Oddwalk Ministries

Justice

Symbols of Justice, Continuing the Conversation

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Among other things which is giving quite a lot of Americans something I (Orin) might call “News Fatigue,” you have the issue of some NFL players protesting racial injustices by kneeling during the national anthem before their games. [Sidebar: I might suggest reading up sometime on why the heck the anthem is played at sporting events at all.]

Anyway, as some have noted, regardless of what the national anthem signifies, those who kneel during the anthem aren’t any more protesting a flag than Rosa Parks was protesting a bus. It’s not the object or the moment which is under protest, but rather a moment in time to show one’s dissatisfaction. The Black Lives Matter movement has been very active lately in St. Louis following what is seen by many as an unjust verdict a month or so ago. The group elicits a wide spectrum of reactions from folks; I don’t mean to get into that exactly, other than to note they do organize their protests for times and places which both get people to notice, and to realize something symbolic about that particular place and time.

The tricky thing about symbols, like, say, flags, is they can mean different things to different people, and no one person gets to tell someone else what that symbol ought to mean, or that their interpretation of it is incorrect. Perhaps a certain flag to one person might symbolize freedom, bravery, and sacrifice; to another it might symbolize a nation that even over 150 years after a civil war was fought continues to, by action or inaction, let a large percentage of its citizens down in a variety of ways.

And sure, the same aspects of interpretation of symbols holds true for, for instance, flags of former nations that oppressed or killed certain humans for merely being a certain race or creed. The difference is, I hope it’s apparent, is that those who erected those flags lost wars to those who erected ours so that people could, within constitutional reason, live and express themselves as they see fit. And, while such goals were explicitly forbidden for some people under certain flags, it is also true that under ours, not all feel as if what our flag represents to some is a reality for all.

And a small addendum – if you are among the people annoyed by all this chatter on the matter, especially if all you wanted to do on Sunday afternoon was “just watch football,” then I dare say the protests are working. Your minor irritation or perhaps inconvenience is a necessary part of these things, you know, as is conversation on the matter.

So, let’s actually talk. I certainly am aware that I have friends on any and all sides of matters like these. So, if conversation arises here, fantastic. Please, just be respectful, read comments for content, and double-check how entrenched your views are, how dug in your heels are. I will try to be and do those things, anyway.

Lastly, if all we want is unity, I think this is the way, the only way there. Uniformity as a means to an end (unity) will most certainly fail. So, let’s talk.

—Orin

Living The Justice of the Sunday Scriptures

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Hi all. Shannon and Orin both are contributors at anygivensundayproject.org once or twice and year, and in fact have back-to-back reflections on the Sunday scriptures there right now. Orin wrote a bit about yesterday’s challenging Gospel passage, and Shannon wrote about this coming Sunday’s readings. We’ve posted theme here as well. But, keep visiting anygivensundayproject.org…

Does God Remain Hidden If I Remain Silent?

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Recently, I’ve ruffled a few feathers on my personal social media accounts.  While I certainly don’t enjoy making people uncomfortable, recent national and world events have propelled me to be a lot more politically outspoken than I had been before. My new mission has two parts. 1. Share my thoughts and views in an articulate…

Guardians of Hope

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“Our Hope, Our Everything”

Certain current events are understandably troubling and causing a bit of concern if you’re like us. Whether it’s the threat of war with North Korea or Venezuela, or the recent events in Charlottesville, many people have heavy hearts and some amount of anxiety about what the future holds.

At Sts. Joachim and Ann, where I (Orin) am the music director, each year the day school and the whole religious education program focus on a certain theme for the year.  And, for several years now, I have written a song to flesh out that theme and help it to dwell in the hearts and lives of the students and faculty.  One of these, “Alive in Love, Alive in God” is on our most recent Oddwalk CD.

This year’s theme at J&A is “Guardians of Hope” – which happens to tie in to an anti-bullying program at school as well.  As I pondered what the text could be for this new piece of music, I started asking myself what it meant to be a guardian of hope – how we do that in any practical way.  Especially framed by current events, the question took on particular urgency and relevance.

When it comes to recognizing hope, seeing it around us, offering it to others – all this, of course, begins and ends with God: God’s creating us in God’s own image and likeness, Christ’s self-sacrificing love, and how we recognize both of these things in those around us and what it then propels us to do.

If we truly saw each human being as created in the image and likeness of the One who created all things, and if we truly believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was for the redemption of all who choose to accept that amazing gift and is also our model for loving one another, we would never again be able to wage war, nor would we be able to see ourselves as superior to any other human being.

In short, being a guardian of hope means we recognize the Christian dignity in those around us (and in ourselves) and loving like Christ loved.  And, that’s what my new song tries to say.

Click the picture above – or right here – to view or download a PDF of it, and click here to listen to a demo recording quickly made one afternoon late last week at Church.  If you like, please feel free to use the song – for catechesis, for prayer, for any need it might fill.

And may we all be guardians of hope this year.

What the Ascension Tells Us About Social Justice

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Note: a version of this post originally appeared at Any Give Sunday Project two years ago. If you’re a regular church-goer, you surely know that the pews are at their fullest on Christmas and Easter. No surprise there. Take a moment and see if you have a guess what the next two most attended Church…

Apostle to the Apostles

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Icon of Mary Magdalene and the Apostles

Easter greetings everyone. While pondering recently what to write about today, I noticed several pieces on social media, as we celebrate these early days of Eastertide, raising Mary Magdalene up as an important part of our faith owing to her role in life of Christ.

The first rightly observes that, without her preaching the risen Lord to the Apostles, Easter Day would have been, and would be, very different. She is often called “The First Apostle” or “Apostle to the Apostles” with good reason.

 

 

 

 

Seen retweeted a few times…

The second suggests at least a darker possibility: that because such an important role in the resurrection story fell to a woman, some unnamed unknown men of the Church attempted to devalue her worth by conflating her with adulterous women found elsewhere in the Gospels – a practice that lately has been found without merit.

So today, as our weekly articles turn their attention to Justice, let us turn our attention to women of the Church. I don’t wish to enter the fray at this moment as to the roles of women in the Church – liturgically or otherwise. I do wish to point out that, as such discussions occur, we should all be mindful to not devalue someone – anyone – by seeing them in such a limited capacity: that one’s worth is defined only by something amazing they did on their best day or by something horrible done on their worst day; that one’s worth is defined only by their capacity to give birth or their inability to; that one’s worth is defined merely by things we discern with our human senses.

Our value, our Christian dignity, comes from our creation by God in God’s image and likeness, and that God comes to dwell in us: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19) Notably, the scripture doesn’t delineate here based on gender or any other divisions.

This worth comes with two other important attributes. First, it can’t be taken away from us unless we so permit that to happen. As long as we remember who we are in God’s eyes, the opinions, the labels, the divisions that humanity creates matter far less, if they matter at all. Second, once we train ourselves to know this worth both in ourselves and in one other, the world becomes a very different place – a place of justice, love, and peace.

Continued Easter blessings, Oddwalkia. Celebrate the risen lord with joy and gladness in your hearts!

–Orin

Holy Week and Catholic Social Teaching

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Pope Francis Washing Feet at a Previous Holy Thursday Celebration

Our “Jesus Justice Joy” reflection this week is a little tardy, owning to two full days of Oddwalking on Monday and Tuesday…

As we approach Holy Thursday evening and the beginning of triduum, I’m struck by how, at Thursday night’s mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Gospel is not what it seems like it should be. One would think that we’d hear one of the evangelists tell about that Passover meal. Rather, we hear in the epistle Paul describe how the tradition of that meal was handed down to him. Instead in the Gospel, we hear a narrative unique to John – the humble washing of the feet.

John’s Gospel doesn’t even include a narrative about the last supper meal the way the synoptics do. Some see the significance of this – that the description of the meal is replaced with this story of the foot washing – as one which instructs the early Christian community to live lives of solidarity and service – both important tenants of contemporary Catholic Social Teaching.

In fact, the whole evening, if one listens from a certain vantage point, is linked to issues of justice: liberation, solidarity, service…

I have often wondered why foot washing didn’t “make the cut,” so to speak, as the Church finally focused in upon seven “Big S” sacraments. It seems like it would meet the usual requirements and definitions of one. Pause for a moment and imagine if, when preparing for first communion, young people also learned about and prepared for foot washing along side of that.

How much more linked then would we as a Church find our reception of Eucharist to the command we are given just a few minutes later: Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. Eucharist, as much as it is thanksgiving is also service, solidarity, and our freedom. May we recognize it as such the next time we gather around the table.

—Orin

Justice Can Be Hard to Define

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Justice shall we pursue…

It’s quite likely you’ve seen an image on the internet the last couple of years that looks like this one – or at least looks like the first two panels of this one.  Usually, the first two panels are meant to describe the difference between equality and justice.  That image has always been appealing to me (Orin), but has also bothered me for a reason I at first couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Then the other day, I saw this version, and that particular cloud was lifted from my eyes.  It was that the barrier in front of the people trying to see the baseball game was still in place.  I immediately thought of the experiences Shannon and I have with the summer teen work and learning camp Young Neighbors in Action – youngneighbors.org – in which we often talk about not just filling the cracks that those who most need are help are falling through, but asking why those cracks are there in the first place.  The graphic talks about equality, equity, and justice.  Some before had called the second panel justice, where what justice really is, and what our faith calls us to pursue, is in that third panel.  Mercy might be the act of showing kindness and support to those suffering any affliction; justice is attempting to remove that oppression from our midst.  Click the image to take a closer look.

Isaiah 58:6-10 tells us:

Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?

Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: “Here I am!”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the accusing finger, and malicious speech;

If you lavish your food on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then your light shall rise in the darkness,
and your gloom shall become like midday.

 

When you do good works in the world, are they acts of equality, equity, mercy, or justice?  All are needed, but true works of justice are ones that might strip away even the need for the other three.  Do you help people see over the fence, or do you take that fence away?  Difficult questions for all of us, myself included.  Something to pray about this week as we enter into Lent, a time for (among other things) service and self-sacrifice.  —Orin

Common Ground

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A couple weeks ago,  I (Orin) was happy to again attend the Liturgical Composers Forum here in St. Louis, to rub shoulders with composers both quite familiar, newly-published, and all places in-between.

Orin and Cyprian

Each year there is a different presenter for the group; this year’s was Cyprian Consiglio, a composer who is also a priest and monk. He has a hidden gem of a piece in the original Sprit and Song volume, an adaptation of “As One Unknown.” It details the many ways Christ can appear before us, emphasizing in its added refrain the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Cyprian has more recently travelled extensively through Asia and brought his knowledge and passion of other world religions to his presentations and music he shared with us at the LCF. One of his talks highlighted how different religions approach Jerusalem, both physically and spiritually (symbolically), emphasizing our common ground.

The LCF week most always propels me into writing new music, and this one is no exception. My mind and heart has been pondering, leading up to this reflection on justice, how Christ appears before us in the vulnerable, oppressed, and homeless, and how all peoples share some amount – likely a large amount – of common ground, all made in the image and likeness of God.

While the music is well on its way, it’s not quite done yet. However, I *think* the text is done, and I’m happy to share it here with you today. Let us pray that what connects us to one another is stronger than what tries to divide us.

Common Ground – by Orin Johnson ©2017

REFRAIN
We all share a common, holy ground,
we all share the hope, the promise
of the One whose image is inscribed upon our souls.
We all share this holy ground.

VERSES
The earth that we walk on is sacred.
Out of nothing this world was made
by the One who said, “Let there be…”
bringing forth all things, day by day.

The flesh we inhabit is sacred.
We are filled with the breath of life
from the One who took dust and clay,
forming living souls, humankind.

The lives that we share here are sacred,
lives of justice, of holy peace.
But the One who orders all things
places love as greater than these.

The whole of creation is sacred,
All that was and will ever be.
For the One who reigns from on high
chose to make himself small, came to dwell among all,
and remains till all is complete,
and remains till all is complete.

Are you a recognizable Christian?

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As we here at Oddwalk continue along our journey of more intentional blogging, it’s my (Orin’s) turn to share a bit about the second word of our tagline, “Justice.” Though that tag line has only accompanied us for some 16 or so months now, justice has always been an important piece of who we are…