EVERY MORNING, I give thanks for all God has given me – for my bed, my breakfast, my cup of tea from my leaf-shaped teapot. But as I pray, I know that beyond my home, beyond my country where freedom and peace are taken for granted, beyond all the blessings of my life lie poverty, slavery, and corruption.
So every day, I close my eyes and pray, not only out of gratitude but also from a burden that’s too big for me. I pray that God’s righteousness will come like a flood, that the hopeless will know hope. … I pray, knowing that I have not begun to touch the world’s need, that I am privileged and sheltered from suffering. I also know that Christ was neither privileged nor immune from suffering, but died bearing the world’s burden.
When I finish my prayers and enter the business of the day, I do so trusting that his arms are spread wide over us, that he still carries the burden, and that he hears our prayers.
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you.
ONCE IN A WHILE we are privileged to meet someone who lives by that golden rule – who gives with the same measure they have received from Christ. It seems to me that the folks who are best at this are generally those who feel Christ’s love in a fresh way. People who have recently found the power to get clean and sober are able to see hope for anyone. People who have recently been healed are quick to offer powerful words of healing. Those who have been alone a long time – and have recently found a home for their souls – are very, very good at inviting others to come home. . . .
If only we could remember how our families were welcomed [when they came as immigrants to the United States], our lives would be filled with gratitude and wonder. But be careful: for we might also be called to care for strangers – just as others have cared for us
BEING TRULY PRESENT to the person before us is also a discipline, a spiritual practice. Often we are tired, in a hurry, worried about meeting a deadline at work, or perhaps distracted by the coffee stain on the white sweater we just bought. Yet we can hear Jesus’ words to Martha, anxious about food preparation and her sister sitting at Jesus’ feet as a disciple: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing” (Luke 10:41-42).
- Stephanie Ford
WE CANNOT DEVELOP a close relationship with God if we have a distorted image of God. If we think God is uninvolved in daily events, then we will not see God’s activity in what happens. If we see God as being very remote, then personal communication is impossible. If we perceive God as a judge whom we appease with good behavior or as a policeman who watches for our every offense, we will believe that God cannot love us.
God is far greater than anything we can imagine. Yet, through Jesus we can know the loving nature of our Creator. Scripture tells us God is love and that God delights in us. God comes to us and dwells in us.
- J. David Muyskens
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, hesed is a practice of welcome and hospitality among the Hebrew people. Hesed requires that the host and the sojourner eat together to signify welcoming and connecting with the stranger. It is clear to me that eating together is the sign of real community more than any other behavior named in the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures. …
It is not enough to feed persons who happen to be poor. If we are to be in community and have hope for our transformation as well as the transformation of those who happen to be poor, then we have to eat together.
The sixteenth-century saint Teresa of Avila wrote, “Yours are the eyes with which Christ looks with compassion on this world.” And in a wonderful twist, when we look on the world with the eyes of Jesus, we see Jesus looking right back at us in the guise of those in need.
Lord Jesus, may I be so filled with your presence that I can’t help but see and reach out to those who need your love. Amen
HOW CAN WE turn the other cheek, responding out of power rather than force in ordinary encounters with those who may be opposing us? If someone makes an insulting remark we usually react in one of four ways: (1) instantly retaliating, returning insult for insult; (2) launching into defensive explanations; (3) falling silent and brooding; or (4) deflecting the hurt by making a joke out of it. But if we can take a moment to breathe slowly and deeply and then respond from God’s power, we can look the offender in the face and say quietly and firmly, “I wonder if you really meant that in the way it sounded. If so, it’s time we talk about the real issues.”
If someone turns aside a serious conversation with flippant, inappropriate remarks, instead of giving a weak laugh or responding irritably, we can turn the other cheek of empowered dignity, turn our full attention to the joker, and say thoughtfully, “Is there something about this conversation that makes you uncomfortable? Let’s look at this together.”
If at our workplace or at home someone gives a sharp, cutting criticism, we can meet it directly, saying, “The way you are saying this is hurtful, but I’m trying to hear the real gist of your criticism. I think I might learn something from your point if we can talk about it in another way.”
This way of responding (and I have a long way to go learning it!) rises from our own sense of worth, combined with willingness to learn and grow. It is not submission, nor is it aggression or defensiveness.
- Flora Slosson Wuellner