Reflections on journeys: identity, name and personhood at the border during times of change and passage

We know what we are, but not what we may be. ― William Shakespeare

When I discover who I am, I’ll be free. ― Ralph Ellison

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. ― Mahatma Gandhi

He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves. ― Gabriel García Márquez

We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men… We are who we are because they were who they were. It’s wise to know where you come from, who called your name. — Maya Angelou

Identity. It’s always God’s first move. Before we do anything wrong and before we do anything right, God has named and claimed us as God’s own. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

SONGS about NAME & IDENTITY:

Songs about the Names of God:

Please Call Me By My True Names— Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow—
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.

And I am also the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.

Lullaby Neil Gaiman

Sleep my little baby-oh
Sleep until you waken
When you wake you’ll see the world
If I’m not mistaken…

Kiss a lover
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure …

Face your life
Its pain,
Its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken.

A Star Without a Name  – Rumi

When a baby is taken from the wet nurse,
it easily forgets her
and starts eating solid food.

Seeds feed awhile on ground,
then lift up into the sun.

So you should taste the filtered light
and work your way toward wisdom
with no personal covering.

That’s how you came here, like a star
without a name. Move across the night sky
with those anonymous lights.

NAME & IDENTITY

What’s in a name? — Shakespeare

I realize then that it’s not enough to know what someone is called. You have to know who they are. ― Gayle Forman

The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. —  Maya Angelou

I am out with lanterns, looking for myself. ― Emily Dickinson

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will. ― Charlotte Brontë

We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better. ― Chuck Palahniuk

I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self. ― Audre Lorde

Each person you meet is an aspect of yourself, clamoring for love. ― Eric Micha’el Leventhal

Feelings are something you have; not something you are. ― Shannon L. Alder

I am not one and simple, but complex and many. ― Virginia Woolf

It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story. ― Patrick Rothfuss

We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are. ― Madeleine L’Engle

What we know matters but who we are matters more. ― Brené Brown

The good news is you are a beloved child of God; the bad news is you don’t get to choose your siblings. ― Rachel Held Evans

Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.—  Theodore Roosevelt

Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame; Each to his passion; what’s in a name? — Helen Hunt Jackson

Action without a name, a ‘who’ attached to it, is meaningless. — St. Jerome

It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before. It is frightening when a woman finally realizes that there is no answer to the question ‘who am I’ except the voice inside herself. ― Betty Friedan

Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence. ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble. — Charles Spurgeon

WHO DO THEY SAY I AM? – MESSIAH: Commentary

“Messiah comes from the Hebrew word, Mashiach, meaning “the anointed one,” or “the chosen one.” In Old Testament times, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed by oil when they were set apart for these positions of responsibility. The anointing was a sign that God had chosen them and consecrated them for the work He had given them to do. Christos (Christ) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term, Messiah...” — BibleInfo.com

“Indeed, in Scripture, no two people encounter Jesus in exactly the same way. Not once does anyone pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” or ask Jesus into their heart. The good news is good for the whole world, certainly, but what makes it good varies from person to person and community to community. Liberation from sin looks different for the rich young ruler than it does for the woman caught in adultery. The good news that Jesus is the Messiah has a different impact on John the Baptist, a Jewish prophet, than it does the Ethiopian eunuch, a Gentile and outsider. Salvation means one thing for Mary Magdalene, first to witness the resurrection, and another to the thief who died next to Jesus on a cross. The gospel is like a mosaic of stories, each one part of a larger story, yet beautiful and truthful on its own. There’s no formula, no blueprint.” ― Rachel Held Evans

“The idea that a human being–the Messiah–will help usher in the redemption of the Jewish people has roots in the Bible. However, Jewish sources have not, as a general rule, focused attention on the specific personal qualities of the Messiah. Images of the Messiah as humble or as a child are juxtaposed with images of a victorious and wise ruler–perhaps contrasting Israel’s current, unredeemed state and the prophetic vision of the future. In recent times, some Jews have “democratized” the concept of the Messiah, seeing the process of, or the preparation for, redemption in the actions of regular people.” — My Jewish Learning: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/who-is-the-messiah/

In Abrahamic religions, a messiah (… lit. ’the anointed one’) is a saviour or liberator of a group of people. The concepts of mashiach, messianism, and of a Messianic Age originated in Judaism, and in the Hebrew Bible, in which a mashiach is a king or High Priest traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil. Ha mashiach (… ‘the Messiah’), often referred to as melekh mashiachמל (…’King Messiah’) is to be a Jewish leader, physically descended from the paternal Davidic line through King David and King Solomon. He is thought to accomplish predetermined things in a future arrival, including the unification of the tribes of Israel, the gathering of all Jews to Eretz Israel, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, the ushering in of a Messianic Age of global universal peace, and the annunciation of the world to come
     Messiahs were not exclusively Jewish, however, and the concept of ‘the’ Messiah as a single individual is a strictly post-Biblical tradition as it is not found in the Old Testament.
     The Greek translation of Messiah is Khristós … anglicized as Christ. Christians commonly refer to Jesus of Nazareth as either the “Christ” or the “Messiah”, believing that the messianic prophecies were fulfilled in the mission, death, and resurrection of Jesus and that he will return to fulfill the rest of messianic prophecies. Moreover, unlike the Judaic concept of the Messiah, Jesus Christ is additionally considered by Christians to be the Son of God.
     In Islam, Jesus (… romanized: Isa) is held to have been a prophet and the Messiah sent to the Israelites, who will return to Earth at the end of times … — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah

What if Christ is a name for the transcendent within of every “thing” in the universe? The Christ Mystery anoints all physical matter with eternal purpose from the very beginning. The word translated from the Greek as Christ comes from the Hebrew word mesach, meaning “the anointed” one or Messiah. He reveals that all is anointed! Many people are still praying and waiting for something that has already been given to us three times: first in creation; second in Jesus… (1 John 1–2); and third, in the ongoing beloved community (what Christians call the Body of Christ), which is slowly evolving throughout all of human history (Romans 8:18). We are still in the Flow. All of us take part in the evolving, universe-spanning Christ Mystery. Jesus is a map for the time-bound and personal level of life; Christ is the blueprint for all time and space and life itself. Both reveal the universal pattern of self-emptying and infilling (Christ) and death and resurrection (Jesus), which is the process humans have called “holiness,” “salvation,” or “growth.” … — Richard Rohr, more info: https://cac.org/another-name-for-every-thing-2019-02-12/

“Christians have claimed from their beginnings that Jesus was the Messiah foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures…Jesus did not replace or deny the expectations of a messiah previously told …Isaiah 9:2-7 is a well-known oracle, a divine utterance…that uses four royal titles…As we ponder the use of those titles … two things become clear. First, in the witness to Jesus by the early Christians in the New Testament, they relied heavily on Old Testament ‘anticipations’ of the coming Messiah. But second, Jesus did not fit those ‘anticipations’ very well, such that a good deal of interpretive imagination was required in order to negotiate the connection between the anticipation and the actual bodily, historical reality of Jesus.
        The oracle of Isaiah 9:2-7 is well known among us because of Handel’s Messiah. The oracle did not anticipate or predict Jesus. There is no doubt that it pertained to the eighth century BCE, the time of Isaiah the prophet. While the oracle might have been utilized to announce and celebrate the birth of a new royal prince in Jerusalem, namely Hezekiah, it is more probable that it pertained to the coronation of the new king.”  — Walter Brueggemann, Names for the Messiah

“Jesus was not the powerful or effective Messiah that the Jews hoped for—or that Christians seem to want, for that matter. … The revelation of the death and resurrection of Jesus forever redefines what success and winning mean—and it is not what any of us wanted or expected. On the cross, God is revealed as vulnerability itself (the Latin word vulnera means woundedness). That message is hard to miss, but we turned the cross into a transaction and so missed its transformative message for humanity.” — Richard Rohr, more info: https://cac.org/redefining-success-2017-07-31/

“Instead of bringing about the onset of redemption, messiah will herald its completion. The actual work of redeeming the world is turned to us in history, and is done by all of us, day by day. Messiah has been waiting in the wings, as it were, since the very beginning of history, ready to come forth when the time is right. According to one legend, he sits among the lepers at the gates of Rome–today we would be likely to find him in an AIDS hospice–tending to their wounds. Only when redemption is about to be completed will messiah be allowed to arrive. Rather than messiah redeeming us, we redeem messiah.” – Rabbi Arthur Green

WHO DO THEY SAY I AM? – SON of … MAN? GOD? Commentary

BibleProject:

“While the title “the Son of man” is always, except once, applied by Jesus to Himself, “the Son of God” is never applied by Jesus to Himself in the Synoptists. When, however, it is applied to Him by others, He accepts it in such a way as to assert His claim to it. Now and then He Himself employs the abbreviated form, “the Son,” with the same intention; and He often speaks of God as “the Father” or “my Father” or “my Father who is in heaven” in such a manner as to betray the consciousness that He is the Son of God.” — more info: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/son-of-god-the/

“Though the Bible does not define its exact meaning, the title “Son of Man” probably refers to the fact that Jesus was perfect humanity. He, as God, came down and lived among us as the perfect human being. By doing this, He fulfilled the Law of Moses and did what no other human being was able to do. By using this title, He is identifying with the people He had come to save.
     … The title “Son of Man” was a designation for the Messiah. The Book of Daniel predicted that the Son of Man would inherit God’s everlasting kingdom … When Jesus was on trial and was asked if He were the Messiah, He referred to this prediction.” — Blue Letter Bible, more info: https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_793.cfm

“Although Jesus is called the “Son of God” we also find this term applied to humans and angels. The term “son of God” is applied to the first man Adam, angels, Israel, those who make peace, and Christians… The Bible often uses the word “son” to mean, “possessing the nature of,” or, “on the order of…  Jesus possesses the same nature of God… God the Father, the angel Gabriel, His own disciples, the Apostle Paul, and even the demons acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God. Although Adam, angels, Israel, peacemakers, and Christians are all called “sons of God” the Scripture designates Jesus as the unique Son of God. He possesses the same nature as the Father – God. However He is not a literal offspring for He has existed for all eternity. The Bible often uses the word “son” in the sense of “possessing the nature of.” Jesus is the “Son” of God in this sense- possessing the nature of God. The title “Son” does not, in any way, suggest the Son if inferior to the Father. — Blue Letter Bible:
https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_220.cfm


“Who is this Son of Man? Jon asks if it’s a physical child. Tim explains that it’s actually biblical imagery to depict a class of being. This is a “son” similar to the “sons of the prophets/Elijah” depicted in the Old Testament. Tim says the point of the vision is that Daniel represents a summary of the future hope of the Hebrew Bible, and it envisions the coming of God’s Kingdom as the coming of a human figure (“a son of humanity”), who will sit beside God, share in his rule over the beasts (remember the plural “thrones”), and receive worship from all nations.
     … Tim says that the Christian claim of God existing “three in one” and the divine complexity is a thoroughly Jewish idea, but Jews have long debated who the actual “Son of Man” is. Tim says there’s a ancient Jewish author called Ezekiel the Tragedian, who believed that the vision of Daniel’s Son of Man was actually referring to Moses. Tim also says that it’s clear that the New Testament authors believed Jesus is the Son of Man, and they combine all of God’s attributes (word, spirit, wisdom, etc) with the idea of a human being elevated to God’s status.” The Bible Project, https://bibleproject.com/podcast/theme-god-e14-who-son-man/

“Tim outlines the historical path of Jesus. He says that within Jewish culture, Jesus stands unique. For example, in early Christian culture, there were hymns singing songs of praise to Jesus, not just about Jesus. Christians can “praise the name of Jesus” and Paul can use the phrase “maranatha,” which means “our Lord come” in Aramaic. Tim says the point is that Paul can write to a Hebrew or Greek audience with an Aramaic phrase and have it apparently make sense. The significance is that what Jews would have said about Yahweh––“our Lord come”––Christians were then saying about Jesus in Paul’s letters. Tim says that by doing this you are essentially equating Jesus to Yahweh … Tim lays out more accounts of Jesus and says that Jesus positions himself as “Yahweh returning” from the Old Testament. For example in Mark 1:1-3 …“Lord” here is in Greek (kurios), the Greek Septuagint translation of “Yahweh.”… So In Mark 1:9, we’re introduced to Jesus as ‘kurios’.” — The Bible Project: https://bibleproject.com/podcast/theme-god-e15-jesus-god/

Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” 88 times in the New Testament. In fact, Son of Man is the primary title Jesus used when referring to Himself (e.g., Matthew 12:32; 13:37; Luke 12:8; John 1:51). The only use of Son of Man in a clear reference to Jesus, spoken by someone other than Jesus, came from the lips of Stephen as he was being martyred (Acts 7:56).”
      Son of Man is a title of humanity. Other titles for Christ, such as Son of God, are overt in their focus on His deity. Son of Man, in contrast, focuses on the humanity of Christ. God called the prophet Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times… Son of man is simply a … term for “human.” Jesus Christ was truly a human being. He came “in the flesh” (1 John 4:2).
      Son of Man is a title of humility. The Second Person of the Trinity, eternal in nature, left heaven’s glory and took on human flesh, becoming the Son of Man, born in a manger and “despised and rejected by mankind” (Isaiah 53:3). The Son of Man had “no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). The Son of Man ate and drank with sinners (Matthew 11:19). The Son of Man suffered at the hands of men (Matthew 17:12). This intentional lowering of His status from King of Heaven to Son of Man is the epitome of humility (see Philippians 2:6–8).
      Son of Man is a title of deity. Ezekiel may have been a son of man, but Jesus is the Son of Man. As such, Jesus is the supreme example of all that God intended mankind to be, the embodiment of truth and grace (John 1:14). In Him “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). For this reason, the Son of Man was able to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6). The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). The Son of Man came to save lives (Luke 9:56; 19:10), rise from the dead (Mark 9:9), and execute judgment (John 5:27). …
Son of Man is a fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus’ claim before the high priest to be the Son of Man was a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13–14 … Daniel saw glory, worship, and an everlasting kingdom given to the Messiah—here called the “Son of Man”—and Jesus applied this prophecy to Himself. …   
— more info: https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Son-of-Man.html

“While to the common mind “the Son of man” is a title designating the human side of our Lord’s person, “the Son of God” seems as obviously to indicate the divine side. But scholarship cannot take this for granted; and, indeed, it requires only a hasty glance at the facts to bring this home even to the general reader, because in Scripture the title is bestowed on a variety of persons for a variety of reasons. First, it is applied to angels, as when in Job 2:1 it is said that “the sons of God came to present themselves before Yahweh”; they may be so called because they are the creatures of God’s hands or because, as spiritual beings, they resemble God, who is a spirit. Secondly, in Luke 3:38 it is applied to the first man; and from the parable of the Prodigal Son it may be argued that it is applicable to all men. Thirdly, it is applied to the Hebrew nation, as when, in Exodus 4:22, Yahweh says to Pharaoh, “Israel is my son, my first-born,” the reason being that Israel was the object of Yahweh’s special love and gracious choice. Fourthly, it is applied to the kings of Israel, as representatives of the chosen nation. Thus, in 2 Samuel 7:14, Yahweh says of Solomon, “I will be his father, and he shall be my son”; and, in Psalms 2:7, the coronation of a king is announced in an oracle from heaven, which says, “Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee.” Finally, in the New Testament, the title is applied to all saints, as in John 1:12, “But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name.” When the title has such a range of application, it is obvious that the Divinity of Christ cannot be inferred from the mere fact that it is applied to Him.” — more info:  https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/son-of-god-the/

The Gospels often call Jesus the Son of God. Mark’s Gospel especially favors this term, noting Jesus as divine via His relationship with God the Father. In Matthew 15:15-16, Peter acknowledged Jesus as the son of the living God, a view Jesus affirmed as correct. John 3:16 also famously refers to Jesus as God’s only begotten Son.” — more info:https://www.compellingtruth.org/Jesus-Son-of-God.html

The New Testament also often refers to Jesus as the Son of Man. Matthew’s Gospel especially favors this phrase, using it more than thirty times. This title highlights both His humanity as well as His fulfillment as the Son of Man predicted in the Old Testament, especially Daniel 7:13-14 related to the coming Messiah.” — more info: https://www.compellingtruth.org/Jesus-Son-of-Man.html

Whom do we invite into our lives, our communities? How do we segregate our societies and how do we embrace diversity? What may we learn from our differences? Themes from Jeremiah & Luke.

When we set that table, we would do well to remember that we are not the hosts, but the God who loves us all, and invites each and every one of us to the feast. — Kathryn Matthews

Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter & become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. — Henri Nouwen

Everydayness (excerpt)— Emilie Townes
… there are other ways in which we sit here this morning
and i want to suggest that given the worlds we live in these days
however we are, as we sit here this morning
it’s normal
the challenge, i think for all of us is this:
what will we to do with the fullness and incompleteness of what we have
brought to this time and place
as we remember that we are in a world
that we have helped make
that needs a new, or perhaps ancient vision
molded by justice and peace
rather than winning and losing …
i’m talking about what we call in christian ethics, the everydayness of
moral acts
it’s what we do every day that shapes us and says more about us than
those grand moments of righteous indignation and action
the everydayness of listening closely when folks talk or don’t talk to hear
what they are saying
the everydayness of taking some time, however short or long, to refresh us
through prayer or meditation
the everydayness of speaking to folks and actually meaning whatever it is
that is coming out of our mouths
the everydayness of being a presence in people’s lives
the everydayness of designing a class session or lecture or reading or
writing or thinking
the everydayness of sharing a meal
the everydayness of facing heartache and disappointment
the everydayness of joy and laughter
the everydayness of facing people who expect us to lead them somewhere
or at least point them in the right direction and walk with them
the everydayness of blending head and heart
the everydayness of getting up and trying one more time to get our living
right
it is in this everydayness that “we the people” are formed
and we, the people of faith, live and must witness to a justice wrapped in
a love that will not let us go
and a peace that is simply too ornery to give up on us
won’t you join in this celebration?


Guest House — Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.  


Questions to consider, themes from Jeremiah and Luke:

  • What sort of privileges, status or power do you hold or inhabit? Which ones were you born into and which ones did you earn or achieve?
  • How is your life segregated, so you spend your time with people like yourself?
  • When and how do you spend time with people different from yourself?
  • How do attributes of power, privilege, and status allow or interrupt your ability to make a difference?
  • Who is someone, holding a position of status and authority and power, whom you admire as a role model?
  • When have you sat down with people different from yourself to eat together? What was it like? How was it awkward or enlightening?
  • When have you prepared the meal for others different from yourself?
  • When have you been fed by others with different social identities than yourself?

On Privilege, Positions & Power

It is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble. — Proverbs 25:7

That the people in her particular village were ‘the most marginalized,’ and often those furthest from her own milieu of ‘incredible social privilege’ was what set her apart. — Dr Jonathan Jacobs (about socialite Judith Peabody)

Having power and wealth is not inherently evil; it is how one uses these privileges that matters most to God. Is power used to oppress others or to liberate them? Is wealth hoarded only for self-gain or shared with those who have so little? When the human family works together on behalf of everyone, life improves for all, and God is pleased. — Lisa Davison

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable. — Madeleine L’Engle

We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone–but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy. — Frank Crane Do we welcome them on our terms, or with a willingness to say, “Today we are a different church because you are here in our midst, because you are part of us”? Let’s be the church, and let’s be open to the newness of what God is doing each day, the gifts brought in the person of new members, new friends, new Christians. — Kathryn Matthews

The centrality of honor in this culture teaches natives to stay always a step behind their rightful status, for it’s important that “one is not at all trying to appear or to be better than another person.” — John J. Pilch (commentary on Jewish culture in Biblical times)

Beneath all the great accomplishments of our time there is a deep current of despair. While efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world. … The radical good news is that the second love [human love] is only a broken reflection of the first love [God’s limitless love] and that the first love is offered to us by a God in whom there are no shadows … — Henri Nouwen

The churches must learn humility as well as teach it. — George Bernard Shaw

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real. — Thomas Merton

There are people who observe the rules of honor as we observe the stars: from a distance. — Victor Hugo

A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed. — Desmond Tutu

A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. — C.S. Lewis

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone. — C.S. Lewis

We are rarely proud when we are alone. — Voltaire

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self. — Ernest Hemingway

Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune. — C.G. Jung

With Whom Do We Eat?

Bread was important; in fact, where some eat and some do not eat, the kingdom is not present. — Fred Craddoc

When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist. — Dom Helder Camara

Eating, and hospitality in general, is a communion, and any meal worth attending by yourself is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared. — Jesse Brownerm

Hospitality is hope … If you feel hopeless, go visit your cranky uncle in elder care. Bring him flowers or a new pair of socks—nothing gives a person more hope than a new pair of socks. Then, because you’ve brought the hope, you will feel it. — Anne Lamott

Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect. — Brene Brown

Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across difference to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis. — Letty M. Russell

We don’t practice hospitality to point other people to ourselves, our church, or even our beliefs. We practice hospitality to point people toward the ultimate welcome that God gives every person through Christ. — Holly Sprink

We might even go so far as to say, that the theology of Liberation can be understood only by two groupings of persons: the poor, and those who struggle for justice at their side—only by those who hunger for bread, and by those who hunger for justice in solidarity with those hungering for bread. Conversely, liberation theology is not understood, nor can it be understood, by the satiated and satisfied—by those comfortable with the status quo. — Leonardo and Clodovis Boff

When you start with an understanding that God loves everyone, justice isn’t very far behind. — Emilie M. Townes  Greek word for hospitality, philoxenia, means ‘love of the stranger … banquet behavior fitting for the reign of God ought to affect dinner invitations even now. — Peluso-Verdend

Love … is not something you feel; it is something you do … Love seeks the well-being of others and is embodied in concrete efforts in their behalf. — Francis Taylor Gench

Jesus tells us to surprise others by our own dinner guest list, and prepare for a “great” time, too. Perhaps we, too, will come to understand a little better the meaning of true fulfillment and joy. — Kathryn Matthews

He comes as a guest to the feast of existence, and knows that what matters is not how much he inherits but how he behaves at the feast, and what people remember and love him for. — Boris Pasternak

True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person. Henri Nouwen has described it as receiving the stranger on his own terms, and asserts that it can be offered only by those who ‘have found the center of their lives in their own hearts.’ — Kathleen Norris

Meditations on lighting lamps: faith as seen and unseen, expected and surprising. Themes from Hebrews & Luke.

You are the community now. Be a lamp for yourselves. Be your own refuge. Seek for no other. All things must pass. Strive on diligently. Don’t give up. ― attributed to Buddha

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Sufi tell of disciples who, when the death of their master was clearly imminent, became totally bereft. “If you leave us, Master,” they pleaded, “how will we know what to do?” And the master replied, “I am nothing but a finger pointing at the moon. Perhaps when I am gone you will see the moon.” — As retold by Joan Chittister

Blessing of Light
—Jan Richardson

Let us bless the light
and the One who gives
the light to us.

Let us open ourselves
to the illumination
it offers.

Let us blaze
with its
generous fire.

Gospel Song: This Little Light of Mine (refrain)This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.

Questions posed by author Jan Richardson:

  • What do I hide, and why?
  • What parts of my created self have I sent underground?
  • Is there anything I’ve left too long in the dark?
  • Do I harbor any passivity that I need to … turn into persistence?

Lighting Lamps

Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside. ― Cassandra Clare

The lamp burns bright when wick and oil are clean. — Ovid

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

Make up a story… For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul. ― Toni Morrison, The Nobel Lecture In Literature, 1993 

America is known as a country that welcomes people to its shores. All kinds of people. The image of the Statue of Liberty with Emma Lazarus’ famous poem. She lifts her lamp and welcomes people to the golden shore, where they will not experience prejudice because of the color of their skin, the religious faith that they follow. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

[T]he ground directly beneath the lantern is always the darkest. ― Yom Sang-seop

Being the light of the world is about being a broken, exploding, scarred star and shining a light of hope and inspiration to everyone around you. ― Ricky Maye

Love cannot endure indifference. It needs to be wanted. Like a lamp, it needs to be fed out of the oil of another’s heart, or its flame burns low. — Henry Ward Beecher


Gifts & How to Use Them

The old and honorable idea of ‘vocation’ is simply that we each are called, by God, or by our gifts, or by our preference, to a kind of good work for which we are particularly fitted. — Wendell Berry

The atmosphere, the earth, the water and the water cycle – those things are good gifts. The ecosystems, the ecosphere, those are good gifts. We have to regard them as gifts because we couldn’t make them. We have to regard them as good gifts because we couldn’t live without them. — Wendell Berry

Treasure is stored in the ruined places. Do not break the hearts of the poor and heartbroken people. — Rumi

When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game. — Toni Morrison

On Faith

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. ― Rumi

As Brené Brown puts it, “I went to church thinking it would be like an epidural, that it would take the pain away . . . But church isn’t like an epidural; it’s like a midwife . . . I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort, but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'”― Rachel Held Evans

Because you are alive, everything is possible. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it. — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. — Corrie ten Boom

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some things have to be believed to be seen. — Madeleine L’Engle

The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s indifference. — Elie Wiesel

Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof. — Kahlil Gibran

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Perhaps faith is so hard to define that it’s better to use examples, to share stories, than to write a lot of theoretical things about it (not that that has deterred many theologians). It’s the experience of real people in a real relationship with God that can help us to grasp the meaning of faith, more than a precise or scholarly theological definition. — Kathryn Matthews

The problem of the nature of faith plagues us all our lives. … How do we explain to ourselves the journey of getting from there to here, from unquestioning adherence to institutional answers, to the point of asking faithful questions? It took years before I realized that maybe it is belief itself, if it is real, that carries us there. Maybe if we really believe about God what we say we believe, there comes a time when we have to go beyond the parochialisms of law. Maybe, if we are to be really spiritual people, we can’t afford the mind-binding of denominationalism. In order to find the God of life in all life, maybe we have to be willing to open ourselves to the part of it that lies outside the circles of our tiny little worlds. — Joan Chittister

Reflections on going your way, my way, and finding ‘the way’ (themes from Luke)

Question: When do you follow the lead of others, and explore their way, and when do you invite others to join you and try your path, your way?

As you start to walk on the way, the way appears. — Rumi

Music Video:Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts

The Way InLinda Hogan

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body. Sometimes the way in is a song. But there are three ways in the world:
dangerous, wounding, and beauty. To enter stone, be water. To rise through hard earth, be plant desiring sunlight, believing in water. To enter fire, be dry. To enter life, be food.

The Road― J.R.R. Tolkien
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

My Way, Your Way

You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path. You are not on your own path. If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential. ― Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey

Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind. The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun. — Don Miguel Ruiz

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Don’t keep forever on the public road, going only where others have gone. ― Alexander Graham Bell

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. ― Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Unfortunately, when you insist on doing everything your way, what usually happens is that you repeat someone else’s mistakes. ― Augustine Wetta, Humility Rules: St Benedict’s Twelve-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem

We do not draw people … by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it. — Madeleine L’Engle

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. — Mahatma Gandhi

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. — Walt Disney

Finding the Way

You don’t choose a life … You live one. — The Way (movie) script

In a gentle way, you can shake the world. — Mahatma Gandhi

… we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God. — Soren Kierkegaard

… the greatest spiritual practice isn’t yoga or praying the hours or living in intentional poverty, although these are all beautiful in their own way. The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix

The easiest way to be reborn is to live and feel life everyday. ― Munia Khan

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. — Thomas Edison

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. — John Muir

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him. — Buddha

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey. — Lord Byron

There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Reflections on boldness, mercy & grace: themes from Hebrews 4

How will you come boldly into the presence of God, of Love? What does it mean, for you, to trust that you will receive the help you require, if not the help you desire, even if you cannot possibly merit it? Have you ever felt such a moment, being utterly loved and supported? Have you ever offered that sort of love and support to someone else? What sort of grace, or help, do you need?


How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold?
Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root,
and in that freedom bold.
— William Wordsworth (excerpt)

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute –
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated —
Begin it, and the work will be completed!
— John Anster (excerpt) translation of Part One of
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s“Faust”

On Boldness

Dream a big dream, a bold dream. Don’t play conservatively between the 40 yard lines. Don’t just play it safe. — Robert Kraft

Fortune befriends the bold. — Emily Dickinson

Be bold, be brave enough to be your true self. — Queen Latifah

Shine like the whole universe is yours. — Rumi

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