September 28 – William J. Seymour

From the Bible

Acts 2:14-21 In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

About William J. Seymour

William Seymour died of a heart attack on September 28, 1922. He was widely considered the Father of Pentecostalism. He followed the Holy Spirit and developed a belief in the charismatic gifts (entire sanctification that manifests in prophesy, speaking in tongues, and other expressions), even before he was gifted. He needed to preach what he learned.

He was first locked out of the building to which he was called to California to speak. He eventually found a following that outgrew its building after a remarkable evening of God’s presence. He proceeded to find a place to preach and worship in L.A. It was the dirt floor in what became the famous building on Azusa St. that became the center of the Pentecostal revival.

To Seymour, tongues was not the only message of Azusa Street: “Don’t go out of here talking about tongues: talk about Jesus,” he admonished. What’s more, he rejected racial barriers that plagued the Church at that time. Blacks and whites worked together in apparent harmony under the direction of a black pastor, a marvel in the days of Jim Crow segregation. One commentator said: “At Azusa Street, the color line was washed away in the Blood.” Plus, he installed women as leaders, which was almost universally opposed at the time. Seymour dreamed that Azusa Street was creating a new kind of church, one where a common experience in the Holy Spirit tore down old walls of racial, ethnic, and denominational differences.

Much more [here].

September 21 – Henri Nouwen

From the Bible

Read Colossians 3:1-3

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

About Henri Nouwen

On this day in 1996, Father Henri Nouwen died. Henri is a favorite author of many of us at Circle of Hope. Born in the Netherlands, he taught in universities abroad and at Yale, Harvard and Notre Dame. The last decade of his life, he spent in the L’Arche community of Toronto, sharing his life with community members with severe disabilities. Henri’s transparency, intelligence and faith brought him many readers. He has led many of us to deeply value solitude and contemplative practices. In this excerpt from The Way of the Heart Henri reflects on the call to solitude that led the Desert Fathers and Mothers (and us, still today) to understand their gifts by fleeing the shipwreck of the society of their day:

“ Our society is not a community radiant with the love of Christ, but a dangerous network of domination and manipulation in which we can easily get entangled and lose our soul. The basic question is whether we ministers of Jesus Christ have not already been so deeply molded by the seductive powers of our dark world that we have become blind to our own and other people’s fatal state and have lost the power and motivation to swim for our lives.”

Want more? The Henri Nouwen Society can tell you everything: http://www.henrinouwen.org/

September 5 – Teresa of Calcutta

From the Bible

Read Matthew 25:31-46

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

About Mother Teresa

Today is Teresa of Calcutta day.  ”By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”  She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, then part the Ottoman Empire (now capital of the Republic of Macedonia).  She took her first religious vows in 1931, her solemn vows in 1937 while teaching in Calcutta (the now-corrected Anglicization is Kolkata).

In 1936, while traveling through India, Sister Teresa received her call to help the poor while living among them.  She began a new work in 1948.  She had already learned Bengali, but she went further. She made her ”habit” a white sari with blue trim and became an Indian citizen while getting some basic medical training.  In 1950, she began an order that became the Missionaries of Charity with 13 nuns (now over 5,000 worldwide).  In 1952, she converted an old Hindu temple into the first Home for the Dying, a site for free hospice care.  She died of heart problems in 1997 after being a prolific fund raiser, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, missionary, author, and advocate for the global poor.

“In the West we have a tendency to be profit-oriented, where everything is measured according to the results and we get caught up in being more and more active to generate results. In the East — especially in India — I find that people are more content to just be, to just sit around under a banyan tree for half a day chatting to each other. We Westerners would probably call that wasting time. But there is value to it. Being with someone, listening wihtout a clock and without anticipation of results, teaches us about love. The success of love is in the loving — it is not in the result of loving. ” — from A Simple Path: Mother Teresa

More?

Video at Nobel Prize.org [link]

Interview with Malcolm Muggeridge and Mother Teresa. Muggeridge’s book Something Beautiful for God and film made Teresa famous. [link]

August 19 – Nicholas Black Elk

From the Bible

Read Acts 15:5-11

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

About Black Elk

On this day in 1950, Oglala Lakota medicine man Black Elk died, at age 87.  He lived,  along with his cousin Crazy Horse, during the last days of the Indian Wars – witnessing both the defeat of Custer at Little Big Horn and later in life the massacre at Wounded Knee.  Black Elk was part of the first generation of Lakotas to be confined to reservations.  The extreme poverty and communal responsibility were factors that led him to both join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show internationally and agree to be interviewed for the book he is best known for, the much debated Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt.  One of the major controversies with the work is the exclusion of Black Elk’s faith in Jesus and mission – as well as the withholding of payment for participation in the work.

As a medicine man, Black Elk had prepared to visit a dying boy in the village, only to encounter a Jesuit priest praying there first.  He encountered a power greater than his own, and accepted an invitation to spend time at the mission.  He was baptized Nicholas shortly after. As a Catholic Catechist (an often downplayed aspect of his life), he was widely considered an apostle to the plains Indians. Thousands of people were brought to the faith – both Indian and non-native, through his work and famous preaching.

His primary work was with new converts and as an evangelist alongside the priests — when priests were not available his duties included baptizing and burials.  His passion for Christ as the Creator and fulfiller of things drove him to vigorous and passionate study.  Nick thought that many of the Lakota spiritual traditions had come from God to teach them to live in a good way and that Christ made sense of all of it.  Many experts agree that his practice of the Christian faith, life, and mission were well-integrated with his worldview and practice as a Lakota.

One such integration is the change in the symbolism for the sun dance ceremony.  Traditionally, it was a time of fasting, prayer, and suffering in order to attain personal power for victory in battle.  It has become, and many credit Nicholas Black Elk for this shift, a ceremony of prayer and fasting on behalf of all the people – including enemies.  For Nick, it was a ceremony to remind the people of the suffering and death of Christ for all of creation.

Further Reading

Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism by Damian Costello

Short Article on his life and faith by Pat McNamera

August 16 – Charles Finney

From the Bible

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

About Charles Finney

One time someone brought a shotgun to on of Charles Finney’s revival meetings, intending to kill him. May you cause that kind of trouble as you defy the powers.

Some people might not think Finney fits into the “cloud of witnesses” that make up our respected spiritual ancestors. He was the “father of modern revivalism.” He was the forerunner of Billy Graham in the sense that he popularized the “altar call” and other tactics we find a bit too coercive or manipulative. But his demands for living a truly Christian life, his determination to get something going, and his presumption that people could live up to their radical calling, is right up our alley. He also was among the first to have women and African Americans participating in his meetings as equals with white men.  One story is that the alter call’s original purpose was to come forward to sign petitions to abolish slavery.

The zenith of Finney’s evangelistic career was in the 1830′s during the Second Great Awakening. In Rochester, New York, he preached 98 sermons that caused a ruckus.  Shopkeepers closed their businesses, posting notices urging people to attend Finney’s meetings. Reportedly, the population of the town increased by two-thirds during the revival, and crime dropped by two-thirds over the same period. After that, he began an almost continuous revival in New York City as minister of the Second Free Presbyterian Church. In 1834, he moved into the huge Broadway Tabernacle his followers had built for him. He stayed there for only a year, leaving to pastor Oberlin Congregation Church in Ohio, and to teach theology at Oberlin College. In 1851, he was appointed president, which gave him a new forum to advocate social reforms he championed, especially abolition of slavery. Oberlin College, under his leadership, was the first college to admit woman and blacks to be educated with white men.

Finney married evangelism together with social reform, the New Testament evangelist with the Old Testament prophet, piety with radicalism, and conversion with a subsequent commitment to radical social reform.  He got people talking and acting. He was not content with them simply receiving or consuming.  His commitment to Jesus meant taking care of the poor and the needy, and his deep commitment to social reform was seen in the radicalism of Oberlin College and in his major push to end slavery.  Those he inspired continued to take risks in order to relate to each other and change the world.

Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.”

August 11 – Clare of Assissi

From the Bible

Read Philippians 3:17-21

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

About Clare

Today we celebrate Clare of Assisi.  She was one of the first women to follow the example of Saint Francis and ultimately she founded the Order of the Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition.  She wrote the Poor Ladies Rule of Life – the first monastic rule known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honor as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.

The story goes: When Clare was 18, Francis of Assisi came to preach in the church of San Giorgio at Assisi. Inspired by his words, Clare asked Francis to help her in dedicating her life to God, and he vowed to do so. The following year (1211), Clare’s parents chose a wealthy young man for Clare to marry, but she pointedly refused, fleeing soon after for the Porziuncola Chapel, where Francis received her. She took vows dedicating her life to God, and that moment, occurring on March 20, 1212, marked the beginning of the Second Order of St. Francis. [Want more? link]

Clare once wrote: We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others.

If we can go with her, we can do some great work in the world!

July 31 – Ignatius of Loyola

From the Bible

Read Luke 15:1-6

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.  Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy.  And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?”  But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away.  Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?”  And they could not reply to this.

About Ignatius

“Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.”

“Go forth and set the world on fire.”  (Ignatius of Loyola)

The quotes above from Ignatius of Loyola are among his most famous and they sum up the practicality and ambition that he lived out after his conversion to Christianity. Those of us who are Protestants probably haven’t been given much information about Ignatius because he was a strong opponent of the Reformation in the 1500s and vigorously supported (some would argue blindly) the hierarchy of the Catholic Church at the time. None of us gets everything right and this lasting division of the Church has proven itself to be deeply problematic for centuries. Much is lost if we refuse to listen to one another. Ignatius became a powerful leader in the Church of his day and was the founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. His writings have become a wonderful guide to many who seek Jesus. He was a devoted follower who took his early experiences as a soldier prior to his conversion and applied all the good lessons he learned to the work of discipleship. His Spiritual Exercises is a 200 page text designed to be simple and helpful to people who desire to find God everywhere. We celebrate his Saint’s Day on July 31, the day he died in 1556.

Nice spirituality site with extensive biography resources: [link]