Monthly Archives: February 2012
SCHEDULE CHANGES: For the upcoming Spring Break week, we’ve made a few changes to the schedule for this week. The biggest change is that there will be NO Breakfast Brigade this coming Friday. Next Brigade will take place on March 16. For other changes for this week, click on the link above to the “This Week at the GCW” page.
SPRING BREAK AND THE FAST FOR FAIR FOOD: Just like the vast majority of our community, we curtail our projects during the week of Spring Break. None of our regular projects will happen between Friday, March 2, and Sunday, March 11. Most of our community will be gone, but Kelli and I will be present at the house during the week in case there are any emergencies for any of our friends who stop by regularly. Saturday, March 10th was scheduled to be our monthly workday at the micro-farm, but Jade and Lynn have switched the date to Saturday, March 24th instead. Additionally, from March 5-10, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will be holding a 6-day fast outside the headquarters of Publix Supermarkets in Lakeland. John will be participating in the fast and be present with the CIW on Monday and Saturday of next week. You can find more information about the fast here. We encourage you to consider joining the fast in solidarity for one day sometime next week and take action as the CIW website suggests.
ROUNDTABLE ON CONGO CONFLICT, AFRICA DEVELOPMENT WORK: Our speaker at this Thursday’s Roundtable, from 6;30-8pm, will be Tshibangu Kalala. Tshitshi is a national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a second year Master of Development Practice student at University of Florida. He spent 10 years working on development projects in Congo and Kenya with organizations such as MSF-Doctors without Borders. Tshitshi will speak about the history and current politics of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC is ranked last in the world’s HDI (Human Development Index) rankings despite phenomenal richness of resources. Moreover, since its independence, the nation has withstood years of autocratic rule and violent civil wars. If you can bring a dish to share, that would be great!
Hope everyone has a great rest of this week, and best wishes for fun and safety to our friends going on Spring Break next week!
Thanks too for the great response to our “ask” last week for some folks who could commit to a regular weekly or monthly volunteer slot. We got a few extra folks who are doing once-a-month Breakfast Brigade slots (still could use a few more), 2 new cafe volunteers, a regular Tuesday coffee shop volunteer, and more!
Hope you can drop by and see us this week or help out!
LOOKING FOR A FEW REGULARS: So much of what we do at the GCW is possible because of our volunteers. And among our volunteers, the ones who really serve as linchpins for our various programs are those who can commit to a regular weekly gig with us. This semester, we could really use several more folks who can commit to a weekly slot (or even a monthly slot) for several of our projects. For the Tuesday Coffee Shop, from 1-3pm, it would be great to have 1-2 regular volunteers each week, even if you can commit only for 1-2pm each week, or 2-3pm each week. For the Wednesday Cafe, we could really use 1-2 weekly volunteers for the late shift to help with closing and clean-up, say between 2-4pm. And for Breakfast Brigade on Friday mornings, we could use a handful of people who could maybe commit to being scheduled for one Friday a month, like every first Friday, or third Friday, etc. (We especially need some more guys to act as regulars for Brigade.) If you can commit to a regular gig with us, it would be a great help. Let us know!
NEEDS FOR THIS WEEK: We especially need some help with Breakfast Brigade this week. We’re short about 4 volunteers so far. Let us know if you can help out!
FIRST MICRO-FARM MONTHLY WORKDAY IS A SUCCESS: Thanks to a great response, a whole bunch was accomplished at the micro-farm this past Saturday. We had Barbara from last year’s JustFaith group join us, Bob U. (our retired prof), four students from Eastside High School (Zac, Eric, Andrew and my son Johnny), loyal Brigader Tim, former house member Daniel, current house member Vickie, plus Lynn, Jade and Maya (with me dropping in intermittently!). New beds were dug and framed, land cleared, other beds were weeded, etc. We’ve been getting onions, cabbage, kohlrabi, radishes and more from the micro-farm to use at the cafe and share with our friends and guests. Mark down March 10th for our next workday and join us if you can. See the photos Lynn took below…
SCRIPTURE STUDY AT HOLY FAITH: If you’re looking for a good way to prepare for the Lenten season, Johnny will be presenting a talk at Holy Faith Catholic Church (747 NW 43rd Street) on Saturday from 9:30am to noon. We’ll be exploring the Sunday readings for Lent to get a better sense of everything that led to that Good Friday long, long ago. All are welcome. And if you’re looking for some reflections from our regular Monday Scripture study on Matthew’s gospel, click here to see the latest entries.
Hope to see you this week!
At the end of chapter three of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus (and us as readers) hears the voice of God proclaim, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” This proclamation sets the scene for what happens in chapter 4.
Following his encounter at the Jordan with John, Jesus retreats to a place by himself, left to figure out what this means, this proclamation that he is the beloved son of God. In some sense, Jesus’s retreat to the wilderness calls to mind the Native American idea of a “vision quest,” a turning point in one’s life where a young man figures out whom he really is and what that means. So we have Jesus, at the beginning of chapter four, fasting and alone in the desert, possibly unpacking what has just happened in his encounter with John.
The eleven verses that make up the “temptation” passage are rife with Exodus imagery. Jesus being led into the desert where he spends 40 days and 40 nights fasting should recall to us the story of Israel, a people freed from Egypt and led by the spirit into the desert for a time of testing that lasts 40 years. But whereas Jesus’s ancestors spent their time in the desert complaining about there not being enough food or drink (and God answering with manna and flowing water from the rock), fashioning a golden calf and worshipping it instead of God, and so on, Jesus will meet the challenge of his testing. The Israelites are tested and falter time and time again during their 40 years, but Jesus will recapitulate their time in the desert with his 40 days—but he will meet the tests and remain faithful to God.
The devil starts the questioning of Jesus with an interesting conditional phrase: “IF you are the Son of God…” This phrase is attached to the proclamation at the end of chapter 3, connecting the two passages, and hinting to us that the very thing which Jesus was contemplating while in the desert was indeed what happened in the Jordan with John and what does it mean. And the devil has some easy ways for him to unequivocally answer the question of his identity. “IF you are the son of God…” well, then, do this and you’ll know for sure. Right? But Jesus doesn’t take the bait, recalling instead the words from Deuteronomy, words that again recall the manna passage and the Israelites own crying out for God to give them something to eat.
In the second temptation, the devil evokes in Jesus a powerful emotion—fear. He perches Jesus on the top of the temple and again suggests that a way of being sure about his identity is to throw himself off, even quoting scripture (the devil can quote scripture too!) as to how the scenario should unfold. But Jesus resists again, quoting Deuteronomy.
The final temptation offers us some interesting political analysis. The insinuation in verses 8-9 is that the kingdoms of the world belong not to God, but to the devil—they’re his to give. These verses should cause all of us to be skeptical of aligning any kingdom, any political ideology, any economic empire, any nation or state, with the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not equivalent to any political reality we might find here on earth. And no matter what good we think we might be able to do by wielding the power that comes along with positions of status and influence within such systems, we would do well to remember Jesus’ refusal to make any deals with the devil to be the master of such power (again by quoting Deuteronomy).
Whereas the Israelites time of testing and preparation as the chosen people of God was a series of failures and mistakes, Jesus realizes his identity as God’s chosen son by meeting each challenge and remaining faithful.
Thanks to everyone who came out for last week’s Roundtable, a very informative and challenging presentation on simplicity and sustainability with Dave Chynoweth. We had about 22 people come for the Roundtable and to enjoy the HOMEMADE LEMON MERINGUE AND CHOCOLATE PECAN PIES that Kelli made. You never know what you’ll miss if you don’t show up!
ART FOR ALL IS BACK! Our popular program, Art for All, will be happening on Tuesdays during the Coffee Shop this semester. Local artists lead folks in creating beautiful arts and practical crafts from recycled and up-cycled materials for personal use or to sell. Everyone is welcome to attend and participate and it is always good to have an extra few people willing to volunteer and help out while also participating! Let us know if you can make it.
MONTHLY WORKDAY AT THE MICRO-FARM SATURDAY: Jade Allen and Lynn Chacko, supporters of the GCW, have offered a partnership between the GCW and their urban micro-farm just a few blocks from UF. This Saturday will be our first regular monthly workday, as we help with farm chores to ensure a good bounty to share with our friends and neighbors at the cafe and through distribution. It would be great to have a nice large group to do the work! This is a great opportunity for organizations looking for a service project too! Contact us at the GCW if you plan on coming for any time between 9am and 3pm on Saturday. You can also call Jade at 352-213-4053 or 352-337-0817 to get directions and let him know you’re coming! And don’t forget that every Thursday, between 8am-noon, we’ll be doing chores at the farm too if you want to come out.
VOLUNTEERS FOR THE FARMERS MARKET CAFE ON WEDNESDAY: If you’ve never been to Wednesday’s cafe at the house, we highly recommend it, whether you can just drop by for a quick meal or to help out. Area farmers share with us extra produce they have following the Saturday Farmer’s Market on 441. They help us to get good, wholesome, fresh, and nutritious produce to people who don’t necessarily have access to it regularly. And Kelli and her team of cooks always manage to take whatever ingredients we have on hand that week and turn it into something delicious and filling. So feel free to come by and volunteer anytime between 9:30am and 4pm, BUT especially just come by and share a meal. You’ll be glad you did.
And don’t forget that you are always welcome to join us for centering prayer and reflection (Mondays at 11:15am or Fridays at 6:45am) or Scripture Study (Mondays from noon-1pm). To read last week’s reflection on the gospel of Matthew, click here.
(For our study last week, we looked at Matthew 2:1-23. This week, we’ll do a quick overview of chapter 3 and look closely at chapter 4:1-11. Feel free to join us at noon to 1pm on Monday at the house.)
Our visions of Christ’s birth—Nativity scenes, shepherds, the manger, the angels—are shaped primarily by Luke’s gospel. The mood reflected in Christmas hymns—“Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…”—owe much to the Lucan narrative.
But the circumstances of Jesus’s birth in Matthew’s gospel are another story. All is not calm, bright, peaceful or tranquil. From the episode of Joseph finding Mary pregnant—with a child not his own—and his decision to quietly divorce here rather than face the law (death by stoning for an adulteress) on through the moment they flee Bethlehem for Egypt because of King Herod’s massacre of all boys two years and under, Matthew’s Christmas story is one fraught with danger and desperation.
In starting with chapter 2, we’re introduced to two primary characters (we’re counting the magi as one character since they are not singly distinguished from one another in anyway) in the Matthew birth narrative. While it is often debated as to what exactly “magi” are (astrologers, kings, wise men, etc.), the important characteristic of the magi in Matthew’s gospel is that they are “non-Jews,” they are Gentiles, foreigners, travelers from afar. The magi are juxtaposed with King Herod, i.e. the actual “king of the Jews”, and, to a lesser extent, the chief priests and scribes of the Judean people. It is the differences in action and orientation between these two primary characters that drives most of the plot in the verses that immediately follow.
The magi will be the first people to recognize and honor the significance of Jesus when they find him in the house in Bethlehem (no manger or stable in this story). They are “outsiders,” with no special knowledge of God outside the notice of a new star; while King Herod, the chief priests and the scribes are “insiders,” a people who possess special knowledge, the ones who know the prophets and the words of Scripture, directly descended from Abraham and Moses, bearers of God’s revelation, God’s chosen people. It is the outsiders who see and know and act in accordance with the new action God is taking in history, while the insiders are blind and ignorant and concerned primarily with their own power and any threat to that power.
There is an interesting line too in verse 3, “King Herod was greatly troubled and all Jerusalem with him” at the appearance of the magi and there words about a new king being born. We remember that Judea is occupied by the Romans and that Herod serves as a client-king, a puppet-dictator whose real power only lies in his accommodation to and willingness to serve the interests of the Romans over and against the needs of his own people. We can see throughout history how it is that “the people” become troubled whenever their local dictator is troubled: the anxiety of the dictator usually ends up being acted our through greater oppression and violence against the people over whom he rules.
Once the magi depart, without of course reporting back to Herod, we see what it will mean for the people to suffer because of Herod being troubled. As people in power so often act when faced with a threat to that power—remember that the magi came asking about the birth of the king of the Jews—Herod will unleash death and destruction on innocent, common people in order to quell any threat. His charge is to kill all the male infants and toddlers in the vicinity of Bethlehem.
So, far from that silent night, holy night and choirs of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to all people”, Joseph is forced to flee the wrath of Herod—who at this point is cast as that most evil of characters in one of the most tragic events in Hebrew history, Pharaoh and his campaign of ethnic cleansing, ordering the killing of all Hebrew slaves’ newborn baby boys (Exodus 1). Joseph flees his home (note that Mary and Joseph actually live in Bethlehem at this point, not Nazareth), with wife and newborn child, to Egypt. The Holy Family become refugees, fleeing the political violence of their homeland.
The story will ultimately bring Mary, Joseph and Jesus full circle, returning once the threat has passed, but not to Bethlehem, for fear of further repercussions from Herod’s son who now rules in his place, but rather to Nazareth, a no-name town (not mentioned in the Old Testament) on the margins of the nation. In his story, Matthew has cast upon Jesus parallels both to the Hebrew people themselves and the story of the Exodus, as well as Moses and the story of his own dangerous, extraordinary birth.
So we see many possibilities for what Matthew may want to share with us: the conflicting parts that will be played by outsiders and insiders, a revelation that is understood by those without special knowledge but missed by those who possess that knowledge and should know better, the opposition of those with power to what God is trying to do in the world, the marginal status of Jesus and his family—in particular as refugees or immigrants—and their identification with one of the “protected” peoples of Jewish law (foreigners/refugees from “widows, orphans, and foreigners/refugees”), and the identification of Jesus also with Moses and the whole history of the Hebrew people.