One of my favourite theological books is called Proverbs of Ashes. It is written collaboratively by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker. In this book, these two women do theology by sharing their life experiences. By telling their stories, by revealing their struggles, they choose not to remain anonymous behind academic prose, but to wrestle with life and God in life in an open and transparent way.
Through two voices, through the telling to two tales, they articulate a theological vision for resisting violence and affirming life. They speak about their journeys of healing as both Rita and Rebecca Ann recount ashes in life, ashes created by violence and loss and also ashes left by life-denying theologies of self-sacrifice that diminished their persons. In their reflections as two individuals deeply committed to the Christian faith, they were puzzled that they were often left feeling diminished and imprisoned by theologies which shackled their passions rather than releasing a fiery passion for life and for God.
Exodus – Infant Beginnings
In a time where wars wage, we are ironically exposed in our Biblical readings with the Hebrew story of the Exodus. In these Biblical readings, we are invited to hear the story anew and perhaps hear the story differently even as we remember this story impinged deeply on the consciousness of Jesus and is constantly alluded to by the writers of the Christian gospel.
The early gospel writers utilize the Exodus story to articulate the story of salvation and wholeness as a story of liberation from oppression and as a journey home, the journey to the “soul home”. Over the next few weeks, as we reflect on our spirit lives, as we reflect on our own faith journeys, as we consider our own ongoing quest for freedom and liberation and wholeness, we will listen to the Hebrew story of Exodus. We will also listen for insight to respond to the challenges faced in our world.
Today, we begin by doing as our gospel reading heeds, welcoming Spirit as a child. We return to a childhood story, the birth of Moses. You may or may not know the story. The infant life of Moses was threatened by an evil monarch known as the Pharaoh. In the story, the mother of Moses floats him down the Nile River in a basket to save his life. The floating basket with the infant Moses is discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter who not only rescues the child, but adopts the child as her own.
Pete Seeger, infamous folk singer, civil rights and anti-war activist, avid environmentalist, died this past week. David Dunaway titled his biography on Pete Seeger “How Can I keep from Singing”. Many weeks ago, it was decided that our choral anthem this week would be “How Can I Keep From Singing”.
For us at First United this day, we see a synergy of Spirit in this confluence of events, there is something the spirit says to us this day. It is the way the spirit works you know, a mystery of our faith.
Seeger believed that powerful music could change the world. He is also famously quoted for saying that being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live…. This philosophy jives with the philosophy that sings through the words of Jesus in the sermon on the Mount. The sermon on the mount is about generousity of spirit.
The sermon on the mount serves as a centrepiece, a signature song if you will, of the teachings of Jesus. It opens with the beatitudes, the words that we just sung. These words capture the impulse of the spirited teachings of Jesus, but capture them by sounding hopeful notes yet also by sounding rather strange and discordant notes, notes that initially sound strange to the ear.