Dude, Gimme A Beat

Inspired by Brother, Give Us A Word

Wisdom

Wisdom is the discovery of the road to freedom, finding the way and the truth and the life; the essence of living life abundantly. Jesus, in the New Testament, is called “the wisdom of God”, the one “in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.”

-Br. Curtis Almquist

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=1367

Kraftwerk – Autobahn

As I went deeper in my life, and my faith, I began to pray less and less for anything specific. Rather, I simply ask for wisdom and courage. It seems to me that these are the the two essential components for life. Wisdom to discern life as it unfolds, and courage to act accordingly based upon that wisdom. The Old Testament book of Wisdom is one of my most cherished scriptures, and it is part of the series of books which dispense timeless, universal guidelines for living. Along with Ecclesiastes and Sirach, I have referred to these pages again and again in life. Jesus manifests in human form these divine principles. It seems to me that wisdom is somehow built-in to us as humans. It is there, just waiting to be tapped. But as with so much in the spiritual toolbox, it must be opened and used. Sadly, there is not a motion-detector like device which can apply it for us. And also following the pattern, the world seems to feed us conflicted messages, which are counter to this innate knowledge. And I would suggest this is more true now than ever, as technology has empowered marketing’s already refined seductive techniques  into a vile, all-consuming beast, whose aim is nothing less than domination of our entire beings. One way to awake from the slumber of relentless titilation and control from external forces and to awake this innate wisdom is through dancing. We all have a heartbeat. Thus, we all can dance. Nevermind learning some pre-programmed steps. Put away the fears of self-consciousness. Just move to the music. In the same way a finger or toe instinctively taps, let that impulse run throughout the body. Kraftwerk, despite their sort of machine-like precision, actually manage to somehow retain the soul. And this classic track, perhaps more than any other demonstrates this successful blend of technology and humanity. I have found when I surrender to music, God comes through. Through music, I surrender to God. And unlike the stealth invasiveness and expenses of your email account selling every movement of your eyes to a marketing company, God will never exploit us. 

Kindness

I suspect that the seemingly small, ordinary kindnesses of our lives are magnified greatly in God’s design. We remember the story of the widow’s mite and the stories of the loaves and fishes. What seems like little to us may amount to a great deal in God’s economy.

-Br. Mark Brown

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/2011/11/29/wait-br-mark-brown/

John Tchicai – Detour

Last year I bumped into a guy I’ve known for a very long time now. We’re not close, we never hung out together but he was a regular to record stores I worked in over the years and he was a singer for a number of great Boston punk bands. Unlike most such recognizable scene folks, he is an extremely kind and pleasant guy. On stage, he tears it up, but in everyday life, he’s just a very nice man. I noticed how that bothered some people and it always baffled me. Anyway, he was crossing the big intersection in the middle of Harvard Square on this day, both arms loaded up with drinks for the people at the meeting he was going to – this was a typical expamle of what a thoughtful guy he is. He recognized me but I could tell he was scanning his mental rolodex to figure out who I was. Once that was established, we had a great talk. When I mentioned I was coming back from a quick visit to the monastery chapel, he looked at me with a bit of hesitation, perhaps wondering if I had undergone some weird, unnatural transformation. I was not surprised by this, so I just continued talking. Then a few minutes later, he pointed out a tiny sparrow smack dab in the middle of this chaotic intersection, cars, bikes and pedestrians all in perilous motion around this tiny little bird. He told me how much he loved birds and how his favorite thing to do is to sit on a bench in Central Square and feed the birds. He told me he recognizes some of them from distinctive markings and I told him about my fascination with birds – their ubiquitous presence, baffling resiliance, and spellbinding songs. All of a sudden, it was literally like a light bulb went off and he started snapping his fingers – it was like he was not only vibing with me about birds but he had also just reconciled my monastery visit as well – “who’s that guy…you know who I’m talking about, you’ll know this, that guy who walked around with the squirrels wrapped around his neck and the birds perched on his fingers and arms…who’s that guy?” At first, I thought he was talking about some character from around Boston / Cambridge – some old eccentric who literally walked around town with animals draped over him. Then I realized he was connecting the inference of my monastery visits to the greater whole of our friendship, “Oh!” I exclaimed, “St. Francis?!?! You talking about St. Francis of Assissi?” “Yeah – that’s the guy! I knew you’d know what I meant!” he said. St. Franics is often depicted with animals, I believe symbolic of the harmonious state in which he lived. That brief meeting lasted maybe 8-10 minutes but it energized me repeatedly over the last year for a few reasons. And then a couple weeks ago on a stifilingly hot and humid day, I saw him hanging out in front of a store. I reocgnized immediately he was struggling. I approached him and greeted him and just got right to the point – I asked him if he was struggling and if he needed some help. It was so obvious to me that the Spirit was soaring through me throughout this entire episode. I had just concluded a phone call in which I was railing at my goddaughter’s mother that I was broke and she had to get her self in order because I have been stretched too thin for too long and things had to change. Yet, I couldn’t wait to help out this guy. I’m usually brutally awkward with such things, but the Spirit gave me eloquence – I was able to ask him if he needed help in a way that did not demean him or rob his dignity. It turns out he has labored through life with some major learning disabilites, dyslexia and a mild form of autism. His pride always prevented him from seeking any assistance but he had now done so, but he was homeless for a couple weeks while he connected the dots with all the paperwork required to get housing. I live in a studio apartment that is smaller than most people’s bedrooms, a whopping 268 square feet. I’m wise enough now to know it was out of the question to offer him a place to stay, but I did assure him I could spare some cash to help him get some food and cover basic stuff like toothpaste and that kind of stuff for the time he was in a shelter. Once that was addressed, we got back to catching up and talking some more. I learned things about him I never knew before – he had grown children for example, and while like me, he grew up in Brighton, he was actually born in Montreal and lived there for a while as a kid. He also  expressed how incredibly bored he was – he had nothing to do and nowhere to go and nothing but time. He pointed out how the heat had worn him down. These are precisely the kind of small details of shittiness that unless you experience it, you would have no idea of the impact. Obvious things like shelter and food and maybe safety are the sort of things that come to mind when someone is in such a vulnerable predicament, but the toll of the grind of such calamity is far less obvious. We’ve kept in touch since we met and hopefully next week will get together to feed the birds. And here again is another rambling entry, one which I did not intend to write. Initially, I thought about this meditation in relation to kindness being a detour to our more naturally selfish inclinations and maybe of how hurtful it is when friends carelessly do mean things one another. But then all this erupts.  I thought about how I’ve just discovered John Tchicai and how much I love his playing. But it turns out the detour is this story about my friend. And the detour is not to congratulate myself for an act of kindness I may have done – it is the detour of what I received instantaneously through the Holy Spirit consuming me in that moment and transforming me and catapulting me forward a couple weeks later now, STILL energized by the opportunity to experience God’s currency in glorious living action!!! This feels like prayer ( and life ) in full, living technicolor reality!

Inspiration

Falling in love with God is not always something we can explain well rationally.  We may need to turn to poetry, or to religious metaphor and imagery.  This source of inspiration is hugely important.  You may not be able to describe rationally why you fell in love with the person you are married to, and yet you trust this source of inspiration was enough to have based probably the biggest decision in your life on it, by deciding to marry that person!

-Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=1950

{song selection and reflection by Peter L.}

Art Tatum – You Go To My Head

Br. Geoffrey likens falling in love with God to falling for another person. It’s a great image: finding something deep with the depth of yourself. It reminds me of the many ways I’ve fallen in love in my life. My greatest love may well be a woman named Irene who mentored me in the theater. I met her when I’d just moved to New York as a young man. At that time, you could work for some great artists of the avant-garde if you didn’t expect to be paid. It was the ’70’s. Rent was cheap. I worked for  many people I admired, but from the moment I met Irene, I just sort of stuck with her. I would arrive at her apartment in the morning to make phone calls and other preparations for a play she was producing, and I’d just sort of stay all day, talking to her and drinking coffee. The day would become night, and then morning would come and we would still be talking. She had a way of penetrating into things. The intensity of her intelligence, her reverence, her earthy practicality just kind of opened a door for me. And then I got to know her work as a playwright and director. I grappled with the mystery at the source of her inspiration. How did she get to the heart of existence - in all its contradiction, in all its unexpected wholeness? It was the beginning of my own journey into the theater, just as such experiences are always the beginning of something - perhaps you could say that they lie on the road to God.

“You Go to My head,” Art Tatum. It is said that Tatum spent hours playing along with the great piano players of his day on his record player - Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Errol Garner. His brilliant, idiomatic style encompassed a harmonic range that is considered to be one of the inspirations for Bebop. He really gets inside this song’s strange vertigo of love.

You go to my head/ You linger like a haunting refrain/ And I find you spinning round/ In my brain/ Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne

You go to my head/ Like a sip of sparkling burgundy brew/ And I find the very mention of you/ Like the kicker in a julep or two

The thrill of the thought/ That you might give a thought/ To my plea, casts a spell over me/ Still I say to myself/ Get ahold of yourself/ Can’t you see that it never can be

You go to my head with a smile/ That makes my temperature rise

Like a summer with a thousand Julys/ You intoxicate my soul with your eyes

Though I’m certain that this heart of mine/ Hasn’t a ghost of a chance

In this crazy romance/ You go to my head, you go to my head

Story

Tell yourself a story about your own life.  And you will realize – I’m sure  of this – that somewhere along the way God broke through to you.   Somehow the story you are telling about your life  is actually a story you are repeating; it’s what God whispered into  your ear about what your life is to be about.  Pick up that story line again: the absolute, amazing, wonder of your life script.

-Br. Curtis Almquist

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=2375

Sizzla – Lovely Morning

In some way, I think I’ve been doing exactly what Br. Curtis suggests for the last 13 months. Merging prayer and music has reignited both my music collection and my prayer life. And my whole being, for that matter. Even though I still cringe at myself often, I can also feel genuine growth which has emerged over the past year. If for no other reason, I recognize in my actions the total contradictions to something I’ve written. This form of prayer has forced me to be a little more accountable to myself. And it’s also opened my eyes to how fortunate I have been in my life. I have been blessed abundantly, and through this method of praying, I have come to understand how even events which seemed mostly horrible have in fact shaped me ultimately for the better. This meditation leaves me humbled and hopeful. And so this glorious track from Sizzla feels just right. It welcomes a new day, “…filled with the beauty of goodness, give thanks for life, strive with the rising sun..”. This song has ushered in many a new day and even new chapters of life for me over the years. God breaks through again and again. Even when I’ve shut the door and drawn the blinds, God’s relentless pulse and love seems to always find its way to reviving me. And on this day especially, the day after my father’s birthday, I am grateful for him, for all the sacrifices he made in his life, for telling and re-telling his same set of stories, and most of all, for being a shining example for me of how to live. I miss him, but he remains very present to me four years after his death. What a man!

Conversion

St. James was open to the possibility that something he had been taught to believe as the word of God, something he assumed to be true, was false. He was able to change his mind.  He was able to allow that Jesus had come not only to save him and people like him but the entire world.  St. James was open to the possibility of the infinite breadth and depth of God’s love for all creation, not just his own people.

-Br. Robert L’Esperance

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/2011/10/25/feast-of-saint-james-of-jerusalem-br-robert-lesperance/

The Minutemen – I Felt Like A Gringo

This meditation feels so poetic. I have read it over about a dozen times. Each time, I feel a little stronger; it is very inspiring to me. It speaks to growth, which I think Christ desires for all of us. Life is our ongoing classroom and we must have the courage and the commitment to keep going even after we think we’ve figured something (or everything) out. An untested faith becomes stale, whereas a challenged faith is enhanced and strengthened. Life is the same. The human impulse to tribalism, while I understand it, has always struck me as dangerous. Maybe it’s easy for me to hold such a view due to the fact that I never really felt like I fit in with any particular group. For better or worse, I have always been able to see similarities amongst people and cultures and ideas, far more than differences. That is sort of what I focused on as I sat with the meditation longer – the last line, “not just his own people”. It reminded me my friend Kenny, a guy I used to work with. I think we got to talking one day because I had commandeered the stereo, which was hostage to either mind-numbing commercial radio stations or the equally mind-numbing cd’s of the two guys who fancied themselves as being in charge. Their repetoire consisted of Fleetwood Mac and the Spice Girls. While such a weird narrowness is slightly intriguing, the repetetive work we all did made listening to that onslaught any longer unacceptable to me one day, so I put in a CD – something by Charles MIngus, which immediately brought about all sorts of changes in vibrations. The two bossmen, not surprisingly, were inflamed and bothered in ways they seemed unable to comprehend. The older guy sort of liked it, but didn’t quite know what to do with it or himself, and so he did a sort of typical thing men do – he made fun of me. “How long are you going to listen to this car-wreck soundtrack?” I kind of liked that description, actually, and I think Mingus might have even gotten a kick out of it too – before he would have knocked the guy’s teeth out. But back to Kenny – bringing cd’s became a habit for me and I played a lot of reggae and that is what got me and Kenny talking. He was an MC and a very nice guy. We both discovered we had a very spiritual approach to life and loved to read. I would share books and cd’s with him and he would do the same with me. Many of his books were Nation of Islam books and Nation of Gods and Earths books, as well as some stuff by Dr. Malachi York. The fact that many of these books taught that I, as a white man, was the devil didn’t ever bother me. I had already read some of the books and my life was already quite integrated by that point and I found a lot of compelling stuff in the books and learned a lot. I am confident Kenny felt the same about what I offered him. His friend Andrew though, that kid would never speak to me. And when Kenny did, Andrew would glare at me with furious contempt. My guess is he was hurt by the world in some manner, no doubt the pain and limitations of racism, and was trying to nourish and heal his being with these books and ideas, but he was being literal with them. To me, though I can understand why these books spoke to him, his quest was actually blinding him and further restricting him. Neither Kenny nor myself ever felt the need to address this seeming conflict of race in regard to faith or between us as men– for us, there wasn’t one, I suppose. But that is not because we brushed it off or ignored its very real presence in this world. But I would say because we respected and engaged one another for who we were as individuals and where we were at that moment in time on our life’s path, we recognized the common ground we shared based upon what we spoke of, and that when we spoke, we spoke from our heart to one another. Neither of us seemed concerned about being “right” or convincing each other of anything. Some days, I’d be more bothered by Andrew’s fury and I’d play with the idea of trying to antagonize him, but I never did. That would have been very stupid of me to do so. In the same way Kenny and I overstood one another, I suppose Andrew and I did as well. We were separate and that is how we would remain. I never felt like a gringo, though. I felt pretty damn close to being a very good and pure version of who I was and am supposed to be, and I will forever be grateful to Kenny for that and even though it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him, I have no doubt if I bumped into him tomorrow, we’d pick right up on the same good vibe. Well….all this and I haven’t even spoken about the Minutemen! I don’t know what to say! The Minutemen have been hovering on my periphery for a very long time. I know they are legends and I know they are great and I know I really love what I have heard of their music, but I haven’t heard a lot and I haven’t invested the time in immersing myself in their artistry. I do know of the tragic death of guitarist D. Boon, in a car accident. His death devestated the two remaining players and they disbanded. And then a guy named Ed Crawford in Ohio believed a joke someone played on him, that the Minutemen were holding auditions to replace D. Boon. They weren’t. It says a lot about the caliber of human being Mike Watt, the bass player, is that when this earnest stranger appeared unannounced, likely hitting a very raw and painful nerve, Mike Watt allowed him to stay in his apartment. Ed’s pleadings eventually won over Mike Watt and George Hurley, the drummer, and they formed the band fIREHOSE. I know that band’s catalog fairly well and I love them. These guys are genuine punks; punk rock in its most liberating, authentic expression, not limited to a stylized caricature of sound or appearance. Such limitations emerge quickly, and the Minutemen, who as part of the legendary SST Record label toured often with Black Flag, had to endure sabotage, thrown bottles, spit, and insults from audiences that wanted a simple minded, clearly demarcated punk rock. I wonder if they ever got depressed by such foolishness. I wonder if feeling like rejects from even this sector, comprised largely of rejects, made them feel hopelessly dejected and alienated from life. If they did, they bounced back quickly because they never caved in and they carried forth, integrity intact and stronger than ever from the battles. I just found a documentary on the Minutemen and, as is my wont, I have shelved it after only 30 minutes. I don’t want it to end. I want to savor it. But that’s a big problem for me. I pause my life too much. I do entertain those painful alienations and rejections and allow them to freeze me and drain me of life. In some way, I seem to have this lifelong sense that there is a shadow life I live, where I’m happy without hesitation, bold and decisive. The timid me in this life takes so long to absorb and digest everything. Sometimes I see myself as an 89 year old man, sitting by a window, finally declaring that I am now ready to live. Other times I wonder if I’ll have a heart attack and simply not respond to it because I can’t handle the stress of such a thing at that time. I’ll need time to wrap my head around such a calamity. And sometimes I convert a poetic meditation and a tribute to a great band that could write massive, complicated songs that clock in at less than two minutes into a rambling, disconnected screed about….?

Love

May God’s love be the pattern for ours.  May God’s wide embrace, God’s boundless generosity, God’s reckless mercy, God’s steadfast and unfailing love be our rule and guide, today and always.

-Br. David Vryhof

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=1630

Cro-Mags – The Only One

To this meditation, I can only say “Amen!” I must admit, in trying to emulate God’s love and wide embrace and forgiveness, I do sometimes question if I am not clearly or wisely discerning my life. Am I patiently forgiving and encouraging someone, or am I simply being a doormat getting exploited again and again? It seems though, that such nagging doubts and questions are also potentially tools for maturation and growth, for myself, and for those in my life’s orbit. This massive, chugging devotional from the Cro-Mags is from their excellent second album “Best Wishes”. Most of the album is devoted to Krishna. While many other New York hardcore bands were also Krishnas, the Cro-Mags stand out to me as men among boys within that subculture of a subculture. The authenticity and utter yearning for God’s presence and guidance seems so genuine and apparent throughout this album, most especially in the impassioned vocal of this song. When I hear Harley Flanagan sing, “…When I first looked in your Lotus eyes, for the first time in my life I could see what I must do, I need to be with you, yes you, you are all I need, your everlasting love for eternity…” I hear the earnestness of someone who knows pain and thirst and who has found a wellspring of life – affirmation and acceptance. Smartly written so that it appears very much a traditional romantic sort of love song, this whole album has been offering me encouragement for a very, very long time. It feels like the sort of full immersion I yearn to have in surrender to God

Abide

Keep praying, and keep trying to love those whom you find difficult.  It may not happen right away, but keep trying!  Stay in the light, the true light who is Jesus Christ!

-Br. David Allen

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/2011/12/29/come-to-the-light-br-david-allen/

Josephine Baker – My Fate Is In Your Hands

My goddaughter gets saddled with a lot of homework to do each summer. She loves to read, so the book list is fine, but the math is a bummer. (She has already finished 5 books!) I was thrilled to see on her book list (going in to 3rd grade no less!) biographies of Sun Ra and Josephine Baker.  If I were subject to such summer homework as a kid, I might have made some drastic run to a far off land. Josephine Baker made such a run, to flee from the oppressive hate and ignorance and limitations of American racism. But that ugliness did not extinguish the flame of love she carried. Quite the opposite. She led a life of love and service, adopting many children, despite financial hardships she endured later in life as demand for her performances lessened over time, and used her position as a respected artist in Europe to gather intelligence on Axis activities and planning. Her life story is so much in keeping with this meditation, I have goose bumps as I type and listen to this song over and over. Her light grew and grew and grew. The hate she expereinced was not returned with more hate. And for me, the title of this song suggests not a passive deferral to God, but an acknowledgement of the proper order of being – my fate is in God’s hands, my power and strength comes through God in a united harmony of life’s song. A beautiful woman, a beautiful life,a beautiful legacy!!

Hope

Mary Magdalene’s suffering was not completely ended once she met up with Jesus.  Suffering doesn’t just go away; suffering seems to be a part of life.   But whatever suffering she continued to know in life since having met Jesus, her suffering had been put in some new perspective. That there was some pattern of meaning being woven into the tangled warp of her life.   She had been given hope.

-Br. Curtis Almquist

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=521

Elmo Hope – It’s A Lovely Day Today

Yes, brother, suffering doesn’t just go away. Often it seems to build, layer upon layer. But this meditation offers a guide to see past the understandable yearning to eliminate suffering or nullify its impact. With hope, suffering’s sting may not be negated, but it may be placed into a broader context. Suffering can and does lead to positives – growth, wisdom, learning all come to mind. But unless we view suffering through the proper lens, I think it is then that it becomes layer upon layer, wound upon wound. Most of the pictures I find of St. Elmo Sylvester Hope show a man who is familiar with suffering. I doubt it was any premonitions he may have had about a horrible 1985 film which shared his first name. No, I think he suffered under external forces which assailed far too many men and women. First and foremost, he was subject to the relentlessly soul-crushing racism and overextended brutality of police which seems to have led to his being shot by a NYC police officer. The shooting narrowly missed his spine and upon his release from the hospital, his court appearance revealed just how fraudulent the ugly episode appears to have been. None of the people involved in the incident – alleged suspects or alleged victims – could be identified by the cop. The case was dismissed. This is not unlike an incident which afflicted Elmo Hope’s childhood friend and fellow piano legend Bud Powell, who was beaten by police and suffered brain damage as a result. Elmo and Bud shared a love of both jazz and classical music and while one certainly hears similarities in their playing styles, I also hear distinctive differences as well. Further hardship surfaced in Elmo’s life. He had a son who died at a young age and upon enlisting in the army for WWII, his enlistment papers read he was in the army for the duration of the war, plus six months. (?!) And yet, in his playing, certainly on this optimistic track, I hear a compelling, yet airy brilliance. As frenetic as Bud Powell at times, but somehow a bit more complete in the journey he lays out. This trio setting provides a pliable anchor from which Hope can dazzle. I look forward to digging into his catalog further and learning from him, this man who produced beautiful fruits from suffering. 

Understanding

The more we understand about the context of a person’s behavior, the more we are inclined toward generosity of spirit.  The less we are inclined to judge.  The more we are aware of our own inner “demons”, the more we are inclined to be understanding of others’.

-Br. Mark Brown

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=445

Buju Banton – Circumstances

This meditation speaks to me on a very deep level. At one point in time, I was moving out of an apartment in a state of near total brokenness. I had just about enough money to come up with the meager share of rent my new roommates would require. I had been dumped in a long, unstated manner, I think my girlfriend couldn’t bring herself to speak the necessary words, and so instead just got meaner and meaner in the rare interactions we had. My optimism had just about run out. Stung by the harshness of the world as I grew up, the oases I imagined would be waiting for me had turned out to be the same dynamics as my past surroundings, just different costumes on the people around me. I barely knew one of my new roommates and didn’t know the others at all. Those early days of living there made me not want to get to know them, as wild emotional swings were the norm. All three of these woman had post traumatic stress syndrome from childhood abuse. They fought with one another fiercely, then made up. Then repeated. Their friends were an interesting collection of people and ages, but again, all had PTSD. I cannot count how many times I spoke similar words to this meditation back then. I was getting a very up-close lesson in how someone’s circumstances shapes them. In retrospect, I am grateful not only for these years in my life, but importantly, I am grateful to have entered into these years in such a state of brokenness. It humbled me and allowed me to see and learn what I needed to for my life. At first blush, it might seem like some of these folks were acting in outrageous ways. But when their back story was understood, it made sense. I don’t mean to suggest that people are exempt from responsibility for their lives (“Eddie” shouldn’t have stabbed that guy in the neck at the Kenmore train station, no matter how passionately he explained his reason), but I think it is foolish and cruel to fail to consider what has led up to where a person stands at a point in their life. I not only learned a great deal about myself and my own pain during these years, I also came to forgive and understand and accept people who hurt me in some way previously. I was as guilty as anyone else of lumping certain groups of people I had grown up with into monolithic blocks. I was wrong. It was necessary to an extent for my own survival, but it was also limiting and the time had come for me to grow out of that if I were to be able to grow as an adult. In this unusual dancehall acapella, Buju Banton sings about this very dynamic. “Was I born a violent man?” he sings. The line that always stands out to me though is, “…let us learn to live and let that light shine brighter…”. Jesus calls us to get dirty. It’s not adequate to observe from a distance and make judgements about people’s behavior. Intellectually knowing poverty or violence or some other force can damage someone is not enough. That is quite passive and still allows one to exclude without really, truly comprehending the agony that may constitute someone’s actual life. It is for this reason that Jesus frustrates Peter (and Christians for centuries to come) by telling him to forgive another 70 times 7 times. In other words, always forgive. Forgive, and seek to understand. When we understand, we can have empathy, and when we offer empathy to someone, it is at that point when we can truly bring about something good.

Transformation

The Christian life is a life characterized by transformation. At times we may experience this transformation as sudden and dramatic; at other times, we experience it as more of a slow, gradual shift in how we see ourselves and how we live.  It is a process that continues all our days.

-Br. David Vryhof

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/2011/08/21/made-new-in-christ-br-david-vryhof/

{song selection & reflection by Peter L.}

Jerusalem - Billy Bragg

Since committing myself to Christian practice, I’ve had a paradoxical experience of selflessness. In some ways I don’t feel less ‘of the world’ or even less assertive. If anything, I’m more grounded in myself. I think the difference lies in what I think of as my ‘self’  - not an entity so much as a nexus through which Spirit and matter come together. For me, the church service is a process by which, in stages, following the liturgy, you let go of yourself and, by partaking of the eucharist, align with the Light of God.  But that Light works through the earthiness of our instincts as much as our ‘high’ ideals. It thereby empowers ‘the whole’ in us.

The words to this 19th century socialist hymn come from William Blake’s poem, Milton. Having made it to heaven, the poet, John Milton, returns to earth to correct the error of his Puritan belief. For Blake, Spiritual transformation required the deepest powers of the soul. “Bring me my Bow of burning gold;/ Bring me my Arrows of desire:/ Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!/ Bring me my Chariot of fire!” For the Socialists, the words inspired earthly change, and this is why folk singer and activist Billy Bragg sings the hymn on an album named for the revolutionary anthem, “The Internationale.” 

And did those feet in ancient time/ Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,/ On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,/ Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,/ Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;/ Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!/ Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,/ Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,/ In England’s green & pleasant Land

William Blake