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fallA 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
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Yarn

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Story is neither magic
nor medicinal,
in and of itself.

It is simply a way
of connecting yesterday's thread
of existence with today's,
laying groundwork
for the possibility of tomorrow.

It can be weaponized,
like most any tool,
when the tales told come
from a single source,
and one that’s oblivious
to every character but self.

If you want to feel
its purest form,
let a child spin you
yarns of truth formed
in the crucible
of innocence and vulnerability.

Then, you'll understand
the lines on which
the world turns.  

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Now Is the Time

IMG_7219Now Is the Time

There lies deep within 
  the human heart — yours,
    mine, and everyone else's — 
      a vision and desire 
    for how life is supposed 
  to be lived;

images of connection 
  without coercion, 
    dreams of enough 
      without competition, 
    hunger for community 
  without uniformity,

thirst for intimacy 
  without betrayal, 
    hope for understanding 
      without judgment, 
    longing for love 
  without condition.

All this is within us; 
  divine spark planted 
    before we were born.

There is but one impediment 
  to our bringing this vision 
    to life: fear.

Fear is a liar.

That is why so many stories
  of divine encounter begin
    with the holy plea, 
      "Fear not!"

Now is the time for us 
  to live from a deep place; 
    to rise up to the grace 
      for which we were created.

Now is the time for hope 
  to reveal the strong roots 
    she has sunk 
      in communities of faith, 
    to nourish our courage.

Now is the time.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Reach

zreach

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

Respite

zrespite

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

May You

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For a while you shared a lifetime;
though it seems but a flash;
and never enough;
and always too soon;
and too painful to bear.

All of these are true.

May your memories,
and Keats and Oliver
and all the poets whose pens
were filled with the ink
of their own
painfully dripping blood,

and the DNA shared
with your kin — physical genes
as well as spiritual ones —
and the people who’ve been
and are your neighbors
through the years,
all weave a comforting blanket
of presence to brace
your tired shoulders
against the biting cold wind
of the valley
of the shadow of death.

May you take one step at a time,
one day at a time;
and on the days when you can
neither stand nor step,
may you find sleep,
if not dreams,
beneath a warm quilt of hope.

May there come a day
when the light pushes
the shadows back
into the deep woods
from whence you’ve journeyed
for much longer
than you dreamed possible.

May you recognize home,
once again;
and may your breath
be restored.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

Indifference

JL Todd (2)Photo by Jo Lightner Todd

Often, the thing that kills us –
the thing that digs the hole
into which we fall,
and from which we are
incapable of self-extraction –

isn't the full-strength sulfuric acid
of hate thrown in our face,
but a slowly constructed ladder
of slights and judgments
raising another up high enough
to no longer be willing
to see and hear that our stories
all have the same origin
and will conclude
with the same destination.

It is indifference
that steals away the breath
once filling the air between us,
a liter at a time, until
we are rendered unconscious
by the divisive vacuum.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

Call of the Song

zcall of the song

 

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

Church Whisperer?

zchurchwhisperer

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

 

DBV

zDBV

 

      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