Saturday, April 30, 2011

For the Callejas family

Immigration officials may deport Mormon branch president and family

Remember all your church, O Lord,
with all their families,
and all their immediate connections,
with all their sick and afflicted ones,
with all the poor and meek of the earth. (D&C 109:72)

Felix Joaquin Callejas-Hernandez
Luca Margarita Castillo de Callejas
Jose Moroni Callejas-Castillo
Margarita Concepcion Callejas-Castillo

In Christ's name, amen.


I'm reminded also of these passages. Okay, granted, the Callejas family's situation isn't as drastic as the situations to which these texts allude; but when it comes to the pain this family's experiencing, the difference is more of degree than kind.

We owe an imperative duty
to ourselves, to our wives and children,
who have been made to bow down
with grief, sorrow, and care,
under the damning hand of oppression . . .
It is an iron yoke. (D&C 123:7)

[As usual, oppression is defended with pious claims about obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.]

Although you will be cast into trouble,
and into bars and walls,
your God will stand by you forever.
If your enemies fall upon you,
and tear you from the bosom of your wife,
and of your own offspring,
and your oldest son clings to your clothing,
saying, "My father, my father,
what can't you stay with us?"
and if then he be thrust from you,
and you be dragged to prison—
know this my son:
the Son of Man has descended below them all.
Hold on your way,
for God will be with you forever. (D&C 122:4, 6-9)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

The Omnipotent Lord,
who was and is from all eternity,
will come down from heaven
among the children of Adam and Eve
and dwell in a tabernacle of clay.

He will suffer temptations
and pain of body—
hunger and thirst and fatigue.

They will scourge him
and crucify him.

On the third day
he will rise from the dead,
and look! he stands to judge the world.

All these things are done
so that a righteous judgment
may come upon the children of Adam and Eve.

(Mosiah 3:5-10)


He will be led, crucified, and killed,
the Flesh becoming subject to death.
Thus God breaks the bands of death,
having gained victory over death,
giving the Flesh power
to make intercession for mortals—

having ascended into heaven
with the bowels of mercy,
being filled with compassion for mortals,
standing between them and condemnation,
having broken the bands of death
and purchased their freedom.

(Mosiah 15:7-9)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday

Strictly speaking, it's Saturday now; but I forgot to post earlier. No Way of the Cross this year. It was cancelled at the last minute—evidently we'll walk under heat but not rain. In the evening I attended a Taize service at which I read part of John's passion narrative.

I encountered this icon online a few days ago. No information was available regarding the painter.


I looked and saw that the Lamb of God
was taken by the people;
the Son of the everlasting God
was judged of the world.
I saw and bear record.

I saw that he was lifted up on the cross
and killed...

After he was killed,
I saw that the great and spacious building,
which was the pride of the world, fell,
and its fall was exceedingly great.

(1 Nephi 11:32-34, 36)


He becomes the victim of empire to destroy empire.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day and green garments

Okay, a little break from the somber tone of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I want to do my bit to promote the Green Garment Campaign, which was conceived by "Tophat" over at the blog "It's All About the Hat." The campaign is encouraging environmentally minded Latter-day Saints to send messages to the feedback link at Church Distribution ( that the church expand the range of garment fabrics to include "green" options like wool or a cotton/hemp blend.

In a more literal sense, "green" garments are already available, i.e., in the color green, for LDS folks in the armed services. So, let's see... What are the odds that the church will be as solicitous toward members with environmental concerns as it has been to the needs of its members in the military?

That was a snarky question—and I will sincerely repent for that, in a spirit of humbled thanksgiving, if events prove that my snarkiness was unfair. But speaking seriously, it's hard to predict how church leadership might react to this campaign, assuming it gets off the ground enough to attract their notice. On the one hand, now that "going green" has become a respectable part of the corporate culture from which church administration often takes its cues, the church recently developed a "green"-certified model for meetinghouses. On the other hand, given the predominance of conservative Republicans in Mormonism and therefore in church administration, I really do suspect the campaign will tend to elicit within the bureaucracy a kneejerk reaction of, "Silly tree-huggers." Of course, even if there's sympathy for the proposal, the corporate machinery could decide it's not cost-effective, too little demand, etc.

Still, despite my natural pessimism, it's heartening to see folks anxiously engaged in a good cause, so I wish the Green Garment Campaign well. "O Lord, give them success" (Alma 31:32).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday

Just got back from the Maundy Thursday service. We meet in a lodge at a church camp outside town for a dinner featuring Mediterranean foods. Then there's footwashing and communion. Then the altar is stripped for Good Friday, the crucifix is wrapped in black cloth, all the tables and chairs are cleared away, and everyone gathers on the dark porch to sing a song based on Jesus' plea to the disciples to watch with him in Gethsemane and to hear Psalm 22 read by flashlight.

During dinner, Hugo and I were chatting with someone at our table, who we learned had lived in Congon during the 1970s as a Peace Corps volunteer. After that, he did a stint with USAID in Mali. He said that in Mali he deliberately didn't open himself up so much because he had opened himself in Congo and then found it painful to leave.

A little later, as supper was ending and I could hear the sounds of conviviality all around me, I thought that we're supposed to imagine Jesus experiencing a similar pain at gathering for what he knows is his last supper with his friends before he is taken from them. It's the sadness I'll feel when I walk out of the last Sunday service I attend here at the Advocate before I move away. Or the sadness I felt leaving the Dominican Republic at the end of my LDS mission. Even if you know that you'll get together again someday—still, something is ending. Your relationship, even if it's resumed in the future, will never quite be the same again. Jesus may break bread with his friends again in the future, but they'll do so on the far side of a rupture from which they have to look back on this last supper as part of something that was lost.

What does this mean for the Mormon dream of "together forever"?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday

I cantored at the Palm Sunday service today. It was held outdoors at a park not far from my apartment. Began with a procession down the street with palms. A different species of palm than usual: these were "eco-palms." Apparently the people who harvest them are committed to not overharvesting and destroying bird habitats, plus there's no middleman.

Oh, I almost forgot. I also read the part of Judas in the passion narrative. I've been Caiphas in the past. Something about me must seem appropriate to the villains' roles.

Palm Sunday is about disillusion, false hopes, shattered expectations. You think the longed-for day has come, the kingdom is here, you're marching forward in triumph... And then it all falls apart. The authorities swoop in, everyone's running scattered, hiding out in windowless rooms. The peg you'd hung your hopes on has collapsed. You were duped. Nothing's turned out the way you thought it was going to. You put your faith in the wrong people.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thank God! Glenn Beck

And as long as I'm online, I have to post briefly a prayer of thanks at the news that Glenn Beck's television show is coming to an end. I'm not being ironic when I say that I'm offering a prayer of thanks. I wondered how long it would take even the people at Fox to decide he had gone too far. I will be disappointed if they decided he had gone too far only because he was losing viewers (not because they have the scruples they ought to).

I also have to pray that this move isn't just the prelude to his doing something worse.

A recurring figure in the Book of Mormon is a man who uses "flattering" or "cunning" words to stir people up to anger for unrighteous purposes. These figures function, literarily, as the anti-type of the prophets, who also use the power of speech to stir people up—in their case, of course, for righteous purposes. Glenn Beck thinks of himself as a prophet, who proclaims the truth and stirs people up to do good. I think he's the anti-type. And so I'm grateful that he will no longer have the high-profile platform he's enjoyed for the past couple of years.

This is not my doctrine:
to stir people's hearts up to anger
one against another.
But this is my doctrine:
that such things should be done away.
(3 Nephi 11:30)

I hear the rebuke that verse gives to me, too.

An acrostic psalm

This is the psalm I prepared for the April Taize service. I'm posting it separately because it needs a little explanation. It's the first few verses of Psalm 34. Psalm 34 is an acrostic psalm in Hebrew, meaning that the first letter of each verse spells out the alphabet. I wanted to see if I could replicate the effect in English translation, but that proved very difficult to do. So instead, I approximated the effect of the acrostic by using alliteration within each verse—lots of initial A's in the first verse, lots of B's in the second, etc. I aimed to use enough alliteration to make the effect noticeable but not to the point of absurdity.

I have no idea if anyone listening to the psalm as it was being read actually noticed the alliteration—or even if the person reading it from the page noticed. But I thought it was fun. It introduced a playful element into the worship—or more precisely, it tried to preserve the playful element that's present in the Hebrew original.


PSALM 34:1-8

At all times, I will acclaim the Lord.
Adoration will be always on my lips.

I will boast of the Lord’s blessings,
to buoy up those who have been brought low.

Come, let us combine our voices in praise,
for the name of the Lord is without compare!

In the day of distress, I appealed to the Lord,
who delivered me from all danger.

Lift your eyes to the Lord, and you will be enveloped in glory;
no enemy will ever shame you.

The prayers of the afflicted fly to the Lord,
who will not fail to free them from misfortune.

A garrison of angels encircles the God-fearing,
to safeguard them from all foes.

Taste and see how good is the Lord!
How happy are those who take the Lord to be their haven!

April Taize service

I just realized I didn't post the readings for the first-Friday Taize service, as I like to do. I attended the service this time as a regular participant, rather than as a musician. That was nice—it had been a stressful week, and I appreciated the chance to get spiritually recharged. I did prepare the readings and intercessions, though. I worked with the theme, "Christ, our reconciliation."



Those who enter into Christ
become a new creation.
The old passes away—
and look, everything becomes new!

This is the work of God,
who has been reconciled with us through Christ
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

Let me express it in different words:
In Christ, God was reconciled with the world,
absolving them of their offenses.
And God has entrusted to us the task
of announcing to the world this reconciliation.


LUKE 15:11-24

Jesus said: A man had two sons.
The younger of them said to their father,
"Give me now the share of the estate
that is appointed for my inheritance."

So the father divided the estate between his sons.
Not long after this, the younger son gathered up his belongings
and went off to a distant country.
There he squandered his inheritance in self-indulgence.

After everything was spent,
that country was struck by famine,
and the son found himself in desperate need.
No one would give him anything.
At last he begged for work from a local landowner,
who sent him out to tend pigs.
He received little to eat and was so hungry
that he would have been glad to eat the pigs' fodder.

Finally, he knew what he must do.
He said, "My father’s hired hands have plenty to eat,
while here I am starving!
I will go back home and say to my father:
I have sinned against God and against you.
I do not deserve to be recognized as your son;
but please, take me in as a hired hand."

So he set off for home.
As he approached,
his father recognized him from the distance
and was overjoyed.
His father ran to meet him,
threw his arms around him,
and kissed him.

The son said,
"I have sinned against God and against you.
I do not deserve to be recognized as your son."

But his father called to the house: "Quickly!
Bring out the finest robe, and put it on him!
Get a ring for his finger and shoes for his feet!
Prepare a feast to celebrate the return of my son!
He was dead, but now he is alive!
He was lost, but now he is found!"

And so the celebration began.



Holy God—
we pray for the work of reconciliation that you are bringing to pass through Jesus Christ.

For all who are estranged from you because of anger, despair, disillusionment, or self-hatred:
that they may encounter your love.

For all who are lonely in this world—neglected, rejected, abandoned, or bereft:
that they may find companionship and community.

For all who are unhappy in relationships with family, lovers, friends:
that they may find a way to be reconciled.

For all who wage conflict, and for all who find themselves in the middle of conflict:
that there may be peace.

For all who have been hurt or wronged by others:
that they may find safety, justice, and healing, and that the grace to forgive may grow within them.

For all who carry burdens of guilt:
that in Christ they may find absolution and rest.