Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins
(A riff on Acts 2 & Numbers 11) 220.127.116.11 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
To the person for whom there's never enough, there's always suspicion others want your stuff. The one who is consumed with greed, will never be touched by hunger and need. If comparison's the game by which you thrive, the train of joy will never arrive. Look at what you have, instead of what's lacking; it’s an important step to send discontent packing. Seeing the big picture is a form of art that fashions a glad and generous heart. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
We are a people of scars, neither guaranteed protection nor escape from pain's slice and consequences. But we are also created for healing; not healing whose visibility or consequences vanish; people who are found by a forgiveness that debrides our wounds, rinsing away anger, malice, resentment, and vengeance, disinfecting them with grace, packing them with mercy; people whose flesh falls back together, not in seamless invisibility, but rough, bumpy reminders of our past; people who somehow find the courage to seek catharsis in our history's telling; people whose hearts are forever being pointed toward the true north of hope. Yes, this is who we are; not perfected but blemished, not fearless but courageous, not arrived but journeying; journeying together. © 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
Painting by Rosalind Golden Saline
Surely light years beyond wildest hopes and deepest imaginations, he is raised, not just from the tomb, but also from the debasing of mocking, the torture of scourging, and the excruciating execution of crucifixion. Was his appearance nearly incognito because of the impossibility of it all, or because transcending death alters persona far beyond human fathomability? Perhaps it was both. His face, tilted skyward, eyes closed, no longer in agony, now in serenity. His skin at one and the same time ashen, yet fully thrushed with life; its shading defies ethnocentric limitations. His lips, resting in a fashion best-described as tranquility. Completely antithetical to terrestrial powers that sought his demise via violence, his presence exudes a gentleness only love can elicit; right hand lowered and open, both revealing a lack of animosity and weaponry, and clearly displaying still-fresh wounds, beckoning us toward our own deepest healing; his left hand pointing heavenward, living water flowing from it, new life springing up from a parched desert floor; light bursting from above, revealing creation’s eternally-held dream. Last, but also perhaps first, the robe; swirling transfiguration's glow with stone-rolling angel's ensemble; but even those two foreshadowings are inadequate descriptions of its hope-infused cloud. Sit with the elements; letting life's river wash over you, divine wind swirl your heart, and corpus of unconditional love carry you into the grace of each tomorrow's resurrection. © 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
Forgiveness is a light shining forward, out of a painful past, toward a hopeful future. We are like the mirrored cone around a flashlight bulb. If we convince ourselves that we are the source of this light, it is dimmed with our pride and blocked by the judgment of our withholding. All we can truly do is accept the gift of it, mind our own shadows, and reflect the light toward others. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
When she steps to the plate,
I’m pretty sure the bases
are loaded; more loaded
than we ever imagined they’d be.
You never know what
the skipper’s going to do.
Even if you’re in a slump longer
than Rip Van Winkle’s nightmare,
and slower than an uphill freight train,
you’re likely to be inserted
as a pinch runner.
Taking the count full,
so all’s on the line,
she steps out of the box
one final time;
tapping the bat against her cleats,
carefully knocking loose
any clods trying to cling.
She points the polished white ash
toward the right field bleachers
with a confidence making
the Bambino look like
a rookie out of his league.
No matter what pitch
the opposing pitcher
has up his sleeve –
heater, curve, knuckler, change-up,
screwgie, spitter, slider, cutter,
or something we’ve never ever seen –
I’m pretty sure that ‘tater’s gonna be
tattooed like a wrinkled sailor.
Hear the crowd roar, child.
Hear the crowd roar.
A walk-off swing;
a dance-off sing.
Grace bats last, my child.
Grace bats last!
© 2017 Todd Jenkins
They don't even have to be from the same bird. They just stick together, hanging on to one another, and to us, like a staticky sliver of cellophane or an indomitable piece of tape. There is but one way – one place – to rid ourselves of them, yours, mine, theirs: the strong but tender hand of the divine self. It waits, open, patiently, for us to release our strangle on all that is not grace, all that conjures not love, whether it emanates from us or others. See us standing there, our tiny fists death-gripped around them? We are convinced the sticky wad is solely constructed of sleights and slices from the malice of others, personally aimed at us. What we cannot see is the way our refusal to release them attracts our own faults into the same gooey bundle; how our failure to let go of pain that has come at us causes us to also keep the suffering coming from within us. When Jesus cautions us, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:23), he's trying to help us see that letting go of past hurts is the only path to avoiding the retentive edema and grudging pock of vengefulness. Filtering the faults of others before they reach the healing flow of Forgiveness Falls causes us to miss the redemptive wash for our own failings. Let it go. Let it flow. © 2017 Todd Jenkins