You must choose. Even when you’d really rather not.

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There are moments when we are confronted with making a choice. Sometimes those happen in a moment of overwhelming crisis with massive consequences. Sometimes the choices seem small and inconsequential but it turns out that the choice transforms your life.

In this week’s Gospel reading, the religious authorities are confronted with a choice. They reject the choice. And in so doing they turn away from the truth.

Sometimes we have to choose. And God’s grace can overcome a bad choice. Do not fear. Choose as best you can, according to the light given you.

 

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

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JM Industrial dsc 5337God transforms us in the wilderness as we journey from being in bondage to being the people of the promised land. But the transformation comes with pain and parts of the journey are filled with fear and anxious longing. Out of that fear and pain we look backward, longing for the certainty we had even though we were not free or fully yet the people of God.

It feels like our national journey towards a more perfect union parallels much of the experience of the Hebrew tribes as they were formed into the Nation of Israel in wilderness time. I find hope in that. There is a arc to our journey, an end for us that God is making as our history is transformed and understood in a new way.

Crusty Old Dean: The Episcopal Church’s Lost Causism

Reconciliation / Rhode Island

A friend, Episcopal priest, seminary professor and writer, The Rev. Thomas Ferguson, has a searing essay posted about the historical denial of our denomination’s participation in the evil of White Supremacy:

Crusty Old Dean: The Episcopal Church’s Lost Causism:

Thankfully, there have been a number of really great histories written in the past 25 years, efforts to correct the systemic racism in how we have told our history:  Prichard’s “History of the Episcopal Church,” Hein & Shattuck’s “The Episcopalians” among them.  There has been a number of works specifically on the history of race and racism in the Episcopal Church.  Harold Lewis literally wrote the book on this subject in “Yet With a Steady Beat.”  Gardiner Shattuck’s “Episcopalians and Race: Civil War to Civil Rights” is a conscious effort to right some of the historiographic wrongs I note in this post.

But it’s also clear that we have not done enough.  The sheer number of people who say “The Episcopal Church didn’t split over slavery” and sheer number of people who do not know the Church’s complicity with racism, slavery, and white supremacy are evidence of that.

We must name these aspects of telling our history that fail to challenge or acknowledge our systemic racism.  We have to stop teaching people in confirmation classes “The Episcopal Church never split over slavery.”  One of the reasons statements like these persist, despite the fact that most Episcopal Church historical scholarship for the past 40 years has not said this, is because repeating them has nothing to do with history, and everything to do with something else, mainly, the unwillingness and reluctance to address issues of systemic racism.  (A related issue, for another post, is the continued repeating of the whole “The Episcopal Church Constitution is based on the U.S. Constitution and was written in the same city by some of the same people.”  This is utter nonsense, and persists because it reflects the lust for the Episcopal Church to be a quasi-established national church that was a fever dream of much of the 19th and 20th century.  But again, another post for another time, only reinforcing the notion that the real reasons for the persistence of patently un-historical folk wisdom has nothing to do with history, and everything to do with our own prejudices.)

Professor Ferguson references the work of Professor Shattuck above. Father Tuck (as we know him here) is a priest in Rhode Island. I’m thinking it would be worthwhile to get Tom and Tuck together in front of a camera and ask them to talk about things that Tom is pointing out in the long essay linked above. (There’s much more to it than the short excerpt I’ve quoted. Do read it all.)

Good nutrition can contribute to keeping COVID-19 and other diseases away

Current Affairs

There are many reasons why there are racial disparities are observed in COVID-19 morbidity. I’ve not heard people talk about the implications of living in a “food desert” as one of them. Grayson Jaggers, USC Asst. Professor has laid out a case of why the worst expression of the western diet is directly causing deaths among people who can’t get health food:

Good nutrition can contribute to keeping COVID-19 and other diseases away:

Scientists know that people with preexisting health conditions are at greater risk for severe COVID-19 infections. That includes those with diabetes, obesity, and kidney, lung or cardiovascular disease. Many of these conditions are linked to a dysfunctional immune system.

Patients with cardiovascular or metabolic disease have a delayed immune response, giving viral invaders a head start. When that happens, the body reacts with a more intense inflammatory response, and healthy tissues are damaged along with the virus. It’s not yet clear how much this damage factors into the increased mortality rate, but it is a factor.

What does this have to do with nutrition? The Western diet typically has a high proportion of red meat, saturated fat and what’s known as “bliss point foods” rich in sugar and salt. Adequate fruit and vegetable consumption is missing. Despite the abundance of calories that often accompanies the Western diet, many Americans don’t consume nearly enough of the essential nutrients our bodies need to function properly, including vitamins A, C and D, and the minerals iron and potassium. And that, at least in part, causes a dysfunctional immune system: too few vitamins and minerals, and too many empty calories.

There’s more at the link above, plus a ton of good links to research.

Maybe more community gardens need to be happening this coming spring?

Political rage is no way to run a democracy

Current Affairs

There likely a whole bunch of reasons we’re all about explode with rage at any provocation, but Steven Webster, a Political Science faculty member at Indiana State University says the way we run political campaigns is a big part of the problem:

Angry Americans: How political rage helps campaigns but hurts democracy:

Anger-filled political rhetoric is nothing new. From Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon to Newt Gingrich, politicians have long known that angry voters are loyal voters. People will support their party’s candidates locally and nationally so long as they remain sufficiently outraged at the opposing party.

While inciting voter anger helps candidates win elections, research from my book, “American Rage: How Anger Shapes Our Politics,” shows that the effects of anger outlast elections. And that can have serious consequences for American democracy’s long-term health.

Getting people to distrust government when their “team” isn’t in power removes the likelihood that the people will ultimately consent to be governed.

Seems sort of obvious. Read more at the link.

Holy Cross Day 2020

Climate Change / Current Affairs

Storyblocks cross with beautiful sunset with fog czech landscape with cross with orange sun and clouds during morning hilly mystic landscape with cross end of night with cross B5GwBaf7ZzLord Jesus hear us;

the earth is crying in torment, the west is in flames, storms threaten the southern coasts and our communities are separated by pandemic.

Our leaders seem absent and uncaring while our communities are turned against each other.

By the power of your Holy Cross, overcome our woundedness and bring us hope and a new dawn.

Protect those in danger and turn the hearts of those intent on harm.

Let us find our true community gathered around your cross.

In your name we pray this.

Amen.

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive the sins done against us

Sermons and audio

Pexels pixabay 247851Refusing to forgive other people for the things that they did to you is like you taking poison as way of hurting them. There is one way out of the nightmare of violence, anger and revenge. It is to forgive others – even if they haven’t asked for your forgiveness.

Jesus makes this point again and again. I don’t know that I’ve yet to fully act in the way he asks me to act. But if I forgive others, I have a hope and a promise that I can still be forgiven, even if my sin is greater than theirs.

 

Fannie Sellins, the labor union martyr | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Current Affairs

The first parish I led as a priest was in Brackenridge PA. The community it served included Natrona Heights and Tarentum, the neighboring towns. Labor Day there was remembered differently than it has been anywhere else I’ve lived, in part because there were still people who remember the “Hunky Strike” of 1919. 

People told stories of the Pinkertons and other para-military, para-police groups that were brought in to stop the strike, and people still remembered the labor leaders in the community who died at their hands. 

One in particular is remembered:

Fannie Sellins, the labor union martyr | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

In 1919, a year of intense labor strife, race-motivated riots and anti-foreign xenophobia, Sellins was assigned as lead organizer in the Allegheny Valley for the AFL’s attempt to organize the steel industry. This effort was sometimes referred to as the “Hunky Strike” because of the involvement of large numbers of Slovaks, Polish and other immigrants from eastern and central Europe. The 1919 dispute grew to become the largest work stoppage to that date in American history.

While the corporate-influenced press manipulated anti-immigrant hysteria by questioning the loyalties and motivations of foreign-born residents, industrialists also stoked the fire of racism by large-scale recruitment of poor black sharecroppers from the South to break the steel strike. The boll weevil infestation of Southern cotton at the time, and also the lure of higher-paying industrial jobs during World War I and afterward, drove the mass migration of black labor northward. The language of racial division, combined with anti-immigrant sentiments, finds powerful echoes in American politics today.

On Aug. 26, Sellins was accompanying a group of miners’ wives and children near a union picket line when she attempted to intervene in the beating of a striker named Joseph Starzeleski. Mine guards turned on Sellins, shot her multiple times and then crushed her head with a club. They then shot Starzeleski several times. The photograph of Sellins battered body hung in steelworker organizing offices during the 1919 steel strike.

The Episcopal Church has a prayer for Labor Day:

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

There are echoes here of the strife and the bloodshed that was necessary to create good and safe jobs. My prayer is that we would hear the echoes, and make sure that the sound of that violence is never heard in this land again.