Awakening to Justice: Conversations with Ned Rosch and Mustafa Akhwand

Ned Rosch of National Jewish Voice for Peace has written a chapter for a new book, Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation and Mustafa Akhwand is founder and Executive Director for Shia Rights Watch.

Portland resident, Ned Rosch has written a chapter for the book, Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation that was released in May 2019. A part of his chapter, “Palestine and My Journey of Self-Discovery” was published in Yes Magazine. The book’s promotion reads: 

“Today Jews face a choice. We can be loyal to the ethical imperatives at the heart of Judaism — love the stranger, pursue justice, and repair the world. Or we can give our unconditional support to the state of Israel. It is a choice between Judaism as a religion and the nationalist ideology of Zionism, which is usurping that religion.”

In the second half of the show, host John Shuck speaks with Mustafa Akhwand, the founder and Executive Director of Shia Rights Watch (SRW), which focuses on the humanitarian rights of Shia Muslims. With a network of over 600 people, Shia Rights Watch plays a critical role in improving the quality of life for all minority populations around the world. Various human rights and peace-keeping organizations have recognized Mr. Akhwand’s human rights advocacy including Freemuslim (Center for De-Radicalization & Extremism Prevention), Amnesty International, Human Rights Education Association, United States Institute of Peace, Adam Center for Defending Rights and Beliefs, and Center for Strategic Studies in Iraq. 

Ned Rosch and Mustafa Akhwand

KBOO LIVE, Friday July 12th 9-10 am PACIFIC

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Why We Can’t Let Go of Our Legions

A sermon preached on June 23rd at Southminster Presbyterian in Beaverton, Oregon. Based on the lectionary text, Luke 8:26-39.

Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium 
As the soul of systems, the Powers in their spiritual aspect are everywhere around us. Their presence is inescapable. The issue is not whether we “believe” in them but whether we can learn to identify them in our actual, everyday encounters. The apostle Paul called this the gift of discerning spirits. When a particular Power becomes idolatrous—that is, when it pursues a vocation other than the one for which God created it and makes its own interests the highest good—then that Power becomes demonic. The spiritual task is to unmask this idolatry and recall the Powers to their created purposes in the world. But this can scarcely be accomplished by individuals. A group is needed—what the New Testament calls an ekklesia (assembly)—one that exists specifically for the task of recalling these Powers to their divine vocation. That was to be the task of the church, “so that through the church (ekklesia) the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities [“principalities and powers”] in the heavenly places“ (Eph. 3:10). And the church must perform this task despite its being as fallen and idolatrous as any other institution in society.

Luke 8:26-39
Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) J

Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear.

So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

For Citizenship John O’Donohue
In these times when anger
Is turned into anxiety
And someone has stolen
The horizons and the mountains,

Our small emperors on parade
Never expect our indifference
To disturb their nakedness.

They keep their heads down
And their eyes gleam with reflection
From Aluminum economic ground,

The media wraps everything
In a cellophane of sound,
And the ghost surface of the virtual
Overlays the breathing earth.

The industry of distraction
Makes us forget
That we live in a universe.

We have become converts
To the religion of stress
And its deity of progress;

That we may have courage
To turn aside from it all
And come to kneel down before the poor,
To discover what we must do,
How to turn anxiety
Back into anger,
How to find our way home.

Sermon

Casting out demons or unclean spirits is one of the things Jesus does. He does it several times and the stories are repeated in the gospels. As uncomfortable as modern people are with demons or unclean spirits, even the Jesus Seminar said that exorcism was one of the things that the historical Jesus did or was believed to have done.

Demons and unclean spirits are not particularly easy to discuss. Many people, more than you might think, believe in the reality of demons and unclean spirits. Many religious groups take quite literally demon possession and the need for exorcists. On the other hand, most progressive Christians think of demon possession as mental illness or some other type of affliction. Jesus was able to provide some kind of psycho-somatic cure.

I find myself mostly in the progressive camp. I have thought that stories in the Bible regarding demon possession reflect an ancient way of speaking about psychological afflictions that we modern folks describe in scientific as opposed to spiritual ways.

Then I read Walter Wink. Walter Wink, who died in 2012, was a biblical scholar and a peace activist. He wrote a series of three books on “the Powers” and demons and unclean spirits, all the weird stuff of the Bible. He showed me that reducing stories and concepts of spiritual powers to modern categories that might be more manageable and believable missed the message of these stories. There is more being said in these stories than what modern psychology can answer.

Wink said that while this is ancient pre-modern language, and we don’t need to believe that there are actual demons and unclean spirits bouncing around the world, hopping in and out of people’s psyches, nonetheless, these spirits represent something very real in both ancient times and in our time. It is more than ancient superstition. It is more than mental illness.

Walter Wink wrote about this in terms of institutions. Institutions have a spirituality. They have a soul. All institutions from schools to churches to corporations to nations have a spirituality. This is a good thing. These institutions are created to do their jobs and the soul or spirit is that driving animating force that guides the institution in its work.

However, these animating spiritual powers are also fallen. They can succumb through greed and envy to change course. Rather than serve the larger good that they have been created to serve, they become demonic. They become unclean and these institutions begin to serve themselves or they serve the interests of those who have “possessed” the institution. These powers need to be named, unmasked, and engaged.

The titles of Walter Wink’s trilogy of books on this topic are respectively, Unmasking the Powers, Naming the Powers, and Engaging the Powers.

The church’s task, its mission, is to do this work of spiritual discernment. That is to unmask, name, and engage these spiritual dimensions of our institutions. This is not easy work. It is not without danger. One of the principles of our Presbyterian denomination is for the church to undertake its mission even at the risk of losing its life. We discussed that at our session retreat.

Jesus did not get in trouble because he cured people of mental illness. He got in trouble because he named, unmasked, and engaged the spiritual powers of institutions that had become demonic, namely, the Roman Imperial State and the Jewish Temple. The goal of this work, of the work of Jesus, and the church that he summoned, is not to destroy the institutions but to set them aright. This is the work of the Holy Spirit or God.

All of the New Testament including the Gospels, can be read as this contest of powers, the powers of institutions, Rome and the Temple, for the most part, and the power of Jesus who was sent by God the Father to save the institutions and the people they are created to serve and to announce the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is what the world looks like when the spiritual powers of institutions are doing their work according to their created purpose.

The story of the Gerasene demoniac, which is the lectionary text for today, is a case study in the type of exorcism that Jesus practiced. This is a parable. It would be hard to imagine this happening in any literal sense. Luke is showing us a parable of the work Jesus did. He is through parable showing us the meaning of the contest of powers between Jesus and the demon.

Jesus and his entourage go to the land of the Gerasenes. They are confronted by this guy who is possessed by a demon. It is intense. He is naked. He is bound by chains that he breaks. He lives in the tombs. The demon recognizes Jesus. It does not want to leave. The demon has a name, Legion. What is legion? According to Miriam-Webster, a legion is “the principal unit of the Roman army comprising 3000 to 6000 foot soldiers with cavalry.”

The country of the Gerasenes much like Galilee and all of the area is occupied territory. The demon Legion represents the occupying force. Legion, the demon, tells Jesus not to cast it into the abyss, into the Pit, nothingness, but to a herd of swine, unclean animals, yes, but also the livelihood of the people of the Gerasenes. Legion, the demon, before disappearing to where ever, drowns all these pigs. That raises the attention of the people, who come to check it out and are afraid. They ask Jesus to leave because of their fear.

This is a parable. You have an occupying force. Roman soldiers occupy the country of the Gerasenes. Who eats pork? Not Jews. The soldiers do. So you have an economy of swineherders who derive their income from servicing the occupying forces. It isn’t good. The unrest of this situation is represented in the guy who is naked in the tombs, good as dead. There is no controlling this Legion. They try to bind him, they try to make peace with this thing, but he breaks the chains.

Jesus comes. Fixes the problem. But destroys their economy. Jesus, it is time for you to go now. This is scary. What will Rome do to us now? What will we do now? Rome is an occupying force but it is all we know. We would rather have Legion than you, Jesus.

At the end, we have the man, clothed and in his right mind, no longer living among the tombs, but now he is a witness. He is telling about Jesus and the work Jesus has done. We don’t know what will happen. Will people hear this witness or will they prefer Legion because they are afraid? That is the question to us.

This parable, as all parables, are open-ended. What do you think? What will you do?

Here are a few questions:

Why are these people afraid of Jesus?
Why is liberation scarier than oppression?
What will it take for them to let go of their fear?
What will it take to let go of Legion?

Dare we ask these questions in our own time.

We know what President Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people in 1961 about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. He said:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

That was Eisenhower in 1961.

By any measure, what we have today in terms of the military-industrial-finance-intelligence-media complex is Legion multiplied by orders of magnitude. Just this past week, we barely avoided a war with Iran. Iran is not the enemy of the United States. Iran is the enemy of Israel, maybe, and that is only because Iran supports the just cause of the Palestinians. Iran has nothing to do with America. America needs to end the sanctions against Iran and the suffering it has inflicted upon those people through these sanctions.

Iran is not attacking America. There is no fight. Americans would have had to have been tricked into a war with Iran. Just like we have been tricked into every war. To back that statement up, I refer you to theologian David Ray Griffin and his book, The American Trajectory: Divine or Demonic?

So why is it that we have to be tricked? Caitlin Johnstone, an Australian, suggests that Americans have to be tricked because Americans are basically good people. We don’t want wars. So we have to be deceived every time into supporting them. “They”, that is the demon, of the military-industrial-finance-intelligence-media complex only has to convince the American people that the American military-industrial institution is exceptionally good and that the latest war escapade will save other people from bad dictators or whatever. Through the power of propaganda this scheme works again and again. Caitlin Johnstone says that Americans are the most propagandized group of people on the planet. Billions and billions are spent on corporate media all along the left-right spectrum to support the war machine.

To use Walter Wink’s analysis of the powers and the spirituality of institutions, he might say that America has a demon. Our nation has become possessed by Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex that is now more powerful than congress and the presidency. Our trajectory is endless war and the manufacture and sale of the implements of war. It has nothing to do with whether individual soldiers are good or bad or Americans are good or bad, it is about the spirituality, the soul of our nation. The Powers, Wink would say, and he did say it about America, are fallen and no longer serve the purpose for which they were created.

It is the task of the church, even to the extent of losing its own life, to unmask, name, and engage these powers, so that the Holy Spirit might redeem them and redirect them to their divine mission. It is good to have a military. The military exists to protect a nation’s borders from real enemies, not manufactured enemies. The military does not exist to invade other countries under false pretenses.

But we are scared. How can this preacher say this? He is speaking against the red, white and blue! No I am not. I am speaking against the demon that has possessed our nation. We need to cast it out. That is the mission of the church. That is the activism of the church.

That is what Jesus was doing. That is what his followers were doing. That is what got him killed. That is what got his followers killed. But God raised him from the dead and in that ongoing resurrection, God awakens all of us to wipe the film from our eyes and see what is real. We are called to discern the difference between the divine and the demonic and unmask, name, and engage these demonic powers. It is the church’s business.

I will suggest that it was because of the alternative media, people who have been working to unmask, name, and engage the demonic spirituality of the war machine, that the false flag against the Japanese tanker was named as such. Iran didn’t do it despite what the White House said. It was a false flag. It was because people pointed it out and did not just believe the propaganda fed to and through the corporate media that we might have been saved at least for a day from another war.

My point is that unmasking, naming, and engaging the demonic is not an impossible task.
But it is a courageous task.
It is the church’s task.
May we embrace it.

Amen.

Massimo Mazzucco and American Moon

Film-Maker Massimo Mazzucco Analyzes the Moon Landings in his Film “American Moon”

As the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 approaches, the nagging question remains: Did it really happen? Were the images seen by hundreds of millions on live television actually from the moon or from a NASA simulator? Italian film-maker, Massimo Mazzucco, in one of the most comprehensive films yet about the moon landings, explores all sides of the controversy.  His 2017 film, American Moon looks at the best evidence both for and against the moon landings. Plus the film analyzes for the first time ever the Apollo pictures in detail with commentary from some of the top photographers in the world.  You decide. Was the Apollo Project “the biggest achievement in the history of mankind, or the biggest fakery of all times?”

The film is available on Amazon or to rent or buy on Vimeo.  Watch the trailer here

Host John Shuck speaks live with Massimo Mazzucco about his film and takes your calls.

In addition to American Moon, Massimo Mazzucco has produced the following films (from Wikipedia):

  • The New American Century: a view of America’s historical, philosophical, economical and political background.
  • The Other Dallas – 2008: A documentary on the RFK assassination, also broadcast by Italian TV, that claims the man convicted for the crime — one Sirhan Bishara Sirhan — could not have physically killed the US senator.
  • The Lords of the World – 2009: The UFO history and the military persistent interference, both American and Russian, in what seems to be a much larger issue than one would normally believe.
  • Cancer: The Forbidden Cures – 2010: All the successful cures against cancer discovered in the last 100 years, and claims that they were suppressed.
  • The True History of Marijuana – 2011: The True History of Marijuana’ digs deep to expose a world-wide conspiracy, led by the petrochemical industry, that has outlawed one of the most useful plants known to mankind.
  • September 11 – The New Pearl Harbor – 2013: A 5-hour documentary that claims to rebut of the commonly accepted account of 911 and shows the resulting analysis by The National Institute of Standards and Technology, (NIST), to be deeply and fundamentally flawed.

KBOO Live version uncut

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Apologies and Manifestos: Conversations with Eve Ensler and Roman Montero

Eve Ensler writes her own apology from her father and Roman Montero uncovers the manifesto of a radical Jesus

In the first half-hour, Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues speaks with John Shuck about her latest book (to be released May 14th), The Apology

Like millions of women, Eve Ensler has been waiting much of her lifetime for an apology. Sexually and physically abused by her father, Eve has struggled her whole life from this betrayal, longing for an honest reckoning from a man who is long dead. After years of work as an anti-violence activist, she decided she would wait no longer; an apology could be imagined, by her, for her, to her. The Apology, written by Eve from her father’s point of view in the words she longed to hear, attempts to transform the abuse she suffered with unflinching truthfulness, compassion, and an expansive vision for the future.

In the second half-hour, Roman Montero (Jesus Was a Communist) discusses his latest book, Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Plain.  “Many have attempted to dampen the ethical teachings of Jesus by trying to relativize them, or by trying to make them compatible with the wider culture and the dominant ideologies; however, when understood in its historical context, the Sermon’s message was not only incompatible with the wider culture and the dominant ideologies, but it stood in opposition to them.” 

KBOO LIVE Friday, May 10th 9 am

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For Love of Hussain (A.S.) Now On-Line!

Contact John Shuck for an interview about this ground-breaking film!

The film has been released on YouTube and as of this writing has already received over 8,000 views since it was posted on Monday. “For the Love of Hussain (A.S.)” recounts the reflections and experiences of a Christian Pastor from America on the fifty-mile walk from Najaf to Karbala, Iraq for Arbaeen in October 2018.

Arbaeen is the largest yearly peaceful gathering on Earth. Officials estimate the number of people entering Karbala over a two-week period over fifteen million.

Yes. You read that correctly. Fifteen million. Other estimates are even higher. By comparison, the Hajj, receives three million visitors each year. Arbaeen has no central organization but has self-organized spontaneously after the fall of Saddam as visitors walk to visit the shrines of Hussain and Abbas in commemoration of their martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala 1400 years ago.

What they are saying about the film:

Miriam Fatima — ‘Unity is what this world need b4 its too late… We All together can Stand up against oppression like Imam Hussian a.s.. Stand For Truth’

S Jafry — ‘May God reward you with His best Mercy and expand your ability to continue to seek, recognize and stand for truth, justice and freedom. Beautifully captured especially shared mission of Jesus and Hussain.’

Syed Bokari — ‘Very inspiring, truly amazing and wonderful to see Muslims and Non-Muslims coming together through the love for Imam Hussain. God Bless the Pastor and his team for bringing the visit to the world. Mashallah.’

Moshin Raza — ‘Amazing well done…thanks for spreading this message of peace. Karbala is the only place in world where any person from any religion can attend this peaceful gathering for love of Hussain and witness humanity where everyone is treated equally and that is message of Imam Hussain a.s’

Farah Shariff Haji — ‘So beautiful! ♥️🙏🏼 Thank you for sharing it. Labaik Ya Hussain!’

Imaan Designs — ‘Thank YOU for awesome storytelling – the genuineness of feeling shone through!’

Princess Jenny — ‘I watched it was really wonderful thanks for your efforts and wish you success in your work always.’ 💖 💞

Ihsan Al-Saidi — ‘Thank you for sharing. Could not stop crying. Labayk ya Hussein.’

Rob Solomon — ‘Nicely done … well presented. The walk of Peace is thrilling. Simply thrilling.’

Ge Sada — ‘Actually I enjoyed every single minute of the documentary with my family. Your comments are really touching and brought tears to our eyes many times … Now I have what I’ve always needed when someone else, when a foreigner asks about Imam Hussain.’

The trip to Iraq for John Shuck and Josh Townsley was sponsored by the Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle. This is what they said about the project:

‘Alhamdulilah! a short documentary, For love of Husayn, has been released. Pastor John Shuck and cameraman Josh Townsley were invited to make the 3 day Arbaeen trip from Najaf to Karbala in Iraq by Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle in 2018. Husayniah sponsored the entire trip but did not interfere in the production of the film at all. The film is therefore an independent review of the amazing Karbala walk by these two Christian pilgrims. Husayniah plans to send Non-Muslims and Sunni Muslims as pilgrims to Karbala every year to witness this miracle. We ask the pilgrims for nothing in return but to help us spread Imam Husayn’s message of Love, Peace and Justice.’

While in Iraq, Townsley and Shuck were interviewed by the Iraqi Media NetworkShabir TV, and The Imam Hussein Shrine. After the walk, Shuck was interviewed by Peter Wong of the Beaverton Valley Times.

Both Shuck and Townsley are available for interviews and for venues to share their film and their experiences. 

Contact John Shuck via e-mail.

John Shuck is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton. Josh Townsley is executive director of Evergreen Habitat for Humanity in Clark County, Washington. 


Film, For Love of Hussain (A.S.) To Be Released

Media Release

Two Oregon Men Release Documentary Film of World’s Largest Annual Peaceful Gathering

Rev. John Shuck and Josh Townsley will offer a screening of their documentary “For Love of Hussain (A.S.)” on Sunday, April 28th during worship at ten a.m. at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton, Oregon. 

Shuck and Townsley visited Karbala, Iraq in October 2018 for Arbaeen, the largest yearly human gathering on Earth. They walked 50 miles from Najaf to Karbala in two and one-half days to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (A.S.) and his companions in the Battle of Karbala 1400 years ago. 

The walk spontaneously emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussain in 2003. Under Saddam, walking to the shrine was prohibited under penalty of arrest and execution. In 2018, according to official sources, in a two week period, over 15 million people converged on Karbala, the site of the shrines of Imam Hussain and his half-brother, Abbas.  The needs of the visitors to the shrine including places to sleep and food are provided each year by the hospitality of the Iraqi people with no centralized organization.

Shuck and Townsley’s trip was sponsored by the Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle, an organization formed in 2018 with the following mission:

“Husayniah society is determined to go beyond rituals to the strategic implementation of Imam Husayn’s message in western society, as bearing the true message of Islam. We plan to build an interfaith community where people come together to share and discuss ideas and work on things they are passionate about. Recognizing we belong to one human race means we have a responsibility to act as a community to affirmatively address issues of social justice.”

The 30-minute documentary will be an introduction to Arbaeen and the significance of Imam Hussain for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. 

According to Shuck, “The Arbaeen Walk, hosted by the people of Iraq, is truly a journey of love. It is a generous outpouring of hospitality toward the visitors of the beloved Imam who is a symbol of justice, sacrifice, and courage for the world. As a Christian and a pastor, I was warmly received. More non-Muslims need to come to Iraq and see this miracle.” 

Townsley said, “This has been an amazing experience, witnessing the thousands and thousands of people coming to visit Imam Husayn.  The most amazing thing is the hospitality and love of Iraqis and Iranians and people from all over the world.” 

While in Iraq, Townsley and Shuck were interviewed by the Iraqi Media NetworkShabir TV, and The Imam Hussein Shrine

The public is invited to the film screening Sunday, April 28th at ten a.m. at Southminster. Townsley filmed and edited the documentary and Shuck conducted the interviews, wrote the script and provided the narration. It will be released on YouTube and other online venues on April 29th.

Both Shuck and Townsley are available for interviews and for venues to share their film and their experiences. 

John Shuck is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton. Josh Townsley is executive director of Evergreen Habitat for Humanity in Clark County, Washington. 

Also on April 28th, the youth of Southminster Presbyterian Church will hold a silent auction from 9:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.  The church will be sending 17 youth and 4 adults on mission to the Westminster House in Spokane in June 2019 and plans are underway to send 30-40 youth and adults to Cameroon, Africa for a mission in June/July 2020.  Auction items include group dinners; cabins at Sunriver and Mount Hood; artwork and jewelry; many themed baskets, and more.  

For more information and for interviews contact John Shuck at 503-309-5346 or by email at shuckjohna@gmail.com.  

Sleepers, Awake!

Easter Sermon: Sleepers, Awake!

2019 April 21 Easter Order of Worship

Ephesians 5:11-14
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

‘Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’

The language and artistry of faith is nuance. It is poetry, parable, and metaphor. This divine poetic communication is not designed to confuse as much as to evoke. Sometimes to redirect. At times the language and artistry of faith calls us to deep reflection, at other times lament, at other times action.

The language and artistry of faith is a vehicle, a means, a way to open our hearts, to raise our consciousness, to sharpen our minds, to awaken us from slumber. All of that is done by Spirit who, like the wind, blows where it will.

I offer that preamble because I want to speak today of resurrection in terms of both language and art or parable and icon. I am also wanting to say that what I am offering in interpretation of resurrection is not doctrine or dogma. It is not the only or even the best way to interpret resurrection. But it is a way that has been on my mind this year.

I am going to suggest that resurrection evokes the poetry and artistry of awakening. I didn’t realize until I was putting the bulletin together, the extent to which death is spoken of through the metaphor of sleep by both Jesus and Paul and other New Testament writers.

Jesus tells a parable about farming, growing stuff. What happens? Weeds. Sown by the enemy while we sleep. That is an odd way to put it, if we are to take the story at face value. We have weeds in our garden because an enemy snuck in and planted them!

But as parable, it makes its own sense and evokes reality. My imagination turns. How often does this happen? How do we become fooled? How do we lose our rights? How do things turn so sour? Often, too often, it happens because we are not awake. We are not aware. We are not alert. Enemies do bad things and take advantage while we are sleeping.

Jesus says, “Keep awake. You don’t know the hour.” Then at his own hour all of his disciples are asleep when the enemy comes and there is no one to hear them coming and Jesus is arrested.

It is dangerous being asleep. We cannot protect ourselves or the ones we love.

This is all parable. Is it about sleeping? Or is it about living in illusion? Is it having a view of how things are that are not how things are?

In the story of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus tells her parents that the young girl is not dead but sleeping. The crowd laughs because that of course is not true. She is dead. So why does Jesus say she is sleeping and why does he tell her to “get up” as if she is napping? Again, it is parable. She is dead but for Jesus, she is sleeping.

We will find sleeping as a metaphor for death again. Why is death like sleeping? Or why is sleeping like death? Is it a euphemism? We don’t like to speak of death so we say sleeping because it doesn’t sound so final? Perhaps. But there could be more to it.

Jesus visits Lazarus. “I am going to wake him up,” says Jesus. The disciples object. If he is sleeping, he will wake up on his own. But then Jesus tells them plainly, “He is dead.” In fact, Lazarus is four days dead and sealed in a tomb. Is this parable again? Asleep. Death. Waking. Rising. Can we be dead while still alive? Dead while yet breathing, walking, talking, thinking, shopping, driving, eating, making a living, yet not alive at all? Walking dead?

And then there is this.

Since 1970, forty percent of all the plants and animals on Earth are gone. That is individual plants and animals, not species. Since 1970, the first Earth Day, we have lost 40% of plants and animals. Was I sleeping when the enemy came and planted toxic weeds that killed half the plants and animals? When did this happen? How did it happen that nearly half of all the animals and plants on Earth vanished in my sleep?

I am not sure why this hit me so hard and why I didn’t realize this, and why isn’t this in the news every day, and we can talk about “the news” that so much of the time is a sleep-aid as opposed to a wake-up call.

When Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Great Tide Risingcame to Southminster this past fall and dropped the bombshell about the animals that have vanished since I was ten, and I am thinking what? Are we all asleep? Yeah, pretty much. She says in her book that by 2060 half the species of animals and plants will be gone. When the species is gone, that is gone forever. That is at current rates of extinction. No guarantee those rates won’t increase in a feedback loop. So we have x number of species of animals and plants in 1970. By 2060, 40 years from now, we have half that number. What should I do about that? Buy a new car? Get another iPhone?

(Hear my interview with Kathleen Dean Moore on Progressive Spirit)

Turn over. Go to sleep. Somebody will take care of it. Maybe the market. Maybe the next election.

Then when I hear that we spend a thousand billion dollars a year on militarism it doesn’t mean a whole lot, except when I learned what it really means. Every time a bomb drops on Yemen, or Syria, or Gaza, or Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Libya, or pick an African nation or maybe soon Iran or Venezuela, every time a bomb drops and blows up stuff like hospitals and people, someone makes three million dollars.

It isn’t the spending, it is the earning that drives the militarism. We have to keep bombing because those who run this business have to have their accounts balance. It is a matter of income and expenses. You have to keep those three-million-dollar bombs falling somewhere everyday in order to make money. Peace is not profitable in our military-intelligence-finance-media-industrial complex especially when you have to invent enemies as fast as you need to make bombs to kill them.

What about us? We are sleeping because people are paid a lot of money to keep us asleep so that the enemy can sow weeds and bombs in our field. Because if we are sleeping we cannot object and by the time we wake up, it will be too late.

Then there is Jesus. Jesus lived in his own time, his own matrix of Roman imperial dominance to which his own religion sold out. Jesus, a loud mouth with nothing to lose goes right to the heart of it, the capital city, Jerusalem, during Passover, and turns over the tables in the temple. You just have to wake people up sometimes. It woke up the authorities. The disciples were sleeping. But Empire got Jesus and executed him quickly. They neutralized him as they say in the Hollywood spy shows.

That is our guy. Our whole religion for 2000 years has been based on a radical. He stood in front of a tank and said, “Run me over.” So it did. We made a religion out of that guy!

Why don’t we know that? Why don’t we understand the truth about Jesus? Because it doesn’t take long to realize that churches don’t exist by having radicals run them. You have to turn church into a dogma factory and make people drowsy with infantile sermons that cause people to feel better about sleeping while Rome burns, not to mention the rest of Earth.

Then this past year I learned about (and experienced) Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. He saved Islam by getting himself killed rather than appease a tyrant. So now I got both Jesus and Hussain haunting me and I am sorry, friends, but you don’t have a prayer on Easter. It is just going to happen.

So what do we do? What do we do about half the animals vanishing while we were sleeping these past 50 years? What do we do about the maniacs who seem so rational with their charts and figures sneaking into our fields while we sleep, planting toxic weeds and sucking all the carbon out of the ground and using it to bomb the place? What do we do?

Well, we can cry. We can learn how to lament.

It was 2006 when I woke up at three in the morning, sobbing. It was a first awakening of sorts. A church member gave me a copy of the documentary film, “The End of Suburbia” that introduced me to James Howard KunstlerRichard HeinbergMichael RuppertMatthew Simmonsand others who were talking about Peak Oil. On a global scale it is the point in time when the rate of production of the world’s oil peaks and then begins to decline. Cheap, conventional oil peaked a decade ago. New destructive technologies enable us to get the harder to reach stuff and I guess we won’t stop destroying everything to get it, until we are stopped.

I started to research this and its connections to global militarism, because one of the things I learned is that the United States consumes 25% of the world’s oil even as it has 5% of the world’s population. You need a lot of guns and bombs all over the planet to maintain that imbalance. We have them. Our country’s 800 military bases are embedded in 177 countries.

I had decided consciously that I wasn’t going to stop researching Peak Oil, and the wars, and the deceptions, and so forth just because I couldn’t see a solution from the outset or because it was too depressing. And depressing it was. I woke up sobbing at 3 a.m. More than once. Then you dry your tears and do some things. In my case, I decided to communicate this unpopular materialin the hopes that maybe more and more people will awaken and together we might even change the inevitable. You decide to fight.

Awakening doesn’t just happen one time on say, Tuesday. It can take a long time, piece by piece. Like grief, it doesn’t follow a straight line. You go back and forth to denial and awareness and back again as you struggle with your cognitive dissonance of how the world is supposed to work on one hand that you have learned from the matrix of your society, and how it really is on the other hand when you start reading people who know stuff and who are no longer themselves afraid to tell what they know.

You cry. You feel alone. When you try to speak, the propaganda machine smashes you with name-calling, “conspiracy theorist,” “crazy” and whatever, and for a while you are afraid of the social isolation and you doubt yourself. But there are other heroes out there who have gone down the rabbit hole farther than you and you find a community. You start to realize that you have a moral compass. And you realize that you are not afraid to follow the evidence where ever it leads. You become confident in showing your work, because you keep learning the hard truths, and you learn to back it up.

You realize that you have a purpose. You have the truths you know and you are no longer afraid of saying what you have seen and heard. The people who are supposedly so authoritative and wise when you ask them about stuff that matters, they don’t have anything except name-calling and propaganda slogans and are no longer worth worrying over. They are like Hades, the keeper of the gate of the dead. Jesus steps on poor old Hades as he breaks open the prison.

Let’s go to Jesus again. I started the sermon talking about the language and artistry of faith. The language of faith is the interplay between sleeping and death and how faith language is about waking up from death .

I don’t think I ever used this text from Ephesians on Easter. I never noticed it. Yet it is a perfect Easter text:

Ephesians 5:11-14
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

‘Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’

The language of Easter is awakening from death before the grave. We are spiritually dead before we are physically dead. Easter awakens the spiritually dead.

The artistry of Easter is the icon of Jesus crushing Hades and yanking Adam and Eve, David and Solomon, John the Baptist and the prophets, in essence all of humanity out of the prison of sleep. Jesus, who got himself killed, did it to wake us up.

This is the icon of Easter: Jesus is waking up all of humanity, leading us out of the prison of illusion and sleep-walking to wakefulness about what is really happening in our world.

A few weeks ago, Historical Jesus scholar, Dominic Crossan, came here to talk about resurrection icons in the eastern church. Crossan made a convincing case that the eastern resurrection icon is an evocative parablefor us and for our time. One of those icons is on the bulletin cover. In the western tradition, resurrection is depicted as Jesus alone floating above the tomb. In the eastern tradition, Jesus is breaking open the prison of death/sleep and yanking all of humanity out. I see it as breaking people out of the prison of illusion.

This past fall I visited Karbala, Iraq for Arbaeen, a yearly visitation to the shrine of Hussain, the prophet Mohammad’s grandson. Hussain is a symbol of resistance to tyranny and oppression. Fifteen million people visited him over a two-week period, walking from Najaf to Karbala, a fifty-mile walk over two and half days. I experienced it also as a movement of awakening. Josh Townsley and I made a little documentary film about it. It is 30 minutes long and I will show it during worship as a sermon next week.

Here is an interesting convergence. In a fluke of the convergence of calendars, today, Easter, also happens to be the birthday of Imam Mahdi, the twelfth imam who is believed to be living, hiding (like the sun behind a cloud), but will appear along with, guess who? Yes, Jesus. Together they will establish justice. They don’t just do it by themselves, for us, but they awaken us to participate in this renewal and make it happen. What a beautiful parable! The central figures of Islam and Christianity inspiring us all together to work for a just, sustainable world, a world my two-year old granddaughter can inhabit. A world for every two-year old on Earth.

(Read a short biography of Imam Mahdi)

What I am trying to say this morning friends is this.

Most of the world is asleep.

However, one by one, we are slowly waking up.

We are waking up to the reality of what the world is and the possibility of what it can be.

Waking is not for the faint of heart and it is not without lament.

Lament is cleansing. Lament means we are human.

Waking is not without opposition.

There are powerful forces working night and day to keep us asleep. Hades the gate-keeper uses every trick he knows to keep us locked up. Ridicule. Name-calling. Smear. Diversion. Relentless propaganda. Censorship. Lies. Wishful thinking.

Empire does not want people to be awake. Empire tries to kill the awakened ones. But it can’t kill all of us. The one executed by empire doesn’t stay dead. That one lives and has come to awaken the rest of us.

So in whatever form awakening comes to you, be courageous. Embrace it. Rise up! Open your eyes. Follow truth wherever it leads. No matter the cost. Don’t be afraid of the gate-keeper. He’s got nothing.

Amen.