Monday, December 31, 2007

Seventh Day of Christmas: Latin American Reflection and Appeal

... will be delayed for a few hours... check back soon.

... Okay, more than a few hours. And look just below this post when you do look for the Seventh Day of Christmas post, because I am going to put it in proper order on the proper date, which is the 31st of December. (Yes, Blogger has a thingie to adjust the time and date of posts.)

Happy New Year, everyone!

Seventh Day of Christmas: Latin American reflection and appeal (1. Xico! 2. Fork out, folks, it's payday!)

TWO. The last shall be first so number 2 precedes number 1. For those of us who get paid on the first of the month, it's payday, which means that even on meager budgets (e.g. those of us who work for nonprofits, are freelancers, church workers, students, educators, single parents, et al.) we can squeeze out some dollars or pounds or euros or whatever we are making and SEND IT TO THE PEOPLE OF CRISTO REI, an Anglican congregation in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Cidade de Deus.

There are two trustworthy collectors of this offering, one on each side of the Atlantic. Go here for details. Only six days left! The money leaves on Epiphany and you KNOW some of your money wants to go to Brazil. It's cheaper than sending yourself there, right?

Also, it's not really our money, it's God's money, so why not do a little redistribution of wealth?

ONE. Yesterday, I promised you Xico. Here's Xico. Padre Xico de Brasil, more specifically the Rev. Cônego [Canon] Francisco de Assis da Silva, or more simply, Francisco Silva or Xico Silva, and he is the (relatively new) General Secretary of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. (You know, Brazil, where our money is going.) He blogs, though not frequently, at Katinho do Rev.

Our brother Xico, a priest and lawyer, is among the wise, pastoral, and energetic group of people leading what is known as the Global Center. (Thanks to Padre Mickey de Panamá for introducing the term and the people to me and to many of us. You can see two of the dancing bishops of the Global Center here, during their recent visit to South Africa for the TEAM conference. One of them is Padre Xico's Presiding Bishop, Reverendisimo Maurício José Araújo de Andrade and the other is the Presiding Bishop from Panama, Revendisimo Julio Ernesto Murray Th., Bishop of la Iglesia Episcopal de Panamá. And do click that green "Global Center" link back at the beginning of this paragraph for a most excellent statement.)

On November 11, Padre Xico wrote on his blog:

Domingo, Novembro 11, 2007

Martin Luther: Sorry for that!

In the last days I saw a variety of declarations delivered by a group of conservative Primates and theologians within the Anglican Communion. In one of these declarations, the Archbishop Akinola compared the current crisis inside the Communion with the context of Reformation. Adding more color on his statement he invoked the image of Luther to say that the conservative group faces the same challenges and needs to embody the same struggle and values defended by the German reformer.

In my opinion, this comparison is absolutely out of context. And surely for Luther's demerit!

I would like to point at least two reasons for justify as it is unhappy this comparison:

1. Luther fought against obscurantism -

One of the main postulates of the Reform was exactly overcome the monopoly of the biblical interpretation by Church chiefs. The Bible was, according to Luther, important element to faith enrichment and the Church laymen owed themselves free access to Scriptures. Each believer has the right to exercise – by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - the gift to interpret the Scriptures and applies her in the personal life, sharing it in the community of faith. The Bible for people represented the hermeneutical upgrade that the Reformation caused for overcome official exclusive interpretations. This step was so important to eliminate the maintenance of dogmatism, fear, and the unique thought.

2. Luther fought against authoritarianism -

The power vector inside church was concentrated on Rome who ruled every matter in spiritual and secular fields. The conception of the divine power in its association with the infallibility were quite untouchable. There was not at least an idea of local Church in which, some autonomy and cultural particularities could respected. The role of the laity was absolutely disregarded. The Reformation contributes to give a more ecclesial perspective for Church, restoring the common priesthood of all believers.


What we see today through the ecclesiology defended by the conservative wing of the Communion is exactly the postulates for return to the authoritarianism and obscurantism.

The God’s Word is seen as a habits norm, moralist rule and untouchable. No one can apply other hermeneutic criteria. NO dialogue with Science, History or the life of believers. The Word of God does not talk with us, neither with our needs.

The second contradiction is the concentration of power. For result, I already affirmed previously, the matter belongs to centralization of power. Is the effort to impose a conservative hegemony who defines what it is right and what is wrong. Maintenance of dependence is the best way to manipulate consciences. A faith that can have no doubt.

The conservatives wish not an ecclesia (in the NT sense) but a sect, where the chiefs know the truth, detains the secret of the sacred deposit and imposes such mysteries to his followers.

The Anglican tradition has its roots also in the Reformation Movement. Scriptures as Frederic Maurice said, was not the last Word of God, but a start point that asks us, our life, and our reason to find the freedom. The Reformation was a fresh wave that brought to society a new scope of values, restoring the faith as a lived experience starting from inside, from the personal experience.

In this way, the comparison with Luther that some conservatives tried to do is quite offensive to the Luther’s memory. Sorry for that!

posted by Xico at 11:33 PM

Caminante, besides being an Episcopal priest in beautiful chilly chilly Vermont and walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela on a regular basis, is Canon Missioner of the Anglican Episcopal Church in El Salvador and a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. She attended the Executive Council's meeting in Dearborn, Michigan this fall and wrote about it here and here. (That second post is mostly photos.)

Xico attended the meeting and wrote about it here.

Earlier in the fall, Padre Mickey pointed his readers to this reflection by Padre Xico on the upcoming Lambeth meeting of Anglican bishops.

Padre Mickey also published this letter from Padre Xico. Among other things, Padre Xico said in the letter: In the light of the crisis that we are experiencing, I reaffirm my conviction that what divides the Anglican Communion today is not the view people have of sexuality or of rights of the homosexual. What divides the Communion is the dispute for power and control.


So, to quote the one Bible passage about which I tend toward literalism and fundamentalism:

Come... inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me... Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these... you did it to me. (from Matthew 25)

That there Gospel is not about power and control, yo!

I think Padre Xico would agree.

The year in pictures

Not really, but close, sometimes. Too close.

This cartoon is also for my spiritual sister pj The Literata.

And, of course, for The Most Excellent Elizabeth in her time of Dissertation-Finishing.

This comes to us from the fabulous Dave Walker of CartoonChurch and CartoonBlog fame (also of cute cats fame) and was the most reposted cartoon from his We Blog Cartoons site.

Long and well may he live and lampoon. Happy New Year, Dave!

Istanbul photos: Turkish rug, detail

Click on photo to enlarge.

Istanbul photos: blue tile, Haghia Sophia

Click on photo to enlarge and see detail.

Istanbul photos: big red tanker on the Bosphorus

One of the best things about staying where I did was watching the boats on the Bosphorus.

Click on the photo to enlarge. You can spot the Maiden's Tower, right behind the tanker.

You can see why this city was (and is) such a strategic place for commerce and was the capital of empires. The Bosphorus (or Bosporus, both spellings are correct) links the Black Sea (to the left, beyond the photo) to the Sea of Marmara (to the right, beyond the photo) and thus the Mediterranean. And, of course, Asia is on one side of the Bosphorus (across the water in this photo) and Europe on the other side (where I was staying).

Fun factoid: I just learned that the new opera house (the newest, that is: there are six of them!) is on the Asian side.

Look slightly South and West of Istanbul and note the Dardanelles's important location: between the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean. Another strategic place for battles. (As one of our visitors in Istanbul said, Helen of Troy was probably not the main reason for the Trojan War! More on Troy here, courtesy of the latest archeological investigations.)

I've posted maps for Estadounidenses who don't know geography. ;-)

This map has early 20th century names: Istanbul was still called Constantinople.

Here's a reference map of what we call "The Middle East."

Best online collection of maps, by the way, is the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas.

Istanbul photos: cats at dusk, city stairs

Click on photo for close-up and to find two, maybe even three cats.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sixth Day of Christmas: Latin American reflection and appeal

The appeal: tonight, a soft sell, since I went hard sell last night. Or was it the night before? Please give to our Brazilian friends in Cidade de Deus, at the Anglican congregation of Christ the King. Details of the OCICBW Community Christmas Appeal are here.

And a short reflection tonight, because I preached this morning and wrote this afternoon and I am a little tuckered out.

But, happily, it is by a Brazilian Anglican.

He speaks of the Brazilian Episcopal Anglican Church as "a valiant venture of being that church [the Anglican Communion] in a non-English world."

The liturgical life of the church is always related to a particular culture... The problem is that non-English Anglicans have inherited their liturgical forms from a very distinctive culture, which is English.... Whereas the church in Brazil has had some awareness of the situation, it has been unable to experiment at the national level [Note from Jane: this does not mean that there is no creative experimentation at the local level, e.g. at Cristo Rei and in other congregations.] with autochthonous and creative forms of cultural expressions in liturgical life. We still hold to a poor translation of portions of the Book of Common Prayer of the American church.

I once proposed a liturgical moratorium for our Province. Bishops would release clergy and lay people from our regular bondage to the Book of Common Prayer to experiment and create. I was called subversive and irresponsible. I still think that this is one of the things we need. Liturgists would organize that moratorium , and the resulst would be analyzed by committees all around the country. ...

... Music is a crucial element in any liturgical experiment. When I speak on the liberation of liturgy from old bondages, I am thinking of the liberation from English and American hymnals currently in use in Brazil. Happily there are already some experiemens with Brazilian music, like samba, modinhas, and bossa nova; but our congregations still think that in order to be sacred, music has to be English. Although Brazilian music is important, I do not think that we should limit the music of the liturgy in this part of the world to our own music. There is a marvelous richness all around the world, ancient and contemporary, that we should share for the sake of beauty and pleasure

Any liturgical reform should also be related to mission, and should be based in a new theology relating mission to joy and freedom. Liturgy and mission are sisters dancing together in the direction of the beauty of the kingdom of God.

*****Jaci Maraschin
******"Culture, Worship, and Spirit"
******in Ian T. Douglas and Kwok Pui-lan, eds., Beyond Colonial Anglicanism: The Anglican Communion in the Twenty-First Century (2001)

This essay was originally presented at the symposium "Unbound! Anglican Worship beyond the Prayer Book" hosted by the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, in January, 1999.

Jaci Maraschin is a priest in the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, Diocese of Sao Paolo, a professor, author, songwriter and poet.

Tomorrow: Xico!

Istanbul photos: ablution fountain, Starbucks

Mosques have fountains where worshippers wash their feet and hands and face and perform other ritual ablutions before going to pray. I only saw men at these fountains.

This particular one was not in use.

Click on these two photos for detail and note the beautiful Arabic calligraphy at the top of the second one.

A couple of minutes' walk from Haghia Sophia (which was first a church, then a mosque, and is now a museum) is the tram on a very touristy street with, you guessed it and you see it, Starbucks.

Doris Lessing's Nobel speech (a few weeks late)

I missed this because I was traveling. It's a must-read. (Even if Lessing briefly disses the internet and blogging, which made our reading of this piece possible. But of course that's not her point.)

........ All the writers travelled a difficult road to literacy, let alone to becoming writers. I would say learning to read from the printed labels on jam jars and discarded encyclopaedias was not uncommon. And we are talking about people hungering for standards of education beyond them, living in huts with many children - an overworked mother, a fight for food and clothing.

Yet despite these difficulties, writers came into being. And we should also remember that this was Zimbabwe, conquered less than 100 years before. The grandparents of these people might have been storytellers working in the oral tradition. In one or two generations, the transition was made from these stories remembered and passed on, to print, to books.

Books were literally wrested from rubbish heaps and the detritus of the white man's world. But a sheaf of paper is one thing, a published book quite another. I have had several accounts sent to me of the publishing scene in Africa. Even in more privileged places like North Africa, to talk of a publishing scene is a dream of possibilities.

Here I am talking about books never written, writers who could not make it because the publishers are not there. Voices unheard. It is not possible to estimate this great waste of talent, of potential. But even before that stage of a book's creation which demands a publisher, an advance, encouragement, there is something else lacking. .....

******* Doris Lessing (age 88)
********"A Hunger for Books"
********Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech
********December 7, 2007
And again I say: Read it.

Istanbul photos: seagull, roofs, satellite dish

You can learn a lot about a city from its roofs.

Click to enlarge and see good detail.

The Cats of Chalcedon

Yes, I will write more about the ferry trip, but for now, the photo I dearly hoped would come out! I thought of the title of this blog post (or caption for the picture) as soon as I saw these two, curled up against each other napping. They woke up as I approached to take the photo.

Click to enlarge and see close up whether cats the world over look alike.

These were in Kadiköy, right next to the Asian side of Istanbul (i.e. the other side of the Bosphorus from the European side of the city where I was staying). Its ancient name is Chalcedon; yes, that Chalcedon.

Istanbul photos: Bosphorus view, cloudy morning

The weather is Istanbul is changeable, at least in the winter. The skies over the water change even more than the weather. Here are views from the apartment where I stayed a couple of weeks ago; same time, same day, looking right to left.

Click to enlarge!

These views are from the European side of the city, looking out at the Asian side.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fifth Day of Christmas: Latin American reflection and appeal

It's Casaldáliga, continued this evening, back by popular demand and also because I was already planning this last night.

More from Dom Pedro Casaldáliga's interview by the late, talented, radiant, died-too-young Mev Puleo. (Yes, I knew her. For a lovely, challenging book on Mev, her faith, her politics, and her relationship with her husband, see The Book of Mev by Mark Chmiel, who was married to Mev until her death at the age of 32.) The interview took place in the early 1990s. Casaldáliga retired from his position as Catholic bishop of São Felix de Arraguaia in 2005.

(A few years before his retirement, Dom Pedro was silenced by then Cardinal Ratzinger under Pope John Paul II. He is now nearly 80 years old, living with Parkinson's and a couple of other serious health conditions.)

The contemplative life isn't just important -- it's my whole life! I always say, the more radically we are revolutionaries, the more radically we should be contemplatives.

... First and foremost in this world, we should destroy the arms factories once and for all. If the bishops and pastors and presidents and politician of the world were sufficiently honest and courageous, we would kneel in front of every single arms factory to prevent their continued production!

Now it's easy for the empire, for capitalism, for the dictators to condemn only the struggle of the poor and to forget about the root of all violence - the institutionalized violence of the very empire.

* * * * *

(During his time as bishop, Dom Pedro lived in a simple home of brick and clay with cement floors.)

In my twenty years here, I've sought to work in teams with religious [i.e. members of religious orders] and laity, married or single. We make this option to mutually complement one another. We pray and eat together, but also have personal space to cultivate our particular identities.

We try to live close to the people, so you won't find us in palaces or curias.

If I lived alone as a bishop in a palace, with a secretary and a cook, I wouldn't have the opportunity to live the daily problems of the people! I wouldn't have the chance to hear the women neighbors who come here to talk with Sister Irene about health problems, or with Maria, the lawyer, about land problems.

... As a bishop, I recognize that we, the hierarchy, are the main ones responsible for the evil that occurs, and for the good that doesn't occur, in the church. I heard a joke that there can only be bishops in hell -- others don't stand a chance of getting in!

At a national meeting of the CEBs [Comunidades Ecclesiales de Base, Christian Base Communities], I invited the bishops to kneel in front of the people in repentance. So often we did not have the prophetic courage to denounce or announce. Many times the Christian people, especially women and the poor, haven't had the opportunity to participate. It's no doubt because the hierarchy closed itself to dialogue.

Hence, the mea culpa should begin with the cupola [the dome or top of a structure, referring to the church hierarchy].


I always say, God will take care of us after we're dead -- we have to take care of now until death! Chapter 25 of Matthew puts it clearly: hunger, thirst, imprisonment will judge us. A faith that isn't expressed in works is dead.

And our works can't be just individual, they must address structures as well. Still, I always say that the biggest problem God will ever have is to condemn someone.

God is love, as St. John says, and love doesn't like to condemn. God sent us his Son not to judge, but to save us.


Look, I myself, by the very fact of being a bishop, am not poor. Anyone who goes through a university or seminary or novitiate isn't poor, because we have more possibilities, a culture, a backing that simple poor people lack.

But I, or any relatively bourgeois intellectual or family, can and should "betray" our class and opt for the causes of the poor --the organization, demands and movements of the poor who are trying to liberate themselves.

I'm not going to ask First World families go hungry, but they can renounce certain privileges. We should simplify. For example, we get a lot of help [here] from European groups who create a "self-tax," tithing part of their salary to help the Third World. They renounce trips, luxuries, foods. Solidarity isn't throwing a party to raise alms twice a year! The rich person shouldn't merely be giving alms, but should truly have mercy and compassion on others, as Jesus himself did.

When I begin to understand that every other person is an equal to myself, I can no longer retain my privileges, because to do so would be robbery. I cannot merely give donations, I must pay back what I owe. There's a difference.


The U.S. is not "more than Haiti or Guatemala or El Salvador! We are all human beings -- one people should be equal to another people in possibilities, in dignity, in liberty!

Did Dom Pedro say we shouldn't be raising money? He did not. He just said it isn't enough to do so.

Thus I am reminding you: this series is part Latin American reflection, part funding appeal for the parish --especially the children-- of Cristo Rei in the community of Cidade de Deus, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The money goes to kitchens, classrooms, music, and other infrastructure needs. Two Anglican clergymembers (one in the U.K., one in the U.S., the much beloved Jonathan and Elizabeth) are receiving the funds and holding them until Epiphany when they will send them to our friends in Brazil. They are, I assure you, trustworthy in these matters. (And if they were not, their parish treasurer would bop them over the head -- nonviolently of course. We have accountability in our congregrations.)

Things have been a little slow at the OCICBW... Christmas Appeal and we only have seven days left. So click the link (make sure you read Luiz's post in the Comments section when you get to your bloggy destination) and send some of your local currency. PayPal takes plastic. Also, there is a way to send checks, or cheques if that is your preferred spelling. Waiting till a January 1 payday? Never fear, I will post a big fat reminder on January 1. And smaller ones before and after.

But think of this fund-raiser as an entryway, not an end.

Will we know the people of Cristo Rei as people, as God's people? How can we not only give to them but receive from them too --their riches: their faith, their insight, their wisdom, their strength? How can we see them truly as our sisters and brothers? Where will this heart-warming and challenging Christmas Appeal take us?

Ponder that one in your hearts, sisters and brothers.

Wendat (Huron) Carol

This beautiful carol comes to us courtesy of Ann. Thank you!

Thinking Anglicans on Thomas (à Becket) of Canterbury

Simon Kershaw of Thinking Anglicans has this to say about Thomas, whose feast is today.

Bush extends S-CHIP - Huh?

First this, now this.

Can someone explain this to me?

And people say church politics drive them nuts.

Bottom line: Is it good for the children?

P.S. Whoever said on the radio the other day that S-CHIP needed better marketing is right; the name, for one. Call it The Children's Health Campaign or something!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Casaldáliga and Ratzinger

This is a short P.S. to the post below.

Dom Pedro Casaldáliga, recently retired bishop of São Félix do Araguaia, Brasil, in 2005, on the then new pope:

I had direct personal contact with Ratzinger when I was summoned to go to Rome when I refused to comply with the ‘ad limina’ visit. In a fraternal admonition, he reproached me on account of my attitude to liberation theology, of my celebrating Mass for the intentions of the Indios and for the intentions of the black populations, for my journey to Central America as acts of solidarity, for the insertion of cultural elements in the way pastoral care is exercised and the liturgy is celebrated among us. There was even a moment of humor in the course of our discussion. I had written in Nicaragua that it was necessary that each and every one of us should all undergo a conversion, and that we, the Church and the world, would also have to be converted. When I suggested at the end of our discussion that we should pray the ‘Our Father’ together, Ratzinger asked me, with a trace of malicious irony whether is was ‘so that the Church may be converted’? And I answered: ‘Yes, so that the Church may be converted. And I continue to be of the same opinion that we all must be converted.

Source: CCFMC.

Fourth Day of Christmas: Latin American reflection and appeal

Dom Pedro Casaldáliga, born in Spain, has lived in Brazil since 1968 and been a (Roman Catholic) bishop in since 1971. He is the recently retired bishop of São Felix de Arraguaia, a diocese in the state of Mato Grosso, a long journey from any of Brazil's major cities. He is a member of the Claretian order.

A 2005 movie from Spain, or more precisely Catalonia (Catalunya in the Catalán language), Casaldáliga's homeland, calls him "a militant of hope."

He is also a poet.

A book about Casaldáliga which I haven't read but which sure sounds like him calls him Mystic of Liberation. He chronicled some of his sojourns to Central America in this book.

In an interview published in Mev Puleo's The Struggle Is One: Voices and Visions of Liberation (1994), Casaldáliga said:

When I first arrived in Latin America in 1968, there was a full military dictatorship in Brazil.

Originally, the church hierarchy supported the dictatorship because of its fear of communism. But when the abuses and domination grew, they adopted a more prophetic and critical attitude.

The Brazilian Bishops Conference (CNBB) nearly unanimously voted on documents promoting social justice, land reform, education and the rights of the indigenous. This was unique! Even today, the three countries with the most religious persons murdered are El Salvador, Haiti and Brazil.

....[T]he region where I work was and is violent. It's a region of Indigenous, peasants and large landowners. Many have been murdered in the conflict between landowners and peasants -- without names, without coffins. We buried many people.

Really, in this situation, there was no other way to take another option. And we have suffered because of our option for the poor.

My friend, Father João Bosco Burnier, was shot while standing next to me. Many friends have been killed, and yes, I've received death threats for years. The landowners form their own death squads to threaten those who challenge them.

* * * * * *

My faith sustains me in these trying times. And the fact of being a bishop gives me a specific responsibility. We're obliged to become what our friends call us to be.

I thank God that I've never had a great faith crisis! My writing helps. Communicating in an open way about your life experiences naturally brings one to a certain coherence. And I think poetry, a love of nature and a childlike sensitivity all help me to live with more naturalness and vibrancy, overcoming problems.

They say a poet is born, so I guess I was born a poet!

This means I always carry with me a type of vibrancy before everything - a humming bird, a kitten, the face of a child, the stars, a death, loneliness, despair, God.

This pulses in me.

In one of my poems I say that no one can accompany me totally. I've heard that you can measure someone's personality by their capacity for solitude.

Ultimately, we're all alone. I alone have to answer for myself before society and God, because we aren't a collectivized mass, we're individual persons in communion. This is the greatness and tragedy of being human.

Now, this solitude can be filled with silence, contemplation and personal growth. But it can also be anguished or morbid. For one who has faith, who lives serving others, who loves nature, solitude is never morbid.

* * * * *

... Clearly, I'm not glorifying oppression, persecution or death. I don't just insist on the resurrection, I'm obsessed by the resurrection!

I say over and over again to our people --in celebrations and pastoral visits-- that the single most Christian word we can pronounce is Easter. I once wrote a poem that says, "This is our alternative: live or resurrected, never dead!"

And here is a short poetic quote by Dom Pedro which I once used as a signature on my e-mail and which a couple of friends of mine have used for memorial services -- one for his mother, the other for her university congregation in honor of alums and friends who had died the previous year.

At the end of the road, they will ask me,
‘Have you lived? Have you loved?’
And not saying a word
I will open
my heart full of names.

*****-- Dom Pedro Casaldáliga

On the feast of the Holy Innocents, 2007.

P.S. Yes, this continues to be a fund-raising appeal for our friends in Brazil. Details here and here. Buy one less iPod! Give to the classrooms, kitchens, and church programs of the children and community of Cristo Rei in Cidade de Deus, Rio de Janeiro! Secure ways to give, by check or PayPal, are here.

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Two posts for the day:

The stunning (not in the sense of "beautiful" -- prepare to lament) post by MadPriest.

And a different take by Rmj at Adventus, whose blog I recently discovered (I think via MadPriest).

Adventus, by the way, bears at the top of the page a saying that has been stirring my head and heart for a few days and which seems very much related to the Merton quote on Christmas -- and, for that matter, to Dom Pedro Casaldaliga's reflections below.

The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you. --Terry Eagleton

Pakistan news and bloggy resources

Just one for now, but I'll be adding to this. Or maybe not. I'm writing something theological, plus a sermon (which may or may not be theological) and trying to stay off-line.

I heard an interview with the blogger from All Things Pakistan on NPR. (Every time I go into the kitchen, I turn on the radio.)

All Things Pakistan, in its own words:

Founding Editor: Adil Najam
Managing Editor: Owais Mughal
Contributing Editors: Darwaish, Adil Najam, Bilal Zuberi

We hope that ATP (All Things Pakistan) will be about discussion, not rants.

Our aspiration is to indulge in a conversation with others - Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis - about Pakistan as a living, breathing, vibrant, vigorous, multi-dimensional, complex society. This is in direct retaliation to the dominant discourse on Pakistan that tends to be about various versions of ‘Pakistan - the cardboard cut-out’.

The most recent post as of this writing is "Pakistan After Benazir: Choosing Our Future." Have a look.

The Byzigenous Buddhapalian also has some thoughts worth reading (and information) about Benazir Bhutto's assassination and aftermath.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto, R.I.P.

The BBC obituary is here, along with the usual rich array of helpful BBC analysis, comment, interviews, and photos.

One article asks, "What next for Pakistan?" What next, indeed. Oremus.

Third Day of Christmas: Latin American reflection and appeal

Gustavo Gutiérrez, author of A Theology of Liberation ("Is he still alive?" my students ask. You betcha.) and known widely as the father of liberation theology, has written a lot of other books, and one of the best is his book on Job.

I first read that book in English but then, about six years ago, had a chance to crawl through it in Spanish with a class at the GTU. Even the title is better in Spanish. In English it's On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent. In the original Spanish it's Hablar de Dios desde el sufrimiento del inocente, "Speaking of God from inside of (or "from the starting-point of," from the inside toward the outside, all in that one word desde which doesn't exist in English) the suffering of the innocent." Very different from "and the suffering of the innocent." (The subtitle in Spanish is una reflection sobre el libro de Job, "a reflection on the book of Job." The title and subtitle were thus inverted in the English edition.)

Today's reflection, in English, is from that book.

The editor of a fine volume of selections from Gutiérrez's work, James B. Nickoloff, writes that in his book on Job, Gutiérrez argues that a turning point in Job's relationship with God occurs when the afflicted man comes to see that, unfortunately, he is far from alone in suffering unfairly. Indeed, the awareness of others' suffering (and its injustice) leads Job to free himself from a theology of reward and punishment and begin to embrace the mystery of gratuitous love and the tasks to which it gives rise.

Here's Gutiérrez now. These are bits of chapter 5 in the book on Job.

The dialogue of Job and his friends advances at an uneven pace, but it does advance. The friends repeat themselves and become increasingly aggressive, but Job sees more deeply int his own experience and refines his thinking. ...[H]e realizes that he is not the only one to experience the pain of unjust suffering. The poor of this world are in the same boat as he: instead of living, they die by the roadside, deprived of the land that was meant to support them. Job discovers to his grief that he has many counterparts in adversity.

The question he asks of God ceases to be a purely personal one and takes concrete form in the suffering of the poor of this world. The answers he seeks will not come except through commitment to them and by following the road --which God alone knows-- that leads to wisdom. Job begins to free himself from an ethic centered on personal rewards and to pass to another focused on the needs of one's neighbor. The change represents a considerable shift.

As his friends continue to insist on the doctrine of temporal retribution, Job ceases to look only at this individual case and asks why it is that the wicked proper [see Job 21:6-9]. This first enlargement of the field of personal experience will supply him with a further argument in the debate with his friends. From the new vantage point he will be able to see the weakness of the arguments brought against him...

"At the very thought" [that the wicked still live on] Job recalls a fact of daily life, which anyone can verify. The wicked proper --that is, the very persons who neither serve God nor pray to God [Job 21:13-15, 17-18]...

... Job... will distance himself even more quickly and fully from the ethico-religious language of his friends. Moreover, his line of argument will now change radically, as a result precisely of realization that poverty and abandonment are not his lot alone. For he sees not what this poverty and abandonment are note something fated but are caused by the wicked, who nonetheless live serene and satisfied lives. These are the same ones who tell the Lord, "Go away!" The wicked are both rejecters of God and enemies of the poor -- two sides of the same coin. All this leads the author of the book to put into the mouth of Job the most radical and cruel description of the wretchedness of the poor that is to be found in the Bible, and also to have Job utter a harsh indictment of the powerful who rob and oppress the poor [Job 24:2-14]....

The description is full of detail and shows careful attention to the concrete situation of the poor. The poverty described is not the result of destiny or inexplicable causes; those responsible for it are named without pity. Job is describing a state of affairs caused by the wickedness of those who exploit and rob the poor. In many instances, therefore, the suffering of the innocent points clearly to guilty parties. The daily life of the poor is a death, says the Bible. The oppressors of the poor are therefore called murderers.

*******Gustavo Gutiérrez
*******On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent (1986; English ed. 1987)

Read Spanish? Here's a Spanish-language BBC interview with GG on a related theme, opposition to the fatalism of poverty.

Now, back to our previously scheduled Portuguese-speaking community of friends: you can still give to the Cristo Rei parish in Cidade de Deus, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We have till Epiphany, the Twelfth Day of Christmas.

The money will go primarily to the community's ministry with children and will contribute to the infrastructure to make a lasting difference in the classrooms, the kitchen, and other community resources.

Read all about the appeal here and here and skip that double latte two days in a row, and voilà! a donation! Now, don't you feel good? (I have no shame, at least about fund-raising.)

In honor of the Twelve Days of Christmas, I will continue to post short and not too obnoxious daily reminders of the community Christmas appeal for the parish of Cristo Rei (Christ the King) in Cidade de Deus (City of God), on the West side of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, accompanied by quotations from various Latin American Christians.

Links to previous postings of reflections by Latin American Christians during these 12 days of Christmas are here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Feast of St. Stephen, 1983" (oh my, an old poem!)

I had completely forgotten until a few minutes ago that I had written this. Fortunately I still had it in a file somewhere.

This won't make much sense unless you know both the passage from Acts about the martyrdom of Stephen and the movie "Silkwood" -- which, as you may have figured out, a friend and I saw on the feast of St. Stephen that year. After going to Walden Pond for a walk and having supper.

Feast of St. Stephen, 1983

Around the pond
we walked in layers of scarves and down
You grinning blue-eyed beneath the auburn hat
wiped a tear from your left eye
I drew the purple wool around my face
squinting from sun and cold
A lone white bird glided low, back to its companions
flocked in the center
We stooped and saw bursts of snow and dry blown leaves
clinging to the frozen surface
A bracing day it was
full of the colors of early friendship.

we gave thanks for bread and wine
and split pea soup
An entire hour
The words are gone now
--only warmth remains
strains of Dylan and Aretha
and the feeling of home
visions of feasts to come
and the cat playing with jackets, eyeing the stuffed kangaroo
on the chair between us.

From bright day gentle words warm haze of wine mischievous glances
to cold street dark theater mute Oklahoma colors harsh
hard lives
*******those who listened to Stephen's words
*******were stung at the heart
*******and ground their teeth in anger
and Karen crying out as they scrubbed her poor body
with gloved hands, the salt water
blistering her skin
*******the onlookers were shouting aloud
*******holding their hands over their ears
Amazing Grace she sang
*******holding their hands over their ears
We too
are caught by the hidden demons, I thought
--you stared ahead
and I clutched the fur hat
in my lap--
threatened infiltrated trapped
by plutonium and sin
at unacceptable levels
*******and he saw the sky open and God in glory
We walked out stunned into the alley.

You drove off too soon
leaving us with only half
of the questions and half the comfort
the day hanging unfinished between us
but sealed with tenderness

Still we search for hope
aching and grateful to be alive
Time is short
we relinquish easy clarity
and choose instead the road
in which grace infinite hides, waiting.

(c) Jane Redmont

Second Day of Christmas: Latin American reflection and appeal

In honor of the Twelve Days of Christmas, I am posting short daily reminders of the community Christmas appeal for the parish of Cristo Rei (Christ the King) in Cidade de Deus (City of God), on the West side of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, accompanied by quotations from various Latin American Christians.

Today, a special treat: you can see and hear the children of Cidade de Deus sing on video and also read a letter from Fr. Eduardo Costa at OCICBW... (What can I say, it's a MadPriest kind of day. Thanks also to MP for telling people about this Twelve Days of Christmas event, which is part of our broader appeal.)

Our reflection for the day comes from Peru:

I am a single mother with a fifth-grade education and one son. When my son was a teenager, gangs started to appear and the children were gravitating toward them. We could not just sit by and watch the situation worse. Therefore, another friend with [community organizing' experience and I joined the Directiva Central del Pueblo (Town Council).

Our first responsibility was to put on a play, El Artista (The Artist), in which we tried to show how God created the world. In other words, God is the artist, but each one of us is like the custodian of the work of art. We each have our own interpretations. We can improve the work of art -- such as giving it light so it can be seen and putting it in an environment in which it is not harmed -- or we can do damage to it, like scratching it or hiding it away.

We wanted the kids to know that each of them has responsibility for the gifts that God has given them: life, family, home, faith. Even if "the painting" has been damaged, it is still possible to restore it and this is the task that each one of us has.

In the process of putting on the play, I came to realize more deeply the call of God and my need to respond to it. This meant more involvement, which took me away from my son at times, interfered with my work, and cut off my free time. Therefore, I guess you could say that I "suffered" for the good. However, this is the type of suffering that is good and it breaks down whatever causes more suffering.

*******---Modesta Centano Salazar

Ms. Salazar is Secretary of the Town Council of El Agostino, a pueblo joven [or barrio or neighborhood -- like Cidade de Deus in Rio] of Lima, Peru. She spoke these words in a 1998 interview with Tom Powers, S.J. for his book The Call of God: Women Doing Theology in Peru (SUNY Press, 2003).

Missed the first couple of days of this baker's dozen? You can go back and visit those:

Bonus Christmas Eve prayer-poem by Dom Helder Camara here.

First Day of Christmas (Christmas Day) reflections on Incarnation, the immensity of God, and North/South relationships by Silvia Regina de Lima Silva here.

Now pull out those checkbooks, or go visit PayPal here for full information on secure giving modalities. (Includes addresses if you prefer to send checks.)

Yes, we (and more importantly, the people of Cidade de Deus) need justice, not just charity. But the people must survive to make it happen, and the children need to grow and be safe and receive love and care.

The way we are, we are members of each other. All of us. Everything. The difference ain't in who is a member and who is not, but in who knows it and who don't.
*********Wendell Berry
*********The Wild Birds

P.S. You might like this one too -- not by a Latin American, but it's another good Christmas quote.

Feast of Stephen, Deacon

The deacon's deacon, Ormonde Plater at Through the Dust, has --as one would expect-- a fine post on Stephen, with an icon too. Have a look.

He and Kay also had a fine Christmas dinner.

Nobody said you can't have both diakonia and good food. They know how to live in New Orleans.

Speaking of Louisiana, the one and only Mimi at Wounded Bird has a fine Stephen post too with an interesting set of comments by visitors from far and near.

Chaldean Catholics in Iraq - Muslims and Christians

Outside Mar Eliya church, not much had changed since last Christmas: Concrete blocks still surround the building and guards check the IDs of those entering. But inside, hundreds of Iraqi worshipers - Christians and Muslims - were crammed into the overflowing Chaldean Catholic church Tuesday, celebrating the holiday and the fact that they felt safe enough to venture out of their homes to attend Christmas Mass.

"Last year was the year of misery, desperation and sadness," said Samar Jorge Gorges. "But this year is better. So many people attend the Mass and you can see that their praying was joyful."

Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, the patriarch of Iraq's ancient Chaldean Church said Mass, appealing for peace and unity across the war-scarred country.

"Iraq is like a garden and its beauty is the variety of its flowers and scent," Delly said during the service.

Among those attending were several Shiite Muslim sheiks, including Raad Tamimi, who said they had come "in solidarity with our Christian brothers . . . to plant the seed of love again in the new Iraq." Tamimi, a tribal leader, was excited to shake the cardinal's hand and asked that a photo be taken with his cellphone.

Many thanks to MadPriest for the story and the link.

Full story at the L.A. Times. They will make you sign up if you aren't already registered on the Los Angeles Times site, but it's free and they've never sent me spam. (I can't say the same for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.)

O God of all peace,
whose child Jesus healed the sick
and walked with the suffering,
we thank you for your Spirit,
present among your people in Iraq.
We beg you
who have kindled the flame of love
in their hearts
to keep them strong
in you,
through Christ Jesus, saviour. Amen.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

First Day of Christmas: Latin American reflection and appeal

As promised.

Read. Give. Please.

The two most important forces in my life are God who becomes incarnate and God who escapes all our definitions.

The incarnation is the most beautiful thing that can happen! God so much wants to be committed to the human person that God becomes human: enters what is most deeply human.

Yet every effort to put God into codes, norms, creeds, and dogmas falls short. God is beyond all that. This stirs me to always be looking for God.

I will never grasp the mystery of God!

We must remember that society, the church, , and even families structure themselves very much on the image of God they hold.

We were taught "God the Father." But for us women, our experience of God was much more of a Mother -- in God's closeness, tenderness, friendship. We experience God as Trinity, as Community who unites all kinds of possibilities and diversities!

So we speak of a Black God, Mother God, Worker God.

This de-mystifies what's been passed on to us! In our process of organization and liberation of our people, it's important to meet a God who is more like us.

Yet God throws down every effort to absolutize God.

God is dynamic -- diversity, unity, communion. Here is a God who doesn't have a face -- thus a God who can assume all faces.

I think God is disconcerting. God escapes us.

The fullness of God unites masculine, feminine, all peoples, all races.


The relationship between North and South is marked by a great distance -- geographical, racial and social distance. It is a relationship of exclusion. So the first thing we want is the be respected -- respected as a Latin American people, as a Brazilian people, as women, as black people.

Beyond respect, I believe in a relationship of solidarity. I think solidarity comes through a change of place -- leaving where you are a bit. You have to move from the place of imperialism to the place of brother and sister, friendship and equality.

It is also very important to really believe in each other. The other is not "underdeveloped" or "ignorant" ! The other is simply other -- different from myself. But the other also has part of the truth! This is true for all relationships -- U.S./Brazil, men/women, blacks/whites. When we recognize each other's truth, we are able to meet one another in solidarity.

And this liberation comes at a high price -- sometimes our very lives. But I call you to believe in this, to open yourselves to the future, to dream this dream -- a dream that nourishes our lives and our struggle.

*****Silvia Regina de Lima Silva
*****Interview in Mev Puleo, The Struggle Is One: Voices and Visions of Liberation (SUNY Press, 1994)

Afro-Brazilian feminist theologian Silvia Regina de Lima Silva teaches in San Jose, Costa Rica. When Mev Puleo interviewed her in the early 1990s, she was a student at the Pontifical University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and living in a small religious community of Afro-Brazilians, dedicated to serving the black population on the periphery of Rio. Because she chose to live in a poor and often violent neighborhood, she commuted four or five hours daily to and from Rio for classes.

* * * * * * * *
In honor of the Twelve Days of Christmas, I will continue to post short and not too obnoxious daily reminders of the community Christmas appeal for the parish of Cristo Rei (Christ the King) in Cidade de Deus (City of God), on the West side of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, accompanied by quotations from various Latin American Christians


I'm pretty sure I've posted this before, but I can't find when, and it bears re-posting. I used this also on the front page of my History of Christianity syllabus this fall. It's Coptic.

Can anyone identify the Nativity elf to the right??

And where has poor Joseph gone? Everyone else is there, including animals and angels.

I do love this icon, though.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all.

Oscar Peterson, R.I..P. (Sunday, December 23, 2007)

The great Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson has died, and the airwaves were full of tributes to him yesterday.

For now, the story from the L.A. Times.

The obit is a good long one, and there are photos and audio in the sidebar.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"His place is with those others for whom there is no room." Merton does it again

St. Mary's House Chaplain, my friend and colleague the Rev. Kevin Matthews, began his Christmas sermon with the words below from the writings of Thomas Merton. I just poked around and found them on the Web, quoted by various preachers in various places, but I don't know the source yet (i.e. from which book or essay they are taken). Neither did Kevin, who found the quote among some notes he had. [P.S. Late Dec. 25 . I found the reference. It's from Merton's Raids on the Unspeakable.] He's sending me a copy of his sermon, but meanwhile, the heart of the matter, from our favorite monk.

The line breaks are mine, for better reading and hearing.

Into this world,
this demented inn,
in which there is absolutely no room for him
at all,
Christ has come uninvited.
But because he cannot be at home in it,
because he is out of place in it,

and yet he must be in it,
his place is with those others
for whom there is no room.

His place is with those who do not belong,
who are rejected by power
because they are regarded as weak,
those who are discredited,
who are denied the status of persons,
With those for whom there is no room,
Christ is present in this world.

You've read the Christmas collect, now for the Christmas collection!

Okay, so I posted a Christmas collect a tiny bit early. We have an early service tonight, that's my excuse.

And now for the collection. (What, you think progressive Anglicans are any different from their sistern and brethren of other persuasions?)

My cyberfriends and I are involved in a worthy appeal for the community of one of our friends in one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods of Brazil, Cidade de Deus (City of God), served by the Anglican parish of Christ the King. (Yes, there are other churches in Cidade de Deus; we're just doing our small bit.)

I posted something about this waaaaay back -- or thought I had, but the travel gremlins made me save it instead of posting it. Now it's up.

The appeal began November 30, But remember, it's never too late, and this is called a Christmas Appeal, not an Advent Appeal, so let me remind you good liturgical types out there that CHRISTMAS IS A SEASON AND HAS TWELVE DAYS, despite what the deities of consumer capitalism might tell you.

So here is a reminder (but you may want to visit that link above):

The OCICBW... Community Christmas Appeal this year is raising money to help pay for the work being done by the Anglican Church of Christ the King in the City Of God district of Rio De Janeiro. Full details about the project and how to send your gifts can be found here.

Brought to you by our friends at OCICBW... (Of Course, I Could Be Wrong...) from the UK, Brazil, and around this round world.

It's God's money, not our money! Share the wealth!

In honor of the Twelve Days of Christmas, I will be posting short and not too obnoxious daily reminders accompanied by quotations from various Latin American Christians, beginning tomorrow, Christmas Day, through the feast of the Epiphany.

Quotations will be ecumenical, not just by Anglicans. (As the late lamented Dom Helder Camara, Catholic Archbishop of Recife and Olinda, once said to a roomful of us at the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia -- I was an RC in those days -- "When the Holy Spirit moves in the world, it does not ask 'where are the Catholics?'")

Here, as a preview, is a prayer-poem by this very same Archbishop Camara, may he rest in peace.

Come Lord

Do not smile and say
you are already with us.
Millions do not know you
and to us who do,
what is the difference?
What is the point of your presence
if our lives do not alter?
Change our lives, shatter

our complacency.
Make your word
flesh of our flesh,
blood of our blood
and our life's purpose.
Take away the quietness
of a clear conscience.
Press us uncomfortably.
For only thus
that other peace is made,
your peace.

*******Dom Helder Camara, The Desert Is Fertile (1974)

Christmas collect

God our beloved,
born of a woman's body,
you came that we might look upon you,
and handle you with our own hands.
May we so cherish one another in our bodies
that we may also be touched by you;
through the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ,

*****Janet Morley
*****All Desires Known

Maya catches a mouse

You may remember that her first fortnight here, Maya Pavlova chased a mouse from the guest bedroom into the (empty) bathtub and I grabbed the mouse in a yogurt container before she could kill it and dispatched it into the great outdoors. (I may not have mentioned that little detail.)

Well, there must be a mouse nest in or behind the walls of the guest room closet, because Miss Maya has been stalking the place again, watching intently.

I came back from church and found a little dead mouse on the bathroom floor, duly chased and killed by the resident feline.

Which reminds me, I never posted my promised post on Rodent Ethics, The Prequel. Too busy in the squirrely groves of academe this fall. (Nota bene: within two hours of my posting course grades online a week ago, no fewer than three students wrote me to complain about their grades.)

In any event, the cat is earning her keep. My cat-sitters didn't say anything about mice, so this may have been my welcome back present.

La Pavlova has also been walking all over the computer and brushing my face with her tail. I'm getting the "Don't you dare go away again" look, too.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Advent Chagall series: "Lovers" (for Joseph and Mary)

Carbon offsets for air travel

As I was flying home, I had a small guilty thought about how big my ecological footprint was getting with all this recent airplane travel.

Today, as I was browsing through several of my favorite blogs for a little catch-up reading, I found that the ever reliable Veggie Revolution, with our holiday travels in mind, had posted something just two days ago about carbon offsets. Not sure what that means? Check here. The post has information and concrete action steps.

Questions with Mary in late Advent: the end of a sermon

Two years ago, in Lectionary Year B with different readings, I preached on the 4th Sunday of Advent at my congregation, St. Mary's House in Greensboro. (We are a combination of chaplaincy for three local universities and colleges and a "regular congregation.") Since we are not in year B and the sermon was on the long side, I won't share all of it. And this year, the star of the Gospel is the righteous man Joseph, not Mary. Still, Mary is one of our Advent companions, and I thought I'd offer the end of the sermon here.

The sermon began with one of the songs from the magnificent Boston performance of Langston Hughes's Black Nativity and drew heavily (but not in academic style) from Elizabeth Johnson's wonderful book Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints.

The final draft of the sermon (including the final draft of this final excerpt) has footnotes because I used a lot of sources. Obviously I didn't preach the footnotes -- I added them later because I am a compulsive academic who cites her sources and because some members of the congregation wanted a copy. The book author I mention is a good friend of mine here in Greensboro, a theologian member of the congregation who teaches at U of NC at Greensboro, as does his partner, who is a specialist in Byzantine Christianity. The quote is especially appropriate since it comes from the Christian East, from whose heartland I have just returned.

Our brother Gene has a new book out.
In Gene’s book, there is a beautiful passage
from which I want to quote only in part, because that part is so rich.
He’s commenting on an ancient hymn about Mary
from the Christian East
And here’s what he says of her:

As a woman of low estate, she opens up a time for justice;
as a willing recipient of the Spirit, she opens up a site of joy.
In preparing the justice of God’s realm, she plays the role of the prophet

Let me repeat that; it’s worth a second hearing.
As a woman of low estate, [Mary] opens up a time for justice;
as a willing recipient of the Spirit, she opens up a site of joy.
In preparing the justice of God’s realm, she plays the role of the prophet.

In the era in which the ancient hymn was written,
Mary was often viewed as more than simply a human sister.

But Gene’s beautiful passage can apply just as well
to Mary our human sister, our companion.

Here we are on the fourth Sunday of Advent.
And this year we’ve got a whole week,
unlike some years when we only have two days
between this day and Christmas.
We can spend the week with Mary–
Mary who is “truly our sister;”
Mary who “has to accomplish her life in the midst of the struggles of history,” [3]
despite or maybe because of
her little visit from the Gabriel the angel.

So Mary’s presence on this fourth Sunday of Advent asks us:

Are we ready
with Mary our sister
to open up a time for justice?

Are we
willing recipients of the Spirit?
The Spirit!
Not the shortcut solution.
Not the easy power.
The power of the Spirit:
the Spirit of God;
the one with the messages in the middle of the night;
the one with surprise visits
in broad daylight;
the one who visits the backwaters of conquered lands.

Are we ready
to open up a site of joy?

Are we willing
as Mary was willing
to be that place
where God lives
and where, make no mistake,
neither Mary nor we serve as passive incubator
for a pop-up Jesus?
A living, breathing, choice-making site of joy,
a real being who makes room for the action of the Holy Spirit
whatever it is?
At a really inconvenient time?

I mean, think about it,
You want inconvenient?
This woman –we would call her a girl– is virtually married.
And in what form does the Spirit show up?
A baby who’s not her husband’s.

Let’s see. In her historical situation
she could lose
her husband,
her economic support,
her reputation,
her life.

Don’t just look at the fact of the pregnancy.
Look at what it says!

Never mind the miracle and how it happened.
Look at what it says:

God is really really inconvenient.
And really, really risky.
And really, really close
to us.

We’re not in Jerusalem;
we’re not in Washington;

but we live within the circles of power.

flesh of Mary’s flesh
and flesh of ours
is coming soon.

And the angel
in some form, in some voice, in some manner,
will come to us as it came to Mary
and ask,

Will you bear my word to the world?
This world?
Will you hold my word in your heart?
This heart, your heart, in this time in history, in this place,
in your skin, in your faith, in your life?
Will you share my word with the world ?
Will you
open up a time for justice
in this place, in this empire?
Will you
be a willing recipient of the Spirit?
Will you open up a site of joy?
Will you, with the help of the Spirit
risk being a prophet?

That’s a little scary.
And you probably heard those questions
addressed to you as an individual.

Let me ask them again.
Hear them asked to us as a community.

Will you
bear my word to the world?
This world?
Will you, St. Mary’s community, hold my word in your heart?
This heart, your heart, in this time in history, in this place,
in your skin, in your faith, in your life?
Will you share my word with the world ?
Will you
open up a time for justice
in this place, in this empire?

St. Mary’ community, will you
be a willing recipient of the Spirit?
Will you open up a site of joy?
Will you, with the help of the Spirit
risk being a prophet?

Let us pray.

O unknown God,
whose presence is announced
not among the impressive
but in obscurity;
come, overshadow us now,
and speak to our hidden places;
that, entering your darkness with joy,
we may choose to cooperate with you,
through Jesus Christ, Amen

[1] Eugene F. Rogers, Jr., After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources Outside the Modern West (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2005), 104. For my own rhetorical purposes, I have left out of this quote from Rogers’ elaboration on Hymn XI of Romanos the Melodist a fourth point, which immediately follows the three I quote: “In preparing the joy of God’s realm, she plays the role of patriarch.”

[2] While the phrase “truly our sister” comes from Pope Paul VI, Johnson also notes in the frontispiece of her book that several women theologians, whose writings evoke the words and beliefs of grassroots women in Mexico, Korea, Brazil, and the United States, refer to Mary as a sister.

[3] Johnson, Truly Our Sister, 110.

[4] Janet Morley, Collect, Advent 4 Annunciation, from All Desires Known: Inclusive Prayers for Worship and Meditation, expanded edition (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1992), 5.