Between Red Bird Songs and Brown Squirrel “Skalds”: Learning from the Poetry Outside My Door

By Jim Perkinson, a sermon for St. Peter’s Episcopal, a riff on Luke 12:22-31 for “Animal Sunday” in the Season of Creation Readings: Year C

I woke up this morning an old man—an experience recurrent over recent months here at the far end of pandemic shifts in life and schedule and interaction.  I have not the energy I had before my classrooms miniaturized from a 20 by 30 ft space of animated bodies to a 12 by 15 inch screen flattened into pixelated colors and shapes.  I cannot strut and gesture, advance and retreat with my ideas taking on flesh and then resounding, reverberating, up-thrusting like rock or quieting like mist in the rhythmic back and forth of in-person engagement.  My body is bereft and grieving.  And that grief is but a minute fragment of what ghosts my bones now, as I become ever more aware of what I have lost—not just in recent years, but recent centuries and indeed millennia, that yet echo as traces and sighs, unspoken and unspeakable in my veins and hair, my nose and ear—ancestors that whisper and pulse and haunt, whose own grief and jubilation has no anatomical muscle adequate to its tones and cadence. 

Continue reading “Between Red Bird Songs and Brown Squirrel “Skalds”: Learning from the Poetry Outside My Door”

Prodigal Prodigality Versus Village Party: On Not Killing the Fatted Calf

By Jim Perkinson

One of the effects of the irruption of Global South thought into Global North theology in the last half century is a re-reading of the bible from within the experience of poverty.  Not least among the new insights occasioned by this re-reading is that concerning the parables.  Scholars like Walter Wink and William Herzog and popular cultural educators like Ched Myers have made us aware that such folk stories, read in social context rather than spiritualized and universalized, have the character of political cartoons.  Rather than allegories offering us characterizations of God or Jesus, they are better understood as politically-coded riddles, inviting their hearers to judge for themselves the situations they find themselves in.  In 1st century Palestine among an oppressed people, they often served a function of consciousness-raising, provoking peasant listeners to dare risk thinking and voicing their own interpretation of events and discover their own wisdom.  Only indirectly and obliquely do the parables speak about God, and then only by way of unmasking domination and uncovering the cry of anguish it silences.  The results of such a contextual reading can be startling. 

Continue reading “Prodigal Prodigality Versus Village Party: On Not Killing the Fatted Calf”

Dirt Clods for Love

By Nichola Torbett, a sermon re-posted from The Longing is the Compass (September 6, 2022)

I was honored to preach the following sermon at Skyline Congregational Church, UCC, on September 4, 2022. The focus scripture was Luke 14: 25-33.

That subtitle comes from a quote from Carl Jung, from a part of his Red Book in which he was describing his spiritual journey. He says, “In my case, Pilgrim’s Progress consisted in my having to climb down a thousand ladders until I could reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am.”

[Invite people to visualize this in a little guided meditation–descending the ladders, the clod of earth that is myself. Notice sensations in the body, emotions (grief? fear? relief?), resistance.]

I think this “dirt clod” image provides us with a key to this very challenging text from the gospel of Luke.

Continue reading “Dirt Clods for Love”

The Way Costs Exactly Everything

BabelBy Wes Howard-Brook & Sue Ferguson Johnson, a commentary on this weekend’s Gospel text, re-posted from September 1, 2016

It is no mystery who Luke’s audience is in this week’s Gospel (14.25-33): “For which of you, intending to build a tower (Gk, purgon)…” (14.28). Clearly, this is not a building plan envisioned by landless peasants, lepers and other poor and marginalized people. Luke is speaking here to the young elite of the Roman Empire, seeking to instill in them the cost of rejecting their imperial formation and choosing Jesus’ Way of discipleship. Continue reading “The Way Costs Exactly Everything”

Living The Gospel Revolution

Another compelling offering from The Alternative Seminary

The Sermon on the Mount: Living the Gospel Revolution in Our World Today

EIGHT-WEEK ONLINE CLASS

Thursdays, September 15 – November 10

7:00 – 9:00 pm EST

(NOTE: No class on October 20)

The times we live in seem apocalyptic – war and violence, political extremism and rising authoritarianism, staggering disparities of wealth, ecocide.  Meanwhile, much of the church in the United States (and around the world) is increasingly succumbing to a militant and dangerous Christian nationalism.

Continue reading “Living The Gospel Revolution”

Sabbath Economics

By Ched Myers (above, at the US/Mexico border), a commentary on Luke 12:13-21, reposted from the BCM July 2022 E-News

Note: The comments (and slides) below were crafted for the Los Angeles Catholic Worker community this month. The lectionary reading for the 8th Sunday in Pentecost (July 31st) features the unequivocal, doesn’t-mince-words Jesus offering a warning tale about persons and systems. Those of us who come from economic and social privilege should pay special attention to this passage. So we offer this piece (part of my new book project entitled Jesus against Plutocracy: Sabbath Economics in Luke’s Gospel)…

When we approach this text we need to acknowledge that economics is exceedingly difficult to talk about in most of our churches, more taboo than politics or sex. Jesuit theologian John Haughey summarized the dilemma. Yet no aspect of our individual and corporate lives is more determinative of our personal and political world than economics—and few subjects are more frequently addressed in our scriptures.

To read the rest, click here!

Back It Up

By Tommy Airey

The year George Floyd and I were born, Paul Simon came out with a song called “American Tune.” Simon sung it to the melody of a Medieval Christian hymn. It hummed on the heavy, confusing mood of the country, caught up in the Watergate scandal and the bloody Vietnam conflict. It concludes with these verses.

We come on the ship they call The Mayflower.
We come on the ship that sailed the moon.
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune.

Last week, fifty years later, “American Tune” made an appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. But this time, it was sung by Rhiannon Giddens, a banjo-playing woman in her forties boasting Black, Native and white ancestry. Simon backed her up on acoustic and she tweaked the lyrics at the end.

We didn’t come here on the Mayflower.
We came on a ship on a blood red moon.
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune.

Continue reading “Back It Up”