Leadership Then and Now

The story of how David became King of Israel can be found in the sixteenth chapter of 1 Samuel.

God, as the story goes, found Saul to no longer be worthy of leading the people of Israel and had chosen David, a humble shepherd, instead.

This is the passage from the Old Testament that contains the well-known and oft-quoted verse:

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

From 1 Samuel 16:7

We can all be happy that we no longer have Kings who wield unfettered power over the people. But it is nevertheless true that in order for a leader to be effective, they must be worthy of leading, they must not merely have a surplus of political ambition or a lust for power.

They must care about the people they’re entrusted to lead and do so impartially, with the well-being of every citizen in mind and with an eye towards the common good.

David, for all his faults, was such a man.

Today, no one is surprised when our so-called leaders put on full display their pettiness, naked ambition and disdain for the citizens they’re supposed to be leading.

It’s no surprise at all. 

And it’s time to chose leaders who, like David, care more about the people whose lives and livelihoods are entrusted to their care than the results of their next campaign for re-election.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Live in the Light

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister[b] is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister[c] lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 

11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

1 John 2: 9-11

Live in the Light, friends.

In this epistle from John the Apostle, he plainly states that we walk around in darkness when we hold hate in our hearts.

For anyone. Any brother or sister.

Do we want to walk around in the darkness?

There’s nothing for me there.

I choose Love.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Even Better Than You Thought!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

There’s no doubt that Philippians 4:13 is one of the most familiar, most loved and most quoted verses from the New Testament.

And I’ve got to put this out there: I’m just as certain that it’s one of the most misunderstood.

We often take St Paul’s meaning to be something along this line: “I can accomplish great exploits through Christ who gives me strength!”

And yet, when we take a step back and read the verse in context, it seems very, very different:

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:10-13 NIV

If you begin at verse 10 and then read at least to verse 14, the true meaning of Paul’s words becomes clear. He is saying that he’s seen plenty of life’s ups and downs–and has, in fact, known what it’s like to not even have enough to eat–and that he knows he can do all this or endure all this through Christ who gives him strength.

Yes, reading it in context certainly does shed a whole new light on the subject.

Sometimes we might see our faith as a tool to do great things, to help us in our rise to the top or to slay all of our temporal and spiritual enemies.

But that’s not what Paul was saying.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that the real message is much better than the one we may have thought we were reading.

And it’s much better suited to real life. To the life most of us live day after day.

Are you–like St Paul before you–struggling from time to time with all kinds of troubles and hardships?

Such things are simply a part of our everyday lives. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not.

We are no better, no different from St Paul. Or from the Master.

And we most certainly do need spiritual strength to endure all of the things that come our way.

The good stuff. The bad stuff. The highs and the lows.

Believing that Christ gives strength to those who need it–especially to those who need it most–is a good thing indeed.

If you’re up against long odds and it’s time to step up and accomplish some great feat of faith, Paul’s letter may well strengthen you to pull off some great exploit!

And if you’re like most of us–most of us who know and experience troubles, sorrows and plenty of fits and starts–this passage is for you, too.

Especially for you.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis

Divinity and Gender

Introductory note: if you’ve read more than one or two posts on this site, you may have noticed that female pronouns–she and her–are sometimes used when describing God and not male pronouns only. If you’ve been wondering why this is so, this post will go a long way towards explaining it.

If you were raised in the Church–as I was–you grew up with a definite idea that God was a dude.

You know what I mean. I think we all imaged “him” as a grandfather-type. A man, say in his 70’s, with a long gray beard and wearing a pretty spiffy robe.

A robe that looked like a cross between the one worn by your favorite priest and that awesome one that Charlton Heston was sporting when they shot The Ten Commandments.

It took a full thirty years or so for me to realize that the way I imaged God was just that and it didn’t affect the actual nature of the Divine One at all.

It took even longer–and completing a year of Seminary–to see clearly that the ways any of us think of God are colored by a thousand different variables, including what our early religious training was like, cultural biases and so much more and vary greatly from one person, one believer to another.

And it’s worth saying, once again, that none of our images or conceptions of God affect God’s true nature in any way! The map is not the territory!

The writings we have embraced and believe contain God’s revelation were written by mortal, fallible men and were the product of the times in which they were written.

The men–and they were all men–who produced the many books of our Bible were immersed in cultures that were thoroughly Patriarchal and saw little-to-no value in the contributions of women to their cultures and their literature.

I’m thinking it would be more accurate to say that none of the men driving the bus in that time had the slightest idea about what womens’ thoughts about the nature of God might have been.

And the writings we see as being sacred and containing the revelations of the Divine One sprang from a culture that was Patriarchal, completely male-driven and that is still influencing the ways we think about God today.

If you are embracing a concept of God as a wise, bearded old dude, let me invite you to take a step back and see this in a new light. It can be truly transformative.

Whatever else we may opine about God’s nature, I think we have general agreement that he/she is transcendent, is wholly-other and that the ways we describe or image “him” tell only part of the story.

When the story we tell about God’s nature and being reflect the whole of humanity and not only the male half, it’s a more complete and more accurate depiction and can help to end the systemic bias against women.

This bias is real, it’s very easy to see and it’s been a stain on religious communities and on the Church since day one.

God’s a man, you say?! Really?

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Great is Your Love

Much has been written about the unchanging love that God has for his creation.

When we think about this, it’s natural to feel gratitude. The Divine One, the Universe, is imbued with a love ethic, with a bias, if you will, for compassion and ever-steadfast love.

When we feel this in our souls and are thankful for God’s love and favor, we keep faith with a community of women and men through the ages who’ve meditated on this and felt that spontaneous burst of thankfulness, a blossoming in the hearts of those who feel that love and benevolence and respond to it.

The Psalmist captures well that sentiment here in verses 9 and 10 of the 57th Psalm:

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

from Psalm 57

Do you feel the love today?

God loves each one of us. Unconditionally.

It’s natural to feel gratitude as we reflect on this.

And to recommit ourselves to spreading the love as we go about our lives each day.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Living on the Margins

If you were an elected official or were involved in making policy in the US these days, there’s not much of a chance that the needs of people who struggle at the margins of society and live from paycheck to paycheck would matter to you at all.

That’s even more true of people who’ve already suffered a financial calamity or two; those folks are not on anyone’s radar and their lot in life is grim indeed.

Around nine centuries BCE, the writer of the Psalms was extolling the virtues of an ideal King.

And here, in the 72nd Psalm, he described a King who would be worthy of acclamation and long life:

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.

In today’s political and cultural climate, the plight of people trapped in poverty and living on the margins of society means nothing.

Their plight means nothing to most Americans and certainly not to people who make policy or wield political power.

In Israel, in the time of King Solomon 3,000 years ago, it mattered.

And it should matter in America in the 21st Century, too.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Send Her Forth

In the Book of Wisdom, chapter 9, King Solomon is appealing to God to impart to him Wisdom so he may rule wisely and be worthy of his Father’s throne.

With thee is Wisdom, who knows thy works
and was present when thou didst make the world…

10 Send her forth from the holy heavens,
and from the throne of thy glory send her…

…for she knows and understands all things,
and she will guide me wisely in my actions
and guard me with her glory.

The Book of Wisdom, Chapter 9

It is, of course, wisdom for which Solomon is so well-known. Can the man or woman at the top, the one who’s making all the decisions, ever have too much wisdom?

I think not.

The fact that the book of Wisdom was written approximately nine centuries after Solomon’s reign does not negate its value.

We moderns who have so many critical, historical and literary tools at our disposal know well that there’s little-to-no material in the book to give insight into what Solomon’s reign was actually like.

But just like Solomon and the ancient Israelites nearly 3,000 years ago, we would do well to appeal to the Divine One to send Wisdom, to send Her forth from the Holy Heavens, so we can navigate the often-treacherous terrain of 21st Century life with some wisdom and discernment.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.