A song we all know well called and left a message: I’m music, written from a particular place and time, intended to stir human souls to passion and magnanimity, through both my tune and lyrics. When I begin to fail at that task, as the cracks and limitations of my era’s sociocultural ignorance magnify, don’t set off smokescreens, dig your heels in blindly, or deify me, for fear of loss/change. Instead, listen to one another’s story and experiences, together, creating a present and future out of which more hopeful tunes and lyrics can be given birth and live. Remember, I’m here to serve at your collective pleasure, not to have you serve at mine. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
There’s a certain range of sociocultural behavior and interaction that’s healthy. Venturing too far from it risks isolation and estrangement. Growl at or feel threatened by guests? Bark at every unexpected sound, cowering in fear behind a facade of bravado, biting even the hand that feeds you when you’re surprised? Constantly and inappropriately marking territory? Three questions, regularly whispered on the linear plane, help identify areas for examination: What are we (not) doing? Why are we (not) doing it? How’s that working out for us? The foundational whispers, however, are neither horizontal, nor sounded across human vocal chords; but vertical, and received into human hearts: Why were you placed into this time and space? Toward what and whom are you being called by love and grace? We are created, then, less as church whisperers, than those to and through whom the divine whispers. © 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
Even and especially in the face of the most pernicious division and hatred that fear can muster, hope is resurrected in the strangest places. Like clandestine roots from a chopped-down tree, lingering beneath the soil, it pushes up shoot, bud, then blossom in a spoke-like pattern; each eruption signaling an unabashed attempt to raise another trunk. Buzz them all down and, in a week or so, another generation rises up. Dig up the runners near ground level, and their deeper cousins will surface. When observing the natural world, it doesn’t take long to see that betting against hope is a losing proposition. © 2017 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
(A riff on Acts 2 & Numbers 11) 22.214.171.124 D Numbers 11: 27And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” Spirit, Spirit, wild-eyed wonder; into room and hearts you rushed, tongues of fire and claps of thunder; mouths to ears your burning gushed. Risen one ten days ascended; dif'rence must be set aside; call to hope freshly extended; forgiveness freely applied. Eldad, Medad break out speaking, ut’ring truths as yet untold. Call on Moses, "Stop the leaking; they're too brazen, far too bold!" Rules braided in hangman's tight noose, keeping others in their place, now untwisted, completely loose, making room for gushing grace. To be sure, and not be unfair, faith soars high on earth's quaking, mercy pours richly everywhere with Spirit's new inbreaking. Millennia have waxed and waned since holy fire filled the air. As Peter's tongue boldly explained, ears of fire are everywhere! Fill our spirits from your deep reach with connection, love, and care; give us hearts and voices to preach grace’s story everywhere. Give us, O torch sent wild and free, strength to withstand all danger, risking all we are and can be welcoming knocking stranger. © 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
Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins
To borrow a book title from one of my seminary professors, Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Finally Comes the Poet.
space-maker, mold-breaker, heart-shaker…
thought-drifter, shape-shifter, dream-sifter…
bell-ringer, tear-bringer, sweat-wringer…
trip-booker, fresh-looker, love-cooker…
beast-tamer, peace-framer, grace-namer…
risk-taker, earth-quaker, hope-baker…
© 2017 Todd Jenkins
Matthew’s gospel has a whole lot of quaking going on. I want you to think about this quaking. Why is it here in the story? What does it mean?
27:50-53 …&……. 28:2
Sometimes it takes a little quaking to get us out of our ruts and our comfort zones, but our quaking differs considerably from God’s. Power’s shaking can’t hold a candle to love’s quaking.
I was going to race to the tomb, but the women beat me to it. I would have tried to roll away the stone, but the angel-quake took care of that. I might have raced to tell the rest of the disciples, assuming I wasn't among them, behind locked doors, quaking with fear. The problem is that most of these opportunities are 2,000+ years gone.
Here’s the question I think both supersedes and surpasses our fascination with “Some bright morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away.” It’s this:
“In the big scheme of things, if death doesn’t have the last word, what does this change about life?” That is, “What difference does resurrection make in your and my here & now?”
28:7 The great hope & promise of resurrection is “he is going ahead of you”. Where would we be willing to go, what would we be willing do to, and who would we be willing to become if we really believed that he is still going ahead of us?
28:8 Resurrection sets us free from having to be God & from the burden of keeping ourselves alive. THAT’s the bizarre combination of “fear and great joy” that the women feel as they leave to keep moving toward the place to which the risen Christ is calling them.
This Easter, I'm praying for the courage to set aside all the shoulda, coulda, and wouldas of my life. Then, the only things left to do are to: look for him among the living; & reflect his light into the pain, suffering, and grief of others; & believe I'm forgiven so I can practice forgiving others; & step aside so grace can expand into the places I'd rather it didn't; & share my broken-hearted love in broken ways, with other broken people; & take a pinch of bread and a sip of wine, believing that sacraments make him real in ways beyond my fathoming; & practice the laying on of ears, listening to both the entombing and the untombing stories of others. & finally, to breathe – just breathe – when I cannot muster the wherewithal to do anything else; This is what I'll do, trusting it will be enough. Yes, the reality of resurrection comes to pass, not just "Some bright morning, when this life is o'er..." but also each day in the here and now; not by my own acts or righteousness, but by the love of God in, through, and around us all. Easter’s quake keeps trembling, raising the hair on your arm and the back of your neck, raising hope in your heart, raising your capacity for compassion, raising you and I to levels of love we’ve never imagined. By the grace of God, Easter's not our burden to prove. It's our gift to live. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
I watched a male Eastern Bluebird sit on our deck rail, his eyes askance and body shifting side to side in search of predatory danger. When he took to his wings, it was as if an iridescent stream of shimmering blue flame traced a launching rocket. As he faded from my sight, I wondered if my own leaving of a place – any place – would ever generate such a brilliant trail to follow. Deciding that the answer was, "No." I resolved, again, to desire less the sparkling beauty of bluebird in my eye, and more the steadfast reflection of poetic hope simmering in my marrow. © 2017 Todd Jenkins