The Feast of St Lawrence

If you’ve taken more than a cursory look at our site, you’ve no doubt noticed that we claim St Francis as an icon and a patron for our nascent spiritual movement.

The Saint I venerate most after St Francis is St Lawrence. And today, August 10th, is the day we commemorate St Lawrence each year.

As is so often the case, there is not too much we know about his life that is backed up with solid evidence. Nevertheless, the pious legend that surrounds Lawrence is quite remarkable.

I claim him as a patron and guide and see his life–and, of course, his death–as a reminder to keep the emphasis on people and not on material things.

I also desire to emulate his fearlessness in the face of hatred and opposition to spiritual values. In his day, the struggle was against a completely corrupt and wealth-worshiping culture personified by the Roman Emperor Valerian.

It’s certainly true that both St Francis and St Lawrence are exemplary role models for people of Faith and all people of good will who desire to live life in a compassionate way and to reject the contemporary trend of throwing away our time-honored values to chase wealth, power and fame instead.

St Lawrence, whom we remember today, is a fine and suitable icon for those who will not bow down to the Idols of Wealth and Power.

His life and his unwavering commitment to put people above things–the least of these among us, especially–is a reminder to those who desire to live lives of compassion and engage in the work of ministry to keep the emphasis where it belongs.

On serving God’s people and embracing all of God’s creation in a compassionate, heart-felt and sacrificial way.

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.

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.

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.

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