Photo by Ashley Goad
Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37) Say yes to the rhythm of your marrow; yes to walking deliberately; yes to listening attentively; yes to considering prayerfully; yes to speaking gently; yes to acting compassionately; yes to holding tenderly; and as these yeses unfold into the world, you will find the wisdom, strength, and courage to say no; no to division; no to fear; no to othering; no to assuming; no to hoarding; no to hurrying; no to spontaneously reacting; no to violence; no to abusing; no to anesthetizing. Learn the way of yes, and the way of no will follow close behind. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
(when Psalm 22 stares back at you from the mirror)
"My sons and daughters, why have you forsaken them? Why are you so far from responding to the their cries and groanings? They beseech you in daylight, wailing at the wall you’ve constructed to separate their lives from your comfort and security. By night, their pleas waft on smoldering embers of their deconstruction." The victors have constructed a lovely narrative of deliverance; their cry, God’s response; like a sacred vending machine, fed with the coin of deserving. But what of those who are judged to be subpar, those whose DNA, language, or faith heritage come from beyond the 23&me dream package? What of those who showed up for work or school or worship, oblivious to the call to pack heat for self-preservation; those who trusted that the least of these, the lambs, would be protected by the Great Shepherd’s shepherds? They counted on us to carry them; to be there, not just in the delivery room, but at the grocery store checkout, the public library, the classroom, the youth group meeting, the job fair. Is our absence because we don’t really care, or because we’re actually the carnivores circling ‘round them? Their tongues glue to the roof of their mouths, like jerky dried for consumption, salted with the tears of their anguish. Their skin taut, revealing a cadaverous collection of bones. The coyotes circle, yipping and nipping, casting lots for what little remains. The dream we sold them promised they’d have a shot; guaranteed dignity, respect, even opportunity; but the fine print and disclaimer excluded them for myriad reasons, mostly because we feared that including them would cost us too much. We are slow to catch on, O Lord; blind and deaf and too scared to realize that tossing them to the curb is infinitely more costly than we ever dreamed, because it has cost us our very souls. Is there still time, still hope, still opportunity to pull more chairs ‘round the table? If we feed those who’ve been starved, welcome those who’ve been exiled, humble ourselves before you and pray, will you make your light shine upon us all, once again? We wrap ourselves with the sackcloth of confession, and dust ourselves with the ash of contrition, O holy one, in hopes that our forsaking will not become our forsakenness. Deliver us, we pray, that we may live to proclaim your story to generations yet to come. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Linda Patrick
“Justice and peace will kiss each other." - Psalm 85:10 Justice and Peace embrace in a warm hug and double-cheek kiss because they’re long-lost siblings, separated soon after birth by cultures, societies, nations, and people who cannot see and believe God’s generosity and extravagance; a blind disbelieving which tilts the world toward selfishness, greed, anxiety, and fear. In the tension of such shrinking, their (J’s & P’s) mother had to ship them off to separate family members to be raised, while she continually cleans up the messes and patches the rent fabric in societies that tiny-hearted people create. At least, that’s the story I’m dreaming. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
(a preacher’s dream/hope for a new year)
Some folks are great at telling stories with their mouths. Theirs are the most detailed and most accurate. They are also the longest and often the most boring, stumbling and fumbling over facts irrelevant to both the point of the story and their listeners. Other people are great at regaling you with their own ears, keenly aware of how their tales make them appear in the eyes of their audience. Whatever else you’ve learned when they are finished, you now see them in a more ethereal light. Help me, O Lord, learn how to unfold narratives using borrowed ears, so my listeners hear, not me or my most presentable self or their pretend selves, but their deepest, richest selves in the story. Even more, let their ears tell me how to verbally reveal glimpses of grace, calling us all to a hope that is deeper, broader, more connective, and more accessible than before vocal chords strummed and ear drums beat in synchronized rhythm. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
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