Corrie and I caught the first episode of a new documentary series that’s airing on PBS this winter. It tells the stories of people who met during significant historical moments and the efforts to bring them back together after decades. The first episode told the story of Reiko, a Japanese-American woman now in her 80s who was among the hundreds of thousands who were taken from their homes and lives and interred in camps for the duration of the war.
Reiko wanted to reconnect with Mary Frances, a Caucasian girl who had been her best friend. Their friendship was opposed by Mary Frances’ parents and broken when Reiko and her family were interred in Wyoming. After the war, when she returned home with anti-Japanese sentiment still running high, Reiko was afraid to go to school. But on her first day back, Mary Frances ran up to her, took her hand, and walked with her into the classroom. Continue reading
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world; Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Caravaggio, The Conversion of St. Paul
I don’t know when it was. Fifth grade, sixth grade, even earlier? Somewhere around there I first recognized just how implausible the story of Jonah was. By that time, I knew enough about the anatomy of wales, human physiology, and the digestive system to know that it the likelihood of someone being swallowed by a whale, surviving in its belly for three days, and then being vomited up on the seashore was quite slim. I knew enough geography that a whale swimming from the Mediterranean Ocean to the Persian Gulf in three days was far-fetched, and that a whole city might repent in response to a six-word sermon was impossible. For the literal mind of a precocious and inquisitive pre-teen, the book of Jonah presented enormous problems. Continue reading
A Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, 2018
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” We can still hear the easy dismissal, the disparagement in these words across two millennia. We can hear all of the superiority the speaker assumes in this encounter with a stranger. And it’s likely, that as we hear that question we are reminded of all the ways we—our culture, our media, our political figures—disparage and dismiss those who look differently, or think differently, or come from different countries or are of different religious convictions.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Nathanael’s question was not just a matter of the dismissal of a stranger. It was a legitimate response to Philip’s own question, “Have we met the Messiah?” For there was nothing in scripture, nothing in Jewish tradition, that would lead one to conclude that the Messiah, the Savior and redeemer of Israel, would come from, or have anything to do, with Nazareth. It’s a place that’s unmentioned in Hebrew scripture, of no account in first century Galilee. It was a tiny village, 200-400 inhabitants, a village made up of tiny houses, very poor people, most of them scraping by trying to make ends meet in an empire and economy that thought them of no worth or value. Continue reading
A friend of ours, our former Yoga teacher, was back in town over the holidays, and over lunch as we caught up on our lives, she recommended a book to me: Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. It’s written by Fr. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest who has served in the LA projects for over 30 years. He works with gang members, helping them get off the street and leading productive lives. It’s a book full of powerful stories of redemption, forgiveness, resilience, and suffering. For most of the men and women in these neighborhoods, gangs provide the only family and community they have ever known. Continue reading