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Homily Grits Lent II-C March 4, 2007

  • To:
  • Subject: Homily Grits Lent II-C March 4, 2007
  • From: Grant Mauricio Gallup <grant73@turbonett.com.ni>
  • Date: Sat, 03 Mar 2007 12:44:51 -0600

 H o m i l y   G r i t s
Second Sunday in Lent Year
March 4

Fasts and Feasts: March 7, Perpetua & companions, martyrs at Carthage
202; Thomas Aquinas; March 8, John of God (Juan de Dios), International
Women's Day; March 9, Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, c. 394. March 9, 
Savio; March 9, Frances of Rome; March 12, Rutilio Grande, priest &
Manuel and Nelson, farmers, martyrs in El Salvador; March 12, St 
Gregory the Great.

O God, whose glory it is always to have
mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring
them again with penitent  hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and
hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who
with you and the Holy
Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.   Amen.

¶ Book of Common Prayer Lectionary:
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 He brought him outside and said, 'Look toward
heaven and count the stars."
Psalm 27 or 27:10-18 Dominus illuminatio - The Lord is my light and my
Philippians 3:17-4:1 Our citizenship is in heaven
Luke 13: (22-30) 31-35 "Go and tell that fox for me: 'Listen! I am
out demons.'" 

¶ Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3: 17-4:1
Luke 13: 31-35 or 9: 28-36

The last word of James Weldon Johnson's
"Lift Every voice" (now in the Episcopal Hymnal  1982 at
#599) is the word "land". "True to our God, true to our
native land", you will remember, is the phrase in which the word
appears.  By this phrase, "native land", the author meant
the North American continent, not the African sub-Saharan
one.  The land out of which the ancestors had come was not
"our" native land, to the Johnsons.  Native means where
you are born, not where your ancestors were born.  There are those
who thought that Blacks should indeed be sent back to Africa, back to the
native land of their kidnapped
ancestors, but James Weldon Johnson perceived that it was here in what is
now the United States that the "white gleam of our bright star is
cast", and our own European-colonized North America became also for
the internal
colony, the Black Nation, its "native land." 

"America was promises," wrote Archibald Macleish in his poem of
that title.  Then he asks, "America was promises to
whom?"   He answers himself "America was always
promises, from the first voyage and the first
ship there were promises--" and names those who took the promises
seriously:  "Jefferson knew:  Declared it before God and
before history: Declares it still in the remembering tomb.  The
promises were Man's:  the
land was his-Man endowed by his Creator: Earnest in love: perfectible by
reason:  Just and perceiving justice: his natural nature Clear and
sweet at the source as springs in trees are.  It was Man the promise
contemplated."   Then:  "the Aristocracy of
polite selfishness Bought the
land up: bought the towns, the sites:  The goods:  the
government:  the people.  Bled them. Sold them. Kept the
profit.  Lost itself."   The prophet in Archibald
Macleish wrote next:  "The time came:  the time
comes:  the speakers Come and those who speak are not the People. 
These who speak with gunstocks at the doors:  These the coarse
ambitious priest Leads by the bloody fingers forward:  These who
reach with stiffened arm  to touch What none who took dared touch
before:  These who
touch the truth are not the People.   These the savage fables
of the time Lick at the fingers as a bitch will waked at morning: 
These who teach the lie are not the

"We do not ask for Truth now from John Adams.  We do not ask
for Tongues from Thomas Jefferson.  We do not ask for Justice from
Tom Paine.  We ask for answers.  And there is an answer. . . .
They say 'The promises are
theirs who take them.' 
Believe America is promises to
Take! America is promises to
Us To take them Brutally With love but Take them.

Oh believe this!" (1)

Martin Luther King Jr. saw that, too, when he said, "I may not get
over to the promised land with you", but "we as a people will
get to the promised land." The promised land always seems to
be  just out  of reach,  just over the horizon,
"whose margin fades forever and forever
when I move", as Tennyson saw the future with Ulysses.  It is
everyone's promised land.  The God of Abraham speaks in a vision and
promises some land.  "I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of
the Chaldeans to give
you this land."  I had a hard time with this Scripture when I
first read it.  First of all, Abraham is a slave owner, 
secondly his god is a real carnivore, wanting beef and mutton and poultry
all at one meal:  heifers
and rams and turtle doves and lambs, in bloody sacrifice. No tofu on that
table.    And then god promises Abraham some land that
belongs to somebody else.  The inhabitants are to be evicted and
Abe's kinfolk made the settlers in the West Bank.  There's a whole
lot of primitive religion
and primitive law there that we  seem stuck with in Bush's theology
and Israel's  greed for lebensraum in Palestine.   Heretic
Jerry Falwell and Lunatic Pat Robertson and their radio and TV kinfolk
are devoted to these threats to dispossess their
neighbors.    The Puritan Pilgrims came to the promised
land and the native Americans got short sheeted.  The Dutch and the
British came to Southern Africa and the Bantu got short-sheeted. 
Apartheid was a massive form of eviction, to fulfill their Calvinist
expectations of promised land.  What one people look upon as
promised land another people have looked upon as home for centuries. And
this is true whether it is continent or neighborhood.  

"Gentrification"  is a word we have all come to know since
it was first used in the 80's as the title for a couple of
plays,   one of them  by Dean Corrin, (2)  
which I saw years ago at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. It is a
play about two gay teachers who move into an inner city block to give a
gay eye to the strait guy in what was
then called urban pioneering.  Now mix this up with two street
gangs, the Dragons and the Flames, and the added element that one of the
gay guys is Black and the other a dimwit honky. The Black guy and his
dimwit white
lover move into an Hispanic neighborhood, buy a house, and fruit it up
with Venetian blinds, house plants, and wall paper--it is their promised
land.  But the Hispanic gang sees them as a threat, because they
paint over the graffiti which marked this as their terreno, this block as
their "hood".  And so the stage is set for
struggle.    I lived through some of this on the West Side
of Chicago in the years immediately after I saw this play-- and more
recently  when I went back to Chicago for my
semi-annual checkup,  I was taken all around the West Side by a
former parishioner, who as a Black man who owned his own formidably
stable brownstone, was amazed and dazzled by the gentrification that had
taken place everywhere around his own stake in the "promised
land." .  Almost
nothing of our old broken down slum was left,  most blocks had been
levelled, new blocks of upscale and pricey townhouses had been
erected,  the poor who had once lived there had vanished into air,
into thin air. I
stopped at a corner grocery to buy aspirin for a friend and found the
owners were now not Black but real Muslim Arabs, whom I could greet in my
little topi cap I'd bought in Iraq, and say to them Salaam
aleikum.   I
visited a family of my former parishioners who were still in one of the
old three story houses, and they lived like naufragos,  survivors of
a shipwreck, staring at their TV sets in separate junk filled rooms,
survivors of fast food and cerebral strokes, afraid to come out of the
house to meet me.  I barged in and with my walking stick found my
way up darkened stairways to announce myself and call them some
names.  Some of their own names, and some others.  I went to
visit Wallace Davis, a former parishioner who had been shot in the back
by the police one morning long ago when he was opening the lock of his
own shop on Monroe Street;  because he is Black they took them for a
burglar.   We went to see Muhammad Ali to ask him to put on an
exhibition bout to raise money for a lawyer,  and he gladly agreed
to do so.  (We made our application to him at the Windy City gym
while he stripped and showered after a practice bout!  He invited us
back to his townhouse for tea and showed me his Qurán and some of his own
homily grits he had preached at the mosque.
)   Wallace sued the city and got a lot of money in a
settlement,  and now has a fine restaurant at 2800 W. Madison where
we went for a great dinner of  catfish and fried okra--for me a
promised land of  soul food,
for Wallace and his kids a promised land of new life on earth.  

Anthropologists have taught us about territorial imperative, the
instinct, deep within, to acquire and defend geography. Birds do it, and
evict intruders; dogs and cats, even our domestic pets, do it, and do
their best to bark or hiss or bite or scratch anyone, anything, that
dares invade the sacred precincts.   But God promised
Abraham, in his old age, in a vision, that although childless, he would
father a host of descendants, and deliver them all into a promised
land.  The owners of it, those who possessed it, were unfit to live
there, and
would be evicted.  Even to this day the political claims of the
government of Israel to the west bank of Jodan, which are disputed now,
are based on the Scripture we heard solemnly read this morning.  The
promised land is still for the Israeli government the subject of
surveyor's instruments--it has longitude and it has latitude.  
In the long history of religion, the idea of promised land has not yet
been spiritualized, as it has become for many others.  Christians
came to
believe and some still do, that the Bible somewhere says, "Work and
pray, live on hay, you'll get your pie in the sky by and by." 
I have news for you:  that's not in the Bible.  It is true that
"promised land" came to mean no land here and all rewards
postponed until after death.  This particular gospel is the gospel
which the rich and those who own the land would like to have the poor and
landless believe.  So long as the poor and the oppressed can be
persuaded that since they are God's favorites,
God will give them forty acres and a mule in the next life.  Perhaps
they will not get uppity and violent and want to have some rewards over
here in this life.  When I was in the U.S. army of occupation in
Puerto Rico
in the 1950's one could see flapping from the tops of little thatched
huts in the hills the banner of a Puerto Rican political party with the
words, "Pan, Tierra, Libertad." Bread, Land, Liberty.  For
the world's
starving, landless, enslaved millions today this is still their goal,
their hope, their dream. .  But--make no mistake--it is also a
political agenda.

The people of Haiti have not had a land of their own since the U.S. got
involved in land management for dictators and MeFirst world corporations
long, long ago.   Haiti has never been for Haitians their own
land.  They've been a colony of Gringolandia a long time.  As
has the Dominican
Republic, with which it shares Hispaniola.  As has Puerto Rico, with
which it shares the Caribbean,  the Great Sea which the U.S. thinks
is its private lake.   But folks everywhere in our Empire are
revolting against tyranny and
claiming their future and their lands for themselves.  They too
believe as we claim to, in the Promised Land.  The Xhosa and the
Zulu and all the families of Azania believe in Promised Land.  All
the wars and conflicts
of humankind are over Promised Land.  Hitler only wanted lebensraum,
living space, for the German people, he said; too bad that Poles and
Slavs and other untermenschen were in the way.  

The Church has never really backed off the terrestrial idea of Promised
Land when it suited church people to want some of it here on earth. 
Even St. Paul does not preach an ethereal pie in the sky version of the
promise.  "Our commonwealth is in heaven," he says in his
letter, but he
doesn't go on then to say, "and we'll have to wait until we get
there to enjoy our rights as citizens." That's the false version of
Promised Land theology.  What Paul actually says is 'from it we
await a Savior,  a
Liberator."  Paul actually thought that Jesus Christ was about
to return to earth in Paul's own lifetime, bringing with him the new
commonwealth, bringing with him to this earth the citizenship rights of
that commonwealth.  And the other writers in the New Testament,
although they
despaired of changing the ways things were, they gave up on the Roman
Empire ever changing its way, and began to call it a Great  Whore
(which patriotic Paul never laid his lip to saying) nevertheless the
vision was
that the Kingdom would come here on earth and not that we would all of us
just have to wait round until our own individual bodily deaths in order
to get passports to a country in the sky that would never in fact 
here ever at any time, or change the way the world is run.  
The New Testament expectation is for God's kingdom here on earth. 
"Thy kingdom come on earth".  

But is that kingdom only one of land redistribution?  Has the
kingdom of God begun to arrive because some of us sitting in this room
have title to our own land somewhere or are buying it on a thirty year
mortgage?   Does
the delivery of the deed to our hands mean the promised land has
come?  Will the Iraqi people get to share in the spoils  that
Bush and Halliburton have made of the  land Iraqis inherited from
their ancient ancestors Abraham and Sarah ?  In Ur of the Iraqis? 

Jesus' vision was not so much of land-as-spoils as it was a  vision
of new life in community for the human species.  It isn't based on
race or nationality, and he didn't see any borders to his promised
land.  He says the Kingdom is hard to get to, the promised land is a
paradoxical place,
where some are first now who will be last there, and some are in last
place now who will find themselves in fist place there, and that people
will come from every part of the earth to the land that is an inclusive
community:  "Men and women will come from east and west and
> from north
and south and sit at the kingdom table," Jesus said.  And you
yourselves thrust out.  Who is to be thrust out?  Jesus was
talking to those who are
primarily concerned about their individual "salvation." That's
the religion of most USers.  "Brother, Sister, Are you
Saved?" That is, did you get your personal lottery ticket to
heaven?  Jesus said, "it's not
that easy."  His vision of the promised land as that of
community, is not a private space.  It is of a city, not some
privatized "getting over."  Jesus weeps over the city in
today's gospel and there's enough to weep
over.  Be cause "Ï'll get mine" has been the motto of our
leaders, the motto of our "citizens"--but until we learn to
live together in the city we shall not have the promised land, for this
is it.  Heaven, the Bible
says, is a city, not a country place.  A community, not
isolation.   Jesus' vision of the city is that of a gathered
community, not a gentrified neighborhood.   Where people live
in isolation from neighbors, you have no city.   Jesus instead
saw a hen with her chicks--safety,
nurture, peace, protection.   And he promises we won't stop him
> from weeping until we can welcome him and his vision of community as the
way to the promised land. 

Apartado RP-10, Managua, Nicaragua C.A.
Tel. 011-505-2662165
GRITS  now on-line:  

(1) New and Collected Poems, 1917-1976, Archibald MacLeish,
Boston :
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976, Copyright by Archibald MacLeish. Duell,
Sloan & Pearce published Ameica was Promises in 1939.

(2) Dean Corrin, playwright of  "Gentrification" is Head
of Playwriting
at the Theatre School at DePaul University, Chicago, and Chair of
Studies. Produced at Victory Gardens, Januar