November 26 — Sojourner Truth

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it

Read Joel 2:28-31

“In those days, I will also pour out my Spirit on the male and female slaves.”

More thoughts for meditation

Today we celebrate the prophetess Sojourner Truth, who died on November 26th, 1883 at the age of 86.  She is remembered for her relentless, Spirit-filled work as an abolitionist, women’s suffragist, and evangelist.

She was sold as a child into slavery in New York.   She worked on a farm and often retreated into the woods nearby where she prayed to God by a “temple of brush” that she had made.  In her twenties, she obeyed a vision from the Lord to take her baby, Sophia, and walk away from the family that enslaved her.   It was a frightening experience for her to live out on her own, and she considered going back to work on the farm, but Jesus appeared to her in a vision and prayed for her, giving her the strength to continue.

After these and other experiences with God, she saw her life and ministry as uniquely situated to be a leader involved in two movements in the United States: the abolition of slavery, and the right of women to vote.  As a woman leader and a former slave, she saw her gifts of leadership and freedom from slavery as something that God wanted for all women and all people who were enslaved.   She used her life story and experiences with God as the basis for her political and theological views.

She is also remembered fondly for her straight-gazed challenges to live by faith.  When some other notable abolitionists were advocating for violent uprisings to end slavery, Truth asked them the question: “Is God gone?”

Suggestion for action

Look racism and sexism straight in the face and expect the same Spirit of Jesus, who inspired Sojourner Truth, to say something through you, too.

November 22 – Eberhard Arnold

From the Bible

Read Matthew 5:43-45

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i]and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

About Eberhard Arnold

Eberhard was born in Königsberg, Germany (now Kalinigrad of the Russian Federation) in 1883 to a middle class family. After a rambunctious childhood, he experienced an inner change at the age of 16. He became active in evangelism and had increasing compassion for the poor.

He married Emmy von Hollander. They would have five children. Both were growing more discontent with the new movements of urbanization and factorization in Germany. They criticized the state church of Germany for various reasons, later their critique would help motivate modeling another new movement. In 1915 Arnold became editor of Die Furche (The Furrow) and was a gifted and sought-after speaker in the region.

Arnold supported Germany during the first World War at first, even enlisting for a few weeks before being discharged for medical reasons. He sent copies of The Furrow to young people at the front lines. The returning soldiers had a profound influence on Eberhard, where he had an increasingly difficult time reconciling the gospel with war.

During the war, the Germans sustained incredible loss. Afterwards, hunger protests and strikes were common in the political upheaval and national shame. Among groups working for change, the Youth Movement inspired Arnold with their love of nature, rejection of materialism, and aspirations towards joy and love.  Eberhard and Emmy began meeting with Youth Movement people once or twice a week in homes.

In 1920, the couple along with Emmy’s sister Else moved to the village of Sannerz to found the Bruderhof (place of brothers) community with seven adults and five children. Their community was founded on the Sermon on the Mount and the witness of the early church. They grew and needed a bigger farm. Eberhard’s writing continued and he began corresponding with the Hutterite Brethren, an Anabaptist group that had fled to and flourished in the US. The Bruderhof’s values now also included a common purse as well as pacifism.

The rise of the Nazi party was a catalyst for the Bruderhof to send their children (school age and draft age) out of the country as war resisters. The rest of the community eventually also fled, and Eberhard sustained a leg injury during the travel that would lead to his death on this day in 1935. The Bruderhof groups re-assembled in England before being forced out of country. MCC helped them relocate to Paraguay, the only country that would accept a pacifist community with mixed nationalities. The Bruderhof communites are now in four states in the US as well as Germany, Paraguay, and Australia.

“Love sees the good Spirit at work within each person and delights in it. Even if we have just been annoyed with someone, we will feel new joy in them as soon as love rules in us again. We will overcome our personal disagreements and joyfully acknowledge the working of the good Spirit in each other.”

printed in Writings 

More:

http://www.eberhardarnold.com/

The Bruderhof website [link]

November 20 – Leo Tolstoy

From the Bible 

Read Luke 17:20-37

“The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

About Leo Tolstoy

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was the fourth of five children born to a family of old Russian nobility in 1828.  While financially well off, his mother died while he was young, so he and his siblings were in the care of his aunt.  His father died next, followed by the his aunt and caretaker.  He and his siblings moved under the care of another relative.

While struggling in his private schooling, Leo eventually became a farmer until his brother convinced him to join the military, where Tolstoy’s writing began to develop.  He grew into one of the most celebrated novelists of all time.  His two greatest works War and Peace and Anna Karenina are considered masterpieces.

After he enjoyed some success, Leo fell into a deep depression that ultimately led to his conversion to following Jesus.  He tried joining the Russian Orthodox Church, which he found corrupt.  While under watch of the secret police, he founded the new publication The Mediator in 1883.  He gave away nearly all his wealth and money, although signed the copyrights and proceeds from his writings pre 1881 to his wife.

During the last 30 years of his life, his richest spiritual and international movement-building work flowered.  In 1894 his magnum opus The Kingdom of God Is Within You inspired practitioners of non-violent resistance, as it continues to do.   Ghandi cited this last book as one of the three paramount texts of influence. The two developed a relationship in which Tolstoy strongly urged nonviolence as a means of social change.  Tolstoy’s beliefs and regular visits from disciples plagued his wife. He finally fled with his daughter and began an incognito pilgrimage that he was never able to complete.  He died on this day in 1910.

Thoughts:

On revolution: There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man.
How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.

On progress : People usually think that progress consists in the increase of knowledge, in the improvement of life, but that isn’t so. Progress consists only in the greater clarification of answers to the basic questions of life. The truth is always accessible to a man. It can’t be otherwise, because a man’s soul is a divine spark, the truth itself. It’s only a matter of removing from this divine spark (the truth) everything that obscures it. Progress consists, not in the increase of truth, but in freeing it from its wrappings. The truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn’t gold.

On passions: The whole world knows that virtue consists in the subjugation of one’s passions, or in self-renunciation. It is not just the Christian world, against whom Nietzsche howls, that knows this, but it is an eternal supreme law towards which all humanity has developed, including Brahmanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and the ancient Persian religion. And suddenly a man appears who declares that he is convinced that self-renunciation, meekness, submissiveness and love are all vices that destroy humanity (he has in mind Christianity, ignoring all the others religions).

On Nietzche: One can understand why such a declaration baffled people at first. But after giving it a little thought and failing to find any proof of the strange propositions, any rational person ought to throw the books aside and wonder if there is any kind of rubbish that would not find a publisher today. But this has not happened with Nietzsche´s books. The majority of pseudo-enlightened people seriously look into the theory of the Übermensch, and acknowledge its author to be a great philosopher, a descendant of Descartes, Leibniz and Kant. And all this has come about because the majority of pseudo-enlightened men of today object to any reminder of virtue, or to its chief premise: self-renunciation and love -virtues that restrain and condemn the animal side of their life. They gladly welcome a doctrine, however incoherently and disjointedly expressed, of egotism and cruelty, sanctioning the idea of personal happiness and superiority over the lives of others, by which they live.

Want more?

A flawed saint: http://articles.herald-mail.com/2012-03-15/opinion/31199031_1_yasnaya-polyana-estate-leo-tolstoy

More bio: http://www.gradesaver.com/author/leo-tolstoy/

November 17 – Hild

From the Bible

Read Matthew 10:5-15

You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment.

About Hild

Today is the feast day of Hild of Whitby, who died on this day in 680.

She lived in the 7th Century and made her hay in the medieval English kingdom of Northumbria.  She took her first vows as a nun at the age of 33, but later helped start several monasteries and became the founding Abbyess at Whitby.  Her reputation for wise counsel made her a crucial advisor to several kings and crucial to the conversion of much of the island to Christianity.  She also is known for her great love and devotion to the ordinary folks.
While her Celtic people were pushed further and further North by the pagan groups such as the Saxons, a vital mission to the invaders remained.  The church in Rome often competed with the Celtic tradition, and Hild was known for helping to settle the big question of when Easter would be celebrated.  This was just one example of the peacemaking she was known for, in rather turbulent times.
Want more?
From an Anglican church named after her: http://www.sthildas.net/abbessnew.html
Another church’s rendition: http://www.wilfrid.com/saints/hilda.htm

November 11 – Lucretia Mott

From the Bible

Read Jude 1:20-23

Have mercy on those who doubt.  Save some by snatching them from the fire.

About Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott (January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) was a Quaker minister and activist in church reform, women’s rights, and the abolitionist movement.  Considering slavery an evil to be opposed, she and others refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar, and other slavery-produced goods as part of their protest.  Her Pennsylvania home was a stop on the Underground Railrod.  By the end of her life, Lucretia saw the legal end to slavery in the US but it would be forty years before the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution gave women the right to vote.

Mott’s fight for women’s rights included education.  Her most famous work: Discourse on Woman, was published in 1849.   Her leadership led to the founding of Moore College of Art and the Medical College of Pennsylvania, both in Philadelphia.  She was one of the founders of Swarthmore College.

It’s hard to understand an equivalent to the battles Lucretia was fighting and the tools she had.  Her convictions led to more than a critique of society, more than personal changes, but a Spirit-led mass movement that resulted in much fruit.

Want more?

Mott’s place in Quaker history [link]

Bio from the Unitarians [link]

A note from Penn Press [link]

November 1 – All Saints Day

From the Bible

Read Hebrews 11-12:3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

all-saints-day-ii-1911

Kadinsky — All Saints Day II

All Saints Day is part two of the traditional Christian triduum of Hallowmas, preceded by Halloween and followed by All Souls Day.

For the Celtic Christians Hallowmas coincides with the ancient Druid celebration of samhain (SAHW inn) – the beginning of the darker half of the year (winter). This night is known to be, of all days of the year, the thinnest place between the living and the dead.  All Soul’s Day (remembering and praying for the departed who haven’t made it to Paradise yet) is on Nov 2 in the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

Today is the celebration at the center of it all — All Saints Day, or All Hallows’  (all holy people’s) Day.   For Christians still aware of it, today is a day to commemorate all those who went before us, especially the holy people who established and preserved the faith for us.  Commemorating the martyrs of the faith with a regular holy-day began as early as the 4th Century but was codified on November 1 in 837.   The holiday eventually expanded to include all Christians of the past, and sometimes includes those of the present.

Celebrations and observances vary.  In Mexico as well as in a growing number of places around the world, honoring the dead through mass visitations of grave sites and preparation of favorite food of the deceased, disguising, and going door to door for candy/presents/money are traditions that mark a similar festival for El  Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead).  For some, today is a day to remember and honor the children and infants who have died.  Across Europe, lighting candles at graves or at home, singing particular hymns are typically part of the remembrance.  Flowers, especially marigolds, typically are used to decorate memorials or alters.

We have a chance today not only to remember those heroes of the faith (like in Hebrews 11), but to remember beloved saints we have lost.  It is a good day to look back and show honor and respect as well as to mourn.   We remember all the saints who don’t have a specific feast day.  We remember the spiritual ancestors who inspire us on our journey.  We remember the partners in our church as well as members of our extended Christian family who have died. What’s more, we can ponder our own deaths and what spiritual legacy we would like to leave. We are one of all the saints, too!

Ralph Vaughn Williams hymn For All the Saints is the classic hymn for this day. Spend a minute meditating with it: link

October 15 – Teresa of Avila

From the Bible

Read Romans  13:8-10 

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 

About Teresa

Teresa of Avila was a Spanish contemplative, mystic, and theologian in the 16th century.

Here is a story about her: Teresa learned as a small child that one had to die in order to see God. She wanted to see God. Practical and courageous by temperament she devised a scheme. She and her brother, Rodrigo, would go to the land of the Moors. There they would surely be martyred and go to heaven. Very early one morning the two children stole away from their home and crossed the bridge leading out of Avila. But the plan soon ran into trouble. An uncle who happened to be entering Avila at the time, met the children, heard their fantastic plan and unceremoniously returned them to their parental dwelling.

Later on in life Teresa realized that one does not have to die to see God. “We need no wings to go in search of Him,” she wrote, “but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us.” These words contain three essential steps for what she named ”mental prayer.” First, we must be searching for God; second, we must be willing to be alone with Him, and third, we need but look upon Our Lord Who is present within us.

“The important thing in mental prayer,” she says, “is not to think much but to love much.” Mental prayer becomes fruitful when we realize the gift of God dwelling within our soul. Referring to her earlier years in the convent, Teresa wrote these regretful words, “I think that if I had understood then as I do now that this great King really dwells within a little palace of my soul, I should not have left Him alone so often and never allowed his dwelling place to get so dirty.” Mental prayer, you see, is nothing but our side of friendship with God—our “yes” to God’s call and invitation.

“Beginners,” she says, “do well to form an appealing image of Christ in His Sacred Humanity. They should picture Him within themselves in some mystery of His life, for example, the Christ of the agony or the Risen Savior in His glorified Body. Once they are conscious of Our Lord’s presence within their souls they need only look upon Him and conversation will follow. This friendly conversation will not be much thinking but much loving, not a torrent of words, much less a strained prepared speech, but rather a relaxed conversation with moments of silence as there must be between friends.”

One of the profound things that she is known to have said matches our scripture today, “It is love alone that gives worth to all things.”

Paul also reminds us that love is the only thing we owe each other.  It’s a continuing debt.  It is a debt that gives worth to our lives.  We are compelled to love each other regardless of the circumstances.  For some of us, that seems like a lot.  But the fact remains that each one of us is loved and as loved ones in the world we have the capacity to love others.  When we go ahead and make payments toward that debt, we fulfill God’s vision for the world.

Want more?

More bio: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/innertravelers/avila.html

Teresa’s famous prayer: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/stteresaofavila.htm

You can read the Interior Castle for free: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/teresa/castle2.html