Do you ever find it odd
that worshipers are greeted
as they leave the sanctuary?
This rite of transition
from comfort to challenge.
The grasping of hands, a warm smile,
a word of encouragement
as if to say
this was just the prelude—
worship begins outside these doors.
The one you seek is not here
he has gone ahead of you.
You will find him
amid the brokenness of the world.
For true worship does not consist
of heartfelt words,
of fervent prayer,
of bread and wine,
But of lives well lived
among those who need our love.
© 2014 Kurt Struckmeyer
I went to the funeral home last night
to see a friend whose life was entwined with mine.
Someone once told me
that if you want to know the truth about a person’s life,
go to their funeral.
Job, wealth, and possessions have no meaning.
Relationships and love are the only real measures
of one’s true worth.
The visitation is always a study in contrasts,
the living gathered around the dead,
the laughter amidst the grief and sorrow.
Photos of the past carefully displayed,
triggering memories of happier times.
Old friends meet again
reunited by relationships forged in youth.
We gather in community to say goodbye.
They say that she left us some time ago
lost in the arms of dementia.
Yet she died surrounded by those who loved her
in the warm embrace of her children.
And even though they may have seemed like strangers
she did not die alone.
She died in the arms of love.
And for that we are thankful.
© 2014 Kurt Struckmeyer
A darkened room
A trembling womb
Her sharp breaths cut the air
Now nearly done
The hour has come
They bring him forth with care
The child is born
In early morn
Their long-awaited one
With matted hair
He gasps for air
His journey has begun
A child’s first cries
A mother’s sighs
The sweetest song of all
Now put to breast
At last they rest
Asleep within the stall
Five fingers, toes
A button nose
Like any child, the same
His father’s son
His mother’s one
And Jesus is his name
© 2002 Kurt Struckmeyer
God of love,
source of mercy and compassion,
weave your dream for the world
into the fabric of our lives.
Remove the scales from our eyes
and lift the indifference from our hearts,
so that we may see your vision –
a new reign of justice and compassion
that will renew the earth.
Transform our lives,
so that we may accomplish your purpose.
Anoint us with your spirit of love
that we might bring good news to the oppressed,
bind up the brokenhearted,
and proclaim release to the captive.
Give us a new urgency
and a new commitment
to feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
shelter the homeless,
and visit those who live in isolation.
Help us to reach out to those
whom no one else will touch,
to accept the unacceptable,
and to embrace the enemy.
Surround us with your love,
fill us with your grace,
and strengthen us for your service.
Empower us to respond to the call of Jesus –
to deny ourselves,
to take up our crosses,
and to follow.
Make us your disciples.
© 2010 Kurt Struckmeyer
Music: Old Hundredth / “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”
Praise life that makes us change and grow
Praise love that makes compassion flow
Praise peace that ends all strife and fear
Praise hands that work for justice here
Praise ears that hear the children’s cries
Praise truth that counters cruel lies
Praise hearts that value human worth
Praise lives that build a better earth
Praise eyes that see all human need
Praise minds that cast out selfish greed
Praise lips that challenge those in power
Praise those who struggle every hour
Praise faith that keeps us ever strong
Praise hope that triumphs over wrong
Praise dreams that make our spirits rise
Praise voices raised in joyful cries
© 2013 Kurt Struckmeyer
I believe in the hidden God of love:
the spirit of love and compassion
found at the breadth and depth
of every human life.
I believe in the vision of Jesus:
the reigning of God on earth,
found where people and societies
are governed by the rule of love.
I believe in the way of Jesus:
a love for God and neighbor,
a love for stranger and enemy,
a love for outcast and alien.
I believe in the abundant life of Jesus:
a life of acceptance, inclusion, and forgiveness,
a life of equality, generosity, and sharing,
a life of compassion, service, and nonviolence.
I believe that Jesus modeled the godly life:
healing the sick and serving the poor,
seeking dignity and equality for all people,
and calling for shared wealth and economic justice.
For this he was condemned and crucified
by those who serve the forces of domination
in every time and place.
I believe that though he died,
the spirit of Jesus lives on
among those who strive for peace and justice
and who work to create a better world.
In the name of Jesus,
and in the name of love,
I commit myself to care for others,
to break down the barriers that separate us,
and to seek justice and peace in the world.
© 2014 Kurt Struckmeyer
Holy Week recounts the story of Jesus’ march to Jerusalem, his teachings and disruptive actions in the Temple, his arrest, trial, and execution. And on Easter Sunday, we hear of his resurrection from the dead as a vindication by God of his life and message. On Easter, we celebrate the uprising of Jesus, an uprising that has the power to transform lives and the course of history.
According to the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), sometime in his third year of healing and teaching in Galilee, after building the core of his movement, Jesus set his sights on Jerusalem in Judea. He decided to go here to confront the Sadducees—the rich and powerful rulers of the people—at their symbolic seat of power. He entered the city in a noisy act of political street theater and then interrupted the operations of the Jerusalem Temple with a demonstration for economic justice.
Jesus clearly understood that imprisonment, torture, and death are always potential and likely consequences of the pursuit of justice in an unjust society. He cautioned his followers that in order to follow him, they must be willing to risk public execution on a cross—the Roman penalty for civil disobedience and insurrection by impoverished and dispossessed people. It was a time requiring courageous decision. Jesus was heading towards a confrontation with power that risked his life and the lives of his followers. Continue reading
This post is a response to a recent article on Tony Robert’s blog by guest blogger Lenora Rand, titled “New Communion Words.”
Rand reflects on her experience distributing communion at the Wild Goose Festival, an annual gathering that focuses on justice, spirituality, music and the arts. The festival is “rooted in the Christian tradition” and is popular among progressive Christians and many involved with the emerging church movement. The name Wild Goose comes from a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit.
I was . . . suddenly so uncomfortable with the words I have always known to say during communion. As they were coming out of my mouth, my head was swirling with questions about whether these particular words adequately reflected my beliefs anymore.
The body of Christ, broken for you.
The blood of Christ, shed for you.
I started thinking about it afterwards though. Wondering, what do I really believe about atonement? And about this sacrament? What else could I say with conviction during communion?
Rand is raising the issue of how the ancient practice of the eucharist is being impacted by the postmodern world in which many traditional doctrines of the church are being questioned and reevaluated. Continue reading
There is an old joke that asks, “What do you call a man who loves another man?” The answer: “a Christian.” It is ironic, isn’t it, that Christians are foremost among those who object to a man loving another man and a woman loving another woman?
By the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, deciding whether gay marriage should be legal across the country—a decision that will alter the social fabric of the nation. Such a decision will be a huge win for gay marriage advocates, but the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community will continue to fight legal battles over equal rights for decades. And they will continue to struggle for legitimacy in the eyes of the church.
A majority of American voters say they support a Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry, but the issue remains far from settled among socially conservative religious communities that have repeatedly proclaimed biblical support for human injustice. Christine Smith writes:
Through its theologies, biblical interpretations, and sexual ethics, the Christian church is one of the primary institutions that provide a foundation for social and ecclesiastical oppression of lesbians and gay men.
(Preaching as Weeping, Confession, and Resistance)
Yet a growing number of other Christians are challenging traditional religious thinking, rejecting homophobia and heterosexism because of a different set of theological and biblical perspectives. The result has been enormous conflict in the church. Sexual issues are tearing churches apart today as never before. The issue of homosexuality threatens to fracture whole denominations, as the issue of slavery did a hundred and fifty years ago. Long after this matter is settled in secular society, churches will continue to argue over the struggle between ancient revealed truth and contemporary human justice. Continue reading
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
– The prophet Micah (NRSV)
I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
– Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire”
Can kindness save the world? That is the question I posed as I reflected on the theme of ‘transforming the world through loving kindness.’ Are we really talking about changing the world through small acts of kindness, perhaps from one stranger to another? If so, are we discussing a movement like London’s ‘Kindness Offensive,’ known for orchestrating large-scale ‘random acts of kindness?’ Although kindness is an important virtue, and the world is all the better for it, can friendly, gentle, caring, considerate, and helpful people change the entrenched systems of domination, poverty, and violence that we face in our neighborhoods, nation, and the global community? Kindness may give pleasure to others and make us feel better in return, but I suspect that transforming the world will require more than simple acts of kindness that lift someone’s spirits.
Perhaps the answer to my question can be found by exploring the meaning of the phrase ‘loving kindness.’ That intriguing expression offers new insights. There are two ways of looking at this phrase and it turns out they are interconnected. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is in reference to the poetry of Micah 6:8 in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation—“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” In this context, it is important to grasp what it means to ‘love kindness,’ (a verb with an objective noun), particularly in partnership with such concepts as ‘justice’ and ‘humility.’ A second way of looking at the phrase is by examining the peculiar hyphenated word ‘loving-kindness’ (a compound noun), invented by Miles Coverdale (1488-1569) when he created the first English translation of the Bible in 1535. If this is the case, one wonders why ‘kindness’ needs a modifier. Is there any other kind of kindness than the loving kind? Continue reading