Friday, December 7, 2018

Sleepwalking Advent

Shifting gears into Advent may take some time...but don't lallygag too long!

Advent begins
in a fog of unreadiness.
as if by dull surprise
or in a twilight zone,
we groggily hang the greens.

Hardly with awareness
much less anticipation
good people sleepwalk
through the prophecies
and Annunciation.

We may finally stir
by the time children sing
“Away in a Manger”
the Sunday before Christmas,
their raised voices spark
a light in our slumbering souls.

Is it only children and prophets
who grasp the urgency,
sense the passion;
whose hearts are rended
and readied by the
promise of Light shining
in the darkness?

Is it only to them that Advent
becomes no mere repetition
of myth-laden past events,
but days of embracing
the living Mystery,
the ground of all hope?

By God’s mercy and grace
children and prophets are
only the first to hear,
the first to recognize,
to proclaim that
it is, indeed, Mystery.

The Light ever dawns,
beaming its rays into the
eyes of the groggiest saints,
the hardest sleeper
among us.

Only those who refuse to rise
amid many urgent shakings
and light flooding their beds
sleep through the

“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Thursday, November 22, 2018


This holiday is for all that we
Take for granted,
Assume as a given,
Absent-mindedly overlook,
Claim as our God-given right.

This holiday if for all those we
Unnecessarily criticize,
Agitate with our demands,
Impatiently rush,
Regularly impose upon.

This holiday is for all that we
By-pass in our drivenness,
Go out of our way to avoid,
Carelessly forget,
Thoughtlessly leave out.

This holiday is for all things we
Receive as gracious gifts,
Share as common ground,
Express as transcendent grace,
Return in praise to God.

Poem Notes

My thoughts are moving toward Thanksgiving and its essential meanings. But boiling down the essence of a particular holiday is dangerous. By the time one distills it down to one thing, it has lost is savor--it's flat, one-dimensional. One will have a point, but have missed the larger, broader experience in the process.

Thanksgiving, like other holidays, is multi-faceted, a layered tradition with rich tributaries. But, like other holidays, commercialism tends to twist or bury primary meanings and overwhelm traditions. For example, who would ever have imagined eating Thanksgiving dinner in front of the TV, watching an NFL game? Two American traditions collide and the primary one yields. Or, they both morph into something new.

I will likely watch some of the NFL action on Thursday. I also hope we play a little backyard football. But I was thinking of the tendency to lose primary meanings and spiritual growth opportunities of Thanksgiving when I penned this poem.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Community Context and Grace

Twelve ways I recognize grace as I practice community-building in urban neighborhoods

I’m privileged to work in a community-building context. For most of my adult life, the matrix of urban core neighborhoods that comprise the Near East area of Indianapolis have been—and continue to be—the learning ground of my faith. Here is where I have been most spiritually formed. Though I was raised in a conservative Protestant pastor’s home, am a seminary-trained, ordained clergy, and consider myself a recovering evangelical, the adventure of community building is the cutting edge of my faith.

Here are a few things that I recognize and practice as a person of faith in a community-building context:

1. I try to express my faith by what I do. What I believe is very personal; what I live out is quite public.  Most people could care less about the nuances of my particular religion; they care about my influence, actions, and impact in the community.

2. I distinguish between beliefs and faith. Here’s how: beliefs reflect an assent to religious teachings and doctrines; faith acts in transformational confidence together with others, often against powers that be. Beliefs are nouns; faith is a verb. In a community-building context, leading with beliefs, as dynamic and personally meaningful as they may be, tends to divide people and derail helpful action. Leading with faith pulls people together in common actions that reflect hope.

3. I recognize that, like me, others live their faith by what they do—and I salute this. I’m not the only one doing what I’m doing out of a heart of faith. Many are motivated and undergirded by faith—we just don’t know it because they don’t wear it on their sleeves.

4. I recognize that some neighbors live without religion or claim to have no faith at all—and I try to understand this. I try to explore beyond typical reasons for unfaith that are surmised within circles of the faithfully churched. I've let go of judgement and noted my hypocrisy: In community-building terms, some very-churched citizens can express high levels of community cynicism—which expresses, essentially, lack of faith and hope that grace is at work beyond the walls of the church.

5. I consider myself part of the problem in authentic community and I go to work on it. I undermine community wtih suspicions, presumptions, prejudices, fears, knee-jerk reactions, side-taking, horrible-izing, standoffishness, etc.--whether acted on or not. When I recognize incipient thought patterns, notions, and attitudes like this, I try to challenge them, change them, and immediately act to counter them. I think this is as much a part of building community—and serious faith formation—as anything else.

6. I recognize that grace is at work in and through people and situations that churches and orthodox doctrine don’t recognize. While this wreaks havoc on the theology of my upbringing, openness to this possibility and being on the lookout for it is one of the rich privileges in community life.

7. I am here to learn and grow as much as to share and sow. I am called to listen and seek to understand. I have to keep ripping up my church filters, my social class presumptions, and my litmus tests. I must keep challenging myself and keep opening my eyes and heart.

8. Communities and neighbors receive myriad invitations from faith groups to gather for worship, but suffer for a lack of basic solidarity and justice-making from those same faith groups. Preaching grace and doing justice are inseparable and equal in necessity and power for effective witness. If you're preaching grace without doing justice in the community, you just don't represent the Gospel.

9. I constantly monitor and modify how I talk about faith, God and the church. I'm convinced we make the Gospel unnecessarily offensive with words, or offensive for the wrong or superficial reasons. If grace is reaching out to all--inviting all, drawing all, working in ways we cannot see or understand--why do we persist in talking in ways and with terms that preempt it, make it difficult, and inadvertently inoculate people against our expression of it?

10. I’m learning to appreciate small change in people and situations. While aiming high, we can—and should—celebrate every small breakthrough.

11. Little happens that lasts outside of authentic relationship. Long ago I let go of the illusion that programs or institutions produce lasting positive change in people or communities. Real relationships as neighbors--that's the thing.

12. Separateness and exclusivity is anti-faith in community building. In an urban community context, those who separate themselves or become nonparticipants in the larger community miss much of the inspiration that comes as neighbors grapple with tough issues, come up with hopeful solutions, and enact them--in faith. Exclusivity is anti-faith. Separateness is anti-faith. Dare to come out of your cloister, to listen to others, to link arms with neighbors and move toward some breathtaking outcomes.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Gold Stars for Peeing...or Almost Any Good Deed

Few know about why I give out ceramic gold stars to friends and strangers. Here's the backstory (and this is absolutely TMI!)

Not being able to pee one day last summer, I found myself in ER with a foley catheter followed by prostate exams, tests, and longterm Rx therapy to help me consistently urinate. Afterward, I told a few friends at a restaurant table that I will never again take simply peeing for granted and felt like I deserved a gold star just for being able to urinate. In response, local artist/ceramicist Jodi Krumel made me a bunch of half-dollar-size ceramic gold stars, which I now give out to friends for successfully peeing--or to strangers for almost any good deed. Like I said: TMI.

So, my dad died at age 81 of prostate cancer, and, since last summer's episode, I get tested annually.

All this to share some good news (and to encourage my friend Heather Morgan Dethloff who is going through chemo right now): my PSA (prostate cancer risk) count has actually declined since last summer.

Maybe having fun with the fear/problem has helped the situation. I want to think so.

BTW: Jodi Krumel is willing to make these gold stars for others. If interested, contact her at or

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Thoughts in the Presence of Fear

Wendell Berry's 2001 reflections on 9/11. Prophetic then, they are uncannily telling now.

 These 27 brief, connected responses shine in stark contrast to popular reactions then and broken policies now.  One of America's clearest voices of critique and re-centered renewal, Wendell Berry calmly reflects wider awareness and deeper faith in the face of despair and insanity. This piece appeared in Orion magazine not long after the September 11 terrorist attacks.  Rereading it 10 years later, I recognize the prophetic nature of what he wrote. It is uncannily telling now. I wonder, in the words of the folk song, "when will we ever learn?"

I. The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day.

II. This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a “new world order” and a “new economy” that would “grow” on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be “unprecedented”.

The dominant politicians, corporate officers, and investors who believed this proposition did not acknowledge that the prosperity was limited to a tiny percent of the world’s people, and to an ever smaller number of people even in the United States; that it was founded upon the oppressive labor of poor people all over the world; and that its ecological costs increasingly threatened all life, including the lives of the supposedly prosperous.

The “developed” nations had given to the “free market” the status of a god, and were sacrificing to it their farmers, farmlands, and communities, their forests, wetlands, and prairies, their ecosystems and watersheds. They had accepted universal pollution and global warming as normal costs of doing business.

There was, as a consequence, a growing worldwide effort on behalf of economic decentralization, economic justice, and ecological responsibility. We must recognize that the events of September 11 make this effort more necessary than ever. We citizens of the industrial countries must continue the labor of self-criticism and self-correction. We must recognize our mistakes.

The paramount doctrine of the economic and technological euphoria of recent decades has been that everything depends on innovation. It was understood as desirable, and even necessary, that we should go on and on from one technological innovation to the next, which would cause the economy to “grow” and make everything better and better. This of course implied at every point a hatred of the past, of all things inherited and free. All things superseded in our progress of innovations, whatever their value might have been, were discounted as of no value at all.

We did not anticipate anything like what has now happened. We did not foresee that all our sequence of innovations might be at once overridden by a greater one: the invention of a new kind of war that would turn our previous innovations against us, discovering and exploiting the debits and the dangers that we had ignored. We never considered the possibility that we might be trapped in the webwork of communication and transport that was supposed to make us free.

Nor did we foresee that the weaponry and the war science that we marketed and taught to the world would become available, not just to recognized national governments, which possess so uncannily the power to legitimate large-scale violence, but also to “rogue nations”, dissident or fanatical groups and individuals - whose violence, though never worse than that of nations, is judged by the nations to be illegitimate.

We had accepted uncritically the belief that technology is only good; that it cannot serve evil as well as good; that it cannot serve our enemies as well as ourselves; that it cannot be used to destroy what is good, including our homelands and our lives.

We had accepted too the corollary belief that an economy (either as a money economy or as a life-support system) that is global in extent, technologically complex, and centralized is invulnerable to terrorism, sabotage, or war, and that it is protectable by “national defense”

We now have a clear, inescapable choice that we must make. We can continue to promote a global economic system of unlimited “free trade” among corporations, held together by long and highly vulnerable lines of communication and supply, but now recognizing that such a system will have to be protected by a hugely expensive police force that will be worldwide, whether maintained by one nation or several or all, and that such a police force will be effective precisely to the extent that it oversways the freedom and privacy of the citizens of every nation.

Or we can promote a decentralized world economy which would have the aim of assuring to every nation and region a local self-sufficiency in life-supporting goods. This would not eliminate international trade, but it would tend toward a trade in surpluses after local needs had been met.

XIII. One of the gravest dangers to us now, second only to further terrorist attacks against our people, is that we will attempt to go on as before with the corporate program of global “free trade”, whatever the cost in freedom and civil rights, without self-questioning or self-criticism or public debate.

XIV. This is why the substitution of rhetoric for thought, always a temptation in a national crisis, must be resisted by officials and citizens alike. It is hard for ordinary citizens to know what is actually happening in Washington in a time of such great trouble; for all we know, serious and difficult thought may be taking place there. But the talk that we are hearing from politicians, bureaucrats, and commentators has so far tended to reduce the complex problems now facing us to issues of unity, security, normality, and retaliation.

XV. National self-righteousness, like personal self-righteousness, is a mistake. It is misleading. It is a sign of weakness. Any war that we may make now against terrorism will come as a new installment in a history of war in which we have fully participated. We are not innocent of making war against civilian populations. The modern doctrine of such warfare was set forth and enacted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who held that a civilian population could be declared guilty and rightly subjected to military punishment. We have never repudiated that doctrine.

XVI. It is a mistake also - as events since September 11 have shown - to suppose that a government can promote and participate in a global economy and at the same time act exclusively in its own interest by abrogating its international treaties and standing apart from international cooperation on moral issues.

XVII. And surely, in our country, under our Constitution, it is a fundamental error to suppose that any crisis or emergency can justify any form of political oppression. Since September 11, far too many public voices have presumed to “speak for us” in saying that Americans will gladly accept a reduction of freedom in exchange for greater “security”. Some would, maybe. But some others would accept a reduction in security (and in global trade) far more willingly than they would accept any abridgement of our Constitutional rights.

XVIII. In a time such as this, when we have been seriously and most cruelly hurt by those who hate us, and when we must consider ourselves to be gravely threatened by those same people, it is hard to speak of the ways of peace and to remember that Christ enjoined us to love our enemies, but this is no less necessary for being difficult.

XIX. Even now we dare not forget that since the attack of Pearl Harbor - to which the present attack has been often and not usefully compared - we humans have suffered an almost uninterrupted sequence of wars, none of which has brought peace or made us more peaceable.

XX. The aim and result of war necessarily is not peace but victory, and any victory won by violence necessarily justifies the violence that won it and leads to further violence. If we are serious about innovation, must we not conclude that we need something new to replace our perpetual “war to end war?”

XXI. What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money.

XXII. The key to peaceableness is continuous practice. It is wrong to suppose that we can exploit and impoverish the poorer countries, while arming them and instructing them in the newest means of war, and then reasonably expect them to be peaceable.

XXIII. We must not again allow public emotion or the public media to caricature our enemies. If our enemies are now to be some nations of Islam, then we should undertake to know those enemies. Our schools should begin to teach the histories, cultures, arts, and language of the Islamic nations. And our leaders should have the humility and the wisdom to ask the reasons some of those people have for hating us.

XXIV. Starting with the economies of food and farming, we should promote at home, and encourage abroad, the ideal of local self-sufficiency. We should recognize that this is the surest, the safest, and the cheapest way for the world to live. We should not countenance the loss or destruction of any local capacity to produce necessary goods

XXV. We should reconsider and renew and extend our efforts to protect the natural foundations of the human economy: soil, water, and air. We should protect every intact ecosystem and watershed that we have left, and begin restoration of those that have been damaged.

XXVI. The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It’s proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or “accessing” what we now call “information” - which is to say facts without context and therefore without priority. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.

XXVII. The first thing we must begin to teach our children (and learn ourselves) is that we cannot spend and consume endlessly. We have got to learn to save and conserve. We do need a “new economy”, but one that is founded on thrift and care, on saving and conserving, not on excess and waste. An economy based on waste is inherently and hopelessly violent, and war is its inevitable by-product. We need a peaceable economy.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Seven Hesitations of Democracy

E. Stanley Jones reflects on the word "all" in the Declaration of Independence. Who's included?

DRAWN TO THE EPICENTER. The following reflections do not come from an aspiring politician. They are not the two-bit comments of a journalistic wag. They 
are the observations of an American-born Methodist missionary who labored in India as a contemporary of Mahatma Ghandi. E. Stanley Jones is, to me, the model of authentic Christianity. The deeper his faith, the more reflective and engaged he was in applying its principles to the pressing issues of his time. His deep piety did not lead him away from difficult issues and hurting people; it drew him ever closer to the epicenter of world challenges. Written from India in 1944, this ever-so-brief excerpt from The Christ of the American Road, has a pointed ring of truth and challenge 75 years later. I have not adapted his writing to inclusive language; it was already inclusive in spirit and power.

AN EXPLOSIVE WORD. “When the word ‘all’ was written into the Declaration of Independence, little did the authors know how it would live to disturb and awaken the soul of this people. The word ‘all’ was inevitable, for there would not have been democracy if it had been left out; but, once in, it has become the most explosive and revolutionary word in our national history. It will not let us rest until we say the words ‘all men’ with complete abandon and with no reservations. The history of our struggling with that word ‘all’ is the history of the progress of America, and our future depends upon what we do with it.” Jones enumerates the seven hesitations of democracy in a historical sequence.

1. TERRITORIES. “The hesitation as to whether we should take in the territories beyond the original colonies on the basis of equality or make them subordinate.” Jones notes that this breakthrough from intellectual and cultural snobbery to give complete equality to territories “may prove the norm for a world pattern. The world will fight it—as we did—but in the end we shall have to come to it, for it is right. And whatever is right is stable and whatever is wrong is unstable. The world is in a state of instability because of the refusal of this simple principle.”

2. WOMEN. “The second hesitation about applying the word ‘all’ was in regard to one half the population within the union—namely, to women.” Jones comments on the rightness of this breakthrough: “The future belongs to cooperation; the competitive principle has run its course. If the future belongs to cooperation and women represent the cooperative spirit, then women are to be, in literal fact, the psychic center of power in that future.”

3. CHILDREN. “The third great hesitation in the application of ‘all’ is in regard to the most important group in our democracy—namely, the children.” Noting the brunt children have taken in the greed and blunderings of men in labor and in war (“he is called on to fight three years sooner than he is allowed to vote”), Jones asserted that “since children must bear the heavy end of things in a crisis, they must be allowed to help shape things for the ordinary days ahead. Democracy will not last unless the child inwardly accepts it because it is reasonable and right, and more important still, because he is a functioning part of it. He must vitally be a part of it; it must function where he is concerned. This we have not done—not really. We have applied the word ‘all’ to children grudgingly and with hesitation.”

4. LABOR. “The fourth hesitation about the application of the word ‘all’ is in regard to another group in our midst—labor.” Noting the reluctance with which American corporations have conceded to collective bargaining, Jones believed that America is tragically bent in a “property over the person” paradigm. In the struggle between the rights of property and the rights of people, Jones said “we have very grudgingly extended equality to those who labor.”

5. PEOPLE OF COLOR. “The fifth great hesitation has been to extend equality to those of another color.” Jones advocated the “equality of opportunity” for people of color and denounced white America for its hypocrisy and resistance at making the Pledge of Allegiance apply: “with liberty and justice for all.” He noted: “America’s power and influence in the world will be determined by her ability to set her own house in order, and thus to act up to her democracy.

6. ASIAN PEOPLES. “The sixth great hesitation in applying the word ‘all’ is in regard to those of Asiatic origin in our midst.” Writing during World War II, a time in which in the name of patriotism and loyalty Asians were being derided in America and abroad, Jones wrote boldly: “We have a right to limit immigration, but we have no right to humiliate others once they are in our midst. Such attitudes and practices deny our own democracy and sow the seeds of war. This discrimination was one of the causes that led to the war with Japan.” Jones decried the mistreatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII and spoke often to large groups interned in the camps.

7. DEVELOPING REGIONS AND NATIONS. “The seventh hesitation is in regard to applying the word ‘all’ to all peoples beyond our own borders.” Jones called for a complete renunciation of all trappings and vestiges of “imperialism” in order for peace and democracy to have a chance to emerge in developing regions of the world. “It is not enough to point to the benefits conferred by imperialism on subjected peoples—roads, schools, hospitals, and a kind of peace. All these benefits are canceled out in the minds of subject peoples by the fact of domination. They want freedom—everybody does. It is inherent.”

BE THE SERVANT OF ALL. Jones summarized his observations: “Let America be anchored to her words ‘all men,’ and let her world mission be the implementing of those words in world affairs. Let her become ‘the servant of all.’ Then, according to her Master, by that very service she will become the greatest of all. If you are the servant of some—white people, people of a certain class or race—then you do not become great, except a great snob. The future of the world is in the hands of those who will best serve the world.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

On the evening of Martin Luther King, Jr’s. assassination, Kennedy’s words turned away wrath

APRIL 4, 1968. Wednesday, April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of King’s death. On that evening, anguish-driven riots broke out in nearly every major American city. But not in Indianapolis. On that night, Bobby Kennedy happened to be in Indy on a presidential campaign stop. A planned rally was scrapped for a more solemn announcement and spur-of-the-moment speech. His speech turned away wrath. The place is now marked by a monument in King Park on Indy’s near-northside. Here’s the heart of Kennedy’s speech that night. You can view/hear excerpts of it here on You Tube:

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

“I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some very sad news for all of you… and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black -- considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible -- you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

“We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization -- black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with… hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

“But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond, or go beyond these rather difficult times.

“My favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote:
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

“So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King -- yeah, it's true -- but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love -- a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

“We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past, and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.

“But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

“And let's dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

“Thank you very much.”

Saturday, March 31, 2018

They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection

by exiled Guatemalan poet Julia Esquivel, 1980

It isn't the noise in the streets
that keeps us from resting, my friend,
nor is it the shouts of the young people
coming out drunk from the "St. Pauli,"
nor is it the tumult of those who pass by excitedly
on their way to the mountains.

It is something within us that doesn't let us sleep,
that doesn't let us rest,
that won't stop pounding
deep inside,
it is the silent, warm weeping
of Indian women without their husbands,
it is the sad gaze of the children
fixed somewhere beyond memory,
precious in our eyes
which during sleep,
though closed, keep watch,

Now six have left us,
and nine in Rabinal,
and two, plus two, plus two,
and ten, a hundred, a thousand,
a whole army
witness to our pain,
our fear,
our courage,
our hope!

What keeps us from sleeping
is that they have threatened us with Resurrection!
Because every evening
though weary of killings,
an endless inventory since 1954,
yet we go on loving life
and do not accept their death!

They have threatened us with Resurrection
Because we have felt their inert bodies,
and their souls penetrated ours
doubly fortified,
because in this marathon of Hope,
there are always others to relieve us
who carry the strength
to reach the finish line
which lies beyond death.

They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they will not be able to take away from us
their bodies,
their souls,
their strength,
their spirit,
nor even their death
and least of all their life.
Because they live
today, tomorrow, and always
in the streets baptized with their blood,
in the air that absorbed their cry,
in the jungle that hid their shadows,
in the river that gathered up their laughter,
in the ocean that holds their secrets,
in the craters of the volcanoes,
Pyramids of the New Day,
which swallowed up their ashes.

They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they are more alive than ever before,
because they transform our agonies
and fertilize our struggle,
because they pick us up when we fall,
because they loom like giants
before the crazed gorillas' fear.

They have threatened us with Resurrection,
because they do not know life (poor things!).

That is the whirlwind
which does not let us sleep,
the reason why sleeping, we keep watch,
and awake, we dream.
No, it's not the street noises,
nor the shouts from the drunks in the "St. Pauli,"
nor the noise from the fans at the ball park.

It is the internal cyclone of kaleidoscopic struggle
which will heal that wound of the quetzal
fallen in Ixcán,
it is the earthquake soon to come
that will shake the world
and put everything in its place.
No, brother,
it is not the noise in the streets
which does not let us sleep.
Join us in this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvelous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!
To dream awake,
to keep watch asleep,
to live while dying,
and to know ourselves already

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Washing Feet

"AS I HAVE DONE FOR YOU."  Off and on over the years, I have participated in the Maundy Thursday liturgy at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge, Colorado.  Typically, the little church is half-full and it is likely a quarter of us are out-of-towners.  No matter.  Not used to the turnings, citings and readings of formal liturgy, I fumble my way through the service.  The part in which I feel particularly connected is the foot washing. The liturgy invites us to do for another what Jesus did for his disciples that night of their last meal together.  After the pastoral team, we are invited to wash each other's feet at the front of the sanctuary.  During the foot washing, the congregation sings:

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I might have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

HOMELESS NEIGHBORS' FEET.  The radical humiliation of washing another's feet first struck me in 1989, when a nurse asked me to help with the foot soaks and foot massages she weekly offered the homeless men who visited Horizon House.  I initially volunteered to assist, but when the hour came, I found myself strangely resistant and made excuses not to be available to wash their feet.  The next week, Nurse Anne wouldn't let me off the hook.  I found myself kneeling before the dirty, gnarly, swollen, smelly feet of a homeless man.  Still resistant but yielded, I gave myself to the task, pushing inner protests aside.  One after another, I washed and massaged feet until there were no more feet to wash.  I felt relieved and released and somehow strangely at peace.  From that point on, I have always viewed people without homes as neighbors, recognizing and accepting my connection, complicity, and challenge in their condition.

LEADING PARADIGM.  During my 2,000-mile bicycle ride through India in 2007, we were honored in Bangalore by foot washing.  The Free Methodist Bishops of India knelt down and washed each cyclist's feet in front of all their pastors, parishioners, and non-christian friends and community members who gathered to welcome us to that city. We, in turn, washed their feet. Knowing the strong sense of caste and social role that pervade the various Indian cultures, I can only begin to imagine the radical--even offensive--action of a leader washing anyone's feet.  But this is likely close to the context of Jesus' action on what we now call Maundy Thursday.  He is the servant leader and this is the primary image for Christian leadership.  The towel and basin stands alongside the cross.  Those who dismiss or stray from this central paradigm mislead.

IT'S NOT ABOUT FEET.  I have not fully identified the points of my resistance to wash either the feet of homeless neighbors in homeless center or the feet of a friend in a Holy Week foot-washing liturgy. I'm not nearly as interested in analyzing my resistance as in simply recognizing it and overcoming it. It's really not about foot washing, anyway.  It's about doing the necessary, menial, and helpful things for one another without reference to "who's who," social role, or fear. I want to continue to move in that direction in my life, breaking resistances and hesitancies and excuses with helpful actions for whomever they are needed.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA