peace

An Advent Posture of Peace

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Peace DoveToday marks the beginning of a new Advent Season, a new year for the Christian Liturgical Calendar. Some of the passages for this special day pulse with the theme of peace and call us to a mental posture of prayer and sobriety. It feels right to stop and think on peace in such times of disagreement, civil unrest and conflict around the world.

Perhaps we can embrace a posture of seeking and desiring more peace. Perhaps getting drunk on power and lust is not going to make the world so needed by our millions of hurting neighbors. Perhaps we can begin in this new advent Season to speak more and act decisively and help create a greater peace in our homes, school, communities, nations and world. Perhaps the only question is if we will, not if we can.

Allow me to share some of today’s good stuff.

Today’s Collect… Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

From Psalm 122… Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls and quietness within your towers. For my brethren and companions’ sake, I pray for your prosperity. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do you good.”

From Isaiah 2… For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

From Romans 3… You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

And from Jesus in Matthew 24… Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

And I’d like to end with a benediction we often hear at St. John’s, attributed to the Rev. William Sloane Coffin. It makes for in inspiring and challenging close to worship!

“May God give you Grace
never to sell yourself short!
Grace to risk something big
for something good!
Grace to remember
that the world is too dangerous
for anything but truth
and too small
for anything but Love!
The Blessing of God Almighty, Father,
Son and Holy Spirit be with us
now and remain with us this day and always.
Amen.”       

And amen.
AMDG, Todd

A Spring Novena

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StFrancisGood morning, beloved. This past weekend was our Pentecost celebration in churches around the world, and it got me thinking of making a novena, a nine day prayer exercise for my daily life; it’s a little Spring Cleaning for my soul. I’m starting mine tomorrow, on Wednesday, May 18th. My little novena is not officially sanctioned by any church body, Catholic, Anglican or Episcopal… it’s just my own effort to focus my prayers for the next nine days, and I invite you to go along with me as a spiritual friend.

I’m structuring my novena with an intention, prayers and a practice. You’re invited to join me in that intention, the use of these prayers and my framework of practice, or to change them and use them as seems best for you.

Intention

My intention for this novena is to focus on the spiritual flow of my day, to slow down my mind and still my heart to a place where I can sit with God in the middle of my hectic flow of work and play. In short, my intention is a greater awareness of God’s Spirit with me at various points in the day.

Prayers

I’ll be using three prayers as a beginning place for each prayer time during the nine days, my own daily prayer, the Lord’s Prayer and a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer for the human family In Times of Conflict. I’m going to have these all on my phone for easy access, and I usually have my Book of Common Prayer (also found online and in most used bookstores) in my backpack. Plan for prayers!

My Daily Prayer: “Let me love, let me learn, let me serve.”

Our Father, who art in heaven, 
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, 
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

28. In Times of Conflict
O God, you have bound us together in a common life.
Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth,
to confront one another without hatred or bitterness,
and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  BCP pg. 824

Practice

My practice will be to stop before each meal or a break time when I get something to eat (I sometimes take a break at work and grab a samosa and a diet Coke), and feed my soul before feeding my belly. Again, my beginning prayers are all in the Book of Common Prayer which I normally carry, but will also be in my phone and iPad. I also plan to begin each of the next nine days upon waking with our baptism vows of the Episcopal. If you’re familiar with them, they end with the following lines (my favorites):

Celebrant: Will you proclaim by word and example
the Good News of God in Christ?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons,
loving your neighbor as yourself?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among
all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People: I will, with God’s help.
BCP pg. 305

If you join me on this little journey, I’d love to hear about your prayers and days. If you have a different intention or vary the prayers and practice, I’d love to hear about that, too.

AMDG, Todd

An Unfinished Sketch

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IMG_1965I rarely show anything I’m doodling until it’s completely done, but I realized this morning that I haven’t opened my sketch book in a week! This is a piece I started a couple of weeks ago that I need to finish.

I recently made another move in my job with Apple, from retail sales back into the tech support group. It’s a step on my journey into a new role with Apple as I go full-time. I’m one our store’s newest Creative, joining the team that leads workshops and does training sessions. Until I finish my own training for my new position, I’m doing a lot of tech support for mobile devices again, and that can be a stressful job. We work with people in stressful situations. From the failure of a device to incidents of accidental damage, we are helping folks get through some anxiety filled time as they feel the withdrawal pains of being momentarily unplugged from our tech-connected lives.

One thing I do to prepare for each day at work is practice my work mantra on my drive to the store. It goes something like this:

I love my customers.
I am so glad I can serve them.
I love my customers.
I’m going to do my best for them, today.

This mantra helps me get in the mindset of service. It helps me center on the truth that our customers are coming to us with real needs, and my response must focus on those needs. It would be too easy to just become defensive or upset, to reflect back their anxieties and stress. No, I have to let their anxieties and frustrations be authentic and real, spoken and experienced, and let those anxieties and frustrations pass through me and past me without landing in my own spirit. Then, I’m ready to get down to business with helping them determine the best solution for their situation.

My mantra is an action of intentionally deciding what will be planted within me so that I can choose what I’ll be producing from the soil of my heart and mind. This is not just a service industry principle, but a life principle. I must choose the seeds of peace, compassion, empathy and love as what I cultivate within myself if I want to have those things to share with others. This is a daily effort, forever unfinished and being finished. I guess it’s ok to share a doodle before it’s done, as its unfinished state can meaningfully reflect the on-going becoming of life.

AMDG, Todd

Be The Peace

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IMG_1784My message this morning at Church in Bethesda for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, lighting out Peace Candle…

We’ve been lighting candles each week for the themes of Hope, Love, Joy and now Peace.

I pray that your holidays are blessed, safe and joyful!

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Peace
December 20, 2015

I’m a life-long Shakespeare fan. Back when I lived in East Africa at the ripe old age of nineteen I bought a paperback complete works of Shakespeare at a bookstore in Mombasa, Kenya, and I read many if not most of his plays. Perhaps you know the opening scene of conflict in Romeo and Juliet, when young men of the Montoague and Capulet families square off for a public brawl, and one young man tries to keep he peace…

BENVOLIO
I do but keep the peace. Put up thy sword,
Or manage it to part these men with me.

TYBALT
What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word,
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.

Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet, Act 1 Scene 1

How easy it can be to choose another path than peace. How easy it can be to choose conflict. How exciting and romantic it can be! And how elusive peace can be in this world when we can so easily fight and rip and tear at one another. It seems too often that live in a world which when we ask for peace replies, “We hate the word!”

Our peace candle is lit, but peace is still far from so many in our world. So, let’s talk about peace, about our passing the peace, about  the little choices we make which bubble up into a redeemed world. One of the things that has been catching on in the Protestant Christian world for the last few decades is the practice of passing the peace in worship, sometimes called a “love feast” or just a few moments of greeting. This is an old practice for the Catholic, Orthodox and older Christian communities.

In fact, it’s sometimes been a point of controversy for communities as it is can be considered too raucous a celebration that breaks the solemnity of the worship service! I guess we can have controversy about anything, including passing a bit to peace to one another.

But I’m a fan. I like the passing of the peace. As a worship element and as a celebration it’s not something explicitly seen in scripture or commanded of us, but it is such a beautiful expression of scripture and a way of life that was taught and modeled by Jesus. Scripture references associated with the passing of the peace begin in Matthew 5 when Jesus blesses the peace makers and then goes onto explain in the same chapter the importance of reconciliation between us, even over and before worship and religious obligations.

Scripture also shows us that Paul begins his letters to churches in a very formulaic way, offering peace each time to his audiences. And so the idea of reconciliation and offering peace becomes today’s ritual and exercise of greeting. I have also heard that it is importantly placed before the Table practice of worship to realize the admonition of Jesus to do reconciliation before approaching the altar. So before we gather at the Table we make sure that we have restored our relationships. Can it be a bit perfunctory and less meaningful as a weekly practice? Of course, like anything we say and do, we carry the burden of making it meaningful with our intent and sincerity. And I hope we always do just that… sincerely offer peace to one another. 

I like the peace passing because it reminds us of a couple of important ideas. First, God is our peace. Peace is God’s inclination toward us: peace in reconciliation and peace in our lives. Secondly, peace is one of our prayers that we begin to answer even as we speak it. Peace is not relegated to a far-away time and place, a hope and a dream of days to come… peace is our now when we choose it. We pray for peace and can immediately begin with God’s help to answer the prayer in our words and our actions, today.

Paul eloquently warns of the other side of our choices, when peace is left far behind… to the Galatians, a church wherein he himself has been held suspect by some and come under accusations:      “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”   Galatians 5:13-15 

There are consequences to choosing conflict over peace, but the real motivation is the wealth of dividends that are paid by choosing peace. Peace is bound up in the presence of God and peace is the chance we give to one another to restore brokenness, advance joy and heal the hurting. Peace is a gift that we can share among ourselves, like a fine meal, like a treasure. It’s a prayer that we not only say, but do. Peace is a plea that we ask and beg, and then begin to answer and realize, with God’s help. We are not without the ability or the opportunity to be the peace. Everyday, every greeting, every person in our lives, every disagreement we have: these are opportunities to plant the peace we would see cover the earth.

In the next line of the play Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt says to Benvolio, Have at thee, coward!” and attacks. Tybalt sees peace and an effort to keep the peace among neighbors as a weakness and a cowardliness in Benvolio. How little we’ve changed since the days when Shakespeare played out our prideful lives on his stage. We too are often lulled into the romance of conflict, the adrenaline of violence and the hope of domination. We fall into the Tybalt Trap of seeing peace as a weakness or a fear. It is in truth a strength. And as Benvolio in Shakespeare’s story, we will pay a price for standing for peace. But unlike a fictional character upon a stage, we stand in the reality of God’s good world and God’s kingdom business of making peace. With God’s help, we will be the peace. We will do the peace. We will plant the peace. Amen.

Peace, my beloveds… Todd

Attacking the Most Vulnerable

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imageWe face a moral challenge as a global people and a nation. Our species faces a moral challenge. It’s the question of turning on the most vulnerable and needful to vent our fear and rage. It’s the question of targeting the refugees of Syria as scapegoats for the sins of ISIS.

Even as State Governors embarassingly and proudly announce that they will not welcome refugees we need to be heard loud and clear as people of faith: attacking the most vulnerable is a moral outrage and wrong.

I cannot speak to the Muslim faith with authroity, nor to the scriptures and faith of Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism. These are neighbors and belief systems with which I am familiar and I respect, but am not an insider. I have spent a good bit of time with the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and there is a strong witness from both of our being a safe place for the hurting, a refuge for the vulnerable and peacemakers for the afflicted.

imageIn the Jewish scriptures we find a beautiful image and phrase the heart of the stranger (Exodus 23:1-9, Laws of Justice)  to describe the turning of one’s heart to the foreigner, the alien, the needful, because of our shared human experience. There are many ways that Israel was commanded to care for the stranger among them, but I have always felt that the reminder that we are all strangers was one of the most compelling.

Christians have a life and faith framed by what we call the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), an ordering of life based on the mutuality of human needs, experiencing life together and making peace. Those ideas frame the sermon in which Jesus says we are to love our enemies, refrain from striking back and to pray for those who hate us.

The West has been supposedly built on these Judeo-Christian faiths, ideas and teachings, but in fact many politicians today appeal to their faith in one moment and attack the most vulnerable of fellow human beings in the next. Perhaps we have lived too long with these teachings without an opportunity or the will to actually practice them?

We need to be loud and clear: Targeting the Syrian refugees in fear and anger, further compounding their pain and loss with our demonization of them and a denial of their basic human needs, is immoral and wrong on every level imaginable. Any political figure who does so is not worthy of your time or attention.

Instead, let us embrace the chance to live our faith in amazing ways, letting our hearts enlarge to surround and serve the most needful, and possibly to even be broken in service to the least. While together we pray…

35. For the Poor and the Neglected

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you
all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us
to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick,
and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those
who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow
into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for
our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

36. For the Oppressed

Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the Book of Common Prayer page 826

And amen.
AMDG, Todd

Why We Must Prosecute Abusive Police Officers

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national march on police violenceWhy would we want to prosecute abusive police officers? Because we aren’t talking about whether all police officers are good or bad. They come in both varieties and we must prosecute the bad ones to respect and help the good ones. We need to recognize the difference so we can better appreciate the good and put an end to the bad.

I recently shared a post from Father James Martin S.J. on Facebook in which he points out that holding a bad officer responsible for abusive behavior is not to be against all officers in general, but against abuse. I’ll go a step further and say that’s it’s a necessity to hold bad officers accountable so that we further differentiate between the two. It is disrespectful in the extreme to every good upstanding police officer to let any overzealous, abusive or criminal officer get away with violence, much less with murder.

There are often stories of police officers who are amazing! I revel in those stories and I enjoy seeing and sharing them on my social media streams. I appreciate so much every officer who takes the job of policing our communities seriously and serves us with their best. Thank God for good police officers! Here are a couple of recent inspiring stories, officers who go the extra mile for people: With Food & Mercy and With Simple Courtesy.

I respect police officers so much. But I’m also going to downtown DC on Saturday to march with everyone else who gathers to protest police brutality. I don’t march because all police officers are bad. I march with families who have lost loved ones to bad policing. I march in memory of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, whose lives matter, and whose lives should not have been taken, and whose deaths are real and terrible.

~ I will march because of the lack of indictments for the officers who killed Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner (and so many others). Those missing indictments should scare every single person in this country, black, white, brown, yellow, male, female, etc etc. Can we be so dismissive of gun violence and the brutality of being choked to death that we just go on with our lives? Can two unarmed U.S. citizens be killed on our streets and our justice system simply choose not to address their deaths? Changes are needed.

~ I will march because so many of my friends here in their own country feel disrespected, disenfranchised, targeted and unsafe. Good good people are hurting because we haven’t learned to live together better than this. They carry a burden every day and every time they enter the public arena. I march on Saturday to show my solidarity with them. I march because I love them.

~ I will march because peace and a better tomorrow cannot come from simply ignoring the problems of today. We cannot dismiss this conversation away or ignore the pain and pleas of our neighbors just because it’s more sensational (or self-justifying) to focus on the rioters and looters.

~ And finally, I will march out of hope and a dream of peace, not out of anger or seeking violence. I’m not looking for a fight, but for an honest recognition that we have some real work ahead of us to bring justice to all our people. I will head downtown Saturday with a prayer on my heart and lips that God keeps the violent at bay and holds us all in check, so that voices might be easier heard than dismissed.

You don’t have to march on Saturday, but I sure wish you would. I sure wish you’d raise your voice with all the hurting people who cry for justice, for explanations, for hope for their children. I wish we’d all choose to work harder to speak for one another, seeing ourselves as our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper and the whole human family as our kin and beloved ones. We do not have separate futures in this country, but one shared and connected journey. Our children and grandchildren need us to secure the freedom, equality, safety and justice of that future in every way we can. We’ll only fully realize that hope when we work together.

AMDG, Todd

a brief hymn of peace

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a brief hymn of peaceI offer you a brief hymn of peace from my morning prayers… be blessed, today!

“some days i simply stop
and sing the old hymns
songs well worn
bells long rung
history
faith
connection
stories
fate
reflection
and i sit
with God
sinners
saints
and we are not
undone.”

 

AMDG, Todd