Monthly Archives: January 2008
UPDATE: Metanoia, Lent, the Democratic Party, Welding Help, This Week’s Schedule, and it’s Al’s Birthday
Thanks to all of you who came out to welcome Youssef and Alicia into our community as part of their Metanoia semester with us. Inviting new people to join us always gives us a chance to hear why it is that other people joined us long ago, stayed on with us, and keep coming back.
Hearing those stories–from students, homeless folks, retired people and others–is really a humbling and powerful experience. Lent, the season of repentance and renewal just before Easter, begins next Wednesday, February 6. Johnny is one of a handful of authors featured in a Lenten reflection booklet from Pax Christi USA, Invited to Transformation: Reflections for Lent 2008. We have about 50 copies available at the GCW House for anyone who is interested in using it as a resource for reflection and prayer during the Lenten season. You can email Johnny (firstname.lastname@example.org) or pick up a copy at the house anytime for free or feel free to make a donation which will go back into supporting the GCW house. If you want to order more than a few copies, you can purchase the booklets from Pax Christi USA at www.paxchristiusa.org.
And in the wake of Obama’s victory in South Carolina, a slew of local elections in Gainesville on Tuesday, and leading up to the Super Tuesday primaries next week, we are really excited to have Susan Bottcher, Democratic Party activist, join us for the Roundtable this Thursday. Susan will share some analysis on the presidential primaries, discuss the issues, offer insight on what the results for the City Commission races mean to us locally, and answer questions folks have about the elections, the process, and more. We are really exicted to have her join us and hope you can too.
Did you ever notice how close the words “revelation” and “revolution” are? Johnny would say that there is no coincidence there, since the stories of our scripture (revelation) really are about the “revolution” of the heart which the Catholic Worker is all about. We know that there is so much bad, BAD bible study out there, boring and irrelevant, but we promise that what you will find at our Tuesday scripture study will be so much more than you ever thought, maybe even transformative. Join us on Tuesdays at 6pm as we study perhaps the most radical, mind-blowing words of Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew’s gospel, chapters 5-7.
We’re also in need of a few things at the house in case anyone has the means:
- Teas of all flavors and kinds
- A welder to fix our kitchen sink
- Drinking glasses (made of sturdy, strong glass)
Call Johnny at 219-8419 or email us here if you can help with the welding; drop off teas and glasses at the house. Thanks!
And Wednesday is Alphonso’s birthday! Remember to wish him a happy birthday if you are around the house at all this week. . . Look for more information below on the rest of this week’s activities.
TUESDAY – Breakfast Brigade, 4:15-7am. Join us as we prepare and share a breakfast of local hard-boiled eggs, homemade cinnamon raisin bread and fresh, in-season fruit with the workers at three area-labor pools. Scripture Study, 6-7:30pm. Join us for a simple meal followed by the beginning of our study of the Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew’s gospel. We’ll be looking at the last half of the Beatitudes, 5:7-12. Click here for some info about last week’s study, 5:1-6.
THURSDAY – Roundtable and potluck, 6-7:30pm. Join us for a conversation on politics, particularly the presidential primaries, the impact of the local races for city commission, and more. Susan Bottcher, Democratic Party activist, will join us to share analysis of the presidential candidates, the campaigns so far, local government and more. Please bring a dish to share if you can.
FRIDAY – Breakfast Brigade, 4:15-7am. Join us as we prepare and share a breakfast of local hard-boiled eggs, homemade cinnamon raisin bread and fresh, in-season fruit with the workers at three area-labor pools.
SUNDAY – NO cafe this week as we take our traditional Super Bowl Sunday off. Each year, First United Methodist hosts a Super Bowl blow-out for folks from the streets, etc on the first Sunday in February–so we take it off. Next cafe: February 10.
Your friends at the GCW
Gainesville Catholic Worker
218 NW 2nd Avenue
Gainesville, Florida 32601
“How can the Sermon on the Mount be so fundamental and basic to Christian discipleship, yet so shockingly radical? How can it be so simple and straightforward, yet so endlessly captivating? Jesus’ invitation in the Sermon is not, at its deepest level, to follow a list of moral rules. ‘Something bigger—and indeed more startling—is at work,’ Charles Campbell has reminded us. ‘The Sermon on the Mount offers a vision of an alternative world…that shocks us out of our common-sense, taken-for-granted assumptions so that we might see the world differently…’” (From the Introduction to “Sermon on the Mount,” in the Christian Reflection series from Baylor University)
For the next several weeks (possibly months), we’re going to be looking at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel for our scripture study at the Gainesville Catholic Worker. The Sermon on the Mount is one of those sections of scripture that contains so much that is very familiar to most Christians—indeed to many inside and outside of Christianity—and yet is so confoundingly ignored, passed over, and spiritualized that it loses its inherent power to transform those who hear it. Gandhi, the great Hindu spiritual leader and activist, held the Sermon in the highest esteem while lamenting how few Christians he had met understood and practiced it.
Last week we began with Matthew 5:1-12, the passage which opens the Sermon on the Mount with the stunning sayings of the Beatitudes. In the verses immediately prior to the Sermon, we learn that Jesus has begun his public ministry, taking on the mantle formerly worn by John the Baptist who has just been arrested. Matthew tells us that Jesus’ fame spread throughout the region, and that those who were sick, those in pain, those who were possessed, were lunatics or paralytics flocked to him. So when chapter five opens with a scene that includes a great crowd, we immediately imagine a crowd made up of those who are broken and bedraggled, outsiders and the marginal, those who have been rejected and scorned. Their various illnesses of mind and body mark them as fallen, sinful, and cursed.
In response to the crowd, Jesus ascends a mountain Matthew tells us—and our minds jump to that other great figure from early Judaism who ascended a mountain, Moses. Moses is the teacher-par-excellence in Israel’s history; he is teacher, law-giver, and prophet. And we wonder if Matthew, with this subtle remark about geography, is trying to place Jesus in a similar role, a new Moses perhaps.
Jesus’ disciples come to him on the mountain and he begins to teach them. First, he tells them, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those who surround Jesus and the disciples—the lunatics, possessed, paralytics, etc.—what do we suppose their state, financially and spiritually, to be? Their neighbors and family consider them to be cursed. Yet, Jesus starts his sermon off by elevating as “blessed” those very ones his culture, religion, and society say are“cursed.”
We might spend much time puzzling out this term “the kingdom of heaven.” In Matthew’s gospel, it functions in the same capacity as the “kingdom of God” does in Mark and Luke, as the focus and horizon of Jesus’ preaching, teaching and action in the world. Most of us would answer that the opposite of heaven is hell, but what is the opposite of the kingdom of heaven? What is Jesus calling his followers to leave behind when he speaks about the kingdom of heaven? Rather than hell, the kingdom and kingdoms of this world are juxtaposed to the kingdom of heaven. The kingdoms of this world may not belong to the poor in spirit, but the new order which Jesus is proclaiming, the kingdom of heaven, belongs precisely to those—the poor in spirit—shut out of the kingdoms of this world.
When Jesus goes on to say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” we must ask: Who mourns? In the Israel of Jesus’ time, mourning was endemic. Israel was a conquered nation, occupied and oppressed by a foreign power, with corrupt and accommodating political and religious leaders. It was a situation of hardship, suffering and sacrifice for the vast majority of the population. So much had been lost—lives of loved ones, lands, livelihoods. The very people coming to Jesus represent that brokenness, the cause of mourning, and their hunger for restoration and comfort. We think of those who mourn today: American parents and spouses of soldiers dead or broken in Iraq; Iraqi fathers and mothers mourning their dead children; victims of war, homelessness, poverty, treatable diseases the world over—all mourning. In a situation of widespread grief, Jesus promises comfort, not more pain, division, war, or suffering.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” Meek is such a funny word for us, not one we use much. Together at the study last Tuesday, we offered up other words for meek: the humble, but also the humiliated; the quiet, or passive, the weak, the reserved. And what does the promise of land mean, especially in Jesus’ time? Land meant everything. It was the basis of wealth, status and one’s stability. In Israelite religion, the promise of land was preeminent. The history of Israel is the history of having the land, falling away from God and thereby losing the land, being sent into exile, and then being forgiven and returned, restored to the land. Now they were living in exile in their own land, occupied by Rome, the land turned over to the needs and desires of the Romans and their Hebrew collaborators. For farmers, it meant working land that most often did not belong to them, land owned by absentee landowners, who nevertheless reaped the profit of the laborers’ work and the land they worked and cared for. In a time of economic hardship especially, people were losing their land as their debts mounted and corruption ran rampant. So the promise of land for the meek, the humble and humiliated, was another reversal of the way things were. It was a turning upside down of how things were currently arranged: the strong took the land from those they humiliated, those too quiet and weak to resist.
Next Jesus proclaims that “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” We pondered together what it is that people typically hunger and thirst for. Hunger and thirst are basic to being human. But we often go way beyond our basic needs. In our culture, we are taught, encouraged and rewarded for hungering and thirsting after power, status, prestige, money, success, etc. These hunger and thirsts are bred in us from the time we are born. And yet we find that these hungers and thirsts are never satisfied. There is no amount of money that is enough; no amount of power that is enough, no amount of status that satisfies us. None of these satisfies. But the promise that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, or as other translations have it, justice—this hunger and thirst Jesus promises can be satisfied. What should we hunger and thirst for?
Next week we continue with the Beatitudes, chapter 5, verses 7-12.
We know that buying directly from local farmers is a good thing – for all kinds of reasons. But on a cold, wet morning like this one, it was still hard to get up and go.
But, as always, I’m so glad I did. Where else would you find homemade jelly from locally grown summer blueberries, advice on protecting lettuce from the cold and from chickens, empathy for a sick family member, a few extra heads of cabbage tucked in for dinners at the House? And really, really good, fresh food grown from people you know and trust. Despite the recent freeze, there were crates of citrus of all kinds, a variety of lettuce and other greens, root vegetables like turnips, potatoes and radishes, pecans, and cold-weather transplants (and advice) for your own garden. It’s heartwarming to buy your food at the market. And good for them too. The recent hard freeze set them back a little, and they deserve our support.
When I got home, I couldn’t wait to make a fresh salad. It was so good, I wanted to share the ingredients with you – all local – except some residual maple syrup in the dressing:
Salad – mix of torn arugula leaves and thinly sliced chinese cabbage, topped with satsuma orange sections, pecans and a chopped (rare and greenhouse grown) red bell pepper.
Dressing – equal parts olive oil and rice vinegar with a little salt and sweetener. I shook mine in a recently used maple syrup bottle and the remaining bit of syrup was a great addition.
The Saturday farmer’s market is at the intersection of NW 34th Street and 441, next to the highway patrol station (and driver’s license bureau). They’re open from 8:30 till around noon in the winter. The Wednesday market is downtown in the plaza and opens at 4. Go. It’s good in so many ways.
Happy New Year!
After a brief hiatus from the normal routines of GCW life, we are in full swing again. The ever-faithful Servants of Christ church of Gainesville provided a delicious meal on the first Sunday of the month, and the Just Faith group from St. Catherine’s of Jacksonville hosted the café this week. Our weekly scripture study begins this Tuesday and the Roundtable/Potluck on Thursday. And the Breakfast Brigade continues as always on Tuesday and Friday mornings before the crack of dawn. Click here for all the details.
We tried to set aside some time before the new year to reflect on the old one – not always an easy thing to do during the Christmas season with travel, family visits, and all the hoopla that surrounds Christmas. Earlier in the fall I had listened to an NPR interview with a young Jewish rabbi, Sharon Brous, and promised myself to take some time re-listening at the end of the year. In it she talked about leading her congregation through the Jewish High Holy Days. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and celebration of the “birthday of the creation of the world.” There is a prayer that is recited on the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur called the U’Nesaneh Tokef:
On Rosh Hashanah shall be written and on Yom Kippur shall be sealed
how many will pass from the world and how many will be created,
who will live and who will die,…
who by water, who by fire, who by sword, who by beast,
who by famine, and who by thirst…
Who will rest and who will wander…
who will become poor and who will become rich,
who will be lowered down and who will be lifted up.
This is how Sharon Brous, a young rabbi, described her understanding of the meaning of the New Year:
This is a moment when we celebrate the possibility of transformation, the possibility that every single one of us can be re-created. . . [a time] in which we identify that we have a real purpose and meaning in the world and that we can redirect our lives so that we’re actually responsively going after those priorities . . . We actually have the capacity to radically transform the way we understand our lives and the world. So really this is a moment of celebration.
She goes on to describe a way to celebrate, not in spite of life’s hard truths, but because of them:
Part of the challenge of high holy days is . . . to bring people to a momentary understanding of the fragility of life, to the recognition that they might not be here next year at this time, that the people they love most in the world might not be here . [The goal of our celebration] is to push people to confront that excruciating reality for just one moment, to recognize the tragedies that have struck us as individuals and as communities, as a nation and as a world, to be very present to the reality of loss and grief and death and then, holding that pain, to be able to dance – to be able to affirm the possibility of love, and renewed life, and renewed purpose. To really live with a sense of commitment and a sense of purpose. That’s something to dance about, I think, to be able to fully live in both those places at once.
I just love a prayer/poem that combines so well the seeming incongruent ideas of fate and chance and places it all under God. I love a theology that recognizes the power of God and also our power to “help” God by recognizing, caring about, and taking action against the tragedies and injustices of the world. We don’t know what the coming year will bring for ourselves or anyone else. But may we face it squarely and with the courageous honesty to see our own part in making the world what it is. May we live lives of understanding and deep commitment in 2008. And may we all dance. -Kelli