This week’s post comes from David and Leann Augsburger, two semi-retired people who co-lead a home base church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care, and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.
1. Christmas Peppernuts. Peffernuesse, Paepamaet, Zuckernuesse, Sockanaet, whatever your Russian Mennonite tradition called them, these are the essential taste that whispers “Christmas is coming.” Leann has a recipe that her family prefers (actually borrowed from the Harms family in Dallas. OR. Once tasted in the Fresno Pacific dorm rooms and they stuck.) We just sent a bag to Nanjing, China for our daughter at the seminary there. Pages 364-402 in Norma Voth’s Mennonite Foods and Folkways from South Russia, Good Books, 1990, is essential reading for all who do not come from Russian roots.
2. Handel’s Messiah. Where ever you live, you are likely in driving distance of a performance of or a “sing a long” celebration of the finest Christmas staple. Last week, one of the most distinctive performances for this Christmas, was on skid row in downtown Los Angeles, where musicians from the LA Philharmonic and the Colburn School of Music did the second annual “Messiah Project” at the Midnight Mission. Singers from the famed L A Master Chorale joined with members of the Urban Voices Project who come from the skid-row community. When tenor Don Garcia, a Desert Storm veteran and long time skid-row resident sang “Comfort ye,” making every word count, his conviction was so intense on the phrase “that her iniquity is pardoned,” that people in the chorus as well as the audience put down their books to dab their eyes. It was like the emotional response of the people in Dublin in 1742 at the first presentation of the masterwork.
3. More-with-Less Cookbook. Doris Longacre’s masterpiece is praised in “Recipes for a Revolution,” by Lee Hull Moses, in the December 7 issue of Christian Century, not just for its creative collection of healthful, economical, environmentally sustainable recipes, but even more for the radical theology of food that provides the basis for rethinking what we eat and why we eat it. We quote it at our potlucks at Peace Mennonite, and we celebrate it as either Karen or Mark McReynolds leads worship or presents a message since it was the cookbook that drew them to explore the Mennonite Community when they first met More with Less in California and then encountered it in many homes in the Dominican Republic. This New Year’s evening we will recommend that everyone bring something to our fellowship time from More with Less to give thanks for Doris, her faith and her practice as a theologian for the hungry 21st century she did not get to see, and to observe the 40th anniversary of her book’s first publication.
4. “Take the President Elect seriously, but not literally.” In the September issue of The Atlantic, Serena Zito, a journalist reporting from Pittsburgh, made an observation that is frequently repeated. “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” Multiple voices on the transition staff have cited this as a Rosetta Stone for deciphering public statements. On the left, heads are scratched trying to make sense of statements that seem incoherent, on the right, one hears equal puzzlement in interpreting what is certainty one day and ignored the next (see “His exact words matter,” Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times, Dec 6, A11). The question keeps recurring in most conversations—What was said?—What was meant?—Was it to communicate? Or to distract? Or to excite? Is it to reveal, to conceal, or part of a deal?
5. Fake News. A news release may be well-written, authoritative in tone, astounding in its expose’ of person, organization or event, but fabricated, a fabric of lies—fake news. How do we discern, dismiss, and “dis” this stream of news flashes that are pure—often impure—fiction? We are discussing the article by historian Kevin Levin in The Smithsonian. My daughter and I are talking about many of her University of Wisconsin students who fail to differentiate between what is real and what is fake. We are discussing the research that reveals how widespread the problem has become. The article that sparks our dialogue is from NPR, “Study finds that students have dismaying inability to tell fake news from real.”