May 26 – Bede

From the Bible

Read Philemon 1:4-7

 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,  because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.  I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.  

About Bede

bede“The Venerable Bede” died on this day in 735.   He is widely recognized as one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon scholars. When he was seven Bede was sent to Benedict Biscop at the monastery of St Peter at Wearmouth for his education, when he was nine he moved to Jarrow, Northumbria, where he would live out the rest of his days. Saint Bede became a deacon at age 19 and priest at 30.

Eventually Bede was the first native of the British Isles to be named by the Pope as Doctor of the church (in 1899).  His most famous work, which is a key source for understanding early British history and the arrival of Christianity, is Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum or The Ecclesiastical History of the English People which was completed in 731AD. It is the first work of history in which the AD system of dating is used.

Much of Bede’s observations and writings were focused on the natural world.  His scholarship is notably advanced because of his ability to weave together fragments into coherent works with very limited resources.

From his most famous work: “The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.”

Try this quote on: “Better a stupid and unlettered brother who, working the good things he knows, merits life in Heaven than one who though being distinguished for his learning in the Scriptures, or even holding the place of a doctor, lacks the bread of love.”

This is also a good image: “Jesus opened the tavern of heaven and poured out the wine of the Holy Ghost.”

Want to read Bede’s groundbreaking book?

More from English people who love him?,

Additions from Orthodox Wiki:

May 16 – Brendan

From the Bible Read James 4:14-15

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”

About Brendan the Navigator

Saint Brendan (c. 484 – c. 577) was an Irish monastic called “the Navigator”, “the Voyager”, and “the Bold.” A man who understood his calling to walk in vulnerability in an extreme way.  He and some companions went out onto the Atlantic Ocean in search of the Island of Paradise.  They searched for 7 years and had many adventures along the way.  The chronicle of Brendan’s journey became a medieval blockbuster and much later some decided that Brendan had actually made it to the America’s in his leather bound boat.  Brendan put himself at the mercy of God as a spiritual adventurer.  He quested.  May we quest so boldly toward new waters with God.  May we face the fears of the deep and unknown so faithfully.

St. Brendan’s Prayer

Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home? Shall I turn my back on my native land, and turn my face towards the sea?

Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy, without silver, without a horse, without fame, without honour? Shall I throw myself wholly upon You, without sword or shield, without food and drink, without a bed to lie on?Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under Your yoke?

Shall I pour out my heart to You, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness, tears streaming down my cheeks? Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach, a record of my final prayer in my native land?

Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict? Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean? O King of the Glorious Heaven, shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?

O Christ, will You help on the wild waves?

Want more?

Launch on St. Brendan’s Day

From St. Brendan’s monsatery in Maine

May 9 – Nicholaus Zinzendorf

From the Bible

Read Isaiah 58

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

About Nicolaus Zinzendorf

Nicolaus Zinzendorf died on this day in 1760.

Nicholas Ludwig, Count Zinzendorf, was born in Dresden in 1700. He was very much a part of the Pietist movement in Germany, which emphasized personal piety and an emotional component to the religious life. This was in contrast to the state Lutheran Church of the day, which had grown to symbolize a largely intellectual faith centered on belief in specific doctrines. He believed in “heart religion,” a personal salvation built on the individual’s spiritual relationship with Christ.

Zinzendorf was born into one of the most noble families of Europe. His father died when he was an infant, and he was raised at Gros Hennersdorf, the castle of his influential Pitetistic grandmother. Stories abound of his deep faith during childhood. As a young man he struggled with his desire to study for the ministry and the expectation that he would fulfill his hereditary role as a Count. As a teenager at Halle Academy, he and several other young nobles formed a secret society, The Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed. The stated purpose of this order was that the members would use their position and influence to spread the Gospel. As an adult, Zinzendorf later reactivated this adolescent society, and many influential leades of Europe ended up joining the group. A few included the King of Denmark, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Archbishop of Paris.

Zinzendorf was one of the most controversial figures of the early eighteenth century. The crowned heads of Europe and religious leaders of both Europe and America all knew him — and either loved him or hated him.

Though bron to an aristocratic family, Zinzendorf decided to use his wealth to shelter a group of Christian radicals called the Moravian Brethren on his land during a tumultuous time in Europe when it was unsafe to not be part of the established state church.  In 1722 a small band crossed the border from Moravia to settle in a town they called Herrnhut, or “the Lord’s Watch.” His tenants went through a period of serious division, and it was then in 1727 that Zinzendorf left public life to spend all his time working with them. Largely due to his leadership in daily Bible studies, the group came to formulate a unique document, known as the “Brotherly Agreement,” which set forth basic tenets of Christian behavior. Residents of Herrnhut were required to sign a pledge to abide by these Biblical principals. There followed an intense and powerful experience of renewal, often described as the “Moravian Pentecost.” During a communion service, the entire congregation felt a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, and felt their previous differences swept away. This experience began the Moravian renewal which led to remarkable ministry.

In 1731, while attending the coronation of Christian VI in Copenhagen, the young Count met a converted slave from the West Indies, Anthony Ulrich. Anthony’s tale of his people’s plight moved Zinzendorf, who brought him back to Herrnhut. As a result, two young men, Leonard Dober and David Nitchmann, were sent to St. Thomas to live among the slaves and preach the Gospel. This was the first organized Protestant mission work, and grew rapidly to Africa, America, Russia, and other parts of the world. By the end of Zinzendorf’s life there were active missions from Greenland to South Africa, literally from one end of the earth to the other.

Members of the Mo­ra­vi­an Church helped populate the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. With Brethren in Christ they are known as  an historic Peace Church.


Zinzendorf in America
Zinzendorf the hymn writer
Further biography, here

April 10 – Howard Thurman

From the Bible Read Isaiah 5:1-7 I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines.

About Howard Thurman

Born in Florida in 1899, Howard was raised primarily by his grandmother – a former slave.  He showed signs of a vibrant spiritual life early, and would read the Bible to his grandmother.  Thurman tells the story in his most famous work Jesus and the Disinherited that his mother would not permit him to read anything by the apostle Paul (besides 1 Corinthians 13) because the abusive theology that the white preachers would perpetrate on her and others enslaved – biblical mandates to be “good slaves.”

Thurman grew as a pastor and academic, often in ways that convince many people to call him a mystic.  He had a significant bond with Quaker leader and pacifist (and key leader of the forerunner of the American Friends Service Committee) Rufas Jones at Haverford College which led him to leading a delegation to meet with Mohandas Ghandi.

As a theologian, Thurman was a pioneer in articulating Jesus’ mission of liberation of oppressed people and taught that “if you ever developed a cultivated will with spiritual discipline  the flame of freedom would never perish.”  He served as one of the pastors of the first intentionally interracial church in the US – The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Fransico.  As a friend of Martin King, Thurman became a spiritual adviser and mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr.  Howard Thurman is usually credited with the development of nonviolence theories and tactics that were central to the Civil Rights Movement. Howard Thurman wrote over twenty books besides speeches and articles.  He died on this day in 1981.

“Whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day, there is always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or unremembered peace.”

-from Meditations of the Heart

April 9 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

From the Bible

Read Matthew 5:38-42

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

About Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich and his twin sister were born in a Prussian city (now in Poland) in 1906.   His family moved to Berlin a few years later.  Bonhoeffer earned a doctorate in theology at the age of 21 from perhaps the most prestigious university in the world at the time – the University of Berlin.   He began to pastor but continued to pursue academic work bringing him through Spain to Harlem.  Dissatisfied with the lack of rigor at Union where he was teaching and doing post graduate work, he became a disciple and Sunday school teacher at Abyssinian Baptist Church where his love for spirituals and deep desire for the church to change the world.

Two years after his return to Germany, the Nazi Party rose to power.  Bonhoeffer was overtly critical of the regime and a resister from the beginning.  While Hitler and the Nazis infiltrated and found a stronghold in the German church, Bonhoeffer was building something new in Germany through the Confessing Church.  After only a few months of Nazi control, Bonhoeffer moved to London to work on international ecumenical work, highly frustrated with the state of the German church.

Two years later, rather than going to study non-violent civil disobedience under Ghandi he returned to Germany at the repeated pleading and demanding of Swiss theologian and Karl Barth.  The Confessing Church was under fire by the Nazis.  Barth was sent back to Switzerland, Bonhoeffer soon lost his credentials to teach because he was a “pacifist and enemy of the state.”   He began underground seminaries and further resisted the state.

Bonhoeffer became more involved in direct resistance and was arrested in 1943.  He was part of a group that was responsible both for attempts at liberating Jews and attempting to assassinate Hitler.  His pacifism has been widely written about, especially in light of this glaring contradiction.

Dietrich was executed on this day in 1945, two weeks before US soldiers liberataed his prison camp.  He is largely considered a martyr for the faith, for peace, and also Nazi resisters.  Among two of his most influential works are Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship – this final quote is from the latter.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Want to watch a whole documentary about his life? Here is a [link]

April 4 – Martin Luther King, Jr

From the Bible

Read Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor 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.

About Martin Luther King, Jr

King was a prophet and an apostle.  Born into a pastor’s family in Atlanta, GA.  He grew into a scholar, preacher, and community organizer.  In 1954, when King was 25, he became a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama.  The next year, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began and King was mixing it up with many people who became prominent leaders in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Martin is best known for his speeches and published works.  His faith drew tens of thousands into passionate civil engagement through marches, rallies, prayer, worship, and non-violent civil disobedience.  He earned global respect of people from all walks of life.  His theory of non-violence were tactics of strength and effective change rooted in the way of Jesus.

A decade after his public work had begun, King was deeply entrenched in the national movement to legally end state-sponsored racial discrimination during the Jim Crow era.  He was key in the formation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

King caused controversy in the movement because he was drawn to what he believed were two key issues that needed addressing: ending the Vietnam War and economic rights for Black people.  Many opposed him because his “branching out” weakened chances of getting more effective laws in place to protect other civil liberties and would alienate sympathetic whites – notably elected officials.

On this day in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in Memphis, TN when he was 39 years old.  His legacy continues to inspire and urge people to work for Justice.

March 24 – Oscar Romero

From the Bible

Read Isaiah 61

The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.
Everyone will praise him!
His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring,
with plants springing up everywhere.

About Oscar Romero

Until he was 62 years old, Óscar Romero y Galdámez served as priest, bishop, and lastly Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador.   On Monday, March 24, 1980 Romero was shot through the heart while lifting the chalice as part of the communion meal.  The day before, while radio broadcasting his sermon, Romero called on Salvadoran soldiers to disobey orders that would contradict a life in Christ – namely carrying out the government’s repression and denial of basic human rights.

His appointment to Archbishop was seen as a “safe” move by the conservatives and government, while the progressive priests were disappointed.  They were involved in critique of what they understood as systemic sin and were open in teaching and activism about resolving class conflict, sometimes implicating the Catholic Church as part of the oppressor class.  Their worldview, and later Romero’s became known as Liberation Theology.  After a friend of Romero’s was assassinated for his subversive activities in 1977, Romero was astonished at the lack of help in the investigation he received from the authorities.  He felt the call to follow his late friend, Rutilio Grande, in work and into death.  His letter to President Jimmy Carter petitions “His Excellency” as a Christian and someone who cares about human rights to cut off  military aid to the Salvadoran government because it would violently carry out the interests of the military oligarchy not the people.

“We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us. The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood,the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.”
― from The Violence of Love (get it as a free audio book!)


Martyr’s Prayer Project video

The movie: Romero. Watch 1:01 to 1:09 h

Oliver Stone’s Salvador

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