As an acrostic of storms accumulates on our news feeds, their names aligned like Beelzebub's old-school Rolodex, we beseech you, O God of wind and water, to breathe a calming counter-wind and send sponge-clouds to hold the deluge, so rain is more gently squeezed out in manageable and absorbable amounts. As the earth trembles to our south, gaping wide to swallow portions of Central American civilization, we pray for a tangible presence of your sacred tether, O God. Give hope to those digging through the rubble in search of life. With and in your strong but tender hand of comfort, O prayer-catcher, gently hold the tears of those buried in the grief of loved ones lost. The forests are ablaze, not with the light of your glory, O God, but with a consuming fire of destruction. You, who created winds that can be whipped into storms, we implore you to breathe extinguishing spirits and send blanketing rains upon the woods and neighborhoods, shielding firefighters and all life in peril's path. May our prayers have hands, feet, wallets, and hearts that know not national boundaries, speaking, acting, giving, and breaking for all, near and far, who find themselves battered and unmoored. Let us refract your love, O Lord, through the dispersive prism of grace, that all may know your rainbow promise. Wind and water, earth and fire, all elements of creation's glory; so let it be imagined; so let it be intoned; so let it become. Selah, selah, selah. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Pray with your mouth, pray with your feet, pray on the rooftop, pray in the street. Pray 'til the end, pray from the start, pray with your hands, pray with your heart. Pray with your money, pray with your boat, pray with your muscle, pray with your vote. Pray with your breathing, pray with your mind, pray with your stories, pray with anything you find. Pray out of the water, pray out of the air, wherever and whatever, make sure it's all prayer. Pray when you arrive, pray while you're on the way; with all your being and doing, always and forever, pray. © 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
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
That building we call church isn't really a church. It only becomes church when people show up to make church; when people use it to be and become church. What difference would it make for the community if we, on the inside, not only understood that, but lived it more intentionally on the outside? © 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
Gone are the days when the sanctuary and classrooms under the steeple are the only venues open for the meeting of the Sunday Civic Club. If the church is going to survive, we'll have to get serious about practicing our faith and cultivating a life of spiritual depth and awareness. The struggle lies in the reality that many other weekend options are capable of meeting the cursory expectations for which we've allowed ourselves to settle. Some believe earthquakes can be a sign that God is at work. “What’s shaking, folks?” That’s how God moves us toward new things. Why? Maybe it’s because we are prone to digging in. As the earth shakes, we are being swallowed. Can we be raised from the empty tomb? Will we? #faithquake © 2017 Todd Jenkins
It is the only means of resisting demagoguery. Losing a reference point for reality is a turbocharger propelling us toward an abyss. We must find venues in which truth can be spoken, understood, believed, and acted upon. Failure to do so is not an option. Truth-up; don’t shut-up. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Far beyond a failure to protect them, intentional massacre is heinousness in the highest degree. How frightened do you have to be to declare all babies two years-old and younger acceptable collateral damage for your political aspirations and narcissistic ego? It's easy to condemn Herod for his atrocity. What's more difficult is admitting our own complicity in failing to leverage our privilege and power to provide basic dignity for today's children; for lumping innocents with those who've hijacked religion for violent political purposes so we can justify keeping them, not just at manger's-length, but exiled to places worse than Pharaoh's Egypt. Lord, have mercy, not just on our souls, but on our hearts and the lives of children everywhere. © 2016 Todd Jenkins
The following grew out of an interview I did for “Water of Life”, the newsletter for Living Waters for the World.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” (Mark Twain)
Twain wrote that travel is a great eraser of prejudice and self-elevation. I guess that depends on how you travel. It can be difficult to find a transformative climate when you’re carefully shuttled from one manicured, touristy vista to another, and shuffled quickly past brightly painted walls masking the underbelly – and yet the foundation – of the neighborhoods and working conditions of an area’s indigenous people. One key to avoiding such a wasted trip is mission.
I’m not talking about delivering crates of used clothing and shoes, or offloading expensive equipment, or drive-by VBS with enough glitz to elicit oohs and ahhs even from malnourished participants. I’m talking about mission done WITH (not TO or FOR), in partnership, with all participants’ resources and voices recognized and respected, and full ownership claimed.
If you can find a way to do this, whether it’s in your back yard or across the globe, whether it transcends languages, cultures, social structures, or all of the above, you will no longer be able to see the world through the fearful binoculars of “other”, and you will no longer understand yourself the same. When you sense the life of others, your heart rends, even if only microscopically.
It’s like you’ve traded pieces of one another’s hearts; and when you do that, love cannot be unseen, mercy unheard, justice unfelt, forgiveness unsmelled, grace untasted. Neither your world nor the world will ever be the same again. Thanks be to God!
© 2016 Todd Jenkins