Formation Resources: What Do We Have to Lose?

by: 
Bob Scott, Kathryn Carroll, Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, Valerie Smith

Stained glass window at Trinity Church

Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.
Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes —
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith,
in stubborn hope,
in love that illumines
every broken thing
it finds.

Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

 


 


This Sunday
 

To prepare for Sunday, see this week’s readings and download the worship bulletin.

Each week, we’re offering Family Worship: Home Edition, a simple service for children and families to follow together at home.

 


Adult Learning and Discovery
 

Trinity Church Wall Street

Who are you? Where do you come from? What’s your life experience? Questions like these ask us to name our contexts, and context shapes the ways we read everything from scriptures to world events. For example, my context includes “male, white, husband, father, middle class, middle age.” That’s why I read these recent tumultuous times as a call to check my privilege, listen, and learn. These weekly reflections draw on conversations in Trinity’s Broad Way Bible Study, which takes a contextual approach to scripture. This week, I’ve invited my friend, colleague, and frequent Broad Way participant, Valerie Smith, to write the reflection. Valerie names her context as “black, woman, mother, veteran, professional, loyal friend, relevant, vibrant stranger.” I’m grateful for her discussion of Matthew 9:35–10:8, which points us to valuable questions and insights for our time. —Bob Scott

What Do We Have to Lose?

Valerie Smith, Program Coordinator, Faith Formation and Education

The Broad Way Online — what a fitting title for a weekly lunchtime Bible study gathering consisting of people from different ethnicities, ages, genders, and spiritual journeys. Perhaps the best part of this group is you never know who may (virtually) show up and be part of the day’s discussion.  

This past Monday we read Matthew 9:35–10:8, where Jesus sends the twelve disciples throughout the land to the “lost sheep of Israel” to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the kingdom of heaven was near. Jesus made it clear to the twelve men that their mission wouldn’t be easy; he gave specific instruction on what to do when faced with resistance. This instruction was to “…shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town” (Matt. 10:14). In my head, this instruction translates to, “I’m done with you.”

As I reflect on the passage, there are a few questions I ask myself. How many of the “lost sheep” were unwelcoming to the disciples? Why? What did they have to lose?  

I think about the racial divide in our country today. How many unarmed black lives were unwelcomed and lost by the hands of the police? Why? What do the police have to lose? 

I wonder when will we shake off the dust and be done with the systemic racist policies that continue to promote inequality and inequity among black and brown people? When will the demon be cast from those who believe some lives are less valuable than others? 

Reflect

  • How would you name your own context?
  • In what ways have you seen that context shape the way you read scriptures, relationships, and events?

The Broad Way Bible Study

If you would like to join the Broad Way Bible Study on Mondays at 1pm, please email BScott@trinitywallstreet.org to receive an invitation.

 


Adult Practice
 


Contemplative photo by Kathy Bozzuti-Jones

The Inner Work of Activism: Discerning Spirit from Ego

Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, Associate Director, Faith Formation and Education

The Faith Formation & Education newsletter for June explores the relation between contemplation and action, suggesting that we must look inside to find clarity, in order to recognize our unique roles in responding to racial injustice. It posits that prayer and meditation can — and should — support social activism in an ongoing way. One reason to turn inward is to become more skillful in discerning the voice of Spirit from the voice of ego.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action, suggests that the turn inward in contemplation can reveal the propensity for ego to stand in the way of determining right action:

What is the relation of contemplation to action? Simply this. He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centered ambitions, his delusions about ends and means, his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas. There is nothing more tragic in the modern world than the misuse of power and action.

In other words, as Fr. Mark often says, “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Or, in the words of Alice Walker, speaking of the discipline necessary to keep your soul intact under brutal oppression, “Put yourself in order…to keep a real centered part of yourself…that is not overrun by the oppression that you encounter on a daily basis.”  

When Jesus assures his apostles that “it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you,” it seems that he is inviting them — and by extension, modern day disciples — to find that centered part of ourselves, to live from the place of divine indwelling, a place of self-understanding as beloved and called to be people for others, rather than from a place of self-reference, alone. 

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus reassures his chosen that they have the charism (gifts of the holy spirit to build up the Kingdom of God), whether or not the good news is received in a particular place they visit. In my own discipleship, I need to be reassured, as well. For example, I am very aware that, in order for the Spirit to speak through me, I have to get “me” out of the way — or at least a bit left of center. This takes some ongoing attention. The work of growth in discipleship includes growth in self-knowledge, which implies becoming more acquainted with the ego. However, be warned: when we invite the ego into prayer and meditation, we also invite anger, blame, defensiveness, self-righteousness, and pride, along with the ego-manifestations listed by Thomas Merton above.  

So why invite the ego into a disciple’s prayer? We do not practice in order to get rid of ego. We practice in order to befriend it. We turn inward to befriend our egos so that we do not pretend to see our own faults in someone else. We practice to notice how vulnerable we are to being hooked, to projecting our ego delusions on to others. I like to imagine prayerful attention to the ego as a practice of gently moving my ego to the side, de-centering it, so that the gifts of the Spirit in me can flow on through.

In prayer, we invite the light of Christ into our human weakness, to show us the truth, to shine a light on our darkness, to open us to self-knowledge, to strengthen us with the Spirit. The simple prayer, “More of You, less of me” can remind us to make interior space, consciously and regularly, for the Spirit of God to speak through us and all our actions for social justice. With daily prayer practice, we can loosen the grip of ego and contribute to the healing of God’s world.

 


Children and Families Resources
 


“These branches hang over my favorite chair in my little back yard green space. Though the roots are buried under cement, I have watched these limbs grow and bend and turn toward the nourishing light.”—Kathryn Carroll

God in Creation

Kathryn Carroll, Interim Program Manager, Children and Families

Today and always we are invited into God’s abundant hospitality. Across today’s stories I noticed hosts inviting strangers in, and in turn, the strangers invite the hosts into something new and surprising. This form of mutual generosity begins appropriately in Genesis with the parents of the three faiths of God’s people: Abraham and Sarah. Then in Exodus, God invites Moses, as host of his recently escaped and homeless people, into a new promise and new home. In Psalm 100, as the people cross the threshold into their new home, they celebrate with song and dance. In Romans, the people are invited to endure suffering for their collective character and hope’s sake. And in the Gospel, Jesus invites his disciples to leave their homes and go out to be welcomed into the homes of strangers by inviting them into the good news of God’s new kingdom. Neat, huh?

Well…when we read all the stories in between, spanning thousands of years, we see that it’s anything but neat. In fact, it’s pretty messy. And throughout history, it seems like the times when humans try to avoid messiness, or worse, coerce neatness and order — like deciding who’s in and who’s out — things not only get messy, but violent too. And that is why I think Jesus’ instructions to his disciples emphasize peace. Not passivity. Not submission. Not even necessarily lawfulness. But a peace that can hold and transform the spectrum of creation, including humanity. Jesus’ instructions remind me of another, more recent invitation into God’s peace that wasn’t easy, or quick to turn hearts, or painless, or neat — or finished.


The Six Principles of Nonviolence engraved on the wall of the King Center in Atlanta, by Kathryn Carroll

Here are the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Principles of Nonviolence (The King Center):

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.
  2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. 
  3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims. 
  4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence willingly accepts the consequences to its acts.
  5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence to the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolence love is active, not passive. Nonviolence love does not sink to the level of the hater. Love restores community and resists injustice. Nonviolence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated. 
  6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.

Summer Sundays for Families with Children

As we have said, this peace is not easy or simple. But there are ways to practice it. This summer, families are invited to practice together with other families and Roger Hutchison, author and illustrator of a new book for children called The Very Best Day: The Way of Love for Children. The first chapter is Turn. What happens when we turn our hearts toward peace? How do we do it? Where do we see it? Pay attention. Look around. Look inside yourself. Where do you see examples of turning?

Please join us on Sunday and share your stories. To join, RSVP to Kathryn Carroll at KCarroll@trinitywallstreet.org by Saturday.

9:45am — An informal time to gather or join others at “the table” for your version of doughnuts and conversation
10am — The Very Best Day: The Way of Love for Children with Roger Hutchison, Kathryn Carroll, and friends

Resources

 


Song of the Week
 

Each week, we’ll share a song of the week to help you go deeper with each Sunday’s theme. The playlist will be updated weekly, and the song of the week will sit on top.