Dear Folks,

The Tavern Owner grew up in north Baltimore, the second son of a family known for its swell house parties in the 19th century.  In those days, guests would arrive by horse and carriage and stay for the weekend, to dance and eat shaved ice and escape the city’s heat.  By the time he and his siblings came along, teenagers would pile into station wagons and drag the new road leading out to the reservoir.   He went to Gilman and later boarding school, but his eyes were never really on the books or the corner office.

As a 17-year-old, he scavenged used car lots and built a vehicle which he stashed in the woods beyond the sight of his headmaster.  When the engine was running, he and his buddies would take it to New York for a cold drink.  More often than not, though, his own head was under the hood talking to the same friends about why the car wouldn’t go, and he seemed to like those tinkering conversations as much as the drives.

Back in Maryland, he sold real estate for a while, but his soul was never really in the deals.  He saved his passion for a used motorcycle and the bikers he began to meet on rides.  He bought a house in East Baltimore and filled it with tools and warm conversations with people who had never even heard of the fancy schools he once attended.  They shared frustrations and dreams, and if anyone asked for help, he always found a way.

One summer after surgery, the doctors at Bayview told him to stay off his feet except when he was in rehab.  Not satisfied with their advice, he built a motorized wheelchair—not the kind you buy at the medical supply, but a real chair that he outfitted with wheels, connected to a car battery.  He sat in it that August, rolling back in forth behind a push mower he used to trim his lawn.

The Tavern Owner had a huge heart, which was never more evident than in his decision to buy the Lucky Spirits bar and run it like an extension of his house and kitchen.  The gift of hospitality really means something at the intersection of Lombard and Haven streets—whether you pulled up on a Harley Davidson or were dropped off from the suburbs by your driver, there was room in his embrace for you.  Raised at Redeemer, trained as an acolyte, he was by then not religious in any conventional way.  The open road was his cathedral or the water near Dundalk his sanctuary, where he would put in a little sailboat and let the wind blow him here and there.

He would chuckle at the analogy, but the bar at Lucky Spirits was his welcome table, a place where strangers and friends presented their broken lives for solace and strength.  No longer a drinker himself, the Tavern Owner drew out each person’s story, question by question.  In his bones he knew that conversation is a sacrament, that listening deeply and letting people tell who they are and what they need is the real communion modeled 2000 years ago, by another man who found his way among people who needed a second or third chance.  No wonder he called it Lucky Spirits.

The Tavern Owner departed this life just after the new year, an icon of the Baltimore I love.  The young man to the manor born became, for a time, the daily host of a scruffy bar off 895, where pretense was dropped at the door.  So, here’s to creating more welcome tables, the way the Tavern Owner did, at a time and in a city that sorely needs them, and to the humble altars we build whenever a tired friend or wounded stranger is invited to new life.

Love,
David

Yesterday during our 7:30 a.m. Wednesday service, we discussed the Gospel passage we’ll hear at all 3 of our church services this weekend, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Jesus’ familiar words are powerful and clear, hard to digest and even harder to follow:

“I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt ….” (Luke 6:27-29).

While this, I imagine, is what “holy people do”, I wrestled with understanding this passage whenever I heard and really thought about it myself. “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also ….” Really? Is this what Jesus really means? Doesn’t this condone physical and emotional abuse? And let violent abusers of power have their way? How can passivity in the face of evil possibly be “Good News”? Are we as faithful Christians supposed to be doormats, if we are to be true to our Lord and Savior? No wonder church attendance around the country is plummeting!

Then a few years ago, I was introduced to the work of Walter Wink, biblical scholar and theologian (Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in A World of Domination, Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992). By delving deep into the historical, cultural, political and social context of Jesus’ time, Wink offers an enlightened lens through which to see the real picture being painted by Jesus: a picture of resisting violence non-violently by creating an opportunity for your oppressor to “wake up”, see the evil s/he is inflicting, and “repent” and change.

Take, for instance, Jesus’ hard-to-digest exhortation, to offer your other cheek to someone who has already struck you on the face. Matthew’s version is more useful in understanding what Jesus had in mind: “But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also …” (Matthew 5:39).

 The word translated in English as “resist” is the Greek word antistenai which conveys “standing against” in a forceful, violent way. Jesus, therefore, is saying: “Do not stand against evil and violence in an evil, violent way, yourself.” There is another way, a different way, a “third” way. The example he uses highlights a situation common in Jesus’ day: a Roman backhanding a Jew on the right side of his face, to keep him in his place. By turning your face and offering the Roman your left cheek, you would be forcing your oppressor to either backhand you again with his left hand  — which simply was not done, back then, because left-handed actions were reserved for private “dirty” tasks at home — or to slap you with his own right hand, which would be treating you as an equal. Jesus’ additional examples in Matthew’s Gospel, of “going the second mile” and “letting him have your cloak as well”, are similar, creative, non-violent responses to your abuser, turning the table on him to become more conscious and offering an opportunity to choose differently.

So as we hear Jesus’ words this weekend and remember the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., I invite us all to reflect and imagine what this “third way” might look like, applied to our own lives, communities and world.

Cristina

Dear Folks,

Epiphanies are both unbelievable and entirely ordinary, coming together “by chance collisions and quaint accidents” according to Wordsworth, a comet’s tail molded into something we can use.  A gift like that describes the crowd’s experience at Jesus’s baptism, which comes around again this Sunday.  The fiery prophet is disconcerting and compelling at the same time.  He’s covered in animal skins stitched together on the run, his stomach full of nothing but what he could scavenge, his eyes burning for truth.  “Prepare God’s way,” he cries: mountains of privilege lowered, valleys of despair filled in with light.  The justice of a level playing field is in our hands, he says.  “Turn toward it.  And cut down every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit.”  The people who stream to him are sure of nothing but their longing for change, to die to one way of living and rise to a new one, to wash off in the Jordan River anything that’s keeping them stuck.  The raw materials are water and hope.

And then a man comes along who says, “Stay with me a while.  It’s going to take time to forge a new path, not to mention a new heart.  Come and see what you can do with God’s help.  Seek a way which chooses compassion instead of violence, the common good instead of selfishness, reconciliation instead of pride.”  And John knows the One coming into the world when he sees him: this is not the warrior king he was looking for, but the shepherd king that we need.  John admits that he doesn’t feel worthy to untie his sandals, yet this morning star surrenders to the Baptist’s washing.  “Let’s act together in this way,” Jesus responds.  “It helps make things right.”

It’s been a tough week.  Uncontrollable fires burning in Australia.  Earthquakes in Puerto Rico.  Continued mistrust in Washington.  Bombs dropping in Iran.  Two murders in the first two days of the year in Baltimore and more since.  It’s enough to shake your faith and make you go looking for a warrior instead of a lamb.  Truth be told, on some days I’d like a God who feels more conventionally powerful, one who stops bullets before they strike, who silences the violent voices inside us and around us.

But my epiphany is this, and it also has something to do with surrender.  The story of Jesus’s life is that God’s power has been given over to humanity.  It’s been there all the time, but it took a revelation of perfect love to make it plain to us.  What John meets on the shore of that life-giving river is the mystery of compassion, of suffering with, of leadership like he’d never imagined, of a shepherd-king who brings every single lost sheep to the center of the party.  The star we follow illumines the darkest, deepest mystery of God: true power is discovered in the crucible of vulnerability, wisdom is born of pain, real strength comes from embracing weakness.

The epiphany here is hard won, but sustaining: violence will always engender more violence, even the kind that has hitched its wagon to righteousness, but love will always give birth to more love.  Yielding and sacrifice and compassion recreate us, and when we are born again in this way, through us God saves the world.

Love,
David

Have you ever considered the fact that STORY is how we live our lives?  There is a beginning, middle, and end with numerous plots and subplots along the way.  Think about how you tell a friend what you did over the holidays.  We tell the events of our lives as a story and our friend gets it!  Every life is just a BIG STORY whose theme or running thread is the meaning and purpose of that life.  The same holds true for institutions, systems, etc.  Everything has a STORY.  The stories may look different, but ultimately they serve the purpose of identifying the spiritual in life—what gives meaning, purpose, and texture to living.  Our life’s story helps us make sense of the big questions like:  WHO AM I?  and WHY AM I HERE?

In the African-American tradition, stories have always been important to maintain the legacy of a peoples cut off from their own truth and reality and forcibly placed in a reality not of their choosing.  The stories of my childhood, young adulthood, and even now are full of faith and endurance giving hope and resilience to all who hear them.  The stories of the African diaspora are even larger filling up the hunger for transcendence and spiritual meaning.

Although the Holy Bible is a library of books and a glorious piece of literature, it is also the story of a people who believed that the Divine Presence was very much a part of their lives and so they weaved that Presence into the stories they told.  The stories of their lives were filled with stories of that Presence and their interactions with it.  It is an overarching story of the human and Divine Presence in one accord…as one.  Through it we hear the voice of Holy Mystery calling the human being back into communion, as well as the on-again-off-again sometimes-hot, sometimes-cold love of the human being for Holy Mystery.  Through the biblical story we can discover and explore a GOD bigger and more awe-inspiring than any human could have ever imagined on their own.

So now, I’ve said all of that to say this: you might not be one for New Year’s resolutions, but change is coming to your life this year as each previous year has already proven.  And sometimes the story we tell of our lives requires our own personalized touch of change instead of just allowing things to happen to us. So try this one on for size.  Consider reading or re-reading one of the many stories of Scripture aloud.  Try David, the boy king, in 1 and 2nd Samuel for example.  Read, not to critique but to hear what is being said; not to judge but to wonder what do you hear the words saying to you.  Hear the story as if for the first time.  Read it in your own voice.  Allow your ears to pick up the sound of the words and imagine them flowing down into the center of your chest…into your heart.  That’s where the message is truly heard; together with your head, it is your heart that will bear the fruit of communion with the One who loves you.  It is always our hearts that bear witness to the Mystery of the Divine Presence in everything and everywhere.  That is the Christian story after-all, is it not?  God enfleshed in creation and moving into our human neighborhood?

I pray that this new year and new decade bring more LIGHT to you than you could ever imagine with much Peace and great LOVE.

Freda Marie+

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and here in this place,
The people had gathered, for warmth and for grace,
To hear the old story of Gabriel’s voice,
Of young Mary’s courage and angels’ rejoice.

The stockings are hung by the chimney at home,
With the hope there’s a visit by a bearded old gnome.
Our walls have been swagged, and there’re flowers brand new,
Thanks to volunteers, youth group, and dear Mr. Vu.

The shepherds—how merry!  The sheep—there’s a lot.
The angels in bedsheets, the Kings in culottes?
The building is shining, and here’s a home run:
Jesus was played by Mark Schroeder’s wee son.

The children have shown us with lines they have learned
How miracles happen, when humble hearts yearn
To hear the good news, and make its joy plain,
That God’s light can shine in the dark, where there’s pain.

And what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a babe in a manger, with Joseph quite near.
The child in mom’s arms, in the flesh, was the Word,
Which the prophet foretold, in the scripture, we heard.

“The people in darkness have seen a great light:
From the lowliest places, God comes with his might,
To make the world just and the rough places healed.”
“Let it be, as you say,” mother Mary revealed.

We follow this star to Bethlehem rising,
Where straw becomes gold and three kings, surprising
Will show that the nations can bow at his feet,
Bend swords into ploughshares, make peace that’s complete.

In the world and this land and our city that’s charmed,
We’ve got plenty of work to keep people from harm,
To make streets become safe and schools that are strong,
And churches that show “all folks here belong.”

And speaking of Bal’more, we’re a town that is cravin’
A superbowl ring for Lamar-velous Ravens,
With Jackson QB, they’re running and throwing,
And giving us joy with hope they’re bestowing.

I see it as well, this spirit of healing,
In community partners, our allies appealing.
There’s BUILD and ReBuild, and Habitat work-days,
Govans and HUM and Turnaround Tuesdays.

There’s Paul’s Place and GEDCO and library Pratt.
The sky is the limit with colleagues like that.
On Thread! On Ceasefire! On ICJS!
On Next One Up, CASA, and ways to say, “Yes!”

So what can we do with the spirit we feel,
On this night when the light is kindled, and real,
To carry the news that God has moved in,
To live in our hearts and save us from sin?

Here’s a thought, as we gather, to try on for size:
This table is God’s; all humans: allies.
We are brothers and sisters, one family, one race,
Which is born in this manger with grit and with grace.

We are agents of peace, of pardon and love,
Forged in struggles that shape us, yet lit from above,
And the real gift of Christmas begins in this way,
Feed hungry, heal broken, help lost find their way.

You’re loved here, each one; there’s no one like you,
This place is made better with you.  It is true!
And so as you go from this altar of light,
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

~David

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a confession to make.  I have not nary a smidgen of Christmas decoration yet, in my house.  Last year as I recall, my decorative outdoor wreathe went up on the evening of Advent Four and that was just to prove to my neighbors that I wasn’t a total hypocrite (since they all knew I was a priest in the Christian Church).  While their homes and yards were showered in colored and white lights, mine was the dark hole in the middle of all of that brightness.

The funny thing is, I know I’m not alone.  There are many of us who continue to transition into new lives and new ways of being as we leave behind what was for what is to become.  Some of us can’t even begin to think about the holiday and really just want to get through it all still standing.  But the beauty of the Christmas story is that there is a truer and better way.

The story says that what was— darkness, despair, fear, and a hiding from the face of God (the good) in the midst of Paradise changed when the good God chose to become embodied and “move into our neighborhood.” The good became one of us and THAT changed everything!  Now, what is TO BECOME has been coming ever since.  Indeed all of creation, including us, is evolving.

Our Christian faith is a CHRISTMAS FAITH after all!  It is a strong knowing that GOD-is-with-us.  It is this faith that calls us out of wherever we are in this phase of transition of our lives to anticipate, expect, and wait on seeing the activity of God’s Presence anew.

I am so glad to have heard this year’s call, this year’s invitation in the Lessons & Carols event last Sunday.  Bert and our marvelous choirs and musicians outdid themselves in allowing the Spirit of Christ to use them for the good of all of us who were there, and I am ever so grateful.  I left for home full of joy and thinking “GOD, you ARE with us…thank you!”

I will be changing my own living space into a more festive setting on my Sabbath this week.  I don’t have to fear what is becoming.  Life is change, transition, and ultimately transformation.  I am glad to BE ALIVE!  I pray Christmas blessings upon us all; I pray that we can see GOD (the good) in unexpected places and remember that GOD-IS-WITH-US.  I hope we can perceive and say, “thank you, GOD!”

With Christmas Love,

FM+

Dear Folks,

The folks who meet John the Baptist in the wilderness are a courageous, scrappy lot.  They could have stayed home.  They could have shut their ears to his stunning, difficult cries.  They could have circled the wagons against change and his impertinent challenge of the status quo.  But when John says, “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees,” instead of ducking, they turn their heads to listen.  I’m not sure who was more surprised!  When John says, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire,” they drop what they are doing and cross the Jordan River to meet him.  When John says, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruits worthy of repentance,” every person within ear shot says “What then should we do?”  It’s a question that will change their lives, an invitation to rise up from death to life.  Their query “What then should we do” belies their discomfort with the way things are and their consciousness of the need to change.  Crippled by destructive choices and the selfishness that can bring death to any one of us, they long to walk in the light of a new day.

We live again in a dark and dangerous time, and I wonder if we have the consciousness and the courage to kindle some essential light?  Do we still believe that God is bending the universe toward that which is right and good, toward the weak and the wounded and the truly wise?  And what are we willing to give up, to make a way for those who have no way?

Ten years ago I preached at the memorial service for a neighbor who struggled with his own set of demons, including depression, and what I learned from him, I think, can apply to each of us.  In his ups and down, Francis’ life is a parable.  For each of us is transformed through dying and rising, probably many times over a lifetime—little deaths and small resurrections punctuate our days and years, if we have eyes to see them—and surely this was the case with Francis.  This pattern seems to be the only way we really ever grow—death to life, Good Friday to Easter, over and over again.

And “We seldom go freely into the belly of the beast.  Unless we face a major disaster like the death of a friend or spouse or loss of a marriage or job, we usually will not go there.”  (Richard Rohr)  So most of us have to be taught the language of the spirit, which is all about descending into the crucible of life’s struggle, where wise ones discover meaning not in answers but in better, more focused questions.  If we will listen, the dark periods of life are good teachers.  And as Francis discovered in his sometimes wonderful, sometimes painful journey, God works in the darkness.  In fact, God works especially there, where we are most lost and alone.  Novelist William Styron writes in his record of depression that the hard won light of wisdom, gift of God, can make even the darkness visible.

What can you do?  Go into the wilderness, your own private darkness of selfishness or greed, of violence or anxiety, of anger or fear.  Take inventory and separate the wheat from the chaff.  And then let the light of Christ burn up everything that’s getting in between you and your changing the world.  Let yourself see what the darkness makes visible, and then make a way for those who have no way.

Love,
David

Stage lights fell on the man behind the podium at The Historic Parkway Theater on North Avenue last Tuesday night.

“My mother died when I was 21-years old,” William Glover Bey confessed in a soft voice to a packed crowd. “She was the only person I trusted in the world. My life spiraled downward from there.”

“Spiraling downward” for William included what has become, painfully, a familiar Baltimore story, including being shot several times, getting involved in the drug scene, and spending years of his life incarcerated.

But William is now a fulltime, well-respected employee at The Johns Hopkins Hospital – his children are in college or college-bound – and minutes after speaking under the Parkway Theater lights, he was asked back on stage to receive a special award. The award was given to him by Terrell Williams and Melvin Wilson, co-directors of Turnaround Tuesday. Turnaround Tuesday is also a Baltimore story — one of redemption, hope and courage — that deserves to be spread broad and wide during this holiday season of light shining through the darkness.

Perhaps some of you have heard this Baltimore story by now? Several years ago, a pastor and a community organizer decided to engage the group of men whom they noticed hanging out, day in and day out, in the alleyway outside the pastor’s office window; the alleyway was strewn with needles, evidence of how many of them were passing their days.

Armed with genuine curiosity (and perhaps a clipboard or two), the pastor and community organizer began talking with the men and listening to them, listening to their stories. “How is it that you are here, doing what you’re doing?” they wondered aloud, together with the men. “What would it take for you not to be here? What is it that you need, to change your status quo?” Some natural leaders in the group were identified, to engage others in this reflective exercise.

Their resounding, collective response? “Give us living-wage jobs, the chance to support ourselves and our families, and we won’t be here in this alleyway, anymore.” “Don’t send us to job training program after job training program after job training program that don’t result in actual jobs; we’ve been there, done that.” “Connect us with employers who are willing to hire us, who don’t automatically equate a history of incarceration with untrustworthiness and unemployability.” “Give us a chance at a meaningful, productive life.

And thus begun the jobs movement of BUILD (Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development) known as Turnaround Tuesday that celebrated its 5 year anniversary with a grand event at The Parkway Theater last Tuesday evening.

To date, since its inception, Turnaround Tuesday has placed 738 Baltimoreans in living-wage jobs with partnering organizations, including The Johns Hopkins University, Medstar Health, and University of Maryland Medical System; employers report a remarkable 80-85% retention rate of Turnaround Tuesday hires. President of The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Redonda Miller, on a mini-documentary recently produced by Harvard University Wallace Foundation Fellow and native Baltimorean, Yasmene Mumby, reports that Hopkins’ Turnaround Tuesday employees are hard-working, compassionate and dedicated; they are role models for their fellow co-workers. Promotions at work are not uncommon for Turnaround Tuesday hires.

William, in his speech at The Parkway, gave some insight into why, at least for him.

“It’s my responsibility, to help fix what I was a part of breaking,” his soft voice echoed throughout the theater.

Another Turnaround Tuesday graduate, also a Hopkins employee, appears in Yasmene’s mini-documentary: “I’m making different choices today. I am better than I was yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that.”

May it be so, for all of us.

Cristina

Want to visit Turnaround Tuesday? Click HERE to download pamphlet. Visitors to Turnaround Tuesday are welcome every Tuesday morning from 9-11am on the eastside at Zion Baptist Church, 1700 N. Caroline Street, and on the westside from 2-4pm at Macedonia Baptist church, 718 W. Lafayette Avenue.

I have been particularly smitten with the beauty of the autumn colors my first fall in Baltimore!  The reds, golds, greens, and ambers raise my spirit and remind me of the glory of God in her many disguises.  I use the expressways a lot and am always amazed at the splendor that overwhelms me as I wind a curve in the road to be greeted by yet another glorious Maryland landscape.  Simply put— I am enchanted!

During my years at St. Vincent’s House, Galveston, this time of year was especially grand.  We turned our large common space into a “restaurant” and served the thanksgiving meal to all of our neighbors (or even beyond) who would come.  Our neighborhood, you must understand, was much like areas of West Baltimore today.  Our partnerships with a catering business, a DJ, a linen service and our board of directors, ensured that we would share a feast that would be an extremely festive spread.  Throughout the day, we would serve and share our meals with upwards of 250-300 families.

In our times together, we discovered we were SO much alike—those of us who prepared the meals and those who ate them.  It was at St. Vincent’s House, that I realized GOD was literally “all-over-the-place” and I just never knew it.  I was forced to repent of thinking and believing that GOD was only where and when I thought God should/would be!

The Buddhist speaks of the need to enter each day with beginner’s mind, a way of perceiving life experiences anew.  The Christian speaks of repentance, a way of making a 180 degree turn from perceiving life in one way to a totally different way.  Both teachings illuminate a truth that transcends all time, space, and religions:  the DIVINE GLORY is EVERYWHERE and that includes seeing that glory in each other.

Most of us can sense something that transcends everything when we engage a beautiful piece of art, or hear a symphony, or enjoy laughter and fun with friends and family, but it was a Thanksgiving that gave me the sense of that transcendent something when I met fellow travelers on the Way.

A prayer:

May the DIVINE GLORY rise up and bathe all that we do, eat, and say in delightful reds, greens, golds, and ambers this Thanksgiving.  May our minds and hearts remain open and free!

Amen.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING Y’ALL!

FM+

Dear Folks,

“When will we know that the end is about to come?” the disciples ask Jesus in the Luke’s gospel.  “What will the signs be?” they wonder, and we can chuckle at their naivety, but apocalyptic thinking still surfaces today.  We are alive again in a time of hopelessness.  I heard it in the fear mongering that accompanied the last presidential election.  I wonder about it when people tell me they’ve lost hope in young people, or lost hope in the government, or lost hope in the church.  I wonder about it when 20-somethings tell me they don’t plan to marry or have children.  I wonder about it when we argue about fossil fuel and climate change instead of altering our behaviors of consumption.  Someone’s world comes to end somewhere, everyday—and there is plenty of anxiety to fuel doomsday thinking around the world and across town.  Thoughtful people still wonder, with reason, if the end is near.

In a sense, it’s always near.  So we don’t have to be like the kid on the long car trip who keeps asking every ten minutes, “Are we there yet.”  We are there, and I think we know it.  Look carefully and you’ll see the disparity in schools, the spiritual and economic legacy of racism, and our wounded environment.  People are hurting, some are dying, and when they lose hope or turn cynical, we can’t sit idly by.  Rather, we can respond to John the Baptist’s clarion call: God’s kingdom is at hand, and it is in our hands.

Kathleen Norris writes, “The literature of the apocalypse can be scary stuff, the kind of thing that can give religion a bad name, because people so often use it as a means of controlling others, instilling dread by invoking a bogeyman God.”  But apocalyptic literature, like the reading from Luke in chapter 21, is not “a detailed prediction of the future, or an invitation to withdraw from the concerns of the world.”  On the contrary, it is a wake-up call, “one that uses intensely poetic language and imagery to sharpen our awareness of God’s presence in and promise for the world.” (Norris, Amazing Grace, A Vocabulary of Faith)

When we look carefully, we discover “that marriages, families, communities, and nations often come together and discover their true strength (precisely) when some apocalypse—some new revelation of the fault lines in our thinking or our systems—has occurred… For some reason, we seem to learn best how to love when we’re a bit broken, when our plans fall apart, when our myths of self-sufficiency and goodness and safety are shattered.” (Norris)  Apocalypse is meant to bring us to our senses—allowing us a sobering, and admittedly painful glimpse of what is—and then envision the new life we can build from the ashes of the old.

Who knows how Christ will come, or when, or where?  If we are in search of a timetable and try to crack the code of apocalyptic literature, we are probably on a wild goose chase.  And when some of us claim that all who join our party or parish or denomination will be saved and everyone else is lost, we are mistaken.  “The ones who will be saved, Jesus says, are the ones who are feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the prisoners.  If we love, in other words, we are in.”  (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking)

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.  (Bishop Ken Untener)

People of good faith can change systems that have become perverse or wounding, so that they work for human beings again.

You know, we’ve read to the end of the book.  We know how the story goes.  We know the responsibility we hold in our hands and the kingdom those hands are pointing to.  We know that good triumphs over evil, that life is more powerful than death, that the arc of the universe bends toward justice, and that love abides.  We don’t have to travel through time or gaze into a crystal ball to see the rapture.  But we do have to build the kingdom, if Shalom is ever going to come. We know what the coming of the living God looks like: it looks like you and me working the earth of the heart, digging into the ground of Being, confronting meanness and injustice and betrayal every day if we have to, sowing seeds of healing and reconciliation and community, because we have to, every day, one person at a time.

Love,
David