The need for the common good has never seemed so timely.
“What? What happened?” My co-worker asked, sensing the solemn look on my face.
“Another patient died,” I reported. Grief and thick silence hang in the air as I thought back to the last time I saw this person, hospitalized, unable to speak, but for a brief moment our hands met in an embrace, and although he couldn’t speak, his demeanor and soft touch of the hand said it all.
I brought myself back to the present moment. It was the end of the work day and I strapped on my helmet to bike home, a Lenten commitment I’ve found to be incredibly rejuvenating.
I pedal past the housing projects and turn the corner around the city jail. Activists holding bright colored placards protest peacefully against the death penalty. I smile at them. “Keep up the good work!” I enthuse, giving them a thumbs up from my navy blue mitten and pedal on my way.
A second later, it hits me. Tears rush to my eyes but refuse to come out. The taut muscles in my throat contract; that familiar lump in which no words can come out, just expressions of the heart. Yes, it hit me.The juxtaposition and irony of it all. Life and death. One man died today from four letters that no one should ever have to die from, but globally, some 1.8 million do every year. Another man protested for the life of another to not be cut short before the redemption and healing and forgiveness began.
More than once I’ve been referred to as a modern-day Troubadour. I’ve always liked this designation because it has a romantic, archaic ring to it that sounds just a little bit more flattering than mere singer/songwriter, naturally appealing to my vanity. But it once occurred to me that I wasn’t entirely sure of its meaning and thought I should look it up.
Not surprisingly, I discovered the word to have various historical uses and nuances. But the definition that intrigued me most, and which I recognize as fairly accurate of my own sense of calling and vocation is this:
a lyric poet sent by one (usually of the King’s court)
with a message of chaste love to another.
Well … there you go. Just two weeks ago (on Valentines Day) I posted a song and message of chaste love in a blog. In it, I celebrated 30 years of marriage to my wife Nanci; a union that has resulted in three beloved (now adult) children, their own unions to beloved others, two grandchildren, and a deeply meaningful, long-term foster relationship with a young woman and her beautiful children who, in fact, are coming over for dinner tonight. I can’t wait.
Although not every chaste union strives to produce offspring, Fr. Gabrielle of St. Magdalen, in his meditative devotional Divine Intimacy, teaches that the highest glory of the chaste union is in it’s potential to become a willing “collaborator with God in the transmission of life.” That is: a relationship that is materially fecund; suggesting a dark, loamy richness capable of concealing and safeguarding a vulnerable seed, and providing a nutrient-rich soil from which it can spring to it’s own leafy uniqueness. It’s a lovely image.
Ironically, what struck me this morning is that Valentines Day is celebrated at the very onset of the season of Lent. And Lent, in contradistinction to Valentines, is essentially a season where the Christian “faithful” penitently consider the devastating disaster that is infidelity — particularly, infidelity to God, and by extension, to all that God is in faithful relationship to.
Use this Lenten season as a time to grow closer to God and simplify your life. Try a new suggestion from this list each day and experience the stronger relationships and calmer pace of an (almost) Amish lifestyle!
1. Start a giveaway box and add at least three items of clothes you have not worn in the last year.
2. Is there a form of technology that is ruling you like a master rather than serving you like a tool? Unplug for 24 hours and rediscover the peace that passes all understanding.
A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Who in their right mind looks forward to Lent? Seven weeks of preparation to lead up to Good Friday hardly seems like an enjoyable way to spend our time.
Why not work on those New Year’s resolutions that have already been slipping instead? How about some more quality time with the family? What good, after all, can come from dwelling on darkness and death for more than forty days?
How about we all just agree to skip Lent this year and just get back together on Easter, okay?
VATICAN CITY — In a move that took the world by surprise, Pope Benedict XVI announced on Monday that he will become the first pope in 600 years to resign, with plans to step down on Feb. 28.
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” Benedict told cardinals as they gathered in Rome for the proclamation of new saints.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said preparations for the conclave that will elect Benedict’s successor are in the early stages.
A papal election could be expected “within 10 to 15 days,” he said. “We should have a new pope by Easter.”
“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us--and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
On April 29th, many churches will be hearing this reading from I John 3:16-24 as the Epistle Lesson for the Revised Common Lectionary for the Fourth Sunday of Easter/Year B. Here is a new hymn inspired by this biblical teaching for compassion.
In a video address Tuesday, President Obama told hundreds of young evangelical Christian leaders gathered at the Q Conference in Washington, D.C., that they had a partner in the White House in their humanitarian and social justice efforts.
I didn’t see Tim Tebow’s Easter Sunday appearance in Texas. For one, it’s in Texas and I’m not. Plus I kind of have a standing gig on Sundays. But more than that, I was irked when I heard about the big event being planned on, of all days, Easter Sunday.
For the most part, I admire Tim Tebow, even though I don’t agree with him theologically very much. He made one statement about getting back to what this country was founded on, “One Nation, Under God,’ which seriously rubbed me the wrong way (HINT: the phrase “Under God” wasn’t added to the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950s.), but for the most part, he was the upstanding Christian athlete people have come to expect.
Yesterday the Lord Awoke.
You see, God had been sleeping. Entombed again. How long, O Lord, must we sing this song of You Entombed? We bury you again and again. We crucify you again and again. Then, when you show us (again and again) that death cannot contain you, we run away. We're afraid. We cannot imagine a world in which Death has no sting. We cannot imagine a world in which Death does not hold the last word and our ability to deal in Death doesn't empower us.
The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 28 tells us:
The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.
"Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.' That's the message."
Poetry is language made material.
It presents us with objects and the world, yes, that is part of its materiality, but it also – and perhaps fundamentally – makes our very language into a thing, rather than simply a medium. Like remembering that you exist in time, and becoming aware of your temporality, poetry takes what we are always immersed in and says, Remember; become aware.
Thus it is like all art a meditative practice. You must slow down, quiet yourself, and actively receive – a strange gesture, perhaps paradoxical, but one that is, if nothing else, prayer. And so for Holy Week, I want to present four (mostly) contemporary poems that can direct meditation without limiting it, that can engage prayer in our physical existence and the existence of the Resurrection as event, that can slow one down, that can build sensual memory of the acts we do and life we live in constant remembrance of it, of Him.
In his weeky address, President Obama said in part:
"For millions of Americans, this weekend is a time to celebrate redemption at God’s hand. Tonight, Jews will gather for a second Seder, where they will retell the story of the Exodus. And tomorrow, my family will join Christians around the world as we thank God for the all-important gift of grace through the resurrection of His son, and experience the wonder of Easter morning.
"These holidays have their roots in miracles that took place thousands of years ago. They connect us to our past and give us strength as we face the future. And they remind us of the common thread of humanity that connects us all.
"For me, and for countless other Christians, Easter weekend is a time to reflect and rejoice...."
I’ve never liked the fact that we call the day on which we remember Jesus’ crucifixion “Good Friday.” What’s so good about it anyway? Personally I find the entirety of Holy Week – save for Easter – pretty depressing. Sure, the days are getting longer and things have started to grow all around us, but until Easter, the focus of the week is the suffering and death of an innocent man.
It turns out that, although plenty of folks have their own explanations, nobody actually knows why we call it Good Friday. I think the Germans are spot-on by calling it Karfreitag, which means “Suffering Friday.”
Figures the Germans would be more content to sit with suffering than the rest of us. They’re so serious! But I digress…
President Obama hosted his third annual Easter prayer breakfast for about 150 members of the clergy from across the nation in the East Room of the White House Wednesday morning. In his six-minute address, Obama reflected on the spiritual messages of Easter -- Jesus' triumphant overcoming of his own human doubts and fears so that all of humanity might do the same.
"For like us, Jesus knew doubt," Obama said. "Like us, Jesus knew fear. In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.' He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
"So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection. It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened -- that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, 'He is Risen!'"
When my grandmother died when I was 15, I wanted the world to stop. I remember looking at traffic on the road near my home and just wanting everyone to be still — to stop and ponder what we all had lost in losing my grandmother and her love.
That adolescent desire is exponentially greater this week juxtaposed with the 44th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the continuing lack of criminal charges against the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Florida last month.
So I grieve — and I’m not sure what to do with the grief.
There's much to contemplate this Holy Week, from Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Many artists have traveled this path, creating sonic accompaniment for the varied emotions evoked during this sacred week.
Here are a few tracks that move us, and that we’ll have in heavy rotation throughout until Easter Sunday and beyond, including one of the more unusual Resurrection Day songs you've likely ever heard from the Yeshu Bakhti band Aradhna, pictured at right.
Growing up, Easter weekend meant a giant family party at my grandparents’ house complete with a piñata, Easter egg hunt, possibly a mariachi band, and – on at least one occasion – my younger cousins dressing up to perform the Passion play.
But the best part (you know, besides celebrating Jesus resurrecting from the dead, providing salvation for the world)?
Every Christian knows the story: Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. But what did he do on Saturday?
That question has spurred centuries of debate, perplexed theologians as learned as St. Augustine and prodded some Protestants to advocate editing the Apostles' Creed, one of Christianity's oldest confessions of faith.
Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and most mainline Protestant churches teach that Jesus descended to the realm of the dead on Holy Saturday to save righteous souls, such as the Hebrew patriarchs, who died before his crucifixion.
“When religion ruled the world, they called it the Dark Ages.”
That was the bumper sticker quote I read on the tailgate of a white minivan during my morning’s commute to work. Upon reading, I had so many adverse gut-reactions to this statement.
That’s so closed minded. And, Aside from a few erroneous events, don’t you know how much good Christianity has done for the world? And, I am sure you have all the answers to all the world’s problems then don’t you, Mr. White Minivan? (Amusingly, the sticker on the opposite side of the tailgate read “I think, therefore I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh,” to which I thought, Meh, fair enough.)
Once I worked through my initial feelings of angst though, I reflected on those words a bit more. I realized maybe he has a point. When religion rules, things generally do not go well for the people practicing it, or for those who are being subjected to the religious standards.