The Cost of Compassion

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

 

 

Genesis 32:22-31

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:13-21

Quoting Henry Ford, Dale Carnegie wrote in his seminal, bestselling self-help work How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), “If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own.” While Carnegie might not have been the first public figure to package this brand of empathy for the masses, he was certainly one of the most prominent. In the decades since, the move he describes here, of understanding “the other person’s point of view” has come to be adopted by businesspeople, politicians, gurus and ministry experts as an effective sales technique, a surefire campaign strategy, a can’t-miss item in our evangelistic toolkit. Empathy sells. Compassion pays off. Read more

An Absurd Hope

Second Sunday After Pentecost

 

Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7

Psalm 100

Romans 5:1-8

Matthew 9:35-10:8

“Allow me to tell you a little story about the nature of hope and absurdity. In 1989, only a few months before I was to become, to my bewilderment, an actual head of state, I survived my own death.” Those are some of the best opening lines to an essay that I’ve ever read. They come from a piece written a little over twenty-five years ago by Vaclav Havel, the playwright, poet, and activist who emerged from a Cold War era revolution in Czechoslovakia to become the first democratically elected president of the Czech Republic. Read more

Essential Work

Fourth Sunday of Easter

 

 

Psalm 23

John 10:1-11

Every year, employment agencies and worker advocacy groups publish lists of the most dangerous jobs in America. Usually, there is little variation among these lists. At the top are occupations in which people are exposed to some of the harsher, untamed elements of the natural world, like commercial fishermen and loggers, or those who labor in precarious worksites, like roofers and steel-beam construction workers. Using our imaginations, we could probably come up with some other vocations that carry with them the likelihood or inevitability of danger—firefighters, police officers, members of the military. Few people would argue that these are dangerous jobs.

Lately, though, as the COVID-19 crisis has caused us to think about a lot of things differently, I can’t help but be struck by just how dangerous some other jobs have become, jobs that we normally wouldn’t think of as particularly hazardous but which have come to carry an inescapable element of very real danger. Health-care workers, from doctors and nurses to respiratory therapists, pharmacists, chaplains, and various other hospital support staff, have been on the front-lines of this situation. Each day, so many of these brave workers don their masks and gloves and take their health into their own hands, caring for those who are suffering greatly.

But beyond these heroes in the medical profession, we can look to others whose work we so often have taken for granted—grocery store workers dedicated to providing people with the food they need, deliverymen and women who make it possible for people to stay at home and still receive essential items, janitors and custodial staffs committed to keeping environments clean and safe for others. We don’t often think of these jobs as dangerous, but in these times, when we need them most, they certainly can be. We don’t often think of these people as heroic, but our current situation has driven home the point that so often, it’s those we’re most prone to overlook who are the truly essential members of our communities. Read more

A New Story

Easter Sunday

Acts 10:34-43

Matthew 28:1-10

It would be a vast understatement to say that the moment we’re currently living through has a certain strangeness to it. At least once a day, I am struck by the thought that I’ve never experienced anything quite like this, and I suspect I’m not alone. In a matter of weeks, we’ve been collectively immersed into a new vocabulary, a new set of practices, and maybe more than anything, a tsunami of information that threatens to overwhelm us. Individuals in power, journalists pursuing an angle, researchers armed with data, and conspiracy theorists with an agenda—everyone has a chart to display, a forecast to project, a meme to share, a cure to hawk, and an axe to grind.

Across a vast array of platforms, a dizzying collection of narrators are telling us their disparate versions of a common story, and it’s not an easy story to digest. When we cut through all the details and all the data and all the differences, it’s ultimately a story of sickness and grief and loss that spans from China to Italy to points closer to home. It’s a story about our limitations, a story about mortality, a story—as much as we hate to say it—about death. And in this respect at least, despite the profound strangeness of the moment, we can find some common cause with generations of people who have lived before us. Because from the beginning, in one form or another, we have been telling and living stories about death. Read more

Henry Vaughan – Christ’s Nativity – Lectionary Poem for Advent 4A

With the dawn of a new church year, The Englewood Review of Books is curating a weekly series of classic and contemporary poems that resonate with the themes of the lectionary readings. Here is one of the poems for this coming Sunday (Advent week 4– More poems for this Sunday can be found here)

 

Christ’s Nativity
(to accompany the lectionary reading: Matt. 1:18-25)

Henry Vaughan

 

AWAKE, glad heart ! Get up, and sing !

It is the birthday of thy King.

        Awake ! awake !

        The sun doth shake

Light from his locks, and all the way

Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day.

 

Awake, awake !  hark how th’ wood rings,

Winds whisper, and the busy springs

        A consort make ;

        Awake ! awake !

Man is their high-priest, and should rise

To offer up the sacrifice.

 

I would I were some bird, or star,

Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far

        Above this inn

        And road of sin !

Then either star, or bird, should be

Shining, or singing still, to Thee.

 

I would I had in my best part

Fit rooms for Thee !  or that my heart

        Were so clean as

        Thy manger was !

But I am all filth, and obscene ;

Yet if Thou wilt, Thou canst make clean.

 

Sweet Jesu !  will then ; let no more

This leper haunt, and soil Thy door !

        Cure him, ease him,

        O release him !

And let once more, by mystic birth,

The Lord of life be borne in Earth.

 


Henry Vaughan (1621 – 1695) was a Welsh metaphysical poet, author, translator and physician, who wrote in English.