The Kin-dom of God

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Lay-abouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way.
(now read from bottom to top)
—“Refugees” by Brian Bilston

Throughout his ministry, Jesus tells us the last will be first, and the first will be last. The humble will be exalted, and the exalted, humbled. The kin-dom of God he proclaims simply turns the power structures and hierarchies of this world upside down. Or rather, downside up. Sometimes, we must pause and read from the bottom to the top.

So many messages in our world encourage us to look inward and think only of ourselves. What do I want? What do I need? How can I get it? But the work of faith—the work Jesus calls us to—encourages us to look inward AND outward—beyond ourselves. We are called to realize that our well-being is dependent on their well-being. My well-being is entirely connected with your well-being. Worrying whether or not an undocumented immigrant receiving pressing medical care in this country might raise the overall costs of health insurance, does not serve us. Instead, the pressing spiritual question is how can we make needed medical services available and accessible to all God’s children? How might we best minister to the needs of God’s children—body and soul? How can we make the world more peaceful? How can we actively decrease the violence? What can I do in this new year to expand the welcome of Love in my community? This is where my faith meets the world. As Mary tells us again and again: “God brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly. God fills the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty. God helps us with great mercy, according to the promise God made with our ancestors. . . .” I truly believe her song was not sung in vain. We are each called to extend God’s hands and heart into the world in ways that can turn things rightside-up.

See you in church,

One River Gives

One river gives
Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us. / We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us. / We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it, / We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet, / Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too, / But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand, / Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow. / Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you / What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference. 

“When Giving Is All We Have” by Alberto Rios

My heart is full of gratitude as I write this—even though this year has been full of layers of loss and heartache and grief. The ups and downs of grief have really taken their toll on me over the past year, and some days I have really struggled to keep going. At times, I’ve just wanted to crawl into a hole and sleep for days. But my faith—and my family and friends and my church—have kept me moving—and loving and hoping—even when things seemed bleakest. And today—Thanksgiving Day—has brought me great joy: Drinking coffee. Feeling the rain on my face. Eating pie. Watching movies with Clivie snuggled up next to me. Walking in the fresh air. Holding my Jeanne’s hand. Talking with family far away. Soaking up the rich fall colors.

It has been scientifically proven over and over again that noticing and expressing gratitude—often for the “smallest” things—lead to stronger relationships, better sleep, lower blood pressure, fewer trips to the doctor, fewer depressive symptoms, more patience, and more perseverance, among many other benefits. So, I am going to do my best to pay better attention. To notice and relish the “small” things that make life lovely and fill my heart. And I am committing myself to better expressing my gratitude, too. Perhaps I will start a gratitude journal. Perhaps I will write more thank you notes. Perhaps I will lift up prayer throughout the day—a spoken-word gratitude journal! I want to cultivate an overflowing garden of gratitude. Matthew’s gospel reminds us that “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And because one of our most precious treasures is our time, I know that how I spend my time will greatly affect the health and well-being of my heart.
Even when we journey through life’s great difficulties, there are blessings and gifts that warrant our deepest gratitude. Won’t you join me in noticing and expressing thanks for the bounty surrounding us?

See you in church,