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One of the stops in my vacation this past June was Chicago. I went with my husband to the national convention of the American Library Association. While it is true that there were many older women there wearing sensible shoes (I among them!), there were also hundreds of young people with tattoos and brilliantly colored hair who were working to protect libraries from those who would limit our access to books. One could cozy up in a big chair to be photographed reading a banned book of one’s choice.

Chicago is old and gritty in a way that Houston is not. The architecture and density are as solid as its natives. Chicago is also a place of contradictions—real wealth and deep poverty. On posters around the downtown were advertisements for an FX series called, “The Bear.” I decided over the July 4 weekend to binge watch it on Hulu.

The series is about a young chef who returns to Chicago from New York to assume responsibility for the family’s restaurant, after the suicide of his drug addicted brother. Carmine, the young chef, has achieved recognition for his talent by winning a 3-star Michelin rating in his New York restaurant. In the home of his youth these accolades are meaningless. Instead, what he discovers is the intersection of alcoholism, co-dependence, trauma and redemption. 

In this Sunday’s lectionary readings, we will encounter Paul’s grappling with the cosmic and internal dynamics of sin in our world and in our selves. In Romans he puts it succinctly, “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:16). Paul captures the battle that we each face as we struggle with effects of brokenness and evil in ourselves, our families, and in our communities. But Paul also offers hope—grace which is offered in Christ Jesus bringing transformation and redemption.

In the TV series we see that redemption working out in the family of the young chef and his co-workers. Ala Non, community, the risk of growth and change through learning and encouragement bring hope and nurture love. A pointing to the grace of God is offered by a reluctant intercessor in a fabulous Christmas episode in season 2 which captures with painful excellence the trauma of addiction in our families.

We all wrestle with the bear of sin, regret, trauma individually and collectively. With Paul, we can proclaim the relief and victory of grace.

The Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector