A Different Kind of Power

One has to admire James and John’s audacity, as misguided as it was. But it appears they had either forgotten, or missed, what Jesus had already told them about the nature of power and where it resides. I empathize with them. I get it. They probably felt justified in their request.

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His Most Prized Possession

On the surface it seems perfectly obvious. Jesus tells a wealthy man to sell all he has and give it to the poor. When the rich man hears this he is “shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” It seems Jesus’ words also shocked the disciples too, who wondered, if this is the expectation, then “who can be saved?”

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21st Sunday After Pentecost – October 17th – Year B

Mark 10:35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

10:36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”

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One Humanity

I don’t believe this is a text just to people who are divorced or considering divorce. That’s not who Jesus addressed it to, and we shouldn’t relegate it to a limited audience either. Jesus is speaking to all of us as he calls forth a way of being that is one flesh, one humanity. This, I believe, is a word of compassion for us all. Yes, compassion.

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20th Sunday After Pentecost – October 10th – Year B

Mark 10:17-31
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

10:18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

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What’s in a Name?

There was a pause, some nervous laughter, and then a recognition that she had named something important: as long as we are more focussed on finding new followers for our own project than on the faithful work to be done, we will always be divided rivals competing for the victory of our mission.

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Being Real

Imagine if just one of the disciples had been able to set aside their insecurity to ask Jesus if he would say a little more? Would that have freed up the others to ask their questions? What kind of conversation might have ensued? Would it have fostered more trust and greater understanding between the disciples instead of competition and the need to posture with one another?

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The Crumbling House

The house, the house, the house! We finally had it, and yet the deeper impulse behind the desire remained elusive. After a few months of living crammed together, we began expanding our home’s footprint. It wasn’t just going to be sufficient, it was going to be the biggest house in the whole development. The yardstick for our desire, our success, had moved.

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17th Sunday After Pentecost – September 19th – Year B

Mark 9:30-37
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”

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Expectations

It turns out, Jesus is. Once again, he takes the system and turns it upside down, blowing up societies’ rubric for what makes somebody a good person.

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Sustenance

Food sustains our bodies but also draws our communities and families together. It feeds our needs at many levels. This week’s lectionary text, with Jesus addressing a crowd, tackles this truth.

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14th Sunday After Pentecost – August 29nd – Year B

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.

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Flesh and Blood

I’ll be honest, today’s passage makes me cringe. The language Jesus uses is cannibalistic; it’s scandalous. “Eat my flesh. Drink my blood.” Yuck. Am I right? As someone who presides over the communion table, hearing Jesus speak about His body this way makes me super uncomfortable. 

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Bread of Life

Fear, it appears, has just as much to do with our own disposition as it does with the message itself. The headline of 300 murders solicited a fear of destruction and violence. Jesus’ headline of a new, albeit very diiferent kind of life, released a fear of change among those listening: a fear of letting go of beliefs that bound them, a fear of what might happen if the way of Jesus really was true. 

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Bread is Essential

There is a tendency with this passage to spiritualize it, to contrast the bread that is made of wheat, yeast, salt, and water with bread that is made of love, justice, peace, and hope. All of which sounds nice but can taste like so much air to a hungry person. 

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Serving Without Seeking the Crown

Jesus resists this temptation. He does not use the opportunity to advance himself. Jesus shows us what is at the heart of incarnational ministry: coming alongside those we serve and inviting them to participate in their own healing.

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Get Some Rest

So did He ignore rest or is there something I am missing? I’m beginning to think that my own concept of rest must be sorely lacking as clearly, Jesus is modeling something that does not come naturally to me.

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Otherness to Outsider

There is a unique pain associated with this brand of dismissal, akin to the sting of rejection but accompanied by shock and disbelief (“I thought of all people they would understand!”).

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7th Sunday After Pentecost – July 11th – Year B

Mark 6:14-29
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.”

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Power

At first glance, the fifth chapter of Mark is full of stories that appear to be mostly about healing. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus casts out demons from a young man; and today, we see him heal a woman and raise a girl from the dead. Healing is clearly an important and wonderful part of the narrative.

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Can We Hear?

These stories, sometimes referred to as myths, don’t just shape how we see ourselves in the present moment, they also affect how we understand what is possible in the future.

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The Unreasonable Work of Liberation

He must be possessed, they say. Because God’s logic looks like insanity to those of us who’ve become accustomed to the world’s logic. All this disruption, this chaos, must be demonic, they say.

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Do Not Pass Me By

When I woke up that morning I promised myself “never again.” My heart cannot sustain it. My body cannot sustain it. My soul cannot sustain it. This non-stop movement, constant going, day by day, this making a way.

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Pentecost

All around our communities, in myself, and in our churches, we continue to be held captive to this imperial dream — unity, control and stability through enforced uniformity.

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“Union?”

Before we got married, my wife had these words engraved on our wedding ring, “to our dream.” The first time I read them, I wasn’t sure how to respond. So, I just smiled and said something like, “how thoughtful.”

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Pentecost Sunday – May 23rd – Year B

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.

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Bittersweet Fruit

As I was telling David how terrible hell would be, he turned to me and said, “And what do you think this is?” He pointed to the rotten wood poles that held the rusty tin sheets that served as walls for his shack. The metal sheets had as many holes as a slice of swiss cheese. Then, I heard the two children he had already brought into the world even though he was just fifteen. And I smelled the rottenness of the dirt floor, wet with the sewer water that came from the toilet next to us. At that moment, I realized that I was sitting with him in hell.

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The Invitation

I repeated my words: “Cut. It. Back. Prune, yank, trim and remove.”

As soon as I said it, I saw her wince.

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The Good Shepherd

This week is Good Shepherd Sunday. Thank goodness, because I am feeling like a sheep in need of a good shepherd, and so are the communities we serve.

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Peace Be With you

But if I’m honest, I am still wondering – what are the actual, tangible things that make for peace? This seems like the million dollar question for the Church to ponder … especially as ones who are proclaiming this peace.

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2nd Sunday after Easter – April 11th – Year B

John 20:19-31
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” …

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The Reality of Resurrection

At the start of Holy Week Manila and nearby provinces entered into another lockdown, causing difficulty for many, especially the most vulnerable. This pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities. Many people in the under-resourced areas of Manila are living on daily wages, and when these meager means to support their families are cut off, you can feel the fear in the air.

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Easter Sunday

He has risen!
May the presence of the Crucified-Risen One slip behind walls of our well-defended lives today and surprise us with love’s confounding joy.

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Holy Saturday

It’s Holy Saturday and Mary is on my mind. Actually, she’s at work in my heart. Maybe that’s because I too am a mom.
I love being the mother of two sons. They have drawn me out in ways I didn’t think possible. For example, I think of myself as even-keeled and chill. Like Mary, I can hold a lot in. However, I came to discover that’s not always the case.

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Good Friday

I immerse myself in the brutal agony and devastating beauty of the Via Dolorosa where my soul quickens and finds its home inside the unfolding drama of the ultimate consummation of humanity and divinity. I am among the women standing at the foot of the Cross — those midwives of the cross — bearing witness to Jesus’ labor, attending to his last words, his last breath. I receive “It is finished” in one hand and consider “It has begun” in the other, letting such a juxtaposition work its mystery in my mind and heart. (Christena Cleveland)

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Maundy Thursday

Each year at the L’Arche Tahoma Hope community where I serve, we have a Maundy Thursday service that includes a communal foot washing. Like most things at L’Arche, it’s both reverent and comical … lots of laughter and giggles, folks that are ticklish or nervous, moments of silence and bursts of joy. It’s one of my favorite celebrations. Feet are washed, hearts are warmed, walls come down.

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Transfer or Transform?

A week ago, a 21-year old white Christian man, baptised and active in his local church, walked into three spas near Atlanta, Georgia with a gun and killed 8 people, 6 of whom were Asian American.

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Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained pastor, Trisha has served with churches in Los Angeles and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth, leadership development, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha recently completed her…

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Strange Fruit

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. Chauvin’s knee was pressed into Mr. Floyd’s neck as he lay face down in the street for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Bystanders pleaded with the officer to stop while Mr. Floyd pleaded for his own life, “I can’t breathe!” The video went viral and the whole world listened to George Floyd call for his mama with his last breaths.

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God’s New Age

In this week’s text, Jesus foretells his death. He relates it to a moment in the Bible when God used Moses to save the Israelites from snakes by looking at a … snake. It was unusual, to say the least. In the same way, Jesus reminds his listeners that his salvation will happen, but everything about it will defy our expectations.

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What if it’s Love?

n the spring of 2012, a group of students from one of Montreal’s finest universities, Concordia, broke into the Dean’s office and ransacked it. They tore documents, broke the computer, and flipped the desk. This was part of a province-wide student strike against the tuition and fee hikes being imposed on our publicly funded higher education institutions. At its peak, a quarter of a million students took to the streets.

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The Tertium Quid

Ever move from applause to rebuke in the blink of an eye?    We continue in our Lenten journey to the cross and this week find ourselves with Jesus and the disciples in Caesarea Philippi. Peter has just answered a question from Jesus correctly and is likely feeling pretty good about himself until he hears Jesus…

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Remember our Baptism

Alimentando El Pueblo (Feeding El Pueblo) is a food distribution initiative that specifically caters to the Latinx community in my area. This idea came from within the heart of the community itself as an answer to food insecurity. Local food banks, as good and as needed as they are, did not have the kinds of foods…

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Ash Wednesday: The Sound of the Genuine

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Christians worldwide will enter into a heightened time (40 days) of prayer, reflection, and spiritual companionship with Jesus to the Resurrection by way of the cross. Here at Street Psalms, we are grateful for this annual pilgrimage that awakens our heart to its deepest desire. Given the…

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Transfiguration of Power

Recent events in Myanmar and the Philippines loom large in my mind as I write this reflection from Manila. Myanmar is in the midst of a military coup, while the Philippine Supreme Court deliberates on the constitutionality of an anti-terror law. The law gives state agents unbridled power to declare who is a terrorist without…

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Just As You Are

Jesus took time for prayer. This isn’t the only place we see that. There are more than thirty references to Jesus praying. Jesus prayed. He prayed like he needed to pray, like it was essential for him.  Which is fascinating. Why would Jesus need to pray? If prayer is connection with God, and he is…

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Be Silent O Unclean Spirit

In the text today, Jesus encounters a man with an unclean spirit and speaks truth with authority and authenticity to him. And it triggers his whole being, shaking him to his core. I know this shaking in my own soul. Perhaps you do, too. As I read through the text, I find myself wondering what Jesus was teaching that triggered this man’s…

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Ad-liberation

A local Pastor was telling me about her neighbors’ reaction to a proposed winter shelter. It was set to be located in a large and currently empty community center in their affluent neighborhood.

Every year in the Pacific Northwest winter, unsheltered neighbors die of exposure to the cold—the shelter will offer a simple place to sleep during the hardest months. But on this neighborhood’s local social media pages, in the press, on the TV news, and in government hearings, compassion was hard to find.

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Being Seen

I watched a movie the other night called “The Orator.” Set on the island of Samoa, in the present day, the film showcases Samoan traditions and values and lifts up universal themes of love, courage and resilience. The protagonist, Saili, is a simple villager, small in stature. He spends much of his time looking for the…

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Almost Drowning

I was baptized into an Evangelical church when I was seven years old and it was a terrible experience. My dad was the pastor of our church, so I was expected to be baptized. I went through the church’s discipleship program. I knew my creeds, prayers, and songs. And I had all the right answers…

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Born in Community

Tell me your birth story. If you are someone who has birthed a baby, you have heard this question countless times from friends, family, and even strangers. It’s a question full of curiosity and wonder at how a life almost impossibly enters into the world. We cannot help but want to know how life begins:…

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Anna The Prophet

At age 84 my aunt helped lead her aging church through a very challenging process around a divisive issue. She did so with remarkable skill and grace. She’s always looking toward the future, even if it does not include her.

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Hoping for Change

In the Spanish language the verb esperar means both “to hope” and “to wait.” It is a beautiful Advent verb, capturing the “hopeful waiting” of the season that we have journeyed together these past four weeks. This kind of waiting, essential to the spiritual life, is not an empty waiting. It is bathed in the…

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Gender Equity

The Story Our missional question came as a response to a significant watershed moment at the 2017 Street Psalms Institute in Grand Rapids. It became painfully obvious that while Street Psalms is committed to a theology that embraces those who are at the margins, the voice of women was obviously and painfully under-represented in our…

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Transformational Urban Leadership

Our Context The communities of Nairobi, Kenya are periodically devastated by socioeconomic and political divisions. Every five years, the general election cycle escalates violence, further amplifying the conflict in our communities. The Kenyan people feel gullible, used, and abused by political powers and corruption. Our project takes inspiration from the Truth and Reconciliation initiatives in which government…

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Preaching Peace

The Story In 2013, a young pastor in Tacoma who was newly appointed to her aging church met with the director of Street Psalms and the Tacoma training hub. Towards the end of the conversation she humbly admitted that after six months of preaching, she felt she had run out of things to say from…

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Bill “Bix” Bischel

Father Bill Bischel (Bix) enjoyed a kind of radical freedom seldom experienced by most faith leaders. Bix is a bit of a legend in Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest as a Jesuit activist. He was winsome, passionate, determined, and untamable. He embodied the Jesuit formation process designed to free us from inordinate attachments and enjoy…

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Center for Transforming Mission

Nairobi, Kenya This month, we are featuring Gideon Ochieng – Street Psalms Senior Fellow and Founding Director of the Center for Transforming Mission in Nairobi, Kenya. Gideon’s focus as a Street Psalms Senior Fellow is the development of incarnational leadership in the informal settlements of Nairobi. In a world full of big egos and loud personalities, Gideon is…

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The Street Psalms Office

A Brief Introduction This month we are featuring Kristy Humphreys, the Operations Manager for Street Psalms. Kristy has a unique vantage on our work of developing incarnational leaders. She handles the books. A wise mentor taught me that our checkbook and our calendar book reveal more about who we are than any other books in…

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Moses

Nairobi, Kenya Moses has an incarnational message – a way of seeing that transforms. Moses is part of a network in Nairobi nurtured by the Center for Transforming Mission – a training hub with Street Psalms. Moses was one of 23 scholars who live and serve in the informal settlements of Nairobi, and earned a…

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Wilna

Pretoria, South Africa Wilna has an incarnational manner—a way of being that transforms. She leads a grassroots organization in Pretoria, South Africa called the Tshwane Leadership Foundation – a training hub with Street Psalms. For years they have been leading a wildly successful public witness event to demonstrate God’s heart for justice and peace in…

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William

Guatemala City, Guatemala William has an incarnational method – a way of doing that transforms. William is part of a citywide network in Guatemala City nurtured by the Center for Transforming Mission – a training hub with Street Psalms. For years, hundreds of grassroots leaders have been learning how to “do” theology from below. From…

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Sigo Vivo (I Remain Alive)

Shrouded by a cloud of fear and disgust, Taty made her way toward the group of youth with an act of penance in hand. As she gingerly handed a cup of coffee to the first young man she came across, he looked at her with a warm and disarming smile of gratitude and acceptance. Taty…

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In Our Shoes

One of the turning points in the Civil Rights movement was the brutal murder of Emmett Till and his mother’s insistence on an open casket funeral. She demanded that the world see the ugly and haunting truth. Her bold act is reminiscent of Jesus’ mother and the women at the cross  who “stood” and “beheld”…

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Parachutes Ministries

Anchorage, Alaska This month, we are taking you to Anchorage, Alaska, to feature the work of Street Psalm Senior Fellow, Joel Kiekintveld. Joel’s particular focus as Street Psalms Senior Fellow is how to gather diverse leaders to effect change in the city of Anchorage, which is an urban context with a rural mentality. Joel has what…

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Seeds of Peace

It was awkward at first. As the room filled, each participant looked for and sat with their own group. The imams sat together while the pastors gathered in their own area. Our Street Psalms group of leaders from various cities throughout the network entered the room as visitors, and we too sat together. Also in…

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Church At The Park

Church at the Park The sign reads “Church at the Park”, but a nondescript driveway along a road full of other nondescript driveways is all we see. Where is the church? Where is the park? As we pull up to the former Oregon Jaycees building a few cars doubling as homes come into view, and then a…

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A City Of Their Own Making

Manila, Philippines Written By: Nic Hughes, Director of Strategy & Operations It is hard to miss Jesus in Manila. There are pictures of him (and his mother Mary) on nearly every gate and home. In some ways this is comforting, as if this place and these people are being watched over by a loving god-man…

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Mary’s Light

She was a high-school senior. She told me she wasn’t feeling well and asked if I could give her a ride to the hospital. As we pulled up to the front entrance, I started to get out of the car, but she asked me to wait. Sometime later, she emerged from the hospital and climbed…

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Light from Darkness

A prison cell may be the last place we look for light; they are dim by design. But in my country, the Philippines, there is a flicker of light emanating from behind the bars we so often associate with darkness. The story of Reina Mae Nasino, a 23-year old detained social activist, has awakened a…

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On the Edges

Wilderness.  Uncultivated. Uninhabited. Inhospitable. Neglected. Abandoned. Disfavored. Dangerous. These words are commonly used to describe places of “wilderness.” And yet, as I write, my eye keeps catching the edge of a vast wilderness, carved out by the sprawl of our city. Snow-capped purple mountains with jagged peaks pierce the skyline. Shimmering, frigid, silty ocean water…

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Blue(s) Christmas

We don’t listen to Christmas music in my house until after Thanksgiving. On Black Friday morning the prohibition is lifted and Over the Rhine’s “Darling (Christmas is Coming)” is among the first songs that pierce the silence each year. However, it’s not a Christmas record that is providing the soundtrack to the opening days of…

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More Than Charity

Identify with those who have nothing. Not in charity alone so as to be a helper of those without food, clothes, or who are imprisoned. Rather, identify with their humanity. I was hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, imprisoned, and sick. That is me! We often read Matthew 25:31 – 36 as a judgement of those…

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Real Talent?

For those of us who were raised in the United States, we have a tendency to read the Parable of the Talents through the lens of meritocracy—your reward is the result of your ability and efforts. If you recall, the story is about a master who goes away for a long time and entrusts large…

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Jenna Smith

I am Jenna Smith and I was born and raised in Montreal. For the past 15 years, I have directed the Innovation Youth centre under Christian Direction. I am passionate about the intersections between faith, community, and urban work amongst those who live on the margins of our society. I work mainly out of the…

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Mad at the Maidens

This week’s text, The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, has often been used as a precautionary tale about who gets into heaven and who is left behind. It’s clear that Jesus tells the story in order to stir something up within his audience, his disciples. A couple thousand years later, I have to admit that…

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The Shoulders of the People

They do not practice what they teach.They are unwilling to lift a finger.They love the seat of honour. Jesus’ criticism of his community’s religious leaders is, as usual, raw, unrestrained and unfiltered. What stands out in this particular passage is his opening criticism: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on…

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