Perhaps the human penchant for scapegoating, enemy-identifying, denial, and refusal to accept responsibility, would be a little less surprising if we were willing and able to admit the struggle between good and evil going on in each of our hearts all day long and most of the night. The more and longer we bifurcate reality, conveniently hopping just over the good/evil dividing line each time we redraw it, the deeper the chasm of separation we dig. If ever there was a time for etching lines – a season I cannot imagine – it is now long past. Hope calls us to be making circles, each one more expansive that the last, until all stories fit within the circumference. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
We live and breathe, O God, in a world increasingly beholden, not to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but rather to the gospels of division, fear, hatred, and violence. Remind us today, and each day of our earthly sojourn, that you did not create us for such divisive, loveless, hopeless, and destructive purposes. Give us courage to speak your truth to privilege and power – the privilege and power we've been granted, the privilege and power at the top of the constitutional and governmental food chain, and all privilege and power in-between. Give us compassion to feel the anxiety and hurt rising up from those who regularly find themselves at the short end of the stick and the end of the line, with targets on their backs, because of the practice of their faith, the color of their skin, the nation of their birth, or the configuration of their chromosomes. Give us wisdom to recognize the greed and indifference that turn a blind eye for profit's sake. Give us integrity to live into our created purpose, so we may speak justice, walk humility, and breathe hope. As followers of the resurrected one, we are called to be his voice, his hands, his feet. Show us how to live and love, so we and our broken world can find ourselves pieced together by and mortared with grace. So let it be spoken, so let it be lived, so let it be done. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Carie Rickenbrode Turner
(In our culture, these three – institution, religion, and faith – are formed into an awkward trinity. How do we see this three-legged monstrosity functioning in the world today?)
Every organization sees itself as institutional. Every house of worship sees itself as religious. Every generation of faithers – those who take comfort beneath the banner of faith – sees itself as faithful. The age-old question of existential purpose, however, is not about perpetuity, ritual, or practice, but surrender, connection, transformation. The question we need to ask ourselves is not, "How can we assure the continued existence of our institution, the ongoing practice of our religion, and the future exercise of our faith?" It is, instead these three: "Is our institution secure enough and honest enough to build upon the foundation of its past?" “Is our religion aware enough to distinguish between convention and tradition, jettisoning the former when it stands in the way of giving breath and life to the latter?" "Is our faith courageous enough to allow us to surrender our ties to empire, economy, and privilege, in order to be shaped into agents of hope for all creation?" The world waits for our answers with bated breath. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Kally Thompson Elliott
In August of 2013, through the confluence of a number of circumstances and experiences, I was compelled to pull to the side of the highway one morning and record a new perspective on a portion Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”.
Give me your tomatoes, your peppers, your hybrid melons, yearning to be consumed, but not so much your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of bowing to chemicals and corporations has our shores teeming with toxicity, and our hearts quivering with xenophobia. The tempest-tossed who dream of hope will not so much be met with lamp at golden door as laser sight and incarceration. All the while, our consumptive greed turns a blind eye to the duplicity of deportation and the rending of family's fabric, to which we claim undying allegiance. Who will resurrect liberty? © 2013 Todd Jenkins
When the gospel no longer sounds like good news, maybe our measure of what is good – and the people for whom it was intended – has slipped a few too many notches. We are not called to shoehorn the gospel into our narratives of comfort and security, but to open our hearts and lives to love's expansive reach. We are made to fit love, not the other way around. Keep stretching. It's reaching toward you now; has been since before your first breath; will be forevermore. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
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