Prophetic Imagination of Lament: A Response to Walter Brueggemann

The Prophetic Imagination of Lament: From Grief To Energy, From Resolve Toward New Possibility
Amos 7:1-9, Hosea 11

Introduction:

Lament has often been a topic that is rarely addressed in the church during the 21st Century. But, according to Walter Brueggemann the theology of lament can lead us from grief and loss toward energy which garners resolve and understanding that finally propels us toward a new possibility and wisdom. Our alienation from the idea and theology of lament has halted what hope we might have for a prophetic imaginative future. We have openly turned from God as healer and compassionate agent in our lives, to one of separation and isolation. We isolate God when we do not share our griefs personally and communally. It is my goal in this paper to help us understand the prophetic imagination and transformative power of lament. By, looking at Amos and Hosea we will learn of God’s ongoing redemptive power to grieve and to struggle with us toward a renewed energy, resolve and new possibility. For the prophet Isaiah once articulated through the spoken word,

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

The World Behind The Text:

Amos was active in the first half of the 8th century BCE. His prominence was most likely at the time of Jeroboam II of Israel (788-747; Am 1:1) and Uzziah of Judah (785-733). Amos was most active during the decade of 760-750 BCE. He was known for his pronouncements against the priest Amaziah and his eventual exile from Bethel. Amos was from the Southern Kingdom of Israel and often critiqued the Northern Kingdom of Israel and denounced it’s prosperity in a time of historical peace and economic substantiation.

The reign of Jeroboam II was actually great, Israel saw great times of peace and prosperity, but in that peace the prophet Amos spoke out against it’s prosperity. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was benefiting off of the hard work and labor of the poor in the Southern Kingdom. Amos, spoke as one who was in solidarity with the other poor representatives of the Southern Kingdom. He himself was a backwoods prophet, not a son of privilege and fortune but rather a, “herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees” (7:14).

Amos:

Amos self proclaimed vocation literally placed him in the seat of the oppressed, he was not speaking for the intercession of the royal priesthood and its leaders, he was interceding for the people of God that are being oppressed in the Southern Kingdom of Israel. Amos, was instrumental in the acknowledgement and vitality of his countrymen. He was more concerned with, “justice” and “righteousness” then, status and power.

Amos was a writing prophet (poet) and spoke for the liberation of the Southern Kingdom of Israel and encouraged Israel to repent and turn back to God. He called to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (5:24), Amos was unrelenting toward Northern Israel, his entire manifesto was due in large part to the very excesses and privileges that the nation was experiencing and celebrating. For Amos the Israelites were, “trampling the head of poor into the dust of the earth” (2:7) and he found no pleasure in the festivals and ceremonies of the people. He protested their celebration with such pronouncements as, “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” (5:21)

I want to point out that while reading this thesis please keep in mind the correlations that the text may have with contemporary issues, such as, the United States and it’s relationship to a God of prosperity, and how that may or may not be necessarily synonymous with the God of Amos.

Hosea:

Hosea, was a prophet from the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the final days of the reign of Jeroboam II; prior to the conquest and eventual destruction brought on by the Assyrians in 722. Hosea was more or less a contemporary figure to the prophecies of Amos and was in line with similar pronouncements of “justice” and “righteousness”. Hosea was concerned with “political, social, and above all, religious righteousness”. Hosea was greatly concerned with the future of Israel if such perversions were to continue. Hosea knew that God was moving against Israel for their many idolatries and promiscuous nature with the dominant culture. He often would call for repentance, knowing that Israel would be destroyed by its enemies if they did not repent and focus back on the Lord. Perhaps there negligence of YHWH provided room for their destruction and later deportation out of the land of “promise”.

Hosea was known mostly for the ways in which he used his personal relationships to acquiescence the relationship dynamic that Israel had with YHWH. Hosea, married Gomer who supposedly was a prostitute (1:2) and she cheated on Hosea with many partners, which was interesting because the dominant culture considered that normal. Promiscuity to the dominant culture was totally fine and a way of worshipping and participating in the nearby culture of the Canaanites.

The children of Israel were called out from that behaviour and encouraged to live holy before God as his set apart people. Hosea, was furious about this because many of the people would boast that they have a special relationship with the God of Joseph but in reality God had forsaken them and no longer called them his people. (1:9) Hosea had three children with Gomer, Jezreel (1:4), which meant God sows, Lo-ruhammah (1:6) which meant Not pitied and Lo-ammi (1:9) which finally meant Not my people. Hosea’s prophetic career lasted three decades 750-720 BCE, which was impressive being that Amos career was only ten years.

Hosea’s legacy was powerful in the sense that he obeyed YHWH and married an “unclean” woman and fathered her children, just as YHWH had instructed. But, more impressive was Hosea’s unending intercession for his people. Hosea believed God and knew that eventually God would restore the people back to him and that Gomer would return to him, but the truth and test was in the waiting, the grief and from that waiting period came a new Israel.

The World Within The Text:

Amos 7:1-9 is located toward the latter half of the narrative and takes place at the time of YHWH impending judgement on the house of Israel, mostly the Northern Kingdom of Israel overseen by Jeroboam II and Amaziah the priest. Amos for the previous 7 chapters was calling for the people of the Northern Kingdom to repent and come back to YHWH. To no longer be content with the covenant of YHWH with no action and concern for righteousness, such as cheap grace nowadays. Amos was calling for Israel to come back to God in “justice” and “righteousness” because they were living the highlife, on the backs of their own people and it made YHWH sick.

Now in chapter seven we see Amos with a series of vision’s from the Lord. The first is a vision of “forming locusts” (7:1), which brings to mind the later prophet Joel who spoke of locusts as the army of the Lord sent to destroy Israel. (Joel 1:4) So in verse one Amos sees the locust perhaps a plague to come and devour the land or more politically the locust represent the political order of Northern Israel specifically the house of Jeroboam II. In verse four Amos has the vision of a shower of fire, perhaps this means God’s fury at the children of Israel for their “ignorance” described earlier by Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:6). Lastly in verse seven Amos receives a vision of a plumb line which was a structure used for open air worship that was condemned by both Amos and Hosea as, “places of illicit worship”. The plumb line marks a vision that God would not relent and that change must come through total destruction of the old so that a new possibility could be possible.

Now the question I must ask is why the vision in verses 2 and 4 God shows mercy but in verse 7 God is now seemingly immobile to the cry of Amos? The reason may have been that Israel was being shown too much mercy and the time of judgement had finally come for them.

In the book of Hosea, God’s plan was to have them be overtaken and oppressed by their freedom, so that they would eventually come back home and be with only one partner. In Hosea the people are involved and even entangled by the practices of the dominant culture and have ceased to be relevant in the transformation and spreading of YHWH to the world. They had forsaken their first love and gone to the streets to entertain their carnal, lascivious lifestyle. In a time of prosperity, rather than be humble, the people of Judah and Israel turned to materialism and ecstasy. Rather than be thankful, they incredibly alienated themselves from their “very present help in times of trouble”. It is in this context that we will now shift to contemporary society and see how this scripture can be a teaching and a didactic for the power of lament and prophetic imagination, specifically prophetic preaching in a time of prosperity gospel christians.

The World In Front Of The Text:

John Collins described the visions of Amos as, “directed against the upper classes, because of their exploitation of the poor”. Can we obey God with justice and not sacrifice? What is sacrifice and how does it pertain to addressing the powers? In the past during the Hebrew Scriptures and up to the founding of the United Monarchy there was a system of atonement made possible through the sacrifices of priest. Now we as Christians are in a different situation, we no longer need to make dove offerings and meat sacrifices, we can simply offer our hearts to God and that suffices. But, I want to call us to a higher standard and say that we are called to sacrifice but in a new way; by speaking against the powers of systemic evil and by putting our necks on the line such as Amos did and believe for the restoration and eventual fidelity of the believers to Christ alone and not Caesar. I propose that we can do this by praying for change, and living a lifestyle toward answering our own petitions.

Prayer As A Tactic For Social Change And Spiritual Reawakening:

Walter Wink pronounced intercessory prayer to be a, “spiritual defiance of what is in the name of what God has promised. Intercession visualizes an alternative future to the one apparently fated by the momentum of current forces. Prayer infuses the air of a time yet to be into the suffocating atmosphere of the present” (Wink, 185) We are agents of change in the playing out of history. Wink provided the field for the power of intercessory when described humanity as in connection to the earth, the universe etc… That we are agents because we are connected, “we are not like solitary billiard balls, as materialism sees us; from the very beginning we are related to everything. Every drop of water in me has been in every spring, stream, river, lake, and ocean in the world during our earth’s billions of years of existence. We are related to every other self in the universe. In such a world, we no longer know the limits of the possible.” (Wink, 184)

With this knowledge we can not continue a life of apathetic prayers. We are apart of the liberation of Syria, we are the restoration that will come to the people of Boston in the wake of the bombing, even more we are the cure for homelessness, poverty etc…in a world that sees them as mountains that can not be moved. By faith and prayer and struggle we can believe for a better future and work to make that future real in our very lives.

Walter Brueggemann powerfully calls for us to accept the sacrifice of entertainment for the worship experience of lament. Brueggemann sees lament as an intercession for communal and personal change in the present day. We can look toward Amos and Hosea who interceded and worked to change the compulsions of Israel and Judah, but ultimately the lesson was in loss. Israel and Judah would not be spared, they would experience the domination and oppression of another imperial/colonial power over them in the Assyrians.

We too are in danger of potential collapse and the imperial control of another, due to our incredible debt to the world powers. We are so inclined and addicted to excess and things that we are in debt, losing our homes, our schools, art, libraries and in the name of what military spending. We continue to trust in “chariots” and “princes” but our end is coming and how will we, the people of God respond?

We can follow the example that Brueggemann has so masterfully and prophetically imagined for us. We can provide room for loss and insecurity. We can use the church to push for new imaginative possibilities and provide safety to those prophets that follow their call to speak for humanity and equality in a world that proudly says, “I don’t need God”. In order to address consumption and selfishness we have to provide congregations with spaces to share their oppressive scenarios in their lives.

Brueggemann helps us understand the conflict and turmoil our congregations experience from the dominant culture, “the dominant narrative disenfranchised  grief because it cannot afford to be honest. And grief disenfranchised leads, as we know, to denial and, finally, to violence. But prophetic preaching permits acknowledged, anticipated grief, and gives franchise to grief felt and embraced. When grief is owned, as we know, it turns to energy, resolve, and new possibility.” The prophetic imagination embraces grief and provides a space to mourn, struggle and question God and society on the events. But, it is the church that can provide that resolve and eventual hope and avenue for a new possibility. But, we can’t provide this great information if we are still providing people a prosperity gospel that says materials will provide salvation for your pain. The only cure for pain is love and community.

The people of Israel could not overcome their appreciation and love for dominant narrative customs, they loved their fine assemblies and festivals but they were not for God, they were for themselves to exploit others and alienate the haves from the have nots. This oppression was so great that even the earth was crying out, fish were starving because of the exploitation of the Israelites. The truth of the earths cry for liberation helps us sober up to the consequences of our prosperity. The consequences of our prosperity, is suffering. We have no tools to wait and so we anxiously sign up for new credit cards or believe the “hype” of media that says absorb your subordination with consumption, don’t worry, just buy an ipod or even better don’t stand up for justice you have too many problems with home and your wallet. Wait! How did I get that debt in the first place?

“There is no doubt that the prophetic theme is divine judgement, though, as we have seen, the pending punishment is not voiced simply as supernatural intrusion but as the inescapable outworking of the deeds and policies of Jerusalem that evoked devastating consequences.” (Brueggemann, 71) So for Brueggemann and I agree the consequences of Israel were not necessarily the punishment of God but were actually there own fault and that God may or may not have been a part of it’s consequences. See, we have free will to destroy each other and this planet or to restore and redeem. Brueggemann is simply saying that if we pollute the planet then the planet will be polluted and if we gain diseases from that pollution it was not God that did it but us. Now what is amazing is that Brueggemann simultaneously is arguing that God is in fact an agent in the world and that in that example of pollution and disease, we can still cry out to him through lament and he will act on our behalf and we may be pardoned or the earth may be restored etc… So as we look at the core of these two passages we can deduce that the Northern Kingdom of Israel provided their own destruction by worshiping God falsely and oppressing their own people who are responsible for the crops and materials needed to maintain the society. Likewise, we can look at Hosea and see that where there would be judgement and the un-forgiveness of a husband to his promiscuous and unfaithful wife who represents the promiscuous nature of the people of God. We can see that prayer, lament and grief is what changed God’s heart toward His people, it was in this crying out that resolve and new possibility could happen.

We have to be told NO and learn to wait on God. This nation is losing it’s mind. I think sometimes that “ungodly” people are actually the sane ones and churched people are the criminally insane. We excommunicate our pastors, we don’t embrace everyone, we are the poster children of US capitalism and consumerism, we are the ones supporting fast food nation and we expect the rest of the world to see us as humble servants who believe in the cross of Christ. We are seen as hypocrites and that is why no one comes in the church. We have to make room for repentance, we have to change the subject we have to be a radical narrative in the midst of the dominant one. If the dominant narrative says “just war” we say “non-violence”, if the dominant narrative says “he, she who dies with the most toys wins”, then we say “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am in… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. (Phil 4:11-13)

We can be the preachers, evangelist, teachers and prophets of a new dawn, we can follow Christ and provide a critique and an option to this dominant narrative that says you have to be the best, be like us. We can be like Amos and Hosea and be in the gap with the people but not of them, we can love the world but not embrace it’s Godless view, we can speak for truth and justice but first we must learn to mourn with each other.

In this mourning we can grow toward one body, we can learn to pray outside ourselves and begin to pray for the world. Lets start with our community, instead of praying for yourself only and seeing yourself as alien to your neighbor, see yourself as a co-creator with Christ, not to get a yacht or lexus but to create meaningful change and hope in the world. Our communities are waiting for us to welcome their pain into our lives. The neighborhood that prays together stays together. As we provide the space to be mediocre we can learn ways to be great. We don’t have to seek greatness for this world’s standards but for God. We can continue the legacy and honor that Christ laid down for us. When we can have a time in the church free of ATM’s and loud music we can embrace the unknown, we can search and be changed by the natural and that metamorphosis, the earth will help us to gain resolve, which will bring new life and that energy will spark us into a new possibility, a possibility where we all are welcome to be ourselves and allow God not man to validate our worth and potential.

Bibliography

Brueggemann, Walter. The Practice Of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching An Emancipating Word. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2012.

Collins, John J. Introduction To The Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2004.

Coogan, Michael D. The New Oxford Annotated Bible: NRSV. New York: Oxford Press, 2010.
Wink, Walter. The Powers That Be: Theology For A New Millennium. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

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YHWH! #SayHerName

The Levite and The Concubine: A Womanist Theological Perspective

Judges 19

Introduction:

Domestic violence and sexual abuse was an ongoing theme in the sacred holy Hebrew scriptures. In the story of the Levite and the Concubine we learn of a violent brutal gang rape and a vicious and ruthless slaughtering of a human life, specifically a female life. From reading the works of Margaret Farley, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics and Joy A. Schroeder, Dinah’s Lament: The Biblical Legacy of Sexual Violence in Christian Interpretation I have realized that sexual violence is not just an issue that is real in our everyday society but that it was real in the times of antiquity. Moreover, that the sexual violence recorded in the Hebrew scriptures for the most part has gone unaddressed and the violence done to the Concubine, The dancers in the fields, Dinah in the book of Genesis, Tamar who was brutally groomed and raped by her brother during the time of King David has gone on with complete silence, save for some womanist theologians and feminist theologians. This work though short will address these women’s lives and experience through a hermeneutic of liberation, healing and transformation. Finally my argument will be that God was a woman in these scripture if God has a gender at all. God was raped, God was gang raped and cut into pieces for a barbaric group of men. Lastly, if God can be raped and God was the woman, the unnamed woman, then every rape, every girl molested, every woman forced to live in fear and silenced by a fatalistic patriarchal society will hopefully be honored and men will be challenged to unearth these scriptures and speak life to them, by addressing the fatalism of patriarchy in the church. Honestly, speaking this passage for this time could be spoken as a testament to the #SayHerName campaign through #BlackLivesMatter.

Judges 19: A Textual Criticism

In chapter nineteen of Judges we read in verse two, “But his concubine became angry with him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. Why was the concubine angry? Also why four months away from her master and provider? This question comes to mind because for the rest of the text the narrative follows the Levite and we don’t hear again from the concubine for another seven verses which in the text was a four month and five days separation from his concubine. Also when in pursuit of his “loved” one he has sex with the father of the concubine for five days. The text does not specifically say sex but it can easily be applied or interpreted that way. Especially, since in verse 22 the lawless men of Gibeah, the Benjaminites. These men were not concerned with sex with the concubines or the old man’s daughters, they wantonly accepted them and raped them. These men were looking to rape a man. There is no explanation for this other than the cultural and historical knowledge of the people of Gibeah and that the author states in the first verse, “In those days, when there was no king in Israel…” The author already was providing the allegory and mental framework to speak to the fact that the people needed a king and that the people did not want God as their king.

We can understand this clearly in the text because whether the people be Benjaminites or Israelites their deeds were lawless. Their actions and treatment of women were barbaric and lacked any moral compass. For the author to put women in this light either clearly shows the lack of appreciation and acknowledgement of women, but also the fact that for many women were essentially seen as a commodity that could be used for trade or to barter with. Their intrinsic value rested solely on their demand.

We know this to be true from the research of Margaret Farley, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics that from the very beginning starting in antiquity through the patriarchs and even before that in the ancient near east there was no respect for women or the sanctity of their minds, bodies and emotions. Women have been under the cold iron fist of men since the inception of the patriarchy in the Jewish tradition. So when having this context looking at scripture can never be the same again. “Christianity emerged in the late Hellenistic Age, when even judaism was influenced by the dualistic anthropologies of Stoic philosophy and Gnostic religions…Unlike many strands of Judaism at the time, its focus was less on the solidity and continuity of life in their world than on the continuity between this world and a life to come. Yet, early Christian writers were profoundly influenced both by Judaism and by Greco-Roman philosophy. With the Stoics they had a suspicion of bodily passion and a respect for reason as a guide to the moral life” (Farley, 38-39). So knowing this, then how do we address my first two enquiries and finally how do we set up a call to action to bring justice to the text.

Judges 19: The World Within The Text

Above I presented two questions in order to understand better the background to the text of Judges 19. The first question was why was the concubine angry? From reading Joy A. Schroeder’s, Dinah’s Lament: The Biblical Legacy of Sexual Violence in Christian Interpretation Schroeder lays out not only every biblical story regarding the sexual violence done to women in the bible, but also lays out the fatalistic hermeneutic of all the previous theologians put together. The despairing reality is that from Schroeder’s work one realizes that hardly any men have ever even given a thought, not one single thought to the injustice of patriarchy.  “Later Roman laws attached legal responsibility to the victim as well, however. In 326 C.E., the emperor Constantine ruled that a man committing raptus should be exiled or executed by burning. If the woman was judged to be a willing party to the abduction (that is, if it was believed that this was an elopement), she was to be exiled or burned to death as well. If she was an unwilling victim, she was also to be punished, but more lightly–on the grounds that the woman could have chosen to save herself by screaming for help. If no one was present to hear her scream, she was at fault for venturing outside her home alone. So if you were raped and no one saw it, then were you raped? This goes along with cat and mouse logic of, “if a tree falls and no one hears it fall did it make a sound” the answer is of course it made a sound, just no one heard it, but the animals heard it, God saw it, the fields felt the trees weight as it fell, of course it happened! Schroeder continues, “…even if the woman was at home and the rapist broke down the door to attack her, she could be punished by losing all inheritance rights. In this case the law chastised her by saying that she should have cried for help from the neighbors or fought off her attacker” (Schroeder, Location 161-170 Kindle Version).

One masculine voice that offers some justice to the women of the bible and specifically the concubine was Ambrose. Ambrose was a christian thinker who was schooled in the understandings and theology of Josephus another church father, but Ambrose sought to bring awareness to the fact of the women’s plight. Although his interpretation was still patriarchal and not in the least feminist, he did still offer a voice of recognition and acknowledgement that seeks to give the women a voice. For Ambrose the Concubine was a wife of the Levite and therefore the wife experienced shame at leaving her husband.

Ambrose found these realizations by looking at the Septuagint and doing historical criticism. He also found that the bishop of Milan also believed the possible report of the concubine and possibly was the first to acknowledge that the concubine was not a maidservant but a “wife” of the Levite. Therefore, she was more than a “streetworker” she was not a “whore”. Ambrose indicts Josephus the Jewish theologian and hero to the early judeo-christian faith and history by stating that Josephus, omitted the very real and clear same-sex homosexual attempted rape of the Levite.

Ambrose similar to my personal interpretation of the text reasoned that the wife was unhappy, and that despite the un-egalitarian roles and mistreatment of women in her historical context and location she heroically left for someone more her equal. Which I would argue was a feminist move, she has the right in her humanity to defy cultural norms and practices and seek out a love that is more conducive to her well being. That does not mean that the sadness of the Levite was wrong, no this simply means that although men may be in love with a spouse that spouse has the right to leave. That also the fact that the narrative puts the wife in a situation that demonizes and criminalizes her, she was in the right. It was the men who were in the wrong, it was the society that although designed with the framework for an egalitarian critique on the greater culture surrounding them, they chose to enslave, murder, rape, and extort their own. Therefore proving the author’s thought that indeed the people needed a king.

The Levite liked the fact that she was an exotic Benjaminite woman, that she was younger and beautiful and that although she was much younger and the dynamic was in many regards paternalistic he loved her, Ambrose would argue, but she did not love him.

Conclusion: Where Do We Go From Here

In my conclusion, and we only began to touch on this text briefly. I would like to point out that one way of looking at this text would be to see through the eyes of YHWH. A G-d of the Jews but a father/mother to Jesus later and an avid lover of all of creation. G-d we know was and is genderless and therefore G-d was all and in all.

So for this piece hermeneutically I see G-d as a woman. I see G-d as a feminist. I see G-d brutally disregarded, nameless, devalued, cat-called, gangraped, beaten, left for dead, molested, valued only for her beauty, her sexiness, her sexual prowess, her lack of sexual experience and purity, lastly brutally raped and left for dead. I see G-d, the G-d of the Jews and Christians as raped. God was raped that day and any and everyday any woman has ever been molested, raped, beaten and told to stay with her husband. God was that woman because God is woman. God is all and in all. This narrative simply could be YHWH! #SayHerName #SayHerName.

Bibliography

Books:

Coogan, Michael D. The New Oxford Annotated Bible: NRSV with The Apocrypha. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Farley, Margaret A. Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006.

Schroeder, Joy A. Dinah’s Lament: The Biblical Legacy of Sexual Violence in Christian Interpretation. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007.

Internet:

http://www.blacklivesmatter.com

Why Episcopalian?

A few months ago a friend asked me to write about why I’m an Episcopalian. I have often thought of that question. Why am I an Episcopalian or more specifically why do I believe in the Episcopal Way? It’s pretty insane in a way.

But, I find myself here because I’m committed to seeing the Eucharist embodied by the poor. I believe that Christ was born and died to save and set us free from oppressive structures and systems of tyranny.
The episcopal church gives me this space to reimagine the mystery of the divine. The majesty of God’s splendor. There is no where for me to go. I have to be where I feel the Eucharist leads to social and political transformation. How does the Eucharist do this?

It’s kind of simple the breaking of bread is the single act of any true community. If not for the breaking of bread there would be no church. There would be no story. There would be no church history.

When I take part in the Eucharist I’m not only taking of bread and wine. No, I’m taking part in the revolutionary life of my savior and liberator. I’m honoring his life, his passion, his message that we would be one. How do we become one? By breaking bread and saying goodbye to this modern life and living for something more, living for mystery and awe. By detaching from the dominant paradigm of oppression and repressive spiritual practice we come to the life of Jesus.
Jesus was not a Christian he could not have been. Because, one a religion such as Christianity only existed after the death burial and resurrection. Two, Christ was humble he did not pride himself on his ability to see through the dominant hermeneutics of the Temple and Synagogue. Christ was born into poverty, he was a Palestinian Jew and understood the scripture. But, even though he knew the scripture and could have used that to climb ranks in the Temple, he chose to give that knowledge to the wider community, most of which were illiterate and being exploited by the Temple.
Jesus was born into a time ripe with revolutionary thought. Just prior to his birth the Maccabean Revolt had happened where a small group of zealots who sought to cleanse the Temple of the unequally yoked relationship of the Roman Caesar and the Priests of the temple.

The Zealots were the organic representation of a people distrustful and fed up with the current and historic compromise of their supposed representatives.
For years the people of Israel and Palestine were being sold out to the power of Persia and then Rome. Rome being the most impactful.

Rome’s social belief of Victory Through Peace was a smokescreen of sorts. Used to kill off the Galls of Pauline history who were addressed as the Galatian church in the book of Galatians in the Second Testament of the Christian faith.

Victory Through Peace was literally peace through suppression. The Caesar prided himself on the idea that there was great harmony in Rome, when in actuality there was only great repression and that repression propelled the innovations that sustained it’s boast of human superiority. To keep insurrection at bay the emperors and Caesar’s developed pacts and agreements with the synagogue leaders, this in turn earned them privileges that the common people of the region did not enjoy. There were steep taxes and painful labor laws used through the Torah and other text of manipulation. The neighboring villages, towns etc had 95% illiteracy which impaired their ability to speak out. The taxes and increasing suffocation of healthy relationships with the temple had the neighboring lands absolutely without hope, Jesus was born into that.

Jesus was born poor, he graciously found education and their are many theories on how that happened. Some say he was able to escape the region and receive private training others believe that he was gifted and that helped him to learn and grow. Ultimately, how he became so learned in holy texts of the Hebrew scripture is not so important as is the fact that rooted in rebellion born into a spirit of resistance. He gave everything he learned to the people.
This terrified the Caesers and emperors there was no way to quell his message, ultimately he was murdered as a Palestinian Jew guilty of insurrection and leading a resistance movement against an unjust regime of tyranny disguised as providence. Jesus was no mere man, he was in essence the first anarchist, he was in essence a leader by example. He gave hope to the hopeless, he gave vision to the blind, he honored the prophetic message of the Maccabean’s and revolt (which is the celebration of Hanukkah) the 13 day revolt of the people (zealots or anarchists) against the temple leaders and Roman occupation.

The Maccabean’s (see the book of Maccabeas in the Apocrypha (which is not a evil “other” bible it’s a collection of writings that the original compilers of the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament canon disagreed on, because it did not fit seamlessly with the rest of the narrative the Septuagint wanted to convey) but in no way not a book of reference and stories to a very real and permanent experience in the history of the Jews/Christians and Israel-Palestine relationships.

The Apocrypha by all accounts should be regarded as sacred text alongside the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament “koinon” Greek scriptures. The only thing is it’s not going to lead you to believe Jesus is the Son of God it’s pretty much a collection of stories.

That’s why I’m Episcopalian because we are not afraid of the “other” texts. We know that this journey of faith is just that a journey…through faith. Faith in a variety of text and reason. That’s why I love theology. The discipline of theology offers me even more space to wrestle and interpret for myself, what or who God is. That question my friends is the very reason I believe in God.
God is more than an evangelical idea, a checklist of the top 3 or 4 Republican political issues. God is ever growing and evolving as I understand more of God. See God I believe is all knowing, All everything whereas I am very finite. That’s why I say God is ever evolving what I mean is, my understanding and faith in God is ever evolving. Our notions and concepts of God are trivial and dangerous. If left to our own understandings of God we would have no collaborations with interfaith networks etc.

So another reason I’m Episcopalian is because, even though I believe in faith and reason through research based on facts and mysticism with a little existentialism I believe that we are in a dangerous place to not have structure to our faith and practice. Through the liturgy I found that structure and that structure is constant. Every Sunday a new lectionary reading, prayers from the book of common prayer, it’s structure.
That’s the last point. The liturgy and breaking of bread. Perhaps it’s my Wesleyan background from my dad coming into play here, but liturgy and Eucharist are the essence of what it means to be Christian and Episcopal. These two principle beliefs and actions are the source of focus I need in my ADHD mind to believe in the mystery and awe of the divine.
I know that the Anglican/Episcopal church has a shadow side through the founding of this country. We could start by saying that Wall Street is owned by the Episcopal church. We all know what’s up with Wall Street 😉 but it’s in the holy Eucharist that divinity, awe and mystery coalesce in this beautiful symmetry of allegory in experience.

The holy Eucharist provides a framework and space to celebrate, to mourn and to resurrect with new insight and empathic compassion for the least of these among us. It’s in this framework of empathic compassion that I embrace the episcopal way. Through acceptance of actions and privileges less glamorous we provide others to heal, from both sins of omission and sins of commission. Both being social as well as personal. I enjoy the space provided to engage in social justice and moral concerns that celebrate depth and holistic interpretation which my hermeneutics would fall under radical emancipatory theology.

So in conclusion I have been in numerous churches. Followed countless denominations and even spent time in other religious schools of thought and philosophy but the episcopal church. Gives me just enough space to celebrate and participate in my “evangelical” roots of praise and communal worship through the reading of scripture but more importantly the awe and mystery of the unknown God.

A God that is not Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Krishna but is all and in all of humanity and the earth. A God that is unknown yet experienced in awe and mystery. A God known through doubt and intersections of faith.
Honestly, the episcopal way is for me because I’m given room to not know and that has made everything so clear.