Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Blessing for the new year

Here is a blessing for the new year from our friend Steven Charleston:

There is no harm that can come to you, no matter how frail and fragile you feel, for this passing stream of light is not the measure of all you are, but only the rough canvas on which the colors of your life are forever being painted. You are not encompassed by a clock, marked off into a reality of artificial movements, but designed to be free from such constraints, able to rise up on the wings of your own imagination to see the hands behind the time. Hurt may happen, but it will never last nor have the final word in the sonnet that is your soul, for that wisdom will go on and on, speaking wonders into a future you cannot even name.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Daydreams turning to spring and ... baseball

Well my friends, we are deep into winter now, and a boy's thoughts turn to ... baseball.

I should have posted this awhile back: my commentary for The Sacramento Bee, my former journalistic home, on the San Francisco Giants season just past. That would be the World Series Championship season. So with daydreams turning to spring, here is my piece...

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Giants fan fulfills bucket list baseball season

11/01/2014 4:00 PM 
 11/03/2014 9:07 AM

Read more here:

My father took me to my first baseball game at Candlestick Park in 1962. The Giants played the St. Louis Cardinals, and Willie Mays won the game in the 10th inning with a home run. I was 9 years old. I was hooked on Giants baseball for life.
This season I did something that has always been on my bucket list: follow the Giants season game by game, and not just occasionally. This season, I would follow every game. That’s 162 regular season games and, as it turned out, 17 postseason games.
I started by watching the televised spring training games on MLB.TV. By the end of the season, I had watched, or listened to, 105 regular season games, including 10 playoffs and seven World Series games. If I didn’t watch or listen, I read the wrap the next morning in the Northern California newspapers.
My wife, Lori, was a saint for putting up with what became my obsession. She watched many games, and we went to a few. At a family wedding in Wisconsin, I had a game playing on my smartphone. 
In an odd way, it helped that we no longer live in California. We live in Virginia, which, as it happens, is the market territory of the Washington Nationals. There were no blackouts for Giants games here except when the Giants played the Nats, in which case the tickets were about one-third the price of a seat in San Francisco.
At our first Nats game, we found ourselves sitting in a sea of orange and black that stretched from home plate into the left field stands. It seemed we were seated with thousands of diaspora Californians rooting for our ancestral team. Pitcher Jake Peavy signed a baseball for me.
For most games, I could webstream Bay Area TV coverage. But for some games, I listened to the KNBR radio webstream, and that took me back to my boyhood when that is how we “saw” most Giants games. 
Hearing it on the radio tapped my imagination in ways I’ve not experienced in years. No slow motion, no replays – just the artistry of a voice in a booth finding just the right words to describe an enormously complex series of movements on a field. My favorite line, as Marco Scutarowas plodding around third base: “He’s leaking oil.” 
I learned a lot about baseball, how grueling it is and how Bruce Bochy had to manage through slumps, injuries and “buzzard’s luck” as he calls it. We saw new players emerge, in particular Joe Panik, but also saw many veteran players struggle with season-ending injuries – Matt CainAngel PaganHector Sanchez, Scutaro. I grew to understand that the baseball season is as much about stamina as it is skill. So is watching.
We saw Tim Lincecum pitch a no-hitter, and then fall into the doldrums. We suffered through the Dan Uggla experiment at second base (batting average with the Giants: .000) and admired Brandon Belt as he came back twice from injuries. 
We were awestruck by Hunter Pence at full throttle every single game he played. My favorite Pence sign, appropriately at a Nationals game, was “Hunter Pence wrote the Declaration of Independence.” I suppose that only in Washington, D.C., would that be meant as an insult. 
And, yes, Madison Bumgarner is an extraordinary pitcher – and an extraordinary hitter with four home runs, two of them grand slams. Yet this team was not about a superhero, but about a bunch of guys who did things very well when it counted. 
But it was more than just about pitching, hitting and scores. Baseball is also about relentless hype and promotion, and endless prognostication by baseball “experts.” Like political writers (of which I once was one), getting it wrong doesn’t stop the experts from churning out more authoritative opinions, usually discarded a few days later.
Mostly, I learned how a bunch of basically humble guys figured out how to play together under enormous pressure and win when by all the odds they should have lost. They looked like they were having fun. Many of the teams they played did not (read Dodgers). Sometimes the Giants lost, and lost badly. Other games they just barely won (like that last game of the World Series). If there is any sport that mirrors daily life, this is it.
To have this season conclude in a 3-2 nail-biter in the seventh game of the World Series is nothing I remotely could have predicted when I started this adventure in March.
Ski season approaches. The television will be off most of the time in my house. If the 49ers make it to the Super Bowl, I’ll check it out. Mostly, I will be awaiting the words: “Pitchers and catchers report.”
James Richardson, a former senior 
writer with The Bee, is an Episcopal priest and the rector of St. Paul’s 
Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Va.

Read more here:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The greatest Christmas story ever told: Get the kid his peaches

Here again, my friends, is the greatest Christmas story ever told by a great story teller, Al Martinez, formerly of the Oakland Tribune, Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News. Al is known as the "Bard of LA" and has won three Pulitzer prizes since he began writing columns in 1952. He wrote his last column on March 30, 2013. 

I run this story every year in Fiat Lux, and it brings a tear to my eye every time.  So here it is, the Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told:

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A Christmas Story
By Al Martinez

IT happened one Christmas Eve a long time ago in a place called Oakland on a newspaper called the Tribune with a city editor named Alfred P. Reck.

I was working swing shift on general assignment, writing the story of a boy who was dying of leukemia and whose greatest wish was for fresh peaches.

It was a story which, in the tradition of 1950s journalism, would be milked for every sob we could squeeze from it, because everyone loved a good cry on Christmas.

We knew how to play a tear-jerker in those days, and I was full of the kinds of passions that could make a sailor weep.

I remember it was about 11 o'clock at night and pouring rain outside when I began putting the piece together for the next day's editions.

Deadline was an hour away, but an hour is a lifetime when you're young and fast and never get tired.

Then the telephone rang.

It was Al Reck calling, as he always did at night, and he'd had a few under his belt.

Reck was a drinking man. With diabetes and epilepsy, hard liquor was about the last thing he ought to be messing with, but you didn't tell Al what he ought to or ought not to do.

He was essentially a gentle man who rarely raised his voice, but you knew he was the city editor, and in those days the city editor was the law and the word in the newsroom.

But there was more than fear and tradition at work for Al.

We respected him immensely, not only for his abilities as a newsman, but for his humanity. Al was sensitive both to our needs and the needs of those whose names and faces appeared in the pages of the Oakland Tribune.

"What's up?" he asked me that Christmas Eve in a voice as soft and slurred as a summer breeze.

He already knew what was up because, during 25 years on the city desk, Reck somehow always knew what was up, but he wanted to hear it from the man handling the story.

I told him about the kid dying of leukemia and about the peaches and about how there simply were no fresh peaches, but it still made a good piece. We had art and a hole waiting on page one.

Al listened for a moment and then said, "How long's he got?"

"Not long," I said. "His doctor says maybe a day or two."

There was a long silence and then Al said, "Get the kid his peaches."

"I've called all over," I said. "None of the produce places in the Bay Area have fresh peaches. They're just plain out of season. It's winter."

"Not everywhere. Call Australia."

"Al," I began to argue, "it's after 11 and I have no idea . . .”

"Call Australia," he said, and then hung up.

If Al said call Australia, I would call Australia.

I don't quite remember whom I telephoned, newspapers maybe and agricultural associations, but I ended up finding fresh peaches and an airline that would fly them to the Bay Area before the end of Christmas Day.

There was only one problem. Customs wouldn't clear them. They were an agricultural product and would be hung up at San Francisco International at least for a day, and possibly forever.

Reck called again. He listened to the problem and told me to telephone the secretary of agriculture and have him clear the peaches when they arrived.

"It's close to midnight," I argued. "His office is closed."

"Take this number down," Reck said. "It's his home. Tell him I told you to call."

It was axiomatic among the admirers of Al Reck that he knew everyone and everyone knew him, from cops on the street to government leaders in their Georgetown estates. No one knew how Al knew them or why, but he did.

I made the call. The secretary said he'd have the peaches cleared when they arrived and give Al Reck his best.

"All right," Reck said on his third and final call to me, "now arrange for one of our photographers to meet the plane and take the peaches over to the boy's house."

He had been drinking steadily throughout the evening and the slurring had become almost impossible to understand.

By then it was a few minutes past midnight, and just a heartbeat and a half to the final deadline.

"Al," I said, "if I don't start writing this now I'll never get the story in the paper."

I won't forget this moment.

"I didn't say get the story," Reck replied gently. "I said get the kid his peaches."

If there is a flash point in our lives to which we can refer later, moments that shape our attitudes and affect our futures, that was mine.

Alfred Pierce Reck had defined for me the importance of what we do, lifting it beyond newsprint and deadline to a level of humanity that transcends job. He understood not only what we did but what we were supposed to do.

I didn't say get the story. I said get the kid his peaches.

The boy got his peaches and the story made the home edition, and I received a lesson in journalism more important than any I've learned since.

I wanted you to know that this Christmas season.

Al Martinez is a former reporter and columnist for The Oakland Tribune, from 1955 to 1971, The Richmond (Calif.) Independent and Los Angeles Times to now. Born in Oakland, he also has written several novels, for television and the movies. This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 25, 1986.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas message from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

The altar hanging at an English Advent service was made of midnight blue, with these words across its top: “We thank you that darkness reminds us of light.” Facing all who gathered there to give thanks were images of night creatures – a large moth, an owl, a badger, and a bat – cryptic and somewhat mysterious creatures that can only be encountered in the darkness.

As light ebbs from the days and the skies of fall, many in the Northern Hemisphere associate dark with the spooks and skeletons of secular Hallowe’en celebrations. That English church has reclaimed the connection between creator, creation, and the potential holiness of all that is. It is a fitting reorientation toward the coming of One who has altered those relationships toward new possibilities for healing and redemption.

Advent leads us into darkness and decreasing light. Our bodies slow imperceptibly with shorter days and longer nights, and the merriness and frantic activity around us are often merely signs of eager hunger for light and healing and wholeness.

The Incarnation, the coming of God among us in human flesh, happened in such a quiet and out of the way place that few noticed at first. Yet the impact on human existence has been like a bolt of lightning that continues to grow and generate new life and fire in all who share that hunger. Jesus is among us like a flitting moth – will we notice his presence in the street-sleeper? He pierces the dark like a silent, streaking owl seeking food for hungry and defenseless nestlings. He will overturn this world’s unjust foundations like badgers undermining a crooked wall. Like the bat’s sonar, his call comes to each one uniquely – have we heard his urgent “come and follow”?

God is among us, and within us, and around us, encountering, nudging, loving, transforming the world and its creatures toward the glorious dream the shepherds announced so many years ago, toward the beloved community of prophetic dreams, and the nightwatch that proclaims “all is well, fear not, the Lord is here.”

May Christ be born anew in you this Christmastide. May his light burn in you, and may you labor to spread it in the darkness. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and it is the harbinger of peace for all creation.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori Presiding Bishop and Primate The Episcopal Church

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A poem to get us through

I haven't run a poem on Fiat Lux in awhile. Margaret Haupt, one of our Stephen Ministry leaders, sent this, and so I pass it along...

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By Naormi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho 
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans 
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, 
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.  
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth. 

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and 
     purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe: Friday is her feast day

Friday is a very big deal in our hemisphere, even here in Charlottesville, though you might not notice.  The Catholic Church if the Incarnation is hosting hundreds of people at pre-dawn Eucharists Friday  early so people can get to work. The first Eucharist is at 2 am.

Let me tell you why Dec. 12 is an important feast day for millions of people. It is a story of dark-skinned peasants resisting the powerful, and the Holy Spirit doing what the Holy Spirit does ...

Nearly 500 years ago, the story goes, an Aztec with a Spanish name – Juan Diego – saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary. 

The local Spanish bishop, Juan de Zumárraga, did not believe him and told him to bring back proof of this vision. Juan Diego came back with his tunic full of flowers – Castilian roses – and the roses were blooming in winter. When Juan Diego poured the roses from his tunic, an image of Mary was imprinted on his tunic. 

That image has become probably the most copied and venerated image of Mary in the world.
Today is her feast day  Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, la Virgen de Guadalupe – the Virgin of Guadalupe. This day in 1531 marks when an Aztec brought roses to the bishop, and the bishop had to believe him.

Whether you believe in the story, or believe it happened exactly that way, is less important than what she represents primarily to the people of Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. Her shrine near Mexico City is the most visited Marian shrine in the world.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is sometimes known as the brown virgin – her skin color is that of the indigenous peoples of America. She is the Mary of the poor and the outcasts and those left behind or wiped out as Europeans colonized, industrialized and regimented the Americas. She is the Mary of the lowliest among us who stand up and say "you have it wrong, please listen."

 Even the word “Guadalupe” has roots in native Aztec language, and many believe the image is
filled with Aztec symbols. She is the Mary of hope to the poor of the Americas.

There is another level to this that I would commend to you: The Holy comes to us not just in male imagery (God the Father) but in female imagery. 

The Holy Spirit is like a wind that will blow where she will, and will show her face in ways that speak to people in the depths of their soul, and give them strength and courage when they most need it. The Virgin of Guadalupe does precisely that for so many, and I have met them (and they weren't all Latino).

Although Our Lady of Guadalupe is not on the official Episcopal calendar of saints, she will be celebrated in many Episcopal churches across the country, particularly in the Southwest.

As many of you know, I have a small collection of amazing Guadalupe folk art that I keep on my dresser at home. I have Guadalupe candlesticks, tin and ceramic figurines, santos wood carvings, and a lighted Guadalupe concha (shadow box) on the wall. Nearly all of these items are gifts from friends far and wide, and I cherish each item with thanks for the hands that made them.

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

UVA President Teresa Sullivan meets with University chaplains to discuss changing the culture

UVA President Teresa Sullivan
Photo by the Associated Press
“It’s been a semester like no other.”

So began Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, at a meeting with 15 University chaplains Tuesday morning. The chaplains, including myself, are part of an umbrella organization called “United Ministries” that include a wide spectrum of Christians, Jews and Muslims.

The chaplains asked to meet with President Sullivan last week in a letter about the current crisis surrounding a culture of sexual assault and alcohol abuse that has been rampant for decades. She responded immediately with an invitation to meet with her.

This has been a semester like no other in recent memory.

Hannah Graham, a second-year student, was abducted early in the semester, and her body was found about a month later. Two other students have died by taking their own life. And then in November, Rolling Stone magazine wrote an article about a student, “Jackie,” and her allegations of being gang raped at a UVA fraternity party.

Rolling Stone has since partially retracted the story. But there has been no let up in the debate over how to change the culture at UVA. It was clear in our meeting that President Sullivan welcomes that debate and is determined to make significant changes not just to UVA’s procedures, but also to UVA’s culture.

“I’ve been on this” since coming to the University in 2010, she said, soon after the beating death of student Yeardley Love at the hands of her student boyfriend.

Regardless of whether Rolling Stone got specific facts right on one incident, she noted, “we have actual survivors we are trying to take care of.”

She said the recent firestorm has surfaced survivors of sexual assaults from decades ago: “A wave of hurting that is hitting us.”

UVA’s counseling services are stretched to the maximum, and she asked for help from the chaplains. 

President Sullivan also discussed a number of ideas about how to stem underage drinking by providing competition to alcohol-soaked fraternity parties. Several chaplains pointed out that their organizations have created alcohol-free parties and events, but have not been well supported by UVA.

She pledged to look into that. She noted that she is working on opening a police substation on the “Corner,” and create a corps of “ambassadors” that will walk around in the neighborhood to help students get home.

The leaders of the fraternities are also engaged with her in working out new agreements with the University. She said she is urging them to “do things boldly, out of the ordinary” that could create a “virtuous cycle,” and could be a model for other colleges and universities struggling with the same issues.

The chaplains offered several ideas, including finding ways to tell the story of sexual abuse survivors that memorializes and keeps their struggle in front of the University community much the way the story of slavery is being told.

The chaplains pledged to cooperate with President Sullivan – and each other – in shifting student culture away from sexual violence and alcohol abuse. She pledged to improve communications with the chaplains and the community.

The chaplains also told President Sullivan that they are holding her in their prayers. She said she has been reading Psalm 27 a great deal lately:
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Friday, December 5, 2014

Voices unheard: Black Lives Matter

I want you to see the picture at the right, and I know some of you will not like it. I know some of you believe that this has no place in Church or on a church-related blog. I expect I will hear from you. I hope I do. Let's talk.

I also think we need to be aware that the Church is not an island unto itself. We are very much a part of the world and culture around us. We need to hear voices that we seldom hear -- especially the young and people of color.

This picture is of Kelly Carson, one of our Canterbury undergraduate students who has been very involved in undergraduate-led social justice movements over the past year at the University of Virginia. This picture shows her at the rally led by the UVA Black Student Alliance Wednesday evening after the decision not to indict the police officer in the death of Eric Garner in New York.

The rally started at the Mad Bowl, went through the libraries and several other buildings before going to Carrs Hill. The rally was so loud in Alderman Library that people came in from all the other rooms and floors to see what was going on. The crowd is behind the photographer in this picture. You can learn more at #blacklivesmatter.

In the Tuesday evening discussion this week at our Canterbury student group, our students talked about how the young people leading are leading a new movement are like John the Baptist -- "a voice of one calling in the wilderness."

I also know how hard it is to be a cop. I spent years covering the criminal justice system as a reporter. I've seen the guilty get off and the innocent go to prison. I've spent hours and hours on "ride alongs." I've been shot at, and I helped rescue a wounded California Highway Patrolman in a vicious shoot-out with bank robbers. I very much get it that those who put on a badge don't know if they are coming home at night. I know that cops can do everything right, but in an instant, everything can go very wrong. I've lost three friends who were police officers who were shot to death in the line of duty. Each was a dedicated public servant who did as much off duty to help people as they did on duty. I am thankful every day for cops.

And I also know the system needs to change, that police departments need to work harder at listening to voices seldom heard and connect with their communities. Firepower will not solve our most intractable problems of poverty, race, gangs and drugs.

I don't have public policy solutions for you, and I am not sure the Church is very good at that anyway. But I do believe we have an enormous role in changing the culture, and in being voices of reconciliation, love and courage. If the Church cannot hear the angry and the lost, we have no reason to be.

In the weeks ahead, we need to create a safe forum for conversation and listening, where no one will be demonized for sharing their experiences and opinions. We know how to do that. I hope you will join me in this effort.

Finally, I ran across this quote the other day from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said this in 1968 shortly before he was killed. His words, I believe, still apply:
"It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard."
By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Healing the horrors: All are alive

"Now he is the God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

Lately we've endured a great deal of horror in Charlottesville: The abduction and murder of a second-year student, Hannah Graham, and then the revelations in Rolling Stone magazine about a sub-culture of rape and alcohol abuse in some of the fraternities. Anyone who has been here for any length of time was not surprised at these revelations. That has set off a firestorm that has not abated. We have preached on this, and posted a great deal on our St. Paul's Facebook page, so I do not propose to repeat any of that here.

We've also suffered a great deal of loss in the parish -- 20 deaths so far this year, an average of nearly every other week. We have a lot of hurting, grieving people right now.

With that backdrop, this morning's Daily Office reading from Luke 20:27-40 struck me in a new way. To set the scene, Jesus is gathered with rabbis who are questioning him about whether a woman who was married and widowed seven times has a husband in heaven.

There are contemporary commentators who seize on this passage as proof that marriage is between a man and a woman. But as I read it, I think that is quite beside the point Jesus makes. He is telling us that marriage is human artifact, a rite, and that in heaven everyone is a child of God. Marriage ceremonies and cultural customs don't mean much in heaven.

But there was something else that struck me this morning, and it isn't about marriage issues. In fact, it is the larger point Jesus makes: "Now he is the God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

"...all of them are alive."

All of the trials and horrors will pass away. All who are sick will be healed. This life is but a small slice of the spectrum of life. Those who are hurting will be healed, the grieving will have their tears wiped away. No one will be driven away. For to God, all are alive. No one is dead.

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving thanks in perilous times

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” 

So began the proclamation establishing an annual day of national Thanksgiving. You might think you know the origins of these words, or you might be surprised to find out.

 It is true that the first thanksgiving feast on these shores was done by English settlers, the pilgrims. But they did it only once.

George Washington declared a day of Thanksgiving after the nation won its independence. But it was done only once and only in a few places.

Rather, the origins of an annual day of Thanksgiving came in a particularly horrific chapter of our nation’s history, and in a particularly awful month in that chapter.

 The date the proclamation was signed – Oct. 3, 1863 – was a bare three months after the Battle of Gettysburg, and a mere two weeks after another ferocious battle, at Chickamauga, Tennessee.

The idea for an annual observance of thanks came from Sarah Hale, a widow with five children who was penniless. She caught the attention of the President of the United States who agreed with her. Sarah Hale, by the way, went on to become an advocate for the education of girls and an famous author. You know her best as the author of “Mary had a little lamb.”

 In this, the darkest hours of our national existence, in midst of a terrible civil war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, the proclamation she inspired implored the nation to count its blessings, and earnestly asked God to bind our wounds.

That our ancestors would pause to give thanks, in spite of everything they had experienced, was extraordinary. They set a selfless, generous for us. We too live in perilous times. With fires raging in Ferguson, with horrific violence in Iraq and Syria, with religious conflict in Israel-Palestine, and with the recent horrors that have come to light right here at the University of Virginia, it would be easy to slip into despair or slide into willful ignorance.

 We should do neither.

Instead, on this Thanksgiving, I believe it fitting and proper to once again pray for the healing of our nation and world; pray that violence will end everywhere; and pray that we will, with God’s grace, become instruments of healing, reconciliation and justice for all.

Like our ancestors, we must begin by giving thanks for our blessings: the food on our table tonight, the love of family and friends, and the work we are given to do that each of us might make a difference.

And so hear again this proclamation, from the pen of the great man who signed it:

“To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…” 

 “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. 

 “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens, and I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, 

 “And fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

 “In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.” 

Signed, Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christ the King Sunday: Changing the culture of sexual violence at the University of Virginia

Credit: Rolling Stone magazine
Today is Christ the King Sunday, a day preachers (including me) usually spend time explaining why Jesus, this anti-monarchial Jewish rabbi, is the "king of kings."

The big time hint comes in the gospel lesson from Matthew 25:31-46 when Jesus says he is the one who is hungry, naked, thirsty, and in prison. He is the king who is with those who are in despair and in the low places.

We are in one of those low places now here in Charlottesville. Rolling Stone magazine published this week a lengthy article about the culture of sexual violence at the University of Virginia, and it has sparked a long overdue reaction. We've posted a lot of the statements and reactions on our St. Paul's Facebook page, and I won't post that here. But I want to share with you my sermon from this morning, which is my public statement on this.

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Last week broke very cold, and not just the temperature outside.

This was among the most challenging, and chilling, weeks I’ve experienced in the nearly seven years since you’ve called me here.

This is not an easy sermon today.

As you may know by now, our community was rocked by a Rolling Stone magazine article detailing a culture of sexual violence and alcohol abuse in fraternities that are only a few yards from this church.

The article is a very tough read, and I had to put it down several times. The details are shocking – horrific – and I cannot comprehend how any human being can treat another human being this way.

Then, later in the week, came news of another student suicide, Peter D’Agostino, the second student to die this way in a semester that was already marked by the murder of Hannah Graham.

Good Lord, enough already.

I must confess I have struggled to find the words to present you this morning in this pulpit. You may rightfully ask, why talk about this at all in church? I’ve asked myself that. My answer is, this parish was founded a century ago with the specific mission of serving and ministering to the students of the University of Virginia. We have an obligation to talk about it. And the gospel today – the Word of God – compels us to talk about this.

So I begin with this gospel lesson from Matthew that maybe captures some of the feelings of helplessness right now in our community:

“I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

Like you, I have struggled to know how to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, and protect the most vulnerable among us – especially our kids who come here as students.

All week, there was much conversation among students, faculty and staff, and in the wider community, and among those of us who work here in this church.

University officials have clearly struggled to find their feet, and respond in an appropriate and caring way.

The Charlottesville clergy is also struggling, especially those of us who pastor to our students.

Nearly all of the campus chaplains, of many faith traditions, will gather here at St. Paul’s tomorrow for a special meeting to try to figure this out together.

There are many questions for all of us, and I certainly don’t have all the answers. How do we clothe those who are vulnerable and violated? How do we bring them out of whatever prisons of despair and depression they may dwell? How do we see that justice is done?

And how do we turn our anger into making sure that no young woman will ever be attacked again? How do we declare “No more of this” and make it stick?

The Gospel of Matthew takes us today into a very low place, but then brings us to high place, and reaches beyond despair.

Today is also called by the Church, “Christ the King Sunday,” when the Church proclaims that Jesus is the Lord, the king of all.

Here in this gospel lesson, we find out what kind of king of kings he truly is – the king who goes into the places of hunger, and fear, abuse, violence – prison itself – to heal us – and proclaim no more of this.

If we look, we will see this already happening right here.

Start with the students themselves – they are living beacons of hope, and they have much to teach us if we are open and listening.

On Friday, something extraordinary happened at St. Paul’s. A diverse group of students organized what they called “Turkey-pa-looza.”

They gathered up unused food from the UVA dining halls, brought it here, and then cooked and packaged meals in green bags for needy families in the community. If you go to our website or Facebook page, you will see photos of them in our kitchen.

“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 want to give you another example: We are supporting a group of students who are launching “Buddies on Call.”

These students will be stationed in our church late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to escort other students who are trouble and need help getting home.

Meanwhile, student leaders have stood up and demanded to be heard. They have built a website with resources for students, and links to give University officials their wisdom on how to change this culture.

Let me quote from the student letter:

“It is easy to hate, to cast whole communities in doubt, to deny, or to hide. But if we respond to hard times with hard work, if we respond to division with unity, if we respond to efforts to tear us down by building each other up, then we'll look back on this moment as the time we stood up to answer the call.”

And there is something more.

Today we are baptizing a baby, Christian, into God’s One Holy and Apostolic Church.

Christian, you may not have quite thought of this yet, but you and your parents have been waiting since the day of your birth, four months and 14 days ago, for this day to arrive: The day of your baptism.

But God has been waiting since the foundation of the world for this day to arrive. That means this is a way bigger day for God than it is even for you or your parents. The world is never going to be the same again because you are being baptized today – and God rejoices and takes delight in you.

We need you here. We can’t wait to see you baptized, and we can’t wait to see what you will bring into our world.

We pray you will have a long and healthy life. We know you will certainly go your own way on many things, and you probably will put a few gray hairs on your parents’ heads.

But today is yours. Today you will be marked as “Christ’s own forever,” and that is no small claim.

Christ will never let go of you, not ever.

And you are stuck with us, and we welcome you to the deep end of the baptismal pool.

Christian you already have much to teach us. What we do for the least among us we do to Jesus. Help us to figure out how to do that with you.

We can start with our hands outstretched in thanksgiving – and give thanks for the gift of our life, thanks for the people we love, and thanks for the time we are given on this earth to make a difference.

We can show our thanks with our grateful giving, and we can show our thanks with our service to each other.

It is right that we begin every prayer with thanks, and ground our life in the sharing of bread and wine in our Holy Eucharist – words that mean “the Great Thanksgiving.”

God has very ambitious dreams for us – serving our community, serving each other –and here in this place by making our university community not only a vibrant center of learning, but also a safe environment so that everyone who comes here can thrive.

When we care for the most vulnerable among us, we are caring for Jesus himself. In the gospel lesson today, Jesus proclaims that when we care for the most vulnerable, we will see the very face of the Risen Christ in the face of each other.

Those moments are truly holy moments.

One of these moments comes right now, when we baptize Christian. We will renew our baptismal covenant to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself” and we will pledge to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”

And then let us go from here to make our promises real in our lives, with our prayers, with our service, with our giving, and with our actions. Welcome to this extraordinary life, Christian. AMEN

Monday, November 17, 2014

Rabbi Dan Alexander's sermon at St. Paul's

We had a terrific Sunday at St. Paul's, with Rabbi Dan Alexander of Congregation Beth Israel giving the sermon (I preached at his synagogue Friday evening, see post below this one). Rabbi Dan also was our guest at the adult forum, and fielded many questions with skill and good humor. Here is the text of this sermon, and the audio can be heard on our website HERE.

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Of Sweetened Words and Theological Humility
November 16, 2014

I am honored and grateful for this opportunity to preach in the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Memorial Church this morning. Standing here brings back fond memories that extend back to 1979, when in my first year as Director of the Hillel Foundation at UVA, I met the Rev. David Poist. I count David and also Paula Kettlewell among the clergy I have known the longest and whose acquaintance and friendship I have valued so highly over the years. Your current rector, the Rev. Jim Richardson fills the shoes of his esteemed predecessors with great distinction and, as he does, brings honor to your church through his leadership in the general community, especially in the arena of social justice. His friendship sustains me.

In preparing to speak to you this morning I first thought I would challenge myself by reacting to one of your lectionary readings, not an easy one from the Scriptures we hold in common but one more difficult for me, from your Scriptures and then to see what I might bring to an encounter with a text sacred to Christians but not to Jews. But, as it happened, that encounter led me back to my own tradition and in particular to a rabbinic text, a midrash, that when unpacked reveals some core elements of Jewish self-understanding. My goal in all of this is to make a modest contribution toward better understanding between our two communities. I will speak on the theme “Of Sweetened Words and Theological Humility.”

As you probably all know, Matthew 25:14-30 records one version of the Parable of the Talents. I read the parable, thought about it, discussed it with a few folks, investigated some commentaries and then decided you would be better served if I leave its exposition to teachers from within your faith community while I simply note that the literary form of the passage, a teaching by means of parable, bears similarity to many midrashim, those long or short literary compositions which were delivered in synagogues as homilies during the century when Jesus lived, as well as before and after. In the remarks that follow, I exit the realm of your Testament for the more familiar arena of rabbinic literature in the service of my goal of cultivating the ground of mutual understanding between our faith communities.

What is a midrash? From the Hebrew root meaning to seek or inquire, a midrash is a genre of imaginative rabbinic literature, that is to say fiction, that begins with an inquiry into some aspect of Scripture, some curiosity that arises from an encounter with a passage or a phrase or a word or a letter in the sacred text, some itch that calls for a scratch. The midrash is the literary scratch, so to speak, but a scratch that can shed significant light on the perspective, values and sensibilities that inform the worldview of the author. And one more thing: midrashim (the plural of midrash) fit within the general category of Oral Torah or Oral Tradition, a catch-all term for the sacred literature of the Judaism that arises when the priest and sacrifice-oriented religion of the Second Temple period gives way to the synagogue, rabbi, prayer and mitzvah-oriented religion we now recognize as Judaism. That is, midrash can be fanciful but it occupies a place of high honor and seriousness in the Jewish library.

I chose the following midrash (which was collected in several Medieval anthologies that in turn draw on older sources no longer extant) because it addresses the very nature of Torah. Torah in turn is the Jewish equivalent of Jesus. For it is the Torah, in the sense of the revealed word of God, that contains and represents the covenant by which we Jews derive our identity, our sense of unique calling and our purpose. As we read and unpack this midrash, we will see that it begins with a slight misdirection as it presents itself as a commentary on a verse from the Song of Songs, one of the stranger books of the Hebrew Bible. In its plain sense, the Song of Songs comprises a series of fairly racy love poems. I would like to know which Biblical editor allowed this stuff to pass the canonical screening?! I would like to shake his or her hand.

Well, it would appear that in ancient Jewish circles, these love poems made the canonical cut because prominent rabbis of the day interpreted them as metaphors for the love not between human lovers but the one that characterizes the relationship between the Creator of the Universe and the people Israel whom the Creator chose for covenant. That is certainly the assumed interpretation behind this midrash and the third century rabbis who are quoted in it. The midrash, Part I:

"His mouth is most sweet" (Song of Songs 5:16). It is said in the name of Rabbi Yohanan: The moment Israel at Sinai heard the word "I," their souls left them, as is written, "My soul left me when He spoke" (Song of Songs 5:6).

Of course, in the un-interpreted Bible, the sweet mouth belongs to the speaker’s kissable lover. However, to the rabbis it belongs to the Master of the Universe and specifically describes the nature of God’s speech to the people Israel, the sweet words of Torah spoken at Mount Sinai. The word “I,” you probably know, is the first word of the Ten Utterances. By the way, the first letter of the first word Anochi is the silent letter aleph. In some versions of this midrash, the drama begins as the soon as the silent letter reaches the ears of its human recipients. Of course, in the Bible, “My soul left me when he spoke” describes a swooning lover, not revelation at Mt. Sinai, but you are getting used to the rabbinic interpretive move by now. Back to the midrash:

At once, the Word returned to the Holy One and said: “Master of the universe, You are ever alive and enduring, the Torah is ever alive and enduring, yet You are sending me to the dead? THEY ARE ALL DEAD!”

So, for Israel's sake, the Holy One went back and sweetened the Word, as is said, "The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is stately" (Psalms 29:4), which, as Rabbi Hama bar Hanina explained, means that the voice of the Lord was powerful for young men and had measured stateliness for the aged…. Rabbi Levi said: “Had it been written, "The voice of the Lord is in His strength," the world could not have stood it.” Hence Scripture says, "The voice of the Lord is fitted to the strength" (Psalms 29:4). That is to say, to the strength of each and every person, the young according to their strength, the aged according to their strength, the little ones according to their strength, the sucklings according to their strength, the women according to their strength.

Now it is apparent what drives this midrash, the itch that invites the scratch. In weaving together verse fragments from the Song of Songs and from Psalm 29, the rabbinic authors seek to address the paradox of divine revelation, the odd notion that the One who Creates everything, the Omni-everything Diety would see fit to encounter a band of scruffy former slaves gathered around a mountain in the Sinai peninsula and communicate to them in a manner that results in a book. Does an elephant speak to an ant? Do we humans speak to bacteria? Incommensurate scale and incompatibilities of many sorts make these encounters nearly impossible to conceive of. Along the lines of this kind of thinking, it should be nearly impossible for God to speak to us and even more difficult for us to receive the divine phone call. It shouldn’t happen.

But, as a core concept of Jewish faith, the revelation did happen and did result in a revealed, sacred text, regarded sometimes more narrowly as the Ten Utterances and sometimes more expansively as the entirely of Torah, both in its written /Biblical manifestation and also in its oral, unfolding, post-Biblical sense. But, in the imagined view of this midrash God at first did not, as it were, know God’s own strength. God forgot, one might say, the puniness of the creatures to whom the divine speech was being addressed.

Beyond the humor embedded in this image of a God who does know His or Her own strength, an important point of theology is being made. An implication of this account of revelation that strikes me as significant is that the revelation that results from the human-divine encounter at Sinai, the only one that could allow humans to come away intact, requires a do-over with a necessarily altered version of the Word, a Word subsequently made palatable for human consumption through well modulated sweetening; that is to say, the Word that can be successfully received by finite, mortal, delicate humans is decaf and not full strength and, therefore, no longer the full and unimpeded Truth with a capital “T.” It seems to me that in conflicts over who has the better or truer or only version of God’s word, a humble acknowledgment that no one really has it might help soften the tone of discourse. No one has it because, in the view of this midrash, no one could receive it fully and live to tell the tale. The midrash offers its own variant in parable form, as follows:

Another exposition of "His mouth is most sweet" (Song of Songs 5:16): The Holy One was like a king who spoke so harshly to his son that the latter fell into a faint. When the king saw that he had fainted, he began to hug him, kiss him, and speak softly to him, saying, "What is it with you? Are you not my only son? Am I not your father?" So, too, as soon as the Holy One said, "I am the Lord your God," then and there Israel's souls left them. When they died, the angels began to hug them and kiss them, saying to them, "What is it with you? Be not afraid--'you are children of the Lord your God'" (Deuteronomy 14:1). At the same time, the Holy One repeated the Word softly for their sake as He said, "Are you not My children, even as I am the Lord your God? You are My people. You are beloved unto Me." He kept speaking gently to them until their souls returned. [Song of Songs Rabbah 5:16, 3; Exodus Rabbah 5:9 and 29:4 as quoted in The Book of Legends, Sefer Ha-Aggadah by Bialik and Ravnitzky]

In this anonymous retelling of the midrash, after seeing the effect of the sternly spoken “I am the Lord your God,” God turns into a loving parent. As a parent, I can certainly recall the unintended effects of my harshly spoken words to my children whose fragility when they were young I sometimes forgot. Perhaps after seeing how mere words affected the Israelites, God, as imagined in this version of the story, summons nursing angels to caress them back to health. Here, the anonymous rabbinic author responds to a persistent Jewish anxiety over the experience of abandonment and distance, an anxiety here situated in the very moment when divinity was presumably closest, when the Word became manifest as Torah, first harshly and then sweetly. To conclude: a midrash is a fiction, a product of human imagination. But, this one, as I ponder it, contains some potential guidance for Jews and Christians as we continue to navigate our sometimes fraught and intertwining spiritual paths, each seeking to authentically heed the divine call we receive through the mediation of our distinct traditions. As we continue on those paths, may we do so in honest recognition of the asymmetries and commonalities which divide us and bind us.

May we all come to recognize the sweetened, do-over nature of the Word as we each define it, the Word revealed uniquely to Jews and the Word revealed uniquely to Christians.

May we cultivate our theologies and engage one another in humble recognition that no one possesses the Truth with a big T.

And may the One whose speech brought forth the world and all that is in it continue to speak to all of us gently and sweetly. And let us say, “amen.”

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bury the dead! Raise the living! The common roots of Jewish and Christian social justice

Congregation Beth Israel, Charlottesville

Lori and I were guests at the Friday evening Shabbat service yesterday at Congregation Beth Israel here in Charlottesville. And it was my privilege to be the invited speaker.

Truly, it was one of the great honors of my priesthood to preach in a synagogue. I am very grateful to my friend Rabbi Dan Alexander for inviting me; we've been talking about this "pulpit trade" for months, and he will be preaching at St. Paul's on Sunday at 10 am.

Before the services, Lori and I enjoyed dinner with Rabbi Dan and his wife before coming to the synagogue. I am also very grateful that quite a few folks from St. Paul's came to the synagogue Friday.

All of us were made to feel very welcome, and we will reciprocate the welcome Sunday.

Here is the text of the sermon I gave Friday:

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Shabbat, shalom.

Good evening. I am very grateful for the invitation from my good friend, Rabbi Dan Alexander, to speak to you tonight. Thank you so much for welcoming my wife, Lori, and I into your congregation.

We have been looking forward to this for many weeks. While I am accustomed to preaching, I have never done so in a synagogue before, so this is a new experience for me.

As Rabbi Alexander has probably mentioned, he will be preaching in my church on Sunday. We are both hopeful that our “pulpit trade” will foster new understandings, and new friendships between our congregations, and deepen our personal friendship.

Rabbi Alexander asked me to talk about social justice from a Christian perspective. Before I can even attempt to do that, I must acknowledge that to speak as a Christian about social justice strikes me as presumptuous.

I must begin by confessing that my own religion, in the name of Jesus Christ, has perpetrated so much social injustice in this world that I would blame no one for not listening to anything Christians have to say.

I am also mindful that this past week marks the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht. I am especially mindful that supposedly good Christians participated, or stood by and did nothing. So for me to even try to speak of social justice, I must first stand in a place of atonement.

That brings me to the second place I must stand. I must ask you to recognize that I don’t speak for the entirety of Christianity.

I can speak only from my own experience and perspective, and only from one corner of the Christian tradition. Allow me to tell you a little about my corner.

I was born into, and I am a priest of, the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, which has its roots in the Church of England, forged in the religious wars in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

The Church of England, through 300 years of much bitterness and bloodshed, eventually found its way to the Enlightenment experiment of religious tolerance. The Church of England said, in effect, believe what you want to believe as long as you pray in a common way.

That did not exactly mean full tolerance for Jews and Muslims, or Catholics for that matter, but it was a start.

The American Episcopal Church broke away from the Church of England in the American Revolution, yet not completely.

As a founding partner of the Anglican Communion in the 19th century, we still consider that the Archbishop of Canterbury is our spiritual leader, but there is a great deal of tension in that relationship.

Although the Episcopal Church is relatively small in the United States, the Anglican Communion is the second largest Christian sect in the world. Only the Roman Catholics are larger.

A few days ago, we proudly celebrated the feast day of one of our archbishops of Canterbury, William Temple, who denounced Nazism in the 1930s, and became the first archbishop of Canterbury since the middle ages to go into battle when he landed with the troops at Normandy.

And that brings me to the topic that Rabbi Alexander asked me to preach about: social justice in our own time, and in our own community.

Someone once asked me to define the mission of social justice. Here is how I put it: If you see people drowning in the river, you pull them out. That is the mission of mercy. But at some point, you might want to walk upstream to see why they are falling in. That is the mission of social justice – changing the institutional and societal structures so that people won’t drown in the rivers.

Rabbi Alexander also asked me for a title to this talk, but Episcopalians don’t usually do titles. But I used to work for newspapers and I can write a headline, and so I came up with this: “Bury the dead! Raise the Living! The sacred roots of social justice.”

This title came to me when I looked at the Torah passage appointed for this Shabbat. It is a rather long section of Genesis that begins with the burial of Sarah and goes quite a distance into the marriage of Isaac.

It is not a passage in the Episcopal cycle of readings, or lectionary, so it would not be heard on a typical Sunday in my church.

In the reading, Abraham goes to the Hittites and asks for a place to bury Sarah. The Hittites give him the choicest of land. Abraham wants to buy it but they say no, please, this is our gift. Then Abraham, surrounded by the Hittites, and presumably by his children, takes Sarah’s body to a cave.

Abraham buries Sarah with great care. Her remains are so sacred that she is buried in a special place. Many come, even strangers, even the Hittites, to see her buried. Sarah matters. Sarah is sacred, even in death.

Right here, in the burial of Sarah, is the common root of social justice for Jews and Christians. How?

We hold in common that all people are sacred, created in the very image of God – sacred even in death.

The great Hebrew Bible is the story of a great people, through many travails and triumphs, many joys and tragedies. It is also the story of individuals, like Sarah and Abraham, and how each of us – you and I – are sacred beings in the eyes of our creator.

And if we hold that the dead are sacred, how much more must we hold that the living are sacred? Yes, we bury our sacred dead, but we must also raise up the sacred living to places of justice, dignity and peace.

We fall short when we fail to see the sacredness in each other, or worse, violate that sacredness in others – and in ourselves.

Yet we live in a world where the living are often seen as anything but sacred and life is cheap. We live in a world dominated by fear, power and greed; where coercion, violence, revenge and death are the ultimate solutions seemingly for everything.

Armies, prisons, capital punishment, war, terrorism, jihads, crusades and fundamentalism of every stripe have become the default position for just about every problem.

But that is not our common tradition rooted in the sacredness of God’s creation. Our common tradition is the harder path – the path of healing, reconciliation, forgiveness, and building one sacred living stone at time for a better world to come. Ours is the sacred path of shalom.

Every time we resort to coercion, violence and death as tool – even when we must do so to fight evil itself – there is a cost to the sacredness in ourselves. And yet, even then, our Creator calls us back to the better path, the path of shalom.

This path is right here in this community, in this synagogue, in my parish.

One of the reasons I came to Charlottesville six years ago is because our faith communities here cooperate in social justice work through IMPACT, which stands for Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together.

Rabbi Alexander is one of the founders of IMPACT, and in fact, he came up with the clever name. IMPACT is extraordinary, and I want to tell you why: As you know, we live in a world that is being torn to pieces by hatred, religious violence, power politics, and bigotry of every sort.

Yet here in Charlottesville, Christians, Jews and Muslims come together to hammer out solutions to the hardest problems in our community.

Instead of being torn asunder by our differences – and those differences are real – we’ve found a way in common to change the structures of injustice in our community.

And, yes, we haven’t always gotten it right. We’ve been harsh and times, and had many miss-steps.

Yet we’ve had notable successes, most recently with convincing the University of Virginia medical system to create a job-training program for unskilled young people in our community.

What we do together has implications far beyond Charlottesville and our immediate issues. We are beacons of hope for how the rest of the world could be.

Rabbi Dan asked me to speak about social justice from the Christian tradition. I’ve done that only partly. To complete this task, I must speak of Jesus of Nazareth, but not the Jesus who has been used as a bludgeon for persecution, or the Jesus of endless philosophical debates about the essence of his nature, divine and/or human.

Rather, the Jesus I speak of was a rabbi. That is what his followers called him – rabbi. The name “Jesus” wasn’t really even his name – Jesus is a bad Germanic translation from the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua.

This rabbi Joshua – Yesou – stood with the Hebrew prophets who warned the people to not put their trust in earthly rulers, but to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul – the shema – and to love our neighbors at least as much as we love ourselves.

This means, then as now, caring for the poor, the outcasts, the strangers, the orphans; the homeless, the drug addicts, the mentally ill – and being bold enough to love those who would do us harm, even our enemies.

A well known Baptist preacher, someone you’re familiar with, Martin Luther King, Jr., called it “the strength to love.”

This truly is our sacred path that we share, and it is the path of the Creator of all that is, and was, and ever shall be.

Shabbat, shalom.

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux