A CLOUD OF WITNESSES: Prayer And The Christian Way Of Life (Part Four) by Claire E. Wolfteich

October 27, 2016

From Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility The Power and the Ambiguity What these stories of the desert elders, Ignatius, and Teresa show is a common thread of the tradition: the centrality of prayer to the Christian way of life.  The practice of prayer actually is the path to knowledge of God; prayer is part of the faith that seeks understanding.  This understanding of prayer has unfortunately been undermined by a false separation of spirituality from theology that began in the high Middle Ages and continues today, leaving devotion privatized and disconnected from a whole life that seeks wisdom.  For the desert elders, Ignatius, and Teresa, the practice of prayer was integral to a way of life that seeks [...]

A CLOUD OF WITNESSES: Prayer And The Christian Way Of Life (Part One) by Claire E. Wolfteich

October 25, 2016

From Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility One of the fourth-century desert fathers, Abba Macarius, was asked, How should one pray?  The old man said, There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one’s hands and say, “Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.” Macarius was among the early monks and nuns who led solitary lives in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria.  They left cities and towns to live a stark, ascetic life of prayer, confronting the demons within and without, seeking to grow in discernment and purity of heart.  People often came to them and asked for a “word” – for spiritual counsel.  The elders would respond [...]

THE CHURCH: Running With The Witnesses by John Piper 

October 24, 2016

From Desiring God And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 11:39–12:2) Running — Not Meandering The book of Hebrews was written to a church that was getting old and was [...]

COMMUNITY: The Soup Kitchen by Nora Gallagher

October 20, 2016

From The Sacred Meal 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, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. (Acts 2:46-47) Many of us are asking, How should I live?  How should we live?  We come to our faith communities with those questions.  Sometimes they are taken seriously, even answered, and sometimes the church sticks us on a committee. One of the things that happened to me after I went to church for many years, asking those questions, was I began to see that if you don’t act on what you hear in the gospels every Sunday, then it doesn’t stick. When I first went back to the Episcopal Church after a long hiatus, I [...]

THE CHURCH: The Body Of Christ by David Platt

October 20, 2016

From Follow Me The room was packed full of people, and the preacher held the audience in the palm of his hand.  I would like everyone to bow your heads and close your eyes, he said, and we all followed suit. He then declared, Tonight, I want to call you to put your faith in God.  Tonight, I am urging you to begin a personal relationship with Jesus for the first time in your life.  Let me be clear, he said, I’m not inviting you to join the church.  I’m just inviting you to come to Christ.  As the preacher passionately pleaded for personal decisions, scores of people stood from their seats and walked down the aisles of the auditorium to make a commitment to Christ. Yet there was a problem in all of this.  These people [...]

SERMON: The Candle Of The Lord by Phillips Brooks

January 24, 2016

The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord. (Proverbs 20:27) The essential connection between the life of God and the life of man is the great truth of the world; and that is the truth which Solomon sets forth in the striking words which I have chosen for my text this morning. The picture which the words suggest is very simple. An unlighted candle is standing in the darkness and someone comes to light it. A blazing bit of paper holds the fire at first, but it is vague and fitful. It flares and wavers and at any moment may go out. But the vague, uncertain, flaring blaze touches the candle, and the candle catches fire and at once you have a steady flame. It burns straight and clear and constant. The candle gives the fire a [...]

WISDOM: Community by Joan Chittister

December 1, 2015

From Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light Cassian taught this: Abba John, abbot of a large monastery, went to Abba Paesius who had been living for forty years far off in the desert.  As John was very fond of Paesius and could therefore speak freely with him, he said to him, “What good have you done by living here in retreat for so long, and not being easily disturbed by anyone?”  Paesius replied, “Since I have lived in solitude, the sun has never seen me eating.”  Abba John said back to him, “As for me, since I have been living with others, it has never seen me angry.” S   olitude, a sometimes romanticized and often exaggerated element of the contemplative life, has its own [...]

JESUS: The Vine by Wendy M. Wright

April 30, 2015

From The Rising In the fourteenth century Catherine of Siena, an Italian holy woman, composed her masterpiece, The Dialogue, in response to a significant mystical experience in which “such a clarity of Truth was revealed to her from Heaven that Catherine was constrained to spread it abroad by means of writing.” (Friend and confessor, Raymond of Capua)  The dialogue she recorded was between herself, a soul “restless with tremendous desire for God’s honor and the salvation of souls,” and God, who communicated in response to four petitions she had entreated.  The result was a masterful theological exposition on all the central Christian themes, an exposition that richly utilized the vast and varied imagery [...]

SOLITUDE: Solitude And Community by Maurice Friedman

March 20, 2014

From A Heart of Wisdom If a person were in such a rapturous state as Saint Paul once entered, and he knew of a sick man who wanted a cup of soup, it would be far better to withdraw from the rapture for love’s sake and serve him who is in need. ♥ A long time ago in China there were two friends, one who played the harp skillfully and one who listened skillfully. When the one played or sang about a mountain, the other would say, “I can see the mountain before us.” When the one played about water, the listener would exclaim: “Here is the running stream!” But the listener fell sick and died.  The first friend cut the strings of his harp and never played again. ♥ When a man is singing and cannot lift his [...]

SATURDAY READING: A Community Of Love? On the Invisibility of Love and the Church by Kristien Justaert

February 15, 2014

From Believing in Community, edited by Peter De Mey, Pieter De Witte, and Gerard Mannion Introduction By this shall all men see that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35) According to John, Jesus teaches us that it is love that binds the community of Christians.  By their love for each other, the followers of Jesus Christ are recognized as Christians.  The love of God and the love for God lie at the basis of the Christian community.  But the verse of John’s gospel that is quoted also reveals another important aspect: the love the disciples have for each other, can be seen.  It is visible for other people who are not part of the community.  Nevertheless, the Greek text of the gospel and several English [...]

MYSTICISM: Sameness And Distinction In Religion

February 10, 2014

In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness.  This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly altered by differences of clime or creed.  In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism we find the same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterance an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which brings it about that the mystical classics have, as has been said, neither birthday nor native land.  Perpetually telling of the unity of man with God, their speech antedates languages, and they do not grow old.  (William James, Varieties of Religious Experience) It’s funny how certain concepts come down to just one fat [...]

LOVE: Love Gives Life by Virgilio Elizondo

November 21, 2013

From Charity At my mother’s funeral, a former employee of our family’s grocery store came and told me how much my parents meant to him and how much they had done for him.  The young man remembered an act of kindness by our dad that changed his whole life.  When he was a young boy in elementary school, he was the butt of everyone’s cruel jokes because he was tall for his age and mentally slow.  One day on his way to school he saw my father sweeping the sidewalk in front of the store and stopped to talk to him.  My father complained that because there was a bus stop in front of the store, there was always a lot of trash and no one bothered to sweep it up.  The next morning, this young boy got up very early, took his [...]

DEATH: Tame Death by Allen Verhey

October 1, 2013

From The Christian Art of Dying: Learning From Jesus Philippe Aries began his classic study of death with the stories of the deaths of Roland and the Knights of the Round Table. (The Hour of Our Death)  The stories, he said, displayed deaths that not only were typical of death in the early Middle Ages but also expressed traditions surrounding dying that were already centuries old.  Death then was simple and public.  “Tame death,” he called it.  It was regarded as an evil, to be sure, but it could be rendered meaningful by the rituals that surrounded it and by the companions who attended it.  The rituals and the community gave human meaning to death, rendered it something more and other than a crude fact of nature. The [...]

SATURDAY READING: Imagination and Community by Marilynne Robinson

September 7, 2013

From When I Was A Child I Read Books Over the years I have collected so many books that, in aggregate, they can fairly be called a library.  I don’t know what percentage of them I have read.  Increasingly I wonder how many of them I ever will read.  This has done nothing to dampen my pleasure in acquiring more books.  But it has caused me to ponder the meaning they have for me, and the fact that to me they epitomize one great aspect of the goodness of life.  Recently I bought a book titled On What Cannot Be Said: Apophatic Discourses in Philosophy, Religion, Literature, and the Arts, Volume One: Classic Formulations.  The title itself is worth far more than the price of the book, and then there is the table of contents.  So far I [...]

SPIRITUALITY: Sufficiency and Sharing by Joan Chittister

September 6, 2013

From The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life “Do everything with moderation.” (Rule of Benedict) The purpose of the monastic life is never to amass wealth for the sake of the self. Instead, Benedict’s definition of the relationship between persons and things is sufficiency, not frugality. Benedictine spirituality does not see indigence, abject poverty, stringency, and parsimoniousness as a lifestyle to be desired, let alone a high-level signal of holiness. The monastic ideal is about the ability to understand the difference between need and want, between having what is necessary rather than doing without what is necessary— simply for the sake of doing without. Those who follow the Benedictine way understand [...]

FAITH: The Power of Community by Carol Kent

September 5, 2013

From When I Lay My Isaac Down (Gene and Carol Kent have had to face the reality that their only son, Jason Paul Kent, twenty-five years old and a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy with an impeccable record, killed his wife’s ex-husband.) We never know how desperately we need people in our lives until an Isaac experience forces us to admit, first to ourselves and then to others, that we can’t make it alone.  Karen Burton Mains refers to this community of helpers as her “holders.”  She writes: Holders are people who stand beside us even when things are unpleasant; they have a capacity to stay unshaken for the long haul.  Holders are not afraid to speak the truth. Truth simply spoken can be one of the greatest comforts.  I’ve [...]

POETRY: Five Poems For Community by Helen Steiner Rice

September 4, 2013

People’s Problems Everyone has problems in this restless world of care, Everyone grows weary with the crosses they must bear. Everyone is troubled and their skies are overcast As they try to face the future while still dwelling in the past. But people with their problems only listen with one ear, For people only listen to the things they want to hear, And they only hear the things they are able to believe, And the answers God gives they’re not ready to receive. So while the people’s problems keep growing every day And humans try to solve them in their own willful way, God seeks to help and watches, waiting always patiently To help them solve their problems, whatever they may be So people of all nations may at last become aware That [...]

COMMUNITY: Peace Begins With One Person by Ivory Harlow

September 3, 2013

From This I Believe I serve coffee at a counter-style diner in Texas.  I often see a look of isolation in my customers’ eyes.  They come in the front door, wander to the counter, pick up the menu, and look around the diner for something they can’t short-order: a connection. In an age of online chat, online shopping, and even online school, it’s no wonder people come into the diner starving for human connection.  Most of my customers can remember a time when the milkman came to their front door.  As I serve up their eggs and bacon, they offer updates on their grandchildren.  They ask me about the happenings in my life. One day, I walked to the back of the smoking section to pass around a fresh pot of coffee.  There [...]

PRAYER: For Community

September 2, 2013

Thy Peace Be With Us Evermore Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Thou gracious Power, whose mercy lends The light of home, the smile of friends, Our families in Thine arms enfold As in the peaceful days of old. For all the blessings life has brought, For all its sorrowing hours have taught, For all we mourn, for all we keep, The hands we clasp, the loved that sleep. The noontide sunshine of the past, These brief, bright moments fading fast, The stars that gild our darkening years, The twilight ray from holier spheres. We thank Thee, Father; let Thy grace Our narrowing circle still embrace, Thy mercy shed its heavenly store, Thy peace be with us evermore. Where Cross The Crowded Ways Of Life Frank Mason North Where cross the crowded ways of life, [...]

FURSA IN LENT: Day Twenty-Nine by Paul Wallis

March 18, 2013

From Be Thou My Breastplate Let the work of the church of God be in these hands.  (Fursa’s Breastplate) Fursa’s prayer directs me to make myself relevant to the work of God.  Today I am to ask God to entrust me with the church-building work of God’s choosing. This was Fursa’s prayer, and, in time, he was to gather pledged communities of soul-friends, working together to spread the knowledge of Christ’s gospel and to build the tribe of God.  This was what happened wherever Fursa went – Ireland, England, France.  These things happened because God repeatedly answered Fursa’s prayer.  In this we must be sure to note that it was God of whom Fursa asked this holy privilege.  And it was God who gave [...]

FURSA IN LENT: Day Twenty-Eight by Paul Wallis

March 16, 2013

From Be Thou My Breastplate Let the work of the church of God be in these hands.  (Fursa’s Breastplate) Fursa does not say “on these lips.”  How often Christians have seen themselves as heralds of God’s kingdom only, announcing its presence, rather than as workers of God’s kingdom bringing it into our world by God-given works.  The Apostle Paul reminds us “The kingdom of God is not a matter of words.”  What then is this work for our hands? Hands speak of helping others; helping the least in order to help Christ.  This is Jesus’s call in Matthew 25.  Hands speak also of hospitality and healing.  Saint Luke the Physician shows us in his Gospel (the tenth chapter) that it is when we have [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Fourteenth Station — Jesus Is Laid In The Tomb, by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

March 16, 2013

From The Journey to Peace Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus’s body in a tomb hewn out of the rock, in which no one had yet been buried. That was the Day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was about to  begin.  The women who  had come with him from Galilee followed along behind.  They saw the tomb and how his body was buried.  Then they went home to prepare spices and perfumes.  They observed the Sabbath as a day of rest, in accordance with the law. (Luke 23:53-56) The Shadow of the Cross Falls Upon Our Joys and Sorrows The Gospel of Saint John (11:1-44) focuses on the theme of life and death.  Jesus learns that his beloved friend, Lazarus, is seriously ill, but he waits two days before setting out for Bethany, where Lazarus lived. [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Thirteenth Station — Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross, by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

March 16, 2013

From The Journey to Peace There were also women present looking on from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Salome. These women had followed Jesus when he was in Galilee and attended to his needs.  There were also many others who had come up with him to Jerusalem.  As it grew dark (it was Preparation Day, that is, the eve of the Sabbath), Joseph from Arimathea arrived – a distinguished member of the Sanhedrin.  He was another who looked forward to the reign of God.  He was bold enough to seek an audience with Pilate and urgently requested the body of Jesus.  Pilate was surprised that Jesus should have died so soon. He summoned the centurion and inquired whether Jesus [...]

FURSA IN LENT: Day Twenty-Seven by Paul Wallis

March 15, 2013

From Be Thou My Breastplate,  Let the work of the church of God be in these hands.  (Fursa’s Breastplate) The Apostle Paul wrote, “He who desires to be an elder desires a noble thing.”  Perhaps it is for that kind of nobility that Fursa directs  us to pray.  Fursa was certainly an elder; a leader in the church of  his day.  Perhaps the phrase invokes the idea of Fursa’s special contributions as evangelist, monk, and pioneer of Christian communities in the England, Ireland, and France of the Dark Ages.  Perhaps the “work of the church of God” referred to the holy service of those who perform the liturgical functions of priest, deacon, acolyte, thurifer, Gospel-bearer in the community’s act [...]

FURSA IN LENT: Day Twenty-Six by Paul Wallis

March 14, 2013

From Be Thou My Breastplate Let the work of the church of God be in these hands.  (Fursa’s Breastplate) Fursa’s adopted country felt isolated in its haven between the warm North Atlantic and the cold North Sea.  One-and-a-half centuries earlier, the withdrawal of the Roman Empire to Europe’s east had ushered in for Britain an age of fragmentary invasions and tribal feuding.  Now, in Fursa’s day, a new generation of missionaries was arriving to reconnect Britain’s isolated Christians with the wider world of the church.  In the intervening years, however, the landscape of this wider world had become strangely altered.  Now the call of fealty was not to the Emperor, firmly established in his Byzantine [...]

SERMON: Christian Cricket by Martin Thornton

March 14, 2013

From A Joyful Heart: Meditations for Lent Apology is necessary to those who do not understand cricket, more especially perhaps to possible readers from across the Atlantic Ocean.  I much enjoy the great American ballgames, their particular brands of football, ice hockey, and basketball.  Golf, tennis, swimming, and athletics are thoroughly international, while Saint Paul’s askesis analogies are confined to running and boxing.  Why not use one or other of these less esoteric games as analogy for the organization, function, individual-corporate interplay, and liturgical devotion of the Christian church?  The answer is because, as illumination and insight into all this complicated theology, the cricket analogy is unique and [...]

FURSA IN LENT: Day Twenty-Five by Paul Wallis

March 13, 2013

From Be Thou My Breastplate Let the work of the church of God be in these hands. (Fursa’s Breastplate) The impact of the work of Fursa’s hands proved so enduring that after his death many tales began to be spun concerning Fursa’s various achievements.  Soon the stories grew well beyond the limits of Fursa’s actual history so that today the scholar must carefully pan fact from the fiction as it were gold from silt. Our Celtic brother was even reinvented by one ancient writer in the role of a diocesan bishop, adding great weight no doubt to his initiatives in ministry.  To be fair, this may have been a simple error, on that writer’s part, for the word “bishop” was not used in Fursa’s time [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Twelfth Station — Jesus Dies On The Cross, by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

March 9, 2013

From The Journey to Peace Near the cross of Jesus there stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene. Seeing his mother there with the disciple whom he loved, Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, there is your son.”  In turn he said to the disciple, “there is your mother.”  From that hour onward, the disciple took her into his care.  After that, Jesus realizing that everything was not finished, said to fulfill the Scripture, “I am thirsty.”  There was ajar there, full of common wine.  They stuck a sponge soaked in this wine on some hyssop and raised it to his lips.  When Jesus took the wine, he said, “Now it is finished.”  Then he bowed his [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Sixth Station — Veronica Wipes The Face Of Jesus, by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

February 23, 2013

From The Journey to Peace Come.  You have my father’s blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, In prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:34-36) God’s Love Moves Us into Courageous and Creative Service My friends, the greatest romance we will ever experience is God’s passionate love.  The greatest adventure is the journey into his kingdom.  The greatest achievement is to live as a faith-filled brother or sister of Jesus, the savior.  The greatest challenge is to carry on Jesus’s mission and ministry, incarnating his [...]

PRAYER: On Wintry Spirituality And Napping by Martin Marty

December 17, 2012

From The Life of Meaning: Reflections on Faith, Doubt, and Repairing the World When I used to try to keep too many worlds together, I learned that I needed a way to break stress, and I taught myself to nap, invented a little technique.  I decided that what keeps people awake is they’re thinking about yesterday and they’re guilty, and they’re thinking about tomorrow and they’re worrying, and so I have to invent some techniques to live in the present.  It’s as if you’re on a high without drugs, and you soon learn just to let go of everything, and a few minutes later a timer goes off, and I wake up refreshed. I believe very much that to the degree that we carry the burden of the past, which is always full of failures and [...]