March 24 – Oscar Romero

Today’s Bible reading an an excerpt

Read Isaiah 61

The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.
Everyone will praise him!
His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring,
with plants springing up everywhere.

More thoughts for meditation about Oscar Romero

Until he was 62 years old, Óscar Romero y Galdámez served as priest, bishop, and finally Archbishop of San Salvador in the Central American nation El Salvador. On Monday, March 24, 1980 Romero was shot through the heart while lifting the chalice as part of the communion meal. The day before, in a sermon broadcast by radio, Romero called on Salvadoran soldiers to disobey orders that would contradict a life in Christ―namely carrying out the government’s repression and denial of basic human rights.

His appointment to Archbishop was seen as a “safe” move by conservative elements of the church and the government, while the progressive priests were disappointed. The latter were involved in criticizing the systemic sin ruining their country and were open with their teaching and activism surrounding class conflict, sometimes implicating the Catholic Church as part of the oppressor class. Their worldview, and later Romero’s, became widely known as Liberation Theology.

After a friend of Romero’s was assassinated for his “subversive” activities in 1977, Romero was astonished at the lack of help in the investigation he received from the authorities. He felt the call to follow his late friend, Rutilio Grande, in his work and potentially into death. His letter to President Jimmy Carter petitions “His Excellency” as a Christian and as someone who cares about human rights to cut off  military aid to the Salvadoran government because it would violently carry out the interests of the military oligarchy not the people. After Romero’s death Carter increased military aid, having previously restricted it to humanitarian.

Romero wrote: “We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us. The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.”―from The Violence of Love (get it as a free audio book!)

Want more?

Martyr’s Prayer Project video [link]

The movie: Romero. Watch part 7

Oliver Stone’s Salvador [Trailer: link]

Jean Donovan and the murdered nuns [link]

The government admitted to the murder of priests twenty years later [link]

Jon Sobrino on Romero [link, in Spanish]

Summary of U.S. policy decisions. [link]

Suggestions for action

The Salvadoran Church was instrumental in ending the country’s civil war. They risked their lives for the gospel and stood in solidarity with the poor, often at the cost of family ties and livelihoods. The United States was intimately involved in the repressive policies and work of the death squads. Everybody, in El Salvador and the United States, had a difficult time seeing the evil, even with people dying around them. Consider whether you also are accepting an evil.

March 20 – Gordon Cosby

Today’s Bible reading

Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-11

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

More thoughts for meditation about Gordon Cosby

On this day in 2013 Gordon Cosby died at the age of 95, just a few years after retiring.

In 1944 Cosby helped invade Utah Beach on D-Day, where he witnessed enormous loss and served those injured and dying. From then on he was convinced of the futility of war and convicted to help the church equip people to make the transition into what is after death.

He planted the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. in 1946. By 1953 the group had become more official and had also purchased land in Maryland to build a retreat lodge for silence and rest. Over the years nine faith communities and several notable non-profits formed with Gordon and his wife Mary serving as catalysts.

As an activist, Cosby participated in numerous non-violent direct actions as well as creating space for people to organize for justice. In 1960, his church began the first Christian coffeehouse as a place to get the church further into needed social spaces in the world rather than being cloistered. Cosby led people to BE the church for over sixty years, beginning successful and lasting ministries for foster kids, the homeless, people with HIV/AIDS, housing creation, and job training, The Church of the Savior has been a pioneer in numerous inward practices and disciplines such as retreating and linkage between urban and rural areas, as well as on the forefront of outward practices such as racial reconciliation and local justice work.

Jim Wallis of Sojourners recounts (link below) “Gordon Cosby never needed or wanted to be out front or become a famous public figure. He could have spoken across the country, and was often invited to do so. But he instead decided that his own vocation was to stay with a relatively small group of people trying to “be the church” in Washington, D.C.: the Church of the Saviour, which has produced more missions and ministries, especially with the poor, than any church I know of anywhere in the country — even the huge mega-churches who capture all the fame. He never…went on television, talked to presidents, planted more churches, built national movements, or traveled around the world. He just inspired everybody else to do all those things and much more. And the world came to him.”

Cosby has been credited as a mentor or inspiration by countless ministries, leaders, activists, pastors, and churches over the decades, including Circle of Hope. In a sermon in 1989, Cosby said “Faith is trusting the flow and reveling in the view and being carried beyond all existing boundaries. Faith is being excited about the final destination, even when the destination is mystery. When Jesus says, ‘Believe in God, believe also in me,’ he is saying, Get into the stream with us. It is a stream of pure grace and mercy. Go into its depths and find us there.”

More:

Church of the Savior online [link]

Obituary from Ched Myers’ blog [link]

Four minute piece on NPR’s All Things Considered [link]

Memorial piece in Washington Post [link]

Articles by Cosby on Sojourners [link]

Jim Wallis on Cosby [link] and his interview with Mary [link]

Frontline article on the Church of the Savior [link]

Suggestions for action

Gordon Cosby wrote several books. His Handbook for Mission Groups was influential in how we decided to form our compassion teams. You might want to check it out.

What do you think of Cosby’s conviction to stay local? He poured himself into his territory in Washington D.C. and into the people of his church. He resisted the fame game. How do you see yourself? Do you long to be more honored than you are?

March 17 – Patrick

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Acts 2:14-24 

What you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.

Patrick on the hill

More thoughts for meditation about Patrick of Ireland

Because Patrick lived so long ago some of his life remains a mystery to us. For instance, his death is believed to have been on this day in about 493 AD, but the date is controversial. We do know that he was born into a wealthy family in Britain, to a father who was a Christian deacon. We do not have evidence about Patrick being faithful himself as a child. When he was sixteen, he was captured by a group of Irish raiders and taken back to Ireland as a slave where he remained for the next six years. He worked as a shepherd, an isolated life, and turned to his faith during this  period, becoming very devout. After six years in slavery, he escaped. According to his writings, he ran away after God spoke to him through a dream. He further reported how he experienced another revelation from an angel in a dream, once he had returned home, telling him to go back to Ireland in order to tell those who had been his captors the good news of Jesus.

At this point Patrick began religious studies that lasted fifteen years. When he was ordained a priest he returned to Ireland. Since he was familiar with the language and the culture, Patrick built traditions from Ireland into his lessons about Jesus. He chose not to attack Irish beliefs, but to incorporate certain beliefs and demonstrate how they were fulfilled in Christ. So he superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol of worship, on the cross and created the Celtic cross. He famously used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the concept of the trinity. Patrick had spectacular success in converting the Irish and a body of stories developed around him and his successful evangelism tactics for centuries following his life.

One famous story was incorporated into our celebration of Patrick in 2013 as we lit our own “fires of resistance.” The story goes that Patrick came to the Hill of Slane in County Meath in an early attempt to convert pagan Ireland to Christianity. On the eve of the Christian feast of Easter, 433 A.D. which coincided with the Druid feast of Bealtine (Beal’s fire) and the Spring Equinox, St. Patrick defiantly lit a bonfire on the Hill of Slane. There was a decree that no fire should be lit in the vicinity when the great festival fire of Bealtine blazed at the Royal seat of power on the nearby Hill of Tara, easily visible from Slane.

The lighting of a fire may seem trivial, but at the time it was equivalent to declaring war on the Druid religious leaders and challenging the power of the High King of Ireland. That small act of starting a fire was a turning point in Patrick’s life and in the history of Ireland.  

We remember the courage and love Patrick showed when he returned to those who had “stolen” his youth, and became their servant, bringing the revelation of Jesus to the Irish people. His life is a testament to listening to God, following dreams, and courageously giving witness to what one receives from the Holy Spirit.

Read Patrick’s Confession online!

There are interesting translations of Patrick’s famous prayer: Breastplate.

Patrick TV Bio

Rod’s post-sabbatical speech about Patrick (or his update this year in print)

Suggestions for action

Light a fire! Where is your faith being run over or where is it nonexistent? That is a good place to light a fire in some way. You may not be called to be a dramatic as Patrick (but maybe your are!). But what can you do to give people a chance to know Jesus and escape what enslaves them?

March 10 – Harriet Tubman

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Exodus 3:11-20

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

More thoughts for meditation about Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman (b. around 1820d. Mar 10, 1913), aka Moses, escaped enslavement in Maryland and went to Philadelphia when she was 29 years old. She is justifiably famous for helping others escape and for undermining slavery.

  • She helped her dear friend, John Brown, plan the infamous raid on Harper’s Ferry.
  • She helped plan of the Union’s Combahee River raid in 1863, during which 750 slaves escaped.
  • Her 20+ personal expeditions back down south freed at least 70 people, and she never lost a single “passenger” on what became known as the Underground Railroad.

Harriet remained a devout Christian throughout her life. She accomplished much despite never learning to read or write.  Her reputation sparked hope among the enslaved peoples of North America and perhaps equal anger among the slave owners.

As is true of many of the Negro Spirituals, “Go Down, Moses” had multiple levels of meaning. It was about the liberation story from Exodus; it was about hope for liberation, but it was also about the possibility of Tubman herself coming to liberate, and depending on which verses one sang, contained advice for escape tactics.

After the end of the Civil War Tubman settled in Washington, D.C. and participated in the emerging national suffrage movement. In 1911, two years before she died, she attended a meeting of the suffrage club in Geneva, New York, where a white woman asked her: “Do you really believe that women should vote?” Tubman reportedly replied, “I suffered enough to believe it.”

Harriet Tubman quotes:

  • Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
  • I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.
  • I think there’s many a slaveholder’ll get to Heaven. They don’t know better. They acts up to the light they have.
  • As I lay so sick on my bed, from Christmas till March, I was always praying for poor ole master. ‘Pears like I didn’t do nothing but pray for ole master. ‘Oh, Lord, convert ole master;’ ‘Oh, dear Lord, change dat man’s heart, and make him a Christian.’
  • Twasn’t me, ’twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ an’ He always did.

Suggestions for action

Moses was not sure he had the strength to free the people of Israel who had been enslaved in Egypt. Like him, Harriet Tubman relied on the strength of God to accomplish her daring work. Large or small, what are you moved to do that requires God with you to accomplish?

March 6 — Ash Wednesday

Today’s Bible Reading and an excerpt

Read Isaiah 58

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
and breaking every yoke?

More thoughts for meditation about Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the deep season of Lent. If you attend one of our observances, you will be given the opportunity to make the sign of the cross on your forehead with ashes collected by burning last year’s Palm Sunday palms.

The symbol is meant to remind us of our need for repentance, the need to turn and go in a new direction. We made the ashes out of the palms we used last Palm Sunday, when they symbolized our hope in Jesus being a triumphant king. As ashes, they remind us that we often get things wrong and we often need to turn around, to repent and concentrate our attention on how to depend on God in our lives more actively. Like the people in Jerusalem who greeted Jesus during his final entry into the city, we all want Jesus to be a visible, easy-to-know-and-follow king who is always the winner, always leading a joyous parade. But as we all know, that parade from last Palm Sundayas is true with every Palm Sunday parade, leads not to our easy discipleship, but instead to the cross where something far deeper than our desires to win is won for us.

We can’t live lives marked by Jesus and stay on the surface of things, following rules, trying to be right/good. Jesus told the Pharisees that just wasn’t a viable option. He said such an ambition would be a delusion because our hearts are the problem. We need something new to happen at the depths of us. Jesus is calling for a new way of being altogether. We must go to the heart of things and to the heart of ourselves, turn away from our ideas of what’s best and turn to the Living God.

More from Rod for those who feel too bad to be involved in Lent: [link]

Catholic Lent for beginners

Suggestions for action

If you are not eager to attend an observance, make yourself do it. If you can’t go at night, go in the morning to one of the Catholic rites. Lent is a season for getting your body to go the direction of your faith. Wear the cross.

March 5 – Mardi Gras

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Judges 6:33-40

Then the Lord’s spirit came over Gideon, and he sounded the horn and summoned the Abiezrites to follow him.  He sent messengers into all of Manasseh, and they were also summoned to follow him. Then he sent messengers into Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali too, and they marched up to meet them.

More thoughts for meditation about Mardi Gras

Like Gideon’s trumpet, the season of Lent calls all the tribes together to resist the enemies of God. Though we seem weak, we are strong. The most unlikely weaklings will dance in the street in the face of the powers attempting to dominate them. Mardi Gras is appropriately uproarious, if you see it right. In some sense, to be a Jesus follower is to be a fool, to use your clowning to unmask the powers-that-be who pretend they are very serious entities when, in fact, they are just a breath and have a master.

The Eve of Lent became a time to hold off the inevitable, even to mock and diminish the authority of the spiritual season “imposed” on everyone which begins on Ash Wednesday. In Europe, the church of the Middle Ages had a lot of power to impose the rigors of an enforced fast during the 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter. Before the fast began, people partied and did things they shouldn’t do in order to get those things out of their system before they committed (or were forced to commit) to doing the things they should do.

One of the things many people did (and still do) was eat all the foods they wouldn’t be seeing for a while during their Lenten fast. In Pennsylvania Dutch territory a “fastnacht” came to be the name of a donut instead of the title of the day: Fast Night or Lent Eve. Unfortunately, “Fat Tuesday” (Mardi Gras in French) came to be a day to store up as much of the past as possible, so one could endure the season of moving into what is next. Instead of being shriven on Shrove Tuesday, many people are just like Peter, trying to keep Jesus (and themselves) from going to Jerusalem.

The news gives a priest 5 minutes to explain mardi Gras and the whole season:

Suggestions for action

Jesus’ journey to the cross is the ultimate pilgrimage into what is next. Let’s respond to the trumpet and move with him. Let’s keep in mind his concerns, so we don’t get stuck in what is merely human. There’s nothing wrong with being human, of course, unless we don’t have in mind the things of God. If people think you are a fool, that might be a good thing.

March 2 – John Wesley

Image result for john wesley
Surrounded by the mob in Wednesbury, England

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Ephesians 2:1-10

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

More thoughts for meditation about John Wesley

John Wesley lived for most of the 18th  century (1703-1791). He was the world-famous founder of Methodism which is alive and well in many forms all over Creation right now.

John and his brother, Charles, were twentysomethings when they began to meet as the “Holy Club” they founded at Oxford. They read spiritual classics and tried to apply what they read to their lives and encourage one another. It sounds a lot like a cell meeting.

In 1735 John and Charles went on a missionary trip to the colony of Georgia. John returned very discouraged that he couldn’t translate his ideas about God in effective ways for the people of the colony. In this period of discouragement, he became friends with a Moravian preacher, Peter Boehler. At a small religious meeting connected to the Moravians in Aldersgate Street, London, on May 24, 1738, John had an experience with God that changed his life. He famously described this experience as having his heart “strangely warmed.”  This personal encounter with God prompted John to spend the rest of his life energetically encouraging others to meet God personally. This encounter with God seems to have caused his faith to move from mostly his head to his heart; it activated a deep dependence on God’s grace and a whole new way of living that he then shared with thousands of people.

Wesley’s faith was devoted to social justice as well preaching. It is hard to overestimate how large a transforming force the Methodists were in England and the United States in the 17 and 1800s. They can be congratulated for being instrumental in the abolition of slavery by England, as well as the uplifting or the poor in countless ways.

Notables quotes from Wesley:

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

“Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can”

“Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.”

“Every one, though born of God in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees.”

“When I was young I was sure of everything. In a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before. At present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to me.”

“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”

“A Christian may go abundantly further: his end in all his labor is to please God—to do not his own will but the will of Him who sent him into the world for this very purpose: to do the will of God on earth as angels do in heaven. He works for eternity. He does not labor for the food that perishes (this is the smallest part of his motive), but for that which endures to everlasting life. And is not this a more excellent way?”

  • Want more? Try this article from Christian History magazine [link]

Suggestions for Action

John Wesley caused enormous change in the lives of individuals and in both England and the United States by giving people practical ways to live out radical faith. Circle of Hope reflects his methods. Do you contribute to the means we have to be change agents together, or do you kind of do your own thing?

Ask God to move you from your head to heartor just anywhere.

March 1 – David of Wales

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Isaiah 52:6-8

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

More thoughts for meditation about David of Wales

David was a 6th Century Bishop in Wales, who became well known as a teacher and preacheran apostle to Wales. He is often pictured with a white dove. The story goes that when a crowd gathered to listen to him, some people complained that they couldn’t see or hear him, so the ground rose up under him to create a hill for him to stand on so everyone had a good view of him. A white dove descended and landed on his shoulder which was seen as a sign of God’s presence and blessing.

St. Davids Cathedral in Wales

When the pagan Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries, many British Christians sought refuge in the hill country of Wales. There they developed a style of Christian life devoted to learning, asceticism, and missionary fervor, much like the Celtic church of Ireland and Scotland. Since there were no cities, the centers of culture were the monasteries, and most abbots were bishops as well. Dewi (David in English) was the founder, abbot, and bishop of the monastery of Mynyw (Menevia in English) in Pembrokeshire. He was responsible for much of the spread of Christianity in Wales, and his monastery was sought out by many scholars from Ireland and elsewhere. He is commonly seen as the apostle of Wales, as Patrick is of Ireland. His tomb is in St. David’s cathedral, on the site of ancient Mynyw, now called Ty-Dewi (House of David). The cathedral is set on a spectacular peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic upon the site of an earlier sixth-century monastery. It has been a site of pilgrimage and worship for more than 800 years.

William Penn deeded territory to Welsh-speakings Quakers in the 1600’s. That accounts for Welsh place names along the “main line:”  North Wales, Lower Merion, Upper Merion, Bala Cynwyd, Radnor, and Haverford, later Gladwyne, Bryn Mawr and Llanerch, home to the now famous Llanerch Diner.

Want more? here is an interesting addition [link]

Suggestions for action

Think about what “center” of faith you are building: a cell, the church, a team? Think about the people who want to use you to build a center for their enterprise. Dewi was carving a place in “enemy” territory for Jesus. What place are you leaving when you go?

February 28 – John Cassian

John Cassian

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read 2 Corinthians 6:17-7:3

Therefore, “Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”

And, “I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

More thoughts for meditation about John Cassian

John Cassian taught: “God can be sensed when we gaze with trembling hearts at that power of his which controls, guides, and rules everything, when we contemplate his immense knowledge and his knowing look which the secrets of the heart cannot evade.”

John’s writings reflect his adventurous, radical, ever-seeking life. He was born in the Danube Delta in what is now Dobrogea, Romania, in about 360 (some sources instead place him as a native of Gaul). In 382 he entered a monastery in Bethlehem and after several years was granted permission, along with his friend, Germanus, to visit the Desert Fathers and Mothers in Egypt. They remained in Egypt until 399, except for a brief period when they returned to Bethlehem and were released from their vows.

After they left Egypt they went to Constantinople, where they met John Chrysostom, who ordained  John Cassian as a deacon. He had to leave Constantinople in 403 when Chrysostom was exiled, eventually settling close to Marseilles, in modern France, where he was ordained a priest and founded two monasteries, one for women and one for men.

John’s most famous works are the Institutes, which detail how to live the monastic life, and the Conferences, which provide details of conversations between John and Germanus and the Desert Fathers and Mothers. These writings were hugely influential. He also waded into the big controversies of his day. He ably warned against some of the excesses in Augustine of Hippo’s theology when he defamed Pelagius, whose writings he also found extreme, in parts. He also defended the nature of Christ against Nestorius. John Cassian died peacefully in 435.

Cassian, like many during his time, was seeking to deepen his relationship with God and to escape a corrupting culture. He tried to balance the tension between pursuing an individual purity, loving God in solitude where distractions were limited, as the Desert Fathers and Mothers taught him, with living in a community with like-minded companions who could guide one’s journey. His life is a testament to seeking holiness individually and to loving God and others in community.

A quote from Conference Nine:

We need to be especially careful to follow the gospel precept which instructs us to go into our room and to shut the door so that we may pray to our Father. And this is how we can do it.

We pray in our room whenever we withdraw our hearts completely from the tumult and the noise of our thoughts and our worries and when secretly and intimately we offer our prayers to the Lord.

We pray with the door shut when without opening our mouths and in perfect silence we offer our petitions to the One who pays no attention to words but who looks hard at our hearts.

We pray in secret when in our hearts alone and in our recollected spirits we address God and reveal our wishes only to Him and in such a way that the hostile powers themselves have no inkling of their nature. Hence we must pray in utter silence, not simply in order that our whispers and our cries do not prove both a distraction to our brothers standing nearby and a nuisance to them when they themselves are praying but also so as to ensure that the thrust of our pleading be hidden from our enemies who are especially lying in wait to attack us during our prayers. In this way we shall fulfill the command “Keep your mouth shut from the one who sleeps on your breast” (Mi 7:5).

The reason why our prayers ought to be frequent and brief is in case the enemy, who is out to trap us, should slip a distraction to us if ever we are long-drawn-out. There lies true sacrifice. “The sacrifice which God wants is a contrite heart” (Ps 51:19). This indeed is the saving oblation, the pure offering, the sacrifice of justification, the sacrifice of praise. These are the real and rich thank offerings, the fat holocausts offered up by contrite and humble hearts. If we offer them to God in the way and with zeal which I have mentioned we can be sure to be heard and we can sing: “Let my prayer rise up like incense before your face and my hands like the evening offering” (Ps 141:2).

Want even more?

Hit all the tabs on this site [link]

Cassian’s tomb in Marseille [link]

Suggestions for action

John is such a scholar! Let’s think about our own study. What would you do with Micah 7:5? John reads it in a contemplative way, using it to speak into his personal relationship with God. He sees all the Bible as a means to that end. You might say, he starts his reading from his relationship with God, not from the words of the Bible.

In fact (as 21st century people see fact) Micah’s colorful analogy has little to do with relating to God or the devil, the  prophet is talking about not being able to trust your intimates when trouble comes.  John Cassian goes beyond the “facts.”

Do you want to think about what you are doing with these different ways to look at the same sentences? You could start with the prophet, start with yourself, or start with God, or even think of the words as having meaning in themselvesall might be profitable. How do you start your study of the Bible?

February 27 – Fred Rogers

Today’s Bible reading

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

More thoughts for meditation about Fred Rogers

Fred Rogers, television pioneer and gentle subversive for Jesus, was born in 1928 in Latrobe, PA. He went to a local high school and studied piano at Dartmuth and Rollins College (Florida), graduating in 1951. While taking a break from college to visit his parents, he saw their newest favorite gadget: the television. He had mixed feelings about the programming, but he was inspired to use the powerful medium for something wonderful.

Rogers married Sara Byrd in 1952; they had two sons. He got one of his first jobs working at a local Pittsburgh community television station, WQED. He became one of the pioneers in the field as part of a team who improvised the Children’s Corneralso serving as puppeteer. While developing meaningful content for kids, Rogers also finished his Masters of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. After he was ordained by the Presbyterian Church USA in 1963, the church charged him to create quality children’s programming.

He moved to Toronto in 1963 to play Mister Rogers in a show for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Here he further developed several characters and songs that would become famous. That 15-minute program was called Misterogers. In 1966, he acquired the rights to various elements of the show and moved back to Pittsburgh to work with WQED. He began Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, for which he wrote most of the scripts, the music, played several of the characters, and hosted until 2000. In 1968, PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) began broadcasting Mister Rogers Neighborhood all across the country.

During its run of daily episodes, Rogers hardly embellished his offscreen personality (besides the puppets, of course) because he thought authenticity was a gift to kids. He did not endorse any products and only served as a spokesperson for a few non-profits dealing with education. He visited children in the Pittsburgh hospitals regularly and volunteered inside a state prison. When PBS’ funding was under fire by a Senate Committee in 1969, Rogers gave a key testimony that saved the station.

The show was very simple and did not include fast-paced action or over-stimulating animations, which Rogers called “bombardment.” Wearing the famous zip-up cardigans knitted by his mother, Mister Rogers talked directly to his audience imaginatively and engagingly. He “took them” on field trips to see how crayons were made and explored themes of being afraid, going to school, how good it feels to be able to control your temper, teaching kids that they have worth and to love themselves and others. He brought in various guests including several recurring characters. In each episode a trolley would come into his living room and take the audience to the land of make believe. His opening and closing songs, as well as the changing of jackets to sweaters and shoes to sneakers helped us all feel like he actually was our neighbor.

Rogers won 4 Emmysplus a Daytime Emmy lifetime achievement award. That acceptance speech (mostly to talkshow hosts & soap opera stars) became famous, as he used 10 seconds of silence for the crowd and the viewers to think about the people who loved them into being who they are (video link below). Rogers was given numerous other honors over the years including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.

Rogers was known and admired for his calm and quirky personality and a devoted faith. He was known to swim every day, ate a vegetarian diet, and was red-green colorblind. Shortly after the last shows aired in 2001, Fred Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The operations were not successful, and he died at home surrounded by his wife and family on this day in 2003, just before he turned 75.

Want more?

FredRogers.org [link]

Rogers’ 1997 Daytime Emmy Awards acceptance speech [link]

Obituary [link]

Suggestions for action

Fred Rogers gently infiltrated the most powerful means of communication of his time and used it to relentlessly advance his example of love and his background message: the teachings of Jesus. He even took the Senate’s thoughts “captive.” The scripture for today calls us to be so clever and so bold. How do you see your role in your environment? Chances there are arguments and opinions raised against the revelation of God in Jesus. What is your strategy for getting the love and truth of Jesus into the mix? Pray about that.