One nation, indivisible

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Familiar words from the Pledge of Allegiance. It the ideal to which we commit ourselves as a reminder to ourselves and a light held up to the world.

We are more than a little divided these days. Pick a demographic quality – almost any quality and there are divisions. Not the normal distinctions that are part of the melting pot uniqueness that makes our nation vibrant, diverse, and gives us an amazing array of cuisines, celebrations and customs. I mean some of the divisions are hardline separation, with-us-or-against-us discord in which friends and families are broken and subsumed into a deepening silence. The words “e pluribus unum” (out of many, one) seems a distant echo.

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What Kind of People Worship Here?

MLKjrToday, we as a nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  I thought it would be good that we, again, listen to the words of Dr. King from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” This excerpt, found in the later part of that marvelous and challenging letter, asks a simple but profound question: “What kind of people worship here?”  Are we a people of the Gospel that comforts the afflicted? Are we a Gospel people who stand with those on the margins? Are we a full Gospel people? Continue reading

A magical anniversary

One hundred years ago today, an English magician called Percy Thomas Tibbles literally and laboriously sawed through a sealed wooden box that contained a woman. And so was created one of the world’s best known magic act tricks. The celebrations are being streamed virtually under the auspices of The Magic Circle, “the premier magical society in the fascinating world of magic and illusion.”

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Being seen

In the Catholic tradition this is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the Protestant and Reformed traditions using the Revised Common Lectionary, this is the Second Sunday of the Season of Epiphany. I think I rather prefer that name. It keeps alive the celebration of Epiphany, the season of what is revealed. It keeps alive the challenge for us to continually see the truth. Even in the turmoil and unsettling times in which we live. We are not the first to live in such times.

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A closing prayer

Early in the morning of January 7th, at the conclusion of the congressional joint session that affirmed the electoral college results, the Senate chaplain, Barry C. Black (a Seventh-day Adventist minister and retired Navy rear admiral), closed the session with prayer

Lord of our lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.

These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. We have been warned that eternal vigilance continues to be freedom’s price.

Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image.

You have strengthened our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic as well as foreign.

Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world. Thank you for what you have blessed our lawmakers to accomplish in spite of threats to liberty.

Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name. Amen.

The last Civil War widow

At the bedside of an actively dying person with their family and friends gathered in the room, one of the points I often make is the share the stories of their loved ones life. The stories that make you laugh, long, love, roll-your-eyes and all the ones in between. There is wisdom and wonder if the stories told. And everyone has a lifetime of stories that should not be lost.

Today I ran across one of those stories. And so I share with you an article by Jim Slatter of the Associated Press on the passing of the last Civil War widow.

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Francis of Assisi – An Introduction

Note: every Saturday for the next 20 or so weeks, I will re-post a series on St. Francis of Assisi. I hope you find the series engaging and fruitful in your spiritual life.


Every year – or so it seems – very good biographies of St. Francis of Assisi are published. The ones published in the last 10 years all share some great qualities: readable and increasingly historical – introducing the “real” St Francis of Assisi to the world.

You might ask why I say the “real” St Francis? Did you know that statues of St Francis are the second most popular lawn/garden ornament sold every year – right behind pink flamingos.  Rather like the popular icon shown above. That is an image many people have of St Francis, certainly one reinforced by Franco Zefferelli’s film Brother Sun, Sister Moon, another in a long line of romantic interpretations of the poor man from Assisi.  Especially in the 20th century, Francis was portrayed as “a free spirit, a wild religious genius, a kind of medieval hippie, misunderstood and then exploited by the ‘medieval Church.’ Or perhaps they know him as the man who spoke to animals, a nature mystic, an ecologist, a pacifist, a feminist, a ‘voice for our time.’  For others he is the little plaster man in the birdbath, the most charming and nonthreatening of Catholic saints…. almost everyone has his or her own Francis” (Francis of Assisi, Augustine Thompson OP). Continue reading

Spiritual Beings

If you follow this blog you have probably deduced I am a big fan of the non-for-profit Bible Project which I promote and support. Their work to bring the Word of God to people is one of the great ministries and exmples of the possibilities of the “new evangelization.” Tomorrow has been designated “Word of God Sunday” by the Catholic Church as a day. Pope Francis, in his motu proprio “Aperuit illis, instructed that on third Sunday of Ordinary Time each year, we pause to remember and reflect upon and reawaken an awareness of the importance of Sacred Scripture for our lives as believers, beginning with its resonance in the liturgy which places us in living and permanent dialogue with God.

The mission of The Bible Project is “to help people experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus.” They do that through animated videos (podcasts also!) that explore books of the Bible, word studies, themes and more – sometimes in a series of videos – like the one below on Spiritual beings. You can explore their whole catalogue…. for free!

“Word of God Sunday” is a great place to start your renewed commitment to reawaken your love of God by diving into His Sacred Word.

Listening and Leadership

Today’s readings include a first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. I am writing this on a Sunday afternoon, and it is hard not to think about the events of January 6th at the Capitol when the halls of Congress were invaded by a mob who had been encouraged by the President. The news channels are today filled with talk of a second impeachment. And the words from the author or Hebrews linger like an echo.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice,
“Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion
in the day of testing in the desert,
where your ancestors tested and tried me
and saw my works for forty years.
Because of this I was provoked with that generation
and I said, ‘They have always been of erring heart,
and they do not know my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter into my rest.’” (3:7-11; referencing Ps 95:7-11)

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Secrets

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” (Mark 1:41-44; from today’s gospel)

Over the many years of leading Bible studies, I have often been asked why Jesus would perform a miracle and then command the person healed and the bystanders not to tell anyone? It is a regular feature in Mark’s gospel – and it never works out. “The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad” (Mark 1:45)

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