Sell Everything and Follow Me

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

Mark 10:17-23 NRSV

We have come to an unexpected and very unusual place in the history of humanity. So many of us are very apprehensive about our futures and about our collective future.

That’s putting it mildly. It might be closer to the mark to say that many of us are terrified of what the future may bring.

Many experts and prognosticators have been warning of hard economic times coming. Some of the warning signs began to flash even before the crisis posed by the coronavirus came around.

And now that so many of us are staying at home, and most work and economic activity has ground to a halt, there is almost no possibility that a serious recession can be avoided.

Many who make their livings by studying such things say that we’re not headed into a recession, but that it will be a full-blown depression, the like of which we haven’t seen since October of 1929.

The story recounted here in Mark 10 can be instructive for us today. The Master plainly tells this 1st Century high-roller that his great wealth is an impediment to his ever entering God’s Kingdom.

We have been living in a time when people with great wealth — people who’ve amassed a lot of stuff — are greatly admired.

We write and read stories about them and may wish that we could get into that elite club.

Sometimes, we give them their own reality shows.

But — as was true in 1st Century Palestine — there are so many of our elites who are sitting on huge piles of cash today but are stunningly spiritually-impoverished.

Although we can’t know exactly how events will play out as this crisis unfolds, I have no doubt that many people who have been at the top of the pyramid, so to speak, are going see a lot of their wealth — and the power and influence that usually come with it — disappear.

And we’ll be reminded once again that great riches and prestige and all of that do not enrich us spiritually; that they are — for so many of us — great burdens we carry through life, burdens that may well keep us from entering into God’s Kingdom.

This is a time for all of us to desire above all else to enrich ourselves spiritually, to lay up treasure in heaven, as Jesus said to this would-be follower in Mark’s Gospel.

Those who amass this kind of wealth know well that these riches cannot be taken away by anyone or anything.

They know that their loving, compassionate actions bring them closer to their fellows, closer to true wealth and closer — most especially — to God’s Kingdom.

May we remember this as we go — together — through these uncertain and trying times.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis

But not this Sunday

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in Florida. Just a few minutes ago, I was looking through a folder of photos I gathered from all over the internet quite a few years ago when one of them caught my eye.

It’s of a beautiful, awe-inspiring Cathedral, and it seems at first to be unremarkable.

But when you pause for just a moment, you realize that there are only a few people in it.

On this Sunday, the photo seems to me to be a pretty potent symbol of what life is like at this moment.

This moment in our shared experience when so many of us are struggling to practice the social distancing techniques we’ve been urged to use.

And we’re trying to wrap our minds around that creeping awareness that it may be quite a while before we can recover, can fully experience again that comforting, life-sustaining practice of gathering with others to share and celebrate our commonality and shared values.

There are many reasons and many ways that people come together. It’s not only gathering for worship on a Sunday morning that many of us are missing right now.

But that’s the part of our shared human experience that’s uppermost in my mind at this moment.

I know that when we can comfortably gather with like-minded folk once again for worship and a thousand other things, we’ll clearly see how very much our lives are diminished when such a precious and vital practice is taken away.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Photo credit: Ben is not the owner of the uncredited banner photo and believes it to be covered under Fair Use.

Blessings and a dark cloud

Today I find myself in one of those “happy-sad” situations.

There’s nothing unusual about that for me. I’m pretty sure that all of you can relate to that.

The things I feel good about today: it’s the first day of spring and we’re having a truly beautiful day here in Florida.

And I’m happy to note that our Fellowship turns one year old today.

Those are great blessings.

I don’t have to tell you about the sad part.

Today–like all of you–I’m living under this dark cloud and the great weight of uncertainty that comes with it.

I’m referring to the Coronavirus, as I’m sure you know.

I know this a really serious situation and we’re paying attention and following the instructions of our elected officials the medical professionals who advise them.

I’m apprehensive as we brace for very difficult and dark days.

These huge threats and those dark days do come around, of course. They’re nothing new.

Sometimes when we least expect it.

And we’ve got to use the resources we have. Our faith is one.

Our determination to go through this together is another.

As we continue to go through this unsettling trial, the words of the Psalmist found in the 46th Chapter come to mind.

Pray. Help in ways you’re able to help. Look out for those who are the most vulnerable.

And take comfort in these words:

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Psalm 46: 1-7

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The Coronavirus, the danger of comparisons and our task today

It’s natural that when we have a new threat–talking about the Coronavirus–that we compare it to something we already know about.

But the Coronavirus is very different from the flu that we’re all very familiar with. Different in several important ways.

This article will help greatly if you’d like to know more and see why this is a much bigger deal than, for instance, a new strain of flu.

This is a time to look out for each other.

A time to ask for help if you need it, especially if you’re in a high-risk group.

A very good time to keep one another in our prayers. And most of all, to help one another when we’re able to do so.

That was a great priority for St Francis in his day; the need was very, very great.

And that’s certainly true for us today.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Friday Funny for March 13th

After the morning worship service wrapped up one Sunday, a young boy announced to his surprised Mom, “I’ve got it! I’m going to become a minister when I grow up.”

She asked him why, of course.

“Well,” said the boy, “I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell than to sit down and listen.”

May we all make sure to listen well to one another as we have our conversations. In and out of Church!

Brother Ben

Remember, O Man

Remember, O Man thou art dust and
unto dust thou shalt return

from the Liturgy for Ash Wednesday

Thinking about our mortality, of how fleeting our lives truly are is not something most of us prefer to dwell on.

This tendency we have to avoid thinking about the inevitability of our own death does not serve us well.

On Ash Wednesday, we are invited to take a look at this truth, to wrap our minds around it, as the saying goes.

Our lives have little meaning if we try to make sense of them outside their proper, natural context. That is, while pretending that our deaths are not the consummation of our lives; the final chapter in our lives’ stories.

You don’t need to know exactly how that last chapter of your story will read.

Just know that the story’s entire meaning, its true significance is blunted, perhaps even unknowable if we drift through the autumns of our lives clinging to the fantasy that God’s hand will not soon take up that pen and begin to write.

.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

God and David’s Distress

It’s recorded in the 25th Psalm, that King David sent heavenward this heart-felt entreaty:

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
    and free me from my anguish.

Psalm 25: 16-17

We often see the things we read in the Bible through the lens of the times in which they were written.

We might think, for example, that David had troubles of the heart served up with a side dish of anguish, and–if we take the time to carry the scenario out to its end–chalk it all up to some passing problem he was facing at the time.

And we may not think to take a closer look and put his prayer into a contemporary context, including what we know today about Mental Health issues.

If we put this Psalm into that context, I think we’d draw the conclusion that David suffered from depression. And–no doubt–anxiety as well.

Reading further through the Psalms reinforces that conclusion.

I think one of the reasons many Psalms resonate with me is that I have long traversed a lot of the same territory.

I think we’d all agree that keeping one’s emotional equilibrium, staying calm and serene through life’s inevitable ups-and-downs, is a very big deal.

Going through that kind of thing is quite common. You might say that King David has plenty of company among us modern folk.

And among all people of all times, all of us who’ve ever walked around in human skin.

No doubt David and people living at that time could have benefited from the insights and practices of modern medicine.

And having at their disposal modern meds that can help us keep our emotional balance and cope successfully with our “troubles of the heart” and “anguish”.

They didn’t have those helpful tools in their time, of course.

It’s such a good thing that we do.

Prayers like David’s in this passage may help when those dark clouds begin to gather around us.

Compassionate and effective care from professionals in the Mental Health field can certainly help too.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Burn the Shields with Fire

There are wars raging in every corner of our planet at this moment.

War has been a part of human existence from the very beginning. And in places where conflicts are raging now, people know from their own grim experience that war is a very hellish thing that should be avoided at all cost.

Here in the US, we’ve been involved in hundreds of wars but have not had the fighting come to our shores since Pearl Harbor.

And before that, one must go all the way back to the War of 1812 to find a time when a foreign adversary attacked us right here, where we live.

And so the thought of wars may not evoke much of a response from many Americans.

But those who have lived through–or are living through wars right now–know full well what a horrible, suffocating, life-stealing tragedy war is.

From a Faith perspective, Peace and Peace-making must be our goal.

The Psalmist hoped–as have countless men and women of faith–that The Divine One will, one day, put an end to war and the instruments of war.

9 Come now and look upon the works of the Lord, *
what awesome things he has done on earth.

10 It is he who makes war to cease in all the world; *
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire.

11 “Be still, then, and know that I am God; *
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 47: 9-11

Does this hope in the heart of Humanity that God will one day put an end to war mean that we should simply wait patiently for that coveted day to arrive?

Does it mean that we should not work for Peace nor attempt to be instruments of reconciliation among our fellows and even among Nations?

It cannot mean those things.

Peace must be our goal.

As I write this, the U.S. is closer to an actual shooting war than we have been in a long time.

One of the things that is so frustrating and disquieting is that it’s possible–even likely when one looks at the facts–that our elected leaders are foolishly spoiling for a war.

If that’s the case, those in our country who have the power to set in motion conflicts and wars are certain to get their wish.

If so, it will be yet one more time when those who, like the writer of Psalm 47, will have their desire for Peace thwarted while humanity descends, once more, into the dark and desolate hellscape of war.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

God is Among Us

This year I’ve been awash in that kind of wonderful glow that we all associate with Christmas.

The last four or five Christmases haven’t been all that joyful for me, truth be told.

This year has been very good for me and I’m very grateful to be able to say that.

It’s so true that Christmas is like any other celebration, commemoration or event. It’s different for everyone who takes part in it. And it’s different for us each time we celebrate it.

It’s a good thing and a great comfort to know that the joy and promise of Christmas is right “there” for me–for all of us–whether we’re exultant as we contemplate the joy of our existence or going through terrible trials.

The promise that God is among us, indwells and empowers us is a reality we can always count on. One that can, indeed, be an enormous comfort to us when we find ourselves sailing through stormy seas.

May the joy of Christmastime be yours today.

And every day of your life.

Brother Ben

© The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Kindness is All

It’s a simple idea. It’s one you see on tee shirts and Church road signs and things of that sort.

“Kindness is All”

It’s easy to dismiss such notions once the truths they contain have morphed into buzz-phrases.

And yet, we can’t jettison such an idea entirely; it still bears an unmistakable ring of truth.

Kindness matters.

It truly does.

We are living at a time when so many have discarded our shared, time-honored values of kindness and compassion and learn instead to act with indifference and selfishness. 

Don’t succumb.

Even the broader culture in which we are living–where kindness seems to be in short supply, indeed–is sending an invitation to celebrate and practice kindness today.

I’ll chime in, too.

Be kind.

Be kind when it’s easy.

Be kind when the voices urging selfishness, indifference and cruelty roar their loudest.

Kindness is All.

 

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.