The Inner Gesture of Dying

An excerpt from a longer piece by Brother David Steindl-Rast, re-posted from his piece “Learning to Die” in Parabola (February 29, 2016).

Most of what I have said simply means: let’s learn to die so that, when our last hour comes and if we are still alert to it, we will be able to die well. But at any rate let’s learn it, and that means let’s learn to give ourselves over and over again to that which takes us; let go of things, or rather give up as a mother gives up. Let go is a little too passive, it comes too close to letting down; giving up is the truly sacrificial gesture. So in many traditions you have this notion that throughout our lives we train for a right dying; and that means to train for flowing with life, for giving ourselves. And this suggests some more symptomatic idioms of taking and giving that show ways we can make the inner gesture of dying: giving thanks instead of taking for granted; giving up rather than taking possession: for-giving as, opposed to taking offense. What we take for granted does not make us happy; what we hold on to deteriorates in our grasp; what we take offense at we make into a hurdle we can’t get past. But in giving thanks, giving up, forgiving, we die here and now and become more fully alive.

The Crossings

TabghaBy Ched Myers, for the 8th Sunday of Pentecost (Mk 6:30-34, 45-56)

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

The lectionary melts down a little this week. On one hand, it inexplicably avoids the wilderness feeding (6:35-44), such that we get neither of Mark’s two versions of this tradition in Year B. Continue reading “The Crossings”

We are Saved in Wonder

Today, we celebrate the 200th episode of “The Word is Resistance,” a SURJ-Faith podcast. This is an excerpt from the transcript, words from Nichola Torbett. Click here to listen to the full episode: Justice and Peace Shall Kiss.

Now, I am grateful to my Jewish cantor friend, Shira Stanford-Asiyo, who taught me that “fearing God” in Hebrew actually means something more like “standing in awe before God” (or sitting or lying down in awe, if that’s what your body can do). In other words, we are saved in awe. We are saved in wonder. We are saved as we orient ourselves in grateful relationship to God and to the redwood tree and the dung beetle and the Milky Way, and every single person alive, including people we can’t see because they are incarcerated, they are in immigrant detention, they are living under the freeway, or they are on the other side of some border wall; we come to know ourselves in relationship to all of these.  We are saved as we feel deep in our bones, simultaneously how tiny we are, relative to this swirling starscape, and how beloved we are, all of us, by the Creator of all of it. There is no way to hold onto supremacy thinking in the face of all this. We come to realize that we know only a little, only what we can see from this tiny spot where we sit. We are saved in humility, the earthy cousin of awe. “Salvation is at hand for those who are in awe.”

Continue reading “We are Saved in Wonder”

Literally Being Unearthed

By Nick Estes, re-posted from his brilliant piece in The Guardian (June 30, 2021).

There is so much mourning Native people have yet to do. The full magnitude of Native suffering has yet to be entirely understood, especially when it comes to the nightmarish legacies of American Indian boarding schools. The purpose of the schools was “civilization”, but, as I have written elsewhere, boarding schools served to provide access to Native land, by breaking up Native families and holding children hostage so their nations would cede more territory. And one of the primary benefactors of the boarding school system is the Catholic church, which is today the world’s largest non-governmental landowner, with roughly 177 million acres of property throughout the globe. Part of the evidence of how exactly the church acquired its wealth in North America is literally being unearthed, and it exists in stories of the Native children whose lives it stole, which includes my own family. Click here to read the rest.

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).

Continue reading “The Tale of Two Women: The Priority of the Marginalized”

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?”

Continue reading “God’s Been Framed”

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!).

Continue reading “A Storm Blowing From Paradise…”

Sowing Hope

By Ched Myers, for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Mark 4:26-34)

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

This week the lectionary gives us the last third of Jesus’ parables sermon (hopping over the famous parable of the Sower and its allegorical interpretation, Mk 4:2-23). This section begins with a sober warning:

And he said to them, “Take heed what you hear: ‘The measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away’.” (Mk 4:24-25)

Mark’s Jesus cautions his audience to “beware” of the anti-Jubilary ideologies they hear from elites, which counsel resignation in the face of injustice (4:23). The assertion that the gulf between haves and have-nots will inevitably grow was the “realism” advanced by wealthy landowners to justify their privilege (4:24). These two verses are omitted by the lectionary portion, but in fact are the point to which the next two parables serve as radical counterpoint, as Jesus repudiates such rationalizations of economic stratification (in the spirit of another parable-spinner, Ezekiel, see Ez 18:1-9).

Continue reading “Sowing Hope”