Anchoring the Gospel Story in the Real World

JordanBy Ched Myers, the co-director of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (if you’ve been inspired and challenged by Ched’s posts this year following the lectionary, consider making an end-of-the-year donation to BCM, day in and day out, doing the work of radical discipleship)

Note: This is reposted from Ched’s occasional comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year C, 2015-16.  

The second and third Sundays of Advent focus on the ministry of John the Baptist, first locating him in the wilderness (2. Advent), then focusing in on his prophetic message (3. Advent). Following on his infancy (and young childhood) narrative about Jesus, Luke commences the gospel story proper. More than the other N.T. evangelist, Luke anchors his story in real political space, signaling that we ought not be afraid to do the same.
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“An Act of Prayer:” Dorothy Day’s Influence on Daniel Berrigan (and Even Vice Versa)

For the anniversary of her passing, (November 29)

Bill Wylie-Kellermann

(Reprinted from A Common Reader, a Journal of the Essay, Washington University, November 7, 2021)

“She lived as if the gospel were true.” Daniel Berrigan[1]

Dorothy Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness[2], was placed in my hands fifty years ago by Dan Berrigan, Jesuit poet and prophet of nonviolence. Fresh from federal prison for burning draft files as a protest against the U.S. war in Vietnam, he was my teacher at Union Seminary in New York, and then, in a way I’d not yet understood, my “spiritual director.” The book and conversation weekly over mint tea, were my first exposure, as a young Protestant, to Dorothy and her Catholic Worker movement of hospitality houses and nonviolent resistance.

In his own autobiography, Daniel has two extended reflections on Dorothy. The first is in childhood recollections, predicated simply on the regular presence of the Catholic Worker newspaper in their Minnesota home, but it reads from a view of that seed bursting full bloomed in his life. “She became my friend and the friend of my family; and the friendship was to spur our moral and spiritual development.”[3]

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Bodies Rest on This

Alanah Jewell & Luke Swinson, Detail of “Revival,” 2021, Digital Illustration, 11 x 14 inches.

By Fran Westwood. First published in Geez 62: Dismantling White Theology.

Outside in the street someone’s grandfather stoops,
sweat beads home to road dust. A bent hanger
rusted. Only a handful of bread. These mornings
not yet countries of belonging & from our apartment balcony

a survey of fraught provinces & city lines. The waters surrounding,
a borderlands. My people, we traffic in hunger: we know

& know & feast on knowing
& do not walk with, toward healing. I am still crossing

this street. Which is to say I weep for the living
as for the dead. Which is to say I have a thousand grandfathers

& they elder the streets, scattering bread for the bird – O ears,
bow. Seek what cannot be conjured. Only birthed

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I Would Just Ask People to Challenge Those Paradigms

By Cristina Yurena Zerr, an interview with Jessica Reznicek

“I need to believe that I will continue to contribute making this world a better place, no matter where I am.”

The U.S. climate activist Jessica Reznicek was sentenced to 8 years of prison for her protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. On August 13th she reported to prison in Wascea, Minnesota. In this interview, Jessica Reznicek shares how her Christian faith relates to her commitment to fighting injustice and violence.

What is your relationship to nature?

I grew up in close contact to nature: the river, the trees, the woods. I feel like that really helped to define what became a priority later in life.

My relationship with water in particular was very pronounced. We could swim in the water. There was no concern about health consequences at that time. But it is my understanding that we have mistreated my mother, our mother, in such severe ways that I grieve that deeply.

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Saved by Deathless Love

By Johari Jabir

Your ticket you must buy
No place for your soul to hide
You’ll be lost if you wait outside
You must be born again

“You Must Be Born Again,” As sung by Mahalia Jackson

But if one is to truly be born again
You would have to gouge out your eyes,
Cut out your tongue,
And grieve like a baby
That’s been snatched away

“Akel Dama” (Field of Blood), Me’Shell Ndegeocello

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks

The cornerstone of the Christian Church is founded on the premise that the suffering, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ is the door to the abundant life. Yet, the institutional Church in the United States has done everything in its power to avoid dying to new life. Some of the most important turning points in American democracy have taken place in response to Black social movements. Born out of Black labor organizing, these social movements have, at times, aligned with strains of the Black church to move the country to a critical crossroads. At such moments of social transformation, a conservative political block within the White Christian Church has succeeded in mobilizing fear against faith.

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A Liturgy for Removing the Flag from your Sanctuary

Konrad Summers CC, “Countries of the Cross,” Santa Clarita, California, 2008.

By Kerr Mesner, Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, and Kateri Boucher. First published in Geez 62: Dismantling White Theology.

May this symbolic action catalyze us into ever-deeper action to remove the nationalism and white supremacy still living in our communities and our world.

We hope that this liturgy can be used in both Canada and the United States (and indeed anywhere else), but we know that the histories and symbols are unique. Let this be an offering that can be edited, amended, altered, and made stronger in your own beloved community.

OPENING PRAYER
We gather in this sacred place,
declaring that symbols matter.
They reflect our dreams, our joy,
our courage, and our work.

We have come here today to remove
the flag from our worship space.
It is time. It is past time
to say that nationalism has
no place in our church.
Our allegiance belongs to God.

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Bound

By Tommy Airey

“The possessive investment in whiteness can’t be rectified by learning ‘how to be more antiracist.’ It requires a radical divestment in the project of whiteness and a redistribution of wealth and resources. It requires abolition, the abolition of the carceral world, the abolition of capitalism. What is required is a remaking of the social order, and nothing short of that is going to make a difference.”—Saidiya Hartmann

Fifty years before George Floyd moved to Minneapolis, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. got arrested in Birmingham. Dr. King, whose national holiday we now celebrate every January, was one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. However, like love itself, Dr. King has been sanitized. White folks and middle-class people have molded him into a meek and mild Black man devoted to a watered-down dream of politeness and patriotism. The real MLK took his cues from a bold biblical brand of love that beckoned him to break rank from a cozy and counterfeit middle-class life built on injustice and oppression.

During his short life, Dr. King was arrested 19 times—the same number of trips that Harriet Tubman made back to the South after she escaped to freedom. While King was in that Birmingham jail cell, he wrote a long letter to white pastors on the margins of a newspaper and smuggled it out to get it published. It is one of the greatest documents ever produced in American history. In it, Dr. King articulated a profound spiritual conviction that serves as the basis for a biblical conspiracy—a life built on belovedness and belongingness.

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We Need the Funk

Catalina Vásquez, “Celebrating LGTBIQ+ Pride by Dejusticia,” 2020.

By Lynice Pinkard and Nichola Torbett. This article first appeared in Geez 62: Dismantling White Theology.

The two of us have kicked off countless antiracism and anti-oppression trainings by asserting, not half in jest, that “diversity trainings ruin well-meaning white people.”

But it’s not the trainings, really. It’s the whole moralistic ethos that focuses on getting everything right and avoiding what is wrong: Never use this word. Always use that word. Say “BIPOC,” not “people of colour.” Never cry in a mixed group. Intervene in instances of oppression, but remember that you are not a saviour. Speak up and stand up, but also, step back and yield the mic. These injunctures yield stiff, stilted white people who may successfully “perform” antiracism for limited periods of time but have little capacity for joy or genuine relationship across lines of difference.

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All the time in the world

A sermon by Bill Wylie-Kellermann
Given at the Homecoming Service at North Central College, Naperville, IL commemorating 50 years since graduating in 1971.

“To a Young Activist” A Reading from the Letter of Thomas Merton to Jim Forest:

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the righteousness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

Gospel Reading: Luke 4: 16-21

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,    
to bring good news to the poor,
Sent me to proclaim release to the captives  
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

In the Name of the One who was, who is, and is to come, Let all of this be…

All of us, to one extent or another can identify with the Homecoming of Jesus to Nazareth – returning to where he began. He’s back to the shul where he learned Hebrew and its texts, back to his synagogue, from which, first as an infant, then as a young person, he made the pilgrimages to Jerusalem. On one occasion to sit with the rabbis and learn from them; or if Luke has it right to astound and teach them.

I’ll wager another pilgrimage in his student days: to the ruins of

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