Dude, Gimme A Beat

Inspired by Brother, Give Us A Word


Tonight, tomorrow and Saturday are one long feast for the senses as we taste, touch, smell, hear and see God’s love made manifest in bread and wine; in water and towel; in fire and oil; in word and action; in sign, symbol and sacrament. What is the meaning of all that we do these Three Days? Love is the meaning.

Pharoah Sanders - The Creator Has a Master Plan (Live in Tokyo 2003)

Holy Thursday is a day of such fullness and significance. I sit and contemplate. All of the human experience seems to be contained in one way or another. In Br. James’ meditation, I am particularly drawn to the water and towel element. Jesus washing the feet of his companions; this act of humble, generous thoughtfulness, and, quite necessary in the context of the times the events took place. It seems a recurring theme for me in these meditations is the surrender of self; the counterintuitive truth that in giving of myself sacrificially, I am enhanced and nourished in a way that is not only fulfilling, bur perhaps unattainable in any other way. Every so often I have moments where there is tangibly obvious. More often, this is a balancing process, at times a mystery. Pharoah Sanders captures the eternal groove with The Creator Has a Master Plan. When the mystery strikes fear within me, this song, in any of its extraordinary versions, brings me to peace.

(Source: m.youtube.com)


The Gospel tells us that Jesus told Judas to do quickly what he was going to do. Judas received the piece of bread and went out. Have you wondered what Jesus might have been thinking, knowing that Judas was about to betray him? Perhaps we can reflect on how Jesus feels when we betray him or let him down in our daily life.

-Br. David Allen

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/2012/04/04/supper-in-the-upper-room-br-david-allen/

Willie Williams – Armagideon Time

As someone who gets anxious about everything – even things I know will be fun – I cannot even begin to comprehend the cloud looming over Jesus’ days at this stage of his journey. The pain of betrayal Br. David speaks to is certainly a deep wound. Yet it would seemingly pale in comparison to the pending public torture and murder Jesus knows is coming. Br. David’s meditations veer towards the old-school, and I love them. While many may chafe at such perceived sternness, I welcome the integrity and the clarity of the call to awareness and accountability. Such meditations shine a harsh light on half-assed and self-serving understandings. This meditation speaks to me of the domino effect of my shortcomings. Obviously, no one is perfect. But what are the ramifications of my behaviors, my actions and inactions on those around me? This approach has been a deep awakening for me over the past year. It has opened my eyes to see how there are some aspects of my life where my desire to help has in fact been a hindrance. Similarly, times when my inaction has in fact been quite selfish and damaging. These small, personal armageddons and the bigger picture armageddon of Jesus during Holy Week provoke the selection of this massive, legendary jam from Willie Williams. A timeless track, still in heavy rotation today is a deep, challenging meditation itself. “A lot of people won’t get no supper tonight. A lot of people going to suffer tonight…..A lot of people won’t get no justice tonight. So a lot of people going to have to stand up and fight. But remember to praise Jehovah and he will guide you in this Iration….” 


This is the last week of Lent and whether we have been able and diligent in maintaining our discipline or not, this week, like so much of our relationship with God, offers us another chance to return to it, and to immerse ourselves in the spiritual mystery of this holy season.

-Br. Eldridge Pendleton

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=1828

Charles Mingus – All the Things You Could Be By Now if Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother

Br. Eldridge seems to be speaking to the ever-present invitation and opportunity which God affords us for renewal and redemption. That speaks to the vastness of God’s love. There are human parallels with which this can be understood. A parent’s love for a child is perhaps the best way I can think of. But really, any love which is sincere enough to withstand disappointment, or even betrayals, or when we continue to love someone even when that love is not returned – those are all ways of beginning to grasp the dynamic of love and concern God has for each one. This plays out in dramatic fashion during Holy Week, as Jesus endures the full, wild ride of humanity’s confused, complex relationship with God and with one another. Celebrated, embraced, and welcomed, Jesus will soon be targeted, betrayed, humiliated, tortured and killed. His friends and family will surely be terrorized by this, and haunted by it and their own reactions to it. Charles Mingus lived and made music that captured a lot fo the hugeness and complexities of this life. I came across this song recently and had a memorable sitting with it. I was coming off of 36 hours of exhausting, but joyous, unbridled love and support with some of the people I love most. I was weary, but overflowing with good vibes. I had a powerful sensation of seeing as if from above, space, rotationally, 360 degrees, yet like an eagle, still maintained the ability to see details. When the song ended, I felt that had it continued for even one second more, I would have exploded big-bang style into 61 million fragments. Suddenly, I then had this sense that eternity is perhaps best understood not in moral parameters, as is usually the case, but rather, fitness, capacity. Has one cultivated one’s being sincerely, with awareness and sufficient dilligence to withstand eternity? Truly, this vision casts Jesus in the role of teacher – the one showing us the way. The moral component is inherent in the quest – it takes care of itself. Thus, we are freed from judging one another, and our selves, and instead, our focus is the Way. 


Our life is not about hoarding or about conserving for its own sake but its opposite: about giving.  Our life is about willingly giving up our life and our life’s energies as we see in Christ’s own self-emptying.

-Br. Curtis Almquist

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=511

Parliament – The Silent Boatman

It is Holy Week. This year I’ve been meditating on the energy building at this point in Jesus’ journey. In the gospel narrative, Jesus is huge with the people at this point. He is equally reviled by the religious establishement. The secular powers don’t really care – Jesus has not disrupted their concerns.  But the religious leaders fear his surging fame and popularity not only as a personal affront, but also for fear that what Christ is igniting in people will alarm the secular government and lead to a crackdown, in which these religious elders would face consequences. Their actions are self-interested and they will rationalize their decision to have Jesus killed in a perverse form of Christ’s actual purpose. Their justification for killing him, they decide, will save everyone and avoid the harsh penalties the Roman government would impose if his popularity continues unabated. It is amazing how timeless and universal the life of Christ really is. Nothing has chnaged in people. Ego, pride, vanity, selfishness, and the ability to rationalize a justification for actions are all part of the human experience. Jesus shows another way. It is not rational, though. It is counterintuitive. It is not at all of this world, this notion of gaining by giving up, by living sacrifically. And yet, it is the only way true peace and contentment can be attained in this life. Parliament’s massive universe has provided the world with songs for just about every life expereince one can have. This gorgeous ballad once again offers their staggering talents and wisdom.

It is said that when we leave this world

If we have suffered we will be saved

So I’ll lift up my head, whoever I am

What I cannot do here, there’s a place that I can

I’m waiting for the silent boatman

To ferry me across the unknown waters

In this life, though I’ve tried

Many things couldn’t be

Closed minds with faces looking down onto me

Parting means grief, but only for those left

All men descend into earth at the very same depth

I’m waiting for the silent boatman

To ferry me across the unknown waters

I wonder if in death, man at last can love man

Stripped of all life’s gifts to him

No ego to remain

When you reach Jordan’s bank, there’s no money, power or fame

No third or second class, the fare is all the same

I’m waiting for the silent boatman (silent boatman)

To ferry me across the unknown waters (unknown waters)


Today it all begins: Holy Week, and God’s great work of salvation. Let us ask God to bless us all on the journey, to give us grace to “feel the weight of the cross” as we follow Jesus along the Via Crucis. But let us walk the way with hope and trust in our hearts, for we know and rejoice that the weight of the cross will become the weight of glory.

-Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=1822

Bonnie Prince Billy - Lie Down in the Light

{song selection & reflection by Peter L.}

Life’s so iffy. If it weren’t for denial, we’d run in horror. Having no alternative but to stay, we hedge our bets. Withhold ourselves. It’s a soul-killing kind of compromise. For me, the meaning of the cross lies in the mystery by which by we give ourselves over to mortality and find unexpected help and transformation in the Spirit. Personally, I’m finding plenty of opportunities in this Lenten season to confront my soul’s estrangement. In various conflicts with the people in my life. What can you do but gently prod the ‘unloved one’ toward the Greater Love?

Something I like about Will Oldham, aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy - is his way of prodding:

When the sun welcomes us in/ and the earth’s protective skin/ fails and peels back, face to chin/ then we start it all again

Why do you frown?/ why do you try?/ why don’t you lie down/ in the light?

Who’s gonna hold my heart/ Who’s gonna be my own own own?/ Who’s gonna know when all is dark/ that she is not alone?

Heed this word: beware/ for my heart’s ways are unclear/ a fundamental prayer/leaves the evil one stripped bare

Why do you frown?/ why do you try?/ why don’t you lie down/ in the light?


We are meant for yes. This is the mind of Christ. “…in [Jesus Christ] it is always ‘yes.’”

-Br. Mark Brown

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/2007/12/14/meant-for-yes/

Jimmy Smith – The Sermon (Live)

This meditation falls into the “who feels it, knows it” category for me. The older I get, the more I just feel intuitively the truth of this brief meditation. It was wise to leave it brief – to not be specific in any way as to what the “yes” is related to…merely thatw e are meant for “yes”. That is quite affirming. And as unique beings, each one’s “yes” is unique to their own particular path. Similarly, Jimmy Smith is a perfect artist to cnosider in the light of a gradual, onging revelation. Because the way he plays is exactly like that – he simmers, percolates, and ultimately, boils, and overflows. The listener may start out tapping a toe or a finger, but by song’s end, if you’re listening, if oyu’re paying attention, you’re overcome by the song and your whole body is now immersed in the song. Limbs flailing, head bobbing….I almost desire to be the ride cymbal, just getting slapped around. Surrendering to the flow of this song is like floating in the ocean; an effortless, transcendent ride. 


You may have traveled a long distance to get to this point in your life, and you may have an equally long way to go before you get home, but God in the person of Jesus Christ has the power to change you and send you home not just a different person, but by another way.

-Br. James Koester

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/sermons/?p=1869

The Wailers – This Train

First hearing this song was pretty memorable. I was not expecting it, and it was the first song on the compilation of early Wailers tracks. The picture of Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley looking sharp in their Motown-style suits failed to prepare for me what I heard. I was working in a record store and stopped in my tracks to listen. It was exhilherating. It seemed to open so many possibilites. And it was also just beautiful. And while life is blessed with many such memorable moments, it is mostly a slog. Not to be totally depressing, but I’ve come to learn that while those moments of immediate spark are wonderful and likely quite necessary to preserve some sesne of magic in daily life, most awakenings and growth occurs piecemeal. And often without our notice. Life is a long journey. The train of Christ is a magnificent vessel. There will be stunning vistas and delicious moments during the journey. Yet there will also be tight quarters, long stretches of dreary or repetitive terrain, a sesne that one is really not getting anywhere. “Are we there, yet?!?” But the gift of life is a gift in part because we can realize every so often just how far we have come in this life. Where our efforts may seem futile from one angle, a new perspective may help us realize that in fact we helped someone – ourselves or another – move along in this life’s journey. Perhaps my favorite moment in this song is the line “And I thank you children, I thank you, oh my little Jesus, my Lord”. Gratitude – it is central to a happy life. And also notice the fantastic harmonies of the Wailers! Each voice so unique, blending perfectly. A perfect metaphor.


We affirm this in our baptismal covenant “…seeking and serving Christ in all persons” and “respecting the dignity of every human being” calls us to be slow to judge, eager to listen and understand, determined to see others as God sees them, in the beauty of their potential, no matter what their current state.

-Br. David Vryhof

Mal Waldron - Left Alone

Left alone with ourselves, I believe we find the space within time to deeply exhale and perhaps see the vastness of our life. The day to day existence so easily narrows our scope. Our lives are massive and there many perspectives from which it should be understood. I believe this is true with people as well, in terms of really getting to one another. Left alone, one to one. Stripped of the group, of one’s peers and familiar frames of reference, we are left with each other. Usually, our shared humanity emerges from such a setting. Such pairings may not result in full agreement or camaraderie, but the dignity of each other is hard to deny. am blessed to be having some very long face time with the sea to digest this meditation. Gazing upon the rising swells of a stormy tide, listening to the rhythmic crash of the waves and witnessing the feeding dance of the gulls leaves me keenly aware of, and staggered by just how tiny I really am, yet that minutiae is so vast and beautiful, I could not ask for more. Mal Waldron’s playing sort of suits that as well. As ingenious so anyone in the avant-garde, yet subtle, restrained. He was a friend and collaborator of Billie Holiday and here he teams with Jackie McLean on alto sax for a beautiful moment of life.

(Source: http)


There is one more ingredient to our ability to hear God calling us. We need to be ready. We need to be ready to respond to the call of God.

-Br. James Koester

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/sermons/?p=2098

Desmond Dekker – Israelites

Sometimes we are the obstacles to our own dreams. One pathway to God, perhaps the most common pathway, is when life’s struggles pile up and become unbearable. The struggles may come from external forces over which we have no control. They may also come from our own decisions and actions. Sometimes we are building a life on a rotten foundation. Sometimes we get out of balance. In this classic song, Desmond Dekker rattles off a list of misery which likely anyone can relate to on some level. The nice deep skank of the song does not conclude with a happy ending though. Nor is there a bad ending. We just learn that things are rough for the singer at this point in time. The obvious parallel to the wandering Israelites provides the song’s title. And perhaps a useful lens to interpret the meaning – of the song and of life! It’s wise to consider such circumstances before they hit us too close so that we may see the objective possibilites of such struggle. When the pain is erupting, it is very hard to comprehend how the struggle could be a path to God, a call to a change we need to make in our life. Our impulse is likely to be to just flail away in an attempt to numb or remove the pain. But growth is painful. Re-birth is painful. Surely, it’s not easy for a flower to pop from the ground, a baby to pop from the womb. Amidst hardship, we are more likely to be blind to the possibility for new growth, new life. That’s how I interpret this meditation. A reminder to recognize the many ways God calls us. Through prayer and awareness, we may have the presence of mind to recognize a call to growth, and be better able to endure it as necessary. I think when we can comprehend that there is opportunity in pain, we gain an ability to live gratefully. And gratitude is a crucial component to a life of peace, contentment, and true joy. 


Giving all that we have is what God asks of us.  God wants us to empty ourselves by giving so that God can replenish us with much more.  And God comes to us in those seeking our help.

-Br. Eldridge Pendleton

Full Sermon:   http://ssje.org/sermons/?p=1365

Meat Puppets – Up on the Sun

During this Lent, I’ve been consciously aware of emptying my being of my self, my will and praying to instead be a vessel, be filled with the light of Christ. This focus has come about in part because it is Lent and that helps focus prayers and intentions. And it has also come about because of circumstances currently present in my life which are very troubling and difficult and over which I have no control. Thus, I’m left keenly aware of my limitations, no matter how good my intentions or willingness to give. There have been days when I have lived in this state of emptiness of the self – and those days have been utterly transcendent. Truly. And they left me exhausted, ready to embrace a duller pulse in life. But I found rather than gaining rest from that duller pulse, I became agitated and all too wiling to focus on the negative and the sense of being overwhelmed. It has been fascinating to experience this and also a real struggle to not succumb to the worry and negativity. I am trying to remember what this meditation speaks to so clearly – to heed and follow the counterintuitive way of God. On that notion of counterintuition, I found myself reaching for the Meat Puppets, whose abstract lyrics I thought might synch up with counterintuition. And as I read over the lyrics for “Up on the Sun” I found a possible connection to the lyrics and this meditation. The opening salvo of “I turned to myself and sai you are my daughter” had a far more relevant meaning than merely a clever, LSD soaked line. It spoke to me as a form of the unity of all things – the idea of I and I. And the further in the song, “there’s an ocean with a wind that never blows and if you see it closer then the finer points will show”. Again, this came into focus through this meditation. Does wind exist if it doesn’t blow? What is it then? Apparently a closer look wil reveal more….and this seems to me to be how God guides us through this life. Because we are free to live as we choose, God’s guidance is not a hammer upon us. It is subtle, but it is there if sought. That can be maddening at times, but that frustration can be part of the process, and quite instructive if we apply the lesson throughout life.