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 “Seraphim Serpents, Bronze Gifts, and Saving Sights”

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 “The Sunday Long Read: Dove Songs and Fish Offerings”

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 “sheep and goats, meat and drink”

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 “It’s Time to Take Jesus Off the Pedestal”

Caring for the Old Woman of Samhain: A Riff on Matthew 22:34-46

JPerk
By Jim Perkinson, a sermon (10.29.17) for a turning Season 

In the Lectionary gospel for the day, the stakes are high. Jesus has just side-swiped the annual Passover parade, organized an Occupy-takeover of the Temple the next day, held a teach-in naming the site “Thug Central,” “Den of Robbers,” opened the space to the blind, the lame and children, gone underground in Bethany overnight, come back up to the central shrine, which is also the national bank, begun his word-joust-defense of his action—and the clock is ticking.   The contract has been out on his life ever since the early days of his community organizing in Galilee where he led his inner circle in a civil disobedience action, poaching wheat from fields on the Sabbath. Continue reading “Caring for the Old Woman of Samhain: A Riff on Matthew 22:34-46”

Irma and La Tuna, Charlottesville and North Korea: The Voice Under the Voice, Still Unheard

KidRockTrump
Detroit, Michigan: Six sold-out shows to open up the new $800 million Little Caesar’s Arena

Dr. James Perkinson, Ecumenical Theological Seminary (Detroit, MI)

The signs of our time shout! Harvey hammers Houston and the entire Gulf Coast camps out in a boat or a grave. Then comes Irma with Jose and Katya in Her wake, raking an entire peninsula with rebuke. While fire ungraced with gendered traces of naming, blisters the west. All on top of Charlottesville, itself evoking Trump, chopping restraints militant and policing, channeling a large chunk of the dominant demographic of the country! As I write, Kid Rock readies his concert of hate in downtown Detroit, as front for the Ilitch family take of Motown turf, faking concern, raking in tax dollar support, celebrating white vituperation in the gala opening of a new ice hockey stadium at the core of an 82 % black city. Little Caesar indeed! But what do all of these events have to do with each other? How might a community aspiring to some measure of humanity and morality “hear” what these events sound out? I do not yet even dare to say, “Respond.” Continue reading “Irma and La Tuna, Charlottesville and North Korea: The Voice Under the Voice, Still Unheard”

Whose Violence? Which Insurgence?: White Supremacy in the Mirror of Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation

Nat TurnerBy Dr. James Perkinson, Ecumenical Theological Seminary (Detroit, MI), prepared comments presented at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church’s “Social Justice Forum,” October 21, 2016 in response to the film

It was a Jewish man, Walter Benjamin, during WWII, who once said, “Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if [it] wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious” (Benjamin, 255)

Nat Turner’s spirit is buried beneath the shouts and cries (Cone, 61)

It is a deep honor to be asked to offer a few words in memory of so courageous and clear a spirit of resolve as Nat Turner. It is an honor doubly difficult to measure up to in that my skin is white and my life circumstance therefore privileged with respect to Turner’s color and condition and the people whose struggle for justice he represented with such determination and daring that it presaged the only resolution of the institution of slavery white people would accept. War. And it is a war that has never yet ceased. And so my standing here today is not innocent. Continue reading “Whose Violence? Which Insurgence?: White Supremacy in the Mirror of Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation”

Wild Lectionary: Kingdom Like a Seed

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wild mustard (public domain)

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Proper 12(17)

Matthew 13:31-32

This week’s Wild Lectionary offers two different but complimentary takes on the seed parables.

The first is a host of resources –devotions, bible studies, children’s curricula, adult education material etc. prepared by A Rocha Canada for churches that are new to engaging with creation care. The free downloadable materials are focused on Good Seed Sunday, celebrated the Sunday after Earth Day, but are also relevant for the Season of Creation and this summer stretch of Year A in the Revised Common Lectionary where we visit the seed parables in Matthew.

The second offering is excerpts from an essay by Jim Perkinson: Continue reading “Wild Lectionary: Kingdom Like a Seed”

Sermon: The Wheat and the Weeds: A Riddle of Love?

index
Photo by Jessica Rose

By Jim Perkinson, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Detroit, July 23, 2017

Such a rich lectionary offering this morning, I am hard put to choose among the Hebrew scripture, the Greek epistle, and the Aramean gospel.  I could easily focus on Jacob’s experience with a dreaming-stone, propping up his tired head on his way upstream from Isaac’s abode in Canaan, charged with not taking a wife from among the indigenous Canaanites, but going north and east to Aramean kin, from whence his ancestor Abraham had fled originally (Gen 28:10-19a).  The stone, likely a meteorite, births vision—Jacob seeing a ladder like a cosmic tree, granting movement between this world and the Spirit-World for angelic folk, the Powers in their proper role, and hears, speaking from the rock, the same great I AM that Moses will hear much further down the road speaking from a bush.  Continue reading “Sermon: The Wheat and the Weeds: A Riddle of Love?”