Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tyger, Tyger in the Night...


Visit the EA Club (Endangered Species), started by Jeff Street Kids to work for solutions to problems facing endangered species.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Blurry Bowling

Blurry Lydia Bowling
Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Confrontation Monday, Part I

This month marks the 26th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated by US-trained Salvadoran soldiers after preaching against the repression of the US-backed Salvadoran government against the poor.

Father Romero began his career as a politically cautious priest who staunchly defended the status quo, which is why the ruling families and military of El Salvador were so jubilant when the Vatican, at their bidding, appointed him as the Archbishop of El Salvador. “As far as right-wing forces were concerned, Romero was, from every point of view, the ideal candidate.” He had close friends among the oligarchy, that is, those few families who owned all of the nation’s wealth, a clearly conservative outlook, and a penchant for conciliation--he loved to keep the peace, and they knew it.

But he was converted, radicalized, you might say, when his dear friend and fellow priest, Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande, and two of his companions, a boy and an old man, were killed on their way to celebrate mass. Romero hurried to the town of Aguilares to receive their bodies. It was the first time of many that he would receive the bodies of the martyrs in the faith. “It was my lot to go on claiming dead bodies,” he said later. “These days I have to walk the roads gathering up dead friends, listening to widows and orphans, and trying to spread hope.”

Over the next, and last, three years of his life, he became a staunch advocate for the poor, and lashed out “with unequalled ferocity” against the oppression and repression of the poor and powerless (from Voice of the Voiceless).

Dr. Jorge Lara-Braud, in an article in Sojourners magazine, tells about his last conversation with him:

There was a full moon. A little breeze gave some relief to the heat of the day’s work. We were coming back exhausted from a day full of visits to the communities. We were headed back to San Salvador. Barraza was driving, and I was sitting in back with Monseñor Romero. I was leaving the country the next day. This was the last time I would see him, and perhaps that’s why I dared to ask him:

"Monseñor, I’ve heard many people asking you to take care of yourself. Have the threats increased...?"

"Yes, they have. Every day there are more, and I take them very seriously...."

He was quiet for a few moments. I felt a kind of air of nostalgia come over him. He leaned his head back, half-closed his eyes and said to me:

"I’ll tell you the truth, Doctor, I don’t want to die. At least not now. I’ve never had so much love for life! And honestly, I don’t think I was meant to be a martyr. I don’t feel that calling. Of course, if that’s what God asks of me, then there’s nothing I can do. I only ask that the circumstances of my death not leave any doubt as to what my true vocation is: to serve God and to serve the people. But I don’t want to die now. I want a little more time...."

In spite of his love for life, indeed, because of his love for life, he continued to lash out against the oppressive military regime. In his sermon on Sunday, March 23, 1980, Father Romero called upon the troops and the national guardsmen to obey the law of God and to therefore not obey the orders of their officers who might instruct them to kill their brothers and sisters. In the name of God, then, and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise daily more loudly to heaven, I plead with you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: put an end to this repression!

He was gunned down the very next day while saying mass.

Oscar Romero. Broken for the love of the Salvadoran people.

by Pastor Cindy, more to come...


Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Confrontation Monday, Part II

This month also marks the 3rd anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie. Those of you who attended the King Fling Sunday service at Cresent Hill Baptist Church heard Gary Persecepe preach about her. Rachel was volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement in the Occupied Territories in the Gaza Strip. She was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home when she was deliberately run over by an Israeli-operated, American-made bulldozer. She was 23 years old.

In an e-mail to her parents that Rachel had written about the horrible violence that she’d seen of the Israelis towards the Palestinians, she said, This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my co-workers. But I also want this to stop.

Joseph Smith, one of her friends and fellow activists from Kansas City, Missouri, who was there when Rachel died, wrote:

Few activists actually come to Palestine planning to come to Rafah. In fact, many have to be talked into it, as the West Bank has gotten so much more publicity. But Rachel had heard about Rafah from a good friend of hers who'd spent time here a few months ago, and he told her about how neglected Rafah is by the world, and by the activist community. She was also aware of how dangerous Rafah is. In fact, more people have been killed per-capita in Rafah than any other place in Palestine. So not only is it the most dangerous place, but it is also considered the poorest city in all of Palestine, a country considered one of the poorest in the world. Rafah is one of the poorest and most dangerous places in the world, and Rachel made a B-line straight for it.

Rachel Corrie, broken for her love of the Palestinian people.

I was writing this last night when Dave called, and told me that that Tom Fox was found dead a day or so ago. Tom Fox, a Quaker from Clear Brook, Virginia, was in Baghdad with a Christian Peacemaker Team, when he and three others were kidnapped. They were there to be a protective non-violent presence for the people of Iraq.

In his blog, written shortly after Hurricane Katrina, he quoted Elizabeth Blackwell, who said, “I must have something in life which will fill this vacuum and prevent this sad wearing away of the heart.”

This was the quote today in my planner as I considered the tragedies both great and small, personal and global we are all dealing with.

He goes on to talk about about a Swiss study on how many casualities there have been since the beginning of the U.S. led invasion on Iraq: The study stated that 40,000 Iraqis have probably died from violence since March of 2003. That includes death from U.S., Iraqi and insurgent violence. And 70% of those casualties were innocent non-combatants, mainly women and children.

The only “something in my life” I can hold onto is to do what little I can to bring about the creation of the Peaceable Realm of God. It is my sense that such a realm will always have natural disasters. It is the “man-made” disasters that we are called upon to bring to an end.

Tom Fox, broken for his love of the Peaceable Realm of God.

The Gospel of Mark tells us that after Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, he headed straight to the Temple, and looked around, but determining that it was late, went out to Bethany to spend the night. Sometimes we portray the “Cleansing of the Temple,” as we often call it, as a spur of the moment action on Jesus’ part. He was so overcome by emotion that he couldn’t help himself. In the movie Jesus Christ Superstar (which I really like, by the way), the disciples look at Jesus like he’s blown a gasket after he turns over a few tables. But I’m thinking that the disciples probably knew what he was going to do—after all, the Gospel of John tells us that he fashioned a whip. He didn’t just grab someone else’s, he fashioned his own. And Mark tells us that he looked around on Sunday night, but because it was so late, he went back to Bethany. Because it was so late, so late for what? Jesus knew what he was going to do. Just as he planned his entry into Jerusalem, you go and get a donkey, and when they say this, you say that, he planned this action in the temple.

Scholars say that it was this one action that most directly led to his death. As I said last week, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, had assigned local authority to the temple and its authorities. Now it was their job to be loyal to Rome, to maintain order, and collect enough money for a yearly tribute. Now the temple was the central economic and political institution in the country, now the temple was the center of local collaboration with Rome.

On Sunday Jesus challenged Roman imperial power. On Monday, Jesus challenged the high priest collaborators.

by Pastor Cindy, more to come...


Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Confrontation Monday, Part III

Quoting Jeremiah, who was almost killed himself for threatening in the name of God that the temple would be destroyed because it had become a haven for perpetrators of injustice and a den for robbers--- Jeremiah, you see, stood in a long tradition of prophets who insisted that what God demanded more than worship was justice, not worship and justice, but worship more than justice. How often do you hear God saying, “I’m tired of your justice, what I want is worship?” Never!

But God is always saying, “I’m tired of your worship, take it away from me! What I want is justice! Justice shalt thou pursue!”—quoting Jeremiah, who almost got killed himself for saying that God would do to the temple what God did to Shiloh, which was destroyed by the Philistines (except that the people decided at the last minute that his word, was, indeed, from God), quoting Jeremiah, Jesus shut the temple down. Drove out those who were selling and buying, turned over the tables of the money changers, kept people from carrying anything anywhere within the temple. Jesus came in, raised enough Cain to shut things down altogether.

Now I have to tell you that there are a lot of different theories about what he meant by this action. And I’m at loss, because my favorites, Walter Wink and Marcus Borg and Ched Myers don’t agree with each other! But what they do agree on is this: through this confrontation in the temple, Jesus confronted the structures that oppressed his people. And his voice, his actions, his powerful witness against injustice so threatened them that they killed him.

And when the chief priests and scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him. Did he know that that would happen? I’m guessing that he did. It’s not that he wanted to die. Like Romero, Jesus expressed a desire to live—take this cup away from me, he prayed. But his death was inevitable. Not, and hear me well, NOT because God desired a sacrifice, a Jesus to die in our place. What kind of God would that be, after all? Not one that I would choose to serve.

No, not because of the substitutionary atonement hoohah that some of us have heard most of our lives, not because of divine necessity, not because God needed him to die—God was rooting for him to LIVE—just as God was rooting for Romero and Rachel and Tom—but because of human inevitability—this is what domination systems did to people who publicly and vigorously challenge them (The Last Week).

But, say Borg and Crossan, Jesus was not simply an unfortunate victim of a domination system’s brutality. He was also a protagonist filled with passion. His passion, his message, was about the kingdom of God. He spoke to peasants as a voice of peasant religious protest against the central economic and political institutions of his day. He attracted a following and took his movement to Jerusalem at the season of Passover. There he challenged the authorities with public acts and public debates. All of this was his passion, what he was passionate about: God and the kingdom of God, God and God’s passion for justice. Jesus’s passion animated his life, and got him killed.

Jesus of Nazareth, broken for his world.

Frederick Buechner says that Lent is a good time to ask ourselves a number of questions, including this one: Is there any person in this world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?

I don’t know how Rachel Corrie or Oscar Romero or Tom Fox or Jesus of Nazareth would have answered that question, had it been asked of them. They answered it with their lives, but could they have really answered it beforehand? I don’t know. What all four of them could have answered, I think, and what many of us can answer as well, though, is this: Is there any person in this world, or any cause, that you are willing to live for, to be passionate about, to pour your life into?

Because if you head off into something in order to die, then you’re just flat out crazy. But if you head off into something because it makes you feel alive, because it’s the only thing that makes sense to you, because it animates your life, because you just can’t help but make a B-line for it, well, then, chances are good that you, too, will be broken along the way, but that even in your brokenness, you’ll know that you are blessed, blessed, blessed.


by Pastor Cindy, who knows of confrontation

Monday, March 13, 2006


Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Goatwalker: Drummin'

Goatwalker: Drummin'
Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Some selections from another wonderful Urban Goatwalker!

Goatwalker: Beautiful Music

Goatwalker: Beautiful Music
Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Goatwalker: Chiayim Singing

Goatwalker: Chiayim Singing
Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Goatwalker: On the Stairs

Goatwalker: On the Stairs
Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Cathedral of the Assumption Reflection

Cathedral of the Assumption Reflection
Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Shuffling in like Elijah, Part I

And she said to her husband, “Look now. I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall, and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.”

-2 Kings 4:8-11

You can see her in your mind’s eye, if you try. Fluffing the pillows, smoothing the sheets, turning the chair just so, polishing the table, oiling the lamp. She’s humming a little song as she works. You can see her, because you’ve seen so many just like her. Your mother, maybe, or your grandmother, or your aunt. Maybe you are like her, humming a little song as you prepare a room for someone you love.

She had fed Elisha many times. Like Jesus, who generations later, would talk about having no place to lay his head, Elisha traveled often. Like Jesus, who generations later would come to depend on the kindnesses, upon the hospitality of Martha and Mary, Elisha had come to depend upon the kindnesses of this Shunammite woman. He looked forward to her home-cooked meals. He looked forward to an hour or two of peace and quiet in her home.

She would invite him in whenever he came to town. She would give him food and drink. But she wanted to do more for this holy one. She wanted to make a special place for him, a place where he could feel at home, and so she said to her husband, “Look now. I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall, and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.”

What a wonderful surprise it would have been for Elisha! Perhaps the room had just been finished the day before. Or perhaps it had been finished and standing empty for many days, or weeks, or months. She would have visited the room every day, smoothed the sheets, fluffed the pillows, made sure that everything was just so. How excited she was to welcome him in, to surprise him with this gift of space and place. And he, in turn, was overwhelmed. Indeed, he offered her anything she wanted in return for her gift of hospitality, in appreciation of this place that felt like home.

This story made it into the Hebrew scriptures, I suppose, because it is a miracle story. Elisha, in gratitude for the woman’s hospitality, promises her that she and her husband will bear a child, which they do. Later on, when the child dies, Elisha brings him back to life.

But the most important lesson that we learn here is not from Elisha, but from the Shunammite woman, who worked so very hard to make room for the holy.

by Pastor Cindy...more to come!

Clarksdale Ruins

Clarksdale Devastation 1
Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Shuffling in like Elijah, Part II

Jesus, as he wept over the city of Jerusalem, sobbed out, “If you had known, even you, especially this in your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes…You did not know the time of your visitation.” You did not recognize the holy in your midst.

The Shunammite woman not only recognized Elisha as a holy one, she not only responded to his need on a case by case basis, she made him an honored guest, a special place, a room of his own.

I am thinking about one of the ways that we make room for the holy at Jeff Street. I am thinking about Diane Moten, who as our Minister to the Homeless, comes to the church before dark, and straightens the tables, makes the coffee, sets out the cups and napkins and sugar and creamer, sets out the pastries. Then she opens the doors at 7:00, and welcomes in the holy. Now, they don’t look holy, mind you. They look like our society’s refuse, most of them, raggedy beards, disheveled clothing, shoes that don’t fit. No, they don’t look holy, mind you. They look like they haven’t had a place to lay their head for the night, and many of them haven’t.

According to our records, about half of the men who come to our Hospitality Program “sleep out,” meaning that they lay their heads wherever they can, down by the river, under a bridge somewhere, in an abandoned building. No, they don’t look holy, and they don’t smell holy, and they don’t act holy, either. Old Joe, who puts empty coffee mugs down in his pants—you can hear them clink together as he walks along. Others, whose curses are punctuated with apologies, “Sorry, Diane,” they say in between profanities.

But because Jesus was able to recognize the holy in his midst, and gave us some clues to look for—“whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,” he said—we know, on our best days, anyway, deep in our gut of guts that these men and women are somehow holy, are somehow him. And so at 7:00 a.m., Diane opens our doors to the holy, welcomes them into this place that she, like the Shunammite woman has so carefully prepared, and they shuffle in like Elisha, deeply appreciative of the coffee and newspaper and telephone and space and place that has become like a second home.

And as I tell you this, I’m wondering, who are the holy in your midst, the holy that might not look so holy or act so holy, but who, like our homeless friends, are in need of a tender touch, in need of a welcome word, in need of some down home hospitality? Who are the Elishas in your world, in your church? The Apostle Paul tells the church that we should be “given to hospitality.” Given to hospitality. And I’m wondering, for whom do you need to make a special place?

by Pastor Cindy, who does often, for the least of these