Power and Responsibility in Children’s Literature
Do you ever indulge in reading children’s literature? I have always enjoyed my children’s books: sweet, funny, and sometimes sassy stories. The best ones will often tell deep truths. My family has always enjoyed reading books aloud together, searching for books that would be accessible and interesting to all of us. These days my children more often prefer to read to themselves, so I make a point of picking up one of their books occasionally and giving it a quick read. What are they into? What are they thinking about these days?
One of the great authors of classic kid-lit is Rick Riordan. The Kane Chronicles concerns two young adolescents with deep ancestral roots in Egyptian royalty and magic. Beyond Riordan’s nods to the Judeo-Christian tradition (by carefully distinguishing created gods from the uncreated God and by suggesting that Musa (Moshe, Moses) was the only foreign magician ever to defeat Egypt’s magicians in a contest of power), I was amused by the intersections between Riordan’s imaginative world and my own musings on life and theology. Two motifs particularly struck me as I read: power and responsibility.
The first motif is power. These young children discovered they were powerful magicians. Which of us does not also wish to exercise great power to change the world around us? Our words and actions—sometimes symbolic, sometimes “practical”—indeed can be powerful and effective. What the children quickly learned, however, is how depleting that power can be. Magic done in cooperation with the natural order can be effective and not too demanding. This is using the natural processes of the world (physical, emotional, relational, etc.), with only modest inputs of power to make tweaks and re-alignments, to accomplish one’s end. Magic done which significantly disrupts the natural processes, such as reassembling something that shattered, is draining and can even lead to a quick death if one works simply out of one’s own power.
What other sources of power are there? There are the gods of course. A magician might call on a god to exercise that god’s power instead of the magician’s. Sound familiar? In different modes this could be Christian prayer—or witchcraft. This can be tricky with the created gods of Riordan’s story because gods have their own agendas and seek to use human beings just as much as human beings seek to use them. There is an economy at work, but it is a Wild-West economy where deception is the norm and every actor seeks to take maximum advantage.
Our God, on the other hand, is neither manipulated nor manipulative. Unlike the gods of Riordan’s imagination, there is no bilateral economy of trade with God. God gives, and we learn to receive. We ask, and God responds as God chooses. God is never taken advantage of, and God never takes advantage of us or our need. Throughout the Bible, this is what distinguishes Israel’s God from all other gods.
The second motif that grabbed me in Riordin’s book is that of responsibility. Specifically, there is the concept of a god inhabiting a human body. In Riordan’s story, the gods seek human hosts that will enable them to take flesh in the world and once again enact their old stories of love, jealousy, and war. A person hosting a god will be able to draw on that god’s power to do magic, preserving the human’s meager resources. Hosting a god is a tricky game, however, because the god struggles mightily, both overtly and by psychological manipulation, to gain complete ascendancy in the host’s body in order to live out the god’s aims unimpeded. The more one interacts with the god, the more one is subject to that god’s will. A human host who once or twice gives in might quickly find his or her power of resistance diminished to uselessness.
As Christians, we talk a lot about this same idea. My Baptist relatives like to speak of Jesus living in one’s heart. I prefer the idea of the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” However we phrase it, in baptism we die to the life apart from God and commit ourselves to live in community with God, acknowledging God at the core of our being.
My prayer for as long as I can remember has been that God would dwell in me more overtly. I want to be mastered by the God who lives in me, for my will to diminish and God’s words, deeds, and actions to be ascendant in my body, to accomplish the will of God. Unfortunately (from my point of view), our God isn’t like the gods of Riordan’s worlds. God doesn’t jostle for control. God does not seek to manipulate me, to take control. I’ve offered, pleaded for that a thousand times! My favorite poem of all time is John Donne’s sonnet, “Batter my heart, three-person’d God.”
Instead, our God seeks to live in community with us. As God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer lives in community within God’s self, I am invited to partake of that community. God’s promptings are gentle, God’s voice is a whisper. God invites me to make choices that honor God, but God never demands. That’s not the nature of God’s relationship with me nor, I suspect, with you. In the end, God is always a gracious guest, maintaining God’s own integrity and refusing to compromise ours.
God has ceded to each of us a measure of power and the responsibility for how we use that power. I wonder sometimes why God refuses to relieve me of that responsibility. I wonder what the connection is between responsibility and the capacity to love.
Things to Consider During Stewardship Season
In an effort to give Epiphany more information on what happens in the life of this dynamic parish, during stewardship season (between now and November 20), we will be publishing charts, graphs, and slides in the Weekly Work and Monthly Message. It is our hope to better educate the parish on the impact and industry of this neighborhood church in sharing the reality of the Kingdom of God. If you have any questions about what you read or see, please contact me.
Join Epiphany at the Seattle Children’s Theater
Our 4th–5th Grade Sunday School classes are exploring the theme of Spiritual Journeys and specifically looking at C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe this fall. As part of this study, Epiphany has reserved a number of discount tickets to the Seattle Children’s Theater’s production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on Sunday, November 13, at 2:30 pm. If you are interested in attending this performance with our group, we’d love to have you.
Tickets are $35 per adult and $20 per child (12 months–18 years), payable to Epiphany Parish (“SCT tickets” in memo line). We need payment by October 25, in order to purchase the tickets that we have on hold. Please contact Elizabeth Walker if you can join us or if you have questions.
All Women Are Invited to the Annual Half-Day Retreat
Praying in Color: An Artistic Morning Together
Saturday, November 5, at 9 am–1 pm (Fireside Room)
Sacred geometry is a term we learned from exploring the art in The Saint John’s Bible. The most universal sacred geometry is the circle, through all cultures from ancient times to today. Our November morning will explore how this symbol expresses our spirituality.
Souheir Rawlings, a long-time friend of Tamara Lamb, is visiting Seattle to share her “Expressive Art and Soul” expertise with us for our half-day November retreat. Souheir lives in the Flathead Valley of Northwestern Montana, but she travels the world—from Alaska to Africa—learning how diverse cultures use art. Her training as an artist included instruction in portrait and figure drawing and painting in Florence, Italy, at Studio Art Center International. Her degrees are from Pacific Oaks College in California, where her focus was on human development and education.
- We’ll settle in as close to 9 am as we can, and finish the program by noon so we can stop for lunch.
- Cost for the day is $20.
- Coffee and morning treats will be provided.
- Karen Forbes and Ann Lockhart will bring salad greens. Please bring other salad goodies to share and some cookies or fruit if you’d like.
- The canvas labyrinth will be available during the retreat and lunch.
Please let us know if you can join us. Call the church office or email Ann Lockhart by October 28th. Souheir is bringing supplies with her so we have to let her know how many are planning on attending. Also, if you would like childcare, please let us know by the 28th so we can set it up.
Election Day Quiet Day
Is all the noise and commotion of the election getting to you too? Do you wish it was just over already?
In all the excitement of a national election, with heated rhetoric and 15-minute news cycles, it can be easy to lose focus. It can be easy to get distracted and to lose perspective. Will the world end on November 8 if one person or another wins (loses) an election? Or will Jesus still be Lord and the universe still a perfectly safe place to be?
At Epiphany we’re rather inclined to the latter opinion. To help remind ourselves of this fact, and to pray for the well-being of our nation, we are setting aside the chapel for prayer and meditation all day on election day. We will open at 7 am for silent prayer. Pieter Drummond will lead a meditation at 7:45 am, followed by a short Eucharist service at 8:30 am. The labyrinth will be available all day, beginning at 9 am.
We are blessed to live in a country where we can choose our own leaders: the fact that our decision process is raucous only points to the strength of our system. We are blessed to live in a country where we can assemble and worship as we see fit. Join us as we pray for our leaders, our country, our own work as citizens, and our whole community of nations.
Silent Prayer: 7 am–5 pm
Guided Meditation: 7:45–8:15 am
Holy Eucharist: 8:30 am
Labyrinth: 9 am–5 pm
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
October 16, 2016
Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost
2 Timothy 3:14–4:5
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
This Week at Epiphany
October 16: Adult Forum – The Spiritual Discipline of Pilgrimage
Join George Moberly for a discussion of pilgrimage as a discipline with the goal of real presence and intimacy with God that us to deepen our relationship with God, with ourselves, and with each other. This is also an opportunity to ask questions about the Walking Pilgrimage being planned for this spring in England.
October 16: Newcomers Reception at the Rector’s House
If you are relatively new to Epiphany and would like the chance to get to know ministry leaders and staff, you are invited to the Conn residence for a reception after the 5 pm service this evening. Click here for more information and to RSVP.
October 22: Safeguarding God’s Children
Safeguarding God’s Children is a training program for the Episcopal Church designed by the Church Pension Group to make our churches as safe as possible for our children and youth and those who work with them. Everyone who works with children or youth at Epiphany is required to go through the training, as well as staff and vestry members. Recommended for all members. The training will be at 10 am in the Christie House Library. Contact Laura Sargent if you would like to attend.
October 23: Adult Forum – Christian Art Lecture
Bill Ingham, Northwest artist and Epiphany parishioner, citing Christian masterworks, shows how each artist carefully devised and created these timeless paintings which remain so astonishing and persuasive today. Join us at 10 am in the Great Hall.
October 23: Due Date for the YWCA Halloween Drive
Help children living in YWCA housing to celebrate Halloween! You can bring pumpkins, carving sets, costumes, candy, and any other festive items to the donation bins in the back of the church, anytime between Sunday, October 2, and Sunday, October 23. Supplies will be delivered that afternoon.
October 27: Monthly Teen Feed Dinner
Every fourth Thursday, Epiphany’s Teen Feed crew gathers at a church kitchen in the University District to cook their famous enchiladas for young people living on the streets. For more information, contact Ann Beck.
October 29: YWCA Apartment Beautification
When families living in the YWCA’s transitional housing find their permanent homes, the vacated apartments often need some TLC. On the last Saturday of the month, a crew from Epiphany gives their assignment a good scrub, stocks it with basic supplies, and leaves it looking a bit more like home for the next family. To find out how you can get involved, contact Ann Beck.
October 30: Adult Forum – American Muslims and Their Faith
This presentation by the Islamic Speakers Bureau aims to help people understand the beliefs and practices of American Muslims. It touches upon Muslims around the globe, the diversity of American Muslims, and women’s rights. The ultimate goal to provide an opportunity to ask questions and for those in attendance to learn about Islam as it is practiced by Americans. Join us at 10 am in the Great Hall.
November 5: Commemoration of All Faithful Departed Souls
We will be commemorating all faithful departed souls with a service of Holy Eucharist in the Chapel on Saturday, November 5, at 8 pm. The service will be candlelit and heavily punctuated with incense, full of mystery and beauty. The reading of the necrology will happen at this service.
October 26: Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and the Common Good with Miroslav Volf
What is forgiveness and how do it an reconciliation inform the world we share with 7 billion others, many of whom do not share our culture or religion? How do we learn to embrace rather than reject difference? What roles do religion play in how we negotiate life together? Miroslav Volf will discuss these and other questions at Seattle Pacific University (Gwinn Commons) at 7 pm on October 26. Volf is the Founder and Director of Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. Buy tickets here for $15.
November 5: Madrona Community Council Wine Tasting Fundraiser
The Madrona Community Council collaborates with Leschi Market on this annual fundraiser. Leschi Market assembles vinters and representatives, and on the night of the event you taste and many, many wines that are sold at a discount. Just leave your completed order at the exit, and when your order is ready, Leschi Market will call you for pick up. Click here to get your tickets.