Monthly Archives: September 2008
Consider this your personal invitation to the GCW’s anniversary celebration this weekend! On Sunday, October 5, from 1-4pm, we’ll gather–old and new folks, former and current community members, volunteers, guests, visitors, EVERYONE–to celebrate our 4th year in Jubilee House and our 8th year since we started way back in 2000. Come to hear stories about how miserable our first house was (Jeremiah House, which resembled the pit we imagined Jeremiah was thrown into thousands of years ago), our dreams and hopes for the future, listen to music, bring your favorite food or drink to share (potluck-style), and also enjoy the delicious food provided by our good and faithful friends from Servants of Christ Anglican Church. Especially in times like these, it is important for us to still come together and celebrate, with joy, with gratitude and just because. So please come by anytime Sunday between 1-4pm and share the afternoon with us!
We continue our “What I Did This Past Summer” theme at the Roundtable this Thursday at 6pm. Our own Iris Zielske spent this past summer doing research and working with orphaned children in Tanzania. She’ll share both stories of the people she met and her own experiences. We look forward to you joining us! Bring a dish to share if you can or just show up!
And Tuesday (today when you receive this I think!), we will NOT be having Dorothy’s Cafe. Instead we’ll be hosting a special brunch for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of farmworkers and their allies from Southwest Florida, who have taught us much about dignity, solidarity and the power of justice. We’ll be hosting them at 11am on Tuesday; feel free to come and help get the brunch prepared at 10am or join us at the brunch at 11am.
In gratitude and peace,
I am convinced in reading the opening passages of the Acts of the Apostles that it is Luke’s primary purpose to make sure the early church is oriented to that which is at the heart of the proclamation and passion of Jesus. The central message of Acts 1:1-14 resonates not only in the time of the apostles and the early Church, but for those who would follow Jesus today and the preaching and practice of our churches as well.
The passage opens with Luke orienting the reader to where we are in the overarching story (it is generally agreed that the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts is the same person) and confirming the continuity of Jesus’ message, both pre-Resurrection and post-Resurrection. As he did before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus speaks to his followers about that transformative reality called the “kingdom of God” (verse 3). The focus, therefore, of his proclamation has not changed after the Resurrection. The message remains the same: the kingdom of God.
Now we have to imagine that the disciples are in a tricky position, and we get the idea, when Acts opens, that they are contemplating leaving Jerusalem (4). After all, for the followers of Jesus, his arrest, torture and crucifixion must have not only been emotionally and psychologically traumatic for them, but also a warning as to what the authorities might choose to do to them as well should they stick around and “stay the course.” But Jesus “enjoins” them to remain in Jerusalem, despite their fear and despite the danger. He assures them that the promise about which they have heard him speak is imminent—reaffirming again that that promise has to do with the in-breaking of the kingdom of God, the object of the verse just prior.
The disciples, however, continue to mistake the “kingdom of God” with their own less lofty, more immediate ambitions regarding the “kingdom of Israel.” In verse 6, they question Jesus not about his “speaking on the kingdom of God,” but rather want to know whether he is going to “restore the kingdom of Israel.” Jesus’ response to the disciples is curt and to the point—a good paraphrase would be: “That is of no concern to you.” Jesus instead re-orients them to the task that they are going to undertake in the world (Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth)—specifically to be his witnesses, those who will testify as to the truth of what Jesus said and did during his lifetime. And again, the message of Jesus’ actions and words throughout the Gospel of Luke (and now in the Acts of the Apostles) is not the restoration of Israel but the in-breaking of the kingdom of God.
Then, like Elijah before him (another prophet that criticized the religious and political powers of his time), Jesus is “lifted up” and disappears (verse 9). Now the disciples are left in a rather awkward posture, standing (maybe mouths agape, slack-jawed?), looking up at the sky (verse 10). Whereas Jesus had been attempting to re-orient the disciples away both their own worldly ambitions and their belief in a limited and ultimately doomed political reality (the kingdom of Israel), two new emissaries (“dressed in white” clues us in to the fact they were representatives of God) will now re-orient their attention away from “heaven” and back to the world around them, the world in which they will play out their roles as witnesses to Jesus and his proclamation of the kingdom of God (verse 11).
Implicit in Acts 1:1-14 is the call to give our allegiance to that kingdom which Jesus proclaimed—the kingdom of God—and not to give our allegiance to some partial, flawed political reality, be it the kingdom of Israel for the disciples then or the church’s embrace of U.S. empire in our own time. Secondly, the passage also challenges any interest the church may have in an “other-worldly” theology, a pre-occupation with “heaven,” and its parallels, the after-life and a salvation primarily concerned with what happens after we die. Instead, the passage, like the two men dressed in white in verses 10-11, challenges the church to stop looking up to the sky and to start looking around us—to make this world its concern, to understand our mission as being about the here-and-now, and that through how we live our lives—what we say and do—will we give witness to Jesus and the kingdom of God which he proclaimed: a kingdom where the oppressed are set free, the blind see, the poor have the good news of God’s special attention and concern for them preached and practiced by the church, where we love our enemies and do good even to those who would harm us.
Luke insists right off the bat that the church’s mission has nothing to do with aspirations for worldly power nor a pre-occupation with “heaven” and a “pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die” otherworldly theology. Our churches today would do well to remember this.
This week at the Roundtable, we are really fortunate to have one of our own, Tatiana Gumucio, share her experience living with and working among indigenous communities in Bolivia. Tatiana, a parishioner at Holy Faith Catholic Church and a grad student in anthropology at UF, has been a regular volunteer with the Breakfast Brigade and has already shared with several of us some of what she was working on this past summer. At the Roundtable, she’ll share with us some of her project: studying the relationship of power between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Amazonian indigenous communities. Specifically she’ll talk about the Yuqui, a hunter-gatherer society, and the challenges they face as modern society encroaches upon their land and their way of life. She’ll talk about the struggle of indigenous people in Latin America, their efforts to assert their rights, and the dynamic between those acting as their advocates and the people themselves. Join us if you can, and as always, feel free to bring a dish to share!
Also this week: On the last Saturday of each month, we’ll be showing a new documentary at the house, starting this Saturday at 7pm with God Grew Tired of Us, a film about three “lost boys” of Sudan, their escape from the war, and their immigration to the U.S. Feel free to join us!
And THANK YOU to all of you who responded to our request for extra volunteers at Dorothy’s Cafe! We have had an excellent turnout of volunteers the past 3 cafes, and it has made the preparation, serving and clean-up of this meal go so much smoother. As has been our experience from the start, it is especially gratifying to see people who are homeless working alongside students, church folks, retirees, and others. It has been one month since we started this “new schedule”, and we’re now evaluating how this experiment of going from 3 cafes a month on Sunday to 8-10 cafes a month during the week (and one weekend celebration each month too!) is impacting us–in terms of volunteers, capacity, finances, etc.
Also, some folks who cannot get to the cafe regularly have asked about how else they can help. One area we can always use help with is contributions of food, especially butter (preferably real butter) and fresh, in-season fruit (click here for links to area farmers’ markets to find out what is in-season). You can drop off donations anytime after 12pm everyday except Sunday.
We are still in need of more volunteers to help out regularly with Dorothy’s Cafe. We’re experimenting this fall by offering the cafe 8-9 times a month, instead of 3, and we’re doing it on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from noon to 6pm. It would be SO good to have 4-6 volunteers throughout the day; right now we’re operating usually on only 2-3 for most of the day.
Here are some perfect times to think about volunteering; it would be great to have a team of at least four people at each of these times: 10am to noon – Preparation (chopping fresh vegetables, setting the tables, baking bread, cutting flowers, making things beautiful and welcoming); noon to 2pm – Lunch Serving (serving soup and bread, keeping up with dishes, visiting with guests, etc); 2 to 4pm – Prep/Serving/Clean-up (cleaning up from lunch, preparing more food if necessary, visiting with guests, etc); and 4 to 6pm – Early Dinner Serving and Clean-up (serving soup and bread, breaking down the kitchen and dining room and cleaning everything up). Of course, all of this also includes eating some of the most delicious soup and hime-baked bread you will find anywhere!
We especially will need extra help this Thursday, from noon to 5pm. I (John) will be out-of-town at a meeting and we’ll be a little short-handed.
So, regular, committed volunteers would be great, but even if you can only come for an hour every once in awhile, please join us! We need you!
ROUNDTABLE: This week at the house, we’re excited to have Patrick O’Dell, our good friend and extended community member, as our speaker for Thursday’s Roundtable. Patrick is a student at UF, and for the past year he has been off having some incredible experiences, literally around the world. Patrick will lead a discussion for us on WWOOF-ing, i.e. Willing Workers on Organic Farms (or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), share his experiences WWOOF-ing in New Zealand this past year, give us a little background on this movement, and some of what he learned about organic food, sustainability practices, and more.
SCRIPTURE: And join us this Tuesday at 6pm as we dive into the book of Acts for scripture study this semester. We promise you that you’ll encounter scripture like never before.
For the rest of this week’s schedule, click here.
As always, thanks for your support and generosity!
Last night, we had our first scripture study, focusing on the Acts of the Apostles, for the Fall semester. It is now a tradition that at our first session together, we don’t even crack open our bibles. Instead, we take the time to learn a little bit about each other, about the folks who will accompany us as we study together. This is no rote task, along the line of “introductions” which typically happen at the beginning of many gatherings. Rather, it is part and parcel of our reading of scripture.
At the GCW, the study of scripture is really the study of the intersection between three primary stories: the story we’re looking at in scripture, but also the story of our own personal history, and the story of the wider society, the culture of which we are a part. We start with the premise that the story we study in scripture will challenge and critique aspects of both our own story and the story/stories of our culture. So we begin by sharing a little bit of where we are coming from–who we are, what is going on with us now, what our background is.
The process of doing this revealed several things, but the most important thing it revealed was the great diversity of people in our room. For me, this is the great strength of scripture study at the GCW. As one of last night’s participants said (to paraphrase), “What I appreciate about studying scripture at the GCW is that we are all so different, coming from different places, different perspectives. Whenever I have studied scripture elsewhere, it was always with a group that had so much in common–same age, race, religion, class, experiences, etc.” In our living room last night, we had people who were homeless and people who had homes; we were black, brown and white and various shades in between; some came from middle-class and upper-class families, and others from working class or poor families; students and parents and workers and immigrants and … You get the picture I think.
Such diversity does not lend itself to easy agreement and quick consensus about what is going on in any particular passage, or what it might mean for us today. We get to wrestle with it some, creatively and vigorously. And for those in the group who share a common background of privilege like myself (white, middle-class upbringing, male and straight, citizen of the world’s greatest current empire), by sitting in a circle with people who have been marginalized or relegated by others with power and influence to a “lower” status in our society, I get reminded about what these stories originally meant to those early generations of Jews and Christians who wrote them and experienced them, and whose experience by and large was more in synch with people on the underside of empire today. Over the years, I have been guided by these folks with whom I am in relationship to understand these stories in ways that have been uncomfortably challenging but deeply transforming for me and my discipleship to Jesus.
It is a favorite dictum of mine that “scripture was written by, for and about people on the underside of history.” The bible is the great exception to the rule that “history is written by the winners.” The fact of the matter is that these stories came from a people (Israel, and later, the early church) which continually found themselves on the margins of power, or more likely, oppressed and persecuted by the great powers of the age (Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Rome, et al)–losers in history’s great game. Our biblical ancestors, as a nation, had more in common with Iraq or Afghanistan, than with the United States. I think this why for those of us in middle-class churches in the United States, the stories of scripture seem to lack the power for revolution that the early church felt, and that millions of impoverished people in Latin America, Asia, Africa and elsewhere experience when they read these stories today. Maybe our own self-sufficiency and comfort, and the stories of Madison Avenue, Wall Street and the Pentagon clog up our ears, muting Jesus’ revolutionary proclamation of the kingdom of God. But like the book says, ‘”those with eyes to see, and ears to hear…”
So this is a standing invitation to anyone who wants to join us. You can come regularly, or just drop in whenever your schedule allows you. We meet on Tuesday evenings, starting at 6pm (usually with a quick simple dinner for the hungry), then go to about 7:30pm. We’ll be studying the rather exciting and action-packed story of the Acts of the Apostles. And we’ll be posting here a few insights each week for anyone who cannot get to the GCW’s Jubilee House but wants to play along at home. Hope to see you next week!
So, we’re off and running! Last week was our first week experimenting with the new schedule, and it was both busy and exciting. Between the Tuesday and Thursday cafes, we served about 175 meals; both Wednesday and Friday Breakfast Brigades came off without a hitch, sharing breakfast with about 150-180 folks between the two days; Thursday was our first Roundtable, with twenty of us sharing a meal and welcoming ritual for new community members Patrick, Iris, and Baby Moraa; and numerous visits from old friends–students and volunteers, homeless folks happy to know our door is open to them, and many others.
This Tuesday, at 6pm, we start our regular scripture study at the house for the semester. We try to do scripture a little different at the GCW than what some of you may be used to in your churches, from Sunday school, etc. We start with the premise that these stories have something really thought-provoking and life-changing to tell us about the world in which we live. We emphasize that the stories in Scripture are critiques of our own culture and our own society, and the stories that various segments of society try to indoctrinate us with regarding questions about value, meaning, what it means to be human, what our responsibilities are to one another and more. We believe that the story about the Reign of God, which is at the heart of Scripture, is a story which critiques the world we live in–its various systems be they political, economic, religious, etc–and challenges us to live our lives in such a way as to give witness to a deeper reality, an alternative vision of what this world could be. So, if you feel so inclined, join us Tuesdays, starting around 6pm, for some soup and bread and the study this semester of the book of the “Acts of the Apostles.” (Check back here on Tuesday morning for a post on how we approach scripture at our studies.)
Thursday at 6pm, we’re excited to have Amanda Haymond from the City of Gainesville’s Office on Homelessness join us as our Roundtable speaker. Amanda is a VISTA volunteer, and her specific project is the “Faces of Grace Speakers’ Bureau,” aimed at providing speakers who are or have been homeless to area groups, schools, and places of worship. Remember that the Roundtable is a potluck affair, so bring a dish to share if you can, or just show up. We start at 6pm and finish up at about 7:30pm.
And lastly, please join us in volunteering this week at any of our Breakfast Brigades (Wed and Fri at 4:15am) or Dorothy’s Cafes (anytime between 9:30am and 5:30pm). We’ve been a little short-handed and sure could use both folks willing to commit to being a regular volunteer for any of these projects or folks who can show up just whenever they have some free time. If you’re interested especially about being part of the regular “team” for any of these projects, please let us know so we can count on you.
For the rest of this week’s schedule, click here.
Thanks for all your support,