Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On to the Abruzzi

The intrepid Parents of Acts of Hope have (if all has gone according to schedule) wrapped up their five day stay with the great-grandchildren (one boy, one girl) and their parents (Nephew the Elder and Lovely Spouse) and left for the third country in their semi-whirwind trip. Those of you who read my Italian earthquake update earlier this month may remember that Nephew the Younger and Lovely Partner live in the Abruzzi (a.k.a. Abruzzo), though not in the part of the province that had the earthquake. So Parents of Acts of Hope were due to fly into Rome and be picked up by Nephew the Younger and driven up to the hills an hour or so three hours away [edited 5/1 after getting accurate info] for a few days and nights in the Abruzzi, not too far from the Adriatic Sea. This will be their first time meeting Lovely Partner; I haven't met her yet either and look forward to doing so in the coming year.

Stay tuned and keep up the prayers. So far, so good. Brother of Acts of Hope and his Beloved spent the weekend in Portugal so four generations of the Acts of Hope family were together. I was the missing sibling in our generation. Nephew the Younger was the missing sibling in the next generation. It's already a wonder that so many in the far-flung family could be together at once. Hurrah for them. I am drooling in anticipation of the pictures and the stories.

Meanwhile, back at the funny farm here, classes have ended (my last one was last night) and I am spending the coming week writing and grading -and reading and grading and writing and reading and grading and writing. A small brown bunny had a leisurely lunch behind the house, nibbling away at the back yard while I washed dishes and watched out the window. +Maya Pavlova ignored the bunny. Squirrels and birds are another story.

I am also pondering images of the Good Shepherd along with the shepherd and sheep readings for this weekend. Beeeeeeeeehhhh.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Atheists have got it all wrong - in some of the same ways as fundamentalists, says Eagleton in new book

Very good article about Terry Eagleton's latest book. MadPriest may have posted about the book already since he keeps a watch on this issue, but this article is hot off the virtual press in today's edition of

...Atheists of the Ditchkins persuasion have raised valid points about the sordid social and political history of religion, with which Eagleton largely agrees. Yet their arguments are fatally undermined by their own unacknowledged dogmas and doctrines, he goes on to say, and they completely fail to understand Christian faith (or any other kind) except in its stupidest and most literal-minded form.

A few years ago, I read an article by a Roman Catholic theologian who wryly observed that the quality of Western atheism had gone steadily downhill since Nietzsche. Eagleton heartily concurs....

....Eagleton further argues that not only is the Ditchkinsian version of traditional Judeo-Christian belief a travesty, in which God is envisioned as an unproven and improbable creature like the yeti or the Loch Ness monster, but that this strain of post-Enlightenment atheism cannot comprehend the character of religious faith at all. The creedal declaration "I believe in God" is a statement of action and will; it is performative rather than assertive. ...

... Eagleton declares where his true disagreement with Richard Dawkins lies, which does not directly concern the existence of God or the role of science. "The difference between Ditchkins and radicals like myself," he writes, "hinges on whether it is true that the ultimate signifier of the human condition is the tortured and murdered body of a political criminal, and what the implications of this are for living."

Read on.

It's music time: Let It Be

I just posted this on Facebook for a friend who is deep in a writing job and thought I'd share it here for the assembled multitudes. I'm enjoying watching and listening to this video. (Sorry MP, I still love the Beatles.) And for you religious types, this has Mother Mary in it, too. What's not to love?


With thoughts and prayers for the people of Mexico as they face the swine flu epidemic and the aftermath of an earthquake.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The intensity of academe

There's a lot of it.

Three "final class of the semester" down, one to go.

Usually we teach three courses a semester at my school, but I had a fourth, or really a fraction of a fourth course, just a once a week, one-credit colloquium with our religious studies majors. The other three courses are four credit courses.

Tonight's class got out at 10:20 p.m.

One more tomorrow evening, not quite as long because I am going to let people out early.

Now begins the grading marathon. I am also on deadline for a Big Academic Tome I am writing. Not so great timing but there you have it. Maybe if I read and grade three hours a day from tomorrow on and write the rest of the day I won't have to pull any all-nighters next week when grades are due for seniors (May 6) and for everyone else (May 8). My birthday is May 7. It used to be well timed when I was younger and schools ended in June. Now it's always in the middle of finals!

Sorry to bore you with Facebook-like trivia (though, to be fair to Facebook, there are also great professional and personal conversations and reunions there) but I know some of you friends are not on FB, and I'm feeling the need to connect to the "outside world" a bit as the academic walls close in a little more this week and next.

I have to cook up a sermon for this coming weekend, too. One very anti-Jewish reading from Acts (yo, crucifixion was a Roman punishment!), the 23d Psalm, a request from the first Epistle of John that we love one another, and the Good Shepherd reading from the Gospel according to John. Ooookaaaayyy. Let us pray!

There are lilies of the valley blooming in my garden, though, or rather, the landlady's garden. It is a surprise garden. I moved in the first of September and I never know what is going to pop up. First it was daffodils and jonquils and narcissus. Then the dogwood tree bloomed deep pink against the silver grey-green bark. (It is now pale pink and growing leaves.) Then the rains came and produced green plants whose name I do not know and some of which are probably weeds, including poison ivy if I am not mistaken (I have started weeding - with gloves - and looking up plants online), flowers new to me here and there, and two rows of lily of the valley, just a touch early for le premier mai. Meanwhile, the rhododendron burst into red bloom. What the French call boules de neige (literally "snowballs") and is either viburnum or white hydrangea came out almost at the same time. The tall trees have been shedding yellow pollen. And who knows what's next?

The banality of evil, here at home

Frank Rich's column is a must-read.

And his evoking of Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" is right on.

This is not about somewhere else or someone else.

Shame, writes Dorothee Sölle --quoting Karl Marx, actually-- is a revolutionary emotion.

It's time we felt some of it.

... We’ve learned much, much more about America and torture in the past five years. But as Mark Danner recently wrote in The New York Review of Books, for all the revelations, one essential fact remains unchanged: “By no later than the summer of 2004, the American people had before them the basic narrative of how the elected and appointed officials of their government decided to torture prisoners and how they went about it.” When the Obama administration said it declassified four new torture memos 10 days ago in part because their contents were already largely public, it was right.

Yet we still shrink from the hardest truths and the bigger picture: that torture was a premeditated policy approved at our government’s highest levels; that it was carried out in scenarios that had no resemblance to “24”; that psychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain; and that, in the assessment of reliable sources like the F.B.I. director Robert Mueller, it did not help disrupt any terrorist attacks. ...

... as additional fact-finding plays out, it’s time for the Justice Department to enlist a panel of two or three apolitical outsiders, perhaps retired federal judges, “to review the mass of material” we already have. The fundamental truth is there, as it long has been. The panel can recommend a legal path that will insure accountability for this wholesale betrayal of American values.

President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won’t vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

Emphases mine, in boldface.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

World Malaria Day

ToujoursDan reminded us on Facebook that today is World Malaria Day. I see that he also has a post about this on his blog. Did you know that malaria is the single biggest killer of children under the age of five on the African continent?

Dan also wants everyone to know that for just $10 you can buy a net that will protect an African child from Malaria and save a life. Go here to give.

Note: I went to the site and made a "Spread the Net" donation and noticed that it is the UNICEF Canada site. Nothing wrong at all with that, but I think the $10 are thus Canadian dollars.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday cat blogging and general update

I am taking a couple of days of writing time after a fortnight of very little work on the Big Theological Tome or anything else because of a combo of 1) the tiny little 60 hour a week job at semester's end and 2) church. More the former than the latter, but still, part-time churchy ministry takes time. (I qualify "ministry" since there are a lot more ways of doing ministry than liturgical or administrative leadership.)

+Maya, of course, is sleeping, but wakes more often than she did before the arrival of spring due to continued heavy bird action. It's just too exciting to miss.

As promised, I have begun to take photos of her, but it may be a while till I post them since she tends to change positions when she senses me approaching with the camera. Smart cookie. I'll get a roll of film done over the weekend, though.

The Amazing Parents of Acts of Hope have arrived safely on the other side of the Atlantic, spent a few days in one country, and have arrived in country #2 for a large dose of family togetherness, which will, as usual for the Acts of Hope Family, involve hugs, food, and talk. Is anyone surprised?

Peace to all, and Shabbat Shalom to those of you who observe Shabbat.

Dancing cats by B. Kliban - with obvious reference to Botticelli's Primavera ("Spring") (To see the Botticelli properly, click on the image you get once you have clicked on the link.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pulitzer prize winner's story didn't (and doesn't) get play

Oh ye seekers and defenders of truth and right, have a look at this Glenn Greenwald story on David Barstow's Pulitzer-winning investigative reporting -- and why we're still not hearing about it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bo update, with a beagle bonus

Indulge me: I've had a long week and it's only Wednesday.

The Telegraph (U.K.) has a nice Bo story with the history and sociology of presidential dogs. You know you want to read it.

HuffPo's Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald write about all the benefits of living with a dog. You may know most of this, but you probably haven't seen the cute dog photo accompanying this article.

Meanwhile, a few days ago, Max the fabulous beagle, who lives with double-blogger PeaceBang, wrote his friends a letter.

This here is Ermengarde, PeaceBang's cat, and that is Max the Beagle.

And now you have a Bo source: yes, a blog of Bo with all the latest news and all manner of ridiculousness. Not sure who writes it; the blogger's e-mail only says "Moira." Has the first Bo cartoon (this next one is funnier), the side-splitting Jon Stewart piece on Bo and a fab photo of Michelle Obama walking the dog. (Good: she looked tired in the other photos and I started worrying about her. Seriously.)

Okay, now we've really gone over the top.

+Maya is going to be jealous. I promise I will take photos of her in the next few days. I finally bought a roll of film the other day. I was completely out of film for a couple of months.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A sermon for the 2d Sunday of Easter

Here is Sunday's sermon, preached (twice) at All Saints' Episcopal Church, Greensboro, North Carolina.

Student Christian Movement meeting, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2002
Photo: Peter Williams, WCC (World Council of Churches)

Revised Common Lectionary

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one
claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was
held in common.
***************Acts 4:32

The Resurrection
may have been a one-time occurrence for Jesus,
but for us,
it is a life.
And it is a life
for Christ in our midst.

Easter is not just one day
in our church.
It is a whole season.
Not only do we have 50 days to let the joy sink in
–or to lift up our hearts, or both—
but we probably need those 50 days
to reflect on what it means
to live after the Resurrection,
to live the Resurrection,
to live after Easter
and be Easter people.

How will we live?
Who and what
will we become
after the Resurrection?

Today’s lessons,
especially the first one from the Acts of the Apostles
and the Gospel story
but also, in a more subtle way, the passage from the First Letter of John,
show us that post-Resurrection life
is a particular kind of community life.

They are not just about what happens to us as individuals
after the Resurrection.
In fact, the Resurrection is not
about what happens to us as individuals.

I want to invite us today
to reflect on what our life as a community looks like
after the Resurrection:
the community of the friends of Jesus,
the community of the friends of Christ
who is risen and present.

Our focus on this second Sunday of Easter
has often been on Thomas.
There’s nothing wrong with that:
many of us can identify with Thomas,
the one who wants concrete proof.
And for the author of the Gospel of John,
writing a generation or two after Jesus
for a no longer quite new Christian community,
the statement “Blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have come to believe” [John 20:29b]
is an important one in a church where most people
were not eyewitnesses,
not contemporaries of Jesus and Mary of Magdala
and Thomas and the rest of the Twelve;
that generation had passed away.
So believing
without that live connection to the beginnings
was important.

We can see other indications of how late the Gospel was written
in the odd and frightening language about “Fear of the Jews”
which makes no sense as language from Jesus’ day,
since Jesus and his friends in the house with the closed doors
were all Jews.
That language was born of a kind of family feud,
much later, when church and synagogue
were going their separate ways.

But back to our friend Thomas
And to what this Gospel story
might mean to us today.
This is not just the story of Thomas.
We can read and hear today’s Gospel
and all of the Scripture readings
to discover how communal
and how bodily
the experience of Resurrection is.

Let me say that again:
Today’s Scripture passages reveal to us
how communal and how bodily
the Resurrection is.

We have a preview
of the communal experience of the post-Resurrection life
in one of the preceding scenes in the same Gospel of John,
the crucifixion scene.

There we see and hear Jesus
helping to create a new household,
one not based on ties of blood,
as he speaks from the Cross
and tells his mother Mary and the Beloved Disciple
that now they are each other’s mother and son:
they are family.

And indeed, the disciple,
whom many have identified as John,
takes Mary into his home.
Jesus’ legacy
is a relationship,
a new kind of family.

If we think back to what we celebrated
in the holy days of Triduum,
the three days that are really one celebration,
Jesus’ legacy to us is deeply and widely communal.
His legacy is the washing of feet and serving of each other;
his legacy is the meal we celebrate in his memory and with his living presence.
They are meant to shape us and build us
again and again
into a body of believers and doers,
a community of friends of Christ
and friends of each other.

Jesus’ resurrection legacy is communal as well.
The texts today
have more than hints about living in community.

They speak of two of the most difficult realities to negotiate in our world
which are also
two of the most essential:

material possessions and reconciliation.

Think about it.

Material and economic realities:
health care,
and enough money for basic needs.

All this is part of “distributing to each as any had need.”

That’s not easy to do.

And there seems to be a connection
between being “of one heart and soul”
and not laying claim to private property.
I’m not giving you political ideology here,
I’m just having a look at a passage from the Bible
and how we might understand it!
So stay with me.

Material and economic realities:
There they are.
In one of the earliest communities after the resurrection,
living as Easter people involves particular relationships
to material realities,
to the needs of bodies and communities
-- and, we might add today on this Earth Day weekend,
to how we live on the Earth.

Material possessions… and reconciliation.

Reconciliation: right relationship.
Relationships between people:

Living the Resurrection is about
this forgiving of sins Jesus talks about,
--not just the fact that God forgives us, which of course God does,
but the fact that Jesus Christ,
risen and present among us,
gives us the power and the responsibility and the invitation
to forgive each other.

He gives us the power
and the responsibility
and the invitation
to forgive each other.

The prevention and healing of jealousy, of envy, of broken hearts,
of emotional abandonment and abuse,
of estrangement for reasons of
ideology, personal disagreement, national claims,
discrimination because of caste or religion
or economic class or social status,
the prevention and healing of
war and tyranny:
all this falls under the umbrella of
“be reconciled.”

Not to use people…
To see them as the image of God…
That too is part of living

What you bind on earth will stay bound.
What you unbind, what you forgive,
will be
and stay
unbound and forgiven
[today’s Gospel says]
with God’s help,
as we say in our baptismal promises,
the promises we renewed at Easter.

We tend to focus on Thomas in this Gospel,
But what if we focus on Jesus?
Thomas says,
I will not believe
unless I see Jesus in some bodily way, and not just that--
unless I see Jesus with his wounds!

Last month a theologian named Nancy Eiesland [pron. EES-lund]
died at the age of 44.
Living all her life with multiple physical challenges,
she was the author of a book with a challenging and surprising title,
The Disabled God.

In the book Dr. Eiesland commented
on the resurrection appearance in the Gospel of Luke,
but that appearance features the same gesture
as the one we see today:
Jesus showing his wounds.

Nancy Eiesland
“proposes that the image of Christ’s resurrected body, with pierced hands a feet and scarred side, offers a way of seeing God as having lived through the fullness of human experience in a very physical way. Not only was [Jesus’] body broken in life,
but the signs, the symbols, of this brokenness remained after the resurrection.”[4]

“‘In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God,’ she wrote. God remains a God the disabled can
identify with, she argued…”[5]
and “the disabled” means not just 43 million people in this country,
but also most of us at some point or another in our lives,
as we age,
or as become ill or suffer accidents.

Christ crucified and risen
“…is not cured and made whole; his injury is part of him…”
It is not a divine punishment
or an opportunity for a cure.[6]

What happens when we view Christ this way?

What happens when we view God this way?

We Christians often have a thing about perfection.
Does Jesus Christ bring us perfection?
Not in the sense of a particular kind of beauty or
bodily wholeness.[7]
We meet in this season
a risen, wounded Christ
in a new kind of community.

We also tend to confuse resurrection
with immortality of the soul.
But the texts here do not talk about
immortality of the soul.
They proclaim
the resurrection of the body
and the victory of God’s justice:
the healing of the earth
and of society.
The resurrection is not,
as my mentor Krister Stendahl put it
in his inimitable way, about what happens to
“little me.”
When we pray as Jesus taught us,
We pray for God’s kin(g)dom,
not for our own immortality.[8]

What we do with our money;
whether we all have food;
how we feed each other;
how we walk on the earth;
how we view and treat each other’s bodies;
how we envision the Body of Christ;
how we go about the hard work of forgiveness
day after day after day:
This is the risen life.
This is Christ among us.
We are the community of Christ’s friends.

Christ is risen!

[1] See Krister Stendahl, “Immortality Is Too Much and Too Little,” in Meanings: The Bible as Document and as Guide (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 193-102. This essay was originally a lecture at the 1972 Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College and was first published in the conference proceedings in 1973.

[2] See Jane Carol Redmont, “Fear of the Jews,” Lectionary Reflections for Easter 2 (C), A Globe of Witnesses, The Witness, April 15, 2004.

[3] Nancy Eiesland, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability (Abingdon Press, 1994).

[4] Nancy Erickson, review of Nancy Eiesland, The Disabled God, United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries 4/7/07, , accessed 4/18/09.

[5] Douglas Martin, “Nancy Eiesland Is Dead at 44; Wrote of a Disabled God.” The New York Times, March 22, 2009.

[6] Ibid.

[7] I preached the weekend after Susan Boyle became an international sensation after her vocal performance on a British reality show, but chose not to mention her because most of the congregation, especially the one at the early liturgy, was not active on the internet, where hundreds of thousands of people had viewed and heard Ms. Boyle’s performance and read commentaries about her and attitudes toward her before and after her performance. The live audience and judges’ initial attitude and their surprise and delight were a consequence of their perception of Ms. Boyle as plain and ugly; the beauty of her voice and delivery stunned them.

[8] Stendahl, “Immortality.”

Dave Walker nails it

We don't report or comment much on "As the Anglican World Turns" here since plenty of other bloggers do, but the one and only Dave Walker has deftly sketched the latest GAFCON public event for the Church Times. Enjoy. Read Dave's accompanying text here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jasper weighs in

Speaking of the post below this one...

Our friend Jasper has a few things to say over at his human Doxy's blog.

Also, the pictures are beyond adorable. (Sorry, Bo, you're very cute and I love your family, but my heart belongs to Jasper. And +Rowan. And my +Maya. Oh, okay, and you too. I have a big heart.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

He's finally here

Bo the dog, that's who.

I know, I know.

But this was one of the first blogs to suggest a Portuguese Water Dog, so there.

Doxy weighed in a while back, worried that the breed would become too popular, and I can well understand this. Doxy's Jasper, on whom I have a big crush, is a Portie. Maybe Jasper will have something to say.

The dog arrived at the White House several days ago, but I was in one of my 16-hour work days and didn't hear about him till this morning's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me."

Here's a site with some video.

+Maya's latest toys

About a month ago I got a nasty cold-plus (somewhere between a head cold and something worse) which kept me in bed and away from work for a couple of days and took a good week to get better. Along the way, I got myself some herbal cough drops, the classic brand, and since I only needed a couple of them, I thought I'd put the rest in a nice dish in the living room so I could dip into that pretty bowl if I needed to, rather than leaving the cough drops in their bag, which looks messy and doesn't stand up. Not that the rest of the house isn't messy, but I was making an aesthetic effort.

Her Grace the feline bishop soon noticed that the cough drops had nice wrappers that made the cough drops attractive and within a day or two she had seized a cough drop by one of the twisty ends of the wrapper with her mouth, lifted it out of the beautiful painted Russian wooden bowl, and used it as a soccer ball. Enough, said I. I took the wrapped cough drop away from her. Again she grabbed it and played soccer. I gave up and said, "Okay, one's enough, the rest are for me." I also hid the bowl on the lower level of the coffee table, which seemed a shame since it is such a nice object, but I didn't want little yellow Swiss soccer balls all over the house. A day later everything seen fine. My cold healed and I forgot about the cough drops.

A day or two ago I was on the living room floor doing yoga and glanced toward the bottom shelf of the coffee table, and lo and behold, the bowl was empty. Completely empty. There had been at least ten wrapped cough drops in there. Only one was in sight on the living room floor. Heaven knows where the others went, but clearly +Maya Pavlova had been hard at play in my absence or during my sleeping hours. I found a second cough drop, put it with the first one back in the bowl, +Maya ignored the whole operation and had no interest, and I thought that was that.

A few minutes ago, before I decided to write this post, I heard a little noise in the living room (I usually write in my study, from which I can see just a sliver of living room) and there was +Maya, carefully lifting a party fav-- er, cough drop out of the bowl, dropping it on the floor, and swiftly kicking it and helping it skid across the floor.

I guess the Ricolas go in a closed jar or stay in their bag next time.

I wonder where all the other ones are.

Notes: 1. The now-empty bowl isn't quite this shape, it is more high and rounded, but it is a Russian khokhloma bowl like this one in the same colors. 2. The blog from which I snagged the cough drop photo above has a thorough comparison between Ricola and the CVS generic/copycat brand, if anyone is interested. 3. The photo of Herself is by yours truly with mitering by +Clumber of True Pittsburgh, canine bishop and PhotoShop artist.

The Amazing Parents of Acts of Hope

My parents, both 90 years old, are leaving next week for Europe to visit Brother of Acts of Hope, Brother's Beloved, Brother's children (Nephew the Elder and Nephew the Younger) and their Lovely Partners, and Brother's Adorable Grandchildren (my parents' great-grandchildren, a.k.a. my grand-nephew and grand-niece, children of Nephew the Elder and the Lovely Portuguese Partner), and also to touch base with dear friends on our old Parisian stomping grounds. That's a trip to four countries, including England, where they will first land because it's the least tiring flight from Boston and also because London is a great place to recover from jet lag and go to the theatre.

I am, of course, going to worry about them the whole time, and I'm thrilled for them too.

They called today for a little health check-in and I have given them the daughterly admonitions to stay well hydrated and get their rest, and we'll talk again early in the week before they leave. Start the prayers now!

Roxana Saberi tried and jailed in Iran

This news is all the more shocking because I have heard Ms. Saberi on the radio many times.

As regular readers of Acts of Hope know, I am particularly moved by stories on the jailing of journalists because so many members of my immediate family are or have been journalists themselves.

Roxana Saberi, a U.S. citizen, is the daughter of an Iranian father and a Japanese mother. She has been reporting from Iran for several Western news organizations. The government of Iran has accused her of spying.

If one of the international human rights organizations starts a letter campaign, I will follow up here.

Photo: Agence France-Presse

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Yahrzeit: Krister Stendahl

I have been thinking on and off of Krister Stendahl, who died a year ago today.

More later in the week when I have a breather. Just worked two 15-16 hour work days and one 12 hour work day and it is time for tax filing wrap-up and a good long sleep.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Italian Jews aid their WWII saviors hit by Abruzzi earthquake

Read this and get misty-eyed.

Cross-posted on Facebook

From left, Italia Tagliacozzo, Ester Di Segni, Emma Di Segni, earthquake survivor Nello De Bernardinis and Alberto Di Consiglio, pose for a group photo in the Casentino tent-camp, near L'Aquila, central Italy, Monday, April 13, 2009. Italian Jews and Holocaust survivors are rushing to aid communities that sheltered them during World War II and were hit by last week's devastating earthquake. Di Consiglio found Nello De Bernardinis, 74, the son of a couple who sheltered Di Consiglio's father and eight other relatives during the war.(AP Photo/Sandro Perozzi)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Disabled God - and some appropriately disjointed thoughts on resurrection

"In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God,” she wrote. God remains a God the disabled can identify with, she argued — he is not cured and made whole; his injury is part of him, neither a divine punishment nor an opportunity for healing.

I think I neglected to post this obituary for theologian Nancy Eieslund last month. I have finally ordered her book The Disabled God, which may be pertinent to next Sunday's sermon. (No preaching this Easter weekend, but I'm on for Low Sunday.) As may this, of course.

And then there's the rich reading in the book of Acts, the one about what we contemporary Christians mostly don't do. Except in some very poor communities, like the one I just read about in this book. Hmmm.

Kevin preached a kick-a** sermon at St. Mary's House this a.m. about the importance of how Jesus died (crucifixion) in relation to how we are to live post-Resurrection (in a way that subverts the powers that be - intentionally). There was more, but that is the part related to what I've been starting to think about for next Sunday. Of course, things could change between now and then.

This morning's sermon (one of them - I was also at the early Vigil at All Saints') also reminded me of Krister Stendahl's excellent essay "Immortality Is Too Much and Too Little." (Originally this essay was his 1972 Nobel Conference lecture at Gustavus Adolphus College. It is available in Stendahl's book of essays Meanings: the Bible as Document and as Guide.) Stendahl's point is that we confuse resurrection with immortality of the soul. We don't proclaim the latter. We proclaim the resurrection of the body - and the victory of God's justice. Not, as Stendahl in his inimitable way put it, "what this has to do with little me."

Alleluia. Go forth.
He Qi: After Resurrection

Peter Zumthor wins Pritzker prize (interesting even if you're not an architecture buff)

Interesting and worthy winner of this year's Pritzker Prize: Peter Zumthor. (Link is to the NY Times story.)

Pritzker Prize website here.

Photo booklet (from same site) here.

Alleluia in blue

He Qi, Women Arriving at the Tomb

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jose Hobday, Native teacher, Franciscan sister, dead at 80. Rest in peace, rise in glory!

From WATER, the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual, I have learned of the death this week of José Hobday, Seneca elder and Franciscan sister, storyteller, speaker, and teacher, at the age of 80.

NCR story here.

Frederic and Mary Anne Brussat of Spirituality & Practice picked up the NCR story and wrote their own obit here.

A great woman. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak years and years ago.

Photo: John Zeuli.

Sister José died April 5 at the Casa de la Luz Hospice in Tucson, Arizona. A memorial Mass will be held on Wednesday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m., at Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Tucson.

(Couldn't find the photo credit for this one.)

The "Harrowing of Hell" - Anastasis: Resurrection

A powerful fresco from one of my favorite churches (now a museum) in Istanbul. I particularly love the dynamic movement in the close-up below. Click to enlarge photos and see detail.

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down
death by death
and on those in the tombs
bestowing life,
bestowing life!

Photos:Dick Osseman

Prayers for Deenie

Some of you may remember a request for prayers of some months ago (6 months! I didn't realize it had been that long) for my friend Deenie.

She was already very ill but the cancer is progressing, if you can call it that. Here is the latest note from our mutual friend in Boston:

To all of you who have been sending prayers and positive energy to Deenie ... the latest update: yesterday she had surgery to remove the cancerous growth in her face, which was getting very painful and making it hard for her to speak. According to her brother, the docs had to break her jaw to get in where the tumor was, then replace and reglue (?) the bone. According to the nurse at [name of hospital], she's responsive but still under heavy pain meds and with a breathing tube, which will be removed later today. Once that's done, she'll probably be moved out of the ICU and into a regular room.

Deenie had been living with a relative and doing all right there. I hope she can go back to that family home. She doesn't have too much longer left on this earth and I hope she will be comfortable and surrounded by love. I want very much to see her but I will not be able to get up to Boston till late May, and I hope she will still be alive. Two friends of ours have been visiting her so at least part of me is there with them. Deenie and I spoke by phone some weeks back. She can't speak right now but once she is out from under I will be in touch. Meanwhile, I send prayers, and I will be grateful if you do, too. Pray also in thanksgiving for her excellent medical and nursing team. Thank you!

P.S. The green is for new life and because Deenie is one tough, smart, Irish-American babe.

Not too solemn Holy Saturday foodie post

It's a quiet, rather than solemn, day here at Acts of Hope Central. +Maya Pavlova is having her mid-day sleep on her bedroom perch at the window, sacked out on her pillow. She got up to check on the kitchen when the fresh goat cheese emerged from the shopping bag, but is back in the Land of Nod.

This semester my school week goes nonstop (including evenings) from Sunday night to Wednesday evening, and I have Thursday for recovery and whatever writing I can muster and Friday/Saturday for writing, unless there are churchy activities. This week was different because of Pesach and Triduum, so this is my first day of solitude and quiet, though there was a fair amount of quiet yesterday because I attended two contemplative Good Friday services. They contained a lot of silence and barenness. I also had a few meetings with my senior-thesis-writing student whose thesis was due yesterday at the end of the work day. I have mentioned him on Facebook but perhaps not here. His thesis is on the eschatology (=views of "the end" -- death, the afterlife, the end of time) of bluegrass music in Southern Appalachia and it is quite interesting. He is from that region himself, so he is exploring his cultural roots as well as writing a scholarly analysis. We have just three thesis-writers this year in our department. It's not something we require, just an exercise in which a few of our top students engage. The other theses are about masks and their performance in Bali and Mahayana Buddhist meditation. My colleague who teaches courses on Buddhism and other Asian-originated religious and wisdom paths is the supervisor for those two. Now all of us on the department faculty have to read them! We have a week to do so. Then the students will make presentations based on the theses and we will celebrate their work (it's not really a defense strictly speaking, this is just an undergraduate thesis) next weekend.

So where's the food? Here: for the first time in months I went to the downtown farmers' market today. It's been a year without much money or time, and in winter there's not much growing here anyway, so I think it had been five months at least since I last went to this market. Today I had a little time and a little money, thanks be to Godde, so off I went, leaving Her Grace at home to her morning slumbers.

Note: +Maya Pavlova got up way before I did this a.m., though being a civilized feline bishop, she did not wake me up. She rose early because there is a lot of bird action outside these days and she wanted to watch the early Kitty TV show at the living-room window.

I returned from the market with two kinds of goat cheese, fresh eggs, a large green onion (with both the scallion green tips and the white bulb), mixed baby lettuces from the first salad crops, arugula from the same farm, some Middle Eastern spreads and dips (three of them including baba ghanoush and fool, the latter thick and cold rather than the warm soup version), milk, buttermilk, and butter from a regional dairy, apple butter, and best of all, a bunch of yellow tulips. There don't seem to be a lot of tulips here in the Southland and I loved yellow tulips especially, used to get lots of Dutch tulips in Boston when I was living there to brighten up the late winter and early spring. These tulips are from the same farm as the lettuce. I also got a bunch of small, tight flowers (pink and red and white) whose name I am forgetting. When +Maya got up to smell the goat cheese (one kind is the fresh spreadable sort and she loves fresh goat milk products) she also tried to eat those flowers and their leaves.

Baby goat from Goat Lady Dairy, the farm that makes our goat cheese.

So now I have had a little fruit juice, goat cheese and whole wheat matzoh, apple butter and egg matzah, and a hefty mug of fresh coffee with milk, and I am ready for a day of writing and housework in this mess I call home.

I am also going to finish reading the book on Dorothy Stang.

Nice article on WIDS in the student newspaper

One of our students interviewed me for The Guilfordian, our college newspaper, not long ago, and the article came out in this week's edition. It didn't seem right to put up a vanity post on Good Friday, so I waited till today. You can read the one-page printable version of the article here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday: the life and death of Sister Dorothy Stang

Yesterday evening I began my Good Friday reading, Martyr of the Amazon: The Life of Sister Dorothy Stang, by Roseanne Murphy.

Somehow I didn't want to read about Jesus. I wanted to read about someone who was living Jesus.

Dorothy Stang, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, lived and worked with Brazilian peasants in the landless people's movement in the Amazon. She was killed there in 2005.

Apparently there is a new documentary on her. There was a segment about it recently on PBS's "Now" program. Even the New York Post has written about it.

Website for the documentary, "They Killed Sister Dorothy," is here, with beautiful images and music and a trailer and all kinds of information. Narration by (yes!) Martin Sheen.

Stang was from Ohio and the Dayton Daily News wrote a three-part series on her after her death.

* * * * *
In related news, the Episcopal Café has a series of Stations of the Cross up. The one from Central America (El Salvador) is haunting. (Do not look at it if you are a trauma survivor; it is made up of drawings of tortured men and women. It resides at La UCA - the Jesuit-run University of Central America.) Another one is for children. Yet another is a series from Kenya. (I'd posted an image from that one two years ago here.)

Last year I posted the Arcatao Stations of the Cross from El Salvador. (That's a different series from the one mentioned above.)

And the year before, more Latin American Stations --images by Nobel Peace laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel with words from Argentina-- and some Stations by a Tanzanian artist with words by a womanist theologian from the U.S. (The latter, in a book called Where You There? is a favorite of mine.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

April 9: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, theologian, friend, educator, ecumenist, community-builder, resister, martyr

On this day in 1945, German pastor, theologian, and resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazis.

More than ever, we need to read his words and study his life.

We also need to learn about the context of his life and work.
A couple of resources:

A timeline of Bonhoeffer's life and some of the events in and around it.

Last year's post, with links.

A sermon for Maundy Thursday

Photo: Feet of the Campesino (Oaxaca, Mexico) by Ken Light.
This sermon is from three years ago.

I had preached a slightly different version of it in Berkeley two years before. (You can make foot fetish jokes with a Berkeley congregation but not with a Greensboro one ;-))

Maundy Thursday

St. Mary’s House (Episcopal/Anglican), Greensboro

April 13, 2006

Exodus 12:1-14a
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (27-32)
Psalm 78:14-20, 23-25
John 13:1-15

In the name of the One
who longs for our friendship,
and of Christ Jesus,
who calls us friends,
and of their Spirit,
who makes holy friendship possible,

Only in the Gospel of John
is the footwashing the focus of the Last Supper story.

In the other three gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke,
it is the sharing of bread and wine
as Jesus the Christ’s own life
that is at the center of the meal.

This evening we celebrate both:
with our bodies and hearts and minds,
with food and drink,
*****fruit of the earth and work of human hands
*****that become part of our own blood and bone;
with water,
*****without which nothing and no one on this planet could survive;
with touch,
*****without which we humans would wither from lack of love.

In our deeply mindful present
as we listen,
*****and share
we also commit
an act of memory
and an act of hope.


Although Eucharist, the holy communion we share
with Christ and with each other
*****and with others throughout space and time
is once again the culmination of our celebration,
*****the last feast before the Good Friday fast
*****leading to Easter,
the foot-washing is at the heart of this celebration.

As the youngest child asks during the Passover Seder
*****(Remember, today is Passover),
“Why is this night different from every other night?”
We may ask:
Why is this night different?
Why on this night wash and be washed?
Why feet?

I should have said
“be washed” and then “wash”
–for we who are Jesus’ friends
from him
before we can give.

And Peter, that bumbling, energetic character who repeatedly doesn’t get it
*****and for whom we can thus have great affection,
objects strenuously to precisely this:
that the one who teaches and leads,
the one who is holiness itself,
Jesus, child of Holy Wisdom,
the main man,
washes Peter and his friends
and washes us,
his friends and followers.
So that then and only then
we might do likewise.

And so, as in the storied beginnings of Jesus’ life,
the last are first,
kings kneel
and the powers of the world
turn upside down.

This is our memory.
This is our vision.
This is our hope.

Tonight we celebrate the sacrament of friendship,
of power turned upside down
in Jesus’ land, small sliver of earth and shore
occupied by a foreign empire
on our piece of earth

Tonight is the sacrament of friendship
in both the table and the touch.

Tonight the tired and the hidden are held
and bathed
and tenderly handled.


We don’t talk about feet much
in church.
We don’t do much with feet in church.
Feet are too –well, pedestrian is the word that comes to mind,
the word whose root comes from the Latin word for foot,
a word meaning all at once “ordinary” and “everyday-ish” and “plain.”
Feet are basic.
Feet take us places
–when we are not in wheelchairs
or in our cars.
In the land of the automobile,
we don’t use them enough
for going places.
But if we are car-less
or homeless
we may use them too much.
In Boston, at least two of the major shelters for homeless persons,
one day shelter and one overnight shelter,
have foot clinics, because feet take a lot of stress
when you’re out there,
especially in winter.

Sometimes we paint their toes.
If we’re lucky, we get them massaged.
Practitioners of shiatsu, acupressure and other Asian healing arts tell us
that they contain points of connection to every place and organ in the body.
If you’re a moviegoer who likes French films,
you will remember a wonderful scene in the movie “Cousin, Cousine”
where the two main characters
have finally made love
and they are holed up in a hotel room together
perfectly relaxed, and one of them holds the other’s feet
and very tenderly
clips her toenails.

mention feet in relation to church
and two realities are likely to come up:
and awkwardness.

In Jesus’ day of dusty roads and sandals
there was no need to make a point about the importance of feet
to get around.
That’s what most people used,
and the quickest non-feet land transportation
was a donkey
–maybe a horse if you were a Roman soldier;
but that didn’t apply to most people.

In Jesus’ day,
there was also no need to make a point
about the relation of feet
to earth.
Jesus didn’t have to do this
because in the world in which he lived,
this connection to the land was taken for granted.

We, on the other hand, need a reminder.
So in addition to reminding you
that when we say God loves us
we mean all the way down to the tips of our smelly toes,
I want to invite you to think of feet in this way:
feet are what we use most often
to touch the earth.

They are our connection to the earth.

“Humility” – the name of that virtue we celebrate today
in the washing of the feet
comes from the word for “earth.”
*****– Think of the word “humus.”—
“Humble” really means “close to the earth.”

Can we become again people of earth?
Can we become the people of the land?

There is an interesting connection here.

Most of the people who followed Jesus
–though, mind you, he had city folks and artisans
in his circle as well–
were what the Bible calls the am ha’aretz,
the common people,
literally, the people of the land.

“The people of the land”
is also what indigenous peoples,
diverse as they are,
call themselves in many places around the globe.

Just two years ago I heard Mark MacDonald, the bishop of Alaska,
***[2009 note: Mark is now in a different bishop job but still working with Native peoples]
talk about environmental rights and human rights.
He spoke about the Gwich’in people.
They are the indigenous people
who live up in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
in Alaska
–and many, many of them, by the way, are Episcopalians.
[I did an extemp sentence here reminding people that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not “empty” – it has plants, it has caribou, and it has people, all interdependent.]
The Gwich’in have a word for what we term “subsistence,”
a term that for us has a somewhat negative or impoverished connotation,
as in “subsistence living” or “a subsistence economy.”
What we term “subsistence”
is in the Gwich’in language a word
that means, literally,
“God is taking good care of you.”

“God is taking good care of you.”

That is what you learn when you are people of the land.

This evening we celebrate what Jesus did the night before he died.

When you know you’re going to die,
you want to be with the people you love the most
and you concentrate every bit of wisdom in your body and soul
into a few words or gestures;
you compress them in time;
you leave them as a testament.

What Jesus did the night before he died
was to serve
through the washing of the feet
but also to bless
and thus to give thanks,
to receive
the bread,
the wine.
The Jewish blessing over food and wine, and anything else for that matter,
begins, “Blessed are you, Creator of the universe...”

Jesus acknowledged that the bread and the wine
don’t come from us:
they come from God
and from the earth
and from the labor of others.

And so do we.

In receiving the bread
we savor, we understand,
we remember
our relationship to creation, to our food, to our land.
We are here to receive and to taste
not to own or exploit.

And we are to receive each other
to cradle each other
to handle each other tenderly
at all times,
including when we are at our most awkward.

We learn this tonight
from Jesus
child of God
and child of earth.

We learn from Jesus
to be people who live
in the freedom of the living God.
For this is our God: the living God; the God of Jesus;
not a violent God; not a God who urges us to conquer;
not a God who urges us to acquire
not a God who urges us to consume.

A God who frees us to be
People who know
our relationship to God
and to earth
and to one another:

people of God
people of earth.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chag Sameach Pesach - Passover begins tonight!

Long ago, at this season, a people --our people--set out on a journey.

On such a night as this, Israel went forth from degradation to joy.

We give thanks for the liberations of days gone by.

And we pray for all who are still bound, still denied their human rights.

Eternal God, may all who hunger come to rejoice in a new Passover.

Let all the human family sit at Your table, drink the wine of deliverance, eat the bread of freedom.

Gates of Freedom: A Passover Haggadah by Chaim Stern. Visual Interpretations by Todd Siler. Introduction by Eugene B. Borowitz. (Chappaqua, NY: Rossel Books 1981, 1982)

You are Blessed, Our God, Spirit of the World, who
makes us holy with mitzvot and commands us to
kindle the light of the festival day.

You are Blessed, Our God, Spirit of the World,
who keeps us in life, who sustains us, and who
enables us to reach this season.

Women of Israel, the wonder of our seders
brights new light to the world.

The Journey Continues: The Ma'yan Passover Haggadah (New York: Ma'yan: The Jewish Women's Project, 2000).

Here are last year's posts for Pesach. Recycling is good.

First this: Chag Sameach Pesach.

Then this: Chag Sameach Pesach (again): Leaving Mitzrayim.

Then this: Chag Sameach Pesach: More from Velveteen Rabbi.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Italy earthquake and family

As a few of you know, the far-flung Acts of Hope family has a few members in Italy. Two of them, Nephew the Younger and his Lovely One, live in the Abruzzi (a.k.a. Abruzzo) region of Italy, where a 6.3 earthquake just hit early this morning. Their town was not near the epicenter, though, so there was no damage there. As you have probably heard, the damage is severe in the city of L'Aquila, close to the epicenter. Nephew the Younger and Lovely One were actually out of town at a wine convention (both are in the wine biz and they live near Lovely One's family, who are vintners) but have of course checked in with family. Do send prayers and good thoughts to the people in the region of the earthquake. It was severe, and Brother of Acts of Hope says he and his Beloved even felt the tremors in Rome.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday foodie post

As they say under other circumstances, "it just happened." And it really is very simple.

See here for a French lentil salad. I just made some.

Believe it or not, I had never cooked with French lentils. But they were on sale in bulk at the food co-op, so I got some. I've cooked a lot with the regular U.S. brown/green lentils to make soup, and with orange/pink/yellow lentils to make dal (Indian lentil purée), but never with those dandy little French Lentilles du Puy. (Le Puy is a town in central France.)

Haven't served the dish yet (we eat our supper late here at Acts of Hope) so it is minus the walnuts (which I may or may not use, I tasted the salad and it really is fine on its own), and I didn't have green onions (scallions) in the house so I minced a little piece of a regular onion and it seems to work fine, especially since I had some fresh parsley, so the dish has green. How was that for a run-on sentence?