Words of Hope
Words of Hope
Friday – September 17, 2021
“O God of Hosts, how dear to me is your dwelling. My soul has desire and longing to be present in the courtyards of your Temple.”
A Word of Hope
Doesn’t that verse from today’s reading make each of us want to yell out “Amen”! We long to return to our familiar pattern of in-person unmasked worship at the Cathedral of Hope. But we must wait. Then, I remember the plight of the Jewish people who survived when Roman forces destroyed Jerusalem and completely tore down their Temple structure (70 CE). With the total destruction of the building and death of hundreds of its priests and attendants, how could they practice their worship of God? Certainly, that was a “sour lemon” situation. However, some of the faithful leaders scattered from the ruined city and moved their lives and spiritual influence to other towns in Palestine, Egypt and elsewhere.
In these new locations, they developed centers for Jewish education and new synagogues. From these faithful Jews, the new Jewish rabbinic tradition developed. There was no central Temple for animal sacrifice. Instead, new synagogues sprang up where they taught Jewish history and the Law. A philosophy of life was created which was based on a personal commitment to a moral life and social goodness as God had always wanted. Out of the ashes of the destroyed Temple structure, this new rabbinic tradition flourished and has nourished Jewish people spreading their faith throughout the world. With our cooperation, God can make great lemonade out of a great disaster!
The Temple building of Jesus’ time was not the first Jewish Temple. Centuries earlier, a first Temple had been built and became the heart-center of Jewish religious life. However, it was destroyed by the invading army of Nebuchadnezzar and much of Judah’s population exiled to distant Babylon (586 B.C.E.). They were forced to live in an enclave in that land of strange language, religion and customs. Those Je ws were utterly bereaved by the loss of their national identity and religious practices. They called themselves “gola” (exiles) and sought to forge a new Jewish identity in this foreign land.
They struggled to understand this terrible event because God had promised protection to their forefathers. With divine help, they creatively remade their spiritual practice without the formality of a temple structure. Their worldview changed and they tended to look toward a day of God’s salvation as the underpinning of their spiritual lives. They developed a social lifestyle which reflected the Laws of the Torah. In Babylon, they became known as “people of the book”. Then God acted to bring salvation to them. Cyrus, the King of Persia who had defeated Nebuchadnezzar’s empire, was inspired by God to build a new Temple in Jerusalem. In order to construct and manage it, he ordered that the captive Jewish population return to Jerusalem and rebuild a great temple to worship Yahweh. This gave them a new opportunity.Their religious life, practices and social influence were renewed, actually re-created… sweet lemonade indeed!
Regardless of what life gives, may we always remain people of the book. Help us to remember that, with our cooperation, God can make great lemonade out of any challenge or even worldwide disasters.
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Thursday – September 16, 2021
Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods. A liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement seeking to overthrow the forces that destroy the promise, the hope, the vision. – Abraham Joshua Heschel
A Word of Hope
Today is Yom Kippur–the day of atonement in Jewish communities, observed with rituals of fasting, repenting, and seeking forgiveness.
Actually, the whole month of Elul is a season of reflection in which people take stock of their lives, looking back at where they have been over the past year. According to New York City’s Central Synagogue website, “While Elul is a time for individual work, Rosh HaShanah reminds us that we must also take stock as a community and commit ourselves to acts of tzedakah (justice) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). When Yom Kippur comes around 10 days later, each of us is obligated to have asked for forgiveness from those whom we have harmed so that we may do the real work of teshuva (repentance)—figuring out how we are going to engage in deep change, both with ourselves and with our community.”
Teshuva is essentially a turning around—a “returning to God with all our hearts” as Marty Haugen writes in an oft-sung Lenten song. All of these attitudes and practices—acts of justice, repairing the world, confession, repentance, forgiveness—are important for any person making the turn and seeking a deeper relationship with God.
While many offer our personal shortcomings up to God, communal prayers of confession and repentance can be powerful, as the liturgical acknowledgment of our Episcopal friends: “Most merciful God, we confess that we havesinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry andwe humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ.”
Rabbi Michael Lerner and the Tikkun community offer a progressive and full litany of communal sins and encourage participation by anyone who would have a clean heart and right spirit. https://www.tikkun.org/for-the-sins-a-contemporary-version-of-atonement-on-yom-kippur-and-all-year-round/
Consider participating in Yom Kippur services on line at a local synagogue or at Central Synagogue, speaking together the way we miss the mark, being inspired by a thoughtful sermon, and moved by the kol nidre (here sung when Rabbi Angela Buchwald was cantor) www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C-8f_SoNqg.
O God, Because I have “promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep,” help me to return to you. Amen
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – September 15, 2021
I Corinthians 13: 8-13
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
A Word of Hope
During my youth ministry career, I was challenged to write about what can be learned about the nature of God and our relationship to God by observing adolescence.
The initial conclusions were not favorable. God is moody? God is excessively smelly? God can’t focus?
As I thought about adolescence, what became clearer to me is that our relationship to God evolves and ever evolves.
As a pre-teen, a person is recently connected to childhood. They can easily remember a simpler relationship with the world. We’re playing with toys, creating art from crayons, hugging stuffed animals, and our parent(s) are amazing providers of chicken nuggets… and everything else we need.
Entering the teenage years, a person begins dreaming of what adulthood will be like. They begin to have a dim idea of what it means to have a career, fall in love, and live independently.
Meanwhile, this teen is also navigating adolescence and it’s a confusing mess. The body is awkward and changing, expectations of independence stress the mind, and figuring out sexuality and identity becomes a priority.
In today’s reading, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians that our relationship to God in this life may be that of an adolescent. “We see only a reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face” says Paul. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
I take comfort in knowing that sometimes our adult relationship with God is that of a moody, smelly, unfocused 13-year-old. I rest in the idea that while we sometimes only see a reflection of what we are meant to me; God sees us face-to-face. While we know some things about our fears, our hopes, and our faith; God knows us intimately, lovingly, completely.
I’m grateful for a God that knows me not only as who I was and who I am, but knows me as a completed creation. I’m grateful for a God that loves me like a patient parent who sees what I can be.
Loving Christ. You see me completely. You know me fully. I’m grateful that you nurture me in this life. I’m grateful that you love me unconditionally. Amen.
Tuesday – September 14, 2021
So, if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
A Word of Hope
Dr. Jesus Will See You Now
If Jesus were a doctor, what sort of doctor would he be? Probably Doctor of Divinity/Theology or Doctor of Ministry would be on the list. As would Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Education. Most likely, Medical Doctor—or any of the many titles that designate someone who is skilled in the healing arts. Though we may not think of Jesus in these terms and titles, there are many titles we give to the Christ to remind us that he is “Other.”
We very much need the Holy to be “Other” so that we can more easily ignore the Holy—the Divine—that is a part of each of us.
If Jesus was a human embodiment of the sacred, and we are not like Jesus, then there is one excuse for not striving for higher standards. Road rage is human, so that makes it more acceptable. The same inference can be implied for bullying at school, name calling on social media, or throwing bricks at public servants or beer cans at game officials.
We don’t need to be perfect, only the perfect blend of the mortal and the divine that comprises what it is to be divinely Human.
We can heal with our words and our hands, just like Jesus. We can feed the hungry with our deeds and our speech that inspires others to share, multiplying abundance where there was only great want.
We each have the capacity to live divine, humane, and Christ-like lives. It may involve restraint of the tongue, which can be learned; compassion of the heart, which can be cultivated; and reordering our values, which can be refined when we remember who and whose we are.
Jesus, who reveals the sacred that we are often blind to, remind us to claim our holy sacredness as divinely human so that we can move from rejection to acceptance of each other. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Gary G. Kindley
Monday – September 13, 2021
Romans 3. 10-17
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
A Word of Hope
Today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans is all the proof we need that the Apostle Paul did indeed have a Facebook account. The Beloved Apostle didn’t spare one malicious metaphor or acidic accusation in this eloquent condemnation of the entire human race. The only difference in this and the posts of so many Facebook regulars is that Paul had a much more creative vocabulary.
In reality, Paul’s Social Media group would have been called Face-to-Face-about-the-Book. Before his conversion and the change of his user handle from Saul of Tarsus to Paul, he was raised and educated as a Pharisee. Young Saul would have participated in many lively and heated discussions centered on orthodox interpretations and inflexible opinions about their Hebrew Scriptures. It was a routine activity of priests, scribes, and scholars to engage in endless debates about what their Holy Book meant to the first century generation. They had no group membership rules about being kind and courteous or never using insulting and bullying language. And sadly, there was no method of blocking unwanted intruders.
It was in this atmosphere that Paul wrote today’s barbed conclusion to a much longer passage of specific condemnations in his no-holds-barred letter Phoebe delivered to the Roman church. I’ve always wondered about the tone of voice she must have used when she read this aloud to the unsuspecting congregation. It follows a list of obvious offenders classified as the worst of sinners by the pious among the group, but then sneaks in a surprise ending that includes the whole room among the unrighteous.
What Paul is actually saying to them, and later to us, is that nobody’s perfect- especially those among us who think that they are. The refined writer of the Gospel of Luke would have called Paul’s delivery less than subtle, but, I am sure the impassioned Apostle’s point did not escape his listeners’ understanding.
In the end, Paul was doing the work of Jesus who never wasted time yelling at people society labeled as sinners. He was too busy reminding the “perfect” among them to what degree they were not. However, unless you are a first century Apostle, I would not recommend using his technique on Facebook.
We are grateful for the words of Scripture that remind us of who we really are as opposed to our sometimes-inflated images of who we see ourselves to be. Thank you for Paul’s serving today of humble pie, a much-neglected desert. Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)