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
His attention and memory are legendary; both honed to a steely edge by the whetstone of self-love’s dearth and the absence of self-worth. Whenever he perceives even the slightest slight, the moment is carefully catalogued and stored for future reference. The more publicly he is humiliated, the more driven he becomes to make a spectacle of his retribution. Lying awake into the wee hours of the morning, he plots his revenge, fully convinced that this time — in contrast to countless others in the past — retribution will soothe the fire in his soul instead of fueling it. Day after day, year after year, relationship after relationship, he gathers his scars, and fills the cemetery of his heart with the bones of those he’s sure he’s slain. Night after night, year after year, soul after soul, the star-flinger reconnects bone to bone, sinew to sinew, flesh to flesh, resurrecting crucified ones into a hope that still eludes the wound collector. © 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
The holidays are open season on economic greed; no bag limits, and no limitations on baiting. If you venture out (literally or virtually), you're fair game, and the gifts of family and presence may be threatened by the marketing of presents. To keep your perspective: hug, listen to, and spend time with those who matter; if you buy something, do it by choice, not because of seasonal expectation; buy local, instead of feeding the corporate beast, and find a way to shop on any day but Thanksgiving or Black Friday. That is all. Carry on! © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Poetry, like parable, is a powerful strain of subversive resistance. In parable, most often, by the powers of familiarity and comfort, we are lulled into sidling up to prophetic truth with no more hesitation or anxiety than a carefree child lounging in the autumn grass with a magnifying glass or a beloved, snoozing family pet. Poetry seduces us, by a trinity of brevity, wherein we find both breathing room and a niche for inserting our own narrative; simplicity, refreshing us like a summer rain shower; and a turn of phrase, opening neural pathways of imagination we’ve either long-forgotten or never knew existed. Our first few encounters with these radical forms of blood-fueled ink can be chalked up to inexperience or naïveté. Eventually, however, we will probably have to admit that something deep within hungers for such a revolutionary soirée. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Owen Jenkins
“Thoughts and prayers” screech in my ears like fingernails across a chalkboard, regurgitate into my throat like the most heinous of tastes come back to haunt me, a platitudinous chaff of phraseology. In the motionless void that follows, my eardrums are pierced by the echo of gunfire; another mass shooting, further propelling the land of the free to an insurmountable lead in the gold medal chase for death by firearms. We cry “terror!” when we see difference, and “mental illness!” or “lone wolf” when familiarity surfaces, all the while doubling down on weaponization, as if terminal violence were the antidote to rage. Is there a tipping point where the right to die of some other cause rises to the level of the right to bear arms? Or should we bury hope next to the latest bullet-riddled victims, shrugging our shoulders in surrender as the second amendment rises to the throne of supreme deity? Lord, have mercy, because we have completely lost the capacity to birth it ourselves! © 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
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