Monthly Archives: November 2010

Giving Thanks

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Amy Butler, pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC, posted this today. It seems fitting for our reflection this week. I have changed some of the specifics (names and places) to fit our community.

Amy writes:

I first read some version of this prayer more than ten years ago.  It was written by a friend and mentor of mine, Rev. Sharlande Sledge, who probably was the first woman I ever saw in a pulpit wearing a clerical robe.  As you will see, she also has a gift with words beyond compare.  With her permission I first used this prayer at a community Thanksgiving service many years ago.  The experience was so moving that it has become my Thanksgiving practice to offer some version of this prayer every year in Sunday worship before Thanksgiving.  It changes all the time–all the details and specifics of the prayer shift each year to speak to God out of the life of this congregation here and now.  But the essence of the prayer remains the same.

It would have been enough, Lord, to live on this earth, to have the holy privilege of being human, to be able to breathe deeply and move and touch and taste, to get to hug and cry and sing and sigh with relief, to take sips of water and feel the wind on our cheeks, to pick up smooth stones and hear the rain on the roof, to stand beneath the wondrous sky with our souls swaying in awe.

It would have been enough to have the gift of one day, but instead you gave us the rhythm of work and rest, seven days that cycle through the bare branches of winter into the growth of spring and summer to the harvest of fall.

It would have been enough, Lord, to have one source of water, but we have oceans full of another world of life, waves washing the shore, rain to sustain the land, rivers to baptize our spirits, streams in the desert, and, when we need it, a cool cup to quench our thirst.

It would have been enough to be nourished by manna in the wilderness, but we get to savor the taste of bread made of wheat or corn, oats or rye, sometimes shaped into tortillas, sometimes laced with cinnamon, with walnuts or blueberries tossed in.  And to our table God added peaches and pumpkins and pomegranates, eggplants, mushrooms and apricots—and a circle of people who feast with us in communion.

It would have been enough to inhabit the earth with humankind.  But you created elephants, caterpillars, lizards and ladybugs, giraffes and wild turkeys.  O God, you filled the air with butterflies and dragonflies and the ocean with starfish, turtles and whales.

The privilege of living in communion with you, Lord, would have been enough, but we also get to live in neighborhoods and in community, to feel connected to brothers and sisters around the globe, to share our wealth with the hungry, to visit Egypt, Mexico, Colombia, Palestine, Louisiana, and inner city Chicago, both ourselves and through the prayers, stories, and courageous actions of others; to marvel at language beyond words and in words, to travel and to return home.

Talking to communicate our simple needs would have been enough, but we also get to sing in harmony and laugh until our sides ache, offer healing words and embrace each other with our prayers.  It would have been enough to walk through the seasons of life with our faith family.  But we have also been given the treasure of grieving together, celebrating together, and even working through conflict together.  What a deep and profound gift.

It would have been enough, Lord, to hear our own voices, but you gave us the sounds of Jimmy Stewart, Maya Angelou and Garrison Keillor.  It would have been enough to have one way to make music, but we have Bach and Rutter and the Indigo Girls, drums, organ and the voices of our children.  One book would have been an incredible gift, but we have been lavished with Dr. Seuss and E.B. White, Emily Dickinson and Annie Dillard, Wordsworth and the Apostle John and Anne Lamott and Frederick Buechner.

It would have been enough to be blessed with arms open to receive God’s gifts, but we are also blessed with the chance to participate with creativity and imagination in bringing healing to a broken world.

It would have been enough for you to offer us love once, but your love comes over and over again, every moment of every day, and it is so much more than enough.  We offer our deepest thanks.  Amen.

Random Question Friday

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If Jesus were alive today, what do you think he would look like, where would he hang out, what would be his favorite thing to do?

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answer in the comments, or ask new questions in the comments. We’ll answer questions in future Friday posts, and/or post them for the community to answer!

WEAVEings “beyond Calvin”–where’s Waldo?

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In southern Europe (mainly Italy today), of course!

The Waldensian Church, today a member of both the Ecumenical Council of Geneva and the World Alliance of Reform Churches, traces its origins to the Waldensian movement founded by Peter Valdo (Pietro Valdo) of Lyon (1140-1217). In 1173 Valdo, having abandoned his life as a merchant and given all of his goods to the poor, dedicated his life to preaching along with his disciples who came to be known as the “Poor Men of Lyon”. In 1177, after being warned several times by Bishop Guichard, he was expelled from the city because of his clearly anticlerical sentiments, yet this banishment had an effect opposite to that intended, and in fact served to disseminate Waldensian doctrines throughout the south of France. After a brief period of dialogue during which the Roman Catholic Church attempted to reabsorb the movement (the Third Lateran Council of 1179), at the Council of Verona in 1184 the movement was officially condemned and its adherents ex-communicated, thus forcing the Waldensians to go into hiding to escape from the Inquisition and from periodic massacres. Despite this persecution, the movement soon spread outside its area of origin, reaching into northern Italy (the Poor Men of Lombardy) and Bohemia, where it was introduced by Valdo himself. An underground network of contacts protected believers, who were able to meet for worship in secret in private homes, and made possible the spiritual assistance provided by itinerant preachers called “barbi” (the source of the term “barbetti” often applied by Roman Cathoics to the Waldensians).

Caught up in the crusade launched by Pope Innocent III against the Albigensians of Provence, the Waldensians of that region paid the price in blood to the forces of religious intolerance and were totally eradicated. The few survivors made their way to Pellice, Chisone and Germanasca valleys in what is now north-west Italy and, to some extent, to the French side of the mountains. Today, they are still to be found in those areas, where they speak a Provencal dialect and profess a Protestant faith.

The Protestant Reformation, which the Waldensians joined without hesitation, made possible a period of reorganization within the movement culminating in the Synod of Chanforan (1532) during which a Confession of Faith of a Protestant stamp was adopted, along with a church structure in line with those of the Reformed Churches of the time. Pastoral ministry was instituted, churches constructed for worship, and a Synodal model of church organization adopted.

With the coming of the Counter-Reformation, persecutions increased again. The Waldensians of Provence were exterminated during the first half of the 16th century, while in the second half of that century, Waldensians who had moved into Calabria and Puglia in southern Italy were massacred or dispersed. Emenuele Filiberto of Piedmont, unable to destroy the communities in the Waldensians valleys because of the tenacious resistance of their inhabitants, was forced to accept the “Treaty of Cavour” which guaranteed freedom of religion within the valleys but blocked any possibility of expansion outside those valleys. The treaty, however, did not stand in the way of further persecutions and in 1655, hundreds of Waldensians were killed during the “Piedmontese Easter”. In 1686 the Piedmontese and French troops of Vittorio Amadeo II and Louis XIV penetrated the valleys where, having exterminated a large part of the population, they incarcerated survivors in Piedmontese prisons. This period, thus, saw the rise of a forced migration of Waldensians into Switzerland and Germany, both predominantly Protestant areas. In the summer of 1686, a small group managed to return to the valleys from Switzerland during the “Glorious Return”. While the movement was completely eradicated in southern France, the Waldensians of the valleys were able to secure a treaty from the Pedmontese government in 1690 and there followed a period of relative peace and security. The Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era created problems of a doctrinal nature within all religious faiths, but for the Waldensians this was quickly followed by a renewed religious commitment in the second and third decades of the nineteenth century. The “Lettere Patenti” issued by the house of Savoy in 1848 finally guaranteed freedom of action and civil rights to Waldensians.

Today, the annual Synod represents the governing entity of the Waldensian Church. The Synod is made up of pastors and lay people who elect a seven person governing board (named Tavola Valdese) under the chairmanship of the Moderator. Each office is elective and all have a limit of 7 years.