“Annunciation” A Poem by Denise Leverton

December 21, 2011 1 comment

Annunciation

A Poem by Denise Leverton

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

____________________________

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

______________________________

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

Categories: Christianity, Spirituality

Jesus Was An “Occupier”

December 17, 2011 Leave a comment

James W. McCarty, III wrote again this week on Jesus as an “occupier”:

“Theologically speaking, Christians have a variety of answers to the  question of why Jesus was killed: to appease God’s anger for human sin,  to bear the just punishment owed to God by a sinful humanity, as a moral example of suffering love for God that future Christians should follow, as a sacrifice offered to God for the forgiveness of human sin, as the  ultimate example of God’s unending love for humanity, and several other  formulations.”

“Historically speaking, however, there is a nearly  universally accepted answer among scholars as to why he was killed:  Because Jesus occupied the temple.”

From the CCBlogs Network, read the entire post here

Categories: Christianity, Gospel

Planning Consultant Available for Churches

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

What consultant did your church use when it engaged in the most recent strategic planning exercises? Courtesy of Duke Divinty’s Call and Response blog

Spiritual discernment is messy, often slow and extremely complicated. Most churches want neat, quick and simple. Spiritual discernment begins by admitting we do not have the solutions. Spiritual discernment invites thinking, praying and reflecting at a level that most of us studiously avoid.

Read the full article from EthicsDaily.com:  Why Strategic Planning for Churches Wastes Your Time

What Action Are We Called To?

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Recommended reading and consideration for the United Methodist’s, and applicable to the future of all mainline denominations, Ben Gosden asks, “What Are We Doing Here?: Questioning Our Methodist Mission”

…of the Call to Action statement offered by the Council of Bishops – It’s a major structural change that seeks to address the excess and inefficiency identified as a primary source of our “lack of vitality.” But just as the Methodist church has done before, it adopts major practices from the American culture to find a source of providence. The structural changes promise a priority on the building of congregations. We’re no longer to be a connectional church as much as we’re called to be a collection of churches. But the problem is, as far as I can tell, we still don’t address our lack of vision and self-awareness.

From Ben’s blog, Covered In The Master’s Dust

The Ordinary Response of 9/11: Hope, Not Vengence

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

The Rev. Craig T. Kocher, writing in this week’s Faith and Values column of the Richmond (Va) Times Dispatch:

“For most of us, the world changed forever, not in the fire and ash of 9/11,
but in something quite ordinary, and thus extraordinary — the day a child was
born, the day we fell in love, the day we discovered our life’s deepest passion.
Perhaps those utterly human experiences might be touch points for each of us in
processing the past 10 years and mapping the next 10.”

The full article is here.

Categories: Christianity Tags: ,

Radical Hospitality as Evangelism

Here’s the best thing I have read this week and I encourage you to read it as well:

Ben Gosden writing in “Covered in the Master’s Dust” poses the following in his post How Radical Hospitality Can Become a Recipe for Colonial Evangelism:

“Radical Hospitality is one of the distinctive marks that identifies us as Christian–we accept and love people without pretense. It is a practice marked by humility and generosity. But what happens when we abuse the practice of radical hospitality?”

Ben goes on to raise concerns about a distorted view of radical hospitality being used by the church as a means for increasing attendance and participation in the church, that the church may be losing the vision of practicing Christ-like hospitality for its own sake.

You can read the full article here.

The Summer of My Enlightenment – Part Two

The ministry of compassionate anonymity sits in stark contrast to “selfism.”

Serving this summer as a hospital chaplain, I was often anonymous. I was known by my role, my title, “Chaplain,” not by my name. I was present with another human being in their moment of crisis, their moment of pain, their time of fear, their overwhelming grief. When their experience defied understanding because of their lack of faith, or because of their faith’s rigidity, I was present. When they were without hope, I was present. Regardless of whom they were, their tradition, orientation, ethnicity, or age, I was present.

Among the revelations of this summer experience was recognition of the gifts of the Creator: that what I have described and will describe herein are events and attributes, and most notably opportunities, given by God.

There were moments when I prayed great prayers. There were times when I was speechless. There were occasions when words were not needed.

There were experiences of spiritual connectivity, moments when I was a conduit between patient and God, because I was present. And there were more times than I can count when I was profoundly blessed, fortunate to be in that particular place at that specific time. Yet in each of those special moments, it was not about me. This is the meaning of Mark 8:35 – I experienced the presence of God in relationship with another person, when I was fully present to that other person to hear their expressed need, disengaged from my own wants and needs.

My relationship with other people, be it my wife, family, colleagues, friends, patients or parishioners, must be grounded in my relationship with God. This, too, became profoundly evident this summer. I had little strength from The Source to minister to the needs of others if I did not care for and cultivate that spiritual relationship each day. I had few resources to be present and listen to people if I was not taking the time to be still and listen to God. In the hospital environment, “self care” was a mantra, repeated frequently. Yes, we half – joked that it was “self care” because no one else would take care of you. But the reality is that we do need to take care of our spiritual selves, nurturing our relationship and understanding of the Divine Presence in our lives, in order to be effective ministers to others, for that is our purpose for being.

This ministry of compassionate anonymity resonates with me. It reflects my understanding of Christ’s call to feed, clothe and care for those among us who are in need.  It embraces social justice issues and ministries, just as it does local programs and services. Yet, one does not need a program or a cause to compassionately and anonymously minister to others. And it definitely contrasts with the selfism of our culture and cautiously, our church. For we do not compassionately care for those who need us in order to get a reward; we don’t do it for ourselves, our benefit, but rather because our neighbor needs us, and we can respond.

Most significantly, the ministry of compassionate anonymity captures the essence of a 21st century life transformed. It’s not about me.