Ched Myers: What Prophetic Tradition Will You Apprentice To?

“Wade in the Water.” Postcard of a river baptism in New Bern, N.C., around 1900.

“Mark’s prologue portrays the world of Roman-occupied Palestine in political, social, economic and religious crisis. Historically we know that in this context, tensions stemming from imperial forces of domination and “globalization” gave rise to prophets who called their people to radical change. John took his cue from the wilderness tradition, and Jesus from John. If we are to be followers of that Jesus, we must also make choices in the conflicted terrain of our world about what prophetic traditions we apprentice to and what social movements of liberation we help build as individuals and as church. However controversial or consequential such choices may be, such is what it means to be a disciple of the Great Disciple of God’s Kingdom.”–Ched Myers

Abbot Philip: ‘We are not called to be unctuous or overly sweet or overly pious in a bad way.’

Today we have an odd collection of readings.  Job, in the first reading, is so depressed and overwhelmed by the awfulness of life that he is sure that he will never see happiness again.  The ending of the Book of Job, of course, shows him totally restored and once again happy.  All of go through periods, however, in which we have some doubts about the happiness of this life, some doubts about God’s care for us and perhaps even a lot of doubts about our capacity to keep on living.The second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, is about preaching the Gospel.  The word, Gospel, means Good News or Good Tidings.

This is a huge contrast to the feelings of Job in the first reading.  Paul is willing to give his whole life to preaching the Gospel and will receive no human recompense at all.  Why?  Because he knows that only in this way can he also share in the promises of the Gospel.You and I are called to preach the Gospel in the way we live each day.  It is not as though we must leave what we are doing, get on the road and go about talking.  No, we are invited to live in such a way that people will become interested in the Gospel just by seeing how we live. Mark’s Gospel picks up this same theme of preaching the Gospel.  Jesus Himself tells us that He has come to proclaim the Gospel.  No matter if He is tired, not matter if He is pushed on all sides—still, He knows that the Father has sent Him to proclaim the Good News.We are invited today to live with Christ.  It is He who lives in us.  All we need to do is allow His presence to shine through us.  We don’t have to do anything spectacular.  If we live with love and care for others, this shows through us.  If we are willing to suffer for Christ, this also shows through us.  We are not called to be unctuous or overly sweet or overly pious in a bad way.  We are called to know Christ’s love for us and to respond to that love by loving others.–Abbot Philip,OSB, Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico

Cracking the Architecture of Despair

I had a wonderful time Tuesday night at the Servant Leadership School in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Thanks to Tim Kumfer, I was able to debut material from my upcoming book Who Killed Donte Manning?: The Story of an American Neighborhood. It’s due out in May 2009 from Apprentice House press at Loyola College in Baltimore.

I appreciated the response from the audience who asked the essential question of our day – and maybe any day: How do we maintain hope in times of despair?

Since we were talking about urban architecture and how it influences the soul of a community, I answered citing Mark 13:1-2 as an example. And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” and Jesus replied, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.”

When we survey the “great buildings” around us – which we might understand to be the overarching architecture of despair – we hear Jesus saying: See this mighty facade meant to intimidate you and make you feel small and helpless? I say to you: Not one pebble of despair will remain because I will destabilize these monuments to might by cracking their foundations with hope.

Hope is a decision we have to make every day. Just like they say in A.A., you’ve just got to be hopeful for the next 24 hours. We are surrounded by a world that is addicted to despair. The addiction is to hopelessness, and therefore helplessness. But we can decide to resist that addiction by being intentional about choosing to live in hope. We make that decision every day, one day at a time.

One thing that helps us choose hope is by breaking down the architecture of despair into its component parts. Learn the details of the stories inside that architecture. In every way and in all places, the actual human stories within the facades will reveal – yes, terror, yes, great injustice – and also, always, human ingenuity, compassion, love, acts of kindness, an irrational acts of hope that crack the foundations of the architecture of despair..