Sunday Morning at St. Hugh's in Idyllwild, California
Category: Supplemental Resources
Reference material, prayers in the Christian tradition, sermons, links to additional online resources for study, follow up to questions raised in the Sunday Morning Forum. and so on. Resources to invite further study and aid further study of the weekly texts in order to hear what the Spirit is saying.
The year was 166 C.E., and the Roman Empire was at the zenith of its power. The triumphant Roman legions, under the command of Emperor Lucius Verrus, returned to Rome victorious after having defeated their Parthian enemies on the eastern border of the Roman Empire. As they marched west toward Rome, they carried with them more than the spoils of plundered Parthian temples; they also carried an epidemic that would ravage the Roman Empire over the course of the next two decades, an event that would inexorably alter the landscape of the Roman world. The Antonine Plague, as it came to be known, would reach every corner of the empire and is what most likely claimed the life of Lucius Verrus himself in 169—and possibly that of his co-emperor Marcus Aurelius in 180. Read the entire post on Bible History Daily
In this article from The Conversation, author Timothy Beal comments on our contemporary American scene while hearing, and calling attention to, the Spirit in the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures. As the title suggests the scriptures point to healing following grieving. ~Fr. Dan
For many women, people of color, LGBTQ people, Muslims and immigrants, the victory of Donald Trump seems to have endorsed discrimination against them. Acts of hatred against minorities are surfacing even more brazenly.
College campuses are reporting increasing numbers of incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation. Three days after the election, I saw a “Black Lives Matter” banner on a church wall in Denver splattered with bright red paint.
Many of us feel tremendous grief over what appears to be the end of a certain idea of American democracy. Amidst such pain and loss, many are also desperate for healing. Politicians on all sides are declaring, as Trump himself did on Nov. 9, that “it is time for America to bind the wounds of division.”
The desire to begin healing is certainly understandable. But before we can even begin to hope for healing, we need to grieve. As a scholar and teacher, I explore the many fascinating ways in which biblical images, words and even the idea of the Bible help people make meaning in their lives.
To be sure, there is a lot in the Bible about healing. But there is at least as much about grieving. The biblical tradition emphasizes the importance of grieving before moving toward healing.
To grieve is to embrace the reality of pain and loss.
The wounds are real
For many, following the elections, faith in the idea of American democracy has died. Cultural historian Neil Gabler’s “Farewell, America,” published two days after the election, expresses powerfully this sense of the end of faith in America:
“America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide…Whatever place we now live in is not the same place it was on Nov. 7. No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently.”
Indeed, irrespective of who got elected, the presidential race itself exposed mortal wounds on our body politic. We are not who we thought we were.
“When God’s people will pray with a humble heart, repenting of our sins, then God promises He will hear our prayer; He will forgive our sin and the third element is that He will heal our land.”
What do our traditions tell us?
Healing is not possible without grieving. The biblical tradition offers an invitation to sit with sadness before reaching for hope and healing. It does not simply allow for grief – it privileges it.
It dwells uncomfortably long in the valleys of loss and despair, refusing to ascend too quickly onto horizons of hope.
The Hebrew Scriptures, in fact, possess a rich vocabulary of grief. Behind the words “grief” and “grieve,” as I found in my research, there are 13 different Hebrew words with connotations ranging from physical injury, to sickness, to mourning, to rage, to agitation, to sighing, to tottering unsteadily to and fro. The most common expressions involve a mix of emotional and physical pain in the face of loss.
This privileging of grief over and before any hope of healing is powerfully expressed in the words of the Hebrew biblical prophets. As theologian Walter Brueggemann shows in his book “Reality, Grief, Hope,” the biblical prophets were not, as we often assume, predictors of the future.
Rather they were poets who, like poets today, offered alternative ways of seeing things – that is, to the way the empire (in their case ancient Israel or Judah) wanted people to see things. The prophet confronted ancient Israel’s imperial ideology of special blessing and national exceptionalism with the realities of exploitation and violence upon which its prosperity was gotten.
Addressing an audience that was in total denial that there were any serious problems in their society, the prophet gave voice to the realities of injustice, and grieved the pain and loss that was the result. They confronted the people’s denial with grief.
The prophetic imagination
Consider these words from the prophet Amos, who addressed the prosperous of northern Israel during the eighth century B.C.:
Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
the notables of the first of the nations ...
Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
and lounge on their couches ...
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile,
and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.
Simultaneously pronouncing judgment for their exploitation of the poor and grief over their imminent downfall, the prophet cries out in horror for those who recline in denial of their ill-gotten prosperity and “are not grieved” (from the Hebrew word “chalah,” “made sick”) at the ruin all around.
Though they are guilty, Amos nonetheless laments that they “shall now be the first to go into exile” as a result. The prophet pronounces judgment from the inside, inviting “us” to look at ourselves, to stare at the wounds, to live into the pain, not as a path to healing but as reality in and of itself.
The crux of this “prophetic imagination” is grief. Then, and only then, is it even possible for the prophet to confront the despair of the empire in ruins with hope for the possibility of healing and restoration.
Grief as activism
I am sympathetic with those who feel driven to do something, indeed to resist despair and renew the struggle for justice. As the black feminist lawyer Florynce Kennedy famously said,
“Don’t agonize. Organize.”
But what if grief is a kind of activism? What if one of the most subversive acts right now is to give voice to our grief? To refuse to “move on”? Such grief denies denial its power to look away in desperate pursuit of healing. Just as there is no peace without justice, there is no healing without grief.
The day of Donald Trump’s election was also the anniversary of both Kristallnacht – the pogrom in 1938, when Nazi soldiers and German citizens attacked and killed many Jews and destroyed Jewish businesses, schools, and hospitals – and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
This coincidence reminds us that we together have the capacity for both atrocious horror and miraculous liberation. Even now. The difference may lie as much in how we grieve as in how we heal.
The following is a statement from Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry via the Public Affairs Office of the Episcopal Church
This past week, Barack H. Obama, the 44th President of the United States, in the tradition of Presidents dating back to George Washington, gave his farewell address to the nation. Next week Donald J. Trump, in the same tradition of this country, will take the oath of office and be inaugurated as the 45th President.
We recognize that this election has been contentious, and the Episcopal Church, like our nation, has expressed a diversity of views, some of which have been born in deep pain.
There has been much discussion, and some controversy, about the appropriateness of the Washington National Cathedral hosting the Inaugural Prayer Service this year, and of church choirs singing at inaugural events.
Underneath the variety of questions and concerns are some basic Christian questions about prayer: when I pray for our leaders, why am I doing so? Should I pray for a leader I disagree with? When I pray what do I think I am accomplishing?
On one level these questions seem inconsequential and innocuous. But real prayer is not innocuous. It is powerful. That question can become poignant and even painful as it is for many in this moment, given that some of the values that many of us heard expressed over the past year have seemed to be in contradiction to deeply-held Christian convictions of love, compassion, and human dignity.
[WCC] The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated worldwide from 18-25 January, will be hosted this year by the Council of Christian Churches in Germany (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen in Deutschland / ACK). As 2017 marks the commemoration of the Reformation, the week of prayer will reflect on the legacy of the Reformation and the current spirit of reconciliation in Christ.
“For Christians in Germany and all over the world, the theme Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us (2 Corinthians 5:14-20) can be considered both a calling and an opportunity for reconciliation”, the Revd Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, World Council of Churches (WCC) director of Faith and Order, said, “a chance to break historical walls that separate churches and congregations from each other, during times that require healing and recovering hope”. Continue reading “Unity prayers to recall the Reformation and celebrate reconciliation”
Our present moment is, of course, greatly enriched by remembering and honoring our past. Today I am grateful for the work being done in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. ~Fr. Dan
ROME (RNS) It is revered by different Christian sects and draws more than a million visitors to the Holy Land every year, making it the biggest tourist attraction in the Palestinian territories.
The Church of the Nativity, built by Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, sits in Bethlehem above what’s believed to be the birthplace of Jesus in one of the most politically divisive regions of the world.
The church is administered jointly by Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic authorities, and all have monastic communities there.
Since 2013, Italian experts from the art restoration firm Piacenti SpA have been working with the Palestinian government to overcome cultural and religious differences and forge ahead with an ambitious restoration expected to cost $15 million (14 million euros) when completed.
An interesting read for those whose study of the Bible includes the archeology of the ancient world, modern archeological science and methods, and current politics. Read the entire essay as you “keep learning”
From the Daily Beast, 12/03/15:
Israeli archeologists have discovered a mark from a seal of the biblical King Hezekiah—and the discovery is being touted in some circles as proof of the authenticity of the biblical record.
The small circular inscription was found as part of excavations of a refuse dump at the foot of the southern wall that surrounds Jerusalem’s Old City. The clay imprint, known to archeologists as a bulla, contains ancient Hebrew script and a symbol of a two-winged sun.
In the end, the discovery of the bulla may tell us as much about the politics of the present as it does the archeology of the past.
According to the Bible, Hezekiah ruled around 700 B.C. and, along with King Josiah, was one of the few good kings dedicated to eliminating idolatry. 2 Kings 18:5 implies that he was without equal: “there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.”