Monthly Archives: March 2023

Singing Hosannas in Lent-Because We Just Can’t Help Ourselves


Matthew 21:1-11

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:5-11

Matthew 26:14-27:66

Prayer of the Day: Sovereign God, you have established your rule in the human heart through the servanthood of Jesus Christ. By your Spirit, keep us in the joyful procession of those who with their tongues confess Jesus as Lord and with their lives praise him as Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ Matthew 21:9.

Palm Sunday appears as a singular and welcome note of jubilation in the otherwise somber season of Lent. Yes, I know that the Sundays “in” Lent are not “of” Lent because they are, as all Sundays, little Easter celebrations. Nevertheless, the shadow of Lent is evident in the purple vestments, the absence of alleluias and the theme of the cross running through our Scripture lessons. So one cannot help but feel a measure of relief in this celebratory service re-enacting Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It is as though we cannot help ourselves. As the great hymn proclaims:

“No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?”

“My Life Flows On in Endless Song,” by Robert Lowry, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (c. 2006 by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; pub. by Augsburg Fortress) Hymn #763.

My need for song became painfully clear to me during the height of the Covid 19 pandemic. Like most churches, mine was not meeting for worship in person from March of 2020 until summer of the following year. When we did begin meeting again, there was no singing in our worship for several weeks. Such worship as my wife and I were able to attend was of the virtual variety. Though I am thankful that this means of connecting was available to us, I missed joining my voice with the whole community and the sense that it was being caught up with the voice of the whole communion of saints and with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven.

The absence of singing in my life affected more than my mood and spirit. One rainy afternoon in the midst of a terrible funk, I put on a CD given to me by a member of the last congregation I served. It was a fine collection of traditional hymns sung by a large professional choir backed by a robust pipe organ. Almost reflexively, I began singing along-or at least I tried. It was then that I made the troubling discovery that I could no longer sing. I struggled to reach notes previously well within my range and failed. My voice cracked and left me coughing. I hasten to add at this point that I have never had a singing voice close to American Idol quality. But I can carry a tune well enough and have always enjoyed singing. I belonged to the worship choir in college and the choirs of every church I have served or to which I belonged. I was able to sing the liturgy competently and lead singing for church school, youth groups and nursing home services, sans accompaniment when necessary. Now I was finding that I could not manage a single verse from a familiar hymn. I guess that singing is one of the many things that you have to use or lose when you get to be my age.

I was determined not to lose my ability to sing. So it was that I began chanting the psalms in my private morning and evening devotions, singing the liturgy and reading the lessons aloud. It was not pretty to begin with. I took some comfort, though, in the psalmist’s invitation to “make a joyful noise to God.” Psalm 66:1. If I could not be melodious, I could at lest be joyful and that, according to the psalmist, would suffice. Gradually, I built up my stamina. Over time, my range grew to embrace its previous tenor parameters. I was relieved to discover that my singing voice was not irretrievably lost.

I recovered something else as well. Though physically isolated from my faith community, I began to feel a kinship with it and with the whole communion of saints in my singing. It was profoundly comforting to know that the psalms I was chanting had been chanted by the people of Israel throughout their journeys in the wilderness following the Exodus, in times of triumph and defeat, in circumstances of exile and liberation. These same psalms inspired the New Testament witnesses. They have been chanted by monks for centuries. They have been and continue to be the inspiration for hymns of faith. Most significantly, I knew that they were being sung by believers around the world even as I sat singing them in my living room. Reading the words of scripture aloud gave me the realization that I was speaking with my voice words that have given life and birthed faith throughout the church’s history and continue to do so. My voice, I discovered, was not merely an instrument for my own self expression. It was also a conduit through which the Spirit was working to unite my heart with those of believers throughout the world and over time and space.

The creation is, as W. David O. Taylor has observed, “hardwired to sing.” According to the book of Job, the creation began with an outburst of cosmic song. Job 38:4-7. John of Patmos envisions the redeemed creation as a grand choir made up of every nation, tribe, people and tongue united in a song of praise before the throne of God. Revelation 7:9-11. The psalms weave into song worship, teaching, prayer and every aspect of human life from joy to sorrow, from triumph to tragedy, from cradle to grave. Mary sings of the liberating good news her unborn child will proclaim. Luke 1:46-55. Jesus and his disciples sing hymns at their last meal together, the meal giving birth to our Eucharist. Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Paul and Silas sing hymns while imprisoned at Philippi. Acts 16:25. Paul urges the churches in Ephesus and Colossae to greet one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16. In singing together, the church experiences in some measure the oneness for which Jesus prays and its unity as a single Body upon which Saint Paul insists. John 17:22-23; I Corinthians 12:12-13. Singing unites us in Triune love to God the Singer, God the Voice and God the Song as well as to one another. It joins us with the divine music that birthed the world, redeems the world and draws the world to its proper end where God is “all in all.” I Corinthians 15:28.    

“And while the reality of ‘one body’ may be experienced only partially and defectively this side of the eschaton, and while the work of church leaders to foster unity in fractured congregations is daunting, the practice of Spirit songs enables us by grace to sing ourselves into a future that Christ has prepared for us and that we can taste here an now…” Taylor, David W., “Singing Ourselves into the Future,” published in The Art of New Creation, edited by Jeremy Begbie, Daniel Train and W. David Taylor (c. 2022; pub. by InterVarsity Press), p. 132.

So we sing our hosanas under the shadow of the cross where we struggle with a resurgence of fascism, systemic racism, and a war spiraling out of control. We sing our hosanas even as we enter into the dark narrative of Jesus’ passion. We sing our hosanas because, after all, “since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can [we] keep from singing?”

Here is a poem about the spiritual power of song by Lily Augusta Long.       

The Singing Place

Cold may lie the day,

And bare of grace;

At night I slip away

To the Singing Place.

A border of mist and doubt

Before the gate,

And the Dancing Stars grow still

As hushed I wait.

Then faint and far away

I catch the beat

In broken rhythm and rhyme

Of joyous feet,—

Lifting waves of sound

That will rise and swell

(If the prying eyes of thought

Break not the spell),

Rise and swell and retreat

And fall and flee,

As over the edge of sleep

They beckon me.

And I wait as the seaweed waits

For the lifting tide;

To ask would be to awake,—

To be denied.

I cloud my eyes in the mist

That veils the hem,—

And then with a rush I am past,-—

I am Theirs, and of Them!

And the pulsing chant swells up

To touch the sky,

And the song is joy, is life,

And the song am I!

The thunderous music peals

Around, o’erhead-

The dead would awake to hear

If there were dead;

But the life of the throbbing Sun

Is in the song,

And we weave the world anew,

And the Singing Throng

Fill every corner of space—-

Over the edge of sleep

I bring but a trace

Of the chants that pulse and sweep

In the Singing Place.

Source: Poetry, (November 1912). Lily Augusta Long (1862–1927) was an American poet and novelist. She was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and decided to become a writer when she was only eleven years old. Long graduated high school in St. Paul and later took an elective course at the University of Wisconsin. As a student, she submitted verses and sketches to local papers. A few of her poems were published in Unity. In 1887, two of her stories appeared in the magazines Overland and Current. Long also edited and contributed to Women’s Record. She wrote short stories and poems for Harper’s Weekly. Under the pseudonym Roman Doubleday, she wrote pulp mysteries for The Popular Magazine. You can sample more of Long’s poetry at the Poetry Foundation website.

The Politics of Resurrection


Ezekiel 37:1-14

Psalm 130

Romans 8:6-11

John 11:1-45

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon us the power of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ and serve you in righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.” John 11:45.

So many, in fact, that the religious establishment in Jerusalem was becoming alarmed. Jesus was no longer simply a false teacher, a breaker of religious taboos and a bad moral influence. He was becoming a threat to national security. Jesus’ popularity was drawing the attention of Judea’s Roman overlords. According to John the Evangelist, this unwanted attention was a direct result of his raising Lazarus from death. Caiaphas, the high priest, is well schooled in realpolitik. Caiaphas understands the threat Jesus poses to his fragile arrangement with the world’s only superpower under which his people are permitted to exist. As distasteful as it might be, killing Jesus and Lazarus is a small price to pay for sparing the whole nation the wrath of Rome’s legions. John 11:45-53. So let us not be too hard on Caiaphas and his associates. After all, decisions like these are made by law enforcement bodies, intelligence agencies and chiefs of military staff every day.

These verses following Sunday’s gospel lesson are important because they frame the context for this final miracle of Jesus. It is, according to John the Evangelist, the straw that broke the camel’s back, the sign that made equivocally clear to the rulers in Jerusalem that Jesus must die. As such, it is an intensely political act, a frontal assault on the empire, a bold assertion that Rome’s threats of war, torture and death are finally empty. The last word belongs to life. That is a word no empire can bear to hear. How can a nation hope to rule through violence and terror when its most fearsome threat of raw, violent power-the cross-is transformed into a symbol of victory? When a people no longer fears death, how can a tyrant hope to retain control of them? The raising of Lazarus, and more so the Resurrection of Jesus, is deeply political. The reign of kingdoms, empires and nation states with their bogus claims of sovereignty, their machinery of oppression and police power is over. Be afraid Caesar; be afraid mother Russia; be afraid Uncle Sam; be very afraid.

Understand that there is nothing inherently wrong with government per se. To the contrary, government is one of God’s good gifts. It is the means by which neighbors exercise love for one another by making provision for the health of our common life together. But every gift of God is a potential idol. It becomes so when it usurps divine prerogatives. In this regard, all modern states, regardless their form of governance, have one thing in common: they all claim the sole legitimate authority to take human life. The state, unlike the rest of us, has the legal right to employ lethal force to enforce its laws, protect its commercial interests and make war on its enemies. The assumption here is that the state-like Caiaphas-employs violence in the service of some higher moral good that justifies it. Thus, when all other means of persuasion fail, there is always the national guard, the armed forces, the gallows or lethal injection. The state, every state, relies on the power to kill. Without it, the state cannot survive.

By raising Lazarus, Jesus puts the lie to the assumption underlying the state’s blasphemous claim to power over life and death. In so doing, it pulls the rug out from under all assertions of national security, sovereignty, territorial integrity, border security and all the other poor excuses nation states make for killing people. A human being created in God’s image is sacrosanct. However distorted that image might become, the human form is God’s temple. As such, oppression, poverty, violence and death must not be allowed to deface it. God alone rightfully determines its end.  

The same cannot be said of nation states. “The nations,” says the prophet Isaiah, “are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dost on the scales.” Isaiah 40:15. The great empires of the world are, as Shakespeare would say, a “walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.” Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5. Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome are now ruins and dust. Someday the United States of America will join them-as will all who give to nations and kingdoms the allegiance belonging to God alone.

Let us then put aside the heroic and patriotic rhetoric surrounding the cult of the warrior and acknowledge the carnage taking place around the world for what it truly is: a massive sacrificial holocaust of human flesh to the false gods of nation, blood and soil. Let us boldly assert that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism into the one holy, catholic and apostolic church made up of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues.” Revelation 7:9-10. Thus, to take up arms against any person on behalf of any nation is to defile God’s holy temple, betray God’s holy church and deny the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the one who offers only life and redemption, even to his enemies. Jesus is the man who chose endurance of suffering and death over inflicting it upon others. Jesus is the only begotten Son of the God who shows no favoritism and knows none of the distinctions we make among ourselves. Jesus raised Lazarus to show Mary, Martha, his own people and all nations that this God’s fierce love for all people cannot be killed.

Here is a poem by Henry Colman reflecting on the gospel lesson for this Sunday.

On Lazarus Raised from Death

Where am I, or how came I here, hath death

                     Bereaved me of my breath,

                               Or do I dream?

          Nor can that be, for sure I am

These are no ensigns of a living man,

                               Beside, the stream

                               Of life did fly

From hence, and my blessed soul did sour on high,

                     And well remember I,

                     My friends or either hand

                               I weeping stand

                               To see me die;

Most certain then it is my soul was fled

Forth of my clay, and I am buried.

These linens plainly show this cave did keep

                     My flesh in its dead sleep,

                               And yet a noise

          Me-thought I heard, of such strange force

As would have raised to life the dullest corse,

                               So sweet a voice

                               As spite of death

Distilled through every vein a living breath,

                     And sure I heard it charge

                     Me by my name, even thus

                               O Lazarus

                               Come forth at large,

And so nought hinders, I will straightaway then

Appear, (though thus dressed) ere it call again.

Was’t my Redeemer called, no marvel then

          Though dead, I live again,

                               His word alone

          Can raise a soul, though dead in sin,

Ready the grace of hell to tumble in

                               High as the Throne;

                               In all things he

Is the true powerful Eternity:

                    Since thou has pleased to raise

My body then, let my spirit

          Heaven inherit

          And the praise.

And let thy miracle upon my clay

Prepare, and fit me ‘gainst the reckoning day.

This poem is in the public domain and reprinted in Chapter into Verse, an anthology of English poetry inspired by scripture edited by Robert Atwan and Laurance Wieder, (c. 2000 by the editors; pub. by Oxford University Press). I have been unable to secure any information concerning Henry Colman, though he may have been the prominent New England clergyman of that name born 1785 in Boston. If you have any further information, I would appreciate your sharing it with me.    

Fixing Stupid


1 Samuel 16:1-13

Psalm 23

Ephesians 5:8-14

John 9:1-41

Prayer of the Day: Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us. By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

There is plenty of blindness in our gospel reading for this coming Sunday. Jesus’ disciples are blind to the humanity of the beggar who is unable to see. For them, he is not a person. He is just a theological riddle to be solved. “Who sinned,” they ask Jesus, “This man or his parents?” Somebody must have sinned to bring about such a great human catastrophe. I have to wonder whether the blind man was overhearing this unfeeling conversation about him carried on by people he could not see, did not know and had no interest in including him.

This story reminds me of a day years ago when I was waiting in line to board a ferry crossing a section of Puget Sound. There was a wheel chair accessible place for boarding and quite a few people in line waiting for the elevator that would take them up to the passenger deck. There were so many, in fact, that they were beginning to impede auto traffic onto the boat. Suddenly, I heard over a loud speaker an angry voice shouting to the deck hands below, “Get them damn wheel chairs out of the way!” I wonder if it ever occurred to this fellow to consider how it must feel to be called an inanimate object. I wonder if it ever dawned on him how insulting it is to be thought of as just some troublesome obstacle, a nuisance to be pushed out of the way. The beggar in this story might have been physically blind. But the disciples are afflicted with a much more dangerous and insidious blindness. Jesus must open their eyes to the reality that human suffering is not to be theoretically explained, but addressed with generosity and compassion.

The religious authorities in this story are also afflicted with blindness of a similar kind. Unmoved by a miracle never seen from the dawn of creation, they remain fixated on a legal technicality. This was a sabbath day. In order to open a blind man’s eyes, Jesus made clay. Making clay is work. Work is not to be done on the sabbath. Thus, Jesus is a sinner and sinners cannot perform miracles. Accordinly, either the miracle did not happen or it happened quite apart from Jesus. Though they have the testimony of the blind man who now sees; the testimony of those who knew him before and after the miracle and the testimony of his parents that he was, in fact, born blind; none of that matters. The facts be damned. “We know that this man is a sinner,” they insist. When the formerly blind man will not be bullied, threatened or cajoled into changing his testimony, the authorities insult him, ridicule him and cast him out. They are willingly and intentionally blind to facts that do not accord with their own view of reality.

There is another name for this type of blindness: call it stupidity. And let me be clear. Stupidity is not the result of cognitive impairment. Neither is it the equivalent of ignorance. Stupidity is a moral impairment. It is a toxic blend of laziness and cowardice. Stupid people believe lies because they are comforting and because learning the truth is often disturbing, uncomfortable and requires effort. Stupid people follow the path of least resistance, stubbornly believing what they want to believe whether it is true or not because it is easier than learning and less frightening than confronting uncomfortable truths.[1]  

Stupidity is dangerous. Ignorance can be overcome through education. Error can be corrected by appeal to fact and reason. Neither of these weapons are effective against stupidity. As noted by preacher, theologian and martyr under the Third Reich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.” “After Ten Years’ in Letters and Papers from Prison” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works/English, vol. 8, Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010).

Stupidity is also dangerous because stupid people are easily manipulated. They are attracted to authoritarian leaders who echo their prejudices, give them scapegoats to blame for their unhappiness and offer them simplistic solutions to complex problems. An authoritarian leader makes weak, lazy and cowardly people feel bigger, stronger and more important. There is security to be found for such people in a frenzied crowd cheering a demagogue spewing all the hateful and bigoted sentiments they themselves feel but lack the courage to utter in the presence of polite company.

Stupid people will do and say in a crowd what they could never muster the courage to do on their own. Take, for example, those arrested and prosecuted for participation in the Republican insurrection of January 6, 2021. When forced to appear alone in court, few of these folks stood defiantly defending their conduct or chose prison rather than expressing remorse for their actions. On the whole, they sniveled, cried, claimed that they were tricked into their violent acts and pleaded for judicial clemency. Moreover, many of these “contrite” defendants reverted to their old seditious rhetoric once they were safely out of court and back in the company of their peers. See “Capital Rioters’ Tears, Remorse Don’t Spare Them from Jail,” A.P. News, January 2, 2022.  Though they often fancy themselves fiercely independent rebels, stupid people are actually weak, insecure and deeply dependent upon peer support.       

Jesus, like Bonhoeffer, knew that trying “to persuade the stupid person with reasons, [] is senseless and dangerous.” He does not give up on them, however. Contrary to the old saw, it is possible to “fix stupid.” Yet as much as Jesus loves and cares for stupid people-as he does all people-he never gets drawn into senseless arguments with them on their own terms. He never stoops to answering their stupid questions. Jesus knows that trying to reason with those who lack “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” is futile. So, instead, he poses his own inquiries, tells stories and employs parables to “change the subject,” crack his opponents’ venire of certainty and get them to ask better questions, questions that might cause them to stumble out of the darkness and into the light. “I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” John 9:39.

Sometimes, you have to be blind before you can see. Sometimes you need to unlearn everything you think you know before you can know truly. Sometimes it takes an eye opening event to convince you that the people sleeping on our streets, desperately seeking asylum at our borders, living in states that deny their very right to exist, struggling with unintended pregnancies and fighting addiction are not social problems but real people, opportunites for us to exercise compassion and so discover deeper fellowship with Jesus. Sometimes it takes the death of a black man under the knee of a police officer to wake us up from the dark lie of the American Dream and open our eyes to the reality of the systemic evil under which we live, along with the hopeful possibility of a better dream.

Here is a poem about sight and the maturation of vision with its seeming loss.


My vision isn’t what it used to be.

Time was when I could read signs

A quarter mile up the road.

I could make out the tree line

On mountain ranges, mark

The glacial frontier and the

Divide between ice and ice cold stone

With surgical precision and

Rock solid certainty.

Today, without specs,

I can barely discern the signs

In front of my face and wonder even so

If there is anything on them to be read.

Field and forest, ice and stone

All blend together into one

As life into death and I’ll be damned

If I can tell them apart from where I stand.

I squint at the horizon for signs of contrast,

Shape and defining form,

But see only the blur of connectedness as,

It seems, did the great Monet in his declining years.

Yet lacking clarity, perhaps we see the more truly.


[1] Ironically, though, stupid people often waste a considerable amount of mental energy constructing rationalizations, conspiracy theories and “alternative facts” to support their lies. Case in point: the twenty-seven million dollar Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The museum, if you can call it that, is dedicated to propping up the belief, neither scientific nor biblical but critical to Christian fundamentalist faith, that the earth is a mere six thousand years old, having been created in six days of twenty-four hours. Slick dioramas showing people cavorting with dinosaurs, elaborate geological displays cherry picking facts in an effort to prove and date Noah’s flood along with elaborate and blatantly inaccurate wall murals purporting to discredit evolutionary science are all employed to preserve this “young earth” lie against the onslaught of overwhelming genuine scientific evidence to the contrary. A more impressive monument to stupidity is hard to imagine.

Exclusive Interview with Rep. George Santos by Phucker Sharlitan

Kierkegaard’s Ghost

(News that’s fake, but credible)

The Ghost’s newest commentator, Phucker Sharlitan, recently had the opportunity to interview Congressman George Santos. Mr. Santos was questioned extensively on his extraordinary record and responded with answers and information we here at the Ghost can verify absolutely with a low confidence level. 

Sharlitan: It’s a pleasure having the opportunity to interview you and give you an opportunity to respond to the scurrilous and inflammatory accusations made against you by the Democrat party and the lame stream media. And now we hear that you are under congressional investigation. How does it make you feel to have so much unjustified criticism coming your way?

Santos: I don’t let it get to me, Phucker. I always say that when they go low, I go high.

Sharlitan: A lot of people attribute that saying to Michelle Obama.

Santos: Yes, but she got it from me. I was the ghost writer for her books and speeches. I also wrote for Barack. Ever heard of Audacity of Hope? That was essentially my work.

Sharlitan: Wait! You worked for a Democrat?

Santos: You bet. Just goes to show that I can work in a bipartisan fashion. My experience goes far beyond my financial savvy. In the military, I fought side by side with people of every race, class and background.

Sharlitan: You were in the military?

Santos: Yes, I served with the United States Marines during the second world war. I fought in the battle of Iwo Jima. Ever seen that memorial at Arlington of the marines raising the American flag? I’m the third one in.

Sharlitan: You never mentioned that in your memoirs.

Santos: Well, if I tried to fit all of my accomplishments into one book, it would take several volumes. At some point, you have to leave room for a sequel. But my military record was known to Barack Obama. That’s why he called on me to lead the seal team that took out Osama Bin Laden. Taking him out with a single shot was one of the high points of my military career.

Sharlitan: I thought that was Robert O’Neill.

Santos: Well, Rob thinks he fired the kill shot and I never bothered to correct him. I mean, the guy’s got serious self esteem issues. He needed this more than I did. But since you bring it up, I feel I have to correct the record. You know, the truth is very important to me.

Sharlitan: Well, I must say it was mighty generous of you to keep that quiet for so long, George. It takes real humility to forego the glory that goes with taking down the most notorious terrorist of the century.

Santos: Humility is one of my finest attributes, Phucker.

Sharlitan: So of all your great accomplishments, which would you say is the one you are most proud of?

Santos: I have a lot of good work about which I am extremely proud. But the achievement that has given me the most satisfaction was my death on the cross for the salvation of the world.

Sharlitan: Jesus Christ! Was that you, too?

Santos: And they question my Jewish roots. Go figure.

Sharlitan: That was indeed a great accomplishment!

Santos: Yes, well, as I said when I first stepped out onto the surface of the moon, ‘One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.’

Sharlitan:  Well, it has been a pleasure interviewing you, George.

Santos: Pleasure is all mine, Phucker. Thanks for giving me the chance to set the record straight.


FAKE NEWS ALERT: The above article is satirical. The events it describes didn’t happen.  “There are people who will say that this whole account is a lie, but a thing isn’t necessarily a lie even if it didn’t necessarily happen.” John Steinbeck

Taking History in a New Direction


Exodus 17:1-7

Psalm 95

Romans 5:1-11

John 4:5-42

Prayer of the Day: Merciful God, the fountain of living water, you quench our thirst and wash away our sin. Give us this water always. Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.” John 4:9.

Disputes over how, where and by whom God is to be worshipped are as old as they are heated and bloody. The first murder recorded in the Bible grew out of a dispute about the right worship of God. See Genesis 4:1-16. That is what the Samaritan woman’s question is all about and it reflects animosity going back for almost one thousand years. Recall that the Israelite kingdom built up under the leadership of David split following the death of his son, Solomon. The Southern Kingdom of Judah continued to be ruled by descendants of David and worshipped in Jerusalem at the temple built by Solomon. The Northern Kingdom of Israel ultimately established its capital in Samaria and was under the control of several successive dynasties. In 722 B.C.E. the Northern Kingdom of Israel was invaded and destroyed by the Assyrians. Judah fell to the Babylonians more than a century later in 587 B.C.E.

Though many Israelites were displaced as a result of these conquests, a substantial number remained in the land. Among them was an ethnic group claiming descent from the Northern Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh as well as from the priestly tribe of Levi. These “Samaritans” had their own temple on Mount Gerizim. They believed this mountain, rather than Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, to be the location chosen by God for worship. When some of the exiles from Judah (now properly called “Jews”) returned from Babylon to Palestine in order to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, they met with hostility and resistance from the Samaritans and other inhabitants of the land. Both Jews and Samaritans regarded themselves exclusively as the one true Israel. Thus, the very existence of each represented an existential threat to the other.  The depth of Jewish animosity toward Samaritans is reflected in at least one daily prayer used in some synagogues pleading for God to ensure that Samaritans not enter into eternal life. Ellis, E. Earle, The Gospel of Luke, The New Century Bible Commentary, (c. 1974 Marshall, Morgan & Scott) p. 151 citing Oesterley, W.O.E., The Gospel Parallels in the Light of their Jewish Background, New York, 1936, p. 162. Of course, the Samaritans were equally ill disposed toward Jews.

Nevertheless, in spite of their mutual hatred, Jews and Samaritans had much in common. Both were Israelites. Both claimed lineage from Sarah and Abraham. They shared the same language and the same scriptures. Both had far more in common with each other than with the Roman overlords enslaving them.  As much as they might have wished it otherwise, these two peoples were inescapably bound up together in a common history. That conflicted history comes to a head in Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria.

This story has a contemporary ring to it. After all, we in this country who identify as white are only now coming to grips with our own tortured history shared with indigenous peoples murdered and dispossessed by our colonial ancestors. We are only now beginning to understand the essential role played by African slaves whose forced and uncompensated labor built up the back bone of our nation’s industrial power and wealth. We are only now learning the full extent of our exploitation of the Mexican and Chinese laborers we imported from abroad to build our railroads and then quickly moved to deport once we had no further use for them. We are only learning now that the American history we were taught in school was, at best, woefully incomplete. At worst, it was pure propaganda.

So how do we proceed in the face of our tortured history? I suggest we follow Jesus’ lead. He does not begin by engaging the Samaritan woman in a theological debate. He does not question her morality or the legitimacy of her faith. He does not begin by addressing “the issues.” Jesus begins by asking for a drink. He does not disguise his vulnerability and dependence on the woman. Instead, he tells her “I need you. I need your help.” What this woman might have expected of Jesus, if anything, we can only guess. But it is clear that she is taken by surprise. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” The woman launches into the longstanding dispute over which of their respective temples is the proper place for worship. Jesus will have none of it. God seeks worshipers-Jew, Samaritan or gentile, who worship God in Spirit and in truth. Again, we can only guess what was going through the woman’s mind as she raced back home to tell her people of that remarkable Jew who asked to share her water jar and spoke to her as a fellow Israelite.

The interchange between Jesus and the woman of Samaria concludes with a small detail that you might have missed if you were concentrating only on the heady theological issues. The woman leaves her water jar at the well before returning home-an act of compassion and kindness for this strange, thirsty traveler. She quenched the thirst of this odd prophet who promised to quench her thirst with living water. Amazing things happen when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, lay aside our defensiveness and humbly ask for the help we need. God knows those of us faced with troubling realities that threaten to undo the myths by which we have learned to live need help. God knows that our overwhelmingly white mainline churches need help seeing themselves-ourselves-as we are seen by God. We need the patience of Jesus to hear the stories of those victimized by our claims of privilege without defensiveness, without judgment and without the need to be right. Only after we have heard, understood and taken responsibility for the truth do we dare speak.

Poetry offers us, among other things, an opportunity to listen for and hear voices that have been too long excluded from the telling of the American story and ignored by the church. Here is one by June Jordan.

1977: Poem for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer

You used to say, “June?

Honey when you come down here you

supposed to stay with me. Where


Meanin home

against the beer the shotguns and the

point of view of whitemen don’

never see Black anybodies without

some violent itch start up.

                                       The ones who   

said, “No Nigga’s Votin in This Town . . .

lessen it be feet first to the booth”   

Then jailed you   

beat you brutal   


you blue beyond the feeling   

of the terrible

And failed to stop you.   

Only God could but He   

wouldn’t stop   


fortress from self-


Humble as a woman anywhere   

I remember finding you inside the laundromat   

in Ruleville   

                  lion spine relaxed/hell   

                  what’s the point to courage   

                  when you washin clothes?   

But that took courage

                  just to sit there/target   

                  to the killers lookin   

                  for your singin face   

                  perspirey through the rinse   

                  and spin

and later   

you stood mighty in the door on James Street   

loud callin:

                  “BULLETS OR NO BULLETS!   

                  THE FOOD IS COOKED   

                  AN’ GETTIN COLD!”

We ate

A family tremulous but fortified

by turnips/okra/handpicked

like the lilies

filled to the very living   


one solid gospel


one gospel


one full Black lily   


in a homemade field   

of love

Source: Directed By Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan (C. 2005 by The June M. Jordan Literary Trust; pub. by WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2005). June Millicent Jordan (1936–2002) was an American poet, essayist, teacher and activist. She was in 1936 in Harlem, New York, the only child of immigrants from Jamaica and Panama. Her father was a postal worker for the USPS and her mother was a part-time nurse. When Jordan was five, the family moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. She began writing her own poetry at the age of seven. Her poetry and other writings explore issues of gender, race and immigration. Jordan was passionate about using Black English in her writing and poetry, teaching others to treat it as its own language and an important outlet for expressing Black culture. You can read more about June Jordan and sample more of her poetry at the Poetry Foundation websilte.