By Lupe Carlos III
I walked to this place
One hundred and fifty years away
I don’t care where or how
Today I let the wind decide
Just to be with you
The creek has chosen a new direction
Changing the braille of the land
It takes some effort to find the exact spot
Temporarily disorienting you
Gentle rain taps the needles underfoot
Diffused light casts a silver tint to your wings
Giving them a slight halo, more felt than seen
Irresistibly calling me
You lead me to a sheltered spot
And invite me to share a seat on a low rock
The sun breaks through and then back behind clouds
I’ve only ever prayed alone
I’ve never shared anything so personal with another
I offer lavender to mother earth
Smoke to father sky
Smudging the prayer with a crow’s wing fan
That’s taken me a year to bead
I follow you
Along the bank
Over the bridge
Into a stand of trees
I see that we are no longer separate
I am sweetgrass tossed into the fire of all that is
I let go
Until “I” drains out of the bottom of my feet
And evaporates out of the crest of my being
All that’s left is we
You and I and all that exists
All at once and always
Simmered down to joy
Boiled down to gratitude
Aged into belonging
I must have walked lifetimes
To be so recognized in this land
To feel so much love for our mother
I watch in amazement
As every leaf and every stone welcomes me home
By Nancy Roberts-Brown
This June I travel to Carlisle, Pennsylvania for my fiftieth Dickinson College reunion. In addition to the astonishment of being eligible for a fifty-year reunion, there is the wonder of realizing how very little I actually knew about much of Carlisle when I was there. I am particularly aware of how little I knew about the Carlisle Indian School. I’d heard of it and I’d heard of Jim Thorpe, the Indian athlete and Olympic Gold Medalist who, in 1907, was a two-time All American for the school’s football team. I now understand that this historic school has a legacy that lasts to this day – and that the legacy is not entirely pretty.
In 1879, the United States government undertook a project aimed at assimilating Native American youth into mainstream American culture. Amid predictions of the “extinction” of Native Americans without complete and rapid integration, Civil War veteran Lt. Col. Richard Henry Pratt founded the Carlisle Indian School as the first off-reservation Indian boarding school to “Americanize” Indians. His refrain, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” reflects his misguided philosophy. Building upon the lead of the Carlisle Indian School, in 1893 mandatory education for Native children became part of the United State’s assimilation policy that was forced upon Native youth and families until the mid-1900’s.
Children’s experiences at the boarding schools were typically bewildering and traumatizing. The schools were run with strict military precision. Children were forced to exchange their traditional clothing for garb favored by European Americans. Their beautiful long hair was shorn and their Native language names were replaced by English names. They were severely punished if they spoke in their native tongue. And as if losing all ties to family, tribe and culture were not enough, conditions in the school were horrific. There was rarely enough food and disease was rampant. Physical, mental and sexual abuse were regular occurrences.
This profoundly ill-informed, racist practice proved to be devastating to generations of Native Americans, and it was not until 1978 that, with the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the practice was finally prohibited. Included in the act is Congressional finding that “the wholesale separation of Indian children from their families is perhaps the most tragic and destructive aspect of American Indian life today.” H.R. REP, 95-13896, at 9 (1978)
Through my work with Native American families in the child welfare system, I am personally aware of the legacy of this policy. Deprived of their families, their language and their culture, Native American children lost touch with who they were. Traumatized by physical deprivation and abuse, they acted out in predictable ways, including self-medication with alcohol and other drugs. Moreover, the trauma did not end with the people attending the boarding schools. In a dynamic now understood as intergenerational trauma, not only the boarding school students, but their children and their grandchildren, as well, were affected. Consequently, it is not a coincidence that today rates of Native American incarceration are four times the national norm. Native American youth commit suicide at rates three times the national average and Native youth are placed in foster care at rates five times higher than rates experienced by white children. Tate Walker, social activist and editor of Native People’s Journal, states: “It is my belief that government and church-run boarding schools have had the single greatest negative impact on Natives, beyond wars or reservations or anything else the US threw our way.” (everydayfeminism.com/2015/10/indian-boarding-school-legacy) This is the heartbreaking legacy of the boarding schools that began with the Carlisle Indian School.
I am currently writing a book about parents I met while working in child welfare, showcasing transformational changes they made to overcome the issues that led them into the system to begin with. One chapter is about a Native American woman named Danielle, whose great grandmother and grandmother were both in the boarding schools. From the time of her birth until she was nearly thirty, Danielle suffered from the trauma that was her inheritance. Her life was a crazy quilt of addiction, rape, domestic violence and sexual trafficking. Five of her children spent time in foster care and she permanently lost custody of two of them.
Danielle is now Services Manager of the Peer Counseling Program in a large, local mental health center. She is parenting her three youngest children and working on her Bachelor’s degree. The story of how she brought an end to the intergenerational trauma that plagued her family for generations is a story of courage, resilience, culturally appropriate intervention, and the power of love. I tell her story to put into historical and cultural context the nightmare of her life and the lives of others like her, to demonstrate that with the right supports even the most wounded of people can change, and to uncover the largely unknown and unjust story of the Indian boarding schools.
Returning to Carlisle, I will have an opportunity to learn more about the Carlisle Indian School. As a part of a reunion weekend “Alumni College” I will take a class on the Carlisle Indian Schools’ Digital Resource Center. This center was established to increase knowledge and understanding of the school and its complex legacy and to tell the stories of the many thousands of students sent there. I am eager to learn about the project and its promise. Truth-telling is an essential part of healing. In any case, returning to Carlisle fifty years after my graduation, I am much more aware of issues of equity and social justice that I managed to miss during my college years. Although looking in the mirror I cannot appreciate many of the consequences of the passage of time, I am gratified that the years have granted me a potion of wisdom that allows me to more fully understand the community in which I received my “college education.”
By Jim Segaar
I forgot how much focus and and thought framing a house requires, but today reminded me. We’re building the walls for our little house in the meadow, which sounds simple. And maybe it is simple for someone who does it all the time. But for me it’s required a level of concentration as high as I can muster.
My world shrinks when I’m building something, and that is a requirement when framing a house. Today I was trying to factor in window sizes, and space for insulation, and structural requirements with our snow load, and basic carpentry skills that I haven’t exercised in 15 years, and aesthetics, and waste of materials, and overall symmetry, and counter height, and backsplash requirements, and the lifting capabilities of two 58-year-olds, and the timing of the delivery of the roof trusses, and so on and so on. All the while a combination of sunscreen and sweat ran into my eyes and my hands hurt from the work we did yesterday and my head throbbed because I had just bumped it. At that point my husband and co-builder Jim Ginn (JG) added another factor to the mix – how large the nailing strips are on the windows we just ordered, and my brain exploded. “I can’t think about that!” I huffed. “I can’t think about anything else right now!”
A few minutes later I calmed down enough to know that JG had raised an important point, and we had to consider the nailing strip sizes. And I admitted to myself that one particularly nasty part of the framing – the south window in the Great Room – which had given me no end of trouble the first time through, needs to be redone. And that actually made it all OK. Easy to factor in the nailing strips this second time through.
Finally quitting time rolled around, and I took a few minutes to sit in the shade and look at Facebook. I noticed a bunch of posts about world events I wasn’t even aware of. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the mayor of London in some sort of insult-a-thon. Muslim clerics in the UK refusing to say prayers for some dead terrorists. Identifying an Australian woman as one of the victims. And I realized I didn’t know what any of this was about. One Google search later I had some information about the latest attack in England, and all the information started making an unpleasant form of senseless sense.
And then I thought, “Here while people were being stabbed and run over and dying I’ve been fretting over a piece of wood that is twisted more than I would like. How can that be right?”
The obvious follow-up question is, “How can that be wrong?”
Times like this I remember one of my favorite stories about Jesus. His ministry was winding down, careening inexorably to its bloody end on a cross, and a woman anointed his feet with some costly perfume. His friends complained that it was a waste of money that could have gone to the poor, and a world-weary Jesus said, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26.10-11 NRSV)
My translation: “Chill out! There will always be pain and suffering and death to deal with. Live in this moment. Notice what is happening right around you, and appreciate it!”
A little later JG, our dog Otto, and I were sitting on the east side of our RV, in the evening shade, looking at our “lesser view.” One of the neighbor dogs, named Blue, trotted over for a visit, and Otto got all huffy and barky. Blue stopped abruptly and turned around, heading back home. Then Otto jumped in my lap and I enjoyed a rare few minutes of holding our aging pup, petting him while we both contemplated the world around us.
A world that shrank again. Small enough to exclude not only the latest atrocity in London but even the challenges of framing our house.
And I sighed in relief, and enjoyed the view.
By Jim Segaar
Last month we introduced a new Affirmation of Values for Seattle First Baptist Church, and asked our readers to think about the values expressed, especially how we can implement them in our daily lives. That conversation continues at this writing. We seek to do more than simply affirm our values, we seek to live them.
Our world today is in desperate need of organizations and people willing to live values such as “We will respect all religions,” “We will welcome the stranger,” and “We will protect our environment.” In the United States, we seem to be focused on insults instead of respect, fear vs. welcome, and exploitation over protection. Like the prophet Habakkuk, some cry out:
“How long, YHWH, am I to cry for help while you do not listen?
How long will I cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear and you do not save?
Why do you make me look upon injustice?
Why do you countenance tyranny?
Outrage and violence – this is all I see!”
Reading the prophets and the latest news, it seems that some things haven’t changed much since 605 BCE.
But like the prophets, we are called to cry out against injustice and oppression. And beyond that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to action. Oppression is ended only when we overwhelm it with acceptance. It is up to us to bring forth a world of justice, free from tyranny. Our church has a history of reaching out to those whom society vilifies, and today we have another opportunity to do just that.
With incendiary talk of walls and immigration sweeps and travel bans and “old white guys first” filling the airwaves, churches are once again becoming places of Sanctuary. This goes beyond providing a safe, quiet place for parishioners to worship, and can extend to housing and protecting those unjustly accused and in danger. Today that can mean taking in undocumented immigrants who are in danger of being separated from their families and deported, often without due process. For example, First Baptist Church of Denver recently took in a woman until she could receive a fair hearing, where she was granted more time in the U.S.
Our church needs to decide what our role should be. The Church Council of Greater Seattle has taken a leading position on Sanctuary, and Jim Singletary, president of our congregation, has started a conversation about how we will help. In a church like ours, with a history like ours, a reasonable answer seems to be “we will help in any way we can given our resources and our congregation.”
So what’s next? This is not an issue to be decided by staff, or by the Diaconate. We believe the congregation needs to weigh in on this important issue. And we need to identify people who take the lead in whatever action we, the congregation, deem appropriate. Our leadership is committed to continuing this discussion. What do you think? What should our response be? What can you personally bring to this effort?
Stay tuned for a continuing discussion.
By Jim Segaar
One of my favorite sayings of Jesus is “I have other sheep who are not of this sheep pen.” (John 10.16) When I was younger we used the word “fold” instead of “sheep pen,” but the meaning is the same. Jesus is telling us, “Look, I have other followers who are not like you.”
As a kid, I took this as affirmation that life exists on other planets, and that “space aliens” are real. In my college days I began to understand that perhaps people of other religions were like sheep in another pen. And today, as Jim Ginn and I work on our small-but-not-tiny house in the Methow Valley, the message feels even more personal. I am like a sheep who lives in multiple pens.
The photo with this blog is my view as I write this. I’m sitting in a trailer on our lot. Outside I see wild flowers, mountains, puffy clouds, sun, a few houses, and no people. It’s actually an event when someone passes by our lot, either on foot, on bike, or in a car or truck. It happens seldom enough that we usually notice, and often wave or say “Hi.” I took our dog Otto out for a peaceful walk this morning – we didn’t meet any other living creatures to set him off.
Compare that to life in Seattle. We have a peekaboo view of mountains, but surrounded by houses and large trees. When I walk to the store or to church I always see other people, and rarely speak to or wave at anyone. Walks with Otto are a constant game of “avoid all babies and other dogs,” because they send him into Tazmanian Devil mode. And I not only act differently, I feel different in the two places.
I’ve started noticing not only how different life is in the Methow Valley as compared to Seattle, but how different my attitudes are, even on some of the major issues of our day.
I remember my working days in Seattle, when commuting downtown often meant squeezing into an already-too-full bus with a mixture of business people and students and street kids, then creeping along clogged streets to our various destinations. Jim G had a different experience the other week when he needed to ride Okanogan County transit to get to Omak to rent a car when our pickup broke down. He took a total of five bus rides, and was the only passenger on three of them. The drivers said it isn’t unusual for them to drive an entire route without a passenger. And the routes are miles and miles long, on empty highways. The few other passengers he did meet all “smelled a bit” or didn’t have the $1 bus fare.
So how might those experiences shape one’s attitude toward paying for public transit? In Seattle, I see it as a no-brainer. More transit is needed desperately, and anyone who votes against it seems out-of-touch or greedy or ignorant. But in Okanogan County? I might classify transit as a government boondoggle, a perhaps-well-meaning effort that serves very few people, costs a ton, and that I may never use. Dare I say a waste of money?
How might my opinion change on more of a hot-button issue, like gun control? The other day we went to a local auto repair shop to retrieve our pickup, Earl, who was finally running again. At one point we walked with the mechanic into a room that looked like a combination conference room, storage room, and living room to get an engine additive. On the way I saw a shotgun propped up in a corner. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Not a bad idea for the next time I see a snake in front of our trailer.” When in Seattle I have decidedly different views on firearms, preferring that they be few and far away. Armed police officers make me nervous, let alone random shotguns in people’s places of business.
As humans we share so much, not the least of which is our fragile planet. Even in our deeply divided nation we have much in common – basic needs for food, safety, shelter, love. And we often live in very different sheep pens, which means we can also feel quite different from each other, and hold opposite opinions on crucial issues for justifiable reasons. So how can we get along? How can we let each other live to the fullest?
It starts with recognizing that we are sheep who live in different sheep pens.
By Pat Kile
Easter’s over. . . Good Friday was appropriately dark, and two days later, to the sound of the usual glorious music, we found the stone rolled away one more time. Now three weeks later, I’ve put away the few little Easter decorations we saved when we moved into our condo, and most of the half-priced Easter candy bought the day after at Bartell’s has been eaten. Even the after-Easter ham we bought at Freddy’s for almost nothing has been consumed, down to the bone, with a pot of beans. So here we are—halfway to Pentecost, looking for Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
But this year there are a few Eastery thoughts still hanging around, at least in my head. Those discussions that Cherry Johnson led in the Lenten adult education classes were extremely thought-provoking. That wasn’t surprising because I think Cherry is one of the most gifted teachers among us. And that’s saying something, because at SFBC we have a wealth of wonderful sermons and rich teaching and reflections throughout the year.
Cherry’s sessions focused specifically on the resurrection. There was a wide range of thoughts and beliefs on the resurrection expressed by members of the SFBC community—also no surprise. For some people, at least, the question of whether we are to take the resurrection as literally true is very important—and there are of course people on both sides of that question. Personally, I’ve never thought too much about it. But then I was nearly 30 when I discovered that not everyone believed we all descended from Adam and Eve. An interesting thing we learned and maybe helpful to know is that resurrection—a type of return from the hero’s journey—is a common element in most religions. But what I found most life-changing of all that we considered together with Cherry is the idea that maybe literal truth isn’t the most critical question. Maybe the most critical question is the larger meaning of the resurrection. The metaphorical meaning. Where have we been entombed? How would it feel to have the stone rolled away? How much strength or grace would it take. . . ?
I have several tombs sealed with stones in my own personal life. (I’m claustrophobic enough to have to take a deep breath just writing that!) Maybe this will be the year those stones begin to roll away. Those Lenten discussions were a good beginning. Thank you, Cherry and fellow SFBC believers—and non-believers!
By Susan Blythe-Goodman
Editor's Note: this blog was written on April 30, 2017 - the night before May Day.
May Day, the March for Science, Black Lives Matter, People’s Climate Summit, the Women’s March, Tax Day. The past month has provided a lot of opportunities to take to the streets. Our political climate gives us a lot of reason to take to the streets.
My newsfeed has been full of critiques and defenses of the different protests and tactics that are occurring. I’ve read posts by folks expressing pre-emptive anger at the anarchists for whatever they end up doing on May Day. Others are reminding us of the difference between vandalism (destruction of property) and violence (harm to people). Some are upset that the March for Science organizers wouldn’t address needs from grassroots women of color climate justice groups. Others are upset that Block the Bunker activists seized the mic to share how those needs had been ignored. Posts point out the difference between the BLM marches, how one was organized by a single individual with an anti-immigration speaker, but many others are organized by accountable leaders who focus the events on fighting displacement, gentrification, and racial inequity in the criminal justice system. And for the Women’s March, Ijeoma Oluo summarized the criticism best.
As much work as doing the research takes, learning about every group, action, rally, march, and cause feels helpful. In all these online debriefs, I saw a comment someone made pointing out that polarizing topics within movements can actually help us dig further into our organizing work and become more passionate about our cause.
This took me back to the night at the airport after the Muslim ban on January 28. Seeing so many comments and likes from church members gave me a lot of strength during a long, tiring night. At one moment where we were sitting in a hallway, pressed right up against a line of bikes that the cops were clutching. They silently stood over us, the tension was palpable, but the protesters exuded calmness and determination. At one point I noticed a completely open hallway next to where we were sitting, and I asked someone what exactly we were blocking. It turned out more people were on their way to join us at this checkpoint, but since we didn’t know this, one guy joked, “You know this is the moment that will make the front page tomorrow: protesters take up half a hallway and block nothing.” It felt good to laugh.
The next morning I got a text from a friend that said, “I wouldn’t have known the protest was going on if it wasn’t for your Facebook. I went to all the news channels on TV and no one was covering it live. I was able to watch live on Facebook because of your post.” She told me she didn’t agree with all the actions we used, but she thanked me for keeping people informed.
She wasn’t the only one to critique what she saw that night. When we were at the airport, the main tactic we used was blocking checkpoints, entrances, and exits. We wanted it to be as inconvenient as possible for people to come in or go out. For the whole airport to come to a grinding halt, until we couldn’t be ignored and the people being immorally detained were let go. Many folks have reacted strongly to this tactic. Several friends of mine were concerned for the people coming off the airplanes. What if they had an emergency to get to? What if they were an immigrant or refugee who had finally made it through customs? It’s been suggested to me many times that using our bodies to get in the way of the airport flow was taking it too far.
At the airport, one protester would say, “Come and join us! And if you can’t join us tonight, what are you doing about this cause? Can you join us at Westlake tomorrow?” Another one wrote on the back of his protest sign, “Angry? Call your rep or senator and tell them to fight the ban!”
I used these responses in my conversations with friends expressing hesitation about our tactics at the airport. I asked what they were doing to stop members of marginalized populations from being deported based on their religion? Because before I can handle criticisms of peaceful protesters fighting for justice, I need to hear a strong statement about the unfair Muslim ban. And a statement about the creator of the ban who has caused refugees and immigrants to live in terror.
This response has led to some enlightening conversations. One friend expressed concerned with the short-sighted reactions to the ban, asking where the massive protests were a year or two ago when the last administration restricted travel from these same countries, which might have laid the groundwork for the travel ban. Her reaction helped me remember how easily I can be angry with a leader I didn’t vote for, but we all need to hold all of our representatives accountable regardless of what party they identify with.
I hope everyone who has feedback like this feels inspired to show up even more for protests to share these points. We need to hear one another’s concerns to create a movement that fully expresses the values we are advocating for.
Back at the airport, our group had moved to new locations throughout the night, and at the end we were blocking a side hallway. We realized none of us were the central organizers of the event, and one person asked if we wanted to have a quick philosophical chat on how we all felt about keeping people in. We all hesitated to support blocking people from leaving, but we didn’t want to dilute the action we were a part of. A friend of mine pointed to an unblocked exit within sight and said folks could still easily get out that night, so we kept blocking our hallway as best we could.
We were definitely the pushover group! A couple with a baby showed up and said they were with our cause but wanted to get their child home, we quickly broke apart to let them through. Someone even helped them carry the stroller up an escalator. That started a norm of disassembling for families with children. We also collectively decided to break apart for all the employees. They’d been helpful to the protesters all night, and we wanted them to be able to leave work.
The rest of the folks who came to our hallway would turn around and go look for another exit. Several people throughout the night (always an older white man, we couldn’t help but notice) were furious at being blocked. As they pushed and shoved the line of mostly young women hooking arms together, one protester would say, “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. We’ll do this for you if you’re ever detained.”
One man walked up behind us, but his flight was delayed because of all the protests, so he sat down and joined us. “This is my first protest!” he kept saying in an excited and proud way. We were glad the pizza showed up while he was with us so he could share in a slice with us. He liked the protester’s line that we’d come back for anyone who was detained. “I’m leaving for India tonight,” he said. “I feel like I’m in the middle of this. I don’t understand if I’ll be able to get back in.” We assured him we’d be right back here if we found out he was unethically held coming back.
My Civics class asked if we could go to May Day as a class, so that’s what we’re doing tomorrow. I was nervous at first to go to a protest with my students. Looking back on the night at the airport, I now can feel excited. I look forward to showing my students with my actions what I believe is right. If you’re in the crowd on May Day, I hope we get the chance to walk side by side! If you’re following the local news from home, friend me if you haven’t, and I’ll do my best to give you more information. Either way, I look forward to the debrief afterward!
Editor. "Alternative BLM Protest Focuses On Halting Displacement." South Seattle Emerald. 19 Apr. 2017. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
Groover, Heidi. "So Let's Revisit This Also, by @brendankiley Https://t.co/Slb4ZvgEMx Pic.twitter.com/CcmbofKVYN." Twitter. Twitter, 28 Apr. 2017. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
Oluo, Ijeoma. "When You Brag That The Women's Marches Were Nonviolent." The Establishment. The Establishment, 23 Jan. 2017. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
Schulberg, Jessica, and Elise Foley. "U.S. Expands Visa Waiver Restrictions For Recent Travelers To Libya, Somalia, Yemen." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
"Women of Color Speak Out." First of All, We Wish to Humbly Say To... - Women of Color Speak Out. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
By Jim Segaar
When I was a kid, Good Friday was barely a speed bump on the way to Easter. Just one more day that we had to go to church, or more importantly before the days after Easter, when we got to eat our fill of on-sale Easter candy. But something happened when I got old enough, and one day Peeps were no longer the only “reason for the season.” It had something to do with Jesus Christ Superstar.
The first time I heard about the Superstar, the album/play/movie, was during a discussion in a Bible class at Lynden Christian High School. Originally released as a concept album in 1970, the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice made its Broadway debut in 1971. The first film version was released in 1973, and that must be what spawned the discussion – I can’t imagine anyone in Lynden, Washington being aware of a concept album or what was playing on Broadway.
In true “Christian-Reformed-Know-It-All” fashion, we had a lovely discussion about the merits of Superstar without actually knowing anything about it beyond rumors that we’d heard. I hadn’t seen the movie, and neither had any of my classmates or the teacher. I doubt anyone had heard the album. But we debated anyway. The discussion was somewhat one-sided, and true to form, I found myself a minority of one. At the end of class we had to summarize our views into a paper, and I staunchly defended something that I knew absolutely nothing about. My paper included a line something like: “at least Superstar is likely to reach far more people than the Saturday Evening Gospel Sing,” which was a weekly feature on KLYN, the local radio station.
Eventually I bought Superstar on 8-track tape, and I saw the original movie, and I was fascinated! I still remember the lyrics to I Don’t Know How to Love Him and I was thrilled by the basso profundo performance depicting Caiaphis the High Priest. “Tell the rabble to be quiet, we anticipate a riot!” I wore out my 8-track tape, which as I recall wasn’t all that hard to do.
Perhaps my fascination with Jesus Christ Superstar has something to do with molding my feelings about Good Friday. Over the years that day has become the most significant holiday in the Christian church year for me. I know for some that Good Friday is the first day in some cosmic magic act – a death necessary so there can be a resurrection on Easter three days later. But for me it is a profoundly human day, filled with confusion and crossed purposes and jealousy and cruelty and confronting indomitable power and ultimately execution and suicide. And Superstar does a better job of exploring those very human aspects of the day than most theologians or Bible classes.
I don’t believe that Good Friday represents some great sacrificial act, when Jesus died so that the rest of us can live forever. I find it impossible to worship, or even respect a god who requires something like that. For me, Good Friday represents the worst about humanity, and how love can survive and triumph over the absolute worst that we can throw at it.
I relate to Jesus’ cry of “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!”
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!”
It’s not so much a question as an accusation.
And yet, Good Friday is not the end. That may be where Jesus Christ Superstar leaves it, with Jesus crucified and Judas hanging from a tree branch. But for me the story goes on. Easter does come. Jesus does rise, in the hearts of his followers at the very least. And the story of God’s love, God’s aching desire to be with us, to be in us, continues.
I don’t dwell much on the miracles ascribed to Good Friday and Easter. A total eclipse. A torn curtain. An earthquake. An empty tomb. To me, it doesn’t matter if they happened or not.
What matters is that Power did its very worst to kill love that day. And love lived on. Love lives on. In you. In me. In all of us.
Join us at 7:30 p.m. on Good Friday, April 14 at Seattle First Baptist.
Images from Wikipedia, as follows:
By Pastor Tim Phillips
I am borrowing a line from a book Cherry Johnson passed along to me as we have been re-imagining Lent and Easter. The book by Peter Rollins seems generally to have been written for an audience other than us but I found great wisdom in it for our time.
For instance – and I’m paraphrasing here – part of the reason we have a rough time with the idea of resurrection is that we don’t really believe Jesus died. We know how the Easter story ends and we know that spring signals new life and we good liberal folk are generally optimistic about the world anyway. So it’s hard to take the death of Jesus all that seriously. That’s why Good Friday can feel contrived – like a little plot twist in a Hallmark movie you know is going to turn out just fine.
But for resurrection to be true, someone has to have been really, totally, and unmistakably dead. Easter Sunday isn’t celebrating the resuscitation of Jesus. Jesus didn’t get brought back to life. He died. Or, more accurately, he was killed. And the reality the disciples experienced on that Easter morning was, by all accounts, life of a different sort.
The death of Jesus and all the religion that has tried to bring him back to life is, for Rollins, to experience the reality of the Crucifixion: “If the Crucifixion marks the moment of darkness, then the Resurrection is the very act of living fully into the darkness and saying ‘Yes’ to it.” Resurrection, in other words, is not some denial or escape from death but whatever new life happens in the face of it.
And that life, I think, is of a very different sort. On occasion people give me near-death stories to read or share a story of their own. Usually those stories include some epiphany about life. If that’s true about near-death experience, imagine the revelations of a real death experience. What gets revealed in the stories of those first disciples is that, having experienced the death of Jesus, they did not try to resuscitate their old lives. They did not pick up where they left off. They do not claim that Jesus never really died and then trot him out to prove to the world that his death was some form of “fake news.” Jesus died. And they began living a new life - the life of resurrection. Rollins says: “Resurrection is not something one argues for, but it is the name we give to a mode of living.”
To say, “I believe in the insurrection,” is to talk about life in resurrection mode. I realize it has political overtones. Perhaps it is resurrection for such a time as this. Rollins says: “Resurrection life plants us into the very heart of a battle … it is one that sets itself against the systems that oppress people, preventing their development into fully responsible, ethical individuals.”
Every day, like Jesus, people die real deaths at the hands of oppressive and unjust systems. Every day, by some action, what I have wanted to believe and to hope for my country seems to die. Every day there is more bad news about the environment and the deaths of ice caps and corals. Those deaths are real. Pretending they are not will only bring more of the same.
Resurrection is the life that happens in the face of all that. It is a mode of living that plants us in the heart of a battle. It’s resistance that is real. It’s insurrection. It’s a call on Easter morning for all those who love life in all its varied and wondrous and beautiful forms to rise up!
Note: Peter Rollins’ book is Insurrection: to believe is human, to doubt, divine. (Howard Books, 2011)
Editor's Note: This blog is a reprint of an article written for the April, 2017 edition of The Spire.
By Jim Ginn
When I was a school age boy, I had a tendency to make up words, usually quite by accident. One day I complained to my mother that I had a troublem. I don't remember the problem that troubled me or if she helped me solve it. But Mom giggled at my new word, and we both never forgot it.
During the final week of our month in New Zealand I found myself ruminiscing (ruminate/reminisce) while actively experiencing the wonders of nature in this indescribably beautiful country far from home. I think the reason my soul is primed to ruminisce is a troublem that has nagged me for some time. I no longer find it possible to profess some religious beliefs that were nurtured in me by beloved and respected people in my life both past and present.
Three times I was spellbound by the southern night sky in a remote area called the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve on New Zealand's South Island. The stunning clarity of the expansive view into infinity was heart-stopping, breath-taking, mind-boggling, thought-provoking, gut-wrenching, soul-searching splendor. I wanted to cry out, "What's out there? Who's out there?!" How can we be so insular in our beliefs when faced with the undeniable reality of an unfathomable universe, particularly a universe with an astoundingly high probability of intelligent extraterrestrial life?
What does this mean for we who have earnestly ordered our lives on biblical writings about a god who ruled over twelve tribes in a tiny region of the earth millennia ago? What bearing does it have on the message of a man named Jesus of Nazareth who couldn't possibly have comprehended the extent of the universe, but who fully understood the needs of an oppressed people in their own small world?
I've read a few books lately, and highly recommend them: "Hoping Against Hope" by John D. Caputo, "Anatheism" by Richard Kearney, "The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe" by Sean Carroll, "Worlds without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse" by Mary-Jane Rubenstein, and "The Evolution of God" by Robert Wright.
Here are some of the things these books have caused me to think about.
As I consider the heavens, I am filled with awe and wonder. Perhaps God created the universe, or perhaps the universe just is. We cannot know which alternative is true. But this I do believe. If I am created, so are all living beings in the universe. If I am loved, so are they. The concept of being selectively saved, elect or chosen is a control mechanism and exclusionary nonsense. But love is real and eternal. I believe a spirit of goodness and love calls humanity to compassionate action. Could that same spirit of love reach beyond earth, beyond humanity? I believe it can. I hope it does.
So where does this leave me and my troublem? It's lent; perhaps I could just let it go, give it up. Perhaps I could lean in and be at peace with the unfolding evolution of my beliefs. I could embrace wonder, awe, love and gratitude, and redouble my efforts to help make this a better world for everyone.
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist