Friday, August 28, 2009

Filled with Scripture, Filled with Christ

Had tea in Venice this week with a good friend from Harbor Springs, Michigan, who was here for some work – he and his partner are doing a documentary on President Reagan.

During the 16 months of my interim there, I joined a group of men every Tuesday morning at 7:30 for a hour of Bible reading, sharing and prayer led by my friend. For me, it was the best, and I came to love that fellowship of faith – an amalgam of liberals and conservatives, working guys and retired, men of wealth and men with so-so incomes, but in that special place, we were all joined together in Christ, humbled by his grace and hungry for his instruction.

I think again and again of a life filled with Scripture. Filled with its message, the big picture; a life filled with Christ.

I ask myself questions:
Is my life filled with Scripture?
Is my life filled with Christ?
Am I surrendered to him?

Much of my life IS filled with Scripture, but not a week goes by without a fresh discovery, and as for being filled? There’s an ocean of room in my life for even more. And if it’s not filled with Scripture, it’s just plain empty, or worse, it’s filled with junk.

Much of my life IS filled with Christ, but much of me remains stubbornly and foolishly unrepentant. But Christ is greater and Christ is gracious.

I AM surrendered to Christ, as well. That happened a long time ago. But every day, I pray the Acts 16:5 prayer, for an elder-prayer partner and myself, a part of which reads: “LORD, grant _________ and me the grace today to commit our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ without reservation….”

Dear friends in Christ, work on this with me.
To fill our lives with Scripture.
To fill our lives with Christ.
To surrender to him every day, and every day, make the good effort!

Blessings in Christ, and in Christ, peace and goodness!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blessed Assurance?

Blessed assurance, we sing, Jesus is mine.

All that he has is ours, freely given, for this life and for the life to come.

Such is the heart and soul of God’s mighty plan of salvation, set in motion from before the beginning of time, to create a world and a creature endowed, unlike any other, with a special responsibility and a vast capacity to build and to love.

And when that creature (you and me) turned away from the Creator and chose the forbidden fruit instead, a new chapter had to be written in the mighty plan of salvation.

Over the ages and through the hills, the plan unfolded until the cry of a child was heard in Bethlehem’s cradle, a cry to be echoed again upon the cross of Calvary.

The joy of being a Christian is know Christ, and to know something about this mighty plan of God, and to know and trust that nothing in this life, or in the life to come, can separate us from the love of God, for Jesus is mine, and Jesus is yours – because of God’s mighty plan and God’s ceaseless love.

John Calvin writes of Christ: He alone is the fountain of life, the anchor of salvation, and the heir of the Kingdom of heaven [3.24.5).

He is, as Paul the Apostle writes, our all-in-all.

Set your mind and heart on Christ today … and sing with gratitude, Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine … oh what a foretaste of glory divine.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Large Warehouse in Canton

From my colleague and good friend, the Rev. Robert Orr, Canton, MI ... in response to my poem, "LA Soup Kitchen" - Robert writes eloquently of his own recent experience with his son, Caleb ... with his permission, of course.


I was very moved by your poem and could feel my way with you into the soup kitchen experience. Thank you for writing it. I hope you go again. Hunger in America has an ugly face but it's a face we need to stare into, pray about, and work to alleviate. I have always admired the ministry of the Catholic Worker movement and the legacy of Dorothy Day as she and her people lift up the least, the lost and the last.

Caleb and I went yesterday afternoon to a large warehouse here in Canton and helped out as we have before with a food distribution program. Every Wednesday the trucks come to the location. They're from Gleaners and Last Harvest (?) and others . .who are "saving" food from being thrown away because of expired dates or too ripe fruit and vegetable conditions. Then every Thursday folks bag it up in smaller sizes and around 5 o'clock the cars start coming. They have registered before this so the size of their family is known and an appropriate amount is given. The carts start rolling with the groceries on them. Hundreds of families in car after car come through the parking lot for their food pick up. Hunger in America. It shouldn't be. Is this the kind of country we're proud of? Is this the "united" states under the waving red, white and blue? What country am I seeing? Who are these people? Who am I? What's going on here? What sad commentary am I seeing? What documentary am I part of? I don't stare, but I want to look into the passing cars, pausing ever to collect their bags of groceries. I want to meet these brothers, and sisters and children. Aren't these my family? But we seldom see one another. We seldom speak. I do look from time to time. I have to see their faces.

(when Dorothy Day was a college student) "She has also undergone a kind of preconversion; and though she is nowhere within shouting distance of the church, she has taken its measure, she knows where to find it. She knows what he church looks like; or, infinitely more to the point, she knows what is should look like."

"Our best and truest memories are invariably suffused with gratitude. I am grateful beyond words for the grace of this woman's life; for her sensible, unflinching rightness of mind, her long and lonely truth, her journey to the heart of things. I think of her as one who simply helped us, in a time of self-inflicted blindness, to see."

--both quotes are from Portraits Of Those I Love, Daniel Berrigan, 1982

"The group of followers all felt the same way about everything. None of them claimed that their possessions were their own, and they shared everything they had with each other." Acts 4:32


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

LA Soup Kitchen

An experience of heart and body.

Hard work, for sure.

Gallons of milk poured.

Bread buttered by the ton.

Bags of bagels sliced.

Tomatoes and diced onions served up.

On top of

Salad and

Hearty lentil stew and

Scrambled eggs.

Homemade by folks

Who know their way around hot stoves

And boiling pots.

Met a lot of people.

Teared up a few times.

Heart moved with the pageantry of

The long slow line:

Folks receiving what is given,

Folks giving what they have.

Donated food, for sure, and thank God.

Dated, but good.






And maybe, even the corner of a

Depleted soul.

Twice we prayed … start of the day … and before we served … “not food,” said Jeff; “we serve people.”

O God, when I have food,

Help me to remember the hungry.

Catholic Workers ...

Volunteers ...

Two lovely ladies from Westchester ...

Know some folks I know.

Sweet … they know how to

Stack the buttered bread in the blue

Laundry baskets, just so, and just right.

I could imagine them fussing in

Their own kitchens, for Christmas Dinner or

Someone’s birthday.

That’s how careful they were.

Two young girls – one from Ohio; her friend from Virginia.

The father of the Ohio girl, a marine weapons' instructor ...

Jeff the manager ... he runs a tight ship.

Cooks and bottle-washers ...

Maybe 15 volunteers in all …

A virtuoso piano player …

Playing from memory …

Gosh, he was good – concert-hall level, or so it seemed to me.

I think he used to live on the streets.

He lives in the Worker House now.

Catholic Workers …

Sons and daughter of Dorothy Day.

A tough woman

Who smoked and




Tough problems, with a

Deep love for Jesus … the Jesus of

The Bible …

The One who loved folks so profoundly,

To remind us of the Father’s love so unconditionally.

For the street people:

Folks down on their luck ...

Part-time workers …

Struggling to make it ...

Words float through my mind:

Homeless …

Unwanted …

Used up and

Abused …

Young and strong.

Old and senile.

Women of the street … you know what I mean.

Men of the street, too …

What one does to make a few bucks.

Anything to survive.

A mélange of the streets:

The mentally challenged ...

Dazed and weary ...

Singing and mumbling …

Staring off into some world unseen by me.

The old woman shuffling through the day …

Cheerful and cordial … polite and soft-spoken.

“Thank you, thank you – could I have one more tomato slice, please?”

“No thanks, uh uh … to much acid.”

The young man with the sparkling eyes …

Who believes he’s going to make it.

Like a box of crayons,



Color and size and shape ...

Some hardly used at all,

Some just bits and pieces ...

“Our task,” said Jeff, “is to see

The Face of

Jesus in every face

We see.”

Yes, now I remember, Matthew 25 …

LORD, everyone of them, tattered and tired

As they may be … are





© The Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Eggebeen, Los Angeles, CA

We Believe

 A Confession of Faith written for August 23, 2009

© The Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Eggebeen, Los Angeles, CA

We believe:
That heaven and earth are created and
Sustained by God’s unfailing love.
That life is sacred and all creatures, great and small, are
Precious in the sight of their creator.
We believe that sin emerged and took hold in the human heart.
Something dark and deadly.
A relentless self-interest.
Blinding us to God and dividing humanity against itself.
We believe that God is at work to undo the power of sin.
To set things right and make all things new.
We believe that God’s love is universal and unconditional.
That God is determined:
To save all of creation;
To stand against death in all its many forms;
Until death is no more.
We believe there is a wideness in God’s mercy, greater than our greatest dreams,
And brighter than our highest hopes!
We believe that Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us.
That Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of God.
That his cradle and cross set the pace of our faith.
It is Jesus who invites to:
Follow him and learn his ways.
To help women and men know their true identity and live in peace with one another.
We are grateful:
For our calling in Christ.
Our baptism and the LORD's Table.
The Holy Spirit.
The love of God.
The saints who’ve gone before and live in the pure light of Christ.
And for the Bible that tells us so.
These are some of the things we believe and live.
For the glory of God, now and forever more.
Amen and Amen!

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Dance with the Bible

I remember buying my first Bible, sometime in late high school – a huge thing it was, a Thompson’s Chain Reference, King James Version, of course and leather bound, all nice and black – took a front-end loader to carry the thing.

I remember pouring over the indices, with all of their numbers and cross-references – it was my first dive into the cool and murky waters of Scripture, and Acts 4:16 was the first ever Bible verse I memorized. Well, not exactly the first. You see, in Vacation Bible School, we all had to memorize a daily Bible verse, and all the boys, of course, “memorized” the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” – we relied on that one to get us through the day.

Over the years, we’ve danced – sometimes cheek-to-cheek, at arms’ length sometimes, and even in separate rooms sometimes.

We’ve been lovers, some might say … and in the worst times, I’ve turned to its pages for solace and healing, and it’s always been given. I’ve not always understood everything, and sometimes I’ve misunderstood. But that’s like any relationship in life, isn’t it? And there’s always more to discover.

As of late, I’ve been doing a series of Sunday messages on King David; I’ve been diving deep into the remarkable stories that lay out for us the life and times of David, and like most any biography anywhere, this is no fairy tale. It’s filled with everything the human drama can serve up – love and lust and loyalty; betrayal and bitterness; forgiveness and healing; tears and treachery and torment and terror; darkness of soul and despair of spirit; loneliness and longing; hatred and murder; war and wantonness, and then some.

And a still quiet voice woven into the stained and tattered fabric of life: God is present; God is at work; at work within the world we manage to give to God; at work for good; our good, and the good of all the world.

Over the years, it has weighed heavily upon my spirit – the life it calls me to, a life of trust and radical reliance on God; a life devoted to love and the reformation of soul and the healing of the nations; a life lived in Christ, for Christ and with Christ; a life of compassion and mercy and kindness and gentleness for the down-and-out; and a life willing to stand up and be counted when the powers and principalities of darkness assert their will and way – the ways of death and war and poverty and disease; the ways of Babylon, Revelation 18.

To be covered in the dust of the rabbi – to walk so closely with Jesus, that the dust of the pathway upon which he trods covers me – that his words soak into my soul like beet pickling juice, coloring my soul with his passion for the crowds wandering aimlessly in the wilderness of plenty and prosperity.

So, here I am tonight. I spent a good deal of time of today reading a Jewish New Testament scholar, Amy Jill Levine – about a good Jewish boy named Jesus and a faithful Jewish Pharisee named Saul, later to become Paul the Apostle.

Dancing with the Bible.

Sometimes I lead, but most of the time, she leads … as it should be. For who am I to set the pace for a life I barely understand, a world that seems mostly beyond my grasp, issues that defy analysis, intractable sin and the deepest, darkest mysteries of love and death and hatred and beauty.

It took me a long time to learn that much of the Bible is simply a mirror of life – this is the way we are, and this is the way it is – sometimes glorious and sometimes so ugly we’re surprised it’s in the Bible.

But that’s the point, I suppose – I’m in the Bible, and so are you, and sometimes I’m beautiful, and sometimes I’m ugly, and much of the time, I’m somewhere in between, and not a day passes without the grace of God holding me close and getting me through and guiding me over, as the days of my life race onward to whatever the end will be, an end I can only dimly sense, as it makes my stomach churn from time-to-time when I really think about, an end that will really be the end of me, at least here and now …

But a promise in its strange and obscure pages – a promise of life beyond life, life beyond death, and even life beyond life beyond death, as the love and wonder of God unfolds the yet untold glories of who we are in Christ, and what we shall become.

Well, that’s about enough for now.

That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, and the news from your town and mine … because every town belongs to God, and to God, we all belong … like Willie Nelson singing now as I write, “Livin’ in the Promised Land.”

To God be the glory … and to this remarkable book we call the Bible, a blessing – thank you God for every bit of it, and thank you for your amazing grace.