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Sojourners Verse and Voice – 18 March 2021

Verse of the day   Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2she
Voice of the day 
True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. – Arthur Ashe
Prayer of the day  
O God, we pray that you would cultivate within us a soul that finds joy in our service to others. May we always have eyes that see the needs of our communities and the will to strive to meet them.

Sojourners Verse and Voice – 30 November 2022

Verse of the day 
In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression; indeed, you shall not fear; and from terror; indeed, it shall not come near you. 

– Isaiah 54:14

Voice of the day 
We will make no peace … with oppression / … We will march in the streets / No justice no peace / Arm and arm with our neighbor till we all stand free 

– The Porter’s Gate, “We Will Make No Peace with Oppression”

Prayer of the day
Almighty God, help us not to be afraid. May we not settle for anything less than a world where the oppressed are free.

The Kingdom of God is so different from our reality. That’s why it can feel scandalous to us. | America Magazine

Today in the first reading we hear that famous Isaian vision of God’s kingdom to come, which the Quaker artist Edward Hicks so famously captured in his painting The Peaceable Kingdom. “The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest.” It’s basically a return to Eden.

But toward the end of that pastoral scene of former predators and prey making a home together
— Read on www.americamagazine.org/faith/2022/11/29/scripture-kingdom-god-scandal-244230

The Mystery of Advent

How can I help you with your blog/sermon, daddy?

As we begin the new liturgical year, it is also the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is often seen as a time of preparation and anticipation. In his book, Seasons of Celebration: Meditations on the Cycle of Liturgical Feasts, Thomas Merton wrote the following about Advent based on the sermons and writings of St Bernard: …the Sacrament (of Advent) is the Presence of Christ in the World as Savior…Advent does not merely commemorate the Incarnation as a historical event, nor is it a mere devotional preparation for the Feast of Christmas, nor an anticipation of the Last Judgment. (p. 53) I believe that Merton is pointing us towards an understanding of Advent as a mystery to sit with rather than a puzzle to be solved. This is especially true as I consider the Gospel lesson for this Sunday.

In Matthew 24 Jesus talks about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and a whole host of tribulations that will occur. I know for me, by the time I make my way through the first thirty-five verses, my head is spinning over such gems as verse 28, Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. Is there any hope to be found, Lord? After giving the wild description of the apocalyptic vision, It appears to me that Jesus seemed to pause and offer several reminders throughout the remaining verses. But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (verse 36) Jesus says in verse 42, Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming and in verse 44, Therefore you also must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

I think about how many times I have heard people get lost in the weeds trying to “predict” when the end days will begin. To paraphrase what Jesus said about the scribes and Pharisees, people are often so busy straining out gnats that they swallow a camel. (Matthew 23:24) What do I mean by that? We get so lost in the woods of the minutia of the apocalyptic stories that we miss the main point of the message. The people in the time of Noah knew what was going on and chose to ignore Noah and his warnings to wake up and serve the Lord. Unlike the people in Noah’s day, the two women had no idea what was about to happen and neither did the homeowner. 

So, what is the message Jesus is offering in these stories? I believe that the clues are found in his trifold warning that nobody knows the day or the hour of his coming. He invites us to keep awake in verse 42 and to be ready in verse 44. Okay, Lord, so what do you want us to do as we watch and wait? It is at that time when the main message of Jesus comes into play. I can almost hear him saying instead of straining gnats, why don’t you listen to the Law… you know, love God with all that you are and love your neighbor as yourself… yes, that means every neighbor.

In the reading from Isaiah (chapter two: verses one through five) for the First Sunday of Advent, I believe we see another way of “filling the time” until the Lord’s return. Even though the people have been exiled and the temple has been destroyed, Isaiah offers hope to the exiles. Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. (verse 3b) How can they walk in the Lord’s paths? They can make a radical change in the way that they look at the world. They can join in the work of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. They can transform their lives and the world by not studying war anymore. Perhaps they can live into the charge given by another prophet (Micah) who invited the people to do justice, love kindness (mercy), and walk humbly with God.

As I circle back to Merton’s invitation sit with the mystery that is the sacrament of Advent, I realize that I really don’t have any answers to the apocalyptic questions. However, I do believe that God has given us something to ponder as well as giving us a way to live our lives. As we wait for the return of the Lord, why don’t we drop the tea leaves and live as Jesus and the prophets taught. Love God and all of our neighbors… seek ways to build bridges of understanding, love, and compassion… seek to follow the way of God that Micah revealed: do justice, love kindness (mercy), and walk humbly with God and I would add walk humbly with one another.

If we spend our time doing that work, we won’t be surprised when the Lord returns and I am pretty sure that the Lord will smile.

Community Makes God Visible – Henri Nouwen

Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other as a gesture of hope.

In community we say: “Life is full of gains and losses, joys and sorrows, ups and downs—but we do not have to live it alone. We want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care.”

Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. We can do little with them as individual stones except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic, portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.

The Meaning of Religion – Howard Thurman

Sunset in downtown Mobile, Alabama

As the season of Advent approaches… as I consider the message of hope, faith, peace, and love… the following words from a sermon that Howard Thurman preached on the message of the prophet Micah ask me to consider the call of God during this holy season.

“What does God require of thee, then, O son of man? To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” And that perhaps is the meaning of religion. Certainly it is the meaning of the good life.” WALKING WITH GOD:
THE SERMON SERIES OF HOWARD THURMAN 1. Moral Struggle and the Prophets
(Kindle, location 3792)

Sojourners Verse and Voice – 24 November 2022

Verse of the day
“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.”

– Isaiah 12:4

Voice of the day
“But an Indigenous approach to gratitude focuses on the relationality of all things — the collective benefit; how the Creator’s gift economy flows through many parts of the ecosystem. Gratitude is how this generosity can be traced.”

– José Humphreys III, “Giving Thanks for the Sacred Supply Chain” 

Prayer of the day
Our blessings are not siloed, Lord. Refine our thanksgiving, and may our gratitude remind us of your generosity and of our connection to your creation.

Pace e Bene – 24 November 2022

image and quote courtesy of Pace e Bene

“We have come a long way in America because of Martin Luther King, Jr. He led a disciplined, nonviolent revolution under the rule of law, a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a distance to go before all of our citizens embrace the idea of a truly interracial democracy, what I like to call the Beloved Community, a nation at peace with itself.” —John Lewis

Gratitude – Christine Valters Paintner

“Gratitude is a way of being in the world that does not assume we are owed anything, and the fact that we have something at all—our lives, breath, families, friends, shelter, laughter, or other simple pleasures—is cause for celebration.”

— Christine Valters Paintner, PhDEarth, Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude through Intimacy with Nature

What might happen if you cultivated a way of being in the world that treats all the things you take for granted as gifts?

Evening Prayer – 23 November 2022

From this morning’s walk

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

It has been a long yet enriching day of ministry

Putting the final touches on Sunday’s worship bulletin

Working on plans for Advent and Christmas worship

Making hospital calls which which were life-giving

Spending the evening with my sweetheart and our precious kitten Stella

Am I falling off of my cube daddy?

A wonderful day indeed

Now as my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre…

Pace e Bene – 23 November 2022

image and quote courtesy of Pace e Bene

“A Church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what Gospel is that?” –St. Oscar Romero