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Meeting The Identified Patient at The Border

Yesterday in class we started talking about Systems Theory and the work Murray Bowen around the Identified Patient. I cannot stop thinking about ways in I have been the identified patient in various systems. It causes me to stop and think, who is the identified patient in in our national system?

Yesterday was World Refugee Day. During Evening Prayer we used prayers from the Episcopal Migration Ministries. It is tempting to see the current anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States and other countries as a reaction to globalization and climate change. It is tempting to see this in terms of economic pressures and the loss of national identity.

Yet I wonder, are immigrants in the United States also the initial patient in confronting national issues around our history of racism and ill treatment of the inhabitants of the land when European settlers arrived? If so, how might this shape our response to what is going on in our federal government today?

Axios

“I am the son of a polygamist.” “I did not know my father.” “I grew up with my grandmother.” These words echo in my mind as I think back to class yesterday. Winnie Varghese was talking about speaking with a bunch of seminary students in Africa.

She spoke about how she didn’t recognize how meaningful those words were. It is part of the context of people being made second class citizens because of circumstances around the marital statuses of their parents when they were born. We need to understand this when we think about how various Anglican churches in Africa that about the blessing of same-sex marriages.

We need to think about this in terms of how we welcome people who are different from us to our churches and to leadership roles in our churches. I think of this in terms of the Orthodox ordination service where the people proclaim “Axios”. He is worthy!

To me, this a key part of my understanding of Christ. In the Episcopal Rite I Eucharist, we say the prayer of humble access,

And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins,
to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept
this our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits,
but pardoning our offenses, through Jesus Christ our Lord

In the Eucharist and on the cross Christ responds to us saying, Axios. Christ has made us worthy.

Strawberry Marrow

I lift up mine eyes to the hills
and the structures
look like
Hebrew characters.

Class was challenging this morning
feeling almost
dissociative
in a good way.

I sit and write
as the sun beats down
like God’s warming love.

I am holding many concerns.

A friend has marked himself safe
in the fatal earthquake
in Japan
not far from where
my daughter lives,
shaken,
but okay.

A woman
who cannot have children
weeps
over those taken
from their mothers.

I pray for the sick and oppressed.

A classmate walks by
and offers me strawberries.
They are sweet and fresh
and remind me of the Zen story
about tigers, mice, a vine,
and a strawberry.

How sweet it tasted.

I am living deeply right now
sucking out all the marrow of life
and treating each moment
like the host in an Orthodox Liturgy;
death mingled with resurrection,
each drop being so sacred
it must not be spilled.

2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Sabbath - Lepers on Camino

Saturday evening, I walked down to St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Berkeley. It is a small Russian Orthodox church without any pews, but has a few chairs on the side. There is a nice collection of icons, but the walls and ceiling are not covered the way they are in other Orthodox churches I’ve attended. Attendance at Vespers services are often fairly light and I was one of the first people there. The priest came out and welcomed me, asked if I was Orthodox and where I was from. I told him a little bit of my story. It turns out that he went to seminary with the Orthodox priest at the church I attend in Connecticut.

The service was familiar, except much of it was in Church Slavonic. Remembering listing to Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil on Memorial Day weekend, I found a few words coming to me during the service. I thought of my studies in Hebrew. Maybe learning Church Slavonic isn’t as remote an idea as I had once thought.

After the service I walked back through Berkeley, past the tents of homeless people and into what felt like downtown with nice restaurants. I met some of my classmates there for dinner.

Sunday morning, I slept a little later than usual, but got up with enough time to make it to All Souls for their 7:30 service. It was a small quiet nourishing service with interesting reflections about being the mustard seed. It was interesting to think of mustard seeds as an invasive species and there is perhaps some interesting ecclesiology there.

I went back to the dorm, had breakfast, chatted with a couple classmates, and then set out on the next leg of my journey. I walked across Berkeley to the east side where I attended Good Shepherd. I passed a dog park and a group of people taking Spanish dancing lessons in what seemed to be the parking lot of an abandoned gas station. I passed more homeless enclaves and eventually ended up at the church. It was also a small service and I chatted with people for whom life seemed a constant struggle, elderly people, offspring of elderly people, people without stable housing.

I thought of going to Good Shepherd with some of my classmates and the scene from Brother Sun, Sister Moon came to mind where St. Francis recoiled at seeing the lepers and Sister Claire said, “Yes, lepers”.

Perhaps we are all lepers on camino.

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