on the fifth day of Christmas (December 29, 2017, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury), my True Love gave to me the gift of courage

Note: These prayers, one for each day of the twelve-day Christmas season, in which my True Love is God, follow the pattern of that well-known 18th century English carol with a number of the days illumined by the observances of the Church calendar.

O gracious God, Your servant Thomas Becket, opposing the usurping lusts of King Henry II, who would make the church his vassal, a slave to the crown, was slain at the very altar of Your worship.(1)

By Your Spirit, grant unto me the courage that resists the surrender of making strifeless-peace with worldly principalities, secular or ecclesial, and, thus, vigilant, dares speak to the self-serving sins of power the truth Your unconditional love and justice.

Amen.

 

Footnote:
(1) Thomas Becket (1119-1170), Archbishop of Canterbury (1162-1170), acclaimed as a saint and martyr by the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, engaged in conflict with King Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral on December 29, 1170.

Of life in the still-Christian South (a retired cleric’s occasional reflections)…

Keep Calm and…

I love T-shirts. I’ve never been flashy (save, perhaps, for an emotive personality!) in dress; preferring an über-casual mien. And now, in retirement, except for Sundays and special occasions, rarely will I so much as don slacks and a laundered shirt; favoring jeans and, yes, again, T-shirts.

And though tending toward an understated appearance, eschewing the display of labels or slogans, this T-shirt, showing all the signs of repeated wearing and washing, is my favorite.

my fav T-shirt

For a variety of reasons…

It plays on the theme of the British government’s World War II word of inspiration, Keep Calm and Carry On; meant to bolster the morale of the English people under the gravest threat posed by the German aerial blitzkrieg. Nowadays, multiple are the words following Keep Calm and…, ranging from the wondrously sublime to the supremely humorous; all advocating a serene and steely perseverance in the face of trial and tribulation.[1]

And it bears the image of the fish; long a symbol for Christianity.[2] As such, it proclaims to others without my having to say a word that I am a Christian.

And it completes Keep Calm and… with Love Your Neighbor, which, further in keeping with the Christian lore I hold dear, is the second part of Jesus’ summation of the Law, generally, the Torah and, specifically, the 10 Commandments.[3] As such, it expresses my daily conscious intent to love[4] my neighbor, who, in the light of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, is everyone.

And it sparks immediate responses and impromptu conversations with my neighbors, whether known or unknown, of all manners of humankind and in all places where I go…

I’ve been approached by Jews, Muslims, and Christians who, in a variety of ways, remark of their theological and ethical identification with the summons to love neighbors rooted in the Torah, the Koran, and the Bible…

I’ve been asked by some what I believe it means to love my neighbor, which, on one occasion, in a grocery store aisle, led to the inquirer’s confession of his struggle to love and forgive a relative whose words and actions had inflicted grave harm…

I’ve been hailed by folk, all strangers, walking by me on the street, once from a lady, smiling and waving to me, driving by in her car, with this astounding (at the first occurrence, but, now, it’s come again and again) greeting: “I love you, too!”

I treasure each and all of these encounters and interactions, especially given my awareness and sensitivity to what I consider the bitter-and-blaming-difference-disparaging-either-you’re-for-me-or-against-me zeitgeist of our days and times.

As T-shirts and banners of self-declaration go, Keep Calm and Love Your Neighbor is my favorite.

 

Footnotes:

[1] For example, Keep Calm and…Be Honest, Be Yourself, Call Batman, Dab On ‘Em, Dream On, Eat A Cookie, Game On, Go To Hogwarts, Hakuna Matata, Innovate, Just Do It, Make A Change, Never Grow Up, Party All Night, Press CTRL ALT DET, Stay Strong, Use The Force… The possibilities are endless!

[2]The fish (or, in the Greek, ichthys) was adopted as a Christian symbol prior to the 2nd century of the Common Era; some suggest as a secret sign of identification during periods of the state persecution of Christians. Through the 3rd and 4th centuries, as it grew in popular recognition and use, the letters (i – ch – th – y – s) were viewed as forming an acronym for the phrase, Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.

[3] A lawyer asked Jesus a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22.35-40).

[4] By “love”, I do not mean my expression of kindly affection, which arises from how I feel about others, but rather, for me, always something more spiritual and substantial; that is, exercising my Spirit-bestowed power in active benevolence toward and for others. Do I fail in doing this? Yes. Usually when I am hurt and angry, and then allow my not-so-considerate-feelings toward another to get in the way of my loving that person. Nevertheless, Jesus’ call to love my neighbor ever rings in my mind and heart, soul and spirit, summoning me to act.

Independence Day reflection, 1 of 4

July 4. Independence Day. Our national holiday commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Our national holy day celebrating the consecration of freedom as a sacred value.

Declaration of Independence

Briefly recalling the story…

The people of the 13 colonies had grown restless, rebellious about paying taxes to England without benefit of representation in the English Parliament. The First Continental Congress, although unhappy with England, did not declare war. However, British troops marching on Concord, Massachusetts, Paul Revere’s stirring alarm, “The British are coming”, and the subsequent battles of Lexington and Concord with “the shot heard ‘round the world” signaled the war’s unofficial commencement. The Second Continental Congress, unable to resolve the conflict with England, formed a declaration draft committee of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. At an initial tally, nine colonies were in favor, two opposed, one undecided, and one abstained.

Now, 240 years later, we cannot know fully the hope and despair our founding forebears faced in reaching their momentous decision. I am glad they decided! Though my joy is subdued for honesty compels the confession that the Declaration’s bold pronouncement “all men are created equal” included neither all men nor all people.

Nevertheless, it is a common human experience to be caught in the crucible of historic events with which every era is laden (indeed, overladen!). In our time, among many, contentious electoral politics, ever-widening economic gaps between the poor and rich, renewed and heightened racial tensions, and the threat and reality of international and homegrown terrorism. In this, I see parallels between America at its founding and now.