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
When your heart flutters for the plight of some other species, when your wallet falls readily open for helpless and abused animals, by all means, give of yourself in ways promising to make the world more whole. And when your breathing levels out again, giving you opportunity for reflection, ask yourself how you might interpolate such far-flung love to those whose DNA and messy life are intertwined with, if not strangling your own. Love, however it begins, whether near or far, is the creature for and in whom we exist. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
It's a convenient way to distance ourselves from both blame and responsibility; "Somebody else" is a sly way of saying, "Don't look at me!" But it actually makes me want to stare; to stare and ask, "Just who do we think we aren't?" No matter how many barriers with which we desperately surround ourselves – racial, economic, national, religious – our shared DNA of biology and spirituality denies every construct of "other." If we aren't our sister's keeper, whatever else we're keeping isn't worth it. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins
There's a race going on, alright. And the people who are trying their damnedest to win it are the ones who're missing everything along the way: sunrises and sunsets with their daily-repeated, yet once-in-a-lifetime explosion of color and light; rocks shaped like hearts, four-leaf clovers, and even three-leaf clovers whose green is gift in itself; clouds who momentarily form themselves into memories from our forgotten dreams; cats, dogs, and other domestic animals who entertain us with their mischievous antics; wild animals whose majesty and mystery lift us out of our myopic frenzy. That doesn't even get to the people along the way: ones whose uniqueness we mistake for ordinary; ones who smile for no discernible reason; ones who volunteer help without expectation of reward; ones who inspire us by the tenacity of their own anonymous struggle. In our measuring, calculating society, we call all these little things. Remind us daily that they're really the only things. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Prayers of the People for January 29, 2017.
Photo by Lizzie Mazariegos
We live, O God, in a fearful and divided culture; separated, not just from other faiths and nations, but also from the people who live in our neighborhoods, work with us, go to school with us, and even from some of the ones with whom we break bread on a regular basis. Our faith's rich tradition calls us away from such anxiety and estrangement, reminding us that we are all in this together; and contrary to Cain's distancing of himself from Abel's buried body, we ARE our neighbors' keeper, in neighborhoods without borders. We pray, O Lord, for guidance and wisdom, as we navigate our personal, community, state, and national roadmaps. Show us the narrow highway of love, even as it winds through the challenging mountains of relationship, listening, and sacrifice. Give us feathers on our skin, bones hollow yet strong, courage of the clouds, so we won't be pulled long earthward by gravity's fear, but freed instead to float on rising currents of hope, higher into grace's atmosphere. If only it were so easy, O God, like poetry rolling off our tongues, whisking us to happily ever after; but we know better. Our lives bear the bruises of broken hearts; our families carry the scars of shattered dreams. Give us this day, O storytelling dream-catcher, both tenacity and tenderness for the living of these days. Give us the gifts we need to open the doors of welcome to a world hungry and thirsty to know that your story is also their story. These and all prayers we ask in the name of the one who fed, healed, and welcomed the broken to a table of abundance; Jesus, the Christ. Amen. © 2017 Todd Jenkins