Quotations The Theological

‘even the thorn-bush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God’ (Prayer)

Here is a prayer out of the Walter Rauschenbusch book of prayers “For God and the People: Prayers of the Social Awakening.” I believe at least the middle paragraph can be attributed to St. Basil.

O God, we thank Thee for this universe, our great home; for its vastness and its riches, and for the manifoldness of the life which teems upon it and of which we are part.

We praise Thee for the arching sky and the blessed winds, for the driving clouds and the constellations on high.We praise Thee for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills, for the trees, and for the grass under our feet.We thank Thee for our senses by which we can see the splendor of the morning, and hear the jubilant songs of love, and smell the breath of the springtime.

Grant us, we pray Thee, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thorn-bush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God.

Enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all the living things, our little brothers, to whom thou hast given this earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the Earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve thee in their place better than we in ours.

When our use of this world is over and we make room for others, may we not leave anything ravished by our greed or spoiled by our ignorance, but may we had on our common heritage fairer and sweeter through our use of it, undiminished in fertility and joy, that so our bodies may return in peace to the great mother who nourished them and our spirits may round the circle of a perfect life in thee.

—Walter Rauschenbusch

Quotations The Pastorate

Advice to Ministers – Hannah Whitall Smith

Here is sound advice written to ministers, but really it’s good for any situation.

“Years ago I came across this sentence in an old book:

‘Never indulge, at the close of an action, in any self-reflective acts of any kind, whether of self-congratulation or of self-despair. Forget the things that are behind, the moment they are past, leaving them with God.’

This has been of unspeakable value to me. When the temptation comes, as it mostly does to every worker after the performance of any service, to indulge in these reflections, either of one sort or the other, I turn from them at once and positively refuse to think about my work at all, leaving it with the Lord to overrule the mistakes, and to bless it as he chooses. I believe that would be far fewer “blue Mondays” for ministers of the Gospel than there are now if they would adopt this plan; and I am sure all workers would find their work far less wearing.”

–Hannah Whitall Smith – The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life

I find this to be true mostly because I am capable of a lot of worry and despair after preaching on Sunday, or other events I help lead in ministry. “Did I say the right thing?” “I could have presented that in a more compassionate way.” “I don’t think anyone really understood what I was saying.” “I don’t think I understood what I was talking about…”

I don’t think she is saying to be unreflective, it is important to think about the work you do, how it connects to your vocation, why you do it, but there is a difference here between “self-awareness” and “judgement.” She is calling for a non-judgmental finish to our work and I think this is right. To be self-aware, present in that moment, awake to what is alive and/or dead in you while do that work is another thing.


Quote: Presence is a Situation

What a great quote to reflect on for Christmas and the arrival of God in creation. It makes me think about all of the opportunities we have had as of late, with the increasing unrest and protests in our country and around the world, where we are being called on to physically show up and be present to the need for justice in our society.

The divine quality of the Bible is not on display, it is not apparent to an inane, fatuous mind; just as the divine in the universe is not obvious to the debaucher. When we turn to the Bible with an empty spirit, moved by intellectual vanity, striving to show our superiority to the text; or as barren souls who go sightseeing to the words of the prophets, we discover the shells but miss the core. It is easier to enjoy beauty than to sense the holy. To be able to encounter the spirit within the words, we must learn to crave for an affinity with the pathos of God.

To sense the presence of God in the Bible, one must learn to be present to God in the Bible. Presence is not a concept, but a situation. To understand love it is not enough to read tales about it. One must be involved in the prophets to understand the prophets. One must be inspired to understand inspiration. Just as we cannot test thinking without thinking, we cannot sense holiness without being holy. Presence is not disclosed to those who are unattached and try to judge, to those who have no power to go beyond the values they cherish; to those who sense the story, not the pathos; the idea, not the realness of God.

The Bible is the frontier of the spirit where we must move and live in order to discover and to explore. It is open to him who gives himself to it, who lives with it intimately.

—From God in Search of Man by Abraham Joshua Heschel


Entering Christmas

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.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

-Oscar Romero

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.


Moses, The Exodus and the Disappointment of Christmas



When Moses encountered the Burning Bush in Exodus Moses was faced with a traumatic situation. His past was now to be reconfigured in light of a new, profoundly life-altering experience. The unexpectedness of the burning-bush was exactly what Moses needed to call him to a deeper, more whole-self, a renewed identity and call or vocation.

Moses was clearly aware of the Hebrew people’s oppression when he fled for his life out of Egypt and yet his initial (violent) response we might consider an over-response. He killed the Egyptian attacking the hebrew-worker, his rage got the better of him, compounded by undoubtedly many earlier thrashings now familiar to any oppressed people. In a way, Moses’ outburst is quite understandable. While he was raised in the lap of the the Empire’s finest, he knew where he came from, he knew his roots, and he knew of the suffering of his people. When he finally had a chance to show whose side he was really on, he over-reacted and in his over-reaction minimized his effects. So, as with any of us, when our egos get the better of us Moses tucked tail and ran. Moses as a hero is disappointing.

And then Moses is confronted on his road of flight with an inexplicable bush caught on fire by the holy presence of the unknown and unnameable. What was about to happen to Moses, his new emerging vocation of prophetic proportions, would take that rage and desire for justice implanted deep with Moses and redeem it for the purposes of God. For the people still caught by the empire’s claws, they constantly cried out to God. If Moses’ action was an over-reaction, the rest of the Hebrew people’s action is one of a collective lament. These are the laments that God hears and that ultimately “ignite” God in the form of a bush.


The Gift and Humility of Thanksgiving (1 Cor 1:3-9)

This is the text to the sermon I preached two weeks ago.

Thanksgiving and Advent_

The meaning of the word Advent is “Coming”

This week is the First Week of Advent. Typically, we at Camas Friends, take the Sunday after Thanksgiving to reflect back over the year so that we can remember what we have been graced with. We reach back into our stories over past year, and look for the places where God’s faithfulness came through, places where we saw those glimmers of hope, experienced the nudges of grace, the motions of love.

Advent begins in darkness, to a world desperately waiting, watching, and in total despair. We wait for the coming. At the beginning of advent, all we can do is hope, in the midst of trouble, that God will hear, just as he did with the Hebrew People in Egypt, our collective prayers.

At the opening of advent we struggle with a fragmented world: The rich continue to get richer, while there are hungry children and houseless families all around us. Violence of all kinds seems to be unending, and divisions among people and religious groups continue to deepen like an abyss. Many of our elderly friends feel more alone and isolated now more than ever and many of our Young people are afraid there will be no world left for them to even have these kinds of concerns. Many of us in between struggle to make sense of who we are and where are lives are at currently. Our bodies continue to age, and we see loved ones around us pass away.