Saved by Beauty

Saved by BeautyPeople often quote Dostoyevsky from The Idiot about the world being saved by beauty. A biography of Dorothy Day of blessed memory is not coincidentally named Saved by Beauty. When I was a young idealist, I had no such concept. I was all pragmatics, numbers and economics. All the flowers were geraniums to me. Very slowly did I come to realize the poor man and rich man are no more and no less blessed by  the cherry blossoms in spring, or the sight of an eagle in flight, or the sounds and smells of a gurgling brook, or the sight of youths in the blush of first love. It is when we remember these common joys, we remember our common humanity. This is when we stop fearing each other; we can stop fearing that we will be left destitute if we share from our wealth. We become free to acknowledge all humankind as sisters and brothers.

This limited edition art piece in my Lily Gilding collection is a meditation on this truth. The inner circle has a blossom in motion at each compass point. The outer circle has a blossom in motion at each hour, or five minute mark, on the face of a clock. So, the meditation is with every step, with every moment, we are to consider beauty. Consider the common beauty around us and let it humanize you. Consider the beauty of the person in front of you. Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field…” Then how each of us and everyone we meet is worth more that any of those beautiful lilies. God sees beauty in each and every human being. Ask God to show you what is beautiful in each person you deal with, especially the difficult people and any enemies. If even 7% or 8% of us would do this, we would be enough salt and light to save the world!

A maximum of ten of these will be sold, signed in custom, round frames. 27″ diameter. Call 267-497-0268 for pricing. Proceeds fund soup for the street, etc.

God bless you.



My Wildest Dreams

I started to put together a wish list before Christmas, but everything takes so much longer for me these days. Plus, it just didn’t feel right, you know, my mother’s voice in my head is a powerful thing. We were taught never to ask for what we wanted for Christmas or birthdays, but to be surprised and grateful for whatever we received. Of course, in my eyes, my mom was the best gift giver ever! She was so in tune with what I liked. Only one time did she buy me something I did not like. It turns out, she did not like it either, but she did it because of my joining an ultra-conservative Baptist church. It was a perfectly hideous, dark blue, sharkskin suit. She was so happy when I wanted to exchange it.

At any rate, this is for the ministry. At this point, we need everything if we are going to continue. Next month will mark the completion of our 26th year in ministry. There was a time about 18 years ago, we had a couple of men who had been involved in military logistics and procurement. They had peculiar gifts for locating and bargaining for whatever one needed and wanted to donate their skills to TKJ. I put the word out to some of the ministries in the city and told them to give us their wish lists including their wildest and craziest desires. Rev. Ora Love giggled and asked, “Really? Can I get an electric golf cart?” Within a week, we delivered an electric golf cart to her office in Richard Allen Homes for her to cart around her books for the GED and literacy classes. So now, I am going to share with you all of my wild and crazy wish list. I will further preface this by saying that, if you know how we have lived for the last 30 years, you will know that our house is a staging area for the ministry. Bags and boxes of clothes or cups or stacks of blankets may be found in our living room or kitchen at any given time. Our barn is filled with furniture waiting to go to people moving off the street. The office for the ministry is in what would be the dining room.

So here goes:

  • $1,450/month more in monthly pledges. We currently have $550/month. The smallest is $5. The largest is $120. Whatever is comfortable for you: Paypal, recurring debit from credit union or bank, check by mail. This would allow us to be secure in ministry, and expand services.
  • IMMEDIATE NEED: Four months mortgage payments & late fees to avoid foreclosure, so The King’s Jubilee doesn’t lose it’s base of operations. $6,000
  • Work crews to finish the barn; as well as some of the building materials. Our barn was to be our office and storage area for the pantry, as well as the prep kitchen for Thursday nights. We have a lot done. Then I got hospitalized with infections, then strokes and migraines and the infection ate into my spine, etc., leaving me disabled. This would help multiply the ministry both in Philadelphia and in the Bucks-Mont area.
  • Nissan Taxi. The TKJ mobile is 10-1/2 years old. It still works well. We find that we are cramped most of the time. The Nissan Taxi or that sized Nissan van with five passengers and luggage behind would be ideal for our hauling needs for the nights we serve and for helping set up new households, when people move off the street. We don’t know the price or even if Nissan is able to sell us one. 😉 I have stopped in to talk to them, because the proper time to shop for a new car is always when one can’t even afford to fill the gas tank.
  • IMMEDIATE NEED: Money to inspect the TKJ-mobile, which probably means new tires. It is out of inspection now. So we are counting on the police not noticing. The last two weeks meals were paid for partly by what little bit of credit we have left on a Visa card.
  • Drivers. I can’t drive at night, due to damage done from strokes. We have a few. At times, they are all busy with work, or ill, and I have to scramble. It helps if you are a somewhat aggressive driver and are comfortable with city driving, have an eclectic taste in music and a good sense of humor.
  • Friends. One would think this would not need explaining. Alas, it does. Jesus said, “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” You don’t find one by just sitting next to one at church. Paul clarified in Ephesians 4 that we grow together when we go out into the world and do actual works of service together.

PedroThank you for whatever you can do to help fulfill my wildest dreams. They are all to serve the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name, which means according to his will, with dignity and respect.

By the way, if we get the taxi, it will be painted orange with The King’s Jubilee stickers on it and no taxi sign.



We are not a Matthew 25 Ministry

I have seen several ministries that label themselves “a Matthew 25 ministry.” This irritates me as it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel and a misreading of Matthew 25. Matthew 25 is where Jesus speaks of the final judgment where he separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep are those who have visited Him when he  was sick or in prison or fed him when he was hungry or clothed him when he was naked and the goats are those who did not do these things. Everyone asks “when did we do this” or “not do this”. He responds “when you did … or did not, do it unto the least of these my brothers.” Everybody is surprised. This indicates that this is not something one can plan ahead to do.

We cannot pay for our salvation. “All of our works of righteousness are as filthy rags.” I do not serve the homeless to earn heaven. That’s preposterous, and on some level it is insulting to the people I serve. The best answer I can give any more as to why I serve is that it makes me happy. I have said for years that I do this because I am selfishly doing what makes me happy and I mean it. God created us to do good works. Ephesians 2:10. Everyone in the evangelical camp likes to quote 2:8-9, but they forget verse 10 which is the conclusion.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

So I’m just trying to walk in the good works that God prepared for me to do. It’s what I was made for. It’s the happiest place I could possibly be.

I serve them. Hopefully, I help equip others to serve. Many of them serve me in encouragement, friendship and prayer. We learn in some small way to be God’s family, perhaps.

We work. We pray. We laugh. We cry. We struggle. We hope.

In the end, perhaps we may be surprised by grace.

Thank you for your prayers and your support. God bless you.



Prayer for the Green Things

greenthingsSince it is spring, we are working in our gardens. We have high hopes for our plants. It only seems right that we should pray for them. Our friend and brother, Gregory Leslie Swift composed this poem as a garden prayer. It evokes the Breastplate of St. Patrick in its composition and beauty. I placed it next to an unedited photo of a row of daylilies by our driveway at The King’s Jubilee. We are offering 8″ x 10″ prints on cardstock, suitable for framing for a $25 donation plus $10 Priority Mail postage. The copyright belongs to Leslie K. Swift (Christian name, Gregory).

Prayer for the Green Things

The upholding of the Three beneath you,
the enfolding of the Three around you,
the smiling of the Three upon you.

Mild sun to warm and light you,
gentle rain to ease your thirst.
No pest nor blight to do you harm,
no pest nor blight to hurt you.

The hand of God to keep you,
the hand of the tender to tend and rule,
the heart of the tender to bow and tend,
the hope of the tender to wait and tend,
the Son of God to tend and rule.

©  – LKS –





I prefer a dirty church.

dirtychurch

“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church that is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” – Pope Francis

I have been saying this for years, and getting in trouble for saying it. I suppose he is in a position that he can get away with it.

Here is something else to think about. My mom would frequently say to us when we were growing up, “You are known by the company you keep.” Yes. Jesus is known as a “friend of sinners.”

pharisees



Remember the Poor

“Remember the Poor” is from an ancient, pre-Christian, Irish reel that was used in the mid-summer festival. The church preserved it and perpetuated its use, as it is in keeping with the Gospel and echoes many of the sayings of the early Church Fathers. This rendering was done by Katherine Rose Aho, a dear friend of ours (1962 – 2004). Memory Eternal.

rememberthepoorS

Remember the Poor

Remember the poor
when you lookout on fields you own,
on your plump cows grazing.

Remember the poor
when you look into your barn,
at the abundance of your harvest.

Remember the poor
when the wind howls and the rain falls,
as you sit warm and dry in your house.

Remember the poor
when you eat fine meat and drink fine ale,
at your fine carved table.

The cows have grass to eat,
the rabbits have burrows for shelter,
the birds have warm nests.

But the poor have no food
except what you feed them,
no shelter except your house
when you welcome them,
no warmth except your glowing fire.

 

One Love

Actually, apart from faith in God, Jesus left nothing of the existing Jewish religious code standing except justice and good-heartedness to one’s fellows (Mt. 7:12; 19:16-19; 22:34-40; 23:23; 54:34-36). All other obligations: sacrifices in the temple (Mk. 12:32-34), prayers at fixed hours (Lk 5:33-34), ritual washings (Mk. 7:3), distinctions between permitted or forbidden foods (Mk. 7:19) and consequently, discrimination between religious (observant) and non-religious people (non-observant), had no value for him. He affirmed that the so-called “sinners” were nearer God than those who were held to be unspotted (Lk. 18:9-14); that is, he declared invalid what was properly speaking religious practice. What God values is that we be good to others (Lk. 10:30-37) and the only thing that stains a person is evil intentions, and harming one’s neighbor (Mk. 7:20-23). Jesus asked much more: it is not enough to not kill, despising is already killing (Mt. 6:21-22). To avoid false oaths is insufficient, one has to be utterly sincere (Mt. 5:33-37). Going beyond loving those who love you, you have to love and do good to those who do not love you (Mt. 5:43-45). What Jesus wants is true and sincere good-heartedness towards everyone revealed in every detail of daily life (Mt. 7:12). Jesus cares for those who seek him. He accepts invitations from the rich as well, but without concealing his message (Lk. 11:37-52; 14:1-14).
– Juan Mateos, Vatican Theologian 1917-2003

Earlier this week I added this to my “about” page on Facebook and posted it as my status, without the scripture references. Almost immediately, I was attacked by an Orthodox priestmonk and seminary professor who took this as an attack on the Liturgy. Now the author was a Vatican theologian, so he was obviously not attacking the liturgy and I pointed this out. This man continued his attacks and what he said was most disturbing to me as it indicated that he valued the Liturgy above Love. What St. Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 13 is that the Liturgy is worthless without love. What Jesus teaches us in his vision of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25 is that the Liturgy is worthless without compassion for strangers, i.e., love for mankind. “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)  A true liturgy should be all about love, and the atmosphere and the message attached to it, everything about it should equip the people to engage in lives of love for each other and for all mankind. It should never be about ethnic preservation or mere personal salvation. Then the medicine for our salvation can turn rancid and become a pickling agent to our souls.

A couple days later, I responded to yet another comment on a friend’s post, from yet another not so former evangelical who was busting on him for giving money to a beggar on the street. Why can’t we put this to rest, people? This is simple. Jesus told us to give to anyone who asks of us. Did He put qualifiers on it? Did He tell us to question their motives or morals? Was He stupid or unwise or unable to know our situation? Are we wiser than Jesus? OK, then. Just stop your stupid-enabling-psycho-babble-double-talk-which-is-just-an-excuse-for-you-to-feel-better-about-not-helping-because-that-is-what-your-greedy-self-wanted-to-do-anyway. Are you one of those hyper-Orthodox and Jesus’ word isn’t good enough for you; you need to hear it from “The Fathers”? OK, here goes:

“For if you wish to show kindness, you must not require an accounting of a person’s life, but merely correct his poverty and fill his need.”

“When you see on earth the man who has encountered the shipwreck of poverty, do not judge him, do not seek an account of his life, but free him from his misfortune.”

“Charity is so called because we give it even to the unworthy.”

“Need alone is the poor man’s worthiness . . .
“We do not provide for the manners, but for the man.”

“We show mercy on him not because of his virtue but because of his misfortune, in order that we ourselves may receive from the Master His great mercy.”

– St. John Chrysostom, Second Sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man


On Friday, Deacon Herman shared the documentary “Marley” with us, about the life and career of Bob Marley. There were several things that were striking about his life. While the movie did not cover why he converted to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, I can understand why he did from the interviews that were included and how he lived his life. He was a serious almsgiver. Reporters would ask him if he was rich. He would ask them if they were talking about money. Then he would say: “What is that? I have people, lots of people, brothers and sisters! Friends. Love. That is the riches!” He was making millions at the time and he knew how to make a lot of money. He also knew how to give it away.

One of his bandmates said that wherever they would go, people would come up to him and ask him for money. He would ask them what their dream was, what their plan was and listen to it, then give them enough to make it happen. He was always doing this. He started out life poor, halfcaste and in the ghetto. He never forgot those roots. He was nurtured by a Rastafari master, but he got to see Haile Selassie I and he was honest enough to realize that the man did not think of himself as Jesus Christ reincarnate, but was, in fact, Ethiopian Orthodox. Orthodoxy has a rich theology of serving the poor, almsgiving, and the hope for the unity of all mankind. Bob was already more than halfway there. Very little catechesis was needed for such a soul as he, I’m sure. His whole life had been a catechesis of sorts.

What is my point? God is love. He calls us to be godly. That means first and foremost He calls us to love! Jesus said that all of the Commandments were fulfilled by love. Juan Mateus made a case from the Scripture that the Liturgy is worthless without love. St. John Chrysostom makes the case that we are not to judge those to whom we give alms, but merely obey Christ. Finally, we see the example of Bob Marley, who did not just give token, spare change alms, but intentionally earned as much as he could, so he would have more to give away. His paying audience was mainly upper, middle class, white, young people. He redistributed in the poorer neighborhoods. He gave in such a way as to make a difference in a person’s life, so they could make a new start.

So my point is this: One Love. It all flows from One Love as Bob Marley sang. That is God. If the Liturgy is just a way for us to preserve our ethnic heritage or language. If it is just a place to squabble over whose tones are better, or to showcase our excellent chorus, or which calendar is correct, or to interrupt it to scold someone for sitting, then you have missed the point. Love does not judge. Love is not stingy and does not keep a ledger sheet. Then there is the almsgiving example of Bob Marley. If you live a life centered in love, you don’t just give your leftovers or your scraps away. You live intentionally to use your gifts to help as many people as you can to the maximum benefit; or to rescue one exceptionally needy person, however God leads; but with intention, on a path of love. You can do this directly, if you have direct contact with needy people. If you do not, then give your money to agencies such as The King’s Jubilee. We will deliver your alms for you.

“Need alone is the poor man’s worthiness”

Some words from St. John Chrysostom:

“For if you wish to show kindness, you must not require an accounting of a person’s life, but merely correct his poverty and fill his need.

“When you see on earth the man who has encountered the shipwreck of poverty, do not judge him, do not seek an account of his life, but free him from his misfortune.

“Charity is so called because we give it even to the unworthy.

“Need alone is the poor man’s worthiness . . .
“We do not provide for the manners, but for the man.

“We show mercy on him not because of his virtue but because of his misfortune, in order that we ourselves may receive from the Master His great mercy.”

More Good Press

I was interviewed, photographed, and taped on January 3 by a reporter from the Intelligencer whose editor felt bad about being scooped on the story by the Phila. Inquirer. The Intell finally published the story yesterday, Jan. 16. It was available online free for just one day, then it went up behind a $9.99 annual paywall. I bought three copies, so I think I can share one article online.

Occasionally I say something right to a reporter. This time it actually got through the filter:

“I’m having fun when I’m doing this … This is just me being me. If everyone would just be who they are really supposed to be, everyone would be doing something good and right.”

intell0116