POETRY: The Empty Church by R. S. Thomas

December 14, 2018

They laid this stone trap for him, enticing him with candles, as though he would come like some huge moth out of the darkness to beat there. Ah, he had burned himself before in the human flame and escaped, leaving the reason torn. He will not come any more to our lure. Why, then, do I kneel still striking my prayers on a stone heart? Is it in hope one of them will ignite yet and throw on its illuminated walls the shadow of someone greater than I can [...]

POETRY: The Four Candles Of Advent by Royston Allen

November 30, 2018

The candle of HOPE: Hope for the hopeless and hope for the lost. No matter the price, whatever the cost. Jesus has come and was willing to pay being born as a babe that first Christmas day. Hope that’s a certainty, hope that is sure. Though the Earth is shaken we are secure. Trusting in Jesus and safe in his care. Knowing that he’s with us and always there. The candle of PEACE: Peace, all other peace transcending. Peace so eternal and unending. Peace that passes all understanding. Peace so perfect and undemanding. Peace lovely peace floods into our soul. Peace of healing making us whole. Peace from God, peace from Heaven. Peace, Jesus whispers deep within. The candle of JOY: The candle is burning, its flame so bright and joy [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: All Leads Back To Hope by R. W. Church

November 30, 2018

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three. (1 Corinthians 13:13) “Faith, hope, love”; these, in Saint Paul’s analysis, are the characteristic elements of the Christian mind.  Saint Paul, as we know, in enumerating them, makes one of them the greatest, in order and in nature – “the greatest of these is love.”  But it is a first and foremost place among equals.  All stand together, as nothing else does, in the front rank of the perfections which make Christian goodness.  All are equally indispensable in those who would please God and follow Christ. But why should hope be ranked so high, placed on a level with faith and love?  We can understand why faith should be so singled out; it is the foundation of the whole [...]

POETRY: Hope by John Bowring

November 26, 2018

Watchman tell us of the night, what its signs of promise are. Traveler, o’er yon mountain’s height, see that glory-beaming star. Watchman, does its beauteous ray aught of joy or hope foretell? Traveler, yes; it brings the day, promised day of [...]

POETRY: Hope by George Herbert

July 23, 2017

I gave to Hope a watch of mine: but he An anchor gave to me. Then an old prayer-book I did present: And he an optic sent. With that I gave a vial full of tears: But he a few green ears: Ah Loiterer! I’ll no more, no more I’ll bring: I did expect a [...]

POETRY: Experience Bows A Sweet Contented Face by Christina Rossetti

May 6, 2017

Experience bows a sweet contented face. Still setting to her seal that God is true: Beneath the sun, she knows, is nothing new; All things that go return with measured pace, Winds, rivers, man’s still recommencing race:— While Hope beyond Earth’s circle strains her view. Past sun and moon, and rain and rainbow too, Enamored of unseen eternal grace. Experience saith, “My God doth all things well”: And for the morrow taketh little care, Such peace and patience garrison her soul:— While Hope, who never yet hath eyes the goal, With arms flung forth, and backward-floating hair. Touches, embraces, hugs the [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: This Wondrous Future Must Come True by R. W. Church

December 1, 2016

And Now Faith, Hope, and Love Abide, These Three (1 Corinthians 13:13) The most literal fact that God has set before us, the most wonderful future, is within the certain reach of every single on of us: as certainly within our reach, as anything that we know of, which we could obtain tomorrow.  This is the plain, clear, certain promise, without which Christianity is a dream and delusion.  The life and destiny of each individual runs up to this; this is what we were made for; for this we have been taught, and have received God’s grace, and have been tried, and have played our part in the years of time.  It is the barest of commonplaces; and yet, I think, to any who have tried to open their minds to its reality and certainty, it [...]

RESURRECTION: Always And Forever, the Final Word, by Richard Rohr

April 7, 2016

From Sick, and You Cared For Me “Think of what is above, not of what is on Earth.” Don’t you often wonder why so much of human life seems so futile, so tragic, so short, so sad?  If Christ has risen, and we speak so much of being risen with Christ, then why do most people experience their life as tragic more than triumphant?  Why is there nonstop war?  Why are there so many people unjustly imprisoned?  Why are the poor oppressed?  Why, even in Christian nations, is there a long history of deceit and injustice?  Why do so few marriages last, even among those of us who say that we believe?  Why are there so many children born with disabilities?  Why do we destroy so many of our relationships?  Why? What are you up [...]

STORY: The Seer Of Lublin’s Shirt

December 3, 2015

traditional Hasidic  Once upon a time there was a poor man named Moshe.  He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath as everyone else did to hear the Seer of Lublin preach and to pray.  The Seer of Lublin looked at him, among all the members of his congregation, and sighed.  Moshe looked terrible, ragged and dirty, his shirt torn and soiled, and here he was on the Sabbath. How could he? The Seer grabbed hold of Moshe’s arm and scolded him on his apparel, but Moshe protested, “This is my only shirt.  If I had another I would have worn it.”  The Seer of Lublin was cut to the heart.  “Wait here,” he commanded Moshe. He returned momentarily with one of his own shirts.  It was linen, elegant, and the color of [...]

POETRY: Black Rook In Rainy Weather, by Sylvia Plath

December 2, 2015

On the stiff twig up there Hunches a wet black rook Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain I do not expect a miracle Or an accident To set the sight on fire In my eye, nor seek Any more in the desultory weather some design, But let spotted leaves fall as they fall, Without ceremony, or portent. Although, I admit, I desire, Occasionally, some backtalk From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain: A certain minor light may still Lean incandescent Out of kitchen table or chair As if a celestial burning took Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then— Thus hallowing an interval Otherwise inconsequent By bestowing largesse, honor, One might say love. At any rate, I now walk Wary (for it could happen Even in this [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: As I Wait For God by Gerard Thomas Straub

December 1, 2015

From Falling Silent In his book, No Man Is An Island, Thomas Merton wrote: “There must be a time of day when the man who makes plans forgets his plans, and acts as if he had no plans at all.  There must be a time of day when the man who has to speak falls very silent.  And his mind forms no more propositions, and he asks himself: Did they have any meaning?  There must be a time when a man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he had ever prayed; when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and he learns a different wisdom: distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from the dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a [...]

FAITH: Is There Hope For Faith by Thomas H. Groome

July 24, 2015

From Hope At the end of his public ministry, Luke has Jesus wonder, “Will there be faith on Earth?” upon his return.  Faith, as always, is the foundation of hope, but in our postmodern and secularized era, the more pressing question may be, “Is there hope for faith?”  This essay proposes the rationale why we can have such hope and a pedagogy that, by God’s grace, may ensure as much. There is an obvious logic to Aquinas’s sequencing of the three great theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. As Dominic Doyle lays out so clearly, faith is presumed to come first as what we believe, encourages us to hope for the good we desire, and should result in love for, and in keeping with, our ultimate desire: God.  In theory, we move [...]

POETRY: Rowing, by Anne Sexton

December 3, 2014

A story, a story! (Let it go. Let it come.) I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender into this world. First came the crib with its glacial bars. Then dolls and the devotion to their plastic mouths. Then there was school, the little straight rows of chairs, blotting my name over and over, but undersea all the time, a stranger whose elbows wouldn’t work. Then there was life with its cruel houses and people who seldom touched- though touch is all- but I grew, like a pig in a trenchcoat I grew, and then there were many strange apparitions, the nagging rain, the sun turning into poison and all of that, saws working through my heart, but I grew, I grew, and God was there like an island I had not rowed to, still ignorant of Him, my arms, [...]

POETRY: Hope, by Lisel Mueller

December 3, 2014

It hovers in dark corners before the lights are turned on, it shakes sleep from its eyes and drops from mushroom gills, it explodes in the starry heads of dandelions turned sages, it sticks to the wings of green angels that sail from the tops of maples. It sprouts in each occluded eye of the many-eyed potato, it lives in each earthworm segment surviving cruelty, it is the motion that runs the tail of a dog, it is the mouth that inflates the lungs of the child that has just been born. It is the singular gift we cannot destroy in ourselves, the argument that refutes death, the genius that invents the future, all we know of God. It is the serum which makes us swear not to betray one another; it is in this poem, trying to [...]

BELIEF: Bright Lights On Dark Nights by Max Lucado

July 10, 2014

From Cast of Characters Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.  Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches.  Crowds of sick people – blind, lame, or paralyzed – lay on the porches.  One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up.  Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed!  He rolled [...]

HOPE: The Singing Place, by Gene Logsdon

April 24, 2014

From The Plain Reader Riley and Sooz had helped weed the garden rows with more alacrity than usual, because Grandmaw had promised to take them to the Singing Place along the creek if there were time afterward.  Homeschooled in every sense of the word, the children found it hard to believe that anything as unusual as the Singing Place could exist in their neighborhood, their domain, their classroom, without their knowledge of it. So now they walked with Grandmaw across the farm toward the creek, full of anticipation about what the Singing Place might look or sound like.  That they were in for an adventure they were sure.  They had long since grown accustomed to Grandmaw’s genius for finding drama and excitement in what others thought [...]

THE PRODIGAL SON: Redefining Hope — Our Longing for Home by Timothy Keller

March 25, 2014

From The Prodigal God “He set off for a far country.” It is important to read Jesus’s parable of the lost son in the context of the whole of Luke, chapter 15, but the story has an even larger context.  If we read the narrative in light of the Bible’s sweeping theme of exile and homecoming we will understand that Jesus has given us more than a moving account of individual redemption.  He has retold the story of the whole human race, and promised nothing less than hope for the world. In Jesus’s parable the younger brother goes off into a distant country expecting a better life but is disappointed.  He begins to long for home, remembering the food in his father’s house.  So do we all. [...]

SATURDAY READING: Hope — The Art Of Patient Waiting by Paula Huston

March 8, 2014

From By Way of Grace When I want to rest my heart, wearied by the darkness which surrounds it, by the memory of the luminous country to which I aspire, my torment redoubles; it seems to me that the darkness, borrowing the voice of sinners, says mockingly to me, “You are dreaming about the light.” Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1973-1897) A long-ago wish had come true: I was finally in England, a place I’d wanted to visit since I was a fairy-tale-reading child.  It was as lovely as I’d always imagined it would be, with its meandering hedges, its yellow fields of rape, its Jersey cows and bunchy sheep, its great silent stone cathedrals.  Britain, with all its historical riches – how easily I could settle down for the rest of my life [...]

HOPE: Smells Like Hope, by Madeleine L’Engle

March 6, 2014

Madeleine L’Engle wrote about her mother’s death in The Summer of Great-Grandmother, and about her late husband in Two-Part Invention. Her son, Bion died at Christmastime in 1999. At the time of this interview, it was a year after her son’s death, and Madeleine spoke of burying her son’s ashes. From The Life of Meaning, by Bob Abernethy and William Bole She wanted a long song, and I started with “Barbara Allen.”  And she said, “Gran, you know that’s a bad one.” And I said, “Why, Charlotte?  Because everyone dies?” And she said, “No, Gran.  Nobody loved anybody.” And then it was the next night, putting them to bed, that Lena just looked at me [...]

POETRY: Hanging On Hope, or not — Poems on Hope

March 5, 2014

Let No Charitable Hope Elinor Wylie Now let no charitable hope Confuse my mind with images Of eagle and of antelope: I am in nature none of these. I was, being human, born alone; I am, being woman, hard beset; I live by squeezing from a stone The little nourishment I get. In masks outrageous and austere The years go by in single file; But none has merited my fear, And none has quite escaped my smile. Hope Gary Soto Maybe a dog I loved best will limp Up the street and fall at my feet, Not really hurt, just tired. “Smoky,” I cry, and in crying send the sparrows In the tree a limb higher. “I missed you, I really missed you. Where did you go?” I peel back his eyelids and view An adventure—oh, how he dodged cars And [...]

HOMILY: The Invisible Reality Of Hope, by Peter J. Gomes

March 4, 2014

Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees? (Romans: 8:24) My sermon this morning takes an unusual form: it is in two parts, with the first consisting of these brief comments on the lesson we have just heard from Saint Paul’s epistle to the Romans, and the second in the form of the motet which we will hear after the offertory.  It too is a commentary on Saint Paul’s epistle to the Romans, and it has the advantage of having been written by the “fifth evangelist,” Johann Sebastian Bach.  Martin Luther once wrote that he loved music next to God, and that no one who did not love music could know God, which was a creative thought from that dreary old German bore.  It was Luther’s great [...]

PRAYER: Acts Of Hope, by Richard Allen

March 3, 2014

The Reverend Richard Allen was born into slavery and bought his freedom by the time he reached twenty-five.  Eventually he founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church. O, my God! in all my dangers temporal and spiritual I will hope in thee who art Almighty power, and therefore able to relieve me; who art infinite goodness, and therefore ready and willing to assist me. O precious blood of my dear Redeemer!  O gaping wounds of my crucified Savior!  Who can contemplate the sufferings of God incarnate, and not raise his hope, and not put his trust in him.  What though my body be crumbled into dust, and that dust blown over the face of the Earth, yet I undoubtedly know my Redeemer lives, and shall raise me up at the last day; whether I [...]

SCRIPTURE: The Beatitudes, by Charles de Foucauld

May 14, 2013

From Hope in the Gospels 1. How blest are the poor in spirit: the reign of God is theirs. (Matthew 5:3) Let us hope!  Salvation is at hand; Heaven is at hand, and here is an easy way to save ourselves, to enter into Heaven; only one thing is needed: “to be poor in spirit.”  To be poor in spirit is to be truly poor at the bottom of one’s soul, truly detached from all things, not only to be truly deprived of material goods, not only not to desire them, but to completely forget oneself, to have a soul empty not only of all earthly desires, but of all desire and absolutely so, whether concerning oneself or others, of self, of material things, absolutely empty of everything, and full of God.  In God, for God, for [...]

SERMON: The Spirit Of Prayer by Francis de Sales

March 10, 2013

We have not to speak of the efficient cause of prayer.  It is necessary for us to know, then, who can and who ought to pray.  The question would soon be decided were we to say that all can pray and that all ought to do so.  But in order the better to satisfy the mind, we shall treat this subject at greater length. In the first place we must realize that God cannot pray at all, since prayer is a petition which is made by grace and requires that we know that we are in need of something, for we are not accustomed to ask for that which we already possess.  Well, God can ask for nothing through grace, but rather, he does everything by divine authority.  Moreover, he cannot have need of anything, since he possesses everything.  It is [...]

POETRY: The Fountain by Denise Levertov

January 8, 2013

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water to solace the dryness at our hearts I have seen the fountain springing out of the rock wall and you drinking there. And I too before your eyes found footholds and climbed to drink the cool water. The woman of that place, shading her eyes, frowned as she watched—but not because she grudged the water, only because she was waiting to see we drank our fill and were refreshed. Don’t say, don’t say there is no water. That fountain is there among its scalloped green and gray stones, it is still there and always there with its quiet song and strange power to spring in us, up and out through the [...]

SERMON: The Hungering Dark, by Frederick Buechner

November 18, 2012

O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at thy presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make thy name known to thy adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at thy presence! There is no one that calls upon thy name, that bestirs himself to take hold of thee; for thou hast hid thy face from us, and has delivered us into the hand of our iniquities. — Isaiah 64:1-2, 7 And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see [...]

PRAYER: A Prayer for Hope, by Karl Rahner, SJ

October 8, 2012

From The Mystical Way in Everyday Life We pray, God of grace and eternal life, that you may increase in us and strengthen in us hope.  Grant us this virtue of the strong, this power of the confident, this courage of the unshaken.  Let us always have a longing for you who are the infinite fulfillment of our life, let us always count on you and your faithfulness, let us always unflinchingly hold onto your power, let us be of such a mind, shape in us such a mind by your Holy Spirit, for then, our Lord and God, will we have the virtue of hope.  Then we can tackle the task of our life with courage, then there will live in us the joyous confidence of not laboring in vain, then we will do our work knowing that you the Almighty One are at work [...]