Food Is the Physical Embodiment of Prayer

Food and faith - Bread and wine

Food is the physical embodiment of prayer. 

I could not help but think of this quote from Soil and Sacrament by Fred Bahnson this morning as I read through various articles about the impact of the decisions in Washington D.C. I feel a little like Pope Francis who during his recent visit to Sardinia, known for its palatial homes but where 51% of young people are unemployed, threw away his prepared speech and decried a global economic system that does so much harm.

I too am throwing away my “prepared speech” this morning, because my heart aches. Here in the U.S. we have gutted food stamps and support to the poor, denied healthcare to the millions who do not have it, frozen the budget and consequently decimated the lives of many low paid government workers who live from day to day . What has happened to our prayers that should be embodied in feeding and caring for those at the margins? What has happened to our compassion for those who cannot make ends meet? Why do we no longer heed God’s words to feed the hungry?

Yes I know some will say that is the church’s responsibility and it is but that is not their’s alone. All of us are responsible and the present financial capitalism which rewards those at the top while everyone else struggles, as Bill Moyers reminds us will consume us and democracy will be finished.

United for a Fair Economy posted this graphic How Do We Coddle the Super Wealthy? yesterday. I find it very sober reading. The super wealthy have convinced us that the poor are the ones who take advantage of the system while they are squeaky clean. And totally disrupting a democratically elected government and president is OK as long as its the poor and not the rich that suffer. OK I know that is my cynical read on the situation and it is not entirely accurate but it flows from a grieving heart this morning and so I hope you will forgive me.

Let me leave you with these powerful words from the book of James to meditate on this morning. It is quoted here from a new bible I received from Thomas Nelson recently entitled Compass: The Study Bible for Navigating Your Life. the translation is The Voice. 

Brothers and sisters it doesn’t make any sense to say you have faith and act in a way that denies that faith. Mere talk never gets you very far, and a commitment to Jesus only in words will not save you. It would be like seeing a brother or sister without any clothes out in the cold and begging for food, and saying “Shalom friend, you should get inside where it’s warm and eat something”. but doing nothing about his needs- leaving him cold and alone on the street. What good would your words alone do? The same is true with faith. Without actions, faith is useless. By itself, it’s as good as dead. I know what you are thinking: “OK, you have faith and I have actions. Now let’s see your faith without works and I’ll show you a faith that works. (James 2: 14-17)

 

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Gun Violence in America – What Do You Think?

photo by Coe Hutchison

photo by Coe Hutchison

I don’t usually post about political issues, but the debate on gun control in the U.S. has so impacted me that I felt I could not keep silent. However when back in January this year, the NRA accusing the President of being an elite hypocrite because there are armed guards at his daughters’ school really made me angry. I don’t think the President’s children are more important than any others, but I do think they are more vulnerable and this type of comment will probably make them even more vulnerable.

It seems to me that the concerns about gun control revolve around our understanding of freedom. Does having assault weapons freely available make us “free”. I don’t think so but then I realize I did not grow up in this country and so have a very different understanding of freedom from the average American.

To Americans the concept of freedom focuses on the freedom of individual choice, which can be as trivial as the right to choose whether I want my eggs sunny side up or over easy, or as serious as the right to bear arms.  What I struggle with is that there seems to be little recognition of the often dire consequences our individual choices can have for the society or for the world in which we live. Freedom to do what we want and carry whatever type of gun we want, in my opinion, is not freedom at all. Yes I know  the dogma: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” but if guns are not available there are far less gun deaths and we do need assault weapons to go hunting – that I think is massacre of another kind. And in a society with less guns all of us become free from fear.

To Australians freedom revolves around the freedom of society and the recognition that our decisions all have consequences not just for us as individuals but for all of our society and our world.  Consequently most Australians are willing to give up their guns for the good of a safe society in which we don’t have to worry about drive by shootings.  In the Australian political system voting is compulsory because of the belief that with the freedom of citizenship comes the responsibility of participation in the process that provides our freedom.

All of this leads me to my most important question about freedom “What does freedom look like in the kingdom of God?”  Obviously there is a element of individual freedom – all of us need to take on the individual responsibility to kneel at the foot of the Cross, repent and reach out for the salvation of Christ.  However our entry into the family of God faces us with serious consequences for how we act in society.  Our freedom as Christians means that we no longer focus on our own needs but rather “consider the needs of others as more important than our own” (Philippians 2)  It means that we live by the law of love – what James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8).  Paul sums this up very well “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself.”

If we truly loved our neighbours, not just those across the street that we wave at every day, but the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, how would it change our attitude towards guns? Jesus us calls all of us to be citizens of a kingdom in which love not hatred reigns, in which peace not violence is proclaimed and in which freedom means we accept the restrictions on our individual behaviour to participate in the liberation of all humankind.

What do you think?

The National Prayer Breakfast – What Do You Think

This has been the week of the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, a breakfast at which President Obama spoke eloquently about his faith.  Of course some, like Fox News were not happy with what he had to say.  Others  of course were delighted by his speech.  I particularly enjoyed these comments by Eugene Cho who had the privilege of attending the breakfast.

As Eugene says – there is much to pray for these days and rather than picking apart our views of Obama’s faith why not come together to pray for all those who need our deepest prayers and support at this time – from the leader of this and every country in the world to the poorest farmer whose family lives on the edge of starvation.

The Bible encourages us to pray for those who are in government.  So let us pray:

God who created all humankind in your image, we pray for those who lead all the nations of the world.  We pray especially this morning for President Obama, for his cabinet and for all those who seek for justice through political action.  Be with them this day.  Grant them wisdom and understanding in their decisions.  Guide and instruct them.  May they be merciful and compassionate towards all who are in need.

As I prayed this today I could not help but think of Psalm 72 and David’s prayer for his son Solomon which very much reflects my prayer sentiments this morning

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
4 May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.
5 May he endure as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
6 May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
7 In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

8 May he rule from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
9 May the desert tribes bow before him
and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba
present him gifts.
11 May all kings bow down to him
and all nations serve him.

12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long.
16 May grain abound throughout the land;
on the tops of the hills may it sway.
May the crops flourish like Lebanon
and thrive like the grass of the field.
17 May his name endure forever;
may it continue as long as the sun.

Then all nations will be blessed through him,
and they will call him blessed.

18 Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
19 Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.

 

Prayer for the People of Egypt

God of mercy

Be compassionate to the people of egypt

God who cares

Pour out your love on all who suffer

Prince of peace

Provide security in the midst of violence

Christ who frees

Overcome oppression with justice

Spirit that transforms

Bring change that is liberating

God may your kingdom come in Egypt and in all the earth

Amen

The Hound Of Heaven by Francis Thompson

Today I have been reflecting on my favourite religious poem The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson and I realized that many of you may never have heard this poem.  So here it is for your enjoyment first as read by Richard Burton and then the entire text

 

The Hound of Heaven

I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated
Adown titanic glooms of chasme d hears
From those strong feet that followed, followed after
But with unhurrying chase and unperturbe d pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat, and a Voice beat,
More instant than the feet:
All things betray thee who betrayest me. 

I pleaded, outlaw–wise by many a hearted casement,
curtained red, trellised with inter-twining charities,
For though I knew His love who followe d,
Yet was I sore adread, lest having Him,
I should have nought beside.
But if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of his approach would clash it to.
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clange d bars,
Fretted to dulcet jars and silvern chatter
The pale ports of the moon.

I said to Dawn — be sudden, to Eve — be soon,
With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
From this tremendous Lover.
Float thy vague veil about me lest He see.
I tempted all His servitors but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him, their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue,
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind,
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue,
Or whether, thunder-driven,
They clanged His chariot thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn of their feet,
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following feet, and a Voice above their beat:
Nought shelters thee who wilt not shelter Me.

I sought no more that after which I strayed
In face of Man or Maid.
But still within the little childrens’ eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me.
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair,
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
Come then, ye other children, Nature’s
Share with me, said I, your delicate fellowship.
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses,
Wantoning with our Lady Mother’s vagrant tresses,
Banqueting with her in her wind walled palace,
Underneath her azured dai:s,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice, lucent weeping out of the dayspring.

So it was done.
I in their delicate fellowship was one.
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies,
I knew all the swift importings on the wilful face of skies,
I knew how the clouds arise,
Spume d of the wild sea-snortings.
All that’s born or dies,
Rose and drooped with,
Made them shapers of mine own moods, or wailful, or Divine.
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the Even,
when she lit her glimmering tapers round the day’s dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
and its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine.
Against the red throb of its sunset heart,
I laid my own to beat
And share commingling heat.

But not by that, by that was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.
For ah! we know what each other says,
these things and I; In sound I speak,
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor step-dame, cannot slake my drouth.
Let her, if she would owe me
Drop yon blue-bosomed veil of sky
And show me the breasts o’ her tenderness.
Never did any milk of hers once bless my thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase, with unperturbe d pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
And past those noise d feet, a Voice comes yet more fleet:
Lo, nought contentst thee who content’st nought Me.

Naked, I wait thy Love’s uplifted stroke. My harness, piece by piece,
thou’st hewn from me
And smitten me to my knee,
I am defenceless, utterly.
I slept methinks, and awoke.
And slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours,
and pulled my life upon me.
Grimed with smears,
I stand amidst the dust o’ the mounded years–
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst like sunstarts on a stream.
Yeah, faileth now even dream the dreamer
and the lute, the lutanist.
Even the linked fantasies in whose blossomy twist,
I swung the Earth, a trinket at my wrist,
Have yielded, cords of all too weak account,
For Earth, with heavy grief so overplussed.
Ah! is thy Love indeed a weed,
albeit an Amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
Ah! must, Designer Infinite,
Ah! must thou char the wood ‘ere thou canst limn with it ?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust.
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver upon the sighful branches of my
mind.

Such is. What is to be ?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind ?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds,
Yet ever and anon, a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity.
Those shaken mists a space unsettle,
Then round the half-glimpse d turrets, slowly wash again.
But not ‘ere Him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal; Cypress crowned.
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether Man’s Heart or Life it be that yield thee harvest,
Must thy harvest fields be dunged with rotten death ?

Now of that long pursuit,
Comes at hand the bruit.
That Voice is round me like a bursting Sea:
And is thy Earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest me.
Strange, piteous, futile thing;
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of Naught (He said).
And human love needs human meriting —
How hast thou merited,
Of all Man’s clotted clay, the dingiest clot.
Alack! Thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art.
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save me, save only me?
All which I took from thee, I did’st but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in my arms.
All which thy childs mistake fancies as lost,
I have stored for thee at Home.
Rise, clasp my hand, and come.
Halts by me that Footfall.
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
Ah, Fondest, Blindest, Weakest,
I am He whom thou seekest.
Thou dravest Love from thee who dravest Me.

Mobilizing Hope

While we were at Christian Community Development Association conference a couple of weeks ago Tom & I met author Adam Taylor who really inspired us as he talked about his new book Mobilizing Hope.  My copy of the book just arrived but I will not get round to reviewing it until next week.  However I also wanted to let you know that Adam is currently on a book tour he will be in Seattle next week and would love it if some of you could join him.

Please join InterVarsity Press and Washington CAN for author Adam Taylor:



The Future of Social Justice Activism for a Post-Civil Rights Generation

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

6:00-7:30pm

Southside Commons
3518 S. Edmonds St.

Seattle, WA  98118

Adam Taylor most recently served as a White House Fellow in the Office of Cabinet Affairs, Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Obama Administration.  Prior to that, he was Senior Political Director at Sojourners, a leading faith-based advocacy organization with nation-wide impact.  He also served as the Executive Director of Global Justice, which educates and mobilizes young people to advance human rights and fight poverty.  Adam is an ordained Associate Minister at First Baptist Church in Washington DC.

Jim Wallis, author of New York Times bestseller God’s Politics writes in the foreword, Mobilizing Hope “is a story of how Adam and many of his cohorts are shaping the next strategies for faith-based social change; a theology for social justice; a spirituality for young activists; a handbook for those who want to experiment with activism and search out their own vocation in the world; and a strategy manual that draws lessons from past movements for change”.

Kseniva Simonova – Amazing Sand Drawing

Andy Raine from the Northumbria Community near Holy Island just sent me a link to this amazing video:

It shows Kseniya Simonova a Ukrainian artist who just won Ukraine’s version of “America’s Got Talent.” She uses a giant light box, dramatic music, imagination and “sand painting” skills to interpret Germany’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine during WWII.  The Great Patriotic War as it was called in the Ukraine resulted in 1 in 4 of the population being killed with 8 to 11 million deaths in a population of 42 million.