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Last night was Easter church service in detention. Pastor Elizabeth Rawlings led us and her idea, when we met to plan, was to tell the story from Thursday to Sunday so that the kids got a larger context for Easter Sunday. Because if all we celebrate is Easter, we miss a large part of the story.
We planned for two small services with the youth. Girls first. When the girls found out there would be no boys in the worship with them, 67% of them left. That left two young women. But, 2 deserve a worship service as much as 200. So we started. It became apparent that these girls had profound questions. They asked a lot of questions including, “Is drinking a sin?” This, right after communion and it dawned on one that Jesus must have drunk wine. So we talked a little bit about worshiping alcohol or other addictions and worshiping God. One of the two must have an eidetic memory as she was able to recall the Bible in some depth after having read it when she was 12. It was impressive.
Questions rose, repeatedly, regarding who was going to hell.
The one question that rose that was unrelated to theology was, “Who thinks it is a good idea to put kids who don’t get along with other kids, in confined spaces with kids?” Nobody could answer that question. Their answer was, “Only old white people.” They were both of African ancestry. One being connected, very specifically, to West Africa.
The second worship was with a set of boys that were devoutly into the liturgy of Easter. They fully participated and entered into the communal worship relationship with ease and presence. Both were life giving. I can’t wait to talk to the girls today to be more in-depth with their questions. I can’t wait to see the boys to encourage them in their committed discipleship. I just wonder how open our church communities (or any community is) to both ends of the spectrum. People asking hard question to people embracing the system. We certainly see in politics, for some, an unwillingness to sit with hard questions and to actually answer them.
There was a clip from CNN recently and the reporter asked a straight forward question. Person A started to obfuscate and the reporter interrupted saying, “I’m not going to let you get away with that. Answer the question or we’re going to cut the mic.”
#itstime to sit with hard questions and to ponder difficult answers.
Today’s practice is inspired with music from Sweet Honey in the Rock, a poem from Sonia Sanchez, and sacred wisdom from Albert Einstein along with readings from the Jewish and Christian lectionaries, the Qur’an, and the Bhagavad Gita. The photo is mine.
Let my heart rise up to meet mercy, my voice to meet compassion, my hands to meet action.
BIBO: Breath In, Breath Out–sigh
Letter to Dr. Martin Luther King by Sweet Honey in the Rock
Great God, my Lord what a morning Martin!
The sun is rolling in from faraway places. I watch it reaching out, circling these bare trees like some reverent lover. I have been standing still listening to the morning, and I hear your voice crouched near hills, rising from the mountain tops, breaking the circle of dawn.
You would have been 58 today.
As I point my face toward a new decade, Martin, I want you to know that the country still crowds the spirit. I want you to know that we still hear your footsteps setting out on a road cemented with black bones. I want to know that the stuttering of guns could not stop your light from crashing against cathedrals chanting piety while hustling the world.
Great God, what a country… The decade after your death docked like a spaceship on a new planet. Voyagers all we were. We were the aliens walking up the 70’s, a holocaust people on the move looking out from dark eyes. We were youngbloods, spinning hip syllables while saluting death in a country neutral with pain.
And our children saw the mirage of plenty spilling from money mad sands.
And they ran toward the desert.
And the gods of sand made them immune to words that strengthen the breast.
And they became scavengers walking on the earth.
And you can see them playing. Hide-and-go-seek robbers. Native sons. Running on their knees. Reinventing slavery on asphalt. Peeling their umbilical cords for a gold chain.
And you can see them on Times Square, in NYC, Martin, selling their 11-, 12-year-old, 13-, 14-year-old bodies to suburban forefathers. And you can see them on Market Street in Philadelphia bobbing up bellywise, young fishes for old sharks.
And no cocks are crowing on those mean streets.
Great God, what a morning it’ll be someday Martin!
That decade fell like a stone on our eyes. Our movements. Rhythms. Loves. Books. Delivered us from the night, drove out the fears keeping some of us hoarse. New births knocking at the womb kept us walking.
We crossed the cities while a backlash of judges tried to turn us into moles with blackrobed words of reverse racism. But we knew. And our knowing was like a sister’s embrace. We crossed the land where famine was fed in public. Where black stomachs exploded on the world’s days while men embalmed their eyes and tongues in gold. But we knew. And our knowing squatted from memory.
Sitting on our past, we watch the new decade dawning. These are strange days, Martin, when the color of freedom becomes disco fever; when soap operas populate our Zulu braids; as the world turns to the conservative right and general hospitals are closing in black neighborhoods and the young and restless are drugged by early morning reefer butts. And houses tremble.
These are dangerous days, Martin, when cowboy-riding presidents corral Blacks (and others) in a common crown of thorns; when nuclear-toting generals recite an alphabet of blood; when multinational corporations assassinate ancient cultures while inaugurating new civilizations. Comeout comeout wherever you are.
Waiting to be born.
But, Martin, on this day, your 54th birthday–with all the reversals–we have learned that black is the beginning of everything.
it was black in the universe before the sun;
it was black in the mind before we opened our eyes;
it was black In the womb of our mother;
black is the beginning.
and if we are the beginning we will be forever. Martin. I have learned too that fear is not a black man or woman. Fear cannot disturb the length of those who struggle against material gains for self-aggrandizement. Fear cannot disturb the good of people who have moved to a meeting place where the pulse pounds out freedom and justice for the universe.
Now is the changing of the tides, Martin. You forecast it where leaves dance on the wings of man. Martin. Listen. On this your 54th birthday, listen and you will hear the earth delivering up curfews to the missionaries and the assassins. Listen. And you will hear the tribal songs:
Ayeee Ayooooo Ayeee
Ayeee Ayooooo Ayeee
Malcolm… Ke wa rona*
Robeson… Ke wa rona
Lumumba… Ke wa rona
Fannie Lou… Ke wa rona
Garvey… Ke wa rona
Johnbrown… Ke wa rona
Tubman… Ke wa rona
Mandela… Ke wa rona
Assata… Ke wa rona
As we go with you to the sun,
as we walk in the dawn, turn our eyes
Eastward and let the prophecy come true
and let the prophecy come true.
Great God, Martin, what a morning, it will be!
For full, typed-out scripture, follow this link
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Qur’an Surah 2.272-286
Bhagavad Gita 2.67-72
Please bring your own sacred readings to the daily pattern. If there is something else you’d like to see, let me know! The readings are from the Jewish Lectionary, the Christian Lectionary, and reading the Qur’an and Bhagavad Gita straight through.
“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.” — Albert Einstein
For the oppressed and weary
Especially for #blacklivesmatter and
for the LGBTQIAP community.
For signs of despair and violence,
for the bombing in Lahore, Pakistan and airstrikes in Palmyra, Syria
for the damage to historical artifacts in Palmyra
for the water crisis in India
for US victims of gun violence in the last 72 hours,
215 incidents, 78 killed, 156 injured
For signs of hope and peace,
for the teenager in Tokyo who escaped her kidnapper after 2 years
for the rescue of swimmers caught in a riptide at Bondi Beach, Australia
for the many organizations standing with the LGBTQ community in North Carolina
for the swapping of prisoners in Yemen
For China, Honk Kong, and Macau
For those who suffer, are homeless, or are sick
For those we love, those we hate and those we are indifferent to
For the transformation from ME to WE
Let peace prevail on earth.
So may it be.
Translation by Neil Douglas Klotz, Sufi
O Birther! Creator of the Cosmos,
Focus your light within us— make it useful:
Create your reign of unity now-
Your one desire then acts with ours,
as in all light, so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
as we release the strands we hold
of others’ guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
the power and the life to do,
the song that beautifies all,
from age to age it renews.
Truly— power to these statements—
may they be the ground from which all
my actions grow: Amen.
May Peace Prevail on Earth. Amen. So mote it be.
“Amen” means “may it be so.”
“May peace prevail on earth.” is an addition inspired by Michael Dickel
BIBOLove is an addition attributed to the work of Soyinka Rahim, InterPlay practice, BIBOLove
Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures–The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2Take Aaron along with his sons, and the vestments, the anointing oil, the bull of sin offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread; 3and assemble the whole community at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. 5Moses did as the LORD commanded him. And when the community was assembled at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, 5Moses said to the community, “This is what the LORD has commanded to be done.”
6Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water. 7He put the tunic on him, girded him with the sash, clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him, girding him with the decorated band with which he tied it to him. 8He put the breastpiece on him, and put into the breastpiece the Urim and Thummim. 9And he set the headdress on his head; and on the headdress, in front, he put the gold frontlet, the holy diadem—as the LORD had commanded Moses.
10Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the Tabernacle and all that was in it, thus consecrating them. 11He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, anointing the altar, all its utensils, and the laver with its stand, to consecrate them. 12He poured some of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head and anointed him, to consecrate him. 13Moses then brought Aaron’s sons forward, clothed them in tunics, girded them with sashes, and wound turbans upon them, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Jewish Publication Society of America (2000-12-01). Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures–The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Jewish Publication Society. Kindle Edition.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures–The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text
Praise the LORD, for He is good,
His steadfast love is eternal.
2Let Israel declare,
“His steadfast love is eternal.”
14The LORD is my strength and might;
He has become my deliverance.
15The tents of the victorious resound with joyous shouts of
“The right hand of the LORD is triumphant!
16The right hand of the LORD is exalted!
The right hand of the LORD is triumphant!”
17I shall not die but live
and proclaim the works of the LORD.
18The LORD punished me severely,
but did not hand me over to death.
19Open the gates of victory for me
that I may enter them and praise the LORD.
20This is the gateway to the LORD—
the victorious shall enter through it.
21I praise You, for You have answered me,
and have become my deliverance.
22The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our sight.
24This is the day that the LORD has made—
let us exult and rejoice on it.
Jewish Publication Society of America (2000-12-01). Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures–The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (p. 1249). Jewish Publication Society. Kindle Edition.
The Voice version
5So kill your earthly impulses: loose sex, impure actions, unbridled sensuality, wicked thoughts, and greed (which is essentially idolatry). 6It’s because of these that God’s wrath is coming [upon the sons and daughters of disobedience],* so avoid them at all costs. 7These are the same things you once pursued, and together you spawned a life of evil. 8But now make sure you shed such things: anger, rage, spite, slander, and abusive language. 9And don’t go on lying to each other since you have sloughed away your old skin along with its evil practices 10for a fresh new you, which is continually renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created you. 11In this re-creation there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and conqueror, or slave and free because the Anointed is the whole and dwells in us all. Paul tells them the key to remain unified is to show compassion and forgiveness toward one another.
12Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind.
Ecclesia Bible Society (2012-04-09). The Voice Bible, eBook: Step Into the Story of Scripture (p. 1452). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Quran Surah 2.272-286
Quran: A Simple English Translation
272 It is not your responsibility to make them follow the right path; God guides whomever He pleases. Whatever wealth you spend is to your own benefit, provided that you spend only to seek the favour of God. Whatever wealth you spend [for God’s cause] shall be repaid to you in full and you shall not be wronged.
273 The needy, who are too engrossed in God’s cause to be able to travel about the land in search of a livelihood, are considered by those who are unaware of their condition to be free from want, because they refrain from begging. But they can be known from their appearance. They do not make insistent demands upon people. Whatever wealth you spend, God knows it.
274 Those who spend their wealth night and day, both privately and publicly, will receive their reward from their Lord. They shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.
275 Those who live on usurys shall rise up before God like men whom Satan has demented by his touch; for they say, ‘Buying and selling is only a kind of usury.’ But God has made trade lawful and made usury unlawful. Therefore, he who desists because of the admonition that has come to him from his Lord may retain what he has received in the past; and it will be for God to judge him. Those who revert to it shall be the inmates of the Fire; they shall abide therein forever.
276 God blights usury and blesses charitable deeds. God does not love the ungrateful wrongdoer.
277 Those who believe, do good deeds, attend to their prayers and engage in almsgiving, shall be rewarded by their Lord and shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.
278 Believers, have fear of God, and give up what is still due to you from usury, if you are true believers.
279 For, if you do not do so, then know that you are at war with God and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may retain your capital. Do not wrong [others] and you will not be wronged.
280 If the debtor is in straitened circumstances, then grant him respite till a time of ease. If you were to write it off as an act of charity, that would be better for you, if only you knew.
281 Fear the Day when you shall be made to return to God; then every soul shall be paid in full what it has earned; and they shall not be wronged.
282 Believers, when you contract a debt for a stated term, put it down in writing; have a scribe write it down with fairness between you. No scribe should refuse to write: let him write as God has taught him, let the debtor dictate, and let him fear God, his Lord, and not diminish [the debt] at all. If the debtor is weak in mind or body, or unable to dictate, then in fairness let his guardian dictate for him. Call in two of your men as witnesses. But if two men cannot be found, then call one man and two women out of those you approve of as witnesses, so that if one of the two women should forget the other can remind her. Let the witnesses not refuse when they are summoned. Do not be disinclined to write down your debts, be they small or large, together with the date of payment. This is more just in the sight of God; it is more reliable as testimony, and more likely to prevent doubts arising between you, unless it be ready merchandise which you give or take from hand to hand, then it will not be held against you for not writing it down. Have witnesses present whenever you trade with one another, and let no harm be done to either scribe or witness, for if you did cause them harm, it would be a crime on your part. Be mindful of God; He teaches you: He has full knowledge of everything.
283 If you are on a journey and do not find any literate person, something should be handed over as security. If one of you entrusts another with something, let the trustee restore the pledge to its owner; and let him fear God, his Lord. Do not conceal testimony. If someone does conceal it, in his heart he commits a crime. God knows what you do.
284 All that the heavens and the earth contain belongs to God, whether you disclose what is in your minds or keep it hidden. God will bring you to account for it. He will forgive whom He will and punish whom He pleases: He has power over all things.
285 The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and [so do] believers. They all believe in God and His angels, His scriptures, and His messengers. They say, ‘We do not differentiate between any of His messengers. We hear and obey. Grant us Your forgiveness, Lord, to You we shall all return!’
286 God does not charge a soul with more than it can bear. It shall be requited for whatever good and whatever evil it has done. [They pray], ‘Our Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or make a mistake! Our Lord, do not place on us a burden like the one You placed on those before us! Our Lord, do not place on us a burden we have not the strength to bear! Pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy on us. You are our Lord and Sustainer, so help us against those who deny the truth.’
Khan, Maulana Wahiduddin; Goodword (2013-12-11). Quran: A Simple English Translation (Goodword ! Koran) (Kindle Locations 817-858). Goodword Books. Kindle Edition.
When the mind constantly runs
after the wandering senses,
it drives away wisdom,
like the wind blowing a ship off course.
And so, Arjuna, when someone
is able to withdraw his senses
from every object of sensation,
that man is a man of firm wisdom.
In the night of all beings,
the wise man sees only the radiance of the Self;
but the sense-world where all beings wake,
for him is as dark as night.
The man whom desires enter
as rivers flow into the sea,
filled yet always unmoving—
that man finds perfect peace.
Abandoning all desires,
acting without craving,
free from all thoughts of “I” and “mine,”
that man finds utter peace.
This is the divine state, Arjuna.
Absorbed in it, everywhere, always,
even at the moment of death,
he vanishes, into God’s bliss.
Mitchell, Stephen (2007-12-18). Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation (Kindle Locations 466-471). Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony. Kindle Edition.