Advent is an annual festival remembering us into the story of love’s complete arrival in the flesh. Once written into the narrative, we have to choose between accepting what has chosen us, or not. There exists within the human soul a freedom to choose the slavery of ignoring, rejecting, and abandoning love. It is a painful, diminishing choice that, once made, can only be overcome by the very thing not chosen. Those possessed by love have the antidote to undo the curse, but they can only do so by rejecting reciprocity and, instead, reflecting the image of the gift’s giver. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
We pray, O God, for all those who enter the holiday season with a sense of overwhelming sadness: those whose sadness is brought on by heightened grief of the loss of a loved one; those who are sad because the holidays bring acute awareness of family or relational dysfunction or discord; those whose sadness comes from an inability to create the Norman Rockwell life that marketers and advertisers use to create a restless desire to purchase; those whose emotions are overcome by the incongruence of life in the first eleven months of the year, or the painful difference between the “haves” and the “have nots”; and those whose sadness comes from any other reason. Help us, O Lord, as your children, to be keenly aware and ready to open our ears and our hearts to those who are anything but happy for the holidays, through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
We pray, O God, for all those whose holidays will be consumed with the overwhelming task of rebuilding their homes and their lives: those whose neighborhoods have been ravaged by hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, fire, or other disaster; those whose neighborhoods and lives have been turned to rubble by monster machinery of war. Help us, as your children, to have the grace to offer who we are and what we have been given to alleviate their suffering; through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
We pray, O God, for all those whose holidays will be consumed with worries about health and wellness, for themselves or someone near and dear: those whose holiday appetites will be diminished by chemotherapy; those whose holiday schedules will be filled with radiation, physical therapy, or booked for surgery; those whose glasses will be raised, not to toast, but to chase down handfulls of pills which they hope will extend the quality and/or quantity of their days. Help us, O Lord, as your children, to support, by your grace, all efforts at health and healing, through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
We pray, O God, for all those who are leaders, in our congregation, our community, our state, our nation, and in the world: those who make decisions about the direction of our congregation’s ministry and mission; those who direct funding, support, programs and protection for this city, this county, this state, this nation, and for all nations. Give us the courage to demand and support leaders who are willing to risk and sacrifice as much for peace and justice as we ask our military to risk and sacrifice in support of war; through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
In the midst of this Advent season, O Lord, give us unfailing hope through your unimaginable promise; give us unquenchable joy through your gift of deliverance; through Jesus Christ our Lord….
Now hear us, O God, as we join our hearts and voices together to pray the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, as we pray together….. Our father……
© 2017 Todd Jenkins
To genuinely observe Advent, without being pulled into the cultural tsunami of commercial Christmas, is to participate in the eternal plan of Grace. It is to rest in the promise of divine deliverance with at least a modicum of hope that the gift will arrive, not only with more than sufficient efficacy, but also before the nick of time. It is to admit that we are fully incapable of generating the gift of incarnation on our own, and we are therefore entirely dependent on both God's mercy and timing. It is, at one and the same time, both an exhilarating journey and a risky adventure. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Mark Saline
Focusing on Messiah’s future return — either trying to do all the right things to prepare for it or seeking to discern the arrival signs, is the surest way to miss God’s full and complete presence in the here and now. Stop looking for the end times and begin more fully living and participating in the joy of the present time. THIS is how we experience the heavenly realm. Miss it now, and we’ll not only be clueless when the time comes; we’ll also have wasted the precious breath and heartbeat of each of our days. Advent’s message is spot on; the beginning is near! Let us dare to begin again, and again. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Grace is even, and often especially, in the shards of mirror embedded in my knees, not by way of my humble genuflection, but from the face-first tumbles I make while racing toward the illusion of my self-orchestrated efforts at salvation. Grace is what calls me away from an obsession/focus on individual and future escape, toward others, and into an overflowing life of resurrection in the here and now. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
A sermon riff on Matthew 23:1-12
The Pharisees’ talk is miles ahead of their walk, their show far outpaces their go, a saint is one thing they ain't. Jesus differentiates between the ones who are just a flash in their own pan and the ones the light shines through. They're only platitudes when our speaking of them far exceeds our living of them; when what we say is incongruent with what we live; when the verbal art we paint is light years beyond the canvas of our ways; when our talk and walk are a bait and switch; when we voice grace but breathe fear. The Communion of Saints includes all those who ask forgiveness when they live transactionally; all those who choose to see beyond binary thinking; all those who find ways to allow the transformational power of grace to both enter in and pour out of their broken, cracked places. When the power of resurrection seeps into our brokenness at all the thin places and thin times of our lives, it is so radical and transformational that the transactional world cannot deal with it. We begin to let go of all the pretending, all the perfection, comparison, competition, scarcity, fear, blaming, hoarding, ego; all of the things by which we had been controlled. We begin to play by different rules. The old rules, hard and fast as they are, become insignificant; not because we are above them, but because we have been moved beyond them. We can no longer see and act in binary fashion, checking off lists of things we will or won't do because they are right or wrong. We are both under the control of and set free by something much bigger than law. We are living through Love, which turns out to be a messy, complicated rule that refuses to be exclusively held by anyone or nailed to any particular place or time. This Love is a gift. We didn't earn it. We don't own it. We can't choose who deserves it, because nobody does, including us. Yet it's been given to us anyway; not just parceled out to us stingily, but poured out on us extravagantly; given to us so that we can let its gift and power soak all the way to the marrow of our bones, flushing out all hurt and hatred, and all other lies of "not enough" all falsehoods of “not good enough”; given to us so that we can reflect it to others; so that we can share it with everyone we meet. Unlike all that other stuff that controlled us, this Love shrinks and dies when we try to hoard it, but grows and blossoms when we give it away. This is our mission – our life's purpose from this day forward – to let the rule of Love free us to respond with grace, not because anyone has earned it, but because we are all dying without it. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Yesterday's festive sun-gazers give little indication of their recent glory, as stooped and tired looking as octogenarian day laborers deprived of their pension. We are all little more than raisins in the sun, as Mr. Hughes reminded us, subject to so much pressure from within, without; fragile dreams escaping into the night, or not, whose purpose and connection are surely, purely gift, unless and until the bubble’s burst by hate unleashed, and fear cursed. Dream on; dream until your dreams come true. Shine, smile, stretch, reach, as long as you’re rooted in the garden of life, if for no other reason than someone else needs to see you hope out loud. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Hate rallies beneath its banners of battles lost to hope and humanity, frantically waving its flags, furiously stoking fires of division, refusing to let go, doggedly extending the war, unable to surrender to grace. Together, we must all keep marching toward a narrative that brings us to a place of peace that passes understanding. Until we arrive at such a sacred respite, the fighting will be interminable. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Death by violence; it is the trademark of a culture predicated on consumption as arrival and competition for survival. The socioeconomic sausage grinder uses people like inanimate ingredients in a secret family recipe, where nothing matters but the finished product, and the only ones not on the menu are those who’ve schemed or entitled their way to a table for one. When you hear the engine groan for lack of fodder, and squeal for lack of lubricant, be sure to check the list of ingredients needed to satisfy the beast. No matter the euphemism behind which it's cloaked, if what's really called for are the bones and blood of human lives, maybe it's time to build a more just machine; time to confess that stockpiled weaponry, war’s machinery, tilted and justified incarceration, and border-based enslavement aren’t really meant to keep us safe or help the weak defend and provide for themselves, but to keep power mongers on top. Maybe it’s time to take this kind of sausage off the menu, and search our collective souls for more sustainable fare. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him out of Israel; the people also wept bitterly. [Ezra 10:1] In weeping, our hearts are wrung out of all that stands between us and our true selves, between us and our neighbors, between us and God. In every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. [Esther 4:3] Our squeezed-out spirits can then absorb the gifts we need for the lives to which we’ve been called. Jesus began to weep. [John 11:35] © 2017 Todd Jenkins