November 22 – Eberhard Arnold

Today’s Bible reading

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” — Matthew 5:43-45

More thoughts for meditation about Eberhard Arnold

Eberhard Arnold was born in 1883 to a middle class family in Königsberg, Germany (now Kalinigrad of the Russian Federation). After a rambunctious childhood, he experienced an inner change at the age of 16. He became active in evangelism and had increasing compassion for the poor.

He married Emmy von Hollander. They would have five children. Both grew increasingly discontent with the new movements of urbanization and factorization in Germany. They criticized the state church of Germany for various reasons, Later their critique would provide a model for a new movement. In 1915 Arnold became editor of Die Furche (The Furrow) and became a sought-after speaker in the region.

Arnold supported Germany during the first World War at first, even enlisting for a few weeks before being discharged for medical reasons. He sent copies of The Furrow to young people at the front lines. The returning soldiers had a profound influence on Eberhard, and he had an increasingly difficult time reconciling the gospel with war.

During the war, the Germans sustained incredible losses. Afterwards, hunger protests and strikes were common responses to the political upheaval and national shame. Among groups working for change, the Youth Movement inspired Arnold with their love of nature, rejection of materialism, and aspirations towards joy and love.  Eberhard and Emmy began meeting with Youth Movement people once or twice a week in homes.

In 1920, the couple along with Emmy’s sister Else moved to the village of Sannerz to found the Bruderhof (place of brothers) community with seven adults and five children. Their community was founded on the Sermon on the Mount and the witness of the early church. The community grew and needed a bigger farm. Eberhard’s writing continued and he began corresponding with the Hutterite Brethren, an Anabaptist group that had fled to and flourished in the United States. The Bruderhof’s values now also included a common purse as well as pacifism.

The rise of the Nazi party was a catalyst for the Bruderhof to send their children (school age and draft age) out of the country. The rest of the community eventually also fled, during the travel Eberhard sustained a leg injury that led to his death on this day in 1935. The Bruderhof groups re-assembled in England before being forced out of the country. The Mennonite Central Committee helped them relocate to Paraguay, the only country that would accept a pacifist community with mixed nationalities. The Bruderhof Communites are now in four states in the US as well as Germany, Paraguay, and Australia.

Quotes:

“Love sees the good Spirit at work within each person and delights in it. Even if we have just been annoyed with someone, we will feel new joy in them as soon as love rules in us again. We will overcome our personal disagreements and joyfully acknowledge the working of the good Spirit in each other.” — printed in Writings 

“Only those who look with the eyes of children can lose themselves in the object of their wonder. ”
“Truth without love kills, but love without truth lies.”
“Even the sun directs our gaze away from itself and to the life illumined by it.” ― Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
 “We must have the love that exists among children, for with them love rules without any special purpose.”
Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“The whole world is shaking at its joints. We have the frightening impression that we stand before a great and catastrophic judgment. If this catastrophe does not take place, it is only because it has been averted by God’s direct intervention. And the church is called to move God – yes, God himself – to act. This does not mean that God will not or cannot act unless we ask him, but rather that he waits for people to believe in him and expect his intervention. For God acts among us only to the extent that we ask for his action and accept it with our hearts and lives. This is the secret of God’s intervention in history.” — Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“We kill at every step, not only in wars, riots and executions. We kill every time we close our eyes to poverty, suffering and shame.” — Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“We must live in community because we are stimulated by the same creative Spirit of unity who calls nature to unity and through whom work and culture shall become community in God.” ―  Why We Live in Community: With Two Interpretive Talks by Thomas Merton

Want more?

Biography and more: [Eberhard Arnold]

The Bruderhof website [link]

First of five interesting videos on Bruderhof history.

Suggestions for Action

Arnold was a deep thinker who was open to the movement of God’s Spirit. He did not just think, he acted. His life was an incarnation of his convictions. He formed communities that had an influence much greater than their size might justify. Let his example inspire you to express your own faith and devotion in your troubled day.

November 22 – C.S. Lewis

Today’s Bible reading

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. — Luke 1:57-66

More thoughts for meditation about C.S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. His mother, Flora, was the daughter of a Anglican priest (Church of Ireland). His father, Richard, immigrated from Wales and worked as a lawyer (solicitor). He and his brother Warren had a dog named Jacksie, who was killed by a car when Lewis was four years old. He decided that he would take the dog’s name in his mourning, eventually allowing his family to call him Jack – the name friends would refer to him by for the rest of his life.

He was privately tutored and sent to the notoriously abusive Wynyard School in England for two years with his brother after his mother died. He came back home to Belfast and attended Campbell College (for boys 11-18) only to drop out because of respiratory problems. He was sent to a health-resort town back in England where he attended preparatory school. It was there, while he was 15 that he decided he was an atheist. Later in life he would reflect that this decision was largely based on being mad at God for not existing.

His interest in mythology, beast fables, and legends developed – especially Norse, Greek, and Irish mythologies. In them, he sensed what he later named “joy.” He was bound for Oxford to study when he volunteered to fight for the British Army in the trenches of France during World War I. The trauma and horrors during the war confirmed his atheism. Lewis was injured during an accidental friendly fire explosion that killed two of his comrades. He had a pact with a close friend that if either died the survivor would take care of the other’s family, and after “Paddy” Moore died Lewis took care of Jane Moore until her death in the 1940s. The two had a close relationship, during both Lewis’ recovery and the period before Moore’s eventual death. Lewis often referred to her as his “mother.”

He resumed studies at Oxford in 1918. He excelled academically and began getting published. In 1929, largely because of the influence of friends and colleagues J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson, Lewis decided to “admit God was God,” kneel, pray, and admit he was a Theist. Two years later had a conversion experience with the two friends playing a huge role in his shift to becoming a Christian. He would later recall in Surprised By Joy, “When we set out [on a motorcycle trip to the zoo] I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”

Two years later, the three friends along with some others began a group they called “The Inklings” which would meet up once or twice per week for 16 years. For most of 1941, Lewis published 31 weekly “Screwtape Letters,” donating the proceeds for them to charity. He began giving radio talks on the BBC that developed from “Right and Wrong” to a later series about “What Christians Believe” and then “Christian Behavior” — these later became his enduring classic Mere Christianity.  He published The Great Divorce in weekly installments. In all, he wrote about 60 books, most of which are non-fiction, often apologetics of the faith. It was perhaps in his fiction, like the Space Trilogy, where he did his heaviest theological lifting.

In 1956, Lewis and his intellectual companion Joy Davidman, entered into a civil marriage so she and her two sons could stay in the U.K. She was separated from her abusive husband. Later that year, after discovering her advanced-stage bone cancer, the two had a Christian marriage ceremony. Joy died in 1957 while on a family holiday. Jack raised her sons as his own. Four years later, Lewis had kidney issues that developed shortly into renal failure. C.S. Lewis died on November 22, 1963 a week before he would have turned 65 (the same day as John F. Kenedy).

Quotes

  • I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
  •  I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
  • There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’
  • It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
  • If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
  • A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word “darkness” on the walls of his cell.
  • Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.
  • God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
  • Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.
  • Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.

More?

Christian History biography

BBC biography

C.S Lewis’s surviving BBC radio address

C.S. Lewis – from atheism to theism

Mere ChristianityPDF online

The Great Divorceaudio book on YouTube, PDF online

Till We Have FacesPDF online

The Silver Chair (BBC dramtization) — Episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Suggestions for action

C.S. Lewis was a brilliant apologist for Jesus in the mid-20th Century. Some of what he wrote is beginning to sound dated. Most of it is timeless. Some of it has been perverted by marketing and profit-taking. If you have never read one of his adult books, try one: Mere Christianity is a compilation of his radio productions. Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce are allegorical tales about life and death. Till We Have Faces is his last work that makes a Christian story out of a Greek tale.

Consider the time it takes to think deep thoughts. Lewis learned about Jesus before there was TV. After TV, our information started coming to us in ever-decreasing bites. Plan for a few hours to read, pray and think. Plan some time when there is no plan. Those are good times to be freed from your “silver chair.”

November 20 – Leo Tolstoy

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Luke 17:20-37

“The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

More thoughts for meditation about Leo Tolstoy

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was the fourth of five children born to a family of old Russian nobility in 1828.  His mother died while he was young, so he and his siblings were in the care of his aunt.  His father died next, followed by the his aunt and caretaker. He and his siblings moved under the care of another relative.

Tolstoy struggled school. He eventually became a farmer until his brother convinced him to join the military, where his writing began to develop. He grew into one of the most celebrated novelists of all time.  His two greatest works War and Peace and Anna Karenina are considered masterpieces.

After he enjoyed some success, Leo fell into a deep depression that ultimately led to his conversion to following Jesus. He tried joining the Russian Orthodox Church, which he found corrupt. While under watch of the secret police, he founded the new publication The Mediator in 1883. He gave away nearly all his wealth, but took care of his wife by signing the copyrights and proceeds from his writings pre-1881 over to her.

During the last 30 years of his life, his richest spiritual work and international movement-building flowered. In 1894 his magnum opus The Kingdom of God Is Within You inspired practitioners of non-violent resistance, as it continues to do. Gandhi cited this last book as one of the three texts that most influenced him. The two developed a relationship in which Tolstoy strongly urged nonviolence as a means of social change.

Tolstoy’s beliefs and regular visits from disciples plagued his wife. He finally fled with his daughter and began an incognito pilgrimage that he was never able to complete. He died on this day in 1910.

Quotes:

On revolution: There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.

On progress : People usually think that progress consists in the increase of knowledge, in the improvement of life, but that isn’t so. Progress consists only in the greater clarification of answers to the basic questions of life. The truth is always accessible to a man. It can’t be otherwise, because a man’s soul is a divine spark, the truth itself. It’s only a matter of removing from this divine spark (the truth) everything that obscures it. Progress consists, not in the increase of truth, but in freeing it from its wrappings. The truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn’t gold.

On passions: The whole world knows that virtue consists in the subjugation of one’s passions, or in self-renunciation. It is not just the Christian world, against whom Nietzsche howls, that knows this, but it is an eternal supreme law towards which all humanity has developed, including Brahmanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and the ancient Persian religion. And suddenly a man appears who declares that he is convinced that self-renunciation, meekness, submissiveness and love are all vices that destroy humanity (he has in mind Christianity, ignoring all the others religions).

On Nietzsche: One can understand why such a declaration baffled people at first. But after giving it a little thought and failing to find any proof of the strange propositions, any rational person ought to throw the books aside and wonder if there is any kind of rubbish that would not find a publisher today. But this has not happened with Nietzsch’s books. The majority of pseudo-enlightened people seriously look into the theory of the Übermensch, and acknowledge its author to be a great philosopher, a descendant of Descartes, Leibniz and Kant. And all this has come about because the majority of pseudo-enlightened men of today object to any reminder of virtue, or to its chief premise: self-renunciation and love — virtues that restrain and condemn the animal side of their life. They gladly welcome a doctrine, however incoherently and disjointedly expressed, of egotism and cruelty, sanctioning the idea of personal happiness and superiority over the lives of others, by which they live.

Want more?

A flawed saint: [article]

More bio: [link]

Movies: Anna Karenina, War and Peace

Suggestions for action

Depression led Tolstoy to faith. often depression is not an enemy, it is our heart speaking to us about change, about redemption, about unknown possibilities. Consider your own depression. Some of us have chronic conditions that need the help of doctors. others are self-medicating what needs to be heard.

After Tolstoy wrote his masterpieces, he found his deepest calling. While his literature remains influential, it could be argued that his influence for nonviolent resistance did more to change the world. What are you growing into? Do you dare consider what your legacy will be and who you might influence for good?

November 18 — Odo of Cluny

Today’s Bible reading

The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous…. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.—James 3:17-18

Odo Cluny-11.jpg
11th Century miniature

More thoughts for meditation about Odo of Cluny

Odo (c. 880-942) was the great abbot the Benedictine Monastery of Cluny, which started a huge program of monastic and clerical reform. He was the second abbot of Cluny but began his religious life as canon of St. Martin of Tours, to whom he always had a deep devotion.

When Odo, then a cleric at Tours, read The Rule of St. Benedict for himself, he was stunned. Judging that his Christian life did not measure up to Benedict’s standard, he determined to become a monk. In 909, Odo went to Beaume, a monastery (unlike many) where the rule was strictly observed, and Abbot Berno received him into the community.

That same year Berno started a new monastery at Cluny in Burgundy. He established it on the pattern of Beaume, insisting on a rigorous application of the Benedictine rule. In 927, St. Odo succeeded Berno as Cluny’s abbot and spread its influence to monasteries all over Europe. He encouraged lax monasteries to return to the original pattern of the Benedictine rule of prayer, manual labor, and community life under the direction of a spiritual father. Under his influence, monasteries chose more worthy abbots, cultivated a more committed spiritual life in the monks, and restored the solemnity of daily worship. Thus Odo helped lay the foundation for a renewal movement that in two centuries reformed more than a thousand monastic communities and transformed the religious and political life of Europe.

In the following passage, John of Salerno, Odo’s biographer, says he combined his power with wry humor to compel members of his entourage to behave charitably:

The blind and the lame, Odo said, would be the doorkeepers of heaven. Therefore no one ought to drive them away from his house, so that in the future they should not shut the doors of heaven against him. So if one of our servants, not being able to put up with their shameless begging, replied sharply to them or denied them access to the door of our tent, Odo at once rebuked him with threats. Then in the servant’s presence he used to call the poor man and command him, saying, “When this man comes to the gate of heaven, pay him back in the same way.” He said this to frighten the servants, so that they should not act in this way again, and that he might teach them to love charity.

At the pope’s request, Odo traveled to Rome three times to pacify relations between Hugh, king of Italy and Alberic, called the Patrician of the Romans. On each of these trips Odo took the opportunity to introduce the Cluniac reform to monasteries en route. On returning from Rome in 942, he became sick and stopped at the monastery of St. Julian in Tours for the celebration of the feast day of St. Martin. He took part in the celebrations on November 11 and after a lingering illness died on November 18. During his last illness, he composed a hymn in honor of Martin.

More?

Video on the Cluniac Reform Movement.

The Abbey of Cluny is ten minutes from the Taize Community. 

Video history of the Abbey.

Poem of Odo

Suggestions for action

Admiration for a saint can lead to sanctity. Odo of Cluny was deeply devoted to St. Martin of Tours and as a young student imitated Martin in his love of beggars. He always kept the example of Martin as his guide.

Perhaps the poor we refuse to care for or people we snub will be our greeters after death. Imagine that the person meeting us at heaven’s gate will be the person we have offended most, now empowered to welcome or to reject us. That thought might make us hurry to be reconciled with anyone we have hurt.

The church in the United States has a “lax rule” and is embroiled in corrupt politics and many scandals. Will you desert Jesus as a result? Or will you refocus our “rule” and transform the society?

November 17 – Hild

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Matthew 10:5-15

You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment.

More thoughts for meditation about Hild

Today is the feast day of Hild of Whitby, who died on this day in 680.

She lived in the 7th Century and made her mark in the medieval English kingdom of Northumbria.  She took her first vows as a nun at the age of 33, but later helped start several monasteries and became the founding Abbess at Whitby, a monastery where men and women had residence. Her reputation for wise counsel made her a crucial adviser to several kings and crucial to the conversion of much her territory to Christianity. She also is known for her great love and devotion to the ordinary folks.

While her Celtic people were pushed further and further North by the pagan groups such as the Saxons, a vital mission to the invaders remained.  The church in Rome often competed with the Celtic tradition, and Hild was known for helping to settle the big question of when Easter would be celebrated.  This was just one example of the peacemaking she was known for in rather turbulent times.

Her relationship with the farmhand, Caedmon, is a good example of her devotion to developing regular people. She recognized Caedmon’s gifts for music and poetry and encouraged them. He became the first published poet in English.

Want more?

From an Anglican church named after her: http://www.sthildas.net/who-was-st-hilda/

Another church’s rendition: http://www.wilfrid.com/saints/hilda.htm

Saint Hilda’s snakes

Suggestions for action

Hild was an unusual leader, mainly because she was a woman leading men in a time when that was almost unheard of. She was also a leader in difficult times when the church was challenged by antagonists and also divided from within. Her native Celtic church was being overrun by the legalists from Rome who desired to unite the church under the monarchy of the Pope.

Our nation and the Church worldwide are changing. We see ourselves as an outpost, in some ways, where true, old and better ways provide and alternative to the turmoil and self-interest around us. Like Hild, look around our church, starting with your cell, and notice the gifts of the Spirit that God is providing us in our ambition to make Jesus known and followed.

November 11 – Lucretia Mott

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Jude 1:20-23

Have mercy on those who doubt.  Save some by snatching them from the fire.

More thoughts for meditation about Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott (January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) was a Quaker minister and activist in church reform, women’s rights, and the abolitionist movement.  Considering slavery an evil to be opposed, she and others refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar, and other slavery-produced goods as part of their protest.  Her Pennsylvania home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.  By the end of her life, Lucretia saw the legal end to slavery in the US but it would be forty years before the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution gave women the right to vote.

Mott’s fight for women’s rights included education.  Her most famous work: Discourse on Woman, was published in 1849. Her leadership led to the founding of Moore College of Art and the Medical College of Pennsylvania, both in Philadelphia. She was one of the founders of Swarthmore College.

It’s hard to understand an equivalent to the battles Lucretia was fighting and the tools she had.  Her convictions led to more than a critique of society, more than personal changes, but a Spirit-led mass movement that resulted in much fruit.

Quotes:

We too often bind ourselves by authorities rather than by the truth.

It is not Christianity, but priestcraft that has subjected woman as we find her.

The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.

Any great change must expect opposition, because it shakes the very foundation of privilege.

I have no idea of submitting tamely to injustice inflicted either on me or on the slave. I will oppose it with all the moral powers with which I am endowed. I am no advocate of passivity.

It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ. Were this sentiment generally admitted we should not see such tenacious adherence to what men deem the opinions and doctrines of Christ while at the same time in every day practise is exhibited anything but a likeness to Christ.

Want more?

Historical marker background [link]

Bio from the Unitarians [link]

A note from Penn Press [link]

Video from series on Philadelphia Women

Suggestions for action

Lucretia Mott is such an inspiring example. What movement is God starting with us? Will we have the faith and courage to follow through?

November 3 — Sundar Singh

Today’s Bible reading

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. — 1 John 2:27

More thoughts for meditation about Sundar Singh

Sadhu Sundar Singh was born on September 3, 1889 into a rich Sikh family in Punjab. His mother was a very pious woman who had a strong influence in his life. Her prayer was that her youngest son Sundar would renounce the world and become a Sadhu (or saintly wise man). She nurtured Sundar Singh in the Sikh and Hindu holy books. Her death when Sundar was only fourteen dealt her son a severe blow. He desperately searched for peace and began reading all sorts of religious books and practicing Yoga. His father put him in a Christian mission school in his village where Sundar developed a profound hatred for Christians. He went to the extent of tearing the Bible and burning it into pieces.

Sundar made a despairing resolve to commit suicide if he failed to get a revelation of the living God. Early in the morning on Dec 18, 1904, he begged God to show him the way of salvation and determined to end his life on the railway track if his prayers were unanswered. At half past four a bright light shone in his room and he had a vision of Christ. Sundar heard Christ speaking to him, “How long will you persecute me? I died for you, I gave my life for you.” Sundar Singh fell at His feet in worship and surrendered his life to Christ. This vision forever convinced him that he had seen the true God and it sustained him during the coming persecution. When he cut his long hair to renounce his religion, it was considered as a shame on the whole Sikh race and an unforgivable disobedience. His family poisoned the food he ate and sent him out of the house. He was miraculously saved by the grace of God and timely treatment given by nearby Christian villagers.

Thirty-three days after his baptism at sixteen years old, Sundar Singh began his life as a Christian sadhu. He was distressed to see the Indian church inculcating Western culture, imitating its customs and failing to present the gospel in Indian terms. Sundar Singh knew that a life of a sadhu was the best way to present the gospel message of Christ to Indians. His yellow robe won him admission into many villages and people listened to him. He wandered barefoot, without any possessions except his thin linen garment, a blanket and a New Testament in Urdu. He preached the Gospel in his native and surrounding villages and he traveled through Punjab to Afghanistan and Kashmir, lands where Christian mission work had hardly begun. At this time, Sundar Singh met Samuel Stokes, a wealthy American who came to India for missionary work and joined with him for some time in ministry. He learned from him the ideals of Francis of Assisi and his life as a preaching friar inspired him.

Sundar Singh was always convinced that the water of life should be offered in the Indian cup. His short stint to equip himself with theological training at St. John’s Divinity College in Lahore in 1909 was largely unfruitful. Sundar considered that religious knowledge of the highest kind is acquired not by intellectual study but by direct contact with Christ. He even surrendered his preaching license from the Anglican church as he did not want to be restrained to a diocese. His call was to be a free agent without holding any office and take the message of Jesus Christ to all churches and people of all faiths.

Tibet had always been a closed land for Christian missionaries as it is a strong Buddhist nation. Sundar Singh had a special burden for ministry in Tibet. It became his mission field and between 1908-1920 when he reportedly made up to twenty risky trips to this country. In spite of stubborn opposition from the Lamas, his message was received in the important town of Tashigang. It was during his travel to Tibet he met members of the Sanyasi Mission who were a secret Christian brotherhood numbering around 24,000.

By 1918 Singh’s fame had spread far and wide and he was flooded with offers to preach all over South India. Thousands of people flocked for his meetings with a keen desire to hear him. He went on to Ceylon and conducted spiritual meetings of great power for six weeks . He was greatly disturbed by the caste system prevailing in these regions and condemned it severely. His ministry extended to Burma, Malaya, Penang, Singapore, China and Japan.

Sundar Singh had the joy of leading his father to Christ in the year 1919. His father sponsored him for his first journey to Europe. Sundar Singh was eager to find out the truth of the accusation that Christianity in the West had lost its splendor. He set off on a tour to England in January, 1920. He stayed in England for three months and went to America and Australia. He addressed huge gatherings everywhere to crowds of all denominations. Sundar Singh found the West to be indifferent to spiritual values and materialistic in their world view. While some sections criticized him for his frank judgments, many were challenged and converted by his preaching. Sundar Singh made a second trip to Europe and visited Palestine to satisfy his long cherished dream of seeing the Holy Land. He preached in most of the European countries to big audiences. It is indeed noteworthy to see an Indian presenting the message of the gospel to the Western world. However, Sundar Singh was disillusioned by the nominal Christianity and immorality of large sections of people in Europe. The Sadhu preferred the hardships of Tibet to the adulation of the Christian countries of the Western world.

Sadhu Sundar Singh experienced numerous miracles in his life saving him from grave dangers. Once when he was in Tibet in a place called Risar, he was arrested for preaching a foreign religion and ordered to be cast into a dry well outside the village. The well-pit was foul with rotten bodies and the top cover was locked. For two nights he was in such a despairing situation without any hope of survival. But the third night he saw the cover open and rope being let down and he was pulled up. The Sadhu was convinced that it was an angel of the Lord who helped him. Similarly, he experienced divine help many times when he was beaten up and persecuted.

Sundar Singh also experienced the visions of the spirit world. His spiritual life was in constant communion with Christ. He received ecstatic gifts from God when he saw visions as frequently as eight to ten times a month and it lasted an hour or two. They were not in a dream state and the Sadhu was conscious of what was happening. His spiritual eyes were opened to see the glory of the heavenly sphere and walk there with Christ and converse with angels and spirits. This resulted in severe criticism and he was even called as an impostor and his imaginations as product of a deceased mind. But those who knew the Sadhu personally and witnessed his spiritual life never doubted his sincerity.

In 1923, Sundar Singh bought his own house in Subathu where he rested for almost three years because of heart attacks, trouble in eyesight, ulcers and several other complications which confined him to his home. The busy tours abroad and constant travel and preaching engagements had its toll on him. The Sadhu started contributing to articles in magazine and also writing his own books which amounted to seven thin volumes written in Urdu and translated into English with the assistance of his friends. The bulk of his writings contained messages that he received through visions. His writings were influential and touched the lives of many people.

The Sadhu had a burning desire in his heart to visit Tibet again. He was strongly advised not to do so because of his ill health. When he attempted to go to Tibet in 1927, he suffered from severe hemorrhage of the stomach and had to be brought back. In April 1929, at the age of 39, Sundar determined to make another attempt to reach Tibet. He left instructions about his will and bid farewell to his friends. It was his last journey to Tibet and he was never to be seen again. Anxious friends made the efforts to trace him but to no avail. His death added one more mystery to a life which few people completely understood. We remember him on this day, although no one knows when he died.

Quotes

“The Indian Seer lost God in Nature; the Christian mystic, on the other hand, finds God in Nature. The Hindu mystic believes that God and Nature are one and the same; the Christian mystic knows that there must be a Creator to account for the universe.”

One day after a long journey, I rested in front of a house. Suddenly a sparrow came towards me blown helplessly by a strong wind. From another direction, an eagle dived to catch the panicky sparrow. Threatened from different directions, the sparrow flew into my lap. By choice, it would not normally do that. However, the little bird was seeking for a refuge from a great danger. Likewise, the violent winds of suffering and trouble blow us into the Lord’s protective hands.

Should I worship Him from fear of hell, may I be cast into it. Should I serve Him from desire of gaining heaven, may He keep me out. But should I worship Him from love alone, He reveals Himself to me, that my whole heart may be filled with His love and presence

From my many years experience I can unhesitatingly say that the cross bears those who bear the cross.

“In a Tibetan village I noticed a crowd of people standing under a burning tree and looking up into the branches. I came near and discovered in the branches a bird which was anxiously flying round a nest full of young ones. The mother bird wanted to save her little ones, but she could not. When the fire reached the nest the people waited breathlessly to see what she would do. No one could climb the tree, no one could help her. Now she could easily have saved her own life by flight, but instead of fleeing she sat down on the nest, covering the little ones carefully with her wings. The fire seized her and burnt her to ashes. She showed her love to her little ones by giving her life for them. If then, this little insignificant creature had such love, how much more must our Heavenly Father love His children, the Creator love His creatures!”

More?

An old but nicely done bio pic.

Biography by Phyllis Thompson

Nine minutes of reading with nice music.

Suggestions for action

Sundar Singh is still misunderstood. Westerners have combed his writings for flaws and syncretism. He may have veered toward Swedenborgian ideas and back. He may have turned the gospel in Hindu and Buddhist directions. He was an evangelist in Sadhu clothing. You’ll have to decide what orthodoxy means to you. Singh was less interested in orthodoxy than in getting the gospel to Indians, who knew more about Western culture than they did about Jesus.

What is your evangelism like? Do you have a strategy (or just a criticism about the strategies of others)?

Ask God for a vision of his presence and a call that is worth giving your life to completely.

October 31-November 2 – All Saints Day

Today’s Bible reading

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. — Hebrews 11-12:3

More thoughts for meditation about All Saints Days

All Saints Day is one of the major festivals of the Christian Year. The word “saint” is used in the scriptural sense of anyone who is a faithful believer. So this feast serves as a commemoration of all God’s servants who have departed this life in faith.  In Revelation 2:10 John says, “Be faithful unto death, and will give you the crown of life.” So the symbols of the crown of thorns and a crown of victory often mark the day and remind us of our own victory over death.

Tomorrow’s holy day honors all the saints who have gone before us. It is central to a three-day observance that used to commonly be called “Hallowmas,” (the short form of All Hallows Mass). It is preceded by Hallowe’en (short for All Hallows Eve) and is followed by All Souls Day. The whole triduum is mainly a “memorial day” for remembering the people of faith who have gone before us. Not only are we inspired to triumph over our own troubles, we encourage one another to keep faith in the face of death.

Commemorating the martyrs of the faith with a regular holy-day began as early as the 4th Century. All Hallows Day, the feast of All Saints, on the first of November, used to be celebrated in the spring. But in the eighth century it was transferred to November (in places connected to Rome), where it became the climax of the autumn season, a harvest festival celebrating everyone planted with faith and now gone to seed. With this move, the church attempted to override the European traditions of communing with the dead. As Christians expanded from their original territories, the church confronted pagan rites that appeased the “gods” of death and evil spirits. They did not simply speak out; they instituted alternatives. All Saints Day was placed on November 1 in 835; All Souls Day on November 2 in 998.

Over the centuries this celebration has been overlaid with the church’s imagination about the “immortality of the soul” and how a person satisfies the requirements for “going to heaven.” It has also been overlaid with all sorts of pre-Christian and non-Christian observances of death and the afterlife. In the United States, there is, at present, a renewed interest in Hallowe’en and the Day of the Dead, which are the days of the three-day observance that are most prone to abuse. They have become major holidays filled with lights and parades. So the whole holiday is worth studying, so we don’t fall into nonsense (or just swallow it whole) and don’t allow the church to lose honor because it is tied to nonsense we can’t explain.

Here are some of the problems:

  • All Saints Day (Nov. 1): Some people considered this celebration of all the saints, known and unknown, to be a very powerful day against the forces of evil, since all the intercession of the company of heroes would be called upon at once. The concept of All Saints Day is connected to the doctrine of The Communion of Saints. This is the Catholic teaching that all of God’s people, on heaven, earth, and in the state of purification (Purgatory), are spiritually connected and united. They are just as alive as those on earth (their body dead, but their immortal souls alive), and are constantly interceding on our behalf.

Jesus has introduced his followers into an eternal now, but our full experience of that awaits the final day when the dead are raised. We will always be embodied spirits, as we were created to be.

  • Hallowe’en (October 31): Many customs of Hallowe’en reflect the Christian belief that on the feast’s vigils we mock evil, because as Christians, it has no real power over us. Various customs developed related to Hallowe’en in the Middle Ages. For instance, poor people in the community begged for “soul cakes,” and upon receiving these doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls. Some say this is the root of our modern day “trick-or-treat.” The custom of masks and costumes developed to mock evil and perhaps confuse the evil spirits by dressing as one of their own.
Witch costumes 1910

Hallowe’en features many characteristics of the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, for which All Saints Day is the alternative. The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season, and is sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year.” Traditionally, the festival was a time used to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. People believed that on October 31, the boundary between the alive (summer) and the deceased (winter) was so thin it dissolved, and the dead became dangerous to the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them. For the Druids, October 31 was New Year’s Eve, a night of evil and terror when all hell broke lose. Goblins and ghosts were abroad that night, while witches celebrated their black rites as the spirits and souls of the dead roamed the earth, especially dead children and babies. To frighten the evil spirits and to bolster their own sagging spirits, people created a din with bells, horns, pots and pans (just as many still do at midnight on December 31st) and kept the bonfires burning to frighten the witches or perhaps burn them if they were caught. On the afternoon of October 31st, village boys would go from house to house collecting fuel for the midnight fires. Everyone was expected to contribute some peat or “coal pieces” to help burn the witches. Those who did not received dire warnings of the evil consequences that might follow.

In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul says, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” This at least implies that there is no interim place where disembodied souls are left waiting to enter heaven or hell. Many say that, as the Bible says many times, our death is like falling asleep and our resurrection is like waking up. The interim is is of no matter to our timeless God, it is like an instant, even if, according to our earthbound understanding, it is a thousand years.

  • All Souls Day (November 2): This day is also called the Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos. Most people use it as a day to remember and offer prayers up on behalf of all of the faithful departed, as in creating an “altar” with a picture of your sainted mother. People may go to the cemetery for a picnic or have a party featuring the favorite foods of the departed, placed as offerings on the altar. Mexico has an especially rich tradition for this day, so you may be familiar with pan de muerto (traditional pastries), and cempasuchitl (marigold flowers: used for the vibrant color that can guide the dead to the right place and their traditional uses for healing in Aztec medicine). Officially, this is a day to pray for the departed who haven’t made it to Paradise, who are awaiting their purification in purgatory, which, in itself, is a problem.

Unofficially, people think the Day of the Dead is the day when adult ghosts are loosened to roam the earth. People take to the streets to mock them. The fiesta is full of humor calling death la calaca (skeleton) or la flaca (skinny). Paintings and figurines depict skeletons in everyday life. Stories and cartoons show how humans have cheated or defeated death.  The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and brought them out during a month long ritual associated with today’s observance. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth and to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during this part of the year. Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake.

In the Bible we are warned us not to go to spirits and soothsayers in Isaiah 8:19: “Should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?”  The Bible warns us not to consult with (or make inquiries of) the dead, as is often done on the Day of the Dead.

Want more?

Share Faith sums it up with another description.

Eddie G explains the Day of the Dead.

Suggestions for action

Ralph Vaughn Williams hymn For All the Saints is the classic hymn for All Saints Day. Spend a few minutes meditating with it and praising Jesus giving us life and courage to face death, especially for our faith.

We have a chance on All Saints Day not only to remember those heroes of the faith (like in Hebrews 11), but to remember beloved saints we have lost.  It is a good day to look back and show honor and respect as well as to mourn.   We remember all the saints who don’t have a specific feast day.  We remember the spiritual ancestors who inspire us on our journey.  We remember the partners in our church as well as members of our extended Christian family who have died. What’s more, we can ponder our own deaths and what spiritual legacy we would like to leave. We are one of all the saints, too!

Many groups, especially Asian Americans, use All Saints Day as an opportunity to remember and respect family members who are elderly or who have lived in other generations. This might be the occasion for telling about where our families have come from and lived, what their lives were like, and what values that we honor they have passed on to us.

October 24 — Rosa Parks

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Exodus 9:13-35

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.  You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now.

More thoughts for meditation about Rosa Parks

Civil rights activist Rosa Parks was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. She died on October 24, 2005, at the age of 92 in Detroit, Michigan. Her death was marked by several memorial services, among them lying in state at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., where an estimated 50,000 people viewed her casket.

Most people know the story of the seamstress who helped ignite the civil-rights movement, but many people don’t know that Rosa Parks was a devout Christian, and that it was her faith that gave her the strength to do what she did that day in 1955.

In her book, Quiet Strength, Parks says her belief in God developed early in life. “Every day before supper and before we went to services on Sundays,” Parks says, “my grandmother would read the Bible to me, and my grandfather would pray. We even had devotions before going to pick cotton in the fields. Prayer and the Bible became a part of my everyday thoughts and beliefs. I learned to put my trust in God and to seek Him as my strength.”

Parks’s husband, Raymond, had been an early activist in the fight for civil rights, and Rosa joined him in his work. But she says she never planned to be arrested for breaking a racist law. On December 1, 1955, Parks was sitting on a bus in the front row of the section reserved for blacks. But when a white man got on, there were no more seats in the white section, so the bus driver told Parks to move back.

Parks was convinced that to move would be wrong — and she refused to get up. “Since I have always been a strong believer in God,” she says, “I knew that He was with me, and only He could get me through that next step.”

Parks was not the first black person to refuse to move to the back of the bus. Earlier that year, a woman had been carried off the bus clawing and kicking. Another woman had used profanity during her arrest. But the local NAACP declined to rally behind these women.

Parks’ behavior throughout her arrest was above reproach. Because of this, and because of her well-known exemplary character, Alabama civil-rights leaders thought Park’s arrest signaled the right time to act. They launched the famous yearlong Montgomery bus boycott, and the rest is history.

Rosa Parks is another example of how faith in Jesus played a major role in the civil-rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. turned the other cheek in the face of violence. Jackie Robinson’s Christian faith was what led Branch Rickey–another devout Christian–to choose him as the man to break the color barrier in baseball.

Although she had become a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks suffered hardship in the months following her arrest in Montgomery and the subsequent boycott. She lost her department store job and her husband was fired after his boss forbade him to talk about his wife or their legal case. Unable to find work, they eventually left Montgomery and moved to Detroit, Michigan. There, Rosa made a new life for herself, working as a secretary and receptionist in U.S. Representative John Conyer’s congressional office. She also served on the board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In 1987, with longtime friend Elaine Eason Steele, Rosa founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. The organization runs “Pathways to Freedom” bus tours, introducing young people to important civil rights and Underground Railroad sites throughout the country.

In 1992, Rosa published Rosa Parks: My Story, an autobiography recounting her life in the segregated South. In 1995, she published Quiet Strength which includes her memoirs and focuses on the role that religious faith played throughout her life.

“From my upbringing and the Bible,” Parks wrote, “I learned people should stand up for rights just as the children of Israel stood up to the Pharaoh.”

Despite all she endured at the hands of some whites, Rosa Parks never fell to judging the whole race by the behavior of a few of its members, however appalling. In later years she would tell of the kindness of an old woman near her grandparents farm who used to take her bass fishing with crawfish tails as bait — an old white woman who treated her grandparents as equals. Even as a girl she appreciated that it was northern white industrialists with names like Carnegie, Huntington, and Rockefeller who were responsible for financing many of the Tuskegee Institute’s exquisite redbrick buildings. And she never forgot the white World War I Yankee doughboy who came to town and patted her kindly on the head in passing, an unheard-of gesture in the South. Her Christian faith only made her feel sorry for the white tormentors who called her “nigger” or threw rocks at her as she walked to school. Reading Psalms 23 and 27 early on had given Rosa McCauley the strength to love her enemy.

Rosa Parks received many accolades during her lifetime, including the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest award, and the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Award. On September 9, 1996, President Bill Clinton awarded Parks the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given by the United States’ executive branch. The following year, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award given by the U.S. legislative branch. In 1999, TIME magazine named Rosa Parks on its list of “The 20 most influential People of the 20th Century.”

Suggestions for action

There is always a new Pharaoh clawing for dominance, isn’t there? Consider the oppressors of today and how god might be calling you, or us, to respond.

Pray, in particular, for all the people simply saying, “black lives matter.” They do, just like you.

October 15 – Teresa of Avila

Today’s Bible reading

Read Romans  13:8-10 

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 

More thoughts for meditation about Teresa

Teresa of Avila was a Spanish contemplative, mystic, and theologian who lived from 1515-1582.

Here is a story about her: Teresa learned as a small child that one had to die in order to see God. She wanted to see God. Practical and courageous by temperament she devised a scheme. She and her brother, Rodrigo, would go to the land of the Moors. There they would surely be martyred and go to heaven. Very early one morning the two children stole away from their home and crossed the bridge leading out of Avila. But the plan soon ran into trouble. An uncle who happened to be entering Avila at the time, met the children, heard their fantastic plan and unceremoniously returned them to their parents.

Later on in life Teresa realized that one does not have to die to see God. “We need no wings to go in search of Him,” she wrote, “but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us.” These words contain three essential steps for what she named ”mental prayer.” First, we must be searching for God; second, we must be willing to be alone with Him, and third, we need but look upon our Lord who is present within us.

“The important thing in mental prayer,” she says, “is not to think much but to love much.” Mental prayer becomes fruitful when we realize the gift of God dwelling within us. Referring to her earlier years in the convent, Teresa wrote these regretful words, “I think that if I had understood then as I do now that this great King really dwells within a little palace of my soul, I should not have left Him alone so often and never allowed his dwelling place to get so dirty.” Mental prayer, you see, is nothing but our side of friendship with God—our “yes” to God’s call and invitation.

“Beginners,” she says, “do well to form an appealing image of Christ in His Sacred Humanity. They should picture Him within themselves in some mystery of His life, for example, the Christ of the agony or the Risen Savior in His glorified Body. Once they are conscious of Our Lord’s presence within their souls they need only look upon Him and conversation will follow. This friendly conversation will not be much thinking but much loving, not a torrent of words, much less a strained prepared speech, but rather a relaxed conversation with moments of silence as there must be between friends.”

One of the profound things that she is known to have said matches our scripture today, “It is love alone that gives worth to all things.”

Paul also reminds us that love is the only thing we owe each other.  It’s a continuing debt.  It is a debt that gives worth to our lives.  We are compelled to love each other regardless of the circumstances.  For some of us, that seems like a lot.  But the fact remains that each one of us is loved and as loved ones in the world we have the capacity to love others.  When we go ahead and make payments toward that debt, we fulfill God’s vision for the world.

Want more?

More bio.

Teresa’s famous prayer.

You can read the Interior Castle for free.

Recommended biography.

Suggestions for action

Meditate on Teresa’s wisdom:

  • Christ has no body now but mine. He prays in me, works in me, looks through my eyes, speaks through my words, works through my hands, walks with my feet and loves with my heart.
  • We may speak of love and humility as the true flowers of spiritual growth; and they give off a wonderful scent, which benefits all those who come near.
  • After you die, you wear what you are.