Out Under the Stellar Sky

O the ways by which we wonder as we wander to and fro about the One whom we worship in Word and Spirit—the very Wind of God—the Lord, the Giver of Life in whom we live and move and have our being. The Holy Spirit (ruach kadosh)—literally, in Hebrew, wind/breath wholly set apart—who leads us in the way everlasting and dwells within us that we might have the heart and mind of Christ Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life—the light of life that is the light for all peoples in the world that God so loved, that whosoever would believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life—life to the full. This abundant life of adventure in the journey of faith, this pilgrimage upon which faith-filled ones do sojourn and traverse from afar seeking the Holy and Anointed One prophesied from of old is to be undertaken with such reverence and awe as to render speechless those who would give themselves over to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in surrender and submission to the sovereign grace of the Lord God Almighty.

Such is my presently presenting sense of the spiritual imagination that is present in the face of the season of Epiphany already upon us. The eschatological condition of our experience between Christmastide and Lent is not to be missed but explored faithfully with depth of passion, unbridled zeal and fervor if even amidst unseemly sensibilities of fortuitously fleeting faith fancifully passing by fast as a speeding train traveling over spiritually predestined tracks with the whizzing witless whirlwind witness of waving passengers onboard. “All aboard!”, the conductor on the stellar express beckons as we would rush into the new year at hand and thrust ourselves upon the clanking clanging machinations and sounds of the engine and wheels of cars containing cacophonies of crowds careening into the cavernous cravings of Fat Tuesday preceding on the eve of Ash Wednesday. We have, beloved, but a few fit multiples of withering weeks left in wuthering heights whither where we would stumble upon a season of fasting and praying for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness of faithful devotion unto the Lord anew.

I am amazed at how the Lord our God weaves our lives with one another in ways astonishingly gracious, present, lovely and expeditiously so that we cannot help but stand or rather submit prostrate before the divine presence. I offer and share with you this day a heart filled with gratitude for the awesome opportunity to serve in this season of transition among you beside others alongside this corridor of faith in east central Indiana. What a privilege and honor we have been given for a time to celebrate together and walk with one another side by side as we step forward in faith through this New Year of Blessings unto the Ancient of Days.

Let me share with you a poem recently placed upon reflection in intercessory prayer for a time of transition in the life of one so in need of lifting up before the very throne of grace.

The Spirit’s comfort and peace

on a season of holy days

renewing tender morning mercies

upon great compassion’s ways

lifting prayers without cease

you remain in Jesus’ love always

by the Lord’s healing grace

with grateful hearts, we raise

our joyful songs of praise

Ancient of Days

May you and I live with one another in these new year’s days of hope, peace, joy and love with grace abounding anew to the glory of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gratefully yours, and His,

Pastor Rex


Giving Up for Lent

Rev.Espiritu.net --- Rex Espiritu's blog for Leadership.WinchesterFPC.org

“Giving up for Lent.”

I sometimes wonder at meanings we may give to words and phrases arranged and/or uttered in a particular way.

Take the sentence fragment quoted from the title above. Is it referring to what one may be giving up during the Lenten season? (I read a Facebook status recently that stated something like, “It seemed to work well for me last year, so this year I am again giving up fasting for Lent.” 🙂 Which leads me to wonder what anyone might indeed be “giving up for Lent.” And not just giving up, but doing in place of. That is, instead of just refraining or abstaining from a particular item and/or activity, the person “giving up” something substitutes another thing or action in its place. For example, when fasting, the time one would have spent eating may instead be devoted to praying.

Another way one might interpret…

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To live a pastor’s calling

“North American culture does not offer congenial conditions in which to live vocationally as a pastor. …. The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans. …. We are a generation that feels as if it is having to start out from scratch to figure out a way to represent and nurture this richly nuanced and all-involving life of Christ in a country that “knew not Joseph.” 
….“the [so-called] American way,” its culture and values. ….the rampant consumerism that treats God as a product to be marketed. ….the dehumanizing ways that turn men, women, and children into impersonal roles and causes and statistics. ….the competitive spirit that treats others as rivals and even as enemies. The cultural conditions in which I am immersed require, at least for me, a kind of fierce vigilance to guard my vocation from these cultural pollutants so dangerously toxic to persons who want to follow Jesus in the way that he is Jesus. I [want] my life, both my personal and working life, to be shaped by God and the scriptures and prayer.” 
(Eugene H. Peterson, “The Pastor: A Memoir”)  

“Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.” The king proclaims the LORD’s decree: “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. You will break them with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.’” Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! Serve the LORD with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!” 

Psalms 2:1-12 NLT


Morning Reflection on Mourning After

— woeful lamentations in the wake of lascivious licentiousness by lewd leadership —

“…the problem of the future of America is in certain respects as dark as it is vast. Pride, competition, segregation, vicious wilfulness, and license beyond example, brood already upon us. Unwieldy and immense, who shall hold in behemoth? who bridle leviathan? Flaunt it as we choose, athwart and over the roads of our progress loom huge uncertainty, and dreadful, threatening gloom. It is useless to deny it: Democracy grows rankly up the thickest, noxious, deadliest plants and fruits of all—brings worse and worse invaders—needs newer, larger, stronger, keener compensations and compellers.” (Walt Whitman) 

I am weeping over our nation and world today. In the aftermath of the past weekend ladened with sobering political revelations culminating in a debate degenerated by denigrations of total depravity, I cannot help but wail deeply within the depths of my inner being. It has been a fitful few nights fraught with faithless restlessness in spirit as my soul longs for the Lord’s rescue. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh our help.

Somewhere submerged in solipsistic sentiments of cynicism are enduring emotions I would rather not explore frankly for fear that upon further examination I might be woefully undone. So like an unfinished potentially possible symphony of cacophony, this embryonic exhibition of expositional effacement would here come to an end but for the following.

“Lo! Nature, (the only complete, actual poem,) existing calmly in the divine scheme, containing all, content, careless of the criticisms of a day, or these endless and wordy chatterers. And lo! to the consciousness of the soul, the permanent identity, the thought, the something, before which the magnitude even of democracy, art, literature, &c., dwindles, becomes partial, measurable—something that fully satisfies, (which those do not.) That something is the All, and the idea of All, with the accompanying idea of eternity, and of itself, the soul, buoyant, indestructible, sailing space forever, visiting every region, as a ship the sea. And again lo! the pulsations in all matter, all spirit, throbbing forever—the eternal beats, eternal systole and diastole of life in things—wherefrom I feel and know that death is not the ending, as was thought, but rather the real beginning—and that nothing ever is or can be lost, nor ever die, nor soul, nor matter.” 

Alas! The words of Walt Whitman’s works of prose above penetrate upon the crassness below of one’s sordid experience through a week ending and beginning at once and for all’s consideration in prayerlessness of heartbroken conditioning. Amidst everything comes a simultaneously heartening and heartrending piece of recent reflection by Sarah Kendzior (a St. Louis, Mo.-based commentator who writes about politics, the economy and media) that I offer here to share in duly undue lament.
Eight years ago, I was a student at Washington University in St. Louis, which hosted the vice-presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. We laughed that in an election marked by the promise of Barack Obama’s hope and change, our campus was the one hosting Ms. Palin, whose ignorance and outbursts had made her a national joke.
Little did we know how far we would fall. Today the Palin debate summons feelings of nostalgia – not for Ms. Palin, but for an era when she seemed an anomaly instead of a harbinger.
On Sunday night, I watched the debate on the Washington University campus, surrounded by students who are casting their first votes in the vilest election in U.S. history. Some students coped through gallows humour, holding signs proclaiming things such [as] “George Washington grabbed Martha by the pussy.” That sign is not a provocation but an echo, because grabbing women “by the pussy” is now part of the national lexicon, thanks to the tape of Donald Trump’s graphic comments about women. Theirs is the era of grope and change.
Who won the debate? Does it matter? When this country has sunk this low – after a year dominated by bigotry and threats and now revelations about sexual assault – is it possible to contemplate anything but loss? Loss of trust, loss of respect, loss of dignity, loss of purpose. Loss of faith in our leaders, loss of faith in each other – in the ability of our media to challenge a candidate’s worst behaviour instead of exploiting it for profit, in the willingness of our leaders to defend the most vulnerable instead of exacerbating their pain.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” wrote poet Maya Angelou, a St. Louis native. Sunday night, 10 kilometres from Ms. Angelou’s childhood home, Mr. Trump took the stage and stereotyped black Americans, insulted Muslims, threatened to jail his opponent, and lied so blatantly about his past statements that we were forced to remember what exactly the Republican nominee had said about checking out that sex tape.
Ms. Angelou was right: You never forget how someone made you feel. What we felt was gross, and sad, and scared. The campus felt coated in slime. The debate was a lurid soap opera, in which everything unsaid loomed larger than what was spoken.
The stagecraft lent itself to grotesque microdramas of physical exchange. You may not remember what the candidates said, but you’ll remember that they did not shake hands. You’ll remember how he stood behind Hillary Clinton, hulking and hovering. You’ll remember his strange sniffing, his ceaseless interruptions, and her withering disdain.
This debate was in the town-hall format, where ordinary citizens are supposed to set the tone. Instead, St. Louisans sat like hostage witnesses to a nasty and intensely personal conflict. The moderators fought to allow them to ask questions, but Mr. Trump ranted on about Wikileaks, e-mails, Ms. Clinton being the devil, Michelle Obama secretly hating her. That was all part of one answer, and I have since forgotten the question, for the main thing his response conveyed is that something is deeply wrong with this man.
The moderators were managing a toddler – a toddler who may get access to nukes.
At one point, a St. Louis Muslim woman asked the candidates what they would do about rising Islamophobia. I watched in horror as Mr. Trump spoke not of protecting Muslims but of protecting citizens from Muslims, implying that all Muslims were terrorists right to her face. Her own safety as a Muslim woman was not even secondary, it was a non-issue. When Mr. Trump brought up slain Muslim soldier Humayun Khan, it was only as a prop, not as a human being. He claimed Captain Khan would have lived had Mr. Trump been president – as if he had not viciously insulted both of Capt. Khan’s parents; as if Mr. Trump had not repeatedly threatened to deport and ban Muslims, including citizens like the woman who asked the question.
Mr. Trump talks about people – and to people – as if they are not real, and as if their pain does not really exist. As time passes, I am sure I will forget his exact words, but I will never forget how his response to that woman made me feel. Because quietly, at that moment, I started to cry.

A Lament in the wake of the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…. 

2 Corinthians 4 

God, whose presence we yearn toward in the stillness after our shaken, broken voices and the fires of violence fall silent: we have no words left.

The words others have said: “horrific” “worst” “unspeakable” “impossible”

have been spoken so many times that we can no longer hear them.

Our hearts have broken so often, we cannot feel.

Our hope has been tried, and, we confess in sorrow,

has been found wanting.

There has been too much terror, and not enough answers

too many lost lives with too little time to grieve them all

too much violation of the ordinary and not enough glimpse of the holy to hold us fast.

But You, oh God: beyond our words, beneath our hope:

be the creative breath that orders our chaos

the mercy and justice that compels us to action

the Love that is stronger than death.

We ask you again, for we have nowhere else to turn—

Hold us fast, when we cannot hold on any longer.

Walk with us through the valley of the shadow

Turn us away from despair, that we may not grow weary in well-doing

Triune God, grant us liberté, égalité, fraternité:

    …the liberty of your love that conquers fear and evil

…the mind of your Son, who did not consider equality with You a thing to be exploited, but emptied himself

…the fraternity of your Spirit, beyond our divisions, to bind us together as one family in your kindom of mercy and peace. Amen. 

The Rev. Dr. Laurie A Kraus 

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance