I wonder what it will take before we see all others as self. I wonder this for the sake of not only our civil society, but our entire world. I wonder if we will ever learn to live in the creative tension of the individual and the community or the common good? I wonder if the Church will ever be able to articulate the GOSPEL or “good news” as Jesus of Nazareth gave it; a universal message from GOD given through a brown man of a brown oppressed people living under “colonizers?”
I was sent a podcast link of THE BIBLE FOR NORMAL PEOPLE by a friend in Dallas. This podcast, whose hosts are Pete and Jared, describe it is as an interpretive conversation about the Scriptures through diverse lens, i.e., people who remain in the Church and think critically about what the good news means, based on how it is being lived out.
The most fascinating discussion recently was in an interview with author, Lisa Sharon Harper whose latest work has been the “decolonization” of the interpretation of Scripture. Ms. Harper believes that a “colonized” version of the bible (even in its various translations) has led to the exploitation of peoples around the world. Her hermeneutical tool for this deconstruction has been the return to the first pages of the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew language AND a real look at the social context of the authors of the entire bible as people of Afro-Asian roots living in oppressive conditions over millenia.
Now, I have always known something was wrong with the biblical scholarly contention that the verse, “Let us make humankind in our image and in our likeness and let them have dominion…” was not all about the rational capacity of being human. It was never about reason as far as I could tell, but I knew no Hebrew, so I regurgitated back whatever I was taught in Old Testament.
But study of the Hebrew—yes, I went down that hole after the podcast—led me to understand the words like image, (tsalem), good (towb), and dominion (radah) in a brand-new way. The Hebrew, tsalem or image, means resemblance or representation. Towb or good, means beneficial of excellent welfare in a relational way; and radah or dominion is not to subjugate, but rather to protect and serve for the sake of the other.
So, we humans were created to represent Elohim (God) or resemble Elohim in beneficial relationship to the rest of everything else that was created and to protect and serve creation for creation’s sake…that includes each other. How else can we represent Elohim EXCEPT in our capacity to create for the excellent welfare of the other, and to do that for LOVE’s sake. It is only then that we resemble GOD.
What happens when a human being, any human being, or an entire group of human beings are prevented from flourishing as that divine representation in the world?
Ms. Harper is adamant that our failure to recognize and to understand the image of GOD as tsalem allows for the hierarchical world we live in and the diminished humanity of all oppressed people. If we really believed that each human represented GOD—especially the poor, the prisoner, and the broken—we would be less apt to kick them to the societal curb as we normally do.
The entire conversation was woven around a new look from her “evangelical” perspective of the Good News. What do you think? Can you articulate what is the “good news” of the Kin(g)dom of God?
Last Friday night, my husband David and I enjoyed date night out at Keystone Korner, a jazz restaurant bar on Lancaster Street by Harbor East. With COVID infection numbers continuing to drop (and our ever-present-safety-measure-K95 masks still on us), it did feel wonderful to “exhale”, metaphorically and literally, enjoying being out and socializing beyond the walls of our home. The jazz artist featured that evening was Grammy-award winning guitarist John Scofield (who, among other collaborators, toured and recorded with the legendary Miles Davis in the 1980’s).
Unlike my better half, I am relatively new to the world of jazz. Jazz, frankly, used to baffle me; and when David first introduced me to this genre of music, I would listen in earnest, trying wholeheartedly to understand and grasp its appeal. Over the years listening to jazz regularly, while in the kitchen together or driving in the car, I’ve come to love its depth and breadth, wealth and intricacies. Last Friday, discovering and recognizing the threads of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” and Neil Young’s “Old Man” (and yes, I realize I’m dating myself!) weaved into the musical fabric by John Schofield’s expert guitar-fingers, alongside piano and bass notes and drumbeats, made my heart and soul smile: “Yes, that sounds so familiar … ooohhh, I think I recognize that tune … yes, yes, I know that … and that one, too … and that one, too!”
I’ve been reflecting on my recent live jazz experience as I think about you … and me … and the mystery that is “God”; because it occurs to me that, perhaps, coming to appreciate, experience and enjoy jazz is a bit like coming to appreciate, experience and enjoy God, who weaves Her way into our lives, in ways that aren’t always obvious and instantly recognizable and/but can be recognized over time, with regular “listening” and “seeing” and “practice”, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear; if we have an earnest, seeking heart.
In my own life, I’ve found that seeing how God – how something bigger and wiser, more compassionate and more loving, deeper and broader, more expansive and inclusive, than you and me – was “at play” and “in the mix”, “present” and “at work”, is often somewhat easier in hindsight over time, at a distance looking backwards. And to be aware of God’s Presence in the Present Moment, especially when that moment, or those moments, are difficult or uncomfortable, hard or challenging, frightening or scary, out of our control and full of pain or suffering, is not so easy.
And yet, God Is There. Here. Present. In You. And In Me. Woven into the fabric of our earthly lives, even as we stretch and yearn to hear Her, to feel Him. Like the bass notes and drumbeats undergirding a jazz piece, God’s rhythmic pulse persists, unbroken. Like the hint of a familiar melody being played on guitar strings, God’s voice calls and sings, ever inviting, ever assuring, ever loving.
A mystery (… like jazz once was, and sometimes still is, to me …), yes. A gift, yes. A grace, yes.
Come and listen. Come and see. Come … Breathe … and BE.
Take a look at the programming scheduled for Wednesday evenings over the next eight weeks!
As Sacred Ground groups continue their work of anti-racism, the parish is invited to screen two films to mark Black History month. The movies begin at 7:00 p.m. in the parish hall, with a clergy-led discussion following. For those who prefer to participate from home we will offer the movies and discussion at 7:00 p.m. on Zoom. Click here to join.
February 16 My Name is Pauli Murray Murray was a poet, activist, legal trail blazer, and Episcopal priest. Her life and work influenced Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall, propelled gender equity, and strengthened the rights of women and people of color. Early in the film we are told, “You can’t teach American History without talking about Pauli Murray.”
February 23 I am Not Your Negro, director Raoul Peck’s “powerful but imperfect” documentary, received critical acclaim and a Best Documentary Oscar nomination (The Atlantic). Compelled to do more than talk about the “Black American problem” from a distance, the film opens with James Baldwin’s return from France and chronicles his life through the civil-rights movement, focusing on his personal relationships with Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
March 2 Ash Wednesday services at 7:30 a.m., Noon, and 7:30 p.m.
Mark your calendar for VOICES, the Redeemer speaker series which resumes after a two-year pandemic hiatus. VOICES serves the broad community of Baltimore by inviting contemporary speakers to challenge and inform us: artists and authors, visionaries and thought leaders… advocates of change courageous enough to hold the loveliness and sorrow of the world at once, and find the wonder in both.
March 9 Padraig O’Tuama Poet and theologian, Pádraig Ó Tuama’s work centers around themes of language, power, conflict and religion. Pádraig presents Poetry Unbound with On Being Studios and in late 2019 was named Theologian in Residence for On Being, innovating in bringing art and theology into public and civic life. When BBC journalist William Crawley introduced Pádraig on the stage to deliver a TEDx talk on Story, Crawley said, “He’s probably the best public speaker I know.”
March 16 Jayne Miller of WBAL – TV News moderates a group of prominent women in a panel discussion to celebrate International Women’s Day. The panel includes Laura Gamble, PNC Regional President of Greater Maryland, Judy Postmus, Dean of University of Maryland School of Social Work, a youth organizer of The Period Poverty Project, and a leader in gender equity for refugees from Catholic Relief Services. Ms. Miller, a champion for women in the field of communications, has had a long tenure with WBAL-TV. She’s been a reporter with the station for more than 30 years and is currently the chief investigative reporter with the 11 Investigates I-Team.
March 23 Francois Furstenberg Johns Hopkins professor Furstenberg explores the history of the United States and the Atlantic World in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the Name of the Father: Washington’s Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nation (2006), examines how images of George Washington in nineteenth-century print culture helped promote U.S. nationalism, with a particular focus on contemporary understandings of Washington’s slaveholding. When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees who Shaped a Nation (2014), connects the United States to the French Atlantic World in the eighteenth-century Age of Revolutions.
March 30 Betty Kilby Baldwin and Phoebe Kilby Cousins: Connected Through Slavery. What happens when a White woman, Phoebe, contacts a Black woman, Betty, saying she suspects they are connected through slavery? The answer is revealed as they tell the dramatic story of their meeting, sharing of family histories, and search for reconciliation – from Betty’s experience desegregating her county’s only high school, to Phoebe’s eventual question to Betty: “How do I begin to repair the harms?”
April 6 Erica Green New York Times correspondent Erica Green covers the U.S. Department of Education and federal education policy, with a focus on civil rights and educational equity in the nation’s schools. Formerly at The Baltimore Sun, since joining The Times in 2017, Ms. Green has covered the tenure of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the impact of the Trump administration’s policies on the K-12 and higher education systems, and the toll that the coronavirus pandemic has taken on the country’s schools and students.
VOICES speakers begin at 7:00 p.m.
So, I have begun a 100-day retreat with St. Enda, a 13th century monk and founder of Christian monasticism in Ireland with 700+ people over the rest of the world! I must admit, I had never heard of him before, but I am always willing to do anything to deepen my life with the Spirit. The retreat, suggested by my spiritual director, has been amazing and challenging thus far.
The main theme of the retreat is the Four Renunciations of the Christian Spiritual Life. We are asked to renounce: our way of life, the thoughts about our way of life, our self-made thoughts of GOD, and our self-made thoughts of ourselves. The four renunciations were necessary, according to the early Christians, to obey Christ’s command to love each other unconditionally and sacrificially. Yes, the work goes deep, and it is good that I am doing it with a group of friends who gather once a week to share with each other.
I have been particularly fascinated by this thought though: If we are to “love GOD with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and each other as ourselves” what do we do when we do not love ourselves? How can we possibly love GOD even?
Daddy used to say, “water cannot rise above its own level. What I do not have, I cannot give you and what I do not know I cannot teach you.”
I believe many of us genuinely want to take an active role in the formation of the Beloved Community right where we are; yet we are stymied when the thought turns to how do I show love in a particular situation or with a particular person. I want to suggest that we have to be love before we can show love at all and perhaps the first person with whom we must lovingly be with is ourselves!
So, when did you love yourself unconditionally? When have you stood naked before yourself and GOD in the mirror and said “thank you body…I LOVE YOU” without the usual criticisms of what is wrong or right with your nakedness? Have you ever thanked your feet from taking you from point A to point B? Or your hands for opening doors, and getting you dressed this morning…for feeding you? Have you ever thought to thank your functioning kidneys and bladder? Yes, love and gratitude live in the same house together.
We human beings are in the process of becoming fully human and that process engages us at all levels—spiritual, physical, psychological, and emotional. As we evolve into lovers of ourselves, we become lovers of others, but this is not a self-manufactured love. Remember the song, “Jesus Loves Me?” The a priori love is the love of the Divine Mystery for us. Our receiving and transmitting that love places us in the great cosmic chain of BE-ING of LOVLINESS to come. We are ONE.
“Water cannot rise above its own level” and neither can we love without opening up to receive the love of GOD for us. Listen, learn to rest for a while, let go and let GOD love you!