The Wrong Question

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By Deb Watson, flickr, cc

By Kate Foran

“The pandemic has got me thinking a great deal about how the vulnerability our species is experiencing could be an opening to imagining the threat and constriction that is the reality for so many other species and often at our hand. What about the grief in the chestnut blight or salamander epidemics?”
– Robin Wall Kimmerer

At the height of the viral bloom, our travel circumscribed,
we wander with our girls to the patches of woods that still remain
between the housing tracts and industrial parks of our neighborhood.
In the scrubby, choked lot behind the schoolyard where children never go
even when school is in session, the path winds and we stop short

as the leaf litter gives way to green-gold

spring ephemerals, trillium and jack-in-the-pulpit preaching Continue reading

A Lynching that Cuts to the Heart

This sermon was delivered by Rev. Luke Hansen, S.J. on May 3, 2020, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, at Bellarmine Chapel, Cincinnati. The liturgy was livestream and is available here.

Lectionary readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10

In early March, before the world changed, I traveled to Alabama with a group of Xavier University students. We were on a “civil rights immersion,” visiting Selma, Birmingham and Montgomery.

In Montgomery, the Equal Justice Initiative has built a memorial for the victims of lynching and a legacy museum that tells the story of racial violence, from slavery to mass incarceration. Continue reading

Mender’s Mud

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Flickr, cc, Protopian Pickle Jar

By Bill Ramsey, April 17, 2020

0nce, on a dry and rocky footpath,
a dab of sacred saliva dampened dust.
Silently, the mender’s hands kneaded,
molded and applied the curious blend.
Mudded eyes opened. Vision restored.

These days, we walk mired down,
slogging mucky tracks, traversing
our first New England mud season,
distanced, sheltered, masked, waiting
for healing, solace and renewed balance.

April’s earth underneath our boots
is dew dampened, drizzle drenched,
thaw soaked and oh so mud mucked.
Bogged down in this deadly pandemic,
we yearn for a closure, less muddled. Continue reading

A Complaint Before the Court of Coronavirus Justice

A-COMPLAINT-BEFORE-THE-COURT-OF-CORONAVIRUS-JUSTICE-1-pdf-791x1024By Rose Marie Berger

a communal lament

Blessed are you, Lord our God, Keeper of the Universe.
You have thus far kept us alive and preserved us.
Though Sister Death arrives with swiftness now into our circles of care,
We praise You and remember that You alone
are keeper of the Book of Life.
It is You who sends Your Angel Death into the world dressed as a broom;
You who fashioned us from earth, mixing straw and mud with Your own breath.
You blew Time into our nostrils, making our days like fruitful herbs,
which green up in morning, flower and flourish at noon, then fade by close of day.
In humility and grief, we stand before You now, mindful of all we have not loved.
We acknowledge through tears and fears, through our grief, sharp or dulled,
that You alone are God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
We, though many, are not gods. And now, small and frightened, we stand
before the power of viral death that sweeps through the corners of our world.
We are small and afraid of the media’s measuring stick of dead and infected.
We are small and afraid before the needs of our family, neighbors, and congregations.
We are small and afraid listening to tales told by rulers who are full of sound and fury.
We are small and afraid in the face of scarcity and those who demand to be paid.
We are small and afraid before our isolated, individual selves—
self-quarantined, sheltering in place, locked down—and we long for the casual
affections of others. Continue reading

Go Ahead and Weep

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By Pete Ashton, flickr, cc

Preached by Denise Griebler to St. Peters Episcopal Church Detroit via zoom.

John 11:32-54

I haven’t said or written much since we have begun sheltering in place.  I’m a little nervous to do so now.   I am humbled by the pandemic.  I am awed by it.

I believe that God is with us and that we are with each other – the profound truth that we are in this together.

There is a story about the Chinese Master, Lau-tzu and his disciples:

The disciples were absorbed in the teaching:

Those who know do not say;
Those who say do not know.

When the Master entered, they asked him what the words meant.

The Master asked them: “Which of you knows the fragrance of a rose?”

Of course, all of them knew.

Then he said, “Put it into words.”

All were silent.

I am grateful for the rawness of the gospel.  A man has died.  A brother.  A friend.  There’s mourning and crying.  Jesus is late, put he does show up.  The one who heals others couldn’t be there in time for his friend. He’s too late.

And it’s not like he rushed to get there.  There’s a back story.  Lazarus (who has died) along with his the sisters, Mary and Martha – were his good friends.  They regularly helped and supported and sheltered Jesus.  They were part of his trusted inner circle.   Mary and Martha – had sent for Jesus when Lazarus fell gravely ill.  But we’re told that Jesus lingered for days where he was sheltering-in-place, hiding out from the religious authorities who wanted Jesus dead.  Finally he decides to risk going to Bethany to see his friend, but he’s too late.  Lazarus has already died.

I’m grateful for the rawness.

And even Mary’s accusing question:  where were you?  You could have saved him.

I’m grateful that he doesn’t make excuses.  He’s silent.  He weeps. I’m grateful for his tears.

And for Martha recoiling from the stench of death – from her brother’s dead body.  I’m grateful for Mary and Martha’s anger and impatience with Jesus. And for Jesus’ anger.  And his second round of tears at the tomb.  I’m grateful for the kerchief-covered face.  And for the exposure of the betrayal of the ones who are plotting to keep their privilege and power, who are ready to make easy tradeoffs – one life for many.

I’m grateful for the rawness.  Because honestly, I have been feeling pretty numb.  And the rawness helps to break me open.   I’m glad for all of the weeping in this text.  I haven’t yet found my way to tears.  How is that possible?

Maybe I’ve been caught up in denial and fear. I hear it in myself as I worry for the “most vulnerable” in a way that serves to distance myself from suffering ever actually touching me in my own body.  I am vulnerable.  We’re all vulnerable.

And I’ve been caught up in trying to keep myself and my family safe.  And trying to do my part – our part – to keep others safe.  All of which seem so small and pathetic.  Especially when I think of people who need my help. Even as I know this is precisely the best thing  most of us can do to take care of each other.  Maybe I am too ashamed to weep.  But that would be a mistake.

What if grief is our calling right now?  Our vocation.  Grief is how we can stay human in the face of all of the suffering that has been happening at a distance and is now here and washing over us in Detroit.

I heard about a meme that was circulating on FaceBook.  Jesus is in his room, sheltering in place.  Someone asks: “Where should I tell them you are?”  Jesus replies:  “Tell them I’m working in mysterious ways.”

But there actually is a mystery that he stakes is own life and death upon.  I think some of the tears he cries are for himself.  He knows that death is closing in on him and there is not much more time to be with his friends or his mother, or to be under the beauty of the sky, or out on the Lake, or around the table, to see or smell the lilies, or see the little sparrows or hear the dove hovering or to feel the Wind.  Down to the bone he believes anyway: death does not and will not have the last word.

Maybe he’s weeping at the excruciating mystery of that.

I hope I come around to my deepest self and finally weep.  I hope you do. I hope we mortals become more human.  And that we come to know more deeply our place in the web of all life.

It’s hard to feel like we are doing nothing – especially if you are someone who thrives on the front lines.  There’s plenty to do from the place where we are sheltering in place if you are longing for that.  People have been busy advocating for the water to be turned back on.  And to be turned back on safely.   And now, not in 3 months from now.   And then to be made affordable for the long haul.  The work that we have done for years is having an effect.  Thank goodness.

People are restoring other connections as well.  Reaching out to family and friends with whom we’ve been out of touch for too long.  And there will be neighbors and organizations that will need financial help – be generous.  And water deliveries to be made – if you and others in your household are healthy and not among the vulnerable, you could help with that. There will be more opportunities.

But mostly we just need to stay put.  And wait.  And try to live as well as you can – with as much kindness and joy as you can – in your own household – whether that’s with family, or roommates or alone.  And keep ourselves and others safe as best we are able. And let life keep insisting in us.  Cindy Tobias reminds us that this is front-line work at this time.

But we can also open ourselves to the suffering and weep when we feel like weeping. Be angry at the ineptitude that could have prevented some of it.

Be awed by the terrible mystery of it and our own vulnerability.

Call on the accompaniment and wisdom of the ancestors – they are helping us.

Weep and rage and rest in God.   Amen.

Imagination Battle

index“We are in an imagination battle.

Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown and Renisha McBride and so many others are dead because, in some white imagination, they were dangerous. And that imagination is so respected that those who kill, based on an imagined, radicalized fear of Black people, are rarely held accountable.

Imagination has people thinking they can go from being poor to a millionaire as part of a shared American dream. Imagination turns Brown bombers into terrorists and white bombers into mentally ill victims. Imagination gives us borders, gives us superiority, gives us race as an indicator of ability. I often feel I am trapped inside someone else’s capability. I often feel I am trapped inside someone’ else’s imagination, and I must engage my own imagination in order to break free.”
― Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds