January 6 — Epiphany

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Matthew 2:1-12, Matthew 3:11-4:4 .

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him….

baptismAt that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

More thoughts for meditation about this day

Epiphany is a Greek word that means “manifestation.” The holiday celebrates two manifestations of God: 1) When the magi worship Jesus and present him gifts, they do it because God is made known, born in the baby. 2) When Jesus is baptized and John reports the voice of God denoting Jesus as his own Son, that is another significant epiphany.

In the history of the church, the holy day called Epiphany went two routes, as the church became  separated during the turbulent time after the fall of the western Roman Empire in the late 400’s. The churches in the eastern and western parts of the Mediterranean developed separate identities. You can trace them through the Eastern “Orthodox” churches and the Roman “Catholic” church. In the Roman Catholic Church, Epiphany is usually celebrated on the Sunday between January 2-8. If you want to follow the traditional twelve days of Christmas, you celebrate it on January 6.  The orthodox Churches have the same idea but on different days.

The different days came about like this. In the late 1500s Pope Gregory declared a new calendar to correct the inaccuracies in the old Julian calendar (which dated to Julius Caesar in 45BC). The Gregorian calendar added 12 days to the year and reset the functional spring equinox to March 21 so Easter could be properly observed. Most civil authorities eventually adopted the calendar, although Greece took over 300 years to do it.

Some Orthodox Churches still date events according to a revised Julian calendar. It is part of their identity. So many, but not all, Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on or near what is January 7 in the Gregorian calendar. As of 2012, there is a difference of 13 days between the modern Gregorian calendar and the older Julian calendar. Those who continue to use the Julian calendar or the equivalents mark December 25 and January 6 on what, for the majority of the world, is January 7 and January 19. For this reason, many people in Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Republic of Moldova celebrate Christmas on what, in the Gregorian calendar, is January 7.

All this goes to show that getting manifested is not that easy for God! Being born among humankind is subject to our politics and science. We might consider the date the celebration should be on to be more important than the reason for the celebration! We might divide up the church over an obvious change that needs to be made in the calendar just because we do not respect the person who suggested the change. It might take us a long time to get to the place we should have started: worshiping at the manger and hearing the voice of God at the baptism.

An article with a lot more: http://www.crivoice.org/cyepiph.html

Young man tells us to look for the “hidden” Jesus on Epiphany. [link]

A priest describes the manifestations, or “epiphanies” of the Lord we celebrate during the Epiphany season.

Suggestions for action

Appreciate the epiphanies the wise men and John the Baptist had. They happened a long time ago, but that history is yours, too — for the whole human race! We are invited into what God did in Jesus when we remember and allow ourselves to be part of the story.

Appreciate your own personal epiphanies, the many ways God has been manifested to you! The Spirit of God is revealed in creation, in the stories, teachings and practical applications of the Bible, in the people of the church, and directly spirit to Spirit. Maybe you could write an account of how you came and worshiped or heard the voice of God.

December 18 — Clara McBride Hale

Today’s Bible reading

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Galatians 5:13-15

More thoughts for meditation about Clara McBride Hale (1905-1992)

Clara Hale had a mission of motherhood. Her life experiences helped make her extraordinarily empathetic to the pain and suffering of other mothers and children. Her compassion gave her an unusual capacity to love and to find solutions.

“Mother Hale” was born in North Carolina in 1905. After her father was killed, her mom moved the family to Philadelphia, Pa. After she married , she had two children, and adopted a third. Her husband moved the family to New York City, but he lost his battle with cancer when Clara was 27.

Through the Great Depression, Hale raised and supported her children, working as a domestic by day and a janitor by night. In 1943, Hale opened a daycare in her home in order to spend time with her children as well as care for others. It grew from a short–term to a long–term care facility. She also took care of foster children.

When she retired in 1968 she could not have foreseen that her most notable endeavor, the founding of Hale House, was yet to begin. Hale’s House started in 1969 when Clara Hale’s biological daughter, Lorraine, brought a mother and child who were addicted to drugs to Hale’s home. She could not refuse the desperate pair. Indeed, she had no choice when the mother disappeared while Hale made a phone call in another room and left the baby behind. Hale took the tiny baby girl and nursed her through drug withdrawals. The young mother had other children, and when she returned to Hale’s residence, she brought the others and left them, too. Eventually she returned to take the children back. Hale sent the family off with her blessing and never charged a penny for her help. Within a few short weeks Mother Hale’s apartment was packed from wall to wall with 22 drug-addicted babies. Some of them were abandoned; some were orphaned. As Mother Hale told the tale to Irene Verag of Newsday, “Before I knew it every pregnant addict in Harlem knew about the crazy lady who would give her baby a home.”

Slowly the Hales (Clara, daughter Lorraine, and sons Nathan and Kenneth) allowed their lives to become virtually consumed by the effort to instill hope and to inject healing into the lives of addicted parents in Harlem. The dedicated family worked day and night to support their cause. Mother Hale kept the frailest of the infants in her own bedroom, cradling them and walking the floors all night when necessary to comfort each one through the painful experience of detoxification. The younger Hales took as many jobs as was necessary to bring in the funds to support the many, many children who came into their home. “It wasn’t their fault they were born addicted. Love them. Help one another,”Hale explained to others, as quoted in the Chicago Tribune.

She later got a home license as a “child care facility” in 1970, called the Hale House. A few years later Hale purchased a larger building. In 1975 she was able to attain a license in child-care. She raised the children as if they were her own and once they were healthy she would help to find families interested in adoption. She took it upon herself to make sure the families were a correct fit and even in some cases turned families down if she thought they could not provide a good enough home for the child. Hale said, “My daughter says she was almost sixteen before she realized all these other kids weren’t her real sisters and brothers. Everyone called me ‘Mommy.” She eventually helped over 2,000 drug addicted babies and young children who were born addicted to drugs, children born with HIV, and children whose parents had died of AIDS. It was simple, she said; “hold them, rock them, love them and tell them how great they are.”

It may have been harder than she let on. By 1983, 28,000 women had succumbed to drug–addiction in New York City alone. More than 50,000 children were born chemically dependent. These children were also at high risk of acquiring AIDS from their mothers during pregnancy. In New York State, there were about 250,000 addicts. At least 450,000 were users of cocaine, with one out of every 20 people over the age of 12 involved in drugs.

Today, such people are officially known to suffer from “Substance Use Disorder.” But in the 1980s, rather than declare their situation a national health crisis, society deemed it a crime wave that was sweeping the nation. Mass incarceration and benign neglect of poor minorities became the response, rather than the implementation of well–funded addiction treatment and mental health programs.

After the grant that helped her buy Hale House expired her work became a victim of severe cutbacks of state and city funds. Public agencies with competing services repeatedly harassed the center.

Image result for mother hale house

Successfully supported by individuals, churches, and community groups, Hale House nonetheless became unique in its format and demonstrated a sharp contrast to public agencies for the care of children. In the the program’s early days when funds for food and supplies were few and meeting payroll was a constant challenge, Clara Hale’s personal faith in Christ and the love and active concern of ordinary people were her only reliable sources of strength and support. They brought her disposable diapers, formula, and other items that were in constant demand.

One notable admirer spent more than two years, off and on, trying to track down Hale because no one among his circle of friends knew her name. Finally, John Lennon found her and sent a check for $10,000. “He came with his wife and son and spent time with the children,” Hale had said. After Lennon’s tragic death the following year, Yoko Ono, his wife, sent more gifts, including a check for $20,000, which arrived every year thereafter.

One morning, another fan made her way to Hale’s doorstep. As she emerged from a black limousine, the usual paparazzi who typically pressed for pictures were elsewhere. This was a private visit, for sure. Nonetheless, the presence of Princess Diana made it a royal and memorable one. As the princess stood at the top of the brownstone stairs, she lovingly held a baby in her arms. “Thank you for the work you’re doing here for these children,” she said to Mother Hale.

On February 6, 1985, at the close of the State of the Union message to Congress, President Ronald Reagan turned to Mrs. Clara Hale, seated at the side of the first lady, Mrs. Reagan, and recognized “Mother Hale” for helping babies of drug–addicted mothers in Harlem, N.Y. The president said to members of Congress and to all America, “go to her house some night and maybe you’ll see her silhouette against the window as she walks the floor, talking softly, soothing a child in her arms. Mother Hale of Harlem, she too is an American hero.”

Suggestions for action

Love can accomplish a lot, even if you are needy yourself! Spend a minute a let God love you, needy child who you are.

Our compassion teams often start with a small inspiration or opportunity and grow up to accomplish a lot! Spend another minute and see what love is doing through us, and maybe through you! Give praise for how the love of Jesus flourishes even when the powers-that-be are against it. Maybe it is a good day to imagine how Jesus would like to work through your, or us. Tell someone about the seed of thought you may have and see where it goes.

December 10 – Thomas Merton

Today’s Bible reading

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain. ―Psalm 139:1-6

More thoughts for meditation about Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton, known to the other monks as Father Louis, was born in 1915 in the south of France to a American mom (a Quaker) and Kiwi dad (a painter). He was baptized as an Anglican. When Thomas was six years old his mother died of stomach cancer. He was sent to live in the U.S. with his grandparents while his father often traveled. As an early teen, he was reunited with his dad and was educated in Europe until his father passed when he was 16. At this point Thomas was agnostic. In 1933, while in Italy, he experienced a sense of spiritual emptiness, anxiety, and a hope that would lead to a dramatic conversion.

In 1938, while finishing up an M.A. in English (focused on William Blake), Thomas joined the Catholic church after experimenting with other forms of Christianity. He was rejected by the Franciscans and did not feel drawn to become a priest. In 1942, he was accepted as a novice monk at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky.

His abbot directed Merton to write his autobiography, which became The Seven Storey Mountain. The book became an unlikely best-seller and is considered today to be one of the spiritual classics of the modern age.

Merton would go on to write poems, articles, essays, and more than 60 books, among them New Seeds of Contemplation, The Sign of Jonas, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, and No Man Is An Island.

In the latter decades of his life he became increasingly interested in Asian religions, particularly Buddhism.  His leadership helped spark Christian-Buddhist dialogue that continues to this day. Merton is an example of a devoted Christian who had dialogue with others respectfully and as a learner. He was particularly interested in Eastern ways of thinking and understanding of self. His conversations about these issues were largely with other monks, Christian and Buddhist, as well as his superiors.

His abbey still receives revenues from his work. His work telling the stories of the Desert Fathers and Mothers has been inspirational and influential to many among the Circle of Hope. His writings have been translated into over 30 languages.

Merton died on this day in 1968 of an accidental electrocution while attending an interfaith conference of contemplative monks in Thailand at age 53.

Quotes

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” ― Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”
―  No Man Is an Island

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” ― Thoughts in Solitude

Want more? 

The Thomas Merton Center [link]

Director’s page for “Soul Searching,” a documentary about his life [link]

Suggestions for action

Contemplate. Find the point where you are being created by God right now.

December 5 — Nelson Mandela

Today’s Bible reading

Therefore My people shall know My Name and what it means. Therefore in that day I am the One who is speaking, ‘Here I am.’”

How beautiful and delightful on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace,
Who brings good news of good [things],
Who announces salvation,
Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices,
Together they shout for joy;
For they will see face to face
The return of the Lord to Zion. Isaiah 52:6-8

More thoughts for meditation about Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation. Politically an African nationalist and democratic socialist, he served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) party from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.

Mandela was not outspoken about his Christian faith. However, in his autobiography, he noted that he has always been and will be a Christian and that his actions and conviction stem from his Christian faith. He kept his Christian beliefs discreet in favor of his great life work of reconciliation. “He was a deeply religious man; he believed sincerely in the existence of the Almighty,” said Bishop Don Dabula, who first met Mandela in 1962 and met to pray with him whenever he was at his home in Qunu

The former president had the last rites administered by a Methodist minister in his Houghton home as he was nearing death. Nearby, in a private room, long-time friend Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana said Mandela’s favorite blessing as he died. “I asked not to be in the room when he died,” said Mpumlwana, who had prayed at the family home regularly towards the end of Mandela’s life. He looked at the time midway during what he knew was Mandela’s favorite blessing and saw it was 8.49pm. He chanted the words that always made the elderly statesman’s face light up when he heard them: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. “May the Lord look upon you with kindness, and give you peace. “I later realized that was when he died,” Mpumlwana said.

It is testament to Mandela’s universal appeal that he has been claimed to be everything from a communist to a true liberal by his many admirers. And the image of the father of South Africa’s secular democracy as being deeply religious may well sit uncomfortably with some. But Mandela’s relationship with religion was always significant, if muted.

He was raised and schooled as a Methodist, an experience he recalled fondly in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela was married to his third wife, Graça Machel, by the then head of the South African Methodist church, Bishop Mvume Dandala. At a religious conference in 1999, he said: “Without the church, without religious institutions, I would never have been here today…Religion was one of the motivating factors in everything we did.”

But Mandela held an aversion to speaking publicly about his own faith for fear of dividing or—even worse—using religion as a political tool, as the apartheid regime did.

“The [apartheid] policy was supported by the Dutch Reformed Church, which furnished apartheid with its religious underpinnings by suggesting that Afrikaners were God’s chosen people and that blacks were a subservient species,” he wrote in his autobiography. “In the Afrikaner’s world view, apartheid and the church went hand in hand.”

The head of the Methodist Church in South Africa, Bishop Zipho Siwa, agreed: “He is a leader whose role was to unite everybody.” Ultimately, his faith, like everything else about Mandela, played to the great theme of his life: reconciliation. This was illustrated in a 1994 speech to the Zion Christian Church Easter conference, in which he said: “The good news was borne by our risen Messiah, who chose not one race, who chose not one country, who chose not one language,  who chose not one tribe, who chose all of humankind.”

Want more?

More biography.

Mandela and the church

Suggestions for action

Mandela spent years in prison waiting his opportunity to serve. He had no choice, and maybe you do not either. Will you be bitter when you receive your chance, or ready?

Who can you help reconcile today? Be sincere as you provide a way for people to love. They need your help.

December 2 — Advent

Today’s Bible reading

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. — Titus 2:11-14

More thoughts for meditation concerning Advent

Protestants have issues with empty rituals. They had enough of the Catholic and Orthodox folks bickering about what is the right way to fold an altar cloth or some such nonsense. Actually, they objected to the “altar” itself, since it had become a replica of the Old Testament temple. Jesus fulfilled and transcended the Temple. The Lord’s presence makes the church, the people, the temple of the Holy Spirit, Paul says. So empty rituals are a problem.

Nevertheless, a ritual season, like Advent has a lot of great things going for it. If those things become empty, coercive, or corrupted, then it is not so good. But during Advent, let’s not throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater (pun intended).

Rituals are not inherently wrong. Empty ritual is wrong, as is any ritual that replaces, obscures, or detracts from a vibrant relationship with Christ. Are rituals commanded in the church? No, not really. Baptism and communion, certainly come close. But God is not looking to see if we have completed the right rituals, God sees the heart. She seeks those who worship Him “in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Rituals can be beneficial, but external rites should never be allowed to replace inner devotion.

All that being said, Advent has hundreds of years of history, prayer and practice that makes it a special time of the Christian year. It is one of those “sacred spaces” that are created by ritual.

Rituals (like spiritual disciplines, worship events, and seasons of fasting or prayer) are acts done with emotion and intention which help an individual or group connect with the Spirit in the context of faith, hope and love for the purposes of healing and transformation. Ritual is a means for our personal and collective voices to express our longing and creativity into the unseen dimensions of life, beyond our conscious minds and into the realms of spiritual awareness and connection with the image of God in us and creation. Rituals create “thin places” where heaven and earth kiss.

In our Advent meetings (Sundays, cells and other times) and on Christmas Eve, we create sacred places where we are enabled to release our unspoken hope and unacknowledged sorrow. The whole season of waiting for the blessed hope with the prophets, with John the Baptist, with Mary and Joseph, and with everyone in the story is a sacred place where our deeper selves are welcomed to rise up and feel our sorrows and hope.

Francis Weller writes: “We are creatures of ritual. We have been using rituals for tens of thousands of years. Ancient burial sites include careful placement of artifacts with the dead, such as bones carved and covered with ochre, pieces of flint for the hunt in the next world, food, and ornamented beads. In fact, grief for the loss of a loved one may have elicited our first ritual actions. There is something about ritual that resonates deep in the bone. It is a ‘language older than word,’ relying not so much on speech as on gestures, rhythms, movements and emotion. In this sense, ritual addresses something far more primal than language.”

Like our proverb says, “Without worship we shrink.” Participating in an alive Advent might be one of the most alternative things we can do.

More?

Resources from the Ignatians

Another Video about the origins and history of Advent.

Suggestions for action

Today, in the absence of communal rituals that hold and sustain our psychic lives, we often unconsciously fall into ritualized behaviors (nightly TV, Friday night at the bar, Eagles/Phillies games, videogame addictions, etc.). These patterns, however, do not carry what is required to make them soul-nourishing practices. In the end we will either participate in ritual deliberately, which binds us to soul, community, nature and the sacred, or we will be reduced to repetitive patterns of addiction, compulsion, or routines lacking in artistry and the renewal of genuine ritual. 

Check to see if you have an Advent replacement going. The resistance you feel to the discipline season may be more about how locked up you are than about how stupid the season is.

Here are some suggestions from Rod: The Advent pilgrimage: Five things to try

Day by day, journey with the rest of us. One way to do that is by praying together with Circle of Hope Daily Prayer. WIND and WATER are the same for Advent.

November 30 – Mother Jones

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Jeremiah 22

“Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness,
    his upper rooms by injustice,
making his own people work for nothing,
    not paying them for their labor.
He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace
    with spacious upper rooms.’
So he makes large windows in it,
    panels it with cedar
    and decorates it in red.

“Does it make you a king
    to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
    He did what was right and just,
    so all went well with him.
He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
    and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?”
    declares the Lord.
“But your eyes and your heart
    are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
    and on oppression and extortion.”

More thoughts for meditation

As a social reformer, Mary “Mother” Jones exposed disturbing truths about child and adult factory workers and miners and perpetual poverty in the United States through numerous marches, demonstrations, strikes, and speeches. The influence of Christianity was evident throughout her life. She received a Catholic education as a girl and became a teacher in a convent as a young adult. Letters and speeches by her, and those about her, were filled with the imagery of Christian beliefs.

Jones worked as a teacher and dressmaker, but after her husband and four children all died of yellow fever in 1867, and her dress shop was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, she began working as an organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union. In 1903, upset about the lax enforcement of the child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and silk mills, she organized a Children’s March from Kensington, in Philadelphia, to the home of then president Theodore Roosevelt in New York.

She wailed about the unjust experiences of the poor like an Old Testament prophet, often dressed in old‐fashioned black dresses that seemed similar to the black habits worn by the Catholic sisters that taught and mentored her during her early years. She was described by others as the “walking wrath of God,” the “incarnation of labor’s struggles” decrying injustice and calling to account its perpetrators. She was even introduced by the author Upton Sinclair one day as “Mother Mary” — an allusion to the New Testament Mary who gave birth to the Christ child and was considered one who interceded on behalf of poor and exploited adults and children.

Her use of the word “hell” is notable. Once she was introduced as a humanitarian and quickly bellowed “I’m not a humanitarian, I’m a hell‐raiser.”  Two noteworthy quotes that peppered her speeches on behalf of factory workers and miners were “fight like hell until you go to heaven” and “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” When a West Virginia district attorney, Reese Blizzard, in 1902, Called her “the most dangerous woman in America” at her trial for ignoring an injunction banning meetings by striking miners, the title stuck.

As a passionate public speaker, some people thought she was “unchristian‐like,” mainly because she used of name‐calling, profanity, and dramatic stunts for effect, such as parading children who lost body limbs as a result of accidents in factories and mines. She was compared to John Brown, the abolitionist who believed armed rebellion was the only way to defeat the institution of slavery in the United States. Whether she actually believed such things is doubtful, but the association made her seem “unchristian‐like.” When confronted with the issue of violence in the labor movement she encouraged it at times as a necessary evil. She believed that martyrs died to overcome injustices and the causes that she led were no exception.

Just a few months after her death, the singing cowboy Gene Autry recorded the song “The Death of Mother Jones.” The writer of the lyrics is unknown.

The world today’s in mourning
For death of Mother Jones
Gloom and sorrow hover
Around the miners’ homes

This grand old champion of labor
Was known in every land
She fought for right and justice
She took a noble stand

Through the hills and over the valleys
In every mining town
Mother Jones was ready to help them
She never turned them down

On front with the striking miners
She always could be found
And received a hearty welcome
In every mining town

She was fearless of every danger
She hated that which was wrong
And she never gave up fighting
Until her breath was gone

This noble leader of labor
Has gone to a better land
While the hard working miners
They miss a guiding hand

May the miners all work together
And carry out her plan
And bring back better conditions
For every laboring man.

Want more?

AFL-CIO bio [link]

Suggestions for Action

Jesus was probably considered the most dangerous man in Palestine by the leaders who eventually killed him. Jeremiah was decidedly unpopular with the kings he exposed for their greed and oppression. If we, as Jesus followers, are not at odds with the powers-that-be, or even a threat to the corrupt ones, we might not be too serious about being planted in the soil of a fallen world. Consider who God wants you to stand with and stand up for.

November 29 – Dorothy Day

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Psalm 42:1-4

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

More thoughts for meditation about Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn Heights in 1897 to stable, middle class  and marginally Christian parents. After her family experienced several major relocations, Day was raised mostly in San Francisco and Chicago. After two years of college, she dropped out of school in Illinois and moved back to New York City. During these younger years, Day’s interest in adventure grew to include alternative social organizations, particularly socialist anarchism. She began working with several socialist publications around 1916.

Although she had been baptized in the Episcopal Church as a child, at this point she identified as agnostic. The next few years were full of adventure and rocky relationships including heartbreak, abortion, a short marriage, and then an unexpected pregnancy and birth of her daughter, Tamar in 1926. She wished to baptize her child, which caused more tension in her relationship with Tamar’s father. A year later, Tamar was baptized and so was Dorothy, now part of the Catholic church.

In 1932 she met French immigrant Peter Maurin with whom a year later  she would found the Catholic Worker movement. The publication of The Catholic Worker (almost named the Catholic Radical) began in 1933 and continues to be published. It’s goals were to promote Catholic social teaching in the depths of the Great Depression and to stake out a neutral, pacifist position in the war-torn 1930s.  The vision grew to include “establishing houses of hospitality to care for the destitute, establishing rural farming communities to teach city dwellers agrarianism and encourage a movement back to the land, and setting up roundtable discussions in community centers in order to clarify thought and initiate action.”

She became famous for saying “I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.” By 1941 over 30 independent yet affiliated Catholic Worker communities had formed in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. While the Catholic leaders told her to change the name of the publication because it did not represent the Church, they refused. By the 1960’s, Day became enamored by Catholics, organizers, and counterculture leaders. While maintaining radical social ideas and practice, she opposed the sexual revolution of the decade, describing the ill effects she had suffered years before. She continued to be critical of transnational companies like United Fruit and violent governmental policies and praised aspects of Communist movements in Russia, China, and Cuba.

Day was a prolific writer and joined movements for justice. At 75, she spent a week in jail helping Cesar Chavez working for justice for farm workers in California. Dorothy Day died on this day in 1980, three weeks after her 83rd birthday.

More:

The Catholic Worker Movement homepage [link]

The Dorothy Day Collection [link]

Day teaching on TV [link]

Suggestions for action

Dorothy Day’s radical views and uncompromising caused her grief and trouble. But her long loneliness, as she called it, made her faith deep and her influence wide. What is it that you must do?

November 26 — Sojourner Truth

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it

Read Joel 2:28-31

“In those days, I will also pour out my Spirit on the male and female slaves.”

More thoughts for meditation

Today we celebrate the prophetess Sojourner Truth, who died on November 26th, 1883 at the age of 86. She is remembered for her relentless, Spirit-filled work as an abolitionist, women’s suffragist, and evangelist.

She was sold as a child into slavery in New York. She worked on a farm and often retreated into the woods nearby where she prayed to God by a “temple of brush” that she had made. In her twenties, she obeyed a vision from the Lord to take her baby, Sophia, and walk away from the family that enslaved her. It was a frightening experience for her to live out on her own, and she considered going back to work on the farm, but Jesus appeared to her in a vision and prayed for her, giving her the strength to continue.

After these and other experiences with God, she saw her life and ministry as uniquely situated to be a leader involved in two movements in the United States: the abolition of slavery, and the right of women to vote. As a woman leader and a former slave, she saw her gifts of leadership and freedom from slavery as something that God wanted for all women and all people who were enslaved. She used her life story and experiences with God as the basis for her political and theological views.

She is also remembered fondly for her straight-gazed challenges to live by faith. When some other notable abolitionists were advocating for violent uprisings to end slavery, Truth asked them the question: “Is God gone?”

Quotes

“If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.”

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne five children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

“Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”

“You have been having our rights so long, that you think, like a slave-holder, that you own us. I know that it is hard for one who has held the reins for so long to give up; it cuts like a knife. It will feel all the better when it closes up again.”

“And what is that religion that sanctions, even by its silence, all that is embraced in the ‘Peculiar Institution’? If there can be any thing more diametrically opposed to the religion of Jesus, than the working of this soul-killing system – which is as truly sanctioned by the religion of America as are her minsters and churches – we wish to be shown where it can be found.”

More?

Great bio from her home town association in Battle Creek: [link]

Sojourner Truth’s famous speech of 1851, “Ain’t I a Woman” Re-enactment

Suggestion for action

Look racism and sexism straight in the face and expect the same Spirit of Jesus, who inspired Sojourner Truth, to say something through you, too.

Encouragement from Dru Hart to take a stand: [blog post]

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. Here’s one on Arnold:

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 – Thanksgiving Day

Today’s Bible reading 

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. —Psalm 100:3-5

More thoughts for meditation about Thanksgiving Day

Without gratitude, we would not get very far along our spiritual journey, would we? It is one of the nicest things the U.S. government does for its citizens when it offers a federal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November to pause, give thanks, and celebrate what we have been given. George Washington made the first proclamation of Thanksgiving Day in 1789. It was celebrated on various dates from state to state until Abraham Lincoln synced them in 1863. Canada, as well as several other nations, have a holiday to give thanks around the traditional time of the harvest on different days.

The United States’ version of the holiday includes a unique mythology providing the central imagery for the festivities which include parades and feasts of traditional foods, usually shared among relatives. The central narrative is a re-telling of a poorly-documented account from 1621 of a treaty between the Wampanoag tribe and the Pilgrims of Plymouth colony that included a feast of thanks, friendship, and some food the Pilgrims needed.

The development of Black Friday (invented in Philadelphia!) and expansion of it to the whole weekend has also moved backward to encompass Thanksgiving. So now we are subjected to a four-day extravaganza of consumerism (and don’t forget football, its violent twin) rather than a day of thanks. Circle of Hope has a heavy streak of buy-nothing day among us as a protest to the overshadowing.

So on Thanksgiving, we look back to a sordid history of relations between Europeans and the natives of New England and we can look forward to an onslaught of consumerism. Because of this, the day becomes even more important. We must rest. We must be grateful. We must celebrate the many “feastworthy” things we have experienced this year. God is good. Let’s be grateful for the good that is given.

More?

An article from Indian Country Today Media Network “What Really Happened at the First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side of the Tale” [link]

US Congress’ Legislative Process [link]

A history of the movements surrounding the Puritans and Separatists [link]

Conservative talk show host Michael Medved tries to do some reconstruction of the myth:

Suggestions for action

You can do it. See beyond the traditions, good and bad, and give thanks. Let whatever distresses you go for a few minutes and list the things for which you are grateful. Dwell on them as slowly as possible. Smile.