If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. – 1 Corinthians 13:1
Today is Super-Tuesday, a day when political parties in mostly southern states choose who they want to run as their Presidential Candidate. So far in this election we have heard the traditional political rhetoric and a great deal of speech filled with anger, hate, bigotry, greed and plan nonsense. My choice of candidate is not important, no, rather what is important is that each of us look carefully at who is running and who has the American peoples best interest. Not just white, male, and wealthy, but all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status, choice of faith, where they come from, color of their skin, age, or gender identification. All Americans regardless of whether or not they have U.S. citizenship or hopes to attain American citizenship all must be considered equal participants in our society.
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” We cannot serve the people, the Divines own people, if we serve our own self interests. When we love power, money, and status more than we love the people of God, whoever they may be, pain and suffering will be, has been, the result. We who call ourselves followers of the Divine, with whatever faith tradition we choose, must not let those whose primary interest is greed, hate, and power, and not the American people, or the people of the world be elected into a position where they could destroy the fabric of our nation and world.
So today, offer prayers for those voting, that they think carefully of their choices. To refuse to let false, hateful and self-serving rhetoric sway them. Rather pray that all people will stand together to push back the evil we are seeing displayed during this election year.
My prayer: May the hand of every voter be guided by the desire for a country that holds sacred the lives and well being of all who live in American and beyond.
We are all Homo Sapiens sapiens but we will never be Human Beings until we stop just surviving and begin to live in harmony with each other and all creation.
I have been trying to comprehend the shootings in South Carolina at the First Emanuel AME Church. Just as the acts in other mass shootings I simply can’t get my mind around a hatred that produces such evil. I have listened to the prayers for comfort and supplication. I have listened, unwillingly, to the NRA and other public speakers who blame the church pastor and members, or minimize the acts of the shooter. I can’t, or won’t, believe that 9 innocent people were the cause nor can I believe the shooter acted without encouragement.
You see, I believe we, you and I, are to blame for what happened in South Carolina. You and I, and everyone else regardless of skin color, privilege, ethnicity, or any other cultural classification are equally responsible for pulling the trigger and this is why I believe this.
We refuse to stand against acts of injustice, violence, discrimination, or the use of degrading speech. We listen politely and shake our heads and tell ourselves that offering a prayer that people will change is enough. We are afraid of what others might say about us if we stop someone in mid speech and tell them NO, I will not listen to this. We look the other way when someone abuses another. We tolerate public servants who degrade people of color, are poor, elderly, or have a religion they don’t follow. We have tolerated public servants who have spoken as if they are the only ones who matter, who have verbally abused our President and anyone else they disagree with or disagree with them.
We have created this atmosphere of hate and violence found in country today. Yes, I admit I am right there along with the rest of us. Have I stood up and defended someone being abused, sometimes yes but not always. I do it when it is convenient for me and that is not what we are called to do. We, you and I, are called by the Divine to be better than that.
This week I am recommending a spiritual practice of standing up and defending the voiceless. I am asking each of you to speak up when you hear someone abusing or degrading someone else. I am pleading with each of you to stand and be counted when you see injustice happening. As you go through this week remember this:
“8But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 The Message (MSG)
This week’s prayer practice is one a friend of mine taught me in the last couple of weeks. It is one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s practices called “Letgo.” After I began the practice I realized ‘Letgo’ has many similarities with the Examen and found that I was experiencing some of the same benefits. As I have begun to settle into this practice I have discovered my days to be calmer and more centered even when the world gets busy. I am able to separate what is important from what it is not. The most amazing thing is of the many of events and things I thought were important they just are not priorities any longer. Instead I am able to focus on what makes my life more enjoyable, beautiful and to just BE. So I offer this practice as my gift to your well Being.
I usually pick a time of day when things are quiet, either early in the morning or just before I go to bed. I like both times. The morning time energizes me and the evening time centers me and quiets my mind so that I sleep much better. But select a time that works best for you. I do set aside 20 to 25 minutes for each session.
Begin by sitting quietly, concentrating on your breath. Reflect on those things you have let go of in the past. You many begin your ‘list’ as early in your life as you wish.
Be aware that our conscious attention only catches a small portion of what goes on in lives.
Start with small steps first. Accept that events such as rush hour traffic, broken washers, and burnt dinners will always be there to annoy and frustrate you. Use these events to practice an acceptance of those things that just happen because it’s life.
Be mindful of those times when you pick up old burden or worry’s and begin to carry them around again. Learn to recognize the old resentments and anger that emerges and ask yourself if you want to continue to hold space in head and heart for them.
Take deep breaths and let the burdens, anger, and resentment flow out with each exhale.
Repeat step 5 as often as necessary until you are able to bring your mindfulness back to the now.
In the last weeks God’s creation has seemed anything but good. Terrorist attacks, ambushing of police, and police shootings of unarmed young men continue to rent the very fabric of our society. Yet God did not create an evil world, in fact God proclaims this world a good world where everyone, and I mean everyone, has what they need to live and be the person they are meant to be. It is our choice’s, not God’s, that have created a world that is unsafe.
Spending time in silent contemplation with a focus on what we could have been, and still could be, seemed the only way for me to center myself and see the world as good. So today I offer as our prayer of the week another Visio Divina using the above painting of the Garden of Eden by Jan Brueghel.
1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, the placement of the plants, animals and, people. Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges? What feelings about the world rise in you? Are there any images that you are particularly drawn too?
Respond to the image with prayer for the world. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer that prayer to God.
Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in this quiet. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.
Please do not let your belief, or non-belief, in the Garden of Eden and the subsequent fall from grace prevent you from seeing the good things in creation. Our world is in need of prayer right now. All of our people, all of creation is crying and in pain. Let your prayers go out into the world and let them lead you to be the person God has always wanted you to be.
Micah 6: 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Well the New Year is almost upon us and it has been an eventful, but mostly violent, one. In 2014 it seems we have had more violence than peace, despite the efforts of many. We have seen hate take over our streets and increase in our government. Peace on Earth just doesn’t seem to be in our hearts for this baby New Year.
This last year we have seen too many senseless deaths, demonstrations, hateful rhetoric, and downright meanness. There has been little peace in our world of late. But this small online community has been a refuge for some. We have offered moments of personal stillness in the rush of our daily lives. Yet in the face of so much violence prayer doesn’t always seem adequate does it.
But, every time we take a moment to offer a pray for our own peace and for the peace of others we change a piece of our hearts. Those changes add up and become the change we see around us. We just celebrated the birth of love breaking into the world. A love that gives out of its abundance, works for justice for all, and walks a path that honors the world we live in. In the light of that love we too can become love expressed in the world, with every prayer we offer and with every prayer action we take, the light of Love shines just a little brighter. Yes it may seem inadequate but remember you can’t have a beach with one grain of sand.
So my prayer request for each of you this week, as you contemplate the year past and look forward to the year to come, is to offer a prayer for our community that we will find solace in our hearts and compassion and justice in our actions. Pray for each other. Pray for local, national, and international governments. Pray for the children, elderly, and the sick and disabled who are most affected by hate speech and actions. Let your prayers spill over into the way you act in the world around you. Remember others are praying as well, you are not alone. Let every act you do in the coming year be an act of prayer, and offering to the God or Force that guides your path. Let this be your New Year’s resolution that you will “do justice, and … love kindness, and … walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NRSV).
It is my prayer that, we as a people, will change the world by being the Force in the world for compassion, justice, and love. Let us learn to walk humbly with whatever Divine Energy each of calls to in the dark. May each of us this year light a candle of hope each day and let our light shine.
Happy New Year Everyone and may the Love of the Divine be with you in the coming year.
Roman 6:1-11 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Matthew 10:24-39 ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.* 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father,and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
For 10 years I was an environmental consultant performing Human Health and Ecological risk assessments for the military and private concerns. One of the uses of my reports was to define what would be the cost of a cleanup of a contaminated site both as risk of exposure and monetary cost of cleanup. The EPA has a basic cleanup target of 1 in 10000 chances of illness or death from exposure to contaminated soil, water, or air. Of course all is negotiable but that is what is desired. The EPA doesn’t really care about cost but companies do and so does the military. Cleanup is not popular with those who own the property. There is a balancing act that goes on at the negotiation table between the EPA and the owners of the property. The property owners want to remove as little as possible to keep cost down and the EPA wants as much removed as possible to keep risk down. When you add in resident and ecological groups to the mix you probably get some idea of how complicated such negotiations can be. But the key word is negotiable.
Matthew writes in this passage what the cost of discipleship will be for those who follow in the path of Jesus. He tells his community what the risks are when you commit to following Jesus’ teaching and he doesn’t mince any words and the cost is not negotiable. For those who are faithful to God and Christ will face criticism, be misunderstood, run out town, and face death at the hands of the Romans just as Jesus did. How is that for a recruiting statement? I can hear the thought of a potential follower now. “Ok, my family will disown me, I will most likely be run out of town on rail, I will have my words twisted around to mean something other than what I said, and the Romans are going to kill me, tell me again why I should sign up for this.” If a follower of the WAY ever thought about the risks they wouldn’t sign up. I mean would you give up everything to go out and teach others about the WAY of Jesus. Would you give up the king-size bed, the running water, the clean clothes, or 3 meals a day? What is amazing to me is that anyone actually did and I am grateful to those who had, and have, the courage to walk that difficult path.
Matthew wanted his community to understand those risks while having the courage to choose a way of life that would be difficult but result in a life lived within God as found in the life of Jesus. Matthew’s words challenge us to stand up for injustice just as Jesus did. To use our voice to speak for those who are silenced. To live a life of compassion and peace towards everyone no matter how different they may be from us; from a different culture or socio-economic class, differently abled, or differently gendered, or (and this is the hard part) even if they have done harm to us or someone we love. Matthew says we are called to right injustice even at the expense of our own comfort, reputation, relationships, financial security, or even our lives. That is a hard decision to make and I know I (as a risk assessor and a seminary student) that discernment before that decision to be baptized and commit to that life is often very difficult. And let’s face it the reasons to proceed are not all that well laid out. So where do we find some answers.
Well before Matthew wrote his Gospel Paul wrote a letter of introduction to the Roman community and in that letter we have this short passage that summarizes reasons for following the WAY and those reasons are just as valid today as they were in the 1st century. Following the WAY was dangerous and even Paul doesn’t deny that but the benefit is a life lived into love.
Paul tells the Romans, and us, that when we commit ourselves to being baptized we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. Just as Christ died to sin and lives to God we are to recognize our baptism as dying to sin and living into God. Notice I didn’t say Christ died FOR our sins, Paul did not believe Jesus died because God wanted a sacrifice for our sins. No, Jesus death on the cross saves us because God overcame and said No to sin through his resurrection of Christ. God’s message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was to reconcile those who are separated from God back into those loving arms. Called Atonement, or better still “at-one-ment,” reconciliation is the means of re-membering those who have spent their lives lost in a wilderness far from God back into the body of God through Christ.
When Paul writes “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” he is talking about saying no to sin and moving toward God as experienced in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book Meeting Paul open the verse 6:3-4 to a new insight
“all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
We are graced with newness of life that includes a transformed way we see our world. A commitment leading to the ritual sacrament of Baptism results in a “renewing of [our] minds.” We being to see the world differently, living our lives into a richer and fuller life in love. We no longer see the world as other and different from ourselves but rather we see ourselves and the world as part of the body of God and Christ.
For Matthew, for Paul and for us these changes and commitments have political implications. It means we as followers of the WAY are to stand against the “wisdom of this world” as it is known today. We are to refuse to follow a path that results in harm, injustice, or death for anyone, whether we agree with them or not.
That is hard to do, I know it is hard for me. I too have watched the news and read the papers about mass shootings, people who demonize the poor and needy and I get angry. Sometimes I say things I might regret because I want them punished; you see I also forget they are part of God’s body. As a consultant I tried to tell the truth as I calculated it and saw it but I dealt with people who had very different agendas from mine. I grew frustrated and angry at people who only looked at the “bottom line” or a single unachievable number instead of considering how what they had done, and will do, affects those who live in the area, human and ecological. I wanted things to change and it wasn’t until I realized that the change must begin with me that I knew what I would do. I had to stop seeing the world with a “bottom line” perspective because all of creation, human and non-human are simply too important..
In Matthew Jesus says “Those who find their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” The life I lost is the one that holds tight to the world I see in the news reports while the life I gain is a life lived in relationship with God. While I often forget that I try to remember, what all of us need to remember are these words of Jesus’ “Do not be afraid … I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
32 Let the afflicted see it and be glad!
You who seek God—
let your hearts beat strong again — Psalm 69: 32 (CEB)
30 But I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth;
among a great crowd I will praise God! — Psalm 109:30 (CEB)
This past January John and I visited Boston to celebrate his and our youngest grandson’s birthdays , which fall on the same day. And, yes I know January is not the ideal time to visit historic Boston and yes we had snow. However, we just couldn’t miss this celebration of joint Birthdays.
Because the weather was anything but comfortable we all decided to visit the Boston Science Museum and spend the day where it was warm, dry and had lots of exciting things to do and see. The 2 grandchildren had a great time exploring the human body, looking at dinosaurs and exploring all kinds of interactive exhibits. For lunch we chose to take our packed lunch to the large busy café and supplement all of our goodies with a few treats.
After making our selections and paying for them I went to get the necessary napkins, forks, spoons and straws needed to eat our lunch. As I was picking up my things there was a young man restocking the bins as we took things out. It looked like such an endless job and more than a little boring but he was doing an excellent job of keeping up. Before I left I turned to him and said “thank you for keeping this area stocked, I’m sure it’s not an easy task.” Startled he turned and gave me a gruff “thank you.”
After we had finished our lunch and were preparing to leave the area the same young man pushed his way through the crowded exit area and called to me, “Miss, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your thanks. No one has ever spoken to me that way before and I was afraid I might have offended you so I wanted to make sure you knew how happy I was.”
First of all, I really liked being called miss, no one has called me that in a very long time so he won me over just with that one word. Well I was happy to bring a little joy into his otherwise boring day with just a few words of thanks from me. But, what saddened me was his statement NO ONE HAD EVER COMPLIMENTED HIM for doing his job well! No one ever said thank you! That is one of the saddest things I have ever heard. It took me all of 2 seconds to express my thanks to the young man and those 2 seconds made his day. For 2 seconds he wasn’t invisible and unimportant. No he had been seen, he was important enough for someone to say thank you. As we were separated by the ever shifting crowd he waved and gives me the biggest, toothiest grin I have ever seen.
Two seconds out of my day added joy to someone else’s. Gratitude isn’t an emotion or attitude we are to keep to ourselves, no, gratitude is to be given away freely at every opportune moment, even when you yourself are not grateful. We hear so often we are to be grateful for what God has given us, to express gratitude by thanking God. Well being grateful for God’s grace comes in many forms. It was a grace of God that a young man did his boring job well, it was a grace of God that allowed me to see the face of God in the young man and his courage to continue performing a rather menial task even when no noticed how well he did it. Gratitude for the grace of God comes in many forms, big and small, all are important in the eyes of God.
The Psalms tell us to seek God’s face and to offer our thanks for God’s gifts. Each one of us is a gift, each one of us has a gift to give, each one of us is the reflection of God, and each one of us carries God within. So doesn’t it make sense to give thanks to those who reflect the grace of God?
Over the next week begin the habit of saying thank you for the little graces of God. Offer thanks to the bus driver as you exit, say thank you to the young woman who hands you your morning coffee or say thank you to the washroom attended and see the smiles grow around you. Offering thanks is an easy spiritual practice and one that brings great joy to the receiver and the giver alike and it is free to give. It costs you no more than 2 to 5 seconds of your day, surly we can spend 5 seconds to bring hours of joy to someone who feels they are invisible to the rest of the world. Surly we can learn to do that every day, for every person we meet.
Thank you for reading my blog post. Your presence on my site has made my day and I am grateful for your interest.