Here are five things worth paying attention to this week. These are designed to expose you to a perspective you may not normally come across in your daily lives.
One of the benefits of writing for The Mennonite toward the beginning of the month is that I will always be able to reflect on Epiphany. In a recent sermon I gave on the Magi’s visitation of Jesus, I pointed out the familiarity we feel in regards to tyrannical kings that fear being displaced by others coming into power. The Magi didn’t recognize the power they had when they asked Herod where Jesus was born and thus ignited Herod’s worst fears and wrath. By God’s grace, the Magi were divinely inspired through a dream not to tell Herod what they had found and thus returned home by another route. Maybe we should all reflect on our power in terms of our “leaders” and choose to lead and act in ways that protect the vulnerable but also lead us to encounter the divine.
2. Goodnight, Robin
A few years ago, a friend suggested the website “Your Holiday Mom,” a blog site for people who, for one reason or another, aren’t able to connect with their family over the holidays. Whatever caused the disconnection, Your Holiday Mom is written by volunteer “moms” who offer encouragement, share their holiday plans and remind readers they are loved just as they are. Recently the readership has asked that this not only be a holiday event but a year-round one. This prompted the launch of “Goodnight, Robin,” a podcast that offers people someone to say “goodnight” to. Robin Rice offers a brief reflection and connection each night. Please pass along this information to those who may struggle with grief, loss, loneliness, isolation or relationship issues. Their website can be found here.
A book I am currently reading is Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper. This book chronicles her journey of growing up as a member of the Westboro Baptist Church and her eventual departure from the church and its teachings. The most fascinating thing I’ve encountered so far is the church’s immersion into all things secular. While many of us who grew up in more conservative circles were taught to stay away from “worldly” music, movies and books, the Phelps family often told their children they needed to know what they’re against. Phelps grew up “sheltered” in terms of ideology but not in terms of the world around her. This book is a fascinating read for anyone who has made a departure from what they’ve been taught.
4. No More War
Last week the United States carried out an assassination of an Iranian general, thus further igniting tensions with the Middle East and bringing us to the brink of war. As a peace church, we oppose war of any kind. In addition, many faith leaders across the country are vocally opposed to escalating conflict with Iran, even leaders and churches that are not normally pacifist in nature. Rose Marie Berger writes for Sojourners about the “fog of war” and our ability, or inability, to see though it. Link is here.
5. Pork and sauerkraut
When I lived further east I was introduced to the New Year’s Day tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut for good luck. Since then, I’ve attempted this almost every year. While it’s not my tradition, I rather enjoy “trying on” other traditions to see if they “fit.” Since this is a rather tasty tradition, I think it’s one I’ll keep. And while it’s no longer New Year’s Day, this is still a warm, cozy dish that can be enjoyed year-round. The recipe I used can be found here.
Joanne Gallardo is pastor of faith formation at Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship in Goshen, Indiana.