There are concerns that seem overwhelming these days, and sheltered as we all are, the social media, emails, texting, phone calls and zoom conversations become indispensable links to carry on the conversations of koinonia. The occasional coffee in the backyard with mask and social distancing is an indescribable pleasure. “Look, a real live person,” I exclaimed as a friend appeared at our garden door with a pint of sourdough starter. Conversation, communication, and contact are the stuff of communion, right? Here are a few gleanings from such exchanges this week.
- Virtually all conversations with friends in our state of California begin with our burning forests. With ash to sweep up on our doorsteps, and smoke in the air we breathe, we talk of how, when and where, not the blindness of denial. Our governor’s terse words ring true: “I have no patience with climate change deniers, it’s completely inconsistent, that point of view, with the reality on the ground.” Our visiting President’s words on global warming and climate change ring false, “I don’t think science knows, actually.” For our fellow citizens fleeing for their lives, we trust the evacuation warnings and grieve for those who are overtaken by fast moving fronts.
- Staycations, Sheltercations. Last year we were dismissive toward our friends’ purchase of a pickup and tiny trailer to save motel costs; now we look at them with jealousy as they travel safely in COVID times. The hotels and B&Bs that once were so inviting now require second thought; the freedom of the open road that the trailer provides is almost anxiety free. We are asking our friends how they get relief from cabin fever. The Big Creek fire shut out our long awaited week at Huntington Lake next door to Camp Keola (Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference camp in the high Sierras). We grieve for the catastrophic losses of forests and homes in all western states, even as we are grateful that Keola survived.
- Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson. Suggested to us by the Roos family in sharing time during our zoom worship, this book by a Pulitzer Prize winning author goes beneath the skin of racism to reveal the bones of the caste system that creates the powerful infrastructure that holds each group in place. Caste is the architecture of human hierarchy, the subconscious code of instructions for maintaining a four hundred year old social order of power distribution. Read this book for a new way of thinking about dominance and control, privilege and advantage, resources and their unequal availability in our world. Once you don these glasses that see caste, you will see it almost everywhere.
- Prayer and Politics. We circulate prayers that are published on the social media, and ask what does the Eternal Presence of Love and Justice do with the partisan requests that are sent heavenward in the name of the one called “the Lamb.” We often remind each other of W. H. Auden’s words “A petition does not become a prayer unless it ends with the words, ‘Nevertheless not as I will but as You will’.” Our Zoom worship services often become soul searching face to face encounters with each other. We carry away comments or quotations worth recalling all week, like: “Be careful when you pray, be careful what you pray, God takes us at our word,” (Dorothy Day)
- Welcoming Others. The lectionary the last two weeks has directed our house church to Romans 14 and the counsel to “welcome others as Christ has welcomed us.” Karen McReynolds, one of our pastors, suggested we take that as our axiom and guide each day when tempted to sit in judgment of our neighbor. It makes it a long week to take worship and discipleship seriously and live it out all week long.