC

Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:1-12

On the night of January 19th, the eve of the inauguration, several of us from Circle of Mercy’s immigration mission group gathered at the home that Bill and I share. We kept a vigil in the tradition of the Watch Night Service.

Watch Night is typically traced back to New Year’s Eve of 1862, when enslaved communities stayed up all night waiting for the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect on January 1st. When I was collecting oral histories among African-American UCC churches during my time as an associate conference minister, I was told that the custom is actually much older—that enslaved families stayed up every New Year’s Eve, because January 1st was when masters decided whom they would sell off. Families facing the imminent threat of separation spent all night singing and praying and hoping that they would be together for another year. Continue reading