Reflections on being seen and supported (or not) by family and community as you come home changed, or as you embark on a journey, a mission, a life’s adventure

And this is it. This is the life we get here on earth. We get to give away what we receive. We get to believe in each other. We get to forgive and be forgiven. We get to love imperfectly. And we never know what effect it will have for years to come. And all of  it…all of  it is completely worth it. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

The prophet is the eye of the people. ― Lailah Gifty Akita 

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. — Matsuo Basho 

What is a Man / Woman who does not try and make the World Better? ― ‘Kingdom of Heaven ‘ the movie 

Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin,
and in their own house. — Gospels of Mark & Luke, Bible

It’s kind of spooky when you are caught talking to God everybody thinks you’re nuts. They used to call you a prophet. ― Paul Zindel

SONGS about COMING HOME:

So where are you from? What are the places, the people, the experiences that formed your path? What holds your roots? How does where you’re from help you understand who you are? How does it enable you to make a way for the one who comes in this and every season? — Jan Richardson

Where to Go with “Where I’m From” — George Ella Lyon (more info: http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html)

… you can also see it as a corridor of doors opening onto further knowledge and other kinds of writing. The key is to let yourself explore these rooms. Don’t rush to decide what kind of writing you’re going to do or to revise or finish a piece. Let your goal be the writing itself. Learn to let it lead you. … Look for these elements … and see where else they might take you:

  • a place could open into a piece of descriptive writing or a scene from memory.
  • your parents’ work could open into a memory of going with them, helping, being in the way. Could be a remembered dialogue between your parents about work. Could be a poem made from a litany of tools they used.
  • an important event could open into freewriting all the memories of that experience, then writing it as a scene, with description and dialogue. It’s also possible to let the description become setting and directions and let the dialogue turn into a play.
  • food could open into a scene at the table, a character sketch of the person who prepared the food, a litany of different experiences with it, a process essay of how to make it.
  • music could take you to a scene where the music is playing; could provide you the chance to interleave the words of the song and words you might have said (or a narrative of what you were thinking and feeling at the time the song was first important to you (“Where I’m Singing From”).
  • something someone said to you could open into a scene or a poem which captures that moment; could be what you wanted to say back but never did.
  • a significant object could open into a sensory exploration of the object-what it felt, sounded, smelled, looked, and tasted like; then where it came from, what happened to it, a memory of your connection with it. Is there a secret or a longing connected with this object? A message? If you could go back to yourself when this object was important to you, what would you ask, tell, or give yourself?

Remember, you are the expert on you. No one else sees the world as you do; no one else has your material to draw on. You don’t have to know where to begin. Just start. Let it flow. Trust the work to find its own form.

Where I’m From  George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
          from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
          and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
          with a cottonball lamb
          and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
          to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.
 


Where I’m From — Jan Richardson

I am from orange groves
and old Florida,
from a house my parents built
in a field my grandfather gave them.
Black-eyed Susans grew there in the spring,
so thick we played hide and seek
simply by kneeling among them.

I am from a town
with more cows than people,
from Judy and from Joe,
from generations that have grown up
in one place.

I am from peanut butter and
honey sandwiches every morning,
from my grandmothers’ kitchens,
from Thanksgiving feasts in the
community park,
from Christmas Eves in the
white painted church
among the pine trees.

I am from the dictionary we kept
by the dinner table
where we ate words like food,
from hours and days in libraries,
from miles of books.
I am from the path they have made.

I am from solitude and silence,
from the monks and mystics who lived
between the choir and the cell,
from the scribes bent over their books,
from parchment and paint,
from ancient ink and from gold
that turned pages into lamps,
into light.

I am from women less quiet,
women of the shout and the stomp,
testifying wherever they could make
their voices heard.
I am from Miriam and Mary and Magdalena
and from women unknown and unnamed,
women who carried their prayers
not in books
but in their blood
and in their bones,
women who passed down the sacred stories
from body to body.

I am from them,
listening for their voices,
aching to hear,
to tell, to cry out,
to make a way for those
yet to come.

Longing for Prophets — Shirley Kaufman
Not for their ice-pick eyes,
their weeping willow hair,
and their clenched fists beating at heaven.
Not for their warnings, predictions
of doom. But what they promised.
I don’t care if their beards
are mildewed, and the ladders
are broken. Let them go on
picking the wormy fruit. Let the one
with the yoke around his neck
climb out of the cistern.
Let them come down from the heights
in their radiant despair
like the Sankei Juko dancers descending
on ropes, down from these hills
to the earth of their first existence.
Let them follow the track
we’ve cut on the sides of mountains
into the desert, and stumble again
through the great rift, littered
with bones and the walls of cities.
Let them sift through the ashes
with their burned hands. Let them
tell us what will come after.

How do you make room for those who challenge you to remember who God created you to be? What kind of holy space might God be wanting to create in your life? In you? Blessings to you as you discern where to extend a welcome, and where to receive one. — Jan Richardson

Advice to a Prophet — Richard Wilbur
When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,   Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,Not proclaiming our fall but begging usIn God’s name to have self-pity, Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,   The long numbers that rocket the mind;Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,   Unable to fear what is too strange. Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.   How should we dream of this place without us?—The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,   A stone look on the stone’s face? Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive   Of an undreamt thing, we know to our costHow the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,   How the view alters. We could believe, If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip   Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip On the cold ledge, and every torrent burnAs Xanthus once, its gliding troutStunned in a twinkling. What should we be without   The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return, These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?   Ask us, prophet, how we shall callOur natures forth when that live tongue is allDispelled, that glass obscured or broken In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean   Horse of our courage, in which beheldThe singing locust of the soul unshelled,And all we mean or wish to mean. Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose   Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding   Whether there shall be lofty or long standing   When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.

@@@

Three Travellers Tell Their Dreams — Rumi

Three devout men of different religions fall in together
by chance traveling. They stop

at a caravanserai* where the host brings as a gift a sweet
dessert, some taste of God’s

nearness. This is how people out in the country serve
strangers. The Jew and

the Christian are full, but the Muslim has been fasting all
day. The two say, “Lets

save it for tomorrow.” The one, “No. Let’s save self-denial
for tomorrow!” “You want it

all for yourself!” “Divide it into three parts, and each can
do as he wants.” “Ah,

but Mohammad said not to share.” “That was about dividing
yourself between sensuality

and soul. You must belong to the one or the other.” But finally
for some reason, he gives in,

“I’ll do it your way.” They refrain from tasting. They sleep,
and then wake and dress themselves

to begin morning devotions. Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman,
Zoroastrian, stone, ground,

mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the
mystery, unique and not to be

judged. This subject never ends! Three friends in a grand
morning mood. “Let us tell

what dreams we had last night; whoever has had the deepest
dreams, gets the halvah**.”

Agreed. The Jewish man begins the wanderings of his soul.
“Moses met me on the road;

I followed him to Sinai: an opening door, light within
light. Mount Sinai and Moses and

I merged in an exploding splendor, the unity of the prophets!”
This is a true dream. Many

Jews have such. Then the Christian sighs, “Christ took me
in his arms to the fourth

heaven, a pure vast region… I cannot say…” His also
deep. The Muslim, “Muhammad came

and told me where you two had gone. ‘You wretch!’ he said,
‘You’ve been left behind! You

may as well get up and eat something.'” “Noooo!” laugh the
Christian and the Jew. “How

could I disobey such glory? Would you not do as Moses and
Jesus suggest?” “You’re right,”

they say. “Yours is the truest dream, because it had immediate
effect in your waking life.”

What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* caravanserai: an inn surrounding a court in eastern countries where caravans rest at night

** halvah: a flaky confection of crushed sesame seeds in a base of syrup (as of honey)

Silent Prophet — Carl Dennis
It’s the last day, but I’m keeping the news to myself.If yesterday it made sense for letter carriersTo carry letters from door to door,The job still ought to be worth doing.Why tell what I know and risk a walkout?Let firefighters race to the last fire.Let platoons of police set up their last linesSo the factions that come to the demonstrationDo battle only in words and gestures. The day is different, but only for me,Knowing as I do that it offers the last chanceFor a cautious investor to resist his nature enoughTo back a grocery in a battered district,And the last chance for the would-be grocersTo open a bottle of good champagneIn the kitchen of the friend who’s led themThrough the small-print maze of the application.And now they’re toasting the months to comeScheduled to move the project alongFrom drawing blueprints to cutting ribbons.Shall I tell them their expectations are dreamsIf the dreams impart to the day contour and substance? Though silent, I’m rooting for them to let the dayExpand to include the days to be denied them.And I hope that the friend who’s pouringA final round in his kitchen isn’t disturbedAs his small apartment fills with the soundOf squeaking from across the hall, though yesterdayHe banged on his neighbor’s door for quiet.It’s his last chance to endorse a womanBent on learning from scratch to play the viola,To respect her for finding an hour a day for practice,As if raising two sons aloneAnd teaching civics at a high schoolNot renowned for civility weren’t enough. Should I sit on a stone and lamentThat the day is her last if it still contains,Scrolled up within it, the years she’ll needTo master the art of voicing feelingsNot now expressed, at home or in class,About the distance between the worldShe’d like to inhabit and the world she does? Some other prophet, convinced the futureDepends on the flow of time to give it substance,May decide to speak out. I’m keeping silentAs one of her sons sits at his deskDividing a page into reasons for leaving homeAnd reasons for staying. Now on this last dayIt seems that home is best defined as any regionOn earth that has much to teach him,And now as the region fit to receive the mostOf whatever he’ll have to offerAfter he learns where his talents lie.

There is a Zen story about a student who felt he hadn’t really received the deepest essence of his master’s teaching, and so he went to question him. His master replied, “On your way here, did you see the cypress in the courtyard?” Perhaps the student was not yet very mindful. The master was saying that if, on the way to see our teacher, we go past a cypress tree or a beautiful plum tree in blossom and we don’t really see it, then when we arrive in front of our teacher, we won’t see our teacher either. We shouldn’t miss any opportunity to really see our cypress tree. There are wonders of life we walk past every day, and yet we haven’t truly seen them. What is the cypress tree on the path you take to work every day? If you cannot even see the tree, how can you see your loved ones? How can you see God”? — Thich Nhat Hanh

WHO ARE PROPHETS? 

I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people. — Nelson Mandela

My religion is kindness. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. — Dalai Lama

I’m a storyteller, not a prophet. I’m just interested in a good story. —David Eddings

Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of  holy living and send that person out to tell others about him. He always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

A writer is not a prophet, is not a philosopher; he’s just someone who is witness to what is around him. And so writing is a way to… it’s the best way to testify, to be a witness. — J. M. G. Le Clezio 

I think that modern medicine has become like a prophet offering a life free of pain. It is nonsense. The only thing I know that truly heals people is unconditional love. ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 

The poor are always prophetic. As true prophets always point out, they reveal God’s design. That is why we should take time to listen to them. And that means staying near them, because they speak quietly and infrequently; they are afraid to speak out, they lack confidence in themselves because they have been broken and oppressed. But if we listen to them, they will bring us back to the essential.  ― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

God takes away the minds of poets, and uses them as his ministers, as he also uses diviners and holy prophets, in order that we who hear them may know them to be speaking not of themselves who utter these priceless words in a state of unconsciousness, but that God himself is the speaker, and that through them he is conversing with us. ― Socrates 

Holiness is the union we experience with one another and with God. Holiness is when more than one become one, when what is fractured is made whole. Singing in harmony. Breastfeeding a baby. Collective bargaining. Dancing. Admitting our pain to someone, and hearing them say, “Me too.” Holiness happens when we are integrated as physical, spiritual, sexual, emotional, and political beings. Holiness is the song that has always been sung, perhaps even the sound that was first spoken when God said, “Let there be light. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

Being the soothsayer of the tribe is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. ― Anthon St. Maarten 

You do not need any preacher or prophet to learn about God. The teaching is spread on the trees and the mountains, on the stars and the river, on the Sun and the moon. The ultimate teaching is written in your heart. You just need to wake up and see. ― Banani Ray

In solitude and when fatigued, one is after all inclined to take oneself for a prophet. ― Albert Camus

In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams. — Book of Joel & Book of Acts, Bible

 Maybe I am a prophet. I really hope one day there will come Confucius, Muhammad, Buddha and Christ to see me. And we will sit at a table, taking tea and eating some brownies. — Alejandro Jodorowsky

Maybe that’s the way to tell the dangerous men from the good ones. A dreamer of the day is dangerous when he believes that others are less: less than their own best selves and certainly less than he is. They exist to follow and flatter him, and to serve his purposes.
     A true prophet, I suppose, is like a good parent. A true prophet sees others, not himself. He helps them define their own half-formed dreams, and puts himself at their service. He is not diminished as they become more. He offers courage in one hand and generosity in the other. ― Mary Doria Russell

The word “preacher” comes from an old French word, predicateur, which means prophet. And what is the purpose of a prophet except to find meaning in trouble? ― Marilynne Robinson

 If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. — Pope Francis

Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you want is not a sceptre, but a hoe. The prophet does not rise to reign, but to root out the weeds. — St Bernard

It is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than to make it in punishing. ― Joel Hayward

God is in every particle in the Universe. No religion, no prophet can make division on it. ― Amit Ray

Prophets will say things others will not say. God touches the prophet’s mouth. When God touches a person’s mouth, He puts power and authority in their words. ― John Eckhardt

… is the writer a prophet or priest – does he show the truth or serve the truth?…― John Geddes

Another way of judging the value of a prophet’s religious experience, therefore, would be to examine the type of manhood that he has created, and the cultural world that has sprung out of the spirit of his message. —  Muhammad Iqbal

Prophets do not bring new truth. Revelation is simply a revealing of what is already true and bringing it to bear upon our heart and soul. Revelation is based upon insight into the written Word of God, not into visions and dreams and prophecies. These other things are simply tools for expressing the Word, they are not the Word; no more than the water hose is water, it simply delivers the water. ― Chip Brogden

Our Prophet was a radical too- he fought against the injustices of his community and challenged the feudal order of his society, so they called him a radical. So what? We should be proud of that! — Abu Bakar Bashir

The Prophet Muhammad himself sought to erase any distinctions between the message he taught and that taught by Jesus, who he called God’s ‘spirit and word.’ — Ibrahim Hooper

How many more Christs, Buddhas, Tolstoys, Kings, Naskars have to rise, for humanity to have the revelation that, humanism is the greatest form of religiousness that any conscientious being can ever have! ― Abhijit Naskar

On my journey from the fantastical to the practical, spirituality has gone from being a mystical experience to something very ordinary and a daily experience. Many don’t want this, instead they prefer spiritual grandeur, and I believe that is what keeps enlightenment at bay. We want big revelations of complexity that validates our perceptions of the divine. What a let down it was to Moses when God spoke through a burning bush! But that is exactly the simplicity of it all. Our spiritual life is our ordinary life and it is very grounded in every day experience. For me, it is the daily practice of kindness, mindfulness, happiness, and peace. ― Alaric Hutchinson 

If Prophets and Messengers are the closest to godliness as any human is capable of being, and yet even they fail, how the f*ck can anyone, less than perfect, be so arrogant as to expect they will do better than a Prophet, or Messenger of G-D. ― Alejandro Carbajal Estrada 

I don’t want to pretend to be a prophet or a saint. I’m very conscious of my limitations. I know my flaws. — Norman Finkelstein

Between the scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the sea. We are today overrun with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but the Church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with inward eye upon the Wonder that is God. And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.― A.W. Tozer

COMMENTARY about JESUS PREACHING in SYNAGOGUE & BEING REJECTED in HOMETOWN

Prophets are not “guided and limited by in-group loyalties.” — Robert Tannehill

Preachers beware. This is what happens when you get the gospel right. — Will Willimon

After Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 he declares that they are fulfilled “today.” This is a remarkable claim since the passage in Isaiah is associated with the year of Jubilee – the time when the slaves would be set free and land returned to the original owner. N. T. Wright regularly points out that this prophetic text alludes to Lev. 25:8-12 and would have been understood as a reference to a new age of release and forgiveness for the nation (Simply Jesus, 75, for example). — Phillips Long

[Year of the Lord’s Favor]: This phrase is clearly reflective of the year of Jubilee, the year when all debts were to be forgiven, slaves were to be emancipated (Lev. 25:8-17), and the oppressed captives were to be given their freedom.This year was to occur once every fifty years, but it was seldom honored. Jesus proclaimed that this year was symbolic of Him because He is the one who forgives debts and gives freedom to humanity. That was absolutely stunning! It is noteworthy that the English words sins and debts are both translated from the Aramaic word hoba. Therefore, when Jesus speaks of sinners He is also speaks of debtors; when He speaks of the forgiveness of sins He also speaks of speaks of the forgiveness of moral and spiritual debts. — Bill Heinrich

Luke takes notice of Jewish practices, as when Jesus stood to read the Scriptures and the audience always stood to listen. This tradition is still practiced today. Following the reading from the Torah was a reading from the Prophets, which, in this case, was from the Book of Isaiah.  It was the cultural norm that, after He finished reading, He sat down to preach a sermon. What has been preserved by Luke most certainly is only a small segment of a much larger sermon presented by Jesus.
       … The tradition was that men of the congregation would take turns reading Scripture in the worship serviceunless there was a visiting guest, then he was given the honor to lead the service. The readings from the scrolls were continued from week to week and, in any three year cycle the entire Hebrew Bible was read.  That, in itself, was a difficult task to accomplish since there were no chapter and verse divisions.  Furthermore, there were no vowels and all the letters were run together.It is normally assumed that Jesus simply selected a text from Isaiah, read it, and applied it to Himself. Clearly, this was not the case. At the point where the reader of the previous Sabbath ended, that was the beginning point for the reader the following week.  The miracle lies in the fact that Jesus did not select the text, but His reading was the continuation from the reading of the previous Sabbath.  This was hardly a coincidence, but a miracle by a divine appointment.  One would hardly notice a miracle had occurred unless the order of synagogue worship was known. The custom of the day was as follows:

  1. The congregation would recite the Shema (Deut. 6:4), which was a short prayer. At the end, there was a moment of thoughtful silence which was when the worshipers “folded up the Shema.”
  2. A prayer followed.
  3. There was a reading from the Law (Parashah),
  4. There was a reading from the Prophets (Haphtarah).
  5. The reader would then give an explanation and life application to each reading.

— Bill Heinrich

Jesus didn’t come to bring vengeance, he came to close the book on vengeance. Jesus announced the Jubilee good news of pardon, amnesty, liberation, and restoration…but not vengeance. Jesus doesn’t bless revenge, he blesses mercy, and teaches that the mercy we show to our enemies is the mercy that will be shown to us… Does this mean there’s no divine judgment? Of course not. Certainly there is divine judgment, but it is a judgment based in God’s love and commitment to restoration. The restorative judgment of God gives no warrant to a schadenfreudeyearning to see harm inflicted on others. Jesus has closed the book on that kind of lust for vengeance. — Brian Zahnd

Even though we remember that Jubilee never fully reasserts the complete fairness and equality God desires, we look for places where justice is lacking, and places where efforts are underway to create more equity. When we see those efforts, we celebrate them. When we are able, we emulate them. When is it Jubilee? We’ll never see it. But we can access the ideal, just as the ancients did, by celebrating it, moving toward it, and dreaming of justice. — Melissa Bane Sevier

Jesus then provides two examples, well-known in Israel, of the prophet coming to the aid of outsiders:  the Zarephath widow and Elijah, and Elisha and Namaan the Syrian (1 Kgs 17:8-24, 2 Kings 5: 1-19).  In both cases, a prophet came to the aid of a gentile when there were people similarly in need in Israel. Luke probably means us to see an additional contrast:  The widow was on the margins of society and undoubtedly poor.  Naaman, on the other hand, was powerful–the commander of Syria’s army–but suffered from leprosy. In citing these two examples, not only is Jesus further identifying with the role of prophet–indeed, two of Israel’s greatest, Elijah and Elisha–but also telling his hometown people that they don’t get special treatment.  — John Petty

Jesus edited out vengeance, and this gives us a key to how Jesus read the Old Testament. And lest we think that Jesus’ omission of “the day of vengeance” was simply an oversight or meaningless, consider what Jesus says to the hometown crowd in the synagogue following his edited reading of Isaiah. Jesus recalls the stories of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the leper — Gentiles who instead of receiving vengeance from God, received provision and healing. Jesus is announcing the arrival of the Lord’s favor, but he is emphasizing that it is for everybody…even for Sidonians and Syrians, even for Israel’s enemies! Jesus is making clear that in bringing the Jubilee of God he is bringing it for everybody! — Brian Zahnd

Ramsay MacMullen has noted that one’s social pedigree would easily be known in the Greco-Roman world and that a description such as “carpenter” indicated lower class status [Roman Social Relations: 50 B.C. to A.D. 384]. At the back of his book he gives a “Lexicon of Snobbery” filled with terms used by literate and therefore upper-class Greco-Roman authors to indicate their prejudice against illiterate and therefore lower-class individuals. Among those terms is tekton, or “carpenter,” the same term used for Jesus in Mark 6:3 and for Joseph in Matthew 13:55. One should not, of course, ever presume that upper-class sneers dictated how the lower classes actually felt about themselves. But, in general, the great divide in the Greco-Roman world was between those who had to work with their hands and those who did not… If Jesus was a carpenter, therefore, he belonged to the Artisan class, that group pushed into the dangerous space between Peasants and Degradeds or Expendables… — John Dominic Crossan

Notice that they neither dispute that he has wisdom or that he performs mighty works; they are just dumbfounded that it comes from a hometown boy like Jesus. More than just a matter of familiarity breeding contempt, this comes from the ancient mentality that geographical and heredity origins determine who a person is and what his capacities will always be. They see Jesus as someone who is not merely exceeding expectations but rather is overreaching. — Juel

The refusal — or inability — of Jesus’ neighbors to accept his status confirms what the story has suggested thus far: the world’s standards of judgment appear to run headlong into God’s ways. Jesus does not measure up. The circumstances of his origin allow no way of accounting for the stories about him. His common beginnings do not fit the assessment that he is a prophet. The result is scandal and fear. The reaction of the people from his hometown also suggests that real insiders are not necessarily those who by birth or circumstance are closest to Jesus. In fact, those who ought to know best turn out to be the most incapable of insight.— Witherington

Advent Day 7: Daily Devotional

Lighting the candle requires multiple tools and actions. Hands to manipulate the match and candle. Fuel to ignite the spark. Oxygen to feed the flame. All these elements exemplify interconnection and dependency on each other in order to move from potential to reality.

Hope permits us to seek connection and support. Hope suggests that we are never alone. God is present to us. And we are designed to be in community with others.

Tangible hope shows up as relationships. Embodied by family, friends, and community. Showing up through family, partners, companions, classmates, collaborators, colleagues, care providers, mentors, peers or acquaintances. Put into practice by churches, schools, workplaces, classrooms, creative spaces, teams, workshops, clubs, charitable organizations, or public agencies.

Hope invites vulnerability and models strength through these connections. Hope admits that we require help. Says we don’t know all the answers or have enough resources to do it alone. Acknowledges that we belong to each other and need each other. Hope reaches out to offer or opens up to receive support and connection. — Rev Gail

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I put my hope in your words. — Psalm 119:147

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
Maya Angelou

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. — Nelson Mandela

HOLY WEEK with JCC: April 8-12 (Easter)

Do you need support of any kind? We have volunteers ready to assist with errands, access to emergency supplies, and Rev Gail is available for emotional and spiritual companionship. Email the church:  jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org.

Wed, April 8

Thurs, April 9

  • MAUNDY THURSDAY GATHERING (via ZOOM)
    7pm • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/467763000 (password required).
    Plan to celebrate an after-dinner ritual of washing hands (symbolic of foot-washing), stripping altar, and putting out candles as darkness falls and we enter the Triduum: three holy days of Easter weekend. Option: call in via touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID: 467763000 (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)).

Fri, April 10

  • BREAKFAST with REV GAIL (via ZOOM)
    8am •  ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/170985789 (password required)
    Social gathering. Option: Call in via touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID: 170985789 (password required – contact jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)
  • WAY of the CROSS
    Live-streaming via  Facebook.com/JacksonCommunityChurchJCC website
    Virtual contemplative journey through stations of the cross. Share where you would direct your prayers for each station of the cross, Rev Gail will post reflections at different Jackson and Bartlett locations to symbolize each station of the cross. This will take place throughout the week, but we especially welcome your comments during the hours of Christ’s crucifixion and death. We will use Marcia McFee / Design Worship Studio materials to focus. 
  • LAST SEVEN WORDS Holy Friday Event (via ZOOM)
    5pm • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/531729008) (password required)
    Reflect on the events of Holy Friday through the last seven words of Christ. Option: Call in via touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID: 531729008 (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)

EASTER SUNDAY, April 12

  • CHOIR PRACTICE (via ZOOM)
    9:15am • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/142985761 (password required)
    Choir practice with choir director Billy Carleton and music director Alan Labrie. Option: Call on touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID# 142985761 (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)
  • VIRTUAL EASTER SERVICE (via ZOOM)
    10:30am • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/142985761 (password required)
    Join us for worship, special music including flute duet by Lauren Weeder & Jeanette Heidmann, choral performance by JCC’s choir & harp with Dominique Dodge, plus prayer, reflection and interactive transformation of the cross with butterflies on this special Easter Sunday! Service will also be live-streamed to website and Facebook, and afterward, recordings of service will be posted to FB, youtube, vimeo. Option: Call on touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID# 142985761. (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)
  • BUTTERFLY the CROSS
    All Day • Jackson Community Church (outside)
    All day on Easter Sunday, you may add a butterfly to the cross, which will stand outside the church (weather permitting), or take one home, if you need an Easter symbol. If you can’t be here, send us your prayers and we’ll add your butterfly for you.

Reflections on neighbors, living in community, and Good Samaritan: themes from Luke 10

On the parable of the Good Samaritan: “I imagine that the first question the priest and Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Link to the text for this week: Luke 10: 25-37
  Questions to consider:

  • With what families, kindred, groups, teams, clubs, faiths, organizations, tribes, nationalities, ethnicities, regions, businesses, workplaces, unions, schools, etc. do you affiliate, connect, identify and/or hold membership? Name them. How many ways do you belong to communities?
  • When have you felt like a ‘stranger in a strange land’ or an ‘other’ vs a friend or neighbor or a community member?
  • What changed helped you connect?
  • In a well-known story like this one, with thieves and a person knocked down and robbed on the side of the road, plus public figures who walk around the problem and leave the victim unattended as they make excuses, and another person from an reviled neighboring nation who pays attention and helps the victim by the road, plus an innkeeper who continues to care for the victim, with whom do you identify in the story? Who do you want to be? Who do you think you are right now?

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
(song lyrics)
It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor, Would you be mine? Could you be mine?   It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood, A neighborly day for a beauty, Would you be mine? Could you be mine?   I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you, I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.   So let’s make the most of this beautiful day, Since we’re together, we might as well say, Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor? Won’t you please, Won’t you please, Please won’t you be my neighbor?

Learn more: Cooperative models of evolution in natural world.

Learn more: About your own implicit biases via this Harvard site! Different tests/surveys for different topics.

Defining Implicit Bias (from Kirwan Institute, Ohio State University): Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.  Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.  Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.

The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance.  These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages.  In addition to early life experiences, the media and news programming are often-cited origins of implicit associations.

A Few Key Characteristics of Implicit Biases

  • Implicit biases are pervasive.  Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.
  • Implicit and explicit biases are related but distinct mental constructs.  They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other.
  • The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse.
  • We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own ingroup, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our ingroup.
  • Implicit biases are malleable.  Our brains are incredibly complex, and the implicit associations that we have formed can be gradually unlearned through a variety of debiasing techniques.

Thoughts on Neighbors & Good Samaritans

It’s good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances, their biases, their prejudices. For a little while, neighbors help neighbors and strangers help strangers. — Maya Angelou On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

… and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side… — Quran 4:36 (excerpt)

To be truly good means more than not robbing people …To be truly good means more than being righteously religious …To be truly good means being a good neighbor … And to be a good neighbor means recognizing that there are ultimately no strangers … Everybody is my neighbor! … Everybody is my brother! … We’re all connected. ― Brian McLaren

Like the Good Samaritan, may we not be ashamed of touching the wounds of those who suffer, but try to heal them with concrete acts of love. — Pope Francis

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. — Rumi

The Prophet, , said: “By the One in whose Hands my soul is, no slave of Allah has true faith unless he likes for his neighbor what he likes for himself.” — IslamicHadith

When we love and make loving commitments, we create families and communities within which people can grow and take risks, knowing that hands will be there to catch them should they fall.— Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Good and kind people outnumber all others by thousands to one. The tragedy of human history lies in the enormous potential for destruction in rare acts of evil, not in the high frequency of evil people. Complex systems can only be built step by step, whereas destruction requires but an instant. Thus, in what I like to call the Great Asymmetry, every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced by 10,000 acts of kindness, too often unnoted and invisible as the ”ordinary” efforts of a vast majority. We have a duty, almost a holy responsibility, to record and honor the victorious weight of these innumerable little kindnesses, when an unprecedented act of evil so threatens to distort our perception of ordinary human behavior — Stephen Gould

So by all means let us name evil for what it is, let’s root out the sin and racism within us, let us fight for justice, but then let us turn the cameras toward the light, lest we become so consumed by the effects of evil that we miss the chance to be kind to a stranger, and we miss the chance to stop and read to our kids and we miss the chance to notice how acts of beauty and kindness out number acts of evil by the thousands, because in so doing we hand evil a bigger victory than it earned when in fact it has already lost. See, in the same 24 hour news cycle that only can speak of evil –

  • babies were born
  • and people feel in love
  • and someone put an old lady’s shopping cart back for her
  • and caseroles were bright to the home-bound
  • and prayers were said
  • and little girls made brand new friends
  • and someone paid for the coffe of the person behind them in line
  • and flowers were brought to the Dallas police department
  • and children made perfectly mis-spelled protest signs
  • and people made up
  • and someone in the coffee shop let me hold their baby because they could tell I needed it
  • and when … car broke down in the middle of nowhere during his vacation, someone came along at just the right moment and towed it 126 miles …

and Every second of every day our God arrives unannounced in the merciful and loving kindness of other people … — Nadia Bolz-Weber

A prospective convert to Judaism asked Rabbi Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one leg. Hillel replied: “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah, the rest is commentary. Go forth and study.” — Robert Avrech

Poem posted by ‘onlylovepoetry’ on hellopoetry.com:

I inquired of the holy dark where god hides
why my existence was just one unending question?

… could hear Him smile and communicate:
if not You, then who?

… love thy neighbor as thyself

… then, smiling, god extended his only finger, touching each of mine eyelids:

sleep, friend for we need your questioning dreams,
your faith unfurled unfulfilled
for in your unending inquiry
is all of our “in the beginning,”
the holy dark

Commentary on Good Samaritan Story

Locating our … inclinations … from the perspective of the different characters can be one … way to go — the priest, the Levite, the guy left in the ditch, the Samaritan, the innkeeper. We all want to be the Samaritan, but truth be told, we aren’t — at least, not all of the time. And, every once in a while, it does our faith good to stand in the shoes of the people whom we do not want to be (or hope we are not). — Karoline Lewis

Deep wounds are not easily healed. But the Good Samaritan poured oil and wine into the wounds of the stranger who lay helpless on the road to Jericho, and set him on the road to recovery. Each one of us can go and do likewise. ― John LaFarge

We have to go through life behaving as if we love each other. We can behave ourselves into love. This training of love for the world can start small. We might not start out by stopping for every stranger in need that we see or giving away all of our money and possessions or moving to the streets in solidarity with the homeless. We can start where we are. We can help out even when we don’t have to. We can stop keeping track of who has done what to wrong us or who is taking advantage of the system. Instead of keeping track of our losses, we can keep track of gratitude. We can share with people who haven’t had the lucky breaks that we have had. It’s not enough, however, to love the people who are easy to love. It’s much harder to love those who are have behaved in horrible ways. But we must love them too. In fact, it might be the more important task. — Kristen Berkey-Abbott

What does the Good Samaritan do? Three things, I’d suggest. First, he sees the man in need, when he was invisible to the priest and Levite who passed him by. Actually, they did see him, and then promptly ignored him. They saw him, but not as a neighbor, perceiving him instead to be a burden, and perhaps even a threat. …  Second, the Samaritan not only sees the man in need as a neighbor, but he draws near to him, coming over to help. The other two gave this man in need a wide berth, creating even more distance between them. But the Samaritan instead goes to him, and becomes vulnerable in that closeness. Vulnerable should it indeed be a trap, but even more so, vulnerable in opening himself to see his pain, misery, and need. … Third, after seeing him and coming close, the Samaritan has compassion on him, tending his wounds, transporting him to the inn, making sure he is taken care of. Seeing is vital, drawing near imperative, yet the final and meaningful gesture is that the Samaritan actually does something about it. Compassion, in this sense, is sympathy put into action. And these three inter-related moves – seeing, drawing near, and having compassion – offer us an example of what it is to be Christ-like … — David Lose

And so Jesus brings this home by choosing the most unlikely of characters to serve as the instrument of God’s mercy and grace and exemplify Christ-like behavior. That’s what God does: God chooses people no one expects and does amazing things through them. Even a Samaritan. Even our people. Even me. Even you. — David Lose

Instead, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, the point of which seems to be that your neighbor is to be construed as meaning anybody who needs you. The lawyer’s response is left unrecorded. — Frederick Beuchner

It seems to me, contrary to our culture that is obsessed with all things “spectacular”, that it is when we are engaged in the most mundane activities that we make the most difference in another person’s life. When you get right down to it, that’s the only place we can really make much of a difference in the life of another human being. We mortals rarely achieve the level of influence that can truly make a difference for hundreds or thousands of people out there. For the most part, we have the opportunity to touch a life here, a life there. It is through the quality of our character, not anything “spectacular” that we may do, that we make a difference in another life. It is through the way in which we conduct our relationships, not through any great “achievement,” that we really have an effect on another human being. — Alan Brehm

This is a strange time for acting as actual neighbors. But that doesn’t change the point of the parable. It cuts through all our excuses about our customary practice, our usual public statements, and asks if we are doing mercy. Or not. — Richard Swanson

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