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Sabbath Day: Egypt and Morocco

June 18, 2015

Some readers will notice that there is no sermon on my blog separating my sabbath posts this week. That is because our children led worship this week and provided their own reflection on scripture and our common life.

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Dust of those rusty strings just one more time. Gonna make ’em shine. Stella Blue.

My sabbath day began last evening after choir practice. The Stella Blues Band brought another rockin’ summer evening at Garcia’s in Port Chester. The night was ‘deadicated’ to a local deadhead who died unexpectedly this week. His family came out to the show. I was moved by the outpouring of love from this, my other tribe, among whom I float so anonymously.

Today, of course, was overwhelmed by public events. In his encyclical, Laudato Sii, Pope Fancis evoked Saint Francis who, “shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” If we specify that ‘commitment to society’ in our time requires strengthening public institutions and addressing racial division, then this sounds like what we recognize in worship every single week at the White Plains Presbyterian Church .

These were helpful words on a day in which we grieved racial violence in Charleston, resisted (and grieved) the house vote on fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and received with hope the Pope’s new ‘climate encyclical.’ Holding all of these things together and doing something about them is how we find peace.

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Last Friday I posted the following to Facebook:

because white men can’t 
police their imagination
black men are dying…

Reading “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine.

Buy it. Read it. Read it again. Read it again.

This is our country.

When Dylann Roof walked into the historic Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last evening and shot nine black parishioners, including a pastor and state senator, he continued a long history of racial hatred and domestic terror, especially in the south. On Sept. 15, 1963, for example, four black girls — Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley — were killed when four white men bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, before churchgoers began prayer. The image above of a black Christ crucified is from a memorial window at the 16th street church, an icon to always remember this long history of racial hatred, as well as an offer of better way. In it Jesus rejects and resists, with one hand, the hatred and intolerance of our society, and with the other hand offers forgiveness and invitation. In a Facebook post today I used this image as a reminder that domestic terror on black churches is not an attack on “Christianity,” as FOX News and other proposed today, but a targeted attack on the strongest political and soul-sustaining institution in the black community.

The balance of my day was spent with neighbors and children in our neighborhood park, at Rye Playland with good friends, over dinner at a fish house in downtown Rye, and finishing a good book.

My multinational reading brought me this week to EGYPT and MOROCCO. I was so taken last week by Moroccan author Laila Lalami that I purchased her novel Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits. The novel follows a group of Moroccans who emigrate illegally to Spain in a small raft. In three sections we are told of the journey itself, the pre-history of each individual, and their fate after flight. Deeply moving.

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I also finished the 500 page Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz. Depicting Egypt during the last years of WWI and the first year of the Revolution, this is the first of three novels that comprise his Cairo Trilogy for which Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988. Several sources told me that reading Mahfouz was better than buying a travel guid to Egypt. I was struck by the stunning differences (and sometimes similarities) between the Egypt depicted in this novel and the contemporary Egypt depicted by Alaa-Al-Aswany in The Yacoubian Building, which I read last week: in particular, how little seems to have significantly changed for women.

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