Wednesday – April 24, 2019
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, who had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. Revelation 14.6
A Word of Hope
A few years ago, I wrote some of the curriculum for our Youth Confirmation Class Retreat. The lesson of the day was about creeds. We asked the participants to consider what they had learned and to write their own creed. One of them said she thought that Jesus had already written it. We had studied Jesus’ great “Love Commandment” the day before. Smart girl! Many of us were not such free thinkers and grew up in church traditions in which we dutifully stood up every week and recited the Apostle’s Creed. The earliest version of the creed was written in 390 CE by the Council of Milan and it’s been subjected to revisions ever since.
There is a formal American Creed, too. Did you know that? I didn’t until I was researching creeds for that Youth Retreat. It was written in 1917 by William Tyler Page and accepted by Congress the following year. It begins with typical religious creed language: “I believe in the United States of America,” then borrows a lot from the Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg Address, etc. It apparently never caught on. I’m sure it came about at the time as the answer to a need to define ourselves following The World War, but the choice of the word, “Creed” is even more revealing of the attitude of that era.
The Evangelical Church Movement at the time was the product of the nineteenth century “doctrine” implying that the United States itself was the “Chosen Nation” of Christ’s Great Commission, and that our American way was not only the best way, but the only way to salvation.
Yet, the Creed never became standard patriotic dogma, likely because people just didn’t need one more pledge to memorize. But sadly that “chosen nation” attitude is still held by a number of people or groups, even though we live in an era in which international and interfaith cooperation is approaching emergency status. It’s a time we must remember that not just Americans, but all members of Humankind are citizens of God’s Chosen Nation; the Nation of the World. Those people are the “neighbors” who Jesus told us to love as we love ourselves. This is the creed the young girl at the retreat considered her own. I hope that is the creed our children and youth today can still seriously consider. After all, it’s their world.
God of all nations, of every people and tribe, help us remember your own creed and embrace the idea of a world in which no one is excluded from your love.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – April 23, 2019
But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. Hebrews 3.6
A Word of Hope
There has never been another birth, life, death and resurrection like that of Jesus. Jesus was destined be the sole heir as the Son of God, the breathing, walking, manifestation of God in the flesh.
When Jesus was sacrificed as the “Son” of God, bringing us the New Message it wasn’t so much that Jesus “brought” a message; He “IS” the message. He was sent to spread the Good News of Redemption, Grace, and God’s everlasting love. When he said, “it is finished”, it was, it is and always will be. Jesus is far more than any prophet; he has revealed something no other prophet could. It is finished…the old testament is over; the new gospel of Christ is alive and is to be shared with all human kind…this is the Good News.
We are as incapable of gazing directly in to the sun as we are to see the face of God. We can only see the rays of the sun as they filter through the atmosphere. In the same filtering way, Jesus is the beam of God’s glory and we see God through “rays” of the Son of God. In many ways, God spoke through a spectrum in the Old Testament and Jesus became the prism, collecting beautiful bands of light focusing them all into 1 pure beam for us to see.
Easter celebrations have ended and hopefully all hidden eggs have been found. I carry fond memories of gatherings where hidden gems filled with candy, money or those bearing beautiful decorations were hidden out of sight. Now, I enjoy seeking biblical gems of spiritual symbology to strengthen my relationship with God. Like the hidden eggs, some are easily found while others take a lot of internal searching to find the hidden pearls of wisdom.
Creator God, let us like Jesus, reach out and welcome one another into Gods Glory of everlasting love for all humankind. Amen
Monday – April 22, 2019
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by people.” Acts 17.24
A Word of Hope
Today is Earth Day. The first Earth Day was founded on April 22, 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson, from an idea that had started seven years earlier when Senator Nelson persuaded President Kennedy to take a five-day, eleven-state conservation tour. Kennedy motivated the people of America to be concerned about their planet, but, not surprisingly, Congress did nothing but debate about it.
Senator Nelson would not give up, however, and six years later, inspired by the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations on college campuses across the nation, he developed a more evolved plan. He recalled, “Suddenly, the idea occurred to me – why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?” At a September 1969 conference in Seattle, after concentrated organizing, he announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment.
The New York Times wrote: “The response was electric. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and they did so with spectacular exuberance.” By April 22, twenty million demonstrators in thousands of schools and local communities had organized local Earth Day events. Senator Nelson concluded, “That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.”
Today, with many of our top government officials denying the existence of massive global environmental emergencies, the future of our planet is in the hands of grassroots organizations more than ever. Like Senator Nelson, they will not give up. Throughout the world, concerned members of churches in over 200 countries have joined the movement by establishing and sustaining green congregations. Cathedral of Hope, UCC, is one of those churches.
Our Order of St. Francis and St. Clare researches and offers Greening Tips, not just for Earth Day, but for every Sunday in the Church Weekly. Many of our members and staff are aggressively involved in multiple programs that seek justice for God’s planet. While our politicians continue to debate and do nothing, these justice seekers have made the Earth Day movement stronger than ever. We must never forget what God brings to fruition when we put our faith into action.
O God, who made the whole earth and everything in it, may you continue to inspire us to love our planet as we love ourselves. AMEN
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – April 19, 2019
My God, my God, why have you deserted me? ~Psalm 22:1
Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…Then Jesus cried out again with an agonized voice and gave up his spirit. ~Matthew 27:45,50
A Word of Hope
When I was young, I kept Helen Reddy’s version of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar in heavy rotation. For me to like the song was one thing. After I learned it was about the “were they or weren’t they?” ambiguous relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the musical, was quite another. It brought on a Southern Baptist lecture about the ‘sacrilege’ of the show, how of all its many scandalous transgressions, the worst was the way in which it ended – at the death of Christ.
“They don’t mention the Resurrection at all!”my mom would protest. “That’s not how it ends!” But, actually, that’s exactly how it ends.
The show. That moment. That day.
To view Christ’s death as simply a difficult precursor to the Resurrection requires the unique perspective of someone who’s already read the entire book or seen the movie. For those who witnessed the crucifixion and death of Jesus, all they had to go on was what took place on that day, moment by moment.
What Jesus, his mother, and the few who gathered at the base of the cross knew was that as his long and excruciating death came to an end, Jesus cried loudly from the depths of his soul the “saddest of all utterances”*:
“My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
The word strikes me as saying, “I’ve given up on you. I’m done with you.”
Jesus agonized over his abandonment by the One who is the Source of all life, who called him, anointed him, the One who inhabited his Spirit.
But he received no answer.
His mother must have broken under the weight of knowing her son felt rejected by the same God in whom she believed.
Jesus must have seen the heartbreak in her eyes and her faith shaken as the life she’d always wanted for her son dissolved.
Jesus knew the hopes, dreams, dedication, and belief of his followers now shattered like his broken body. Everything they ever wanted for him, all the visions of what he would become, died along with him.
No angels were sent to Jesus, like the ones who announced his birth or ministered to him in the desert. And the very One who declared, “this is My beloved son in whom I am well pleased,” now said nothing.
Matthew’s Gospel provides no words of encouragement or uplifting proclamation about what was to come. There is no mention of the Resurrection and no reason to expect a hopeful result. For in that moment, only Christ’s devastated cry and his imminent death were real. The ensuing days were filled with grief and questioning, not expectation.
At some point, many of us will experience such a time of deep betrayal and despair, when everything we’ve completely trusted is no longer accessible to us; when God will remain silent.
We do not lack in faith or character to cry out, “Why? Where are you? How have you walked away from me in the time of my greatest need?”
I wish I knew a way to navigate around these times. Sometimes, we may receive direction that makes the path ahead of us clear. Sometimes the only way through it is to simply go through it. In those moments, may we remember that Christ fully identifies with our suffering and shares our burden.
While it makes me uncomfortable to share a story without an uplifting takeaway, on this day when we reflect upon the death of Christ, perhaps the most fitting remembrance is to experience discomfort and identify with the somber nature of those hours and days that followed.
None who gathered that day imagined the joy Sunday would bring. They only knew that the day Christ died ended withhis cry ‘Why have you forsaken me?’
The ensuing answer was only the heaviness of a silent God.
Thursday – April 18, 2019
…[O]n the night he was betrayed, [Jesus] took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Cor. 11:23b-24
A Word of Hope
In their study of the last week of Jesus’ life, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan assert that Holy Thursday was “filled with drama: In the evening Jesus eats a final meal with his disciples and prays for deliverance in Gethsemane; he is betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and abandoned by the rest of his disciples. Arrested in darkness, he is then interrogated and condemned to death….all before dawn on Friday.”
But it is the last Passover meal, with its new mandate, that will be re-enacted all over the world. Again and again, in the words of institution before communion, we are reminded that on this night, “he was betrayed.” According to Barbara Brown Taylor, the betrayal is the deepest pain that Jesus experiences in these final days. Some of us know the spirit-crushing, heart-numbing blow that betrayal brings, the damage to trust, the how-could-you fury. Some never get over it, never close the door on that devastation but live with defended hearts forever.
But not Jesus. He models for us a deeper, wider love. He stays at the table and feeds everyone—Judas, Peter, you and me.
For Parker Palmer, there is a lesson about community here. Community will always disillusion us, he says. But in spiritual community this can be a good thing because it leads to a “clearer vision of ourselves and each other.”
“And the truth is that we can rely on God to make community among us even-and especially-when our own efforts fail….And here is the paradox: as we become disillusioned with community and more dependent on God, we become more available for true community with each other….
Seeing ourselves and each other clearly, yet seeing God’s continual healing presence among us, we can begin to experience the fruits of the Spirit with each other: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness.”
In a time when it is so easy to “unfriend,” to walk away when divisions test us, Jesus asks us to love one another. Will we stay at the table with Jesus?
O Sacred Heart, wounded yet loving still, teach us your love. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)