(Image Source: Wikipedia)
It's time for another entry in the ongoing series "The Preachers", in which I look at some of the United States' most influential spiritual/religious leaders. All of the previous entries are of people who had their biggest impact in the 20th Century, even if they were born in the 19th. This post, however, will take us back to the Antebellum Period, when the Industrial Revolution was just taking off in the North and cotton was king in the South. Oh, and there were thousands and thousands and thousands of Black slaves.
The slaves, coming from various countries (mostly in west Africa), originally spoke different languages and followed different religions. From Kimberly Sambol-Tosco at PBS:
At the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade, African religious beliefs and practices were numerous and varied. In addition to a wide variety of polytheistic religions, a significant portion of the continent had for centuries fallen under Islamic influence. Despite this diversity, there were some common threads across cultural groups. For instance, West African societies, the largest source for American slaves, shared a belief in a Supreme Creator, a chief deity among lesser gods, to whom they prayed and made sacrifices. Through laws and customs honoring the gods, the ancestors of one's people, and the elderly, West Africans sought a harmonious balance between the natural and spiritual worlds. Further, they made music and dance vital components of their worship practices. Enslaved men and women kept the rites, rituals, and cosmologies of Africa alive in America through stories, healing arts, song, and other forms of cultural expression, creating a spiritual space apart from the white European world.
C.S. Lewis (Image Source)
An excerpt from today's reading of my Lenten devotional book, "Preparing for Easter" by C.S. Lewis, titled "What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?":
Then we come to the strangest story of all, the story of the Resurrection. It is very necessary to get the story clear. I heard a man say, ‘The importance of the Resurrection is that is gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.’ On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men, the difference being that in Christ’s case we were privileged to see it happening. This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought. Something perfectly new in the history of the universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door, which had always been locked, had for the very first time been forced open. This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival. I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival. I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival. On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion, Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost. The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection as something totally different and new. The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe. Something new had appeared in the universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into ‘ghost’ and ‘corpse’. A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?...
The Last Supper.
Today is Maundy Thursday, A.K.A., the day before Black Friday. From Wikipedia:
Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries, among other names) is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the Canonical gospels. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday....
While straightening up earlier, I came across the above picture made by Z. She explained it as, "the name of my new song I'm writing." She never ceases to amaze me.
The message- "Be you."- made me smile. A little command to remain. It made me think of I Corinthians 12:14-27:
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many....
Yup, we're weird. Maybe even Carrie just before getting that bucket of pig's blood dumped on her-type weird. Or maybe the after. Most definitely after if you're Pentecostal. (Sissy Spacek in "Carrie". Image Source: Memorable TV)
A few chapters into Rachel Held Evans' 2015 book "Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church", this passage just jumped out at me this morning:
Death and resurrection. It’s the impossibility around which every other impossibility of the Christian faith orbits. Baptism declares that God is in the business of bringing dead things back to life, so if you want in on God’s business, you better prepare to follow God to all the rock-bottom, scorched-earth, dead-on-arrival corners of this world— including those in your own heart— because that’s where God works, that’s where God gardens. Baptism reminds us that there’s no ladder to holiness to climb, no self-improvement plan to follow. It’s just death and resurrection, over and over again, day after day, as God reaches down into our deepest graves and with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead wrests us from our pride, our apathy, our fear, our prejudice, our anger, our hurt, and our despair. Most days I don’t know which is harder for me to believe: that God reanimated the brain functions of a man three days dead, or that God can bring back to life all the beautiful things we have killed. Both seem pretty unlikely to me.
Tupac Shakur (Image: Flickr Zennie62/ Creative Commons)
Yesterday, I went back to 1997, and before I head Back to the Future, I want to stop off in October when Tupac's first posthumous single, "I Wonder if Heaven Got A Ghetto"" was released.
My Mom shook her head at it incredulously. "Of course Heaven won't have a ghetto! If it did, it wouldn't be heaven!" I'd laugh at her repeated response, and actually the fact she was even listening to Tupac along with me at all. But something about the song simultaneously fascinated and frightened me. A segregated Heaven- even if filled with some of the best musicians and singers and chock full of very worldly pleasures- wasn't Heaven. Was it?
Happy Sunday, All. I've been to church and Starbucks, the forecast for today and the next couple days is above freezing, so I'm feeling pretty optimistic.
In pondering what I'd post about today, I considered the big pop culture story of the week: the downfall of Bill Cosby. I linked to a few stories about him on the blog's Facebook page and wound up reaching over a thousand people, which I believe is the best numbers I've ever received there. Comparatively, the story I did a week ago marking the anniversary of my sister's death hit just under 200, while my random stuff hovers around 30 to 40.
Despite the huge uptick in views, I just don't want to go into it here. Primarily because I don't have anything of consequence to add to ever-increasing list of alleged victims, the possible years of coverup, or even constructive criticism of how the media is covering it. You know the old saying about if you have nothing good to say? I don't have good, bad and the story is already ugly. I'll just recommend Ta-nahesi Coates's "The Cosby Show" piece at The Atlantic, and a follow-up interview he did with On the Media about it. And if, for some bizarre reason Mr. Coates ever lands here, I want to say, please do not carry any burden about how you chose to handle the Cosby story those many years ago. Forgive yourself.
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus....