One of my constant “growing edges” in life and faith is the negotiation of what is my responsibility and what is God’s. When I stop and take a look at what is happening around me, and through me, I am often surprised by how much I live as though everything depended upon me. This probably has as much to do with my own growing up as an oldest children, and the family systems of which I have inherited, as it does with my own “little” faith. Whatever the explanation(s) are for this behavior, I understand that intellectually that “it” (whatever it may be in any given situation) is not all up to me, and thankfully so. If it were really up to me, we’d be in trouble. De-Programming this as an orientation, however, is much easier said than done.
I’ve often shared quotes from one of my favorite early Quakers, Isaac Penington, here’s a thought from him for the day:
Truly the Lord hath done great things for us! He hath given us the sight and knowledge of himself in his Son, which is life eternal: he hath given us of the nature and spirit of his Son; he hath given us of the true faith whereby the just lives, and obtains victory over sin, death, and the grave; he hath given us of the hope which purifies the heart, and stays the mind in all storms; he hath given us of the Lambs patience and meekness &c. And now if he will brighten these by afflictions, and try them, and cause them to shine to his glory; yea, and take advantage to increase them, and add further virtue to them, what cause have any of us to complain? Israel of old, after the flesh, murmured upon every trial; but Israel, after the new creation, doeth not so, but blesseth the Lord, and repineth not at the instruments which he permitteth to afflict them; but they love the Lord and love his truth, and are faithful in their testimony thereto, whatever befalls them. Yea, they rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer in any kind for his names sake, and are like lambs before the shearers, not opening their mouths in a way of murmuring or reviling; but instead thereof, pitying them, praying for them, and blessing; because God hath made them children of love, children of peace, children of blessing; which nature they retain, in the midst of all their trials and afflictions, and show forth the virtues of Him that hath called them.
So that men shall not put out our life, nor put out our light, nor sever us from the love and power of God; but the more need we find of our God, and of his help and strength, the nearer shall we be driven to him, and dwell more closely in union with him, and in holy and humble dependence upon him. And in this temper shall we draw and receive more from him: and the more we draw from him, the better will it be with us, and the more like him shall we be.
The minister’s work is to go from house
to house and warn all both small and great,
yea, with tears.
This is the word of the ministry in the Spirit –
In the Spirit that gave forth the scriptures
and so brought people into the life
that gave them forth, with which
they were able to instruct one another,
and to stir up the pure in one another.
The work of the apostles, the ministers
of the gospel, and Christ, was to bring people people
into the life that gave forth the scriptures,
and into the substance, Christ Jesus, that
the scripture testified of. But you who are fain
to seek the life and the substance in the letter,
in the letter of scripture for it
and have it not from within,
and never like to beget to God.
George Fox (quoted in THS Wallace Have Salt In Yourselves 2010: 67)
This is the message I gave at Camas Friends Church on Sunday March 11, 2012
“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing.” (John 2:13–23 NRSV)
Here’s a passage from Jean Vanier’s “Befriending the Stranger” that I felt was worthy to post here:
Jesus came into the world to re-create it,
to give it back its full meaning
to take away our limited vision of life,
a vision which prevents the birth of hope
and which paralyses us in front of all that seems impossible.
Yet “nothing is impossible for God…”
Many of have been taught, for example,
that we should “do good to” the poor.
The gospel message tells us that it is the poor who do good to us.
A mother knows full well that her little child gives her life
just by the way he looks at her, smiles at her,
calls her, loves her and needs her. Continue reading
One of my favorite things to do is to prepare worship during advent and Christmas. This week I’m working on putting together somethings for our Christmas Eve Candlelight service and our Christmas morning worship. I’ve been going back through some of the worship plans for previous years and came across this beautiful quote from Oscar Romero we read a couple Christmas Eve’s ago. He is someone I look up to and I was glad to share this with our meeting. Here it is:
No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God – for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.
It reminds me to ask, how do I enter Christmas. Or more pointedly, how do “Christmas” enter me. What must I do to make myself more accessible to the abundance of God. Romero’s answer here is challenging and necessary for our Western sensibilities.
I really like what Henry Nouwen writes about the discipline of gratitude:
Gratitude … goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint…The choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious.
I came across this in my reading the other day and it made me think of some of the stuff I’ve seen from Rev. Billy Talen, especially in the documentary on Christmas, and then I wondered what Fox would be doing on Black Friday:
I was moved to open my mouth and lift up my voice aloud
in the mighty power of the Lord, and to tell them the mighty
day of the Lord was coming upon all deceitful merchandise
and ways, and to call them all to repentance and a turning
to the Lord God, and his spirit within them, for it to teach
them, and tremble before the mighty God of Heaven and earth,
for his mighty day was coming; and so passed through the
streets. And many people took my part and several were
convinced. And when I came to the town’s end, I got upon a
stump and spoke to the people, and so the people began to
fight, some for me and some against me….
Seems a fitting message for next week.
What we would like to do is to change the world – make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute – the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor in other words – we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We can give away an onion. We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.
The earth is what we all have in common. It is what we are made of and what we live from, and we cannot damage it without damaging those with whom we share it. There is an uncanny resemblance between our behavior toward each other and our behavior toward the earth. By some connection we do not recognize the willingness to exploit one becomes the willingness to exploit the other. ..It is impossible to care for each other more or differently than we care for the earth.
Wendell Berry, The Good Gift of Land