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Signs of the Times  •  11 July 2017  •  No. 127

Invocation. “I will bow and be simple, / I will bow and be free, / I will bow and be humble, / Yea, bow like the willow tree. / I will bow, this is the token, / I will wear the easy yoke, / I will bow and will be broken, / Yea, I'll fall upon the rock.” —a Shaker hymn, “I Will Bow and Be Simple” performed The Christmas Revels

Above: Photo by Gus Ravenwheel

Abbreviated issue

This week’s column is brief to allow for some maintenance.

In his classic book on spirituality and prophetic life, We Drink From Our Own Wells, Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez writes:

        “At the root of every spirituality there is a particular experience that is had by concrete persons living at a particular time. . . . The great spiritualities in the life of the church continue to exist because they keep sending their followers back to the sources. . . . Spiritual experience is the terrain in which theological reflection strikes root. Intellectual comprehension makes it possible to carry the experience always comes first and is the source.”

        Articulating the faith—in commonplace terms or literate—is always secondary to actual living in the midst of particular, often mundane, circumstances. But we all profit from those whose capacity with words throw light on our common journey.

        In recent weeks I’ve been especially taken by the reflected experience shared by two friends. Below are excerpts.

        Finally, we close with a word of victory from the war against ISIS—which raises the question, what has been won?

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Micah Bucey, associate pastor of Judson Memorial Church in New York City, received a damning letter after the recent “Gay Pride” march. I love the way he responds with a fierce mercy and also by affirming this movement in the context of a larger Movement:

        “. . . But this year, our Pride March will be a Resistance Riot, a queer agenda that moves beyond the gay one, an embodied reminder, not only to you, but to ourselves, a reminder that we are only as queer as the last person we’ve saved, that we are only as queer as the last battle we’ve fought, that we are only as queer as the last opportunity we took to step outside our complacent commitments to assimilation and nudge ourselves back to the revolution that saved our lives in the first place.” —you can read the entirety of Micah’s response on Facebook

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Greg Yost, formerly a high school math teacher, is among the founders and leaders of Beyond Extreme Energy, an environmental group that focuses on opposing natural gas pipelines and storage facilities. (Methane, the primary component in natural gas, is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.)

        In a recent sermon in our congregation, Greg used Jesus’ statement, “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39), then recounted his Witness for Peace trip to Nicaragua when he was 19, during the US-backed Contra War during the 1980s, when the US attempted to overthrow the country’s democratically elected government.

        “. . . That short time in Nicaragua in 1986 was a defining moment in my life of faith. But I want to be clear about what it has meant subsequently. Despite the physical and spiritual drama, I did not experience the trip as some hard-won climb to a higher spiritual vantage point. Rather, it has been less about elevation and much more about orientation. It decisively affected the direction of my life’s compass needle. It has made me hold some things looser and other things much tighter than I ever would have otherwise.

        “I offer this testimony confident that many of you will have experienced a similar orienting moment in your own life of faith. If you have, I invite you to reflect on it now. One time-tested way of speaking of such things is using the language of ‘conversion.’

        “I know common religious misuse and abuse of that word may have made it off putting for some, but I’d invite you to let your guard down. Think about what it means. It’s well and good that together we have such varied ways individually of conceptualizing our spiritual lives. One way that is so, so powerful is that of simply following Jesus. We know from the gospels enough about who he is and what he will dare to do to know that moments of decision, or conversion, are an essential requirement for joining him along that way. He told us, plainly and repeatedly, that his way leads to a cross. No one sets a course thus by happenstance.”

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Benediction. “There will be a jubilee / Oh my lord oh my lord / There will be a jubilee / When the children all go free / Yeah they'll lay down their swords / They'll study war no more / There'll be a great big jubilee.” —The Devil Makes Three, “There’ll Be a Jubilee

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