Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Blessings to All!

We've been angry for much of the last year; and our anger has been justified.  Grounded in love's fields, nourished by visionary rains, our rage will not normalize harassment and abuse, bitter greed and calculated bigotry.  We've been angry, and this anger is gift and motivation.

But resistance begins at the bend in soul, where gratitude runs like a great river, stirring everything and everyone in its path, cleansing impotent habits and calling lovers to daring new moments.  Resistance begins there, in gratitude.

So let us be grateful today for the great rivers, our global veins, and the little streams too.

And let us be grateful today for the maple trees and their bright red garments, which they will soon shed for winter's slumber.

And let us be grateful today for the spiders that freak us out and the coyotes that howl at night.

And more, even more, let us be grateful today for the prophets who stand at the intersection of hatred and poverty, and say, "No more!"

And more, even more, let us be grateful today for the young boy will come out to his family at Thanksgiving dinner, because he knows--HE TRULY KNOWS--he is created in the image of God.

And more, even more, let us be grateful today for the good neighbors who will give their time and energy today, to feeding those who hunger, to clothing whose who shiver in the cold, to sheltering the brokenhearted.

No empire can survive the generative grace of our gratitude.  No despot can withstand the wild winds of genuine thanksgiving.  No clumsy bully can outlive the deep and sustained practice of a people's lovingkindness.  

We are grateful.  We will always resist.  And we shall overcome.

DGJ (11.23.17)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Romans 12:17 -- Look It Up

Monday, November 20, 2017

Who's In?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Roy Moore and Perversion

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Incomparable Steve Earle

Drama down in Egypt, pharaoh's fit to fight
Talkin' 'bout the trouble with the Israelites
How I'm supposed to build this monument of mine
If I can't keep the monoliths moving down the line

Tell Moses, tell him go
Say the children of Israel are suffering so
Tell Moses, tell him true
You gotta lead them where the pharaoh won't be following you

Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Keep on traveling on

Selma, Alabama, 1965
Gotta stick together if you're gonna to stay alive
Riot gear and tear gas, sheriff's on the edge
Waiting with an army over yonder 'cross the bridge

Tell Martin, tell him go
Say the governor's in Montgomery and you gotta let him know
Tell Martin, tell him now
He's been up on the mountain and he's got to show us how

Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Keep on traveling on

Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side

Ferguson, Missouri, people in the streets
Hands above their head standing up to the police
Waiting for a hero to step into the breach
'Ain't nobody coming so it's up to you and me

Tell Mary, tell John
Say the hourglass is empty and the judgment day has come
Tell preacher, farmer Brown
Say Joshua's blown his trumpet and the walls are comin' down
Tell sister, brother too
Tell them where they're gonna meet us and what we're gonna do
Tell Steven, tell Shawn
There's a message in the music, everybody sing along

Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Water is wide, milk and honey on the other side
Keep on traveling along

Monday, November 13, 2017

"Anywhere is Safer Than Here"

This remarkable poem, "Home" by Warsan Shire, was read during Saturday night's "Notes Against the Ban" concert at Peace United.

Home is the mouth of the shark
Home is the barrel of the gun 

Warsan Shire is a Kenyan-born Somali poet, and a writer and educator based in London. Born in 1988, Warsan has read her work extensively all over Britain and internationally – including recent readings in South Africa, Italy, Germany, Canada, North America and Kenya.  Her her début book, ‘TEACHING MY MOTHER HOW TO GIVE BIRTH’, was published in 2011. Her poems have been published in Wasafiri, Magma, Poetry Review, and in the anthology ‘The Salt Book of Younger Poets’ (Salt, 2011). She is the current poetry editor at SPOOK magazine. In 2012 she represented Somalia at the Poetry Parnassus, the festival of the world poets at the Southbank, London. She is a Complete Works II poet. Her poetry has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Warsan is also the unanimous winner of the 2013 Inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize. 

“Home” by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless 
home is the mouth of a shark 
you only run for the border 
when you see the whole city running as well 

your neighbors running faster than you 
breath bloody in their throats 
the boy you went to school with 
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory 
is holding a gun bigger than his body 
you only leave home 
when home won’t let you stay. 

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet 
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing 
until the blade burnt threats into 
your neck 
and even then you carried the anthem under 
your breath 
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets 
sobbing as each mouthful of paper 
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back. 

you have to understand, 
that no one puts their children in a boat 
unless the water is safer than the land 
no one burns their palms 
under trains 
beneath carriages 
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck 
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey. 
no one crawls under fences 
no one wants to be beaten pitied

no one chooses refugee camps 
or strip searches where your 
body is left aching 
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire 
and one prison guard 
in the night 
is better than a truckload 
of men who look like your father 
no one could take it 
no one could stomach it 
no one skin would be tough enough

go home blacks 
dirty immigrants 
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry 
niggers with their hands out 
they smell strange 
messed up their country and now they want 
to mess ours up 
how do the words 
the dirty looks 
roll off your backs 
maybe because the blow is softer 
than a limb torn off 

or the words are more tender 
than fourteen men between 
your legs 
or the insults are easier
to swallow 
than rubble 
than bone 
than your child body 
in pieces. 
i want to go home, 
but home is the mouth of a shark 
home is the barrel of the gun 
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore 
unless home told you 
to quicken your legs 
leave your clothes behind 
crawl through the desert 
wade through the oceans 
be hunger 
forget pride 
your survival is more important 

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear 
saying- leave,
run away from me now 
i dont know what i’ve become 
but i know that anywhere 
is safer than here

Sunday, November 12, 2017

SERMON: Buy the Field, Be the Change

A Meditation on Jeremiah 32
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Peace United Church


Prophets are, by nature, suspect and suspicious individuals.  Maybe you know one or two.  They claim that they see what God sees.  They insist that they say what God says.  And often they’re treated accordingly: like moralizers with an axe to grind, or like street preachers who dropped acid back in the day.  Odd ducks, really.  If you’re still working out your guest list for Thanksgiving Dinner, you’re probably wise to avoid the prophets this year.  Because you could get some cat like John the Baptist at your table—popping locusts like peanuts and ranting on and on about the ‘brood of vipers’ taking over America.  That would be some Thanksgiving.  Or you could get some cat like Ezekiel at the table—picking at the turkey carcass and calling on the dry bones to rise again.  By and large, prophets don’t seem terribly anxious about social convention and appropriate conversation.  Heck, John the Baptist might show up at your door wearing a camel’s hair shirt, that would be real camel’s hair, if he’s wearing any clothing at all.

Quite often, the prophet is told by God, directed by God, to speak.  To speak a difficult, corrective word to the ruling elite.  To speak a holy word to a despairing community.  Or to speak an animating word to a lifeless people.  I’m thinking about Ezekiel calling out to his nearly defeated people: “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”  “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”  And I’m thinking about Martin Luther King—in the pulpit of Riverside Church 50 years ago—crying out for peace, calling for an end to the Vietnam War, and breaking the silence in the church.  Quite often, the prophet is directed by God to speak.  A difficult word, a holy word.  A word that breaks the silence wide open.


So Jeremiah’s one of those prophets, pronouncing judgment on kings and their cabinets, denouncing greed and militarism, and disrupting business-as-usual across the land.  His words are many, by turns angry and angsty, timid and tender.  But there are three other moments in this prophetic book—the Book of Jeremiah—that set Jeremiah apart.  That make Jeremiah’s prophetic career a little different.  And in each of the three, Jeremiah is instructed by God to go out and buy something.  Not to speak.  Not to rant.  Not to preach.  But to go out and buy something.

In the first, he’s told to buy a loincloth.  Think of it as ancient underwear.  God insists Jeremiah buy this new loincloth and wear it around for a bit.  Because that’s what you do.  And sometimes, you know, in the ancient world, it’s the only clothing you wear.  Just your loincloth.  So Jeremiah buys this new one and he’s going around, doing his thing, in his loincloth.  He’s kind of pleased with it.  But before long, God says, No, now I want you to go down by the river and hide your loincloth between two rocks there.  OK…

Now, he’s a pretty good prophet, Jeremiah, so he goes to the river, finds the two rocks, takes off his loincloth and hides it there, just as he’s told.  You getting the picture?  The life of a prophet!  Stripped naked because God told him so.  (By the way, this might be a good reason not to invite Jeremiah to your Thanksgiving Dinner this year.)  When he returns days later, Jeremiah finds the loincloth’s there, between the rocks; but now it’s so dirty and so ratty that it’s no use to him anymore or anyone else.  I mean, even a prophet has a little fashion sense.    

In the second case, Jeremiah’s told to buy an earthenware jug, a big jug like he might use for water or wine.  Not a big deal.  You always need a good jug around the house.  But then God says, Take some priests and elders out into the valley and break that same jug in front of them all.  Just toss it into the stony field and watch it shatter.  In pieces.  Before everybody. 

So Jeremiah’s not getting invitations to dinner anymore—not Thanksgiving, not Sunday supper, not anything.  In fact, he’s so abrasive, and these symbolic events are so compelling, that the city’s movers and shakers have him arrested, detained and locked up.  No surprise there!  The Babylonians are literally massing at the gates of the city, and King Zedekiah has had enough of Jeremiah and his bad news.  So he hauls him in, out of the fields, off the streets, and locks him up in the royal palace itself.


Jeremiah’s a complicated character, of course, but he’s no fool.  And he gets the point God’s making with the soiled loincloth and the busted water jar.  The faith of the people is contaminated, soiled by the greed of their leaders.  The covenant between the people and God has been shattered by callousness.  Now this might sound familiar to us: it ought to sound familiar to us.  The spirit of the people is contaminated by the greed of the leaders.  The opiate crisis consumes the lives of the working poor in New Hampshire.  White supremacists march with torches through Charlottesville.  Another broken man shoots dozens dead in Texas.  And our leaders: they boast about sexual assault and threaten nuclear annihilation and legislate tax breaks for the rich and misery for everyone else.  The covenant has been shattered by callousness.  Is that going too far?  The covenant has been shattered by callousness.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Bill, Martin and November 11

Today, November 11, marks the 47th anniversary of Bill Johnson's coming out during his senior year at the Pacific School of Religion.  That was just one step--but a holy and brave one--on his journey to becoming the first out gay man ordained to a Protestant denomination of any kind.  We proudly claim him as one of our own in the United Church of Christ.

Mary Luti reminds me that Martin Luther was baptized on this day, November 11, in 1483.  He was named "Martin" after St. Martin of Tours whose liturgical commemoration falls on this same day.  Here's what Mary has to say about St. Martin:
Martin of Tours was a 4th century saint who soldiered for many years in the Roman army (a family tradition and obligation) before renouncing war and militarism in the name of service to Christ. He became an unwilling bishop, a humble monk, and a champion of the poor. He is the patron saint, among other things, of conscientious objectors. That his feast day coincides with our Veterans Day makes me long for a different kind of holiday to honor those who lay down their arms and refuse to fight, and all who resolve to "study war no more." 
Today I'm giving God all kinds of thanks and praise for Bill Johnson--whose bright light shines still among us--and for St. Martin of Tours.  They remind us all that courage is our calling, and that grace is our constant companion on the way.  We need fear no evil, for God's staff, God's peace is with us always!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Billy Joel - Live At The Old Grey Whistle Test 1978

Check out "New York State of Mind" at 9:45 in...he could play that thing and what a gift for story-telling...

Thursday, November 9, 2017

I Will Not Forget