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April 5 — Pandita Ramabai

Pandita Ramabai Sarasvati 1858-1922 front-page-portrait.jpg

Today’s Bible reading

Shout for joy, you heavens;
    rejoice, you earth;
    burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
    and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
    the Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you! — Isaiah 49:13-15

Ramabai on an Indian post stamp

More thoughts for meditation about Pandita Ramabai

The Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice name Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922) as one of their favorite saints of all time. She was an Indian activist, evangelist and one of the first modern Pentecostals. Over a hundred years before Malala Yousafzai, she campaigned for women’s right to education, and she was extremely active in helping the poor and those oppressed under the Hindu caste system.

Born in a Brahman (highest caste) family in south India, in what is now the state of Karnataka, she started to study at an early age and learned Sanskrit along with sacred Hindu texts, astronomy, physiology and more. This was controversial for a woman to do, but her father encouraged her as he saw her learning more and more about society, religion and activism. She came to be called by the honorific title “pandita” which denotes an Indian scholar.

In 1883 she went to England and taught Sanskrit at an Anglican monastery in Wantage. She met Jesus there. “I realized,” she later wrote, “after reading the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, that Christ was truly the Divine Saviour he claimed to be, and no one but He could transform and uplift the downtrodden women of India.”

As she returned to her home country, she bought a piece of land outside Pune and started a Christian social community for young widows called Mukti, Sanskrit for liberation. She also helped people who were orphaned, disabled or homeless, and when a famine hit India in 1896, Ramabai rescued over a thousand people and brought many of them to the Mukti mission.

In 1905, Mukti was transformed by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Hundreds were saved at the community, and they prayed, worshiped and studied the Word of God in ecstasy. Miracles started to happen as the Holy Spirit gave gifts to the girls at Mukti. This happened at the same time as the mighty Azusa Street revival was going on in Los Angeles, and by the Lord’s providence the groups got in touch with each other. In the January 1908 edition of Azusa Street’s paper The Apostolic Faith, this report from Ramabai was provided:

“One Sunday, as I was coming out of the church, after the morning service, I saw some girls standing near the door of a worker’s room. They seemed greatly excited and wondering. I soon found out the cause. A girl was praying aloud, and praising God in the English language. She did not know the language.”

Many Pentecostal leaders, went to Mukti and witnessed the amazing outpouring among the poor and marginalized. The Mukti community became the cornerstone of Indian Pentecostal mission, like L.A. was in the United States or Oslo in Europe, and thousands were blessed through what God was doing there. Ramabai continued to preach the Gospel, save the poor and campaign for women’s rights in the power of the Holy Spirit until she died on this day in 1922.

Want more?

  • For a more detailed biography of Ramabai’s amazing life, check out Christianity Today’s article about her.
  • Here is a nice promotional video from Mukti today:
  • Here is another video with nice pics but probably not in your language. [video]

Suggestions for action

Pray: Lord, help me become as passionate about You and the poor as Pandita Ramabai was, and let her example be an inspiration to many.

Pray for the needy in India and around the world. Thank God for the people who must beg the wealthy for money to care for the poor.

April 4 – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Matthew 5:43-48

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.

More thoughts for meditation about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King was a prophet and an apostle. Born into a pastor’s family in Atlanta, GA. He grew into a scholar, preacher, and community organizer. In 1954, when King was 25, he became a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama. The next year, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began and King was mixing it up with many people who became prominent leaders in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Martin Luther King is famous for his speeches and published works. His faith drew tens of thousands into passionate civil engagement through marches, rallies, prayer, worship, and non-violent civil disobedience. He earned global respect of people from all walks of life. His application of tactics for non-violence change were acts of transformation rooted in the way of Jesus.

A decade after his public work had begun, King was deeply entrenched in the national movement to legally end state-sponsored racial discrimination perpetrated during the Jim Crow era. He was key in the formation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

King caused controversy in the movement because he was drawn to what he believed were two key issues that needed addressing: ending the Vietnam War and economic rights for Black people. Many opposed him because his “branching out” weakened chances of getting more effective laws in place to protect other civil liberties and alienated some sympathetic whitesnotably elected officials.

On this day in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis when he was 39 years old. His legacy continues to inspire and urge people to work for justice.

Quotes:

  • Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
  • Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.
  • I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
  • I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
  • Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
  • I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
  • Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
  • We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  • In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
  • Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.

More:

American Experience videos

Hear him for yourself: Anthology

Our celebration of MLK Day.

Suggestions for action

Talk to someone involved in our Compassion Team: Circle of Hope Mobilized for Black Lives Matter. Find out about the ongoing struggle.

Read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism

Ask God how to apply the tactic of nonviolent transformation in this era of polarized politics and overt racist rhetoric. Is there a way you can make the effort it takes to get over the color line and love?

April 1 — John Leonhard Dober

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Acts 13:16-52

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

More thoughts for meditation about John Leonhard Dober (March 7, 1706-April 1, 1766)

Let’s celebrate one of the Moravian Brethren’s first residents of the Americas who was part of their amazing and extensive missionary efforts in the 1700’s. As you know, the Moravians are still alive and well in the United States. A main center for them is just up the road in Bethlehem, PA.

Leonhard Dober was born on March 7, 1706, in Bavaria, Germany. Like his father, Johann, Leonhard was trained as a potter. When he was nineteen years old, Leonhard walked 315 miles to join his older brother, Martin, in Herrnhut. We do not exactly know how Martin had heard about Herrnhut, the community founded by Protestant refugees from Moravia just a few years earlier. By 1727 about half of the population of Herrnhut came from other parts of Germany. Other members of the Dober family soon joined Leonhard and Martin in Herrnhut: their parents, Johann and Anna Barbara in 1730, and their younger brother Andreas in 1733.

An important event in Leonhard’s life took place in 1731 when Anton, a former African slave from St. Thomas, visited Herrnhut. Count Zinzendorf, on whose land the village was built, had met Anton in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he was employed as a servant. Anton, who was baptized, impressed Zinzendorf and his traveling companions with his accounts of the situation on St. Thomas where Africans lived under the harshest of conditions. Zinzendorf sent Anton to Herrnhut where he told the congregation about his sister on St. Thomas who was “eager to learn about Christianity if only God would send someone to teach her.” Leonhard felt he should be the person to go to the Caribbean island and tell the slaves “about their Savior.” The Church, however was not quick to rush into such an enterprise, and it took another year until Dober and David Nitschmann, his fellow missionary, received permission for travel there. The day they left Herrnhut, August 21, 1732, marks the beginning of mission work of the Moravian Church.

Dober and Nitschmann arrived on St. Thomas on December 13, 1732. Nitschmann returned to Europe four months later; Dober remained until 1734 when he was called back to become General Elder, a position he would hold until September of 1741.

Dober served the Moravian Church in many places. He worked in Amsterdam where he tried to evangelize the Jewish inhabitants of that city (1738/39). He was appointed head of Moravian activities in the Netherlands (1741-45), in England (1745-1746) and later in Silesia (1751-58). He was also ordained a bishop of the Church in 1747. After Zinzendorf’s death, Dober became a member of the Directorate of the Unity – a position he held until he died in Herrnhut on April 1, 1766.

Dober’s letter describing his motivation for going to St. Thomas says:

Since it is desired of me to make known my reason, I can say that my disposition was never to travel during this time [that period in his life], but only to ground myself more steadfastly in my Savior; that when the gracious count came back from his trip to Denmark and told me about the slaves, it gripped me so that I could not get free of it. I vowed to myself that if one other brother would go with me, I would become a slave, and would tell him so, and [also] what I had experienced from our Savior: that the word of the cross in its lowliness shows a special strength to souls. As for me, I thought: even if helpful to no one in it [my commitment] I could still give witness through it of obedience to our Savior! I leave it to the good judgment of the congregation and have no other ground than this I thought: that on the island there still are souls who cannot believe because they have not heard.

Want more?

A documentary about Dober. Part 1, Part 2

Suggestions for Action

Herrnhut is a good model, don’t you think? Radical Christians crossing lines of nationality and race, prayer, community and imaginative mission worldwide. That’s good Christianity in any era! How are we doing?

Is God is calling you to some new obedience? What will you do about it? You can start by letting others know — even if it takes a long time to be sent into it, it is good to have back up.

March 31 — John Donne

Young John Donne
Young John Donne

Today’s Bible reading

I am a rose of Sharon,
    a lily of the valleys.

As a lily among brambles,
    so is my love among maidens.

As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,
    so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
    and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
    and his intention toward me was love. — Song of Solomon 2:1-4

More Thoughts for Meditation about John Donne (January 22, 1572-March 31, 1631)

During his 10-year tenure as dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Black Plague repeatedly swept through London—three waves—killing tens of thousands with each recurrence. For months Donne thought himself a sure victim of the disease. Throughout his life, he withstood financial ruin, the destruction of his family, religious persecution, and other plagues. Yet, he became one of England’s greatest love poets, and one of the greatest preachers of the 1600s.

John Donne was born to an old Roman Catholic family when anti-Catholicism was running high in England. At age 2, his grand-uncle was hanged for being a priest, and his father died of more natural causes when he was 4. His younger brother Henry died in prison, having been arrested for sheltering a priest. Donne himself, a noteworthy student at both Oxford and Cambridge, was refused a degree at both schools because of his faith.

Donne’s youthful response to these calamities was to reject his Catholicism. But neither did he accept the Protestantism of his family’s persecutors. Instead, he walked the line between cynical rebellion and honest truthseeker, listing the pitfalls of various denominations and sects in his first book of poetry, Satires [see complete works online]. At the same time, he lived a brazenly sexual life, writing some of the most erotic English poetry ever written.

Sometime during this period, Donne converted to the Church of England, and in 1596 sailed as a gentleman-adventurer on a naval expedition against Spain. When he returned, he was appointed the private secretary to the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, sat in Queen Elizabeth’s last Parliament, made connections, and continued his lustful ways. Then England’s greatest love poet fell in love.

Her name was Anne More—the niece (by marriage) of the wife of his boss. As she was only 17 (Donne was then nearly 30), they married in secret. Her father was furious and had Donne immediately thrown into jail and removed from his post. Imprisoned, he wrote a characteristic pun, “John Donne, Anne Donne, Undone.”

Though Donne was quickly released, the two lived in poverty for the next 13 years. Adding to the poverty, Anne bore 12 children (five of whom died in childhood). Donne, plagued also by headaches, intestinal cramps, and gout, fell into a deep depression. His longest work of that period was an essay endorsing and contemplating suicide: “Whensoever any affliction assails me, methinks I have the keys of my prison in mine own hand and no remedy presents itself so soon to my heart as mine own sword.”

During this time, he also began studying religion more closely. One of two anti-Catholic works he published, Pseudo-Martyr, earned him the favor of King James I because it argued Catholics could pledge allegiance to the king without renouncing their faith.

The object of his poetry now became God, and he employed the same degree of ardor and amorousness as ever. He reasoned, “God is love.” He took a page from Solomon, whom he observed “was amorous, and excessive in the love of women: when he turned to God, he departed not utterly from his old phrase and language, but … conveys all his loving approaches and applications to God.”

Thus, even some of his “Holy Sonnets” had amorous overtones:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new …
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Friends encouraged Donne, deemed by some critics to be a pornographer, to become a priest in the Church of England. Donne repeatedly refused, lamenting that “some irregularities of my life have been so visible to some men.” But when King James refused to employ him anywhere but the church, Donne relented. He was granted a doctorate of divinity from Cambridge and took his first parish job in 1616.

The following year, Anne died. Grief-stricken, Donne pledged never to marry again and threw himself at his work. It seems to have done wonders for his vocation. By 1621 he was dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the foremost preacher of his day. One hundred sixty of his sermons still survive.

In 1623 John Donne fell seriously ill and believed he was dying of the plague. Unable to read but able to write, he penned his famous Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. In it, he records hearing church bells tolling a declaration of death, which he mistook to be an announcement of his own demise. When he realized they were for another, he penned one of literature’s most famous lines: “No man is an island, entire of himself; … therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Eight years later, the bell did toll for Donne, who died of stomach cancer about a month after preaching his famous “Death’s Duel” sermon. Though he has occasionally been accused of an obsession with death (a claim backed up by his 54 songs and sonnets, 32 of which center on the topic), his poetry, sermons, and other writings clearly show his affinity for what lay beyond the tolling bells:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so …
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

More

Poetry Foundation bio

David Barnes reads the Holy Sonnets

Suggestions for action

Donne is nothing if not passionate. Consider how you FEEL about God and others⁠—and your own plight in this world. There is the sense in Donne’s work of personal, heartfelt relationships⁠—even in the poems there is often a dialogue going on, sometimes internal, often with a person outside the poem. What are your internal dialogues, in particular like? And how do they lead you to relate to God?

Write a poem yourself. What literary art would you use to express your longing for God and the feelings you feel when you live among the tragedies of life?

March 29 — Charles Wesley

Image result for charles wesley

Today’s Bible reading

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:4-7

More thoughts for meditation on Charles Wesley (1707 –March 29, 1788) 

He was said to have averaged 10 poetic lines a day for 50 years. He wrote 8,989 hymns, 10 times the volume composed by the only other candidate (Isaac Watts) who could conceivably claim to be the world’s greatest hymn writer. He composed some of the most memorable and lasting hymns of the church: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, And Can It Be, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, and Rejoice! the Lord Is King!

And yet he is often referred to as the “forgotten Wesley.”

His brother John is considered the organizational genius behind the founding of Methodism. But without the hymns of Charles, the Methodist movement may have gone nowhere. As one historian put it, “The early Methodists were taught and led as much through [Charles’s] hymns as through sermons and [John] Wesley’s pamphlets.”

Charles Wesley was the eighteenth of Samuel and Susannah Wesley’s nineteen children (only 10 lived to maturity). He was born prematurely in December 1707 and appeared dead. He lay silent, wrapped in wool, for weeks.

When older, Charles joined his siblings as each day his mother, Susannah, who knew Greek, Latin, and French, methodically taught them for six hours. Charles then spent 13 years at Westminster School, where the only language allowed in public was Latin. He added nine years at Oxford, where he received his master’s degree. It was said that he could reel off the Latin poet Virgil by the half hour.

It was off to Oxford University next, and to counteract the spiritual tepidity of the school, Charles formed the Holy Club, and with two or three others celebrated Communion weekly and observed a strict regimen of spiritual study. Because of the group’s religious regimen, which later included early rising, Bible study, and prison ministry, members were called “methodists.” John was included later.

In 1735 Charles joined his brother John (they were now both ordained), to become a missionary in the colony of Georgia—John as chaplain of the rough outpost and Charles as secretary to Governor Oglethorpe. Shot at, slandered, suffering sickness, shunned even by Oglethorpe, Charles could have echoed brother John’s sentiments as they dejectedly returned to England the following year: “I went to America to convert the Indians, but, oh, who will convert me?”

It turned out to be the Moravians. After returning to England, Charles taught English to Moravian Peter Böhler, who prompted Charles to look at the state of his soul more deeply. During May 1738, Charles began reading Martin Luther’s volume on Galatians while ill. He wrote in his diary, “I labored, waited, and prayed to feel ‘who loved me, and gave himself for me.'” He shortly found himself convinced, and journaled, “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoice in hope of loving Christ.” Two days later he began writing a hymn celebrating his conversion.

At evangelist George Whitefield’s instigation, John and Charles Wesley eventually submitted to “be more vile” and do the unthinkable: preach outside of church buildings. In his journal entries from 1739 to 1743, Charles computed the number of those to whom he had preached. Of only those crowds for whom he stated a figure, the total during these five years comes to 149,400. From June 24 through July 8, 1738, Charles reported preaching twice to crowds of ten thousand at Moorfields, once called “that Coney Island of the eighteenth century.” He preached to 20,000 at Kennington Common plus gave a sermon on justification before the University of Oxford.

On a trip to Wales in 1747, the adventurous evangelist, now 40 years old, met 20-year-old Sally Gwynne, whom he soon married. By all accounts, their marriage was a happy one.

Charles continued to travel and preach, sometimes creating tension with John, who complained that “I do not even know when and where you intend to go.” His last nationwide trip was in 1756. After that, his health led him gradually to withdraw from itinerant ministry. He spent the remainder of his life in Bristol and London, preaching at Methodist chapels.

Throughout his adult life, Charles wrote verse, predominantly hymns for use in Methodist meetings. He produced 56 volumes of hymns in 53 years, producing in his lyrics what brother John called a “distinct and full account of scriptural Christianity.” Charles Wesley quickly earned admiration for his ability to capture universal Christian experience in memorable verse. In the following century, Henry Ward Beecher declared, “I would rather have written that hymn of Wesley’s, ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul,’ than to have the fame of all the kings that ever sat on the earth.” The compiler of the massive Dictionary of Hymnology, John Julian, concluded that “perhaps, taking quantity and quality into consideration, [Charles Wesley was] the greatest hymn-writer of all ages.”

More

The Poetry Foundation examines him as a poet

Suggestions for action

Of course: sing! Any one of the linked songs might help you feel the exuberance Charles i trying to toke.  Since we are in Lent, maybe you’d like a foreshadowing of what I to come with Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.

It is worth noting that the French Revolution followed a year after Charles died — May 5, 1789. The Wesleys went with the opportunities their changing world offered and began their own version of the revolution. Many have argued that their spiritual revolution was every bit as effective as the political ones – maybe more long-lasting. It makes us wonder what we have to offer in our present changing world.

March 24 – Oscar Romero

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

Gordon CosbyOn 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

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 we have sometimes incorporated into our celebration of Patrick by lighting 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.

More:

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)

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

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 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.

Did you see the movie that came out in 2019?: Harriet.

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 7 — Perpetua and Felicitas

 

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Today’s Bible reading

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given;  they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?”  They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed. — Revelation 6:9-11

More thoughts for meditation on Perpetua and Felicitas 

We have little idea what brought Perpetua to faith in Christ, or how long she had been a Christian, or how she lived her Christian life. Thanks to her diary, and that of another prisoner, we have some idea of her last days—an ordeal that so impressed the famous Augustine that he preached four sermons about her death.

Perpetua was a Christian noblewoman who, at the turn of the third century, lived with her husband, her son, and her slave, Felicitas, in Carthage (in modern Tunis). At this time, North Africa was the center of a vibrant Christian community. While Emperor Septimius Severus may have  believed Christianity, there is doubt about the tradition that he fomented persecution in North Africa. What happened was probably a local issue. Among the first to be arrested were five new Christians taking classes to prepare for baptism, one of whom was Perpetua.

Her father immediately came to her in prison. He was a pagan, and he saw an easy way for Perpetua to save herself. He entreated her simply to deny she was a Christian.

“Father do you see this vase here?” she replied. “Could it be called by any other name than what it is?”

“No,” he replied.

“Well, neither can I be called anything other than what I am, a Christian.”

All this was recorded in her own hand and later formed into a book you can still read, that includes an account of another victim. The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity (Latin: Passio sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis) describes her imprisonment as a Christian in 203, completed after her death by a redactor. It is one of the oldest and most notable early Christian texts.

In the next days, Perpetua was moved to a better part of the prison and allowed to breast-feed her child. With her hearing approaching, her father visited again, this time, pleading more passionately: “Have pity on my gray head. Have pity on me, your father, if I deserve to be called your father, if I have favored you above all your brothers, if I have raised you to reach this prime of your life.”

He threw himself down before her and kissed her hands. “Do not abandon me to be the reproach of men. Think of your brothers; think of your mother and your aunt; think of your child, who will not be able to live once you are gone. Give up your pride!”

Perpetua was touched but remained unshaken. She tried to comfort her father—”It will all happen in the prisoner’s dock as God wills, for you may be sure that we are not left to ourselves but are all in his power”—but he walked out of the prison dejected.

The day of the hearing arrived, Perpetua and her friends were marched before the governor, Hilarianus. Perpetua’s friends were questioned first, and each in turn admitted to being a Christian, and each in turn refused to make a sacrifice (an act of emperor worship). Then the governor turned to question Perpetua.

At that moment, her father, carrying Perpetua’s son in his arms, burst into the room. He grabbed Perpetua and pleaded, “Perform the sacrifice. Have pity on your baby!” Hilarianus, probably wishing to avoid the unpleasantness of executing a mother who still suckled a child, added, “Have pity on your father’s gray head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the emperor.”

Perpetua replied simply: “I will not.”

“Are you a Christian then?” asked the governor.

“Yes I am,” Perpetua replied.

Her father interrupted again, begging her to sacrifice, but Hilarianus had heard enough: he ordered soldiers to beat him into silence. He then condemned Perpetua and her friends to die in the arena.

Perpetua, her friends, and her slave, Felicitas (who had subsequently been arrested), were dressed in belted tunics. When they entered the stadium, wild beasts and gladiators roamed the arena floor, and in the stands, crowds roared to see blood. They didn’t have to wait long.

Immediately a wild heifer charged the group. Perpetua was tossed into the air and onto her back. She sat up, adjusted her ripped tunic, and walked over to help Felicitas. Then a leopard was let loose, and it wasn’t long before the tunics of the Christians were stained with blood.

This was too deliberate for the impatient crowd, which began calling for death for the Christians. So Perpetua, Felicitas, and friends were lined up, and one by one, were slain by the sword.

More

Documentary: The Perpetua Documentary 

The story told as a seven-minute episode on Dateline:

Suggestions for action

John the Revealer sees the blood of the martyrs as the seeds of the church. The willingness of Perpetua and her newly-converted friends to die rather than worship the Emperor (and the Empire complex), is the signature act that validates the possibility of faith and transformation for those dominated by Rome. Notably, their community in death transcends class. For race-dominated, Eurocentric Christians, it is noteworthy to consider that they were Africans.

Is martyrdom dead? Is your Christianity all locked within your personal identity? Does is intersect with the Empire in which you live? Have your already recanted when asked to worship the “emperor?” These young women ask us important questions with their courage, faith and deaths.