Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins
There are expenses we regularly calculate, but there are others we ignore. In order to see the big picture, we can't just ask, "How much does it cost to do such-and-such?" or "How much does it cost to not do it?" We must recognize that costs can be attached to more than our wallets. Here are some of the gospel's calculating questions: What will it cost my heart & soul to do or not do this? What will doing or not doing this cost my family? What will this action or inaction cost my neighbor? What will these choices cost the planet? The universe is expanded by gracious choices. It is diminished by greedy ones. The cost is outrageous for all these priceless lives; secretly calculated in hearts too small to hold Love's grand truth; too scared to see all of us have the same value; too busy counting and comparing to feel the ground beneath us quaking, the skies above us tearing. We shrink because we sense difference, recoil with superiority's confidence, while the universe expands and diversifies and the holy one weeps. 2017 Todd Jenkins
When greed has run amuck, words are turned inside-out, like shirts that have missed a much-needed trip to the laundry, stinking to high heaven, and only discerned by those who are attentive to the seams. Those in whose favor everything's been tilted for generations, and in whose pockets piles of plunder reside, misconstrue language to attack others upon whose backs castles are built. "If they are without," the dictionary is rewritten to declare, "anything we allow them to have must be entitlement." And the one who created the universe, via a vocabulary with integrity, winces, as tears roll down like an ever-flowing stream, because those whose hubris is actually entitlement have abandoned their own kin. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
Fear divides, intent on conquering with its, “Vive la différence!” Love unites, earnestly calling us together, “Vive la similarité!” What matters is not the color of our skin, the roots of our faith, or the nation of our origin, but whether privilege can truly be acknowledged, voluntarily relinquished, and power bestowed with grace, so long-held shackles can be hammered into step-ladders of hope. It is past time for us to work better, together, nourishing and quenching a world hungry for dignity and thirsty for respect. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home, and ate their food with glad and generous hearts… (Acts 2:46)
This past Sunday’s sermon was from Acts 2:42-47. The sermon title was “Glad and Generous Hearts” (from 2:46). This week, after the sermon (of course!), I saw the sermon come to life.
Patrick (pictured above) is a 24 year old student in Malawi. He is studying to become a midwife, and dreams of opening an orphanage after he graduates, to care for the many parentless children in his country. Patrick is an orphan whose parents died years ago (dad in 1998, and mom in 2006). He is raising three younger siblings.
Here is a photo of his family: Patrick, his sister Thandie, brother Madziko, and sister Dorothy. A fifth sibling, a brother, died last year because there was no money to pay for medicine to treat his malaria.
A pastor friend of mine (who oversees a mission organization pairing US partners with orphans in nearby Rwanda) is paying Patrick’s tuition each semester, with whatever money he makes from part-time side-work reselling vintage items he finds in thrift stores, and other “found” money that materializes on occasion.
A few people in one of the small congregations I serve are pitching-in to provide educational uniforms and fees, as well as a small amount of money for food, for his two youngest siblings. Without funds for their education, they have been unable to attend school. Thandie, Patrick’s oldest sister, has finished secondary school and dreams of attending university to become a licensed caregiver for people with special needs (mentally and physically challenged), but there are no funds for her college education now.
This picture is of Patrick and two other orphans from his community. When he was home on break from school this week, he met these two, six year-old Innocent, and nine year-old Innocecia. He spent his own money to buy them clothes, shoes, books, school supplies, and food.
Whenever I imagine that I don’t have enough money to share with others, Patrick’s story helps me keep things in perspective. It reminds me that the human heart holds the world’s greatest treasures: love, compassion, and generosity.
© 2017 Todd Jenkins
Yes, we feel numbers being flung at us from the budget, as well as the calendar, and the clock, like the daggers from a stage act, and we swear we've never seen the blindfolded wielder before. But while we're bobbing and weaving, clinging to the hope that we'll make it to next year and beyond with a modicum of courage, sanity, and purpose, I have a few molasses-freezing questions; ones that might unpack a dream we don't remember. They seem to me to be the kind of questions that our revered institutions must face in this particular time and place: What if we found out that the thing we financially couldn't afford to do was the very thing we organizationally and existentially couldn't afford not to do? To put it another way: Which costs matter most, and how will we count them? What risks must we take in order to face the future with integrity? © 2017 Todd Jenkins
They demanded and even forced your labor, offering no or little wages. Silly me; I assured myself I was doing comparatively well, and somebody had to be at the bottom, mostly glad it wasn't me. They took your dignity, with images and cultural narratives painting you as lesser, or airbrushing you out of the picture altogether. Foolish me; I looked in the mirror and saw the right shade and shape, assuming I still had shreds of my own remaining. They kicked you out by banning and deportation, as if culture, language, and religion were legitimate wedges. Trembling me; I fell for scapegoating, ignoring the malignancy of systemic dis-ease. They broke your spirit, kicking you in the gut with insufficient opportunities, boot on your throat with charges of laziness. Ignorant me; I thought I could prop mine up with consumption and dogged pursuit, not of my dreams, but of what they told me to desire. They're here to steal your soul, and it slices through my own, clearly awakening me to our eternal tether. Now, I realize I've been a part of "they" all along, with my blind eye, my silence, my privilege, my vested interest votes. Maybe we can't go back, but I know that, wherever we must go from here, it will have to be together. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
Liberation, like grace, when advocated by humans, always has limits. At some point in the story of our history and community we all draw a line; a mark in the sand to which we are wholly oblivious, until someone on the other side points it out. Christianity attempts to follow the narrative of the God-Human; the only one whose love was unlimited; the one who drew expansive circles, instead. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
It's a convenient way to distance ourselves from both blame and responsibility; "Somebody else" is a sly way of saying, "Don't look at me!" But it actually makes me want to stare; to stare and ask, "Just who do we think we aren't?" No matter how many barriers with which we desperately surround ourselves – racial, economic, national, religious – our shared DNA of biology and spirituality denies every construct of "other." If we aren't our sister's keeper, whatever else we're keeping isn't worth it. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
In consideration of hatred, fear, xenophobia, and division for personal or political gain, it's easy to sit back and speculate, "What would you do?" Once speculation has not only left the station, but also disembarked from multiple platforms, the only question worth asking is, "What AM I DOING?" Present participles are the only engines worth putting on this track. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Prayers of the People for January 29, 2017.
Photo by Lizzie Mazariegos
We live, O God, in a fearful and divided culture; separated, not just from other faiths and nations, but also from the people who live in our neighborhoods, work with us, go to school with us, and even from some of the ones with whom we break bread on a regular basis. Our faith's rich tradition calls us away from such anxiety and estrangement, reminding us that we are all in this together; and contrary to Cain's distancing of himself from Abel's buried body, we ARE our neighbors' keeper, in neighborhoods without borders. We pray, O Lord, for guidance and wisdom, as we navigate our personal, community, state, and national roadmaps. Show us the narrow highway of love, even as it winds through the challenging mountains of relationship, listening, and sacrifice. Give us feathers on our skin, bones hollow yet strong, courage of the clouds, so we won't be pulled long earthward by gravity's fear, but freed instead to float on rising currents of hope, higher into grace's atmosphere. If only it were so easy, O God, like poetry rolling off our tongues, whisking us to happily ever after; but we know better. Our lives bear the bruises of broken hearts; our families carry the scars of shattered dreams. Give us this day, O storytelling dream-catcher, both tenacity and tenderness for the living of these days. Give us the gifts we need to open the doors of welcome to a world hungry and thirsty to know that your story is also their story. These and all prayers we ask in the name of the one who fed, healed, and welcomed the broken to a table of abundance; Jesus, the Christ. Amen. © 2017 Todd Jenkins