Sunday, February 25, 2024

HOMILY (LENT 2): "In Remembrance of Me"

A Meditation on John 13
Sunday, February 25, 2024 (Lent 2)


Years ago, I spent a beautiful retreat day in the Santa Cruz mountains with Alexander Shaia, writer, psychologist, theologian, who's done some really exciting work on Christian spirituality and the four New Testament gospels.  We're going to explore Alexander's work, and the practices he celebrates, in this Spring's Koinonia program.  So I hope you'll watch for that.  But that day in California, he was most interested in talking about Lent, this six week season between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  

What kind of pilgrimage is suggested by this 40-day journey, with Jesus, with the Beloved Community, into the mysteries of faith, leaning into the demands of discipleship and the ways of the cross?  Could a 21st century church find meaning and even renewal in the ancient patterns of the early church?  He's a pretty intriguing thinker, Alexander is, with family roots in Lebanon and the Maronite tradition, and training in several intersecting disciplines.  I was pretty stirred up, to be honest.  And I wondered.  Maybe we were oversimplifying and underselling Lent in the church.  Maybe there was a deeper vein of peace, promise and possibility to be found.


And he started, early that January morning, as the dew still glistened on the redwoods just outside: he started with the story we've read this morning from John.  Just before the Great Festival of Liberation, just before the Passover, Jesus gathering his disciples for a supper and washing their feet.  "Having loved his dear companions, he loved them right to the end."  Is there a sweeter summary of the gospel: "Having loved his dear companions, he loved them right to the end."  And, you know, maybe that's Lent in a nutshell: this deeply unsettling, but powerfully moving story about how it is that God loves you and me right to the end, that God loves the whole world right to the end, that God loves our beauty and our frailty and our brokenness right to the end.  "What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!"  Lent is our turning, our turning, our turning toward that kind of Love.  Breath by breath.  Day by day.  Week by week by week.

The most revolutionary thing Jesus does, Alexander said, and where the Spirit begins to resurrect Jesus and his body in us, is in that particular moment.  On his knees.  Beside that table.  With an apron around his waist.  The liberation of love begins in God's humility.  Which so quickly enlists and inspires our own.  This God is not a punishing tyrant.  This God is not a bossy moralizing bully.  This God kneels, an apron around his waist, to wash our feet.  Everybody’s feet.  The peace beyond all understanding ripples like a river through Jesus' fingers.  

"What if," Alexander asked that day, "the Lenten practice is six weeks of prayer and fasting, six weeks of preparation, six weeks of letting go and picking up, six weeks of encouragement--so that the church is ready for Holy Thursday?"  

I'm sure we must have looked blankly back.  Because he recognized that he needed to clarify and expand.  "What if," he asked, "the Lenten practice is preparing the church, preparing the beloved community of disciples, for the Holy Week moment when we too fall to their knees, with dinner on the table, and we too tie towels and aprons around one another's waists?"  "What if it's all about getting ourselves ready--spiritually, physically, theologically--to wash one another's grimy, pointy, beautiful and (sometimes busted) feet?"

Monday, February 19, 2024

HUMAN RIGHTS: "Violence is the Common Foe"

Gaza, October 2023
A Report from Middle East Eye: "Palestinian women and girls in Israeli detention raped and sexually assaulted, UN experts say: The rapporteurs also condemned incidents of 'arbitrary executions' of women and children during Israel's war on Gaza."

There is no doubt that women and children are savagely targeted in seasons of war, violence and retribution.  On all sides.  On every side.  There is really only one HUMAN side.  And war is meant to humiliate and degrade.

And so it is that violence itself is our common foe.  So long as hatred thrives--amid occupation, apartheid, dispossession--violence too will feed on resentment and fear.  Is there any doubt that evil persists...where men transfigure rage into rape, and despair into destruction?  Such violence knows no sides, no holy and unholy, no chosen and not.  It is just violence.  And desecration.  Desecration in a kibbutz.  Desecration in Gaza.  Violence is our common foe.

An end to the violence in Gaza, an end to the occupation itself, an end to apartheid: this is where the healing begins; this is where the repair begins; this is where human rights are honored and cherished.  What the peoples of the Holy Land seek is communion and collaboration, democracy and coexistence.  Truth and reconciliation.  Truth and reconcilitiation.  Beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.  And there, the possibility and promise of a world beyond horrific violence against women and children.

FOR A CEASEFIRE: "Why Now, Why New Hampshire"

February 19, 2024
I Will Not Dance to Your War Drum

Over the weekend, I was asked by friends and neighbors to sign a letter urging the Portsmouth City Council to call "f
or a ceasefire in solidarity with the long-enduring people of Palestine..."  This week, organizers from a variety of NH communities are calling on Portsmouth and Durham to join the 70+ cities across the country urging nonviolence, justice and an end to the gruesome and murderous destruction of Gaza.

Despite the global community's outrage, this bombardment continues.  Despite the organized efforts of so many, genocide seems more and more likely.  So it's time for communities across the country to step up, to speak up.  

The letter is pasted here below.  And it's a very, very strident letter, animated by anger, disappointment and even rage.  "The evil of the Zionist project of Israel, Western imperialism, and White supremacy is fundamentally repulsive," it says, "and this world is starved for humanity."  "We feel helpless and foolish contacting the federal and state government," it says, "cognizant of how preposterous it is to beg war criminals to stop committing war crimes, and we can't keep watching clips of children in mass graves searching through the body bags for their parents."  

I have signed onto this call prayerfully.  My deepest commitment is to a world where the human rights of all--Palestinian and Israeli, Arab and Jewish, Christian and Muslim--are honored by communities of care and protected by law-abiding governments.  Everything I do, every prayer I say, every breath I breathe--I contribute toward that vision, that dream, that hope.  

What my friends are expressing in this letter is, fundamentally, a call for an end to the violence: an end to the bombardment of Gaza, an end to terror and mayhem on all sides, an end to apartheid and occupation and a callous disregard for international law.  Over these past months (and, to be honest, many decades before), their hearts (and so many Palestinian lives) have been shattered repeatedly by broken promises, inhumane attacks, stolen lands, destroyed homes and children abducted without cause.  Of course, they are angry.

What we must do--as people of conscience--is stand with the many who imagine peace, and then work with the brave who know that it is possible, and then take steps in our own time and place to turn from brutality and profit toward reconciliation, negotiation and justice.

And to that end, hoping to join a national groundswell, I have signed this letter.  The honest truth is that my country, ours, is part of the problem.  A big part of the problem.  And it's past time that our government confess its complicity and choose a very different path and a very different role.  No more weapons for occupation.  No more technologies for apartheid.  No more blessing of bloodshed.  This is why I have signed.

That there may be peace, and salaam, and shalom for all!

The Rev. David Grishaw-Jones

Dear City Councilors of Portsmouth,

For months now, Israel has been waging a sadistic genocide against the Palestinian people for the explicitly stated purpose of ethnically cleansing the land, and none of this horror would have been possible without our tax dollars. The context for Israel's vicious brutality includes decades of settler-colonial land theft, military occupation, ethnosupremacist apartheid law, siege that employs starvation as a weapon of war, the bombing and raiding of houses of worship, schools, homes, refugee camps, and so many hospitals, the illegal use of white phosphorus, the targeting of the families of journalists, and the imprisonment and torture of thousands of civilians in the world’s most densely populated concentration camp. We bear witness to and hold the world accountable for the documented oppression that is the Palestinian existence. Yet the US and the rest of the inhumane Western powers have defunded UNRWA, one of Palestine's final lifelines, despite the International Court of Justice’s ruling in South Africa's case against Israel. We feel helpless and foolish contacting the federal and state government, cognizant of how preposterous it is to beg war criminals to stop committing war crimes, and we can't keep watching clips of children in mass graves searching through the body bags for their parents. The evil of the Zionist project of Israel, Western imperialism, and White supremacy is fundamentally repulsive, and this world is starved for humanity. We've led chants at rallies and given speeches at demonstrations and marched against weapons factories, but today we're appealing to you.

We know the people on this council care about fighting oppression; that's why we voted for you. At this very moment, SNH for Palestine is also bringing this fight to Manchester City Hall; we are part of a much bigger movement, and over seventy US cities now have passed a ceasefire resolution in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine, including Somerville, Cambridge, Portland, Providence, Chicago, Seattle, and Oakland! When the American people are at odds with the American government, this is our recourse; isn’t taking a public stance against mass murder on our dime the bare minimum? Tens of thousands of people have been slaughtered during this hellish winter, largely children, systematically targeted by Zionists, and we live in an era in which these atrocities against humanity have been livestreamed on social media, much to the inconvenience of our self-serving legislators who accept funds from AIPAC. Children are suffocating beneath the rubble, because of our taxes. Their limbs have to get amputated without anesthesia, because of our taxes. Their only crime is that they are indigenous to the land that Europeans wanted and stole and continue to steal, a familiar story that should alarm you and shake you to your core.

We urge you leaders for justice in this city we call home to add Portsmouth to the list of cities calling for a ceasefire in solidarity with the long-enduring people of Palestine. We pray you hear our plea. We can't rest until Palestine and the entire human race is liberated from this corrupt world order.


Southern NH for Palestine