“People Power” – from The Rev. Kaji Douša

July 14th,2022 Categories: Weekly Letter

Our journey into the early days of Israel’s formation of government continues with a passage that begins and ends with devastation. But, even as things are going so badly for God’s covenant people, the covenant remains, God is present and brings something holy, real and true.

Join us in worship as we look together for the ways God is present, continues to be present, will always see us through.

After worship, I invite you to something very special: pack a picnic and join The Park at the outdoor plaza at Lincoln Center as we honor and continue to learn from the late, great Greg Tate with the Burnt Sugar Arkestra! Greg’s family has asked me to co-host this incredible celebration of Greg’s life as a natural extension of his funeral celebration, also hosted at The Park last December. I do hope that you can join us for this beautifully curated spiritual journey.

Pax Christi,
Pastor Kaji

Scripture: 1 Samuel 4:2, 5-11, 19-22:

2 The Philistines deployed against Israel and the battle was lost and Israel was struck down by the Philistines, and they killed on the field of battle four thousand men.
5 Now it happened as the ark of the covenant of the FIRE OF SINAI came into the camp, all Israel shouted a great shout and the earth herself echoed it. 6 And when the Philistines heard the sound of the great shout, they said, “What is this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews?” Then they learned that the ark of the ANCIENT OF DAYS had come to the camp. 7 And the Philistines were afraid; for they said, “Gods have come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! Never has there been such a thing. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with every kind of plague in the wilderness. 9 Strengthen yourselves and be men, O Philistines, lest you become enslaved to the Hebrews as they were enslaved to you; be men and fight.”
10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated and fled, each to their tent. Now there was a very great slaughter and there fell from Israel thirty thousand foot-soldiers. 11 Then the ark of God was taken and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
19 Now Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth and when she heard the news that the ark of God was taken and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she squatted and gave birth, for her labor pains came on and overwhelmed her. 20 Then at the moment of her death, the women standing with her said to her, “Fear not, for you have given birth to a son.” But she did not answer or incline her heart. 21 She named the child “Ai Kavod,” Ichabod, meaning, “Woe [Ai]! The glory [Kavod] has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been taken.”


Memory, Whole

Mary Luti

I once saw an engraving that showed all the saints in heaven hovering over an earthly Communion table. It made an impression. Now at every Communion I feel them there. It’s not just us, the local living, in the room. We’re remembering Jesus with everyone, living and dead, in a community of faith that stretches around the world, beyond space and time.

Which is much more than a lovely spiritual thought. Consider this story from Margaret Bendroth’s book, The Spiritual Practice of Remembering:

“Shortly before he invaded Poland in 1939, Hitler reminded his staff of the Armenian genocide, 24 years earlier—a horror largely invisible to the outside world because those who knew about it chose to say and do nothing. He assured his generals that no one remembered it. And no one had ever paid a moral price for it. There’d be none to pay for this invasion either, he said, not in a world with such a short, self-serving memory.” Bendroth concludes, “The world’s unwillingness to remember one genocide, will always enable the next.”

Remembering is an ethical imperative. Whenever we gather for Communion and remember Jesus, we’re duty bound to do justice to his memory, which means to remember in such a way that what happened to him never happens again to anyone. And here’s where that engraving comes in.

We tend to remember in ways that makes us look good, absolve us, or support our side. If our remembering is going to be truer than that, and more ethical, we can’t do it alone. We need a community. And not just a local, like-minded community. We need the whole complexified memory only the vast communion of saints possesses.

For if what we remember is partial, local, or lost, we can let ourselves believe that the bigoted, violent past has nothing to do with us. We’re not the kind of people who would burn witches or look away from holocausts or criminalize the poor or enslave other human beings. Or turn Jesus in. Or nail him to a cross.

With a vast communion of saints amplifying our memories, we’re less likely to remember partially, self-servingly, in a whitewashing way. The saints say, “Well, sadly, a lot of us were that kind of people. You’re not immune from myopia, callousness, and ignorance any more than we were.” They remind us that what makes a saint isn’t perfect moral report card, but a lifetime of growth towards God. And that trajectory includes a lot of everyday and cosmic failings, requiring the sort of humble repentance and course correction that begin with facing hard truths.

If we’re ever in need of a bracing corrective to our moral amnesia, our false sense of superiority, our innocence—and we always are—we can find it at the table where remembering is what we are commanded to do. We can find it in communion with the whole sinful saintly family that crowds our tables remembering Jesus and all his precious suffering siblings who cry out to us never to forget. Eating the meal with him and them, we’ll find the strength to lift the lamp of whole and truthful witness in the world.

Remember Me, You Said

Remember me, you said, and so we come
to eat the bread and tell again your story;
remembering whole, your mercy and your joy,
your suffering and shaming and your glory.

Remember me, you said, and so we come
to drink the cup, and meet you in the sharing;
remembering whole, our faithfulness and fear,
our love and hate, our harming and repairing.

And when it’s hard to tell the story whole,
the saints assembled help us, kind and knowing, 
and lend our hearts the courage to be true
and keep the light of witness bravely glowing.

Remember me, you said, and so we come
to eat with thanks this memory meal together,
upheld in hope and bound in love’s embrace
with saints of every age, now and forever.