Oh, Creating One!
You reside within and among us all.
You reveal all Light, and revel in all Love.
You beckon us beyond Ego’s fear and violence.
You call us to our true home, where earth-loving citizens live from Heaven’s embrace.
Deliver us from pride and despair,
from tribalism and lofty rhetoric,
from anger and apathy.
May we be unrelenting in our work for true peace and true prosperity for all.
May we be bold in speaking truth about the barriers to these, wherever they are found.
May today’s results reveal our best selves, and illumine with clarity the spiritual and civic growth that is yet ours to do.
May we see in one another’s eyes the longings and hopes, the vulnerabilities and frailties that are our own.
May such knowing animate a New Creation wherever we live and serve.
For the Sake of Good News, I pray.
With vision of these already answered, I pray.
In union with the Living Christ, I pray.
With the deeds of my life, I pray.
— Rev. Jacki Belile, CEC is an American Baptist minister and spiritual life coach at Living Well Ministries in Chicago. She serves people of all religious backgrounds who desire to live from their best spirit (energy). Her special passion is building bridges of compassion and respect, which manifests in her forgiveness, self-care and LGBT-affirming programs. She wrote this prayer in stages on November 6, 2012.
I’m passing on this prayer from a dear sister-pastor Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton because it really moves me, gives me some extra voice and vision and might do so for you too. Let us not forsake praying in these challenging times! -Jacki
Today I am not feeling very gracious about my fellow citizens on the ‘other side of the aisle.’ I listen to the speeches, and they sound full of arrogance and lies. I know I am supposed to take the log out of my own eye, love my neighbor and all, but it’s hard to love in the face of what feels like a whole lot of self-interested and intentionally misleading talk.
We are so far from your beloved community. When a participant in the convention throws peanuts at an African-American reporter and says, ‘This is how we feed the animals…’ I want to throw up. God, I give thanks that that person was thrown out of the convention hall. Thank you for that.
As for the rest: I’m turning it over to you. You are Judge; you know the intentions of all our hearts. Teach me how to worry less about the perceived misbehavior of others and more about my own labors. Give me the strength and compassion to work for a world that really does tend to – and learn from – ‘the least of these.’
And God: I also want the voice to speak out against racism and economic injustice. I can do that, right? It’s O.K. to call out bad behavior when I see it? To point a finger in the face of hurtful words and destructive actions? ‘Cause I really want to do that… And I think that’s what Jesus did. Guide my steps, God, and my words.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. – 2 Tim. 3:16-17
I stand with this ancient letter penned by Paul or a devoted follower. (Let us note that in the author’s day, our final collection of the canon — what’s in and what’s out — HAD NOT BEEN DETERMINED YET. It is very likely his use of the term Scripture refers widely to the writings of the faithful he knew, perhaps including “scriptures” lost to us or later rejected.) Big topic. Different post.
As a Christian, it is with the heart and eyes of Jesus Christ that I seek to understand and be inspired by the lessons of Scripture. And, I count in that the wise teachings of the ages and the contributions of many of God’s seeking children beyond the Jewish and Christian traditions.
All Scripture is inspired and USEFUL… for the ultimate goal of being proficient and equipped for every good work. This seems a richer, deeper commitment to make than to a simplistic literalistic obedience. In fact, the authors of Scripture certainly did NOT have in mind the approach to literal dispensational reading that many American Protestants have been steeped in, as it actually did not exist as a package until the 1800s. If the Divine goal is shaping us for good works in the tradition of Jesus, then I must be as willing to wrestle, grieve and argue with the “inspired” texts of the ages as I am willing to submit to their wisdom. And then there are questions of transmission and translation. Big topics. Different post.
We are not called to a robotic faith or to pass along the prejudices and partial understandings of past. We are called to wrestle, to pray, and to discern what really represents the HEART of the Creator today. It is clear that the Holy Spirit has worked within and outside of tradition to enlarge our perspective on true holiness and justice. On gender equality, abolition of slavery, rejection of genocide, creation of civil pluralistic societies we have had to say “No” to some historical belief or circumstance pictured in Scripture, for the sake of living out more consistently a deeper principle of God’s will.
Today, many of the loudest voices professing Christian biblical principles are those whose image of God and God’s will is consistent with the violence, enmity and cultural superiority depicted in the Scriptures. Others side with the voices of the prophets of justice, inclusion and an expanding sense of peoplehood because we find in those texts the same wisdom which animated Jesus.
The Holy Spirit which advances his work in and through us is at ever at work revealing our thoughts, our prejudices, and our idolatries. One way to receive the full inspiration of Scripture is to simply acknowledge and confess it for what it is: a partial collection of the glorious activities of God and God’s people, and an honest representation of the sins, hopes and evolution of various ways of human relating to God. It IS inspired and certainly profitable for our spiritual development to understand it and evaluate it through the lens of Good News.
If we are to grow up into a mature faith, we must remember that Jesus calls us friends, not servants. With him, we must fulfill our destinies in this hour, and like him we must work out the core of our faith and obligations in the face of tradition’s shortcomings.
“By their fruit, ye shall know them” says Jesus. (This has been an absolutely central principle in my faith journey and my support of LGBT people of faith through spiritual coaching and classes.) Perhaps we could say that inspiration is REALLY happening when our lives look like his, and that Scriptural attachments which do NOT produce such an ever-maturing fruit are not inspired by God.
What is Scripture inspiring in you?
From a Facebook Correspondent:
I just read a note about Diversity, Equality, and trusting God.
Your bio indicates, ” In 1999, she became the first “out” member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to be approved for ordination in the American Baptist Churches – USA.”
How does your lifestyle choice affect your faith?
Thanks for the time to read this…
Well, that’s a LONG answer:) In short, I’d say that the process of coming to peace and acceptance of my sexual identity required much wrestling, praying, studying and trusting. In the face of tradition’s teachings and the prejudices of our day, it is only the GRACE of God which can nurture and guide this stage of faith development for the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person.
As I began to take God’s grace and priorities recorded in the Bible more seriously, I began to see and trust the patterns of Scripture. Over and over again, the people of Israel (especially the prophets), Jesus, and the early church heard God’s call to greater inclusion, bigger hearts, and challenging of the “external” forms of holiness and purity. Paul’s teachings on legalism, especially, remind us of the human temptation so alive in the early church — to judge by the form of things (often a source of national or religious pride) rather than the fruits of the Spirit.
So, to sum it up: It took a great leap of faith to trust that my experience of myself and my loving partnership was a part of the natural diversity of this world (not changeable or necessary to change). It took much study and prayer to see the deeper insights of Scripture. I accept that judgment of homosexuality is an example of a social prejudice handed down over time (as evidenced in the small number of Scripture texts about it) but that this is not the timeless truth of God. I trust that the moral force of Scripture is on the side of a God who chooses, calls and blesses whoever God wills. I trust that God evaluates same-sex AND heterosexual relationships today based on their virtues, not on the genitals or gender of those involved.
… hope this is a helpful view into my journey.
This BRIEF answer is only a glimpse into a the graced and empowering journey that I and so many other LGBT and allies of faith have taken. Learn more at Befriending the Bible: Reading Condemnation with CARE” in Chicago on September 8.
This poem-prayer, often attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero, helps me to remember and to teach a certain kind of stillness which is not passivity, a vision which avoids being ungrounded in the present. Oh, how we all need to be reminded of the Master Builder, to think and to pray and to walk with the One who holds the future. My clients who are leaders of any kind, especially clergy and activists working hard to make a difference in this world, especially often need to be nourished — and CHALLENGED — by these words. I dedicate this to them, and to the older adults whom I will serve as guest preacher this Sunday.
I learned recently that Romero never spoke these words, yet they live on as Word spoken by his life. In my sermon for Sunday (Pentecost/Memorial Day), I hope to do justice to and with this sacred text and the words of hope in Hebrews 11-12.
Thanks to Dan Clendenin for his terrific site, Journey with Jesus, where I found this text and background. This is an excerpt from his page:
In memory of Oscar Romero (1917–1980)
A Future Not Our Own
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
From Xavarian Missionaries:
Oscar A. Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, in El Salvador, was assassinated on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a small chapel in a cancer hospital where he lived. He had always been close to his people, preached a prophetic gospel, denouncing the injustice in his country and supporting the development of popular and mass organizations. He became the voice of the Salvadoran people when all other channels of expression had been crushed by the repression.
This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included it in a reflection titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.
Here’s a real golden nugget, I think, from Emanuel Swedenborg’s True Christianity:
We read that we are to love the Lord God above all things, and our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). To love our neighbor as ourselves means not despising our neighbors in comparison with ourselves. It means treating them justly and not judging them wrongfully. The law of goodwill pronounced and given by the Lord himself is this:
“Whatever you want people to do for you, do likewise for them. This is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31,32)
This is how people who love heaven love their neighbor. People who love the world, however, love their neighbor on a worldly basis for a worldly benefit. People who love themselves love their neighbor in a selfish way for a selfish benefit.
Wow! Think about the entrenched ugliness of our unresolved pain and violence in this world. Is it not much about comparing and competing, treating folks unjustly or allowing injustice, and judging wrongfully?
I am really savoring this collection of Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings, including the parts of it that are a bit strange metaphysically. I love to learn about innovative ideas and experiences others have had (or thought they had), and to ponder what it might reveal about God’s reality. One does not have to be hopelessly relativist to be committed to appreciating at face value the potential gift that others are bringing. To listen and to understand does not mean to give over all discriminating faculties! (Unfortunately, the sort of fundamentalism and evangelicalism that formed my early life would indeed have us fearfully separate ourselves from such encounters, rather than seek in them the practice of neighborly love and intellectual humility).
I especially love to read things outside the mainstream of acceptance (or, shall I say invisible histories/herstories and even “heresy”). It is a spiritual practice — studying the breadth and spirit of experience, testimony and communal ethics that have been born amid human grappling with the presence and expectations of God. And, striving to encounter these things with the heart, not just the endlessly dissecting intellectual impulse. Swedenborg called these “sense-oriented” and I associate them with negative Ego grasping which other traditions name as our snare.
My coaching clients and students see this loving neighbors and self thing is the heart of the matter. So, in fact did Jesus. Swedenborg has some truly innovative ways of picturing and teaching this. Tomorrow’s post will be especially interesting for those working on the spiritual projects of forgiveness and biblical self-care.
Maybe a Lenten practice that would be good Christian contribution to public discourse this election season:
To not despise our neighbor in comparison with ourselves.
To treat others justly.
To not judge wrongfully.
To do unto others as we’d like done unto us…
“The Law of Goodwill.”
For Lent today…
I am meditating on Jesus’ baptism and soul-struggles in the wilderness temptation he faced.
At every turn, his Accuser challenged him to doubt his Divine blessing (“This is my Beloved Child, in whom I am well-pleased” is the message proclaimed at his baptism.) This was the Gift given as he turned to his wilderness.
Trusting this — throughout his work and under increasingly escalated disappointment and attack — ultimately allowed Jesus to face his destiny, and it will allow us to face ours. Along the way, we will be challenged to doubt and to test, to rely solely on material life, and to secure ourselves through Ego’s accomplishment. That can mean falling prey to the ideas of Kingdom-building that rely on coercion and empire. It can mean confusing others’ approval, ever limited by social prejudices, with God’s. It can also mean falling prey to a belief that we are somehow more or differently blessed than any other child of God (and to the sins that such manifest destiny has often led us).
Lent is often cast as being about struggle. Divinely ordained struggle. We can endlessly struggle with ourselves, with others, with God. Perhaps the greatest struggle-opportunity of all is giving up struggle.
This might be a fresh way of seeing Jesus’ accomplishments in the wilderness. Yes, it looks like victory born of struggle, but it might bear more fruit in us if we lift up a different vision. He gives us the first larger-than-life signal that his victory would be nonviolent, and “gained” not by a win but by a surrender. Not a surrender to temptation, but a surrender to the consequences of an Emptying proclaimed in a Philippians 2 hymn. Jesus surrendered to the truth of his Divine oneness, and to the world’s ideas of loss and failure, even as he knew them to be false.
One of the great spiritual needs of our day is for LGBT Christians to give up the struggle for others’ approval, and to surrender into the delight of our Divine blessing. We are part of the amazing diversity of style and love and family and life which has always existed and has been ever-evolving. In many past eras, same-sex love and intimacy have been accepted by some and rejected by others.
The tiny number of Christian scriptures which have become Accusers’ weapons do not speak for the God of the universe who continues to speak timeless truths of blessing. They represent the struggles of the past, as our ancestors gave voice to their fear and ideals, their best attempts to protect themselves by condemning others and blaming others for the challenges of their day. They need not sow enmity for today. Overturning their hold on today’s people of faith is a task which a table-turning Jesus relishes… but not for the sake of endless enmity and divisiveness about sexual diversity. No. For the sake, maybe, of forming a new people who know that abiding as the Temple of Spirit is God’s will for all of us.
I do not mean to advocate a political passivity in our wilderness, but to suggest that living in increased conditions of peace and prosperity will only come when are able to “love from the center of who we are.” To work hard and witness – and even cause some trouble now and again — from that deep and unconditioned place. And to join Jesus in disbelieving the Accuser’s lies and pictures of success that would verify or validate our Divine blessing.
May the testing of this life lead us always to reject the struggles which are false, alienating and divisive. May we, with Spirit’s blessing, recognize and live into our Divine birthright to know blessing and to bless, to know our royalty and servanthood all at the same time.
That could be the greatest “struggle” of all.
— Lent 2012
Rev. Jacki Belile, CEC, is a spiritual life coach and ordained Baptist minister. She has supported LGBT people of faith and their allies on the journey of living out Christ’s radical welcome since 1996.
Romans 2:1-8 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say,* ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.
This text follows a famously mis-used text which implies judgment on any and all same-sex loving expression. I encourage, this Lent, a fresh reading of Romans 1 and 2, chapters in which an apostle in progress (Paul) passionately reaches out to new Christ-followers in the “belly of the beast” (Rome), where new Gentile and Jewish friends found themselves called together in Christ’s new community. With a powerful and provocative set-up, Paul calls to mind his recipients’ prejudices and images of corruption, violence, and all kinds of attempts on the part of Rome’s lustful empire to be God or limit God or make God in their own image.
One chief way to try to be God is to JUDGE, it turns out. (And, he delivers this 1-2 punch to those who might go along with all his ramp-up about the perverse Romans.) But when any of our judging, hard hearts remain untouched by the free gift of God’s grace, then we “store up wrath” in and for ourselves…
The Christian gospel (Good News) is that God’s kindness leads to repentance (not the other way around), and that we can all be delivered from the manifold death-dealing passions of idolatry in which we objectify and judge others (or self) as if we were God. That is what it means to be self-seeking after the law of sin and death.
If Lent means, for you, preparing to head with Christ for Jerusalem… then let us look for the Truth of his gospel in his actual life and actual heart and actual walk. There we will find free grace, lavish kindness, and unconditional calling to Oneness with him. Lenten lives are lives that would turn away from all the traps and baggage — including Religion’s Judgments – that we would exchange for the real deal.
That is a God in whom Jesus announces: There is now NO condemnation…
Yes, we store up wrath in and for ourselves and in so doing sin and fall short of God’s glory.
There is now NO condemnation…
May this Lenten season be for you a season of rediscovery of God’s kindness.
Jonah did not like that the people of Nineveh saw the “error of their ways.” He was more attached to his role of self-righteous victim and ranting “prophet” than to the radical Divine option that those oppressing Powers That Be might actually experience grace and a second chance.
I’d like to reread, soon, Miguel de la Torre’s book Liberating Jonah: Toward a Biblical Ethics of Reconciliation. I’ve always loved the story of Jonah, and began serious discipling study of it in 2005. Miguel’s book offers some wonderful challenges about what it means to forgive injustice and to truly envision reconciliation. And there’s no sugar coating it.
That’s really important: no sugar coating. As we embark together in coaching and classes this year as part of Living Well Ministries’ Forgive for Life programs, we will support one another in a forgiveness journey which holds truth of pain and radical compassion together. No sugar coating. No self-righteousness, either.
I hope that I can support, in these settings and others, the sustainable prophetic work of those called to transform injustice in our world. So very often I encounter those engaged in justice work I truly value and share in interactions which reveal such animosity, resentment, and demonizing toward “the Other” who they would blame for society’s ills. No doubt, many structural injustices and systemic prejudices — such as racism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism and sexism — permeate our current reality and hold many in bondage through invisible systems of privilege and unequal power and opportunity. In Buddhist terms, our attachments to blame and our aversions poison us all. The liberating and creating work of justice-making cannot thrive while we are stuck in that abyss.
As a Christian coach, I hold the vision of shalom for us all. Peace, completeness and well-being might be modern aspects of this Hebrew concept. In my personal life, public ministry and coaching/teaching work, I hold space for people to articulate the pain and damage they feel and see WHILE LETTING GO of Jonah’s temptation to make the human vessels of harm out to be evil incarnate. I have slowly shed a view (now, to shed in daily experience!) of God as one whose wrath would come down to punish my/our enemies. Or, that I have the power and right to dehumanize those whose beliefs and actions cause harm.
We have the opportunity to cultivate a Divine heart that, unlike Jonah’s, truly desires the well-being of all victims and all violators. (That’s the approach to forgiveness I take, inspired by Marjorie Suchocki’s work). Anticipating Lent is a good time to recall that a forgiveness that demands a punitive judgment is not Christ’s gospel. Forgiveness looks like acceptance, bold truth-telling, and a welcome Home.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8