Perhaps the human penchant for scapegoating, enemy-identifying, denial, and refusal to accept responsibility, would be a little less surprising if we were willing and able to admit the struggle between good and evil going on in each of our hearts all day long and most of the night. The more and longer we bifurcate reality, conveniently hopping just over the good/evil dividing line each time we redraw it, the deeper the chasm of separation we dig. If ever there was a time for etching lines – a season I cannot imagine – it is now long past. Hope calls us to be making circles, each one more expansive that the last, until all stories fit within the circumference. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
We live and breathe, O God, in a world increasingly beholden, not to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but rather to the gospels of division, fear, hatred, and violence. Remind us today, and each day of our earthly sojourn, that you did not create us for such divisive, loveless, hopeless, and destructive purposes. Give us courage to speak your truth to privilege and power – the privilege and power we've been granted, the privilege and power at the top of the constitutional and governmental food chain, and all privilege and power in-between. Give us compassion to feel the anxiety and hurt rising up from those who regularly find themselves at the short end of the stick and the end of the line, with targets on their backs, because of the practice of their faith, the color of their skin, the nation of their birth, or the configuration of their chromosomes. Give us wisdom to recognize the greed and indifference that turn a blind eye for profit's sake. Give us integrity to live into our created purpose, so we may speak justice, walk humility, and breathe hope. As followers of the resurrected one, we are called to be his voice, his hands, his feet. Show us how to live and love, so we and our broken world can find ourselves pieced together by and mortared with grace. So let it be spoken, so let it be lived, so let it be done. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
Humans of one religion killing humans of another, solely because of their faith, is nothing less than absurd. Does it happen? Not nearly as much as the media would have us believe. Not that killing is fabricated; but that religion, as a driving force for death, is a red herring. To be sure, there are people all over the world, every day, who kill one another; but faith’s practice is rarely, if ever, the culprit. In fact, it is the confusion and blurring of politics, ideology, and economics with religion that becomes a flimsy excuse for disregarding human life; primarily, it is the attempt to sanctify any other egotistical, violent, social construct by overlaying the framework of religion. Holy warriors, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other (and there are plenty to go around), are RINO: Religious In Name Only. They have stolen their parents’ car and run off on a killing spree, but a religious bumper sticker does not justify their malice. People who tell you differently bang the drum of fear and ignorance, hoping you’ll fall into lock-step, as the troops parade before lesser gods. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
When the gospel no longer sounds like good news, maybe our measure of what is good – and the people for whom it was intended – has slipped a few too many notches. We are not called to shoehorn the gospel into our narratives of comfort and security, but to open our hearts and lives to love's expansive reach. We are made to fit love, not the other way around. Keep stretching. It's reaching toward you now; has been since before your first breath; will be forevermore. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins
There are expenses we regularly calculate, but there are others we ignore. In order to see the big picture, we can't just ask, "How much does it cost to do such-and-such?" or "How much does it cost to not do it?" We must recognize that costs can be attached to more than our wallets. Here are some of the gospel's calculating questions: What will it cost my heart & soul to do or not do this? What will doing or not doing this cost my family? What will this action or inaction cost my neighbor? What will these choices cost the planet? The universe is expanded by gracious choices. It is diminished by greedy ones. The cost is outrageous for all these priceless lives; secretly calculated in hearts too small to hold Love's grand truth; too scared to see all of us have the same value; too busy counting and comparing to feel the ground beneath us quaking, the skies above us tearing. We shrink because we sense difference, recoil with superiority's confidence, while the universe expands and diversifies and the holy one weeps. 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
What did they do, on that first Jewish Sabbath following the Thursday of arrest and humiliation; following the Friday of trial and mocking and scourging and flesh-piercing? Promises for the third day were long-tossed out with the other rubbish, their possibility extinguished by the agonizing gore of public crucifixion. Perhaps that Saturday was one when sorrow's adrenaline gave out, leaving them motionless on the floor, dry tears invisibly streaming down the gullies grief had gouged in their cheeks. Maybe they drifted off into exhaustion disguised as sleep, only to bolt upright at random intervals, wishing for slumbering dreams of hope and waking nightmares of memory to exchange places. You would think, whatever else was done, said, and felt, they could easily be convinced that celestial bodies were frozen in the sky, if not backtracking. It appears as if rehearsing the pedantic ritual for burial and body preparation may have been their only respite, its numbing repetition requiring just enough mental and emotional capital to hypnotically rock them toward tomorrow. Will our Saturday ever end? © 2017 Todd Jenkins
“Give us something to cheer about!”, the crowd cajoles. “We are in need of hosanna – of being delivered on the spot – so let’s get moving!”
“Look what I have for you.” the voice trembles at first, then crescendos, “I have attacked an enemy with brute military might!”
“Is there gore, and blood? Can we do a victory dance?”
“Yes! Stomach-turning violence and rivers of blood. Let the spoils of celebration be gathered!”
“Let the banshee cry! Let reveling be unleashed!”
“But earlier in the week you had a different master; one who healed the sick, fed the hungry, invited the uninvited, and loved the unlovable. What of him?”
“His ways are arduous, expecting our abundance to feed the hungry, calling us to love our enemies, asking difficult questions of our choices and allegiance. Who knew being neighbors would be so complicated?!”
“I would never ask such challenging things of you. All empire asks is your unquestioned allegiance, your willingness to join and support the force, and a few other minor details in the fine print. You’ll learn about them later.”
“We are in!”
“The one you paraded into town on Sunday; do you know how dangerous he is? He’s a threat to all we’re trying to amass. As long as he’s around, you’ll always struggle, not just with how to treat your neighbor, but also with how far your neighborhood extends.”
“Ah, we see what you mean. In that case, by all means, let’s nip it in the bud, once and for all.”
“And by that, you mean?…”
The crowd roared, “Nail him to a tree! String him up! Give him the needle! Pull the switch! Ready, aim, fire!”
© 2017 Todd Jenkins
This one was written in 2015
How can we more fully move beyond a respect for the flag and knee-jerk patriotism to a discussion of the actions of a government driven, not by a desire for liberty and justice for all, but by the fear, greed, and homogeneity of a few? If our culture is going to change for the better, we're going to have to create a safe environment for deeper conversations. We're going to have to face, admit, and address our own comfort and complicity in the power structures that exist. We're going to have to live glocally – thinking globally and acting locally. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Anne Shurley The world is full of three kinds of people:  The one man (Yeah, it’s most certainly a male.) who's more convinced than anyone else that all of the privilege and power he wields is rightfully his, and his alone.  The yet-to-be-jaded children whose bones have not developed a single sliver of brittle entitlement.  All the rest, whose worldview lies somewhere on the spectrum between the other two; a perch that’s narrower than we might imagine, and heavily tilted toward our own experiences. We are all a lot closer to one another than we imagine; our common humanity capable of weaving unbreakable bonds of hope. Our stories, the loom upon which the warp and weft of this tapestry are created. Are we ready to listen? © 2017 Todd Jenkins