June 27, 2012
"But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.'"
Reflection by Donna Schaper
Jesus went to extreme measures - walking on water - because he was intent on keeping us calm. So many of our other solutions don't work. I guess it took an extremist.
One of the ways people try to keep calm is to purify one time, one place, one race. Purity doesn't work to keep us from being afraid, but it sure tries. Jesus counseled fearlessness in mixtures, mixed up things, and roiling seas—not in quiet purity. Perhaps Norma can help us understand.
Norma is a Tewa tribal leader who taught my foodie group how to make tortillas from chico corn, saved on a screen in her back yard, on her reservation in New Mexico. Norma is a purist, and her objective was to make a delicious tortilla outside in a horno, an adobe oven with a Spanish name. Yes, that was the gift of the same Spanish people who conquered the natives and actually shot 153 of them in their ritual temple. Norma wanted the taste of the tortilla to be pure, but the Spanish oven got in her way. She kept referring to her sacred pure seeds.
I couldn't help but also hear the voices that used to say we couldn't mix races, thus they had to kill people for miscegenation. Even something as simple as a seed can be made pure and static. What do I mean by pure and static? That my people's traditions need to be protected at the expense of other people's traditions, as the Spanish insisted with the first Americans. Or that my race is the right color, as the Australians not only told the Maori but also enforced. That my orientation is the right orientation, and that others are somehow dirty or impure. Fear wants purity. Calm expects roil.
I just reviewed my last few weddings. One to a practicing Hindu and an Ecuadorian, second an African American man and a Chinese woman, third a Mexican woman and a woman born in Wisconsin. I can't wait to see what their seed will be. I believe there is more hope that all people will be calm and safe the more we intermarry. Why? There will be fewer chances for people to think there is such a thing as an "other."
I loved, while questioning, Norma's green chili stew and her memory of how to cook and grow. We need not demonize either purists or the impure, nor do we need to overly praise them. We need to both save everything and then we need to get the heat right in the oven. These are the skills that keep us truly calm. They may seem extreme but they are actually just right.
O God, when we fight to stay calm, let us learn to hybridize to stay calm. Amen.
About the Author
Donna Schaper is the Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her latest work is 20 Ways to Keep Sabbath, from The Pilgrim Press. Check out her work at www.judson.org.
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