The Faith We Sing

The Faith We Sing

April 9, 2017  |  Palm Sunday, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on The Faith We Sing

Right now, in this point in history, there are people naming that the movements organizing for change are different than they were during the Civil Rights years or in the height of the Anti-Apartheid Struggle. The Black Lives Matters Movement describes themselves to be a “leader—full” movement and the students organizing through Fees Must Fall are organized in a similar fashion. There is something about this type of organization that speaks to a hope for decentralized power, for more voices at the table, for a multiplication of message. If these movements sustain themselves in this fashion, we will be witnessing the birth of something very new in the world.

There is always the need sometimes for one—one voice—one message—one call—that leads a people towards “the good” even if it is a nestled voice in the midst of many.

This one that I speak of must have space to rise in the midst of the many to be heard. Tracing through human history, the voices that rose to be heard were the voices of the marginalized. From the depths of the crucibles of their lives wisdom rose and was known in the world. The great struggle songs were born in the trials of life where people were formed and shaped in communities that knew what it was like to share life together, no matter the challenges before them, and they knew what it was like to have a song alive inside of them.

“We Shall Overcome” was a slave song. They would sing it in the fields as they worked. The first use in a political nature is traced to 1945 in Charleston, South Carolina in a strike against the American Tobacco Company. The workers were fighting for higher wages. They were being paid only 45 cents an hour. Some of the leaders from Charleston went to meet with leaders in Tennessee at a center called Highlander. The philosophy of Highlander was that “the people who have the problems are the ones who have the answers.” They organized groups to listen across lines of division and they would always sing together. It was at Highlander that “We Shall Overcome” was birthed into a Movement Song.

One of the young people at the Justice Conference sang an amended version of a South African Hymn that some of the students are using when they organize. They have changed it to make it their own. This young woman was hesitant to sing the song when asked by the group, but when she stood and lifted her voice, the pain she was relaying, the struggle for air, for space, for freedom was evident. Movement songs have this quality about them, in that they are born in the journey of life and wrestled into being.

We gather in worship on Palm Sunday morning to sing “Hosanna.” Do we know what it means when we sing praises to the one who leads us in the crucible way? Do we know what we say when we name we will follow? There are songs that bind us together in the Christian Faith, but let us always remember that God is always giving rise to new songs. May our ears always be listening for the new God is giving birth to in the world and our spirits be open for the change it will require in us.

With you on the journey,
Michelle

Carve out a holy space

Carve out a holy space

March 20, 2016  |  Palm Sunday, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Carve out a holy space

Grace and Peace to you

This is a sacred week. A Holy Week. This week invites deep attentiveness from each of us. Attentiveness to what it means to be human for in this week we witness the heights and depths of the human person. In Jesus we see the heights and in the crowds, rulers and scattered followers we see the depths. In Jesus we see who each of us is called to be and who we were originally designed to be. In the others we see our brokenness and waywardness – the people we too often are. In Jesus we see strength and courage against oppressive power. In the others we see expediency – a fickleness of character and the crucifixion that inevitably follows from such cowardice. In Jesus we witness a fullness of life even in his dying as he lives for something greater than himself. In those who surround him we smell decay – their humanity has died even as they continue to breathe.

I invite you to read Luke 22 – 23 every day this week. Allow the story to seep into your inner being. Go deep into each of the characters. Each character is a mirror into our own lives. To be attentive – really attentive – we need to carve out space – un-cluttered space. Turn the TV off for the week. Ditch social media. Be still. Be quiet. Go for a slow walk. Muse! Turn off your lights and light a candle. Honour this Holy Week with your attention. In our busyness our mind becomes “dull and domesticated”. So we should fight for free space and free time. As Rebeca Solnit writes:

“Musing takes place in a kind of meadowlands of the imagination, a part of the imagination that has not yet been plowed, developed, or put to any immediately practical use… Time spent is not work time yet without that time the mind becomes sterile, dull, domesticated. The fight for free space – for wilderness and public space – must be accompanied by a fight for free time to spend wandering in that space.”

~ Rebeca Solnit: Wanderlust: A History of Walking.

Grace, Alan


We are not perfect. We need forgiveness.

There is no perfect family. We don’t have perfect parents, we are not perfect, we don’t get married with a perfect person nor do we have perfect kids. We have complaints of each other. We were disappointed in each other.

Therefore, there is no healthy marriage or healthy family without the exercise of forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital to our emotional health and spiritual survival.

Without forgiveness the family becomes a theatre of conflict and a bastion of grievances. Without forgiveness the family gets sick. Forgiveness is the sterilization of the soul, the cleaning of the mind and the liberation of the heart.

Who does not forgive has no peace of soul nor communion with God. The pain is a poison that intoxicates and kills. Having a wound of the heart is a self-destructive gesture. It is autophagy [a self-degradative process]. Who does not forgive sickens physically, emotionally and spiritually. That’s why the family has to be a place of life and not of death; territory of healing and not of disease; stage of forgiveness and not of guilt.

Forgiveness brings joy where sorrow produced pain; and healing, where pain caused disease.

~ Pope Francis


“I am not perfect …
I rely on the forgiveness of others.

Others are not perfect …
they rely on my forgiveness.”

 

Viva Palm Sunday

Viva Palm Sunday

March 29, 2015  |  Palm Sunday  |  Comments Off on Viva Palm Sunday

Grace and Peace to you

On Palm Sunday we witness Jesus perform some seriously prophetic (truth revealing) street theatre that hilariously screams for everyone to hear: “The Emperor is not wearing any clothes”. This prophetic tradition is continued by an amazingly imaginative Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

Last Sunday afternoon, about 150 people met – seriously and joyously – at the West End Synagogue in Manhattan for a religious service, followed by an hour of street theatre – both aimed in the spirit of Passover and Palm Sunday, at the Carbon Pharaohs of our generation, especially the Koch Brothers.

The street theatre took place near and on Lincoln Center, at the David Koch Theatre. It featured a dramatic collision between a figure costumed as Pharaoh, traveling with a Pyramid of Power and followed by a gaggle of people carrying oil cans, coal bags, etc.

VERSUS

the Prophet Miriam as Mother Earth, traveling with a large globe and followed by a band of people with windmills, solar panels, and earth-friendly banners.

Mother Earth won …
Viva Palm Sunday Protests Viva!

 

Picture of Cross of Nails: With gratitude and recognition to http://dogbreathsoup.deviantart.com/

Christians and Pagans

Christians and Pagans

April 13, 2014  |  Palm Sunday, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Christians and Pagans
Lenten Prayer of Preparation

Oh God, let something essential happen to me, something more than interesting or entertaining or thoughtful.

Oh God, let something essential happen to me, something awesome, something real. Speak to my condition, Lord and change me somewhere inside where it matters, a change that will burn and tremble and heal and explode me into tears or laughter or love that throbs or screams or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence and dares the dangerous deeds. Let something happen which is my real self, Oh God. Amen.
[Ted Loder]

_______________________________________________

In preparation for Holy Week I have been re-reading some works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — the German Lutheran pastor who stood fearlessly against Nazi rule. He was jailed and finally executed on 9th April 1945 at the age of 39 just 23 days before the Nazi’s surrendered.

I trust his words about the Cross for two reasons: First, not only did he write about the Cross but he carried his own cross. The cross that is the consequence of a radical faithfulness to the ways of Jesus. Second, because his entire understanding of faith and life and God was shaped by his primary understanding of God as the Crucified LORD…

ON PEACE …

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”

ON SUFFERING …

“It is infinitely easier to suffer in obedience to a human order than in the freedom of one’s own, personal, responsible deed. It is infinitely easier to suffer in company than alone. It is infinitely easier to suffer publicly and with honour than out of the public eye and in disgrace. It is infinitely easier to suffer through the engagement of one’s physical being than through the Spirit. Christ Suffered in freedom, alone, out of the public eye and in disgrace, in body and soul, and likewise subsequently many Christians along with him.”

MORE WORDS ON SUFFERING …

“There are so many experiences and disappointments that drive sensitive people toward nihilism and resignation. That is why it is good to learn early that suffering and God are not contradictions, but rather a necessary unity. For me, the idea that it is really God who suffers has always been one of the most persuasive teachings of Christianity. I believe that God is closer to suffering than to happiness, and that finding God in this way brings peace and repose and a strong, courageous heart.”

CHRISTIANS AND PAGANS …

  1. “People go to God in their need, for help, happiness and bread they plead for deliverance from sickness, guilt and death. Thus do they all, Christians and pagans.”
  2. “People go to God in God’s need, find God poor, reviled, with neither shelter nor bread, see God entangled in sin, weakness, and death. Christians stand by God in God’s suffering.”
  3. “God comes to all human beings in need, sates them body and soul with His bread, dies the death of the cross for Christians and pagans and forgives them both.”

“Christians stand by God in God’s suffering” — this is a Christian’s distinguishing character. This is what Holy Week teaches us to do. See you in the week.

 Grace, Alan