Geraldine (Jeri) Abbott speaks briefly at devotions about Florence Jordan and Koinonia, March 2006
“We arrived in ’76 and spent eight years here. We had two daughters; they took care of the goats. My youngest daughter misses Koinonia. My son had a house in Koinonia village, and my grandson still lives there. From 2001 onwards, I took on the Koinonia archives, and I work there when I’m in town. I enjoy that work.
“When we came to Koinonia, it was very open. There was only one commitment that you made at the time: that you believed in Jesus as Lord. Once Koinonia got to having a handbook and all, it was too structured for my husband, so when that happened we left. But regardless, there is a spirit here: the spirit of Clarence and Florence, or of others. We worshipped together as a church, and there’s a great spirit in that.
“Florence [Jordan] was a very fine woman. She didn’t ever say “I’ve got to leave,” like so many others; she stayed on at Koinonia until she died. She had all of the history within her. So in a meeting, somebody would suggest something and she’d say, “We tried that and it didn’t work.”
“She was a wonderful hostess. She’d sit in the corner of the dining hall and invite all the guests over for coffee. She liked to talk with the parents of the younger people because, as she said, she was “just a regular lady,” and would calm their fears.
Recorded/transcribed by Ann Karp
Joe Jones visited Koinonia as a pre-teen and youth, often with his cousin, Collins McGee. Collins McGee was an African-American friend of Koinonia. You may recognize his name as the man who, along with Clarence Jordan and five others, accepted an open invitation to attend a mass meeting at the white Baptist church of Americus in 1965. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, their integrated group was unceremoniously tossed out of that church, but not before Clarence “put in a parting shot: ‘Well, everything in Americus is integrated now except the churches and the jails. And I have hope for the jails.’ (Dallas Lee, The Cotton Patch Evidence, p. 202).
As an African-American, Joe had to take the back roads to ensure that he would not be persecuted by hostile whites for his trips to Koinonia. “I had to get back before sundown or I’d be in trouble. I was about 15 years old at the time.” He also became involved in the civil rights movement in Americus. He spoke of various places the Americus movement attempted to integrate. “There was a redneck restaurant called B & B, and we tried to integrate it. A lot of people got beaten doing that.
“We prayed before those marches that nobody would have a penknife in their pocket, because if the police found anybody with any kind of knife, you were finished. They beat you some in the street, but that was nothing compared to what would happen once they got you back to the jail where nobody was watching.
“They [segregationists and law enforcement] wanted you to retaliate. Retaliation would feed the fire. There were no laws to protect or help you. People would not openly help you. There was a lawyer, Frank J. Meyers, who ran Americus. He sat and talked with Clarence Jordan—he wanted them to move. In later years, he saw things differently. He repented; several other powerful ones did. But the damage was done.
“The ones in power were the most prejudiced, and the others followed them. The White Citizens Council and the KKK were organized and dangerous, they created a lot of fear. Once the KKK had a cavalcade on Highway 30, over 70 cars long. They rode all the way to Koinonia in plain sight, but no law enforcement stopped them. Anything to drive these people away, they figured. A lady [Margaret Wittkamper] at Koinonia was watching them drive up and she asked, “Whose funeral is this?” They made some remark like, “It may be yours.”
“Now it’s no big thing to eat together, walk together. But then, it was unheard of. You could really get in trouble for it.”
What Did Jesus Really Mean?
Sunday, June 18, 2017, Gathered Worship
by Elizabeth Dede
Today is Father’s Day. So happy Father’s Day to every father. I include in this every father: my biological father; my nephews’ adoptive father; my grandfather; my godfather; my priest. I call them all father. Happy Father’s Day.
So what in the world did Jesus mean when he said, “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven?” (Matt 23:9) He must have meant something other than a literal interpretation of his words. No one would prohibit me from calling my dad father, even though he is a man on earth. Also, there are verses all over the Bible, which use the word father to describe a man on earth: Joseph speaks of a fatherly relationship God gave to him with the king of Egypt (Gen 45:8). Job says, “I was a father to the poor” (Job 29:16). Elisha calls out to Elijah, “My father, my father!” as Elijah is being taken up into heaven.
And it doesn’t work to say that all of that changed with the New Testament. References to earthly fathers are all over the place in the New Testament. Paul regularly talks about Timothy as his son. (1 Tim 1:18; 2 Tim 2:1; Phil 2:22). He called Onesimus his child, and says, “I have become his father.” (Philem 10)
Paul calls himself a father very clearly in his letter to the Corinthians: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (1 Cor 4:14-15).
So what did Jesus really mean? You have to look at the Bible in its context. Jesus says, “But you are not to be called ‘rabbi,’ for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called ‘masters,’ for you have one master, the Christ.” (Matt 23:8-10) Jesus also prohibits the use of the title teacher, but then he appoints teachers, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. . .teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20) Paul calls himself a teacher: “For this I was appointed a . . . teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (1 Tim 2:7). He reminds us that God calls teachers, “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers.” ( 1 Cor 12:28)
It simply doesn’t work to take Jesus’ words here literally. Jesus was criticizing Jewish leaders who love “the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places and being called ‘rabbi’ by men.” (Matt 23:6-7) Jesus was exaggerating (an oft-used figure of speech) to show the scribes and Pharisees that they needed to look to God in humility as the source of all authority, fatherhood, and teaching. They, in their pride, saw themselves as the ultimate authorities. Jesus is saying no to that way of thinking.
So Happy Father’s Day to fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, priests, and every other man you would call father on earth.
On Friday, I did a brief devotion on Matthew 5:27-30. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” I humorously said that I found it hard to reflect on these words so early in the morning. I’m a bit too squeamish to talk about plucking out eyeballs and cutting off body parts. If Jesus was being literal then we would all be missing eyes and hands. What did he really mean? He was once again using exaggeration to make a point. Lust is a sin. Adultery is a sin. They are serious sins. They have serious consequences. They destroy relationships here on earth. They ruin our relationship with God. The pain they cause are like plucking out an eye, or cutting off a hand. Jesus really means, “Don’t commit adultery. Don’t lust after each other.”
So what did Jesus really mean in today’s Gospel? “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” When we take communion, are we really eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus? Should the bread and the wine (or juice for us) be treated with the respect due the body and blood of Jesus?
I watched the movie, “Romero,” with our interns not too long ago. Romero was a priest and archbishop who served the poor in El Salvador during the 1980s at the time of the Death Squads. In one scene in the movie, Romero is in a church that has been taken over by the army. Romero tells the commanding officer that he has no right to be in the church. In response, the commander shoots up the altar, spraying the bread and wine with bullets, and splattering and scattering it all over the floor. Romero drops to his knees, carefully picking up the wafers, the Host. For Romero, that bread was the true body of Jesus. It cannot and should not be blown off the altar by a soldier with a gun. I grew up Lutheran, and my dad is a pastor. That scene has stuck with me each time I have seen the movie. Recently, I asked my dad what Luther would have said about this scene. Without even stopping to ponder his reply, my dad said, “Luther would have said that soldier is damned to hell.” Jesus body and blood are really present in the bread and wine. We dare not think of them just as some symbol.
So what did Jesus really mean? He really meant, “This is my body. This is my blood.” We can look to other places in the Bible. For example, Paul says, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the Body and Blood of the Lord. . . for anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” ( 1 Cor 11:27, 29) How is bread and wine (or juice) really Jesus’ body and blood? It’s a mystery that requires faith like the Resurrection, like the Incarnation.
It is a great thing to understand Jesus to really mean “This is my body; this is my blood.” The body and blood are food. They give us strength for our life with the presence of Jesus. They give us a personal relationship with Jesus: we are nourished by his body and blood.
So Happy Father’s Day! Confess your sins, try to live a good and decent life, and hold on to your eyeballs and hands. And take in the Body and Blood of Jesus to give you strength in your relationships with earthly people and with God. Amen.
Jesus Comes Home With Us
Sunday, June 11, 2017, Gathered Worship
by Elizabeth Dede
God gave his only Son that we might have eternal life. So we have the question, What does this mean for us today?
I’ve been reading the “Cotton Patch Evidence,” with our new Intern, Drew, and right now we are in the chapter, “According to Clarence.” The Cotton Patch translations were a way to bring Jesus to us. In the first chapter of John’s gospel we hear that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. For Clarence, when the Word became flesh, Jesus was, in fact, “plain, sweaty, down-to-earth flesh.” God loved us so much that he took on a physical body in Jesus and gave him to us.
Jesus died for us, but he was also raised that we might, too, be raised. So what does the resurrection mean? For Clarence, “the essence of the incarnation and the resurrection. . . was that man has to deal with God in the flesh.” Some of us have wondered what Clarence would think about the cross on the chapel here at Koinonia. “He saw crosses on steeples not as glorious testimony to the humanity of God but as offensive reflection of the church’s persistent deification of Jesus. He once said to a pastor who had just proudly pointed out the modern $10,000 cross atop a new church that he had been cheated on that price. ‘Time was,’ Clarence said, ‘when Christians could get those crosses for free.’” Maybe Clarence would have been OK with ours since it is plain, old wood, most likely recycled from some other project.
Jesus came in “plain, sweaty, down-to-earth flesh,” and then he died a very physical death, with much physical pain and suffering, It was a humiliating death, but Jesus took it on for us that we might have eternal life.
What is the resurrection? “Clarence viewed the resurrection as God’s refusal to stay on the other side of the grave. ‘He raised Jesus, not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that He himself has now established permanent residence on earth,’ Clarence said. ‘The resurrection places Jesus on this side of the grave, here and now, in the midst of this life. The Good News of the resurrection is not that we shall die and go home with him, but that he is risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner brothers with him.’”
So in eternal life, Jesus will be with us always. Where do we find Jesus now? We see Jesus whenever we are hungry and sit down to eat with each other. We see Jesus in communion when the bread and juice become the body and blood. We see Jesus at Harvest of Hope, the food pantry, when hungry people come simply to get food. We see Jesus in the men in prison who need a bag of clothes. On and on, Jesus is present to us in plain old flesh, here on earth. He was raised that we also might be raised. He is present with us that we might be present with him. And as we know the presence of Jesus we begin to know the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven.
Thank you God for your love that was in the beginning with the Word; for your love that became flesh and dwelt among us; for your love that is your only begotten Son that you gave. Help us to believe. Thank you for everlasting life. Amen.