There is a deep affinity between Rev. Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and the annual observance of Holy Week.
They are, of course, tied by the coincidence of time. The act of nonviolent resistance that landed Rev. Dr. King in the letter’s eponymous jail occurred on Good Friday. He spent that following Easter Sunday alone in an unlit, unfurnished cell. It was only on Monday that he was transferred to a new cell where he wrote the letter’s 7,000 words on scraps of paper and in the margins of newspapers.
The finished document is nothing short of a gospel tailor-made for our time: called into being by King the prophet, grounded in God by King the theologian, and shaped by King the servant of Justice.
What makes the letter so prescient at Holy Week is not only the calendar date, but also the content. Like the Gospel, it affirms our mutuality and shared fate. It affirms our part, no matter how small, in shaping the Kin-dom of God – the Beloved Community. It asks us to reflect on our motives and our beliefs, and to challenge our blind acceptance of the way things are. And, above all, it is steeped in love – a love that is unconditional, that is sanctioned by God and is the true calling card of the Gospel.
Community is ours for the making, an always-present happening, broken open to each other through a willingness to be vulnerable.
- under these trees at Kline’s Run Park along the Susquehanna
“You have made us together, you have made us one and many, you have placed me here in the midst as witness, as awareness, and as joy. Here I am…You have made me a kind of center, but a center that is nowhere. And yet also I am ‘here,’ let us say I am ‘here’ under these trees, not others.”
– Thomas Merton
There’s an uncomfortable truth that I’ve struggled with for most of my life: I’ve been really lonely.
It’s a squirmy little truth because it manifests itself in some pretty mundane and unimaginative ways. Here are my top three:
- The mindless consumption of plugging in to the dream worlds of never-ending video and social media
- An easy rejection enabled by perfectionism – summarily dismissing participation because it doesn’t meet my poorly constructed and usually self-edifying standards
- The ugly exhaustion of isolation – not the active, renewing power of solitude, but the inactive, life-draining leech of alienation
And it certainly isn’t because I’ve been alone. For most of my adult life I have been surrounded by an amazing partner, wonderful colleagues and warm friends. The surprising thing about being lonely is that it doesn’t have so much to do with who is around me, but instead it’s about how I am participating in co-creating community with who is around me. Dorothy Day got it absolutely right:
“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. It all happened while we sat there talking, and it is still going on.” (“The Final Word is Love,” The Catholic Worker, May 1980)
Bullet Journal Style…Thoughts from Sunday, July 2, 2017
- God has placed our Meetinghouse here in this community, not so that we can resist the troubles of urbanity, but so that we can open our hearts to them.
- In community, we can make a mess. But be faithful that God will give our communities the skills to clean it up.
- Sometimes I make choices that alienate myself from God and others.
- God gives us to each other so that we can make mistakes together.
looking out the north facing window of the meetinghouse on the gardens [1.8.2016]
Bullet Journal Style Thoughts from 1.8.2017
- Wholeness is the symbol that embraces every last bit of our brokenness.
- First we must minister with the body of Christ in its localized incarnation so that we may reach out authentically to its global formation.
- Feeling opposition to a thingI am called to do. What is my vocation, and how can I better reveal it in my life?
is an opportunity for greater discernment in recognizing what it is
- How are my shortcomings better informing my gifts? If I am quick to anger over a certain phenomenon, how can I use that discomfort to create a space for a larger sense of equanimity?
Here is a place for thoughts that surface from Quaker Meeting for Worship. Some are messages that don’t reach the point of vocal ministry, some do, some surface in me, some in others. The Light is a joyously unpredictable thing.
/ codorus creek near its eponymous furnace [ 12.27.2016 ]
Bullet Journal Style … Thoughts from 1.1.2017
the beautiful ambiguity of symbols allows them to both point to and be the things they embody
our moments together are so brief…how should we rightfully apprise each one
most of our hardships come from trying to fit into the mold of the empire
it is the unfolding of things that is the most uncertain part
creating a welcoming space is all about the intention of relating comfort
Florida Scott-Maxwell’s writing is alive with a kind of ecstatic experience – living in the moment with a relentless presence while holding the gaze on the eternal. I love this book.
“Always, through everything, I try to straighten my spine, or my soul. They both ought to be upright I feel, for pride, for style, for reality’s sake, but both tend to bend as under a weight that has been carried for a long time. I try to lighten my burden by knowing it, I try to walk lightly, and sometimes I do, for sometimes I feel both light and proud. At other times I am bent, bent.”
Love is always the answer…but only when it sits in relationship with truth.
a feast of proportionality at the Metropolitan Museum of Art looking on to Central Park
Public discourse at its best is rich with paradox but recently seems mostly littered with misunderstanding. Echo chambers resound wildly amplifying hurt and fear, both of which, I can say personally, are utterly warranted in this new political landscape. But how to hold the hurt and fear with the nearly impossible paradox that brings love and truth together? What is a proportional response?
“Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.”
– Warren W. Wiersbe
And there’s the rub. A truth untempered by love is violence, while love without truth is toothless. I’ve seen quite a few white folks floating Dr. King quotes on the internet, especially this one: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” That seems like an enlightened response, but I’m not sure if it’s completely proportional. I think it’s a great sentiment that makes folks feel good. I think in its original context, the quote is a powerful stand for peace and reconciliation. But reconciliation is about first confronting some ugly truths. The light makes all the dark places known, not just the ones we want to see. Continue reading