Wednesday – November 25, 2020
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
A Word of Hope
The joy of the holidays begins tomorrow, or does it? As we begin pondering all for which we are thankful and we contemplate the coming of Peace on Earth during the following weeks of Advent, many of us also experience more anxiety than we feel any other month of the year. Pressures of planning family gatherings, shopping, and meeting countless deadlines often make us want to groan with dread rather than shout for joy. This particular holiday season also comes with the seemingly insurmountable challenges of making all of this happen during a pandemic.
We might look at the passage above and wonder if Paul’s encouragement to the church at Philippi is a message we can relate to at all these days. How could those people ever understand the challenges we are facing? Certainly, that would be true in part. The traditions of Christmas celebrations and gift-giving were centuries away and Thanksgiving wouldn’t happen for thousands of years. They were not strangers to anxiety and hardships, however. Plagues were common occurrences in ancient civilizations. True, they probably didn’t worry as much about getting into a heated political discussion with a relative at a church service or family meal. Yet, they did face the possibility of being arrested, imprisoned, and possibly executed by the Empire for meeting to glorify anything but Caesar.
Certainly, the original readers of Paul’s motivating words faced problems that we can’t begin to imagine, but does that fact lessen the severity of what we face today? The uplifting part of the story is that following those wise admonitions did, in fact, pull them through. They learned to be grateful for what they had rather than worrying about the possibility of what may never happen. They also learned to anticipate and accept the peace that passes all understanding.
I believe that if we follow their lead, we can know that peace, too. I love the fact that, in the US, all of the holiday chaos is ushered in by a day that centers on gratitude. Thanksgiving can be a day that sets the mood to be thankful for everything we are given, even for lessons learned during a pandemic. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
God of Grace, may the words of Thessalonians 5. 16-18 be our prayer: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – November 24, 2020
In the day of prosperity, adversity is forgotten. In the day of adversity, prosperity is not remembered.”
A Word of Hope
Although the author of Sirach, Ben Sira, taught these words more than two millennia ago, they are equally important today. The Covid pandemic has upset the world, and most people are faced with deleterious change, loss and adversity. The beautiful opportunities and experiences which we previously enjoyed seem to be swallowed up in loss and fear today. Memories of them may become painful because of present adversity. Uncertainty and fear cloud our minds and may affect our spiritual life. Certainly, we are not the first generation to experience severe adversity which tends to stifle good memories.
The Apostle Paul had wonderful experiences of success in some of his ministry. However, in a Roman prison cell, where things seemed to be coming to an end, he could write to the Philippian Christians: “I rejoice in the Lord; for I have learned to be content in whatever state I am. I know how to be abased and how to abound. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and want. I can endure all things through Christ who strengthens me. And the [satisfying] peace of God will keep your hearts and minds.” (Philippians 4:8-11) The uncertainties of daily life became less significant because he focused his thankful attention on the unchanging blessings of God. Let that be so in our lives in times of plenty and in times of want.
Ben Sirah also writes, “The heart changes one’s countenance, either for good or for evil. The sign of a happy heart is a cheerful face.” (Sirach 13:25-26) The forced smile in face of any problem or lots of Botox injections; these seem to be our society’s signal of happy living! Yet, both are false and fading. Neither will lift our emotions longer than that one moment. Ben Sira asked his young students a question which each of us must answer. What’s the source of a happy or contented life? Wisdom from the Scripture tells us that happy and contented life starts with the soul which has found assured peace with God and peace with the surrounding world.
When you recognize that you are held in the hand of God’s providing love, you can rest in peace with whatever the world throws at you. It all centers around the quality of your relationship with God. The individual who lives each day in a right relationship with God is called “blessed” and finds a heart peace which causes a cheerful face. May you be blessed by God’s presence and peace in a manner which is overflowing and carries you through whatever life brings your way.
Providing God, your words of wisdom may be ancient or modern, but they always stand forth with your truth. During all of my activities this day, May I attend to your voice of guidance and love. I give you my praise, and may all humanity give you glory. Amen.
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Monday – November 23, 2020
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
A Word of Hope
Faith and how differently it is lived out, even among those who profess the same beliefs, is a hot topic these days. Judgmental words fly from all angles. I trust that I am not alone in having uttered the words, “How can that person act that way or believe those things and call themselves a follower of Jesus?” When that thought crosses my mind, I’m not sure which part is the cart and which part is the horse. Am I angry because they are calling themself a Christian, just as I do, and are acting in a way that I believe to be antithetical to what the Jesus I follow would want? Or, am I upset only because they are treating others unkindly or unjustly and the fact that they call themselves a Christian is not really important?
Today is Espresso Day. Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee, served in small, strong shots and is the base for many coffee drinks like mochas, lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiato. Is our personal spirituality not similar to the espresso in these drinks? It gives us a firm foundation on which to build our lives. Our faith should be the base for all that we are and all that we do. It is the starting point for everything else, the base, just as espresso is the starting point for many of the fancier coffee drinks . Jesus provides us with this strong foundation to support all of the “milk and chocolate and whipped cream” that is seen on the surface of our daily lives, but we really should not have to announce that we are doing something “because we are a Christian”. That piece of information is important only between us and our God.
What is most important to others is how that fact manifests itself outwardly, how it drives our expression of love of our neighbor. That’s what others see, feel, and remember. When we enjoy a nice vanilla latte, rarely do we think “that was great espresso.” We judge the drink as a whole. Similarly, we desire that others see us as a whole, kind, and caring person first. The fact that we are a follower of Christ comes with further understanding of the goodness they experienced through us, just as good espresso is discovered when we consider why that latte tasted so good.
Strong and faithful God, may I always know you as my strength and my foundation. I pray my knowledge of you and your ways will guide my words and actions such that I show your love and compassion to others. Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – November 20, 2020
1 John 4:17, 19, 21
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them…. We love because he first loved us… The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters.
Word of Hope
When chaos surrounds us. We need not be overwhelmed, confused, or helpless. We just have to keep finding more ways to love others, especially the “others” among us. Whether someone voted differently than us, or someone is a different race or someone worships in another church, our challenge is the same. We must find more ways to love, and we do this by finding ways to bless them with the same generosity that God has blessed us.
Today is Trans Day Of Remembrance. This day has been set aside to recognize our Transgender sisters and brothers who have lost their lives because they were misunderstood and hated. Even as we recall their names, I wish to honor their courage in sharing their truth even though it was met with hostility and hatred.
It is important to remember that while their deaths were caused by one or more persons who “othered” them, they were also loved and are now mourned. I wish to offer comfort to their loved ones. I also ask you to join me in loving and blessing our transgender siblings. They are not “others”. They are God’s beloved children.
The following poem was written by Jeanne Medina to honor a member of Cathedral of Hope. With permission from the author and recipient, I offer it to honor our entire transgender community.
I see your gentle
laying low across the sky.
the Earth moved!
The still-hidden sun
your full glory!
turn Powerful Pink
before my eyes,
upon the horizon
Dear God, please help us love one another in Jesus’s name. Amen.
Carole Anne Sarah
Thursday – November 19, 2020
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is clear, your whole body will be filled with light.”
A Word of Hope
On August 12, 2017, Brian McLaren was standing on a corner in front of a Methodist church in a quiet neighborhood. Suddenly a white van pulled up and a man about his age in army fatigues stepped out. The side door slid open and 9 young men in khaki pants and sports shirts emerged. They unfurled flags and began to march behind the older man. Then another van pulled up and the same thing happened, then another and another.
The flags ranged from the Confederate flag to the Don’t Tread on Me flag to the Nazi swastika. McLaren registers his shock and dismay: Never had he imagined seeing people march behind the Nazi flag in America.
The activist pastor and author had travelled to Charlottesville that day as part of a multifaith clergy group who came to be witnesses during the Unite the Right rally—a rally which would leave Heather Hyer dead, purposely run down by a car, a violent act celebrated on social media by the organizers of the march.
McLaren tells us that at a visceral level he cannot “unsee,” this experience which taught him that though we may live in the same country or city or even under the same roof, we live different realities.
He saw the marchers as deluded white supremacists, blinded by white nationalist propaganda and shaped by Fox news. They saw him as a naïve, idealistic, and deluded clergyman standing in the way of their achieving racial dominance.
So, the question is how do we learn to see what’s really there? How can we open our eyes to each other? https://cac.org/podcast/learning-how-to-see/
Jesus talked a good bit about sight. He told the disciples that he spoke in parables because they had eyes but did not see and ears but did not hear. He told us to take the log out of our own eye before attending to the splinter in our neighbor. He healed blindness—physical and spiritual.
In a recent sermon, Bishop Michael Curry passionately exhorts us to love as Jesus loved as a healing balm for our nation. But our ability to love is impacted by our vision. How I “see” the young African American man jogging in my neighborhood impacts the way I feel and respond. Recently, some people have been able to see a little differently because of the emotional and honest expression of CNN commentator Van Jones who spoke of what the election of Joe Biden as president means to him as an African American father. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2020/nov/07/cnn-van-jones-tears-joe-biden-us-election
A few days ago an esteemed therapist offered an insight to healing family and national divisions: to go “underneath” the content to try to perceive the feelings, values, aspirations of the other. Jesus’s healing Jesus derives in part because he saw those who came—not as “sinners” but as God’s children. May we learn to do so as well.
Holy Physician, Heal our vision so that our whole body may be filled with light and love. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)