Is Anyone Listening?

Even though 2000 years have passed since the Psalmist wrote these words, their relevance is not lost on us today:

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

Psalm 88:1-2

In the thoroughly-Evangelical church environment in which I was raised, there was a lot of emphasis put on seeing God, seeing Jesus, especially, as an ever-present friend, one who “sticks closer than a brother” and that feeling is one that stays with me today.

I have never lost that feeling of certainty that one of God’s attributes is that he/she is that loving and abiding presence upon which I can rely.

It’s also true that having friends who are able and willing to be there for us–to truly listen to us in our time of need–can be a great comfort and an immense help in getting through life’s inevitable ups-and-downs.

Are you willing to be God’s ears today to a friend who may need that presence?

Are you willing to be God’s hands and touch someone whose well-being and whose very survival may depend on finding that loving and supportive touch, that Divine Presence?

Listening to one another is a good start.

May you–may we all–be God’s ears and hands today.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Yes, Friends, Love is Kind!

Today is National Love Is Kind Day. It’s a good day to think again about how important, how vital love truly is.

Love is what makes life worthwhile.

When love becomes the very foundation of our lives, we put ourselves on a path where the Divine One can bring others into our lives we can love. Friends whose love we can feel, lay ahold of and share.

Yes, love is kind. And it’s vital for our well-being. And for our very survival.

Here’s what St Paul said about Love in his Epistle to the Church at Corinth:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I Cor 13:4-8, 13

Keep moving in Love’s direction. Look for Love, seek her out.

Let Love be the motive for all you do.

And share the Love today.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Faith in Action

If you’re reading this, the chances are very good that at sometime in your life, you’ve heard a sermon or read an article on this well-known passage from the Epistle of James:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:14-17

I’m thinking you’ve probably heard quite a few sermons or homilies from this passage.

And that’s as it should be.

I recently came across an article by Avery Phillips at ProgressiveChristianity.org that does such an excellent job of fleshing out this subject that I’m going to insert the link to the article here and recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone following my blog. His treatment of how the Church as a whole bears this responsibility is the heart of the article and it’s well worth the next few minutes of your day.

It’s always a good thing to give thought to how good and compassionate thoughts or sentiments help to lead us to good and compassionate actions. That’s just how it works.

May we examine our lives and priorities as we turn our thoughts in this direction. As we think about the relationship between our thoughts, sentiments and beliefs and the right, compassionate actions which follow.

These actions validate our faith as authentic, and can show us that we’re on the right path.

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.

In Their Own Angry Image

If you keep an eye on what’s happening in the Church here in the U.S., you’ve no doubt noticed that huge sections of the Church–including the vast majority of those who call themselves Evangelical Christians–have given enthusiastic support to the current administration and most of its policies.

I see this as being diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus and a very, very troubling thing.

The other major criticism of the way the modern Evangelical movement has clearly gone astray concerns its indifference to the plight of the Earth as she continues to suffer at the hands of rapacious and uncaring humans.

The near-total failure of Evangelicals to take any action to save our planet–or to even mitigate the damage–is a tragedy of the highest order and is one more reason why so many Evangelical Christians are running for the exits.

Trying to do something about these two tragic trends lies at the very heart of what the FSF is all about.

In one of our founding documents, I wrote:

“These two unfortunate trends–the abrogation of the clear teachings of Jesus to follow in his footsteps and live in a compassionate way and our failings to care for the Earth and all her inhabitants–must be resisted and must be countered with clear teachings and committed actions.”

from Why the FSF was created

The embrace of extreme right-wing views and practices by so many in the modern Evangelical movement bodes ill for them, for the American Church generally and for our Faith.

Their remaking of Jesus in their own angry, strident image is the greatest tragedy to befall the Church in America since the South’s embrace of slavery in the early and mid 19th Century.

John Pavlovitz is an activist Minister and blogger who’s been speaking out fiercely about how right-wing elements within the American Church have perverted Scripture to their own ends. And something he wrote in his blog posting for today is spot-on and deserves the widest possible dissemination:

We have read and extensively studied the Bible, and we know when someone is twisting it to their advantage; when they’re distorting it to oppress and discriminate, when they are making God in their own angry image—and we believe this is happening more egregiously than ever in America in the highest levels of Government and Church leadership.

from We Are the Christian Left

It is so urgent that the segment of the Church that has not embraced these two tragic errors to be continually engaged in speaking the truth and tirelessly calling the Church back to an authentic practice of Jesus’s teachings.

This we must do.

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.

Species are disappearing while humans…

It’s alarming to think about, but it’s nevertheless true that hundreds of thousands of species are disappearing while humans carry on with their ever-expanding enterprise to exploit absolutely everything on God’s green Earth.

In early March of this year–just over two months ago at the time of this writing–the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IPBES, issued a Global assessment and highlighted for an ignorant and often-uncaring world just how grave the situation is.

Nature is collapsing at an astonishing rate and many humans are blissfully unaware that this is happening.

The assessment was quite wide-ranging and examined closely many dark trends which we have not yet addressed as aggressively as we must to keep our situation for going from merely horrible to unthinkable.

Among the issues which the assessment addressed are:

  • Land degradation
  • The health of fish stocks
  • Plastic pollution
  • The rapid collapse whole ecosystems
  • The full extent of the threat to non-human species
  • How much of the Earth’s land surface and water resources are devoted to livestock and farming

To read the press release issued by the IPBES at the time the results and conclusions of the assessment were publicized, click here.

It’s past time to stop driving so many plant and animal species into extinction and putting at risk our own survival.

Way past time.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.