For more information on Appalshop, visit www.appalshop.org.
Hi, this is Bishop Brian.
I want to wish you a happy Saint Patrick’s Day. It is Wednesday, March 17th. Every Wednesday morning the diocesan staff, along with guests and friends, gather for morning prayer. We’ve done that each Wednesday now for a couple of years. This past year we’ve done that by Zoom. This morning’s gospel lesson for morning prayer came from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says he is the bread of life, and we share in that bread of life. Obviously whenever you and I think about the bread of life, we think about Eucharist, we think about communion, and it reminded me of a great film I saw many, many years ago, connected with Appalshop.
Appalshop is based in Whitesburg, Kentucky, a great center for folklore, for the arts, for culture, radio, theater, film, and one of their early films was called In the Good Old Fashioned Way, about the old regular baptist tradition in eastern Kentucky. In that film, there’s two great scenes that I think about often when I think about the Eucharist, and think about the life that we have in the Christ. There’s a scene at the beginning of the film with an old woman describing her belief in the old regular baptist tradition, a tradition that only shares in the Lord’s supper, the Eucharist, once a year. But before they share in that meal, they also share in the sacrament of foot washing. Men washing the feet of men, women washing the feet of women, and then and only then do they share in the meal of the Lord’s supper.
The woman says this wonderful sentence; “I wouldn’t take the bread and wine if I couldn’t wash feet.” For me, she grounds the idea of sharing in the meal, the meal of Jesus, by also sharing and grounding that act in the ministry of Jesus, the service to the other. Later in the film, an old man is speaking outdoors to a group of folks, and at some point he stops and says, “We need more tenderness now.”
You and I are living not simply in a time of a COVID pandemic, we’re also living in a time of a cruelty pandemic. Increasingly, through words, through violent actions, we are experiencing deep cruelty, and we need to respond to reject those violent acts, to reject that kind of language, and to know that we’re called to be a different kind of people.
This past weekend at a sporting event in Sewanee there were racial slurs shared against the other team, students at Sewanee and staff on Monday gathered to reject that kind of language, and we stand with them in rejecting that kind of language in denigrating the other, knowing that we were all made in the image of God. We also reject violent acts against people because of who they are, as far as ethnic background, increasing violence against Asian Americans again has no place in our land.
We are a land of immigrants, we are a land of people gathered and kept gathered by a creed that we respect the difference, that we value the difference, that we celebrate the difference. So you and I need to be a people sharing in more tenderness now, keeping those hearts open, hearts open to work against injustice, to work for a truly beloved community, but those hearts have to stay tender as we find ways to offer gestures of love, and grace, and mercy, and forgiveness towards each other.
My brothers and sisters, my friends, please know in this time we continue to see signs of hope, signs of grace, signs of mercy. But we do so in a time where we have to day in and day out choose a different path, a path that is not moved towards more cruelty, but more kindness.