By Ric Hudgens, re-posted with permission from social media

Sometimes we choose transition. Sometimes it’s thrust upon us. Either way it’s disorienting. But, as the great Walter Brueggemann reminds us, disorientation is one stage on the way to re-orientation. I’m feeling that on-the-way-in-betweenness.

Divorce, a stroke, a resulting move to a new place, and then of course the pandemic left me a bit traumatized. It’s not dramatic (not like some), but it’s substantial. I find unfamiliar fears and anxiety showing up in unfamiliar places.

I’ve also known “post-traumatic growth” which was the subject and the fruit of a recently completed doctoral project. So I’m still “growing” and have much to be thankful for, and I’m also disoriented – like when I was a teenager and every year outgrew my clothes.

I need God/Spirit/Meaning in new ways. The old pathways bore me. Familiar methods leave me feeling confused, curious, cautious, and a bit cranky. I’m walking like someone with new shoes that are not yet broken in. I think my heels are blistering a bit.

Continue reading “Re-tired.”

Entering the Womb Again: A Sermon for Straight Males (and Everyone Else)

By Jim Perkinson, a sermon for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, Michigan (March 5, 2023)

Last week Carvan asked me “What’re you gonna preach on!”  I said something like, “I don’t know yet—we’ll see.”  Only partially truthful—but human “knowing” is always a work in progress and for a 71-year old man, more like a bird flitting “now here, now gone,” than a rock sitting hard and fast on the ground.  But the response was also a way of keeping the door open, letting the wind in, as the gospel today retorts, making womb-space for new seeds to plant themselves and grow.  And sure enough, a new seed showed its face on the very morning of my beginning to sprout whatever it was I was going to say.  And contrary to our modern dried up relations with the plant world, seeds do have faces.  So, I will start there.

The New York Times this past Friday had a feature on the most recent museum display of Wangechi Mutu, Kenya artist straddling the Atlantic like her people have been made to do for 500 years now, crafting pain into vision, trauma into beauty, haunting and clairvoyant.  She sees the past and future all in one glimpse.  And opens the sight for any who would dare look.  But only, as John enjoins, if you are willing to be “born again.”               Am I?  Are you?  Hmmmm . . .

Continue reading “Entering the Womb Again: A Sermon for Straight Males (and Everyone Else)”

God’s Competition with Race, Gender and Nationalism

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler

“O say can you see,” stood in the place where God should be, and it didn’t wave but passively stood, planted, and seemingly unmovable across from the Christian flag, that is also red, white and blue. This is the scene in so many Christian houses of worship across the country. It serves as a reminder to the congregants that they are not only in America, but quietly and effectively offers the assertion that America is a Christian country, founded on Christian principles, and in order to be a good American necessitates being a Christian. Or, in the synagogue, on the Bimah, often stands two flags, an American one and the Star of David, that confirms not only American loyalty, but loyalty to another country, and to another political ideology. These symbols are not too subtle, and the implied message is God and country, and country or countries on the same level as God.

According to the theologies of the Judeo-Christian traditions there is no god greater than God, and there is this timeless struggle against idol worship in all its manifestations. We caution against worshipping money and riches, against pride and arrogance, we call for humility and the extension of love to our neighbors down the street and across the globe. We pray to keep God before us and above us, and seek to be accountable to that God. We strive to create a synthesis between our daily living and our worship, and seek to allow nothing to supplant the prominence of God in our lives. Yet, on these altars, these places that are set high and represents the loftiness and sacredness of God, stands symbols of nationalistic pride. They are placed in the place where the spirit and concept of God should reside, and we are therefore declaring that God must share sacred space with nationalistic symbols of pride, arrogance and militarism. Some would suggest that this is simply patriotism, but patriotism placed on the altar alongside the conceptional sacredness of God is the height of idolatry, and in Christian text we are taught,

Continue reading “God’s Competition with Race, Gender and Nationalism”

A Prayer of Freedom

An excerpt from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s classic Seasons of Faith and Conscience (1991), on the first temptation of Jesus in the wilderness: If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.

To undertake a lenten discipline, to fast or deny an appetite, is not to inflict some perverse self-punishment or to be justified by a religious act. It is a prayer of freedom: to loosen the bonds and to restore a right relation to the created order. It is so politically loaded because it breaks with the culture precisely at its main method of control.

If in his own fast Jesus is exercising a similar kind of freedom, the tempter manages to come back at a more subtle level. The temptation is to power because more than Jesus’ own needs are at issue. Can there be any doubt that in his aching need he intercedes for all those who are hungry? He bears all who suffer poverty and want. Can there be doubt that he wants justice so bad he can taste it? He hungers after righteousness.

The sharing of bread is intimately entangled with the ministry of Jesus. It is the great sign and metaphor of the kingdom. I have a friend who says if you can read the gospels without getting hungry then you’re not paying attention. The ministry reads like a gigantic floating potluck. From the opening wedding feast to to the feeding of the multitudes, by way of banquet parables or eating with tax collectors and sinners, through the last supper and the resurrection meals. Jesus can be seen with bread in his hands – blessing, breaking, offering, partaking.

A Call to Gospel Nonviolence

Another compelling event from Will O’Brien of the Alternative Seminary in Philly.

Dear friends, 

I am reaching out to many friends and colleagues of the Alternative Seminary with a request that you help promote our upcoming program.

We are once again doing the special Advent program, “The Cross of Christ: Justification for Redemptive Violence or a Call to Gospel Nonviolence?” on Saturday, February 25.

As those of you who have participated in the past know, the program offers a critique of how atonement theology has bred terrible suffering by offering a vision of sacred violence that justifies actual violence, especially again women and minority communities. Starting with resituating Jesus’s crucifixion in historical context, we explore how the cross can be seen as a symbol of nonviolent resistance to oppressive powers. The themes continue to be urgent, especially with the rise of Christian nationalism, in this country and around the world.

Continue reading “A Call to Gospel Nonviolence”

The Birth of Aya – Harbinger of of Lent’s Staggering Promise

By Ken Sehested

The birth of Aya – Harbinger of Lent’s staggering promise
Reflecting on the implausible news of finding an infant—alive, literally born amid the earthquake’s rubble

§ § §

Invocation. “When in the dark orchard at night / The God Creator kneeled and prayed / Life was praying with the One / Who gave life hope and prayer.” —English translation of lyrics from “Wa Habibi” (performed by Fairuz), a Christian hymn of the Syriac/Maronite rite. Also known as the Mother’s Lament, the hymn has been performed every year on Good Friday.

§ § §

It is staggering news: The birth of a baby girl, born as her mother, father, and four siblings lay crushed among the earthquake rubble of a five-story apartment building in northern Syria. When rescuers found her, they had to cut the umbilical cord attaching her to her mother, who died sometime in the 10 hours between the building collapse and the rescue.

Continue reading “The Birth of Aya – Harbinger of of Lent’s Staggering Promise”

Meek Ain’t Weak

By Tommy Airey

I am someone who spends a lot more time casting a vision for what’s coming next than composting what’s already happened. It is both a gift – and a growth edge. I am learning that the more I slow down and process the particulars of my suburban past, the more I can subvert the sources that scripted my supremacy. One of those old sources was Gene, the father of one of my best friends. He was a passionate and playful pillar of the community. He was also a purveyor of patriarchy – and he had a profound impact on my early years.

Gene dismissed the perspectives of women with a warm smile and a witty joke. He made it clear that he believed that women were the weaker sex. Why? Because the bible says so. One time, when we were teenagers, Gene read us the passage from I Peter that says that wives must accept the authority of their husbands and that real women – biblical women – should stop obsessing over outward appearances, and instead embrace the lasting beauty of a meek and quiet spirit.

When I started studying the original languages of the bible in seminary, I learned that the word meek, in Greek, is praus, pronounced prah-ooce’. It is a divine strength soaked in gentleness, confidence, humility and open-heartedness. The irony is that Jesus used it to describe himself, not women. Jesus was a Palestinian Jewish rabbi who empowered people who were oppressed by professional religion and Roman culture. Jesus preached that God reigns not from the perches of the powerful, but from within the hearts of weary and burdened people.

The message of Jesus, according to Howard Thurman, focused on the urgency of a radical change in the inner attitude of his people. They had access to divine power and agency. It was rooted in how they responded whenever provoked by their oppressors. Thurman wrote that humility – not fear, hypocrisy or hatred – is the best defense against everything intended to humiliate. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,” Jesus said, “for I am praus and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Continue reading “Meek Ain’t Weak”

May We Be Solidarious

By Rev. Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola, re-posted from Enfleshed

We must be solidarious, meaning one with everybody, with the care of the planet, and we must be willing to accompany people’s movements for their rights, justice, peace. And so I put my education and my experience and my commitment to that service.” – Rev. Marta Benavides

I heard a podcast once about humpback whales saving a seal from an orca attack.* One of the whales swam belly up, and put the seal on its belly. When it seemed like the seal might slip off during their escape, the whale would raise a fin to guide the seal back onto its belly.* Humpback whales have been recorded saving other animals, like sunfish and seals, from orca attacks. And scientists can’t agree on why. Some speculate that they may be instinctually wired to interfere with orca attacks because, in doing so, they might save a humpback whale calf. So in their act of trying to help their own family or community get free, they inadvertently help others get free.

10 years ago, I met Rev. Marta Benavides through Churches Witnessing with Migrants (CWWM). In El Salvador, she journeyed alongside Archbishop Oscar Romero. When sharing her experiences and expertise, she would occasionally bring up this concept of being solidarious – “We must be ‘solidarious’ as one vs be ‘in solidarity’ with other’s interests.”*

Continue reading “May We Be Solidarious”