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
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
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
Grace is even, and often especially, in the shards of mirror embedded in my knees, not by way of my humble genuflection, but from the face-first tumbles I make while racing toward the illusion of my self-orchestrated efforts at salvation. Grace is what calls me away from an obsession/focus on individual and future escape, toward others, and into an overflowing life of resurrection in the here and now. © 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
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
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
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
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
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