We Flesh

From Toni Morrison’s Beloved. This is the sermon that Baby Suggs gives one Saturday, sitting in the Clearing while the people waited among the trees. The Clearing was “a wide-open place cut deep in the woods nobody knew for what at the end of a path known only to deer and whoever cleared the land in the first place.”


Here in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs,

flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard.

Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it.

They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out.

No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it.

And O my people they do not love your hands.

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Freeing God to be God

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Pastor Emeritus, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ

The Spirit of God brings peace, consolation, and perspective in times of personal and collective trauma and tragedies. Having served as a public and parish Christian pastor for over four decades, I have counseled, listened to, cried with people, and have come to know the power of God for uplift, hope, and comfort. I have also known and experienced how God can be used for hurt, ridicule, diminishment, oppression, and exclusion. I have witnessed the goodness of God, and the hurt inflicted on people by human pronouncements of God. I have seen God used for both good and bad, and for liberation and oppression. It is all in the interpretation of God and claims of “truth.”

People seek “truth” in life, after-life, and for living right, and deeply desire to live on the right-side of the “truth”. People come to faith experiences seeking encouragement, strength, and “truth” for living. This is the reason the “Golden Rule” manifests itself in so many forms, ‘Do to others as you would have them to do to you’, and is core to so many faith traditions. However, unfortunately, there are political and economic structures, such as monarchs, empires, forms of governments, and individuals that have deliberately manipulated the concept of God towards material and political ends. They have seized on the desire for “truth” among the masses, by reshaping and remolding the concept of God into materialistic and nationalistic loyalties. Divinity is often exploited and manipulated to maintain systems of power, protect the status-quo by offering equations of absolutism forcing almost slavish obedience upon masses of people who only seek to live in “truth”, and on the correct side of God. Political leaders and governments create a central narrative of God that becomes a form of political orthodoxy, just like faith traditions create orthodoxies. Those who question this authority and its absolutism are criticized, ostracized, ridiculed, villainized, and often killed for endangering the existent order of things. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, was lionized for civil rights, but villianized for his critique of the war in Vietnam. He had violated the political orthodoxy.  

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The Reality

By Chava Redonnet, the pastor of Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church which meets in the dining room of the Rochester Catholic Worker. This is the bulletin for Sunday, January 8, 2022.                                            

Dear Friends,

On New Year’s morning, I woke up knowing what the day would hold: Second Christmas, celebrating with the family members who couldn’t make it on Christmas because of the weather. I was surprised to realize that although I was very much looking forward to time with my family, the thought of another Christmas dinner left me feeling…  unenthusiastic.  As the day went on, texting with my daughters, I realized I was not alone in that. Feeling some mounting stress, I finally texted a list of everything our family has been through in the past two months. Four of us had covid. Three job changes. Two moves, two blizzards, two missed holidays, two surgeries and a car accident. Everyone in the family has had one or more major events happen. We are exhausted! So I pointed that out, and our need for a low-key day. “We’re not going to make up for all that today,“ I said. We changed our dinner plans and ordered pizza.

In the end we had a lovely day, and enjoyed being together. We told stories, we laughed. The pizza was delicious, and no one seemed to miss the fancier meal we had planned. We downsized our expectations and that turned out to be the best thing we could have done.

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The Quelling Word: Emancipation is Still Coming

By Ken Sehested

Written against the backdrop of New Year’s Eve services, 1862, when African Americans gathered to await news of US President Abraham Lincoln’s promised Emancipation Proclamation. Inspired by Revelation 21:1-6a, lectionary text for the New Year’s Eve Watch Night service.

The angel breaks with Heaven’s hail!

from Joy’s horizon on every weary heart,

amid that unruly, precarious land beyond

where cheery sentiment stalls and merry,

bright roads end. Now, in terrain beyond all

mapping, the adventure begins. No warranty

reaches this far. Creature comforts here are

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Something Else

By Tommy Airey

Thirty years ago this month, I packed up my car and left Loyola Marymount University. I was a freshman on a full-ride basketball scholarship. I drove home. Just fifty-five minutes south on the 405 freeway. Back to Orange County. I left LMU because I was miserable – and I was nineteen. I struggled to emotionally connect with our head coach who tried hard to be funny (but wasn’t) and whose favorite word was “horseshit” – always used as a descriptor for either our team or one of our players. Sometimes it was aimed at me. I did not have a clue how to metabolize what was going on inside of me. It’s just not what young men who change in locker rooms are equipped to do.

Our team – half-Black and half-white in the immediate aftermath of the L.A. uprising – bonded during preseason fitness conditioning. Coach made it clear that, before official practice started in October, everyone had to run a mile in under five minutes. Together. If anyone didn’t make it, everyone would have to wake up at 6am every morning and run it again. Together. Until everyone could do it. At the same time. We had guys who were 6’9” and weighed 240 lbs. We had other guys who never failed to miss the fraternity keg party. We all ran a sub-five-minute-mile on our first attempt. This is one of the reasons I believe in miracles.   

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Five Books: Johari Jabir

In this Radical Discipleship exclusive series, we are asking radical Christian leaders one question.

What are the five books or authors that have seriously shaped your spiritual life?

This is how Johari Jabir answered.

Just Above My Head, James Baldwin

Beloved, Toni Morrison

Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communist During the Great Depression, Robin D.G. Kelley 

The Communism of Love: An Inquiry into the Poverty Exchange Value, Richard G. Opalsky 

The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel 

Johari Jabir is an artist, scholar, and contemplative. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Johari is director of music at St. George & St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Chicago, IL, and he teaches in the department of Black Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago. His first book, Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Gospel Army of the Civil War (Ohio State University Press, 2017), is a cultural history of the nation’s first Black regiment, the 1st South Carolina Volunteers.

Five Books: Sarah Nahar

In a Radical Discipleship exclusive series, we are asking radical Christian leaders one question. What are the five books or authors that have seriously shaped your spiritual life? We asked Sarah Nahar, a recent recipient of the 2022 AMBS Alumni Ministry and Service Award. This is how she answered.

I actually read a lot of articles, short quotes, anthologies, and social media posts. That is where I get my spiritual digests from people I trust. But if I picked some books they would be:

1. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza  by Gloria Anzaldua

2. Justice and only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation by Naim Ateek

3. The Movement Makes Us Human: An Interview with Vincent Harding by Joanna Shenk

4. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone

5. anything and everything by bell hooks, start with Feminism is for Everybody. Yes! This was a book that had a profound spiritual impact on me when I read it before entering college as part of the mandatory reading list.

Sarah Nahar, M.Div (from Elkhart, Indiana Potawatomi traditional land) is a PhD student at Syracuse University. Her research focus is on the toilet, both the ritual and receptacle. Other interests include working on dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery, community organizing, and capoeira.

Peace on Earth and the Politics of Christmas



Saturday morning, December 3

10:30 am EST

Much of the Christian church in the United States has been co-opted by an American gospel of prosperity, racism, violence, and militant nationalism. The celebration of Christmas is a victim of that co-optation: It is wrapped in innocent, Hallmark-card imagery. But in fact the biblical texts describing the coming of Jesus are making powerful assertions about the politics of the Bible that speak very much to our contemporary global crises.

In this virtual class, we will reflect on the “nativity narratives” in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to see how they express core biblical themes of justice and liberation. We will “un-domesticate” these tales of liberation and reflect on how they are truly challenging us to a revolutionary discipleship. This program will be broadcast via Zoom. It will be facilitated by Will O’Brien, coordinator of The Alternative Seminary. A perfect event for Advent.

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