Blog posts

POETRY: Let Me Be To Thee As The Circling Bird, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Let me be to Thee as the circling bird, Or bat with tender and air-crisping wings That shapes in half-light his departing rings, From both of whom a changeless note is heard. I have found my music in a common word, Trying each pleasurable throat that sings And every praised sequence of sweet strings, And know infallibly which I preferred. The authentic cadence was discovered late Which ends those only strains that I approve, And other science all gone out of date And minor sweetness scarce made mention of: I have found the dominant of my range and state— Love, O my God, to call thee Love and [...]

POETRY: Starting Over, by Mary F. C. Pratt

—and do you remember the night the long rain stopped? We woke to silence, and moonlight through the high window. No sound but the animals breathing in their sleep— —and the owls— It was so hard to wait but when the dove did not return you worked open the swollen latch and we pushed the ladder out. I shooed away the chickens— all those chickens underfoot. You insisted on going first even though your rheumatism was bad— and I came down right behind you with my knees not so much better. Soft wet dirt, all the swamp stink, but not a cloud in sight. On top of the hill, that one tree —Olive—with little leaves unfolding, beginnings of buds where new olives would be— The children crowded down behind. Everything that could fly [...]

JESUS: Witness, by Mark G. Boyer

  Scripture:Jesus said to the eleven, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44-48)   Reflection:The Lukan Jesus commissions his disciples as witnesses to his suffering, death, and resurrection.  A witness is one who testifies to what he [...]

PSALMS: Learning To Pray In The Name Of Jesus, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Now there is in the Holy Scriptures a book which is distinguished from all other books of the Bible by the fact that it contains only prayers.  The book is the Psalms.  It is at first very surprising that there is a prayerbook in the Bible.  The Holy Scripture is the Word of God to us.  But prayers are the words of men.  How do prayers then get into the Bible?  Let us make no mistake about it, the Bible is the Word of God even in the Psalms.  Then are these prayers to God also God’s own word?  That seems rather difficult to understand.  We grasp it only when we remember that we can learn true prayer only from Jesus Christ, from the word of the Son of God, who lives with us men, to God the Father, who lives in eternity.  [...]

JESUS: Proclaim, by Mark G. Boyer

  Scripture:Jesus said to the eleven, “Go into all the world and proclaim the goodness to the whole creation.  The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)   Reflection: Mark’s gospel will have three endings forever.  The original ending is 16:8.  However, at some point in transmission, another author added two additional sentences to 16:8, which are [...]

BLESSING: My Prayer, by Helen Steiner Rice

From A Collection of Blessings Bless me, Heavenly Father— Forgive my erring ways. Grant me strength to serve thee; Put purpose in my days. Give me understanding, Enough to make me kind, So I may judge all people With my heart and not my mind. Teach me to be patient in everything I do, Content to trust your wisdom And to follow after you. Help me when I falter, and hear me when I pray, And receive me in thy kingdom To dwell with thee [...]

THE LORD’S PRAYER: The Father, by Evelyn Underhill

The crowds who followed Christ hoping for healing or counsel did not ask him to teach them how to pray; nor did he give this prayer to them.  It is not for those who want religion to be helpful, who seek after signs; those who expect it to solve their political problems and cure their diseases, but are not prepared to share its cost.  He gave it to those whom he was going to incorporate into his rescuing system, use in his ministry; the sons of the Kingdom, self-given to the creative purposes of God.  Thou when thou prayest, pray ye on this manner.  It is the prayer of those “sent forth” to declare the Kingdom, whom the world will hate, whose unpopularity with man will be in proportion to their loyalty to God; the apostles [...]

JESUS: Go!, by Mark G. Boyer

  Scripture:Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  And Jesus came and said to them, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:16, 18a, 19-20)   Reflection: At the end of Matthew’s gospel only eleven disciples are left.  Judas, the betrayer, went off and hanged himself.  So, the eleven disciples meet Jesus on a mountain, one of the Matthean Jesus’s favorite places to say anything important.  This Moses look-a-like commissions [...]

BLESSING: Traditional Celtic Blessing, adapted by Ray Simpson

From A Forgiving Heart This soul did little good to me, O Lord, but this soul was yours. So to this soul I say: I bless the day you were born. I bless your growing up. I bless you, even in your dark deeds. And I bless you, soul, at your end. Travel to the God who transforms. Travel to the Arms so wide. Travel to the Spirit all [...]

POETRY: Binsey Poplars, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

felled 1879 My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled, Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun, All felled, felled, are all felled; Of a fresh and following folded rank Not spared, not one That dandled a sandalled Shadow that swam or sank On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank. O if we but knew what we do When we delve or hew— Hack and rack the growing green! Since country is so tender To touch, her being só slender, That, like this sleek and seeing ball But a prick will make no eye at all, Where we, even where we mean To mend her we end her, When we hew or delve: After-comers cannot guess the beauty been. Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve Strokes of havoc únselve The sweet especial scene, Rural scene, a rural [...]

SERMON: Created For Glory, by L. R. Tarsitano

The First Sunday after Easter “I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the Earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” (Isaiah 43:6-7) God addressed these words through his Prophet Isaiah to Jacob, to the head and personification of his Chosen People Israel. Jacob, you will recall, was given the name “Israel” by God, and he was the father of the twelve sons who became the patriarchs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. These words of God are specifically a promise, first and foremost, in the historical time of Isaiah, when the Chosen People were about to [...]

JESUS: New, by Mark G. Boyer

  Scripture:I, John, saw a new Heaven and a new Earth; for the first Heaven and the first Earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, I am making all things new.  Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” (Revelation 21:1, 3a, 5a, 7)   Reflection: Once all is left behind, newness is experienced.  However, a person cannot have the new until the old is abandoned.  The first Heaven and the first Earth must pass away.  The chaos of the sea must be replaced by a new order.  God is the God of this new order, and those who have left all behind are his children.  They have conquered their fear and been [...]

EASTER STORY: The Church Of The Washing Of The Feet, by Alan Paton

From Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful The Reverend Isaiah Buti, pastor of the Holy Chuch of Zion in Bochabela, entered the room of the acting chief justice, if not with awe, then certainly with deference.  And certainly with respect too, for not only did Judge Olivier occupy one of the highest seats in the land, but he was held in high esteem by the black people of Bloemfontein.  Was he not the man who had tried to prevent Parliament from removing colored voters from the common roll? The room was the biggest Mr. Buti had seen in his life.  The table was also the biggest he had seen, and behind it was a grand carved chair, and behind the chair, portraits of those who had been chief justices of the Union of South Africa.  And now from the [...]

POETRY: Making The House Ready For The Lord, by Mary Oliver

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but still nothing is as shining as it should be for you. Under the sink, for example, is an uproar of mice—it is the season of their many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves and through the walls the squirrels have gnawed their ragged entrances—but it is the season when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow; what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox, the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know that really I am [...]

JESUS: Knocking On The Door, by Mark G. Boyer

    Scripture:The Son of Man said to John of Patmos, “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation: ‘I know your works; you are neither cold not hot.  I wish that you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  Listen!  I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.'” (Revelation 3:14-16, 20)   Reflection:In the book of Revelation, John of Patmos receives a revelation from the Son of Man, who tells him to write seven letters, each to a specific [...]

SOUL STRUCTURE: Islam, ISIS, And The Confusion That Lies Therein

This is not going to go well. That’s my prediction anyway. But I hereby restate my primary assertion about spiritual warfare: If you don’t know what you are dealing with, you don’t know how to address the problem. It’s as simple as that. A doctor is going to be much more effective with his patient if he already knows both what the disease is and what the best methods are to treat it. Otherwise he is swinging about in the dark. Which pretty much sums my opinion of most writing about spiritual warfare. In my humble opinion. Well, maybe not so humble. So let’s begin. I began studying the Muslim soul structure around about the time that Princess Diana died.  I remember this because I found the soul-structure [...]

JESUS: Patience, by Mark G. Boyer

  Scripture:Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.  The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also must be patient.  Strengthen your  hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.  As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance.  You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7-8, 10-11)   Reflection: One who leaves all behind in order to follow Jesus must cultivate patience as part of his or her spirituality of mission.  [...]

BLESSING: To Learn From Animal Being, by John O’Donohue

From: To Bless the Space Between Us Nearer to the earth’s heart, Deeper within its silence: Animals know this world In a way we never will. We who are ever Distanced and distracted By the parade of bright Windows thought opens: Their seamless presence Is not fractured thus. Stranded between time Gone and time emerging, We manage seldom To be where we are: Whereas they are always Looking out from The here and now. May we learn to return And rest in the beauty Of animal being, Learn to lean low, Leave our locked minds, And with freed senses Feel the earth Breathing with us. May we enter Into lightness of spirit, And slip frequently into The feel of the wild. Let the clear silence Of our animal being Cleanse our hearts Of corrosive words. [...]

VIRTUE: The Better Angels Of Our Nature, by John Bradshaw

From Reclaiming Virtue The mysterious complexity of our life is not to be embraced by maxims, to lace ourselves up in formulas of that sort is to repress all the divine promptings and inspirations that spring from growing insight and sympathy from a life vivid and intense enough to have created a wide fellow-feeling with all that is human. (George Eliot) Magnificent moral moments often move us to tears.  They can make chills run down our spine; sometimes they inspire us to change.  Why is this?  These stories seem to touch something deep within us, a part of us that is naturally attracted to what is good and virtuous. The psychologist Erik Erikson writes: Men have always shown a dim knowledge of their better potentialities by paying [...]

JESUS: Speaking Words Of God, by Mark G. Boyer

  Scripture:Another person said to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”  Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)     Reflection: The author of Luke’s gospel presents the same two examples of itinerancy as does the author of Matthew’s gospel (see above and Matthew 8:18-22 and Luke 9:57-60).  Both do this because both writers use material found in Q (referring to quelle, the German word for “source” and indicating material found only in Matthew’s gospel and Luke’s gospel).  In Luke’s version of the second person’s request to bury [...]

BLESSING: What Fire Comes To Sing In You, by Jan Richardson

From: The Cure for Sorrow This blessing had big ideas about what it wanted to say, what it wanted you to know, to see. This blessing wanted to open your eyes to the joy that lives in such strange company with sorrow— wanted to make sure to tell you, lest you forget, that no matter how long it seems absent, no matter how quiet it becomes, joy has never been far from you, holding a space of celebration, watching for you, humming as it keeps vigil. But now that it comes time to speak it— comes time to lay these words on your brow, your beating heart— all this blessing can think to say is Look— your life a candle, this day a match. Strike it and see what blazes, what fire comes to sing in [...]

POETRY: Let Everything That Hath Breath Praise The Lord, by Christina Rossetti

All that we see rejoices in the sunshine, All that we hear makes merry in the Spring: God grant us such a mind to be glad after our kind, And to sing His praises for everything. Much that we see must vanish with the sunshine, Sweet Spring must fail, and fail the choir of Spring: But Wisdom shall burn on when the lesser lights are gone, And shall sing God’s praises evermore for [...]

POETRY: We Take The Sky, by Susanna Childress

We take the sky, as if red is something we could own, something we might find in the stillest moments, as if the earth is humane and wouldn’t break our bones. (None of His were broken. Not one.) Red is in the land too, is in the way we look at each other, the hardness of our sleep, the need to fall down, to tell of the pox that swept Aunt Jess, the drink that ushers Father, the path that never leads to wealth or rest or health—but the one we always take. Shalom, we say. Buena suerte. We always take the sky, fold it over ourselves, the soil, run it across our skin and cling to it, savoring the tart of a lemon, palming a bar of soap even when our hands are clean, naming the insects that fly across the white bulb of moon late at [...]

JESUS: No Pillow, by Mark G. Boyer

  Scripture: A scribe then approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22)   Reflection: Throughout the gospels, Jesus is portrayed as an itinerant preacher.  Itinerancy characterizes Jesus’s mission and that of his followers.  Using two sayings he found in Q (referring to quelle, the German word for “source” and indicating material found [...]

PSALMS: “Lord, Teach Us To Pray”, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

So spoke the disciples to Jesus.  In making this request, they confessed that they were not able to pray on their own, that they had to learn to pray.  The phrase, “learning to pray,” sounds strange to us.  If the heart does not overflow and begin to pray by itself, we say, it will never “learn” to pray.  But it is a dangerous error, surely very widespread among Christians, to think that the heart can pray by itself.  For then we confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings – all of which the heart can do by itself – with prayer.  And we confuse Earth and Heaven, man and God.  Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one’s heart.  It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, [...]

JESUS: Word Doers, by Mark G. Boyer

  Scripture: Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.  For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. (James 1:22-24)   Reflection: Listening and believing, one aspect of a spirituality of mission, includes acting on – in the word of the letter of James, “doing” – the word.  The letter of James addresses Jewish Christians in the late first century CE.  James, in contrast to Paul’s position on works, advocates the practice or living of the word heard.  From James’s point of view, if a person hears the word and doesn’t [...]

BLESSING: Blessings, by J. Janda

From The Embrace Blessed be the shy blessed be the gentle blessed be the meek blessed be the mild blessed be the courteous blessed be the reverent blessed be the humble for theirs is the kingdom of heaven blessed be the scorned blessed be the rejected blessed be the outcast blessed be the mocked for all illusions as nightmares must pass but what shall remain is each soul’s light flashing forth from the Father of Light ringed in constellations of light now and forever [...]

THE LORD’S PRAYER: Introductory, by Evelyn Underhill

Prayer is the substance of eternal life.  It gives back to man, insofar as he is willing to live to capacity – that is to say, to give love and suffer pain – the beatitude without which he is incomplete; for it sets going, deepens, and at last perfects that mutual indwelling of two orders which redeems us from unreality, and in which the creative process reaches its goal.  There is, as Henri Bremond has said, even in the poorest and crudest prayer, “a touch of Pentecost.”  It awaits and expects the action of the Spirit, acknowledges the most mysterious and yet the most certain reality of our experience; the intercourse of the Transcendent God with fugitive man, and of fugitive man with the Transcendent God.  Yet all our [...]

JESUS: Two-Edged Sword, by Mark G. Boyer

  Scripture:Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)     Reflection: A  two-edged sword is one that is sharpened on both edges.  The person wielding a two-edged sword cuts another in two ways in opposite directions, leaving a huge wide-open wound.  This is why the author of Hebrews declares that God’s word is sharper than any two-edged sword.  The words God speaks are alive; they achieve the purpose for which God speaks them.  In the book of Genesis, God speaks the word, “light,” and light appears.  God speaks the word, [...]

BLESSING: Blessing Of The Resurrection, by Peter John Cameron

From: Blessing Prayers Word of God Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)  Litany of Resurrection Graces Lord Jesus, by your Resurrection you have reconciled all people to God.  Risen Savior, stay with me. Lord Jesus, when you rose from the dead you blessed us with the Easter gift of peace.  Risen Savior, stay with me. Lord Jesus, by your rising you restored us to friendship with the [...]