Meet the Author Interview

This “Meet the Author” interview with Sharon Delgado ran in the Grass Valley Union on June 28, 2022.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a spouse, lover, mother and auntie, grandmother, friend, and co-conspirator for a world of justice, peace, and the healing of creation. I’m a retired United Methodist pastor, activist, nonviolence practitioner, and author, seeking to live with grace and to be a force for good in the world. Find out about my work at sharondelgado.org.

What brought you to this area?

My husband Guari and I moved here from San Francisco as part of the counterculture’s “back to the land” movement of the 1970s. We fell in love with the natural beauty of this place. We lived in a cabin without electricity outside Nevada City for seven years, then built our home and raised our children here. We lived and worked in Santa Cruz for thirteen years, then moved back and retired here in 2005.

How did you get into writing?

I have journaled for forty years as a spiritual practice and path to self-discovery. I wrote for classes I took at Sierra College when our children were young. Later at Sac State I wrote papers for various classes, including my major, Peace/War Studies (Social Science). Because for me, personal spirituality and social concern are linked, they have always been integrated in my writing. In seminary, and later as a pastor, my writing evolved. In 2007 I published my first book.

What is your favorite book or who is your favorite author?

I read the Bible daily, taking it seriously but in context, so not always literally. I also read books from other spiritual traditions. My staple diet is nonfiction, books that help me understand the social, political, ecological, and economic problems we face. Some, like The Cross and the Lynching Tree (James Cone) and This Changes Everything (Naomi Klein) have been life-changing. Novels are like dessert or like a vacation. My favorite authors are Amy Tan, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Mistress of Spices), Isabelle Allende, Zora Neale Hurston, and Barbara Kingsolver.

What is your book about?

The Cross in the Midst of Creation approaches the many challenges facing our world today from a progressive Christian perspective.  It explores confusion and disagreement among Christians about the meaning of the cross, the primary symbol of Christian faith. The book makes the case that the crucifixion is ongoing as institutionalized powers like the ones that put Jesus to death are at work today in the violence and injustice perpetrated against our human family and creation. At the same time, the resurrection is ongoing as people from varied spiritual and philosophical perspectives rise in courage and move in the direction of God’s intended world. Other themes include: a critique of Christian nationalism, rejection of punitive theologies, a survey of biblical views of the cross that focus on the God of love who was revealed in Jesus, what it means to live in the presence of the Risen Christ today and to follow Jesus into the heart of the struggle for a transformed world.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired to write a book proclaiming the God of compassion and love and transformative justice that Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated. It is distressing for me to see the message of Jesus distorted to support Christian nationalism, white supremacy, and other forms of domination, exclusion, discrimination, and cultural accommodation. I wanted to proclaim the “good news” in a way that is true to Jesus’ original message and relevant to the problems facing us today.

What did you find most challenging about writing a book?

At this point, I trust that if I keep my mind and heart open to the Spirit, the words will come. And they do. Creating the Index was challenging, since I have to relearn the computer program each time I write another book. Then comes the really challenging part—getting the word out about why I think it’s an important book and people should read it.  (I do.)

What is your key takeaway or message you hope readers find in your book?

The loving God whom Jesus proclaimed is not limited to any one religion, for the Spirit is like the wind that “blows where it wills.” This Great Mystery, “the one in whom we live and move and have our being, the “Soul of the Universe” (John Wesley) is still at work in the world and can move us in the direction of both personal and social transformation.

Where can people find your book?

You can find it locally at The Bookseller in Grass Valley or at Harmony Books in Nevada City—let’s keep our local bookstores alive. There are copies in the local books section at the library. It is also available from Amazon and other online platforms and direct from the publisher, Fortress Press.

Please describe what you’d consider your perfect day.

A day when justice flows down like water and righteousness as an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24). Until that day comes, I’ll settle for a day that begins with early morning contemplative prayer, a walk in the woods with my beloved, three simple meals, reading and writing, laughing and being silly with the grandkids, taking a spin around the dance floor, and contributing my small part to what Thomas Berry called “The Great Work” of our time.

 

 

 

My New Books Have Arrived!

 

Hi Friends,

My new books are finally here: 100 copies of The Cross in the Midst of Creation. The official launch day is June 14, but I ordered these from Fortress, and they were delivered early.  Hooray!

Although I signed the contract for this book in May of 2020, it has been in the works for years. In 2017 I published a Lenten blog series, A Lenten Call to Resist, with posts that included summaries of several of its primary themes. From then on, even as I was publishing and giving presentations on my other books, I returned to this writing project as my spiritual focus and discipline each year during the season of Lent.

But my passion for the topics in this book go back much farther than that. The scriptural foundation for this work, the first two chapters of First Corinthians, is also the foundation of my spiritual journey and my life. These are the passages that triggered in me a spiritual experience that propelled me directly into preparations in the United Methodist Church for ordained ministry, with a specialized focus on peace, justice, and the healing of creation. These passages motivate me to continue seeking “God’s wisdom, secret and hidden” (1 Cor 2:7) and to challenge the “wisdom of this age” and “the rulers of this age” (1 Cor 2:6) as Jesus did in his day, although it led them to crucify him (1 Cor 2:8). If you read this book, you will see how these themes are integral to a participatory view of the gospel that leads to both personal and social transformation.

If you wonder whether you want to read this book, read a short summary here. Also, check out several initial endorsers here. They include climate activist Bill McKibben, theologians Catherine Keller and Ched Meyers, Sojourners Editor Rose Marie Berger, and many others. If you read it and think others would find the book valuable, please help me get the word out:

  1. Write a two or three sentence review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online sites.
  2. Recommend it on your social media platforms.
  3. Request the book at your local library or local bookstore.
  4. Recommend the book to three people you know who would appreciate the message.

I will post info about upcoming book launch events. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Check the box at the right to follow Sharon’s blog.

Seasonal Thoughts on Climate Justice

Progressive Christian Social Action

Seasonal Thoughts on Climate Justice

This post was published as A Seasonal Reflection on Climate Justice in the Grass Valley Union on December 19, 2020.

During this season, Christmas carols feature angels singing “peace on earth, goodwill to men” (meaning all) and choruses proclaiming, “Let heaven and nature sing.” These words express the universality of the divine intention for good, the hopeful spirit of the season, and humanity’s yearning for peace, goodwill, and the abundance of life on earth.

As part of the Union’s regular series on climate change, my article is appearing when people of the world’s many spiritual traditions celebrate hope as light breaks through the winter darkness and days begin to lengthen. These varied traditions offer comfort and renewal, even as we face an overwhelming surge of pandemic-related tragedies and needs. With so many other concerns, it’s hard to think about climate change, but rising global temperatures and intensifying weather-related disasters do not pause for the coronavirus and will bring ever-increasing harm if we ignore them. Climate change is violence against people and against the natural world. Our challenge is to achieve climate justice: justice for our human family, especially those most impacted and threatened by our changing climate, intergenerational justice for children and future generations, and justice for the earth that sustains us all.

It will take people of all religious, spiritual, and philosophical perspectives, working together, to bring about a world of climate justice. Yet instead of the unity we need to address today’s challenges, there is an extreme political and social divide. How can we effectively address climate change in this “climate” of division? Perhaps this season of goodwill can inspire us to reach out beyond the boundaries that separate us and build bridges that unite.

Especially concerning to me are divisions within my own faith tradition, Christianity. But the Christmas story foretells the good news of the compassionate, wise, inclusive, egalitarian, nonviolent Jesus of Nazareth, who challenged the Powers that be and was executed for doing so, and whose Spirit still animates those who seek to follow him. Even today, many pray and work for God’s compassionate will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven,” that is, for a world of peace, goodwill, and abundant life. For some, this includes a yearning for climate justice.

Many people look to the New Year and to the Biden Administration for strong climate action. Some hope to gain bipartisan Congressional support by proposing modest initiatives. But a modest approach would not ensure that the United States does its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a scale that would help limit global temperatures to 1.5℃ (2.7℉) above pre-industrial temperatures, the internationally agreed-upon upper limit to prevent runaway climate change.

The only proposed legislation so far that would set annual, science-based emissions reduction targets while also addressing systemic injustice is the Green New Deal. Highlights include guaranteed living-wage jobs and a “just transition” for both workers and frontline communities. As the world has acknowledged since 1992, when the foundational climate treaty was signed at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (which I attended in Rio de Janeiro as part of the United Methodist delegation), the only way to effectively address climate change is to also tackle issues of social, economic, and environmental justice. This would increase goodwill among nations and reduce the violence of climate change.

President-elect Joe Biden has his work cut out for him. Restoring agencies, programs, and competent staff will be a huge task. Restoring international relations is another challenge. Biden is right in saying that rejoining the Paris Climate Accords is important but not enough. Building a world of climate justice will require a strong, diverse, and well-organized global movement that can exert power to demand justice for both people and the earth. Only “people power” will be able to move public officials here and elsewhere to take the strong and coordinated actions necessary to protect those most vulnerable to the ravages of pandemic, poverty, injustices, and climate change and to create a world of inclusion, equity, ecological healing, and peace. Fortunately, this movement for global justice is well underway; it is strong and growing. Its slogan is “Another world is possible.”

During this season, our songs, prayers, decorations, candle-lighting, charitable giving, feasting, exchanging gifts, and other rituals demonstrate and point to hope for the world. As we celebrate the dawning of light, may our varied spiritual traditions inspire us to join together in unity, not just to address climate change as an isolated issue but to work for climate justice and a world of peace, goodwill, and abundant life.

To receive an email notification each time Sharon posts to her blog, click the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right.

Her other blog postings about climate change can be found here.  

 

 

If You Want Peace, Work for Justice

Progressive Christian Social Action

“If You Want Peace, Work for Justice” or

“The Things that Make for Peace”

A sermon preached by the Reverend Sharon Delgado on June 7, 2020, at Nevada City United Methodist Church

Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “And the tears you shed, my grieving one, they are sweeter than the laughing of one seeking to forget, and pleasanter than loud voices in jest. Those tears shall cleanse the heart of hating and teach the one who sheds them to be companion to those of broken heart. They are the tears of the Nazarene.”

There are a lot of tears in our readings this morning, which makes sense.  We are going through a painful time. Jesus knew pain well. According to Luke 19, as he was heading into Jerusalem during that last week of his life, he looked out over the city and wept over it, saying to the people, “Would that you, even you, had known the things that make for peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes.” He also told them why disaster was coming: because… “you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” There is a direct relationship between peace and our recognition of the presence of God.

God is present with us, even in this time conflict, violence, upheaval, and sorrow. God is with us even in our tears. The time of our visitation from God is now.

Our responsive reading this morning was selections from Jeremiah 8:18 though 9:24. Jeremiah was the  Hebrew prophet who also wept over Jerusalem and Judea and what was coming upon his people. The hymn that we sang this morning, “The Balm of Gilead,” is based on Jeremiah’s words. That balm was a medicinal ointment made in the region of Gilead that had curative powers, and it has gone on to mean spiritual as well as physical healing. When we sing that hymn, we can feel that healing power and presence of God.

But in Jeremiah’s lament, he cries out to God: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?” He goes on: “O, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people.” A heart-rending cry, and we’ve been hearing some heart-rending cries today.

Throughout his long life, this prophet called his people to repentance, especially the leaders.  He told them disaster would come upon them if they didn’t turn around. He did not like this role and he complained to God. He said, “O Lord, everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ The word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.” But he can’t stop speaking in God’s name.  He said, “If I say, I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name, then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

That fire that spoke through the prophets was the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation, the same Spirit that animated Jesus’s life, the same Spirit that came upon the disciples at Pentecost. That same Spirit speaks through our prophets even today.

People have called Jeremiah “the Weeping Prophet” and pointed to him as a precursor of Jesus, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, then went into the city and directly into the Temple, where he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and drove out those who were conducting business there. Jesus’s words are straight from Jeremiah, who had challenged the leaders of the Temple in his day, saying that they had turned God’s house into “a den of robbers.”

This has been called The Cleansing of the Temple, but it was really a symbolic nonviolent direct action directed against the idolatrous and unjust economic system. It was through the Temple that taxes were collected and tribute sent to Rome. No wonder tax collectors were so despised. The religious leaders enforced this system. They collaborated with the Roman occupation of Jerusalem to keep stability and peace, a peace built on domination, violence, and oppression. They were afraid that Jesus’ popularity would cause disruption… and it did.

After his action at the Temple, the religious leaders were more convinced than ever that they had to do away with Jesus. But they couldn’t get near him in the Temple to arrest him because he was surrounded by so many people, and “the people were spellbound.” Another version says, “All the people hung on his words.”

I found myself spellbound the other day. Pastor Dave had just called and told me about the death of his cousin, and he asked me if I could preach this Sunday. I love to preach and it’s my calling and if I don’t it’s like there’s a fire shut up in my bones.  That’s why I write.  But I knew I had a full schedule the next few days, so I told him I would pray about it and get back to him within a couple of hours.

Then I saw the news about the police using tear gas to clear the park and the yard of St. John’s Episcopal Church of protestors, including twenty clergy and laity from other churches who had come to support the peaceful protesters and bring them water and snacks.  They all got teargassed and driven out, like a reverse cleansing of the Temple. Then the president stood on the church steps for a photograph holding up the Bible. I was speechless, not a good place to be if I’m thinking about preaching.

Then the screen shifted to the Episcopalian bishop of the area, Bishop Budde, speaking out about this, and I was spellbound. I am tired of hearing the gospel distorted and mis-used. Her words were like balm, not just for challenging what was going on but for speaking a positive word about who we are called to be as followers of Christ.  She spoke truth, and I hung on her words.  It was like a visitation from God, so I called Pastor Dave and told him, “I can do this.  God just gave me a way.”  Here are her words:

“The president just used a Bible and one of the churches in my diocese as a backdrop for a message that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for.  To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police to clear the church yard.  I am outraged….

“The president did not pray when he came to St. Johns; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country….

“We of the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in his Way of love. We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Savior who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest.”

In just a few minutes, we will celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion, remembering that final meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. It’s a time to celebrate his continuing presence among us and our reconciliation with God, with each other, all members of our human family, and with the whole community of life. It’s also a reminder that as Jesus’s followers, we are called to be agents of reconciliation, because true peace is not based on domination or violence or oppression, but on relationships restored.

God is with us in our pain as well as in our joy.

God is with us in the upheaval as well as in times of calm.

God is with us when we challenge lies and distortions as well as when we hear and recognize and speak a word of truth.

The time of our visitation from God is now.

To receive an email notification each time Sharon posts to her blog, click the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right.

“Poverty Amid Pandemic: The Moral Response to Covid 19”

Progressive Christian Social Action

Poverty Amid Pandemic: The Moral Response to Covid 19

The Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign

This post is the transcript of The Moral Response to Covid 19, an address given by The Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign on April 9, 2020.  His address begins about 8 minute into this video, but the whole video is well worth watching.

“We’re in a moment where hope for our many holy traditions will return to where they began in the first place. I know of Christianity and Islam and Judaism, that these holy traditions began in the midst of oppression. They began in the midst of times when there were bad, narcissistic leaders sitting on the throne who were implementing all kinds of unholy acts against humanity/ These holy traditions were called into being, I believe, by God, to give us moments to remind us of who we are and whose we are and what responsibility we have because of that.

“This is not just about personal sanctification–that’s why we do these things in community—every one of the traditions, whether it’s the season of Ramadan or Christianity or Judaism–we do these things in community, and they help save us from idolatry, save us from participating in humankind’s inhumanity towards one another, they call us to another place.

“In these White House briefings, we are seeing not just misinformation but public idolatry and political self-worship in the midst of holy seasons. But perhaps these holy seasons prevent us from being bewitched, if you will, and remind us that there is a power greater than the powers that we see on TV, and that power calls us to be about love and justice rather than truth, lies, and injustice.

“[This is true of all of these traditions]: whether it’s Passover, which remind us of those poor Hebrew people who were under oppression and slavery, or whether it’s Ramadan, when through fasting we put ourselves in the position of those who don’t have and don’t eat, or whether it’s the holy season of Easter that reminds us that Jesus during Holy Week was very clear, that when he went into the Temple, he overturned the politics of greed. He healed everybody, gave them universal health care.  He was challenging the hypocracy of claiming to be religious on the one hand but engaged in policy injustice on the other. And in his almost last sermon he talked about how every nation, not just every individual but every nation, is going to be judged and it’s going to be by how you treat the least of these.

“And even in the crucifixion, he wasn’t just crucified for personal salvation, but he was crucified as a revolutionary. He was crucified for loving,  crucified for telling the truth, crucified for caring for the prisoner, crucified for not bowing down to narcissism, But that crucifixion also brought other people alive and pointed to a resurrection, which promises us that even if we have to suffer for right, ultimately that suffering is worth it, so that even in the midst of it, we may be sanctified by the call to revolution.

“War and economic turndown, we still chose not to see, and we chose not to hear the cries of the poor.  But maybe in this moment, when all our lives are at stake to some degree, when one touch can infect a president or a prince or a pauper, a sanitation worker or a  secretary of state–it really doesn’t matter. Maybe in this moment we can hear, maybe in this moment we can see.

“And if everybody can’t see and hear. maybe those of us who have sometimes committed the sin of taking our faith inside our temples or inside our mosques or inside our congregations alone will be in halls of Congress again.

“And we will decide because we are people sanctified by the holy traditions and the Holy God, we will raise holy ruckus until the poor and the least of these are cared for. Maybe this season we will see it is time to repent of any apathy we’ve had. Maybe it’s time to realize that there are things we must fight for–we can never settle for less.”

To receive an email notification each time Sharon posts to her blog, click the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right.