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Summer 2020 Book Study – Week One

Jun 10, 2020

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” 

Arundati Roy

Theme for the Week

“Goodish” People

Readings

The Person You Mean to Be – Introduction

For those who want to dive deeper: Emergent Strategy – Introduction

Scripture

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea. The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. – Mark 5:1-20

Watch

This week’s video is the introductory conversation with our anti-racism consultant, Jessica Vazquez-Torres on the “why” behind the summer book study for the Presbytery.

Reflection

As those who regard themselves as good people, how did we get here and how can we be made new? That is the question we want to ask with our summer book study that is a part of the larger work of the Presbytery as we consider ways to continue to grow into our anti-racist stance and leadership.

It’s quite the question to ask as we are in the midst of large-scale uprisings throughout our country after additional senseless murders of black men and women at the hands of police and “citizen police.” Our siblings of color are traumatized on a daily basis in our country, and the trauma intensifies with each day. For far too long we must confess that as the Church we have not felt the need to be activated around this pain, to see it for the sign of a society that is far away from the will of God and to do something about it. We have sat in safety, the safety of whiteness: whiteness of skin color and whiteness of institutional values. It is the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

That is what being “nice” and “good” is.
Safety. Security. Undisturbed-ness. Non-urgency.

The story of the Gerasene Demoniac in Mark’s Gospel tells the story of a man who had been made insane by something. He rattled around a graveyard, was prone to self-injury and was avoided by everyone in the nearby village. When Jesus comes near to him, he senses that Jesus will make him well again. But the evil spirit that has gripped him is fearful.

The more and more I consider the pernicious challenge of anti-racist work and ministry in the United States, a country built on the blood of slaughter of the indigenous and the labor of slaves, I think to myself, how can we move forward? Racism is baked in. It’s the water we all swim in. And yet, as a person of faith, as someone who loves Jesus I must acknowledge that racism is a sin that makes our whole society unwell. I consider the Gerasene Demoniac as the deeply unwell and racist society that we have in this country. And I consider Jesus as the one calling us to be well. It is not enough to be a “good” person to get healthy; we need to drive this sinfulness, this evil into something that runs off over a cliff and drowns. It is hurting everyone that much, most especially our siblings of color. In the Bible we hear the call to be reborn into a life in Jesus Christ. In order to be reborn, you have to die to something. And sometimes, being born again to the Way of Jesus might just need to happen in mid-life or even late-life. adrienne maree brown writes in Emergent Strategy that “It is so important that we fight for the future, get into the game, get dirty, get experimental. How do we create and proliferate a compelling vision of economies and ecologies that centers humans and the natural world over the accumulation of material?”

Are you ready to go on this journey this summer, to let go of shame and pick up guilt as Dolly Chugh writes about in the introduction to the book? Are you ready to perhaps meet Jesus again in a new way, perhaps even be born again, and maybe even drive something over a cliff?

I am. I hope you are too.

Action

It might be helpful to journal your way through the summer study, starting with where you are each week. How are you feeling – physically, mentally, spiritually? Where is God showing up in your life? What do you hear the Spirit saying to you? As we move through the summer months, the journal might help you track how you are doing, what the growing edges are and where Jesus is showing up. 

Take a look at the Racism Scale HERE.
Take a long, hard, honest look. Where do you fall? Where are you starting from? What were you taught? Where have you been?

 

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Presbytery of Southern New England
P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412

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