Visiting Jesus in Prison

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The keepers are uniformed, professional, and follow an exacting protocol. Every visit I am greeted with pages of instructions: what I may not do, may not wear, may not bring. I submit paperwork and my ID. I am physically inspected head to toe and under my tongue, then scanned. A massive steel door slides open. I am stamped with ultraviolet ink, to be verified on my exit. I await another steel door to slide open. I walk 100 yards to a family meeting room where I await yet another steel door to be opened. Guards oversee. I am instructed where I may sit, in a chair whose location is framed by a painted square on the floor. The prisoner whom I meet is escorted in through another door. I stand. We greet briefly. We smile. We sit, he, too, in a designated square. After some welcoming conversation, I suggest we share silence and stillness for some moments, and then either the prisoner or I will pray aloud. And then I listen. I mostly listen. The time is precious, and we talk earnestly about important things. We often share some gentle laughter and slow tears. We stand to say goodbye very briefly, and then he sits to await his escort. And then I depart, a repeat process.  Read More

Be a Blessing – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Genesis 12:1-9
Philippians 2:1-13

Today the last Sunday in the Season of Creation, celebrating with the Church ecumenical and concluding on Wednesday with St. Francis. Our theme this morning is bless. “God bless you” is a simple or serious request. When we bless with words, we ask for God’s provision, favor, kindness, goodness to be evident. To bless is to pray for others, to intercede and act on behalf of others. We pray not to inform God of needs but we Brothers speak of in our Rule of Life, to join God in loving solidarity which God uses “for healing and transformation.”[i] God is not dependent on us. God invites our loving action including prayer.

God instructed Moses and Aaron to say: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”[ii] When another’s face lights up at seeing ours, we feel loved. In other words: “May God be good to you and protect you. May God turn toward you. May God’s face light up at seeing you. May you feel the love and receive peace or wholeness.” Read More

The Blessing of Awareness – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Luke 6:17-26

In this morning’s gospel reading, we hear Luke’s version of what we know as The Beatitudes. Beatitude, from the Latin beatus, is defined as: a state of utmost bliss, and is synonymous with felicity, gladness, happiness, joy, and especially blessedness. It is the word blessed which we hear at the beginning of each statement Jesus gives. In Matthew’s gospel, we hear a longer version of the Beatitudes which comes from a sermon Jesus gives to his followers, known as the Sermon on the Mount. It is this version I remember hearing each year when Franco Zefferelli’s epic “Jesus of Nazareth” was broadcast on TV just prior to Easter. You may remember Zefferelli’s strikingly incongruous Anglo Jesus with crystal blue eyes delivering the Beatitudes to a great crowd assembled around him, augmented by the uplifting sound of a string orchestra, giving the moment a dramatic sense of beauty and hope.

Luke’s version, known as the Sermon on the Plain, is spare with only four Beatitudes. Besides the location and brevity of Luke’s version, the other difference is that each statement of blessedness is balanced by a woe, emphasizing two rival ways of human conduct and the reversal of human values that we hear throughout Luke. The gospel writer sets the scene by telling us that people had come not only from Judea and Jerusalem, but from the coast of Tyre and Sidon. Traditionally, we understand the gospel writer of Luke to himself be a Gentile, outside the covenant between God and Israel. Where Matthew’s gospel is written for a community of Jewish believers who are asking questions about how their belief in Jesus intersects with the faith of their upbringing, Luke is proclaiming the promise of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, outside of Judaism. What do we notice about these Beatitudes and their subsequent ‘woes’ in Luke? Let me suggest two things: Read More

Radical Practices: Resistance – Transforming, Not Conforming – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Romans 12:1-2, 9-21

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Read More

Jesus’ Baptism; Our Mission – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Isaiah 42:1-9
Matthew 3:13-17

The first lesson appointed for today, the reading we heard from the Prophecy of Isaiah, begins with the words: “Here is my servant; …I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.”[i]  Now this reading is like a supernatural transcription of what the prophet Isaiah heard from God: God’s spirit being promised to the long-awaited Messiah, and also, God’s spirit reaching to foreign nations and distant lands, to the gôyîm, the non-Jews, people like many of us.  How will we know?  What will be the evidence of God’s spirit at work?  What will be the outward sign, the fruit of God’s spirit among us?  Justice.  Justice to the nations.  These opening words of Isaiah, God’s prophet, about the forthcoming Messiah, and then, later,when Jesus, the Messiah, begins his ministry, his opening words are about justice.[ii] Read More

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

The Gift of Blessing

You are intended to be a blessing to God and to all that God has created. Be generous with the light that teems from your eyes; be generous with your words and actions in this flow of God’s blessing to God and to others.

 

 

Psalm 103 – Br. Eldridge Pendleton

Bless the Lord, O My Soul: A Meditation on Psalm 103

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless his holy Name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all his benefits.
He forgives all your sins
And heals all your infirmities;
He redeems your life from the grave
And crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;
He satisfies you with good things,
And your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.
The LORD executes righteousness
And judgment for all who are oppressed.
He made his ways known to Moses
And his works to the children of Israel.
The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,
Slow to anger and of great kindness.

Whenever I hear the opening words of Psalm 103 I think of my grandmother, who loved me unconditionally. I have reflected often in recent years on those individuals whose influence helped make me who I am, and she is certainly at the top of the list. My grandfather died unexpectedly when my grandmother was 27 and within weeks of giving birth to her second child, Elizabeth. They had been sweethearts since childhood. Left a widow in a frontier town in Indian Territory, far from her family in Texas, my grandmother emerged from darkest grief a year later spiritually rescued and renewed, determined to lead others to the love of Jesus. An inspired teacher, she did so by teaching Bible classes for over fifty years. Bereft by tragedy at such an early age, her life could have been hobbled by fear. Instead, Psalm 103 inspired her to live. It became her mantra. Its message can inspire us to live more fully, as well.  Read More