God in a Grape; Spirit in a Sheep

JPerk, Ilustration

Icon of the Unburnt Bush 

By Jim Perkinson, a homily on John 15:1-8 and Acts 8:26-40 preached last Sunday to the beloved community at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit

I begin by thanking four primary ancestors: my own Celtic, Nordic, Saxon, Frankish kin deep in the past before my people became sick with white supremacy; the African Eve of all of our origins whose black folk offspring of Detroit engaged survival efforts and justice demands and creation-in-spite-of that are nothing short of prophetic and wondrous; the Algonquian and Haudenosaunee communities of the Strait who lived by profound dignity and wisdom on the land and waters; and all the non-human denizens of this place themselves, whose continuous gift makes possible the breathing and loving and struggle of all of us sitting here. For all of them: gratitude. And indebtedness to live, worthy. Continue reading

Seraphim Serpents, Bronze Gifts, and Saving Sights

CrossBy Jim Perkinson, a sermon on John 3: 14-21 and Numbers 21:4-9 (March 11, 2018, St. Peter’s Episcopal, Detroit, MI)

The sermon begins today with this year’s early advent of the parade for St. Patrick. The sea of green we already witnessing this morning provides interesting backdrop for the lectionary readings. In mainstream Christian invocation, Patrick is remembered for clearing the snakes from Ireland and often depicted as such, with crozier in hand and coiled serpents at his feet. Patrick mastered the slithering ones. But for our purposes here, it is important likewise to lift up Afro-diaspora creativity with the Gaelic saint and his serpents. In colonized Haiti, the displaced slaves amalgamated their traditional Yoruban-Dahomean-Congolese spiritual practices with the Roman Catholic orthodoxy into which they were forced. For them, the depiction of the snake-mastering Patrick “spoke” of Damballah, the Creator-Serpent-Spirit (or Loa, in their terminology) whose surreptitious presence they saw “mounting” Patrick in possession and using his snake proclivity to express something quite different. Far from banning the Serpent Power, for the creolized community of the French colony, Patrick became the host body for this African indigenous spirit-guide. The Snake mastered Patrick. And something like that intuition will help us open the Hebrew text to its indigenous root this morning. Continue reading

The Joke Is All We Have Left

Free the WaterBy Jim Perkinson (right), an excerpt from “Jesters, tricksters, taggers and haints: Hipping the church to the Afro-hop, pop-‘n-lock mock-up currently rocking apocalyptic Detroit,” a November 2017 article in Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies (HTS):

In many places today, the joke is all we have left to pry open the prison gate – a jest and a belly laugh rooted in the deep past and the abandoned margins. But its truth remains absolute, despite corporate pretention otherwise. We all finally will come apart at the seams and decay into streams of composting liquid and molecules – even US drones and bankers’ computer screens, blinking with algorithms. The only question is when and for what.

In recognition of such an eventuality of equality, may we choose well where to expend our breath and exercise our push back and dreaming otherwise. May we become soldiers of the unrepentant joke, militant laughers learning our hope from the least. May we keep our jest visceral and its spear-point like a razor, ready for whatever crack of freedom the Mystery of Wild Hilarity that created this planet may open. May we do so, even if that possibility is ephemeral and uphill as a spray-painted st and a stenciled demand on a tower and the political struggle to ‘free the ow’ that follows! Indeed, may we finally be strong like water and as insurgent as a tower growing from concrete!

The Sunday Long Read: Dove Songs and Fish Offerings

JonahBy Jim Perkinson, a sermon on Jonah 3:1-5, 10 and Mk 1:14-20, January 21, 2018, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (Detroit, MI)

I am not a fish person—which is why I volunteered to preach this Sunday, where the lessons focus on fish, in the stories of Jonah and the whale and of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee called to become “fishers of humans.” To “catch” the significance of the latter, we need to reel in the former carefully. Though not included in the lectionary, the heart of the Jonah story turns on the following verse:

And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Jon 1:17).

The text is clear. Jonah was saved by a fish. But we need to go slow, since we often read it the other way around—that Jonah was saved from a fish. So in the interests of getting us hooked on the story-line, I want to string out three pieces of bait. Continue reading

A Divine Offering in a Food Tray for Animals

PerkBy Jim Perkinson, from Political Spirituality in an Age of Eco-Apocalypse (2015)

Undoubtedly anxious, perhaps even terrified, Mary breaks water under the bureaucratic duress. Motel 6 is filled, as is the local youth hostel. Tradition has it she camps out in a cave—likely one of the rocky caverns around Bethlehem that shepherds used as corrals. In short order, she has her newborn in a “manger,” feeding trough for domesticated livestock, enslaved creatures whose own wildlands grazing has been reduced to slopping beheaded grain from a wood or stone container.

Meanwhile local herding folk, out on the hills with their flocks, reading the stars and weather, tending to the night cacophony for any hint of danger, schooled, not in texts of Torah but in the sensuous spells of the wild holiness that is their “bible,” are struck with an apparition, an emergent power of the outback, taking shape on the rocks, whispering omens, filtering light into a strange miasma of significance. They hear, are terrified, then comforted. Offered “good news.” An event has taken place. Continue reading

sheep and goats, meat and drink

Valerie Jean

PC: Valerie Jean (Detroit, MI)

by jim perkinson (St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Detroit, 11-26-17)

the sheep and the goats
the goats and the sheep
the left
the right
the day
the night

nothing here about church
but the good fundies all say
you must believe with your heart
have the word on your lips
insist jesus is lord
or you will have no part Continue reading

It’s Time to Take Jesus Off the Pedestal

Lindsay GreyReyBy Tommy Airey

Like every good Evangelical, my adolescent faith was about giving all glory to the Lord. I sang praise songs to a “high and lifted up” Jesus and always concluded my prayers “in Jesus’ name” (I signed off my emails “Fool For Christ,” but that’s a story for another time). I was taught to utilize “apologetics” to defend the faith and prove that Jesus was, in fact, Divine. I revered C.S. Lewis whose Mere Christianity made a water-tight case for my beliefs. Lewis left readers three choices for who Jesus really was: a lunatic, a liar or the Lord Himself:

Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.

Lewis claimed that, when it came to the people who actually met Jesus, they responded in three ways: hatred, terror or adoration. There was no middle ground. Continue reading