Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day Weekend

Invocation
Our ancestors in faith first created Sabbath, O God, not as a time of worship, but as a time of rest, because you knew that, without rest, there is no worship. They created a time to cease striving; to cease striving to please, striving to get ahead, striving to get more, striving to be secure, striving to win. The first objectors to Sabbath were the taskmasters in Pharaoh's brickyards. Then came the feudal lords, followed by the boss man in the field, the floor manager in the factory, the sales manager, and the CEO.

All of these bosses, and even we, ourselves, have a tendency to measure worth by productivity, and to value math and amassing over community and relationships. We are still desperate for Sabbath, O Lord, because its rhythm is the only thing that keeps us grounded. This day, as we celebrate a long weekend of work-stoppage, may we find ways to regularly rest in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Gas Works Park, Seattle, WA

Illumination
Candles are a safe, controllable method of being reminded of fire's two essential qualities: heat and light; and with these hi-tech, dripless varieties, it's almost as if they burn but don't burn. We no longer need them for their light, now that we have electricity to incandescence and beyond.

But our hearts are hungry for what's lurking beneath our own shadows; to let you claim and redeem the parts of us that we're afraid to let anyone else see, because those parts don't measure-up to the world's demand for perfection.


In the half-light of our lives, O God, claim us, redeem us, send us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hesed

It is divine love that both steadies us
and remains steadfastly with us
along life’s unpredictable journey.

The purveyors of perfection
want us to believe two things:

[1] Life is geometry, ergo
the acceptable distance
between two points is a straight line.

[2] The “right” product will assist you
in navigating this straight line, lickety split.

Peace and contentment will evade you
until you accept the deeper reality
that a meaningful life meanders
all over the page, leaving a wobbly trail
of forth-and-back tracks that could never
pass perfection’s sobriety test.

It’s a dance that is made-up for us
as we go, ever-drawing us
toward hope as we balk, stumble,
and even backtrack our way
through life’s labyrinth.



© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Monday, August 25, 2014

Eternity

When we can connect,
even if it's just a distant,
gentle breeze blowing across
an ashed-over coal
we believed to be ice cold,

and see a brief glimmer
and maybe a wisp of smoke,
how can we not believe
that there is a God nearby
and within who whispers
hope into every heart?

The pain that such circumstances create,
when we hear and feel
that the whisper was unheard
for so long that life lost all meaning,
slams us into the brick wall of finitude.

Here, our hope lies in a theology
that reaches beyond the nick of time,
extending grace across eternity
in all directions.

THIS is the God of whom
I speak and write
and for whom I live and love.
 
Seattle, WA

© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Friday, August 22, 2014

Why?

When my options are mine,
not just because of my choices
or my hard work, but also because
of the circumstances of my birth –

the nationality on my passport,
the religion of my ancestors,
and the color of my skin –  

and my options aren't yours
for the very same reasons,
how are we to live in this world?

Justice, when he is disentangled
from retribution and violence,
isn't so much about prying privilege
from one hand and placing it in another,

as he is about restoring
creation's balance of need;
about smoothing the universe's supply
of dignity, respect, and opportunity.

If we hope to move beyond
legislated and litigated varieties,
which must be continually replanted,
Justice's sister, Peace,
must be made to feel at home.

Her neighborhood is the place
where stories are shared,
where ears are tilted to understand
and not cocked to respond.

She unpacks Privilege's truth,
inviting us to not only see
our economy of distribution
in all its naked disparity,

but also to choose a life
grounded in a commitment
to be open to and opened by
the question "Why?";

to recognize that it not only
doesn't have to be this way,
we also aren't meant to stay this way.
Photo by Todd Jenkins
 © 2014 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ATM

Lovers Lane

It usually requires a lot,
this marvelous device in a box
or on the side of a building
that is capable of spitting out
cash like it grows on trees,
which my daddy told me isn't true.

There's the card, of course,
which must be in good physical shape,
as well as its magic
(or is it magnetic?) strip;

and you can forget it
if you've forgotten the secret-code,
AKA PIN, so you'd better make it
your grandmother's birthday
or an old phone number
or something else that's the right blend
of memorable and cryptic;
and one last thing
that's critical: available funds.

When I tell you that I've found
an altogether different variety,
I understand your skepticism.
I would be a disbeliever, also,
had I not experienced it
in so many unbelievable ways
on so many different occasions.

It shows up precisely
when my card is cracked or missing;
when the magnet is fried
and I can't remember my own phone number,
much less granny's birthday;
when my life is so overdrawn
that even Moses couldn't part this Red Sea.

And there it is, whispered into existence
by the voice that needs no words;
a voice that's whispered hoarse
because I have such a hard time
being quiet and still long enough to hear.

It spits out invisible invitations
to parties I never dreamed about,
dances I never imagined I could approach,
and then I smell fresh bread
and hear new music.

Of course, Fear and Apprehension
peer over my shoulder,
warning me against these propositions,
chipping away at my worth,
deforesting with shame and doubt.

It's risky business, this ATM of Grace;
daring me to not only reveal my true self,
my whole true self,
and nothing but my true self;
but also to offer that self to others.

Do you hear the sighing?


© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Monday, August 18, 2014

Idol

The ancients fashioned images
of various animals, both real life
and in combinations
outside the realm of genetic possibility,
to augment and direct their worship.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
eschew such visual representations,
proclaiming that the full self
of the one true God
cannot be visually observed
in two or three dimensions.

But do not fool yourself
into believing that we have thus
avoided practicing idolatry.

Wherever there is a rule
or topic whose examination
is beyond the reach of faith,

whenever a conversation has been
excluded from our shared sacred story,
you can rest assured that Baal
is just as present as ever.

That which we dare not discuss
is the very thing toward which
our lives instinctively genuflect.
 
Gas Works Park, Seattle WA

© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Monday, August 11, 2014

Heart for It

When Jesus says,
“For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
he's not saying that our treasure
will follow our heart.

He knows that whatever we value,
our hearts will find their way to it.
Whatever we don't value,
our hearts will not seek out.

If economics is our driving force –
if we determine both God's love for us
and therefore our love for others
by the number of baskets
of leftovers we can collect;

if time is short and we schedule
and protect all of ours
for fear that there won’t be enough
for us to enjoy the fruits of your bounty
(or “our labor” as we are wont to call it) –

then, when a matter of mission
or justice or compassion
comes our way and we say,
“We don't have the time or money for it.”
what we are really saying is,
“We don't have the heart for it.”

Give us hearts for it, O God!
 
Fremont, WA

© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Friday, August 8, 2014

August 10

Invocation
Here we are, O God, gathered from at least the four corners of Lincoln County, if not the four corners of the universe. We all have our own reasons for being here, and they run the gamut from obligation to enthusiasm, from coercion to expectation. No matter how or why we arrived, O Lord, we pray that you would make yourself known to us today, that we might leave this place with more fire in our hearts and more love in our living; through Jesus Christ the inviter we pray. Amen.

Prayer for Illumination
The candles flicker, O Lord, sending their heat up in shimmering waves. Sometimes our lives mirror that ethereal glow, wobbling across the divide between reality and fantasy; and we are hard pressed to distinguish between who we'd like to be and who our true selves are. As the narrative of your people's journey is cracked open this morning, O God, help us find both our place in the story and your truth in our lives; through Jesus Christ the author of hope. Amen.

Leave Them


Mr. Past is calling,
inviting you to move into
your old, comfortable neighborhood,
where predictability trumps hope.

Comparison wants you
to not only do the math,
but also to invest your energy
in Anger's gaping maw.

Assumption spins tales
in which you are always the hero,
constantly barraged by
the jealousy of bit-part actors.

Grace whispers and sings
her simple, haunting melody,
daring you to leave them all behind,
and begin the adventure of today.


© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Damp Relations

Sometimes, water is added
to existing mission relationships,
and amazing things begin to grow.

Sometimes the door
of relationship is first
opened by pure water.

And then there are the times
when water is dropped
from 30,000 feet and
a few upturned, open mouths
have their thirst miraculously quenched,
if only briefly.

May we, O Lord,
celebrate the fly-over mists,
the deepest wells, and
all of the connections and
partnerships, such as they are.

At the same time, may we
always thirst for more,
and be propelled by grace
to dig deeper together.


© 2014 Todd Jenkins


Monday, August 4, 2014

Adsum

Old Stone Fort State Park, TN

"I am here."
It is the beginning
of life, of the knowing
and being known of love.

Recognizing and claiming "here";
hungering for nowhere else;
spirit, mind, body centered;
resting in this now.

No "There!", no "Where?";
just the peaceful presence
within this little slice
of time, space.

For once, at least,
let's set aside the worry,
wonder of everywhere else,
and dare to proclaim, "Adsum."


© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, August 3, 2014

3 for Communion

Invocation
If we pay attention to the world, in general, and to our own lives, in particular, O Lord, we see, feel, hear, smell, and taste that you are already present in every place and circumstance. Let us, then, today, invoke the power of your Holy Spirit in our lives to slow down, sharpen our gifts of observation, and sense your presence in this hour of worship, that we may find ways to carry that recognition with us to work, school, and play every day; through Jesus, the incarnate one, who pitched tent in our neighborhood for this very purpose. Amen.

Call to Confession
John’s gospel tells of a woman caught in adultery. Smug religious leaders, who believe they are too good to sin, drag this woman before Jesus and accuse her, hoping that he will confirm the chasm between their morality and her immorality and demand that she be beaten to death with stones.

Instead, Jesus stoops and begins writing in the sand. All of them stand with bated breath; the woman hoping it won’t be her last breath, and the religious leaders flexing their muscles and holding their stones of conviction high and mighty. He simply says, “Let the one who has NO sin cast the first stone.” Whatever Jesus wrote in the sand, it must have been exactly what the religious leaders needed to rip away the fa├žade of their self-righteousness; because all of the accusers, one by one, dropped their weapons and walked away.

When just the two of them were left, Jesus turned to the woman and asked, “Where are your accusers? Is there no one left to condemn you?” The answer given was, “No one, Lord.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”

That’s grace, and it’s offered to the whole world every day, every hour, every moment. Let us confess our sins that it may be freely offered to us also.


Prayer for Illumination
We’ve moved the candles off the table to make room for the loaf and cup, O Lord. It’s not that we need any less light; just that there’s not enough room for fire and food today, with all the ritual movement we are reenacting. Even though we aren’t using the candles as a part of our worship this morning, we are still in need of your holy fire.


Keep it coming, O God. Bring the light of your promise to the hidden places in our lives; places we’ve walled-off from you and everyone else, places that feel so broken that we’re afraid to let them be seen. Bring your gift of grace to bear on us, so that, as your word is read and proclaimed through song, sermon, and silence, and as it is enacted through sacrament, we may be nourished by hope, and become courageous enough to reveal your grace now and to all generations forevermore. Amen.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Attention Deficit

Imaginary lines drawn,
not even in the sand,
but on paper maps
create division, hostility.

Theological certitude drawn,
not even from practiced faith,
but from egos of indifference
create division, hostility.

Labor of servitude drawn,
not even from coexistence,
but from economies of scarcity
create division, hostility.

When it happens in our back yard
we cringe and shrink and hide;
across the ocean and we
point, lament in exasperation.

Where, O holy one, will we find
the courage and wherewithal
to speak your triune grace:
Creation, Unity, Hospitality.
 
Photo by Todd Jenkins

© 2014 Todd Jenkins