Monday, November 05, 2007

come thou fount of revolution

I was singing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing in the shower yesterday. It made me want to write some new words. So I did.

Here's what I have so far: (in no particular order)

Come thou fount of every blessing, give me courage to resist.
Oh dear God they came and killed you, to stay dead you were too pissed.
Make me clever like the steward, make me angry like the poor,
teach me to unbind the captive, teach me to unbar the door.

O dear God, I have such power, that I never toiled to earn
Help me wield it for liberation, may the fires of your justice burn
Guide me God to read you truly, give me your truth like a sword
When I read the holy scripture, help me God to hear your Word.

Moving Wind, your seed of justice, grows into a mustard tree-
it is so big, and obnoxious, is there room there, God, for me?
O my Jesus, come like leaven, infiltrate our hearts and minds
as we struggle to be human, help us to decolonize.

When the powers stand against us, when we join hands with the meek,
help us God against their fury; reveal the weapons of the weak.
As we stand up to oppression, as we speak the truth to power-
Holy One, you walk beside us: we need you every hour.

While I struggle with my hatred, with my fear and bigotry:
help me Lord to join your struggle, help me dance this way with thee.
Give me prophets to confront me, give me comrades in the call!
Give me visions of that day when we will see the powers fall!

Let me know if you try it in church. Take it easy but take it.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

a word from claus

Last night, on the advice of my spiritual direction group (no kidding) rachael and i went on a date. We later figured out that it was the first time we went out to dinner (just the two of us) in over a year. Too long.

Anyway, first we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was great. If you live in Chicago: it's free til November 14th, and after that you can get a pass from the Chicago Public Library. I suppose you could even pay, if you had to.

The thing I want to post is a quote from Claus Oldenberg, which was the body of one of the descriptive plates by a work of his in the museum.

Here goes:

"I am for an art that is political-erotic-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.
I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance to have a starting point of zero.
I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap & still comes out on top.
I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary.
I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists, and extends, and accumulates, and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself."

So: swap "theology" for "art", and that's pretty much how I'm feeling these days.

Below: Rachael with my favorite Oldenberg piece. Oberlin, Ohio.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Nicaragua: flooding by my house

One Sunday afternoon in late August or early September, a young woman about my age in my church invited me over to do my nails. While she was giving me a home-done French manicure (!), it started to rain. By the time she was done, not only was it raining hard, but the neighborhood dirt paths outside her house were filling with puddles. The family suggested I stay until the water went down, and having spent several months in Nicaragua by that point, I took their advice without quite understanding why. In the United States, a few puddles wouldn't stop anyone from walking home.

When Nanieska and I finally did walk back to the church/my host family's house, I saw why we had waited. The street in front of my house had flooded to knee level and was flowing in a strong current. A neighbor let us cut through her backyard so we wouldn't have to wade home through the current.

When I had picked my way home, being careful not to ruin Nanieska's work on my feet, I learned that the church had flooded. This turned out to mean that a passing truck had caused water to splash through the gate and sweep across the tiled floor of the church, all the way to the altar. Lots of youth in the church were helping move pews and sweep or mop the water out. Norvin posed in front of the make-shift barricades that had been placed instead of sandbags in front of the gate. In addition to mopping and sweeping, they were sliding on their knees across the slick floor, and as you can see, dog-piling.

In order to cross the 20 feet from house to church, we had to go all the way around on a little bridge of higher ground. Worship was canceled, but there were tacos already prepared for the after-church youth fundraiser dinner (an almost every Sunday event). When my host sister told me that sometimes they stayed up all night to make sure the house didn't flood, I got nervous. Her grandmother was fretting over her two sons who were out in their trucks. We called them to tell them not to drive home by the front road. Some kids were caught on the other side of the rushing water, so some of our youth waded across and carried them over. A man in an ox-cart pulled up on the opposite bank to wait for the water to go down. A car floated by, maybe touching its wheels down every so often. Our neighbors sent coffee and food across to the ox-cart driver. "He drives by every afternoon," they said to me.

Thanks be to God, the rain stopped and the water went down. The ox-cart driver passed by, my grandmother's sons came home safely (albeit not by the road), and we were able to go to sleep.

PS Another time, a lightning and rain storm came up during a Sunday evening church. The power came on and off, the sermon was occasionally drowned out by thunder... and my awe at the storm was colored by my knowledge that flooding was a real possibility. Much to my own relief, the water never reached ankle level.

an american liturgy

I wrote this little liturgy for a group project on Matthew and Empire, by Warren Carter. It came after two other liturgies: first a reconstructed/made up Roman liturgy, which featured readings from Virgil and the like about the greatness of Rome and its Emperors. The second was a counter-imperial liturgy drawing on language and ideas from the Gospel of Matthew (and a little of the Gospel of Luke, because I wanted to use the Canticle of the Turning.) This third liturgy was designed to underscore the ways that contemporary political theologies, implicit and explicit, mirror that of the Romans, that Jesus directly challenges in the Gospel of Matthew.

It begins with a reading from Romans, ch. 13: 1-7. The liturgy should be read alternating between one speaker and several/many speakers. All of the speakers should be straight white men. American flag backdrop is optional.

We lift our eyes up, up to your standard.

Where does our help come from?

Our help comes from you, the sweet land of liberty, to thee we sing praises.

Who will guide us through the darkness? Who will lead us through our fear?

Only you, our nation, our protector. You have the power and the might to disrupt the forces of evil, to turn our weeping into dancing.

You have bathed the world in peace; your power has assured the righteous of their safety.

You protect us from the wicked, you save us from the time of trial.

For this safety, for our homes, we remember you and turn to you. We give you offerings; not just a tithe but more than a tithe we provide back to you. You bless us so that we may bless you; you provide us with the security to earn, to start families: we return our blessings to you, to help house your children, to help fill your armies. It is our duty and our right to support you.

These are the benefits you offer the children of light, and the children of darkness you will vanquish. You will undo their evil deeds by your power and might. You will fill their lands with the light of your liberty and justice.

You were chosen by God, you are the anointed nation, to lead the world to a new era of justice and peace. And God appoints your leaders; they are the ambassadors of God to us. We do not worship you; we worship God through you.

The gathered community will repeat the words of our creed:

You, the state, will save us.

You will save your people from their sin.

You will protect us and secure us.

You fulfill our hope.

Your leader is our leader; in our land and in our hearts.

We submit to your will; in you we place our trust.

Glory to you, and to God, who protects and sustains our nation.

God bless America.