Spirituality and Discernment

Newly returned from the 1st annual Leadership Institute on Group Discernment, I am filled once again with the awareness of how hard it is to do discernment right if we aren’t grounded in God when we begin. Discernment is defined as “separating apart” – distinguishing between God’s movement within us and movements that aren’t of God. In my own mind, I have come to equate discernment with decision-making. My belief that every decision I make has an effect in the world – it furthers God’s love of it works against God’s love. This, I think, is what is meant by the concept of the Lamb’s War – we see every action in this world as affecting the spiritual state of the world.

For the purposes of group discernment, it is clearer to me after the conference that we can and should hone our skills and learn techniques for guiding a group towards unity on an issue. It is even clearer to me that achieving unity is crucial to Godly decision-making, simply because voting or any other way of making group decisions sets up a situation where one group gets what it wants at another’s expense. Since God loves us equally, I find it hard to believe that God would favor one group over another. Also, I believe that God has ONE plan for a group (God isn’t giving different and opposing ideas to different groups of people) and I believe that God does tell us what that plan is and that we can learn to hear God’s invitations towards the right thing.

Occasionally God does speak to us through burning bushes and pillars of fire – in ways that allow for no contradiction or confusion. More often, however, I think God speaks more softly and gives us choices. Those who want to know God’s mind can hear it, and those who don’t can ignore it.

In my own experience, ultimately, it does boil down to how much we want to know God’s mind and how much we are willing and able to hear the Godly things through the clamor of cultural expectations. It never ceases to amaze me just how often God does something unexpected and suprising – in fact that is often a sign to me of God’s handiwork. But if our expectations are too rigid, our “prec-conditions” on how we think God works may limit our ability to hear. Here are some of the pre-conditions I sometimes notice:

If we expect “the right way forward” to be expressed through the voices of resourceful, educated, or “hardworking” people, we are likely to miss God’s voice speaking through or on behalf of those who have less strong a voice in society, be they children, minorities, people who suffer with mental illness, uneducated, unemployed, etc.

If we expect God to require us to pick up our cross daily and for it to be a hard thing to do, we are unlikely to hear God whispering to us that we are his beloved with whom God is well pleased, and any joyful and fulfilling calls God offers.

If we haven’t learned how God speaks to us – and God does speak in different ways to each one of us – or we believe that we have flaws that keep us from hearing God, we may miss God’s tugs and nudges.

So an important part of decision-making is to continually strip away our own notions of how God does and doesn’t act in the world, and let God speak for God-self.  

Query for prayerful consideration:

What are beliefs I hold that may get in the way when I seek to know God’s way?

The Quaker Peace Testimony

Around the middle of the 1600s, the 5th Monarchymen in England sought to overthrow King Charles II and replace the monarchy with a new form of Christian law. Quaker founder George Fox was concerned that his followers might be confused with the 5th Monarchists and be charged with treason – a real threat to the fledgling Quaker movement! So George wrote a letter to Charles to explain that Quakers were not plotting against England’s ruler, neither violently nor by inciting to violence.

There was more to it than that, of course. This situation provided George with an opportunity speak about Truth.

George made it clear that his concern was not the kingdoms of this world, but the world of Christ, who is present in each person to teach them Himself. No intermediaries needed or wanted. He believed that if we truly listened to Christ within and lived in keeping with what the Spirit told us, we would act quite radically in the world.

So what did George and his wife Margaret Fell (who wrote an earlier, longer, and more stirring letter to the same effect) expect us to hear Christ say, if we listened deeply within our souls? The Peace Testimony tells us that they believed that by constantly listening, we would live in the Spirit that removes the “occasion for war”.

Their concern was not related to the sanctity of human life, although many Quakers today would explain their commitment to the peace testimony that way. In the 1600s, life expectancy was much lower, and life could be cut short at any time by accidents or infections that can easily be cured in England today. Instead, their concern was for the damage that the perpetrator of violence would do to their own soul if they broke the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”.

Although I am no expert on the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, my understanding is that he saw his own role in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in a somewhat similar way. Dietrich apparently did not believe it was right to attempt to kill Adolf, nor did he try to justify it in any way. He believed his soul would pay the highest price for participating in murder. He believed that resorting to assassination was a sign of failure on his and his co-conspirator’s part – failure of the imagination to find a non-violent solution. He believed that the solution he had found was the wrong one, and used it only because he knew something had to be done to stop Adolf, and quickly. He accepted that there would be a spiritual price for his failure, in addition to being executed.

If our goal is not just to save the life of a possible victim of violence but also to save the soul of someone who might otherwise commit violence, our choices in combating injustice are affected. It becomes clear that if violence is done, both sides lose. In fact, it becomes meaningless to talk about “sides” – there is only one side – and using violence to prevent violence becomes, well, a meaningless project.

This is one of the ways I make sense of Jesus’ commandment to love our enemies. We are not called necessarily to have warm fuzzy feelings for an enemy, but we are called to show as much loving concern for his or her soul as for our own or anyone else’s soul.

Query for prayerful reflection:

What would change in my life if my actions arose as out of as deep a concern for the soul of the “enemy” as for my own soul?

Worship without Sacrifice

(The conversation on how we can lower barriers to faith communities continues on my other blog.)

Mohandas Gandhi made a list of 7 deadly social sins that I got from Sojourner’s Magazine. 

1. Politics without principle; 2. Wealth without work; 3. Commerce without morality; 4. Pleasure without conscience; 5. Education without character; 6. Science without humanity; and 7. Worship without sacrifice.

I “get” the first six, but how could worship possibly be sinful?

Regular readers of my blog will know that I tend to dive straight into the parts that I don’t immediately understand, and this tendency is a gift of my Quaker seminary education. I know I have nothing to fear, but can look forward to spiritual insight and growth in my relationship with God. So I took the challenge.

In order not to deprive myself of the opportunity to encounter Truth, I decided to presume that when he says “worship”, Gandhi means a true encounter with God, not empty rituals or mindless recital. I also decided to presume that when he talks about sacrifice, Gandhi means voluntary giving of something valuable. He is neither talking about somebody taking something from another against their will that s/he can’t afford to lose nor about giving a tiny something – he is talking about voluntarily giving something of real value.

I also noticed what Gandhi isn’t saying. He is not saying that we should give because people are in need, although that would probably be true, too. Presumably Gandhi would want us to sacrifice even if there was no unmet need anywhere in creation. And since Gandhi was a Hindu, not a Christian, I also know he is not talking about the importance of sacrifice just as an expectation of followers of Jesus, who gave his life for us.

Knowing about Gandhi’s sense of responsibility for assisting Hindus to become better Hindus, Christians to become better Christians, etc, I’m guessing Gandhi says that giving is good for us. Necessary, even. I think he is saying that the act of sacrificial giving turns us into better people. It helps us to become the persons God wants us to become.

But there’s more. If true worship – a genuine encounter with the Divine – can nonetheless be made sinful by the absence of sacrifice, sacrifice must have something to do with the very nature of worship and even the nature of God! Not just for Christians, but for Hindus, Muslims and all other kinds of worshipers, too. 

This mindbending exercise leads me to Matthew 10: 8, “Freely you have received, freely give.” We must give, because in worship God has given to us. And indeed, all of chapter 10 has to do with giving and sacrificing, neither counting on a reward nor fearing punishment, but because giving things of great value is the truest expression of who God is and who we are as worshipers.

Also, I thnink giving something of value safeguards us from the temptation to worship because it makes us feel good. It does feel good to worship, and it is good to enjoy the delightful aspect of worship, but it would be a sin to worship for the purpose of feeling good.

I had an experience recently that helps me understand what all of this might mean. Not so long ago, I had the heartbreaking privilege of supporting someone through a lengthy panic attack. It had gone on for a long time and he had taken his medication without getting much relief. This physical fear still held him in its grip. Soothing touch did not help much either. We prayed together for the lessening of his fear and it did help, but not very much. He told me that part of his anxiety had to do with his powerlessness to help someone he knew who was hurting more than he was, and so I suggested that we pray for her. We held her in God’s loving Light, and within seconds, my anxious friend had relaxed and fallen asleep. It was in giving that he received. In trying to pass God’s love on to another, he was filled with it himself.    

So the nature of God is “giving”, and when we give, it not only makes us better people, but it makes us feel good, too. Isn’t that an inviting way of thinking about tithing and giving away material and societal valuables in order to achieve justice?!

Query for prayerful consideration:

How is giving good for me? How does my giving affect worship? What do I wish to give sacrificially?

Fighting Against, Standing With, or Building Bridges?

I promised earlier that I would talk about steps we can take towards making our faith communities more welcoming of people who don’t fit the majority profile, whatever that may be in a particular community (I was talking specifically about liberal Quakers and class when I said that, but now I want to broaden it out a bit because I think these issues are neither unique to liberal Quakers nor that the exclusionary dynamic applies only to class). This line of spiritual musing started for me in my January 22 blog on Faith and Class. In blog posts or comments since then, I’ve mused about the privilege of education, and touched on race, economic disparities, citizenship, and cultural belonging, too. Those are just some of the guises privilege can take, and there are others, too. 

Before I write a blog about steps we can take, I want to let you know that – to the best of my ability – all the steps I promote will be of the bridge-building or standing-with variety. One of my growing religious convictions, based on my own experience, is that a “conflicting interests” or adversarial mode rarely changes anyone’s mind. Quite the contrary, the adversarial mode just gets us all more firmly entrenched in our particular positions. My approaches will assume common cause.    

Right now you may be asking, “Why is Susanne writing about overcoming privilege? I thought this was supposed to be a blog about faith?” To me, this is very much a matter of faith, because I believe that one of the ways we show our love of God is by treating each person as a beloved child of God. The Bible tells us that God requires it of us. And societal privilege distracts from the Beloved-of-God view by drawing our attention to things like skin color, language, or style of clothing.

My belief in bridge-building rather than conflicting-interest approaches also arises out of my faith. My faith tells me that there is a Divine Order that creation strives towards, a second “Eden.” It will be a place of harmony where every person will have what they need and no-one’s needs will be met at the expense of another. It will never be fully achieved in this life, we will only know complete peace and rest when we are re-united with God after death. What this means in terms of addressing privilege is that that ultimate goal, whether we have one skin color or another, a large or a small amount of money etc, is the same. God’s will doesn’t contain goals that are different and conflicting. What is good for one is good for all.

So my presumption is that the person with more privileges will feel better when they have given them away. God will stop pricking their conscience all the time, and he or she (or me) will finally be in the place of freedom that we accomplish when we live in accordance with God’s desire for us. The emotion I try to draw upon when dealing with someone I perceive to have more privilege is compassion, not anger. A large task of doing away with injustices is to lovingly convince people with more privilege that it is in their own self-interest to let go of them. So I seek to stand with people with more privilege as well as standing with those with fewer and trying to minimize the suffering of the latter.

I can imagine a few of my readers saying, “Wow, is she naive?!” Perhaps I am. Yet I have arrived at this understanding after being an activist type for over 20 years. I started my activist life working within a conflicting-interests mode in the anti-apartheid movement in Norway, and it’s only in fairly recent years that I have adopted the bridge-building approach. When I take a step back to assess when I have been most effective in addressing injustices, it is clear that – for me – bridge-building is by far the more effective approach! I also think of South Africa’s way of transitioning out of apartheid as one of bridge-building and assuming common cause, and that South Africans were far more effective in righting wrongs than countries like Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Israel/Palestine. It gives me hope that Quakers in Kenya are trying to build an understanding of common-cause among the parties in that conflict. See their pastoral letter to their political leaders and the open letter to the Kenyan people.

As a chaplain and spiritual director, I also am drawn to standing-with. And praying. Many of my posts from previous months talk about that side of my ministry, so I won’t go into that now.

I make no claim to be an expert on conflict resolution. All I can do is go where God leads me, and as I seek to address injustices these days, I am drawn to bridge-building rather than “fighting-against.”

Queries for prayerful consideration:

In what way(s) does God call me to take on injustices: Fighting against, standing with, or building bridges? How about praying?

The Spirituality of Privilege

I want to start my blog today with a confession about class and privilege. As I followed the discussion on Quakers and class via www.quakerquaker.org, I said that I find it hard to place myself in any particular class or culture. My mea culpa (or confession) today is that I didn’t see at first how much of a privilege it is to be in the educated class and have one physician parent and one with ministerial education (though he never worked as a minister). The truth I see today is that education on its own is a tremendous privilege that allows me to transcend many of the other challenges my life might have given me. I can navigate around the hurdles of being a non-citizen because of my education, and making my way in the world without a “network” was possible because of my education. I am a privileged person, and I think I can attribute 90% of that to my education. As with most confessions, it feels wonderful to let go of the deceit I have been involved in.

So….. What do we do about educational privilege? Those of us with privilege need to be willing to give it up. Unfortunately there is no such thing as “un-educating”. But we can do something to level the playing field for the next generation. In fact, part of my discovery that education indeed is such a privilege, has come about as a result of my experiences of trying not to take advantage of privileges my daughters could have had in the Seattle School District. Part of the reality of privilege has become apparent to me in the resistance and emotional intensity I met as I tried NOT to use it. 

In a nutshell, the Seattle School Board last year proposed a change that would give high school students greater access to their local schools, thereby limiting their freedom to go to a high school of their choice. The result of this would have been that the high-performing schools in the north of Seattle would take about 900 fewer students from the Rainier Valley in the south, which tends to be poorer, has a much higher percentage of African American students, and where the schools tend to perform less well academically. Although my own children would have benefited from the proposed plan – we live in the north and this would have guaranteed them better access to the good schools closer to where we live – I could not in good conscience accept this at the expense of the kids in the Rainier Valley. As I spoke up at community meetings about how those of us with privilege should refrain from trying to get more privileges for ourselves, I was amazed to see how upset some of the parents became at my description of us as “privileged”. 

What did I learn about privilege by trying to give it up?

Firstly, that the privilege of education is real. I am convinced that I would not have been met with as much emotional intensity otherwise.

Secondly, when we are privileged, we tend not to recognize it. That reinforces for me that we need to be in mixed groups so that others can help us to see our privilege, thereby setting us free to join in God’s movement towards justice by giving up the privilege we have. It’s a huge problem that 90% of liberal Quakers are college graduates: unless the non-grads speak very loudly, it is hard for the college-educated among us to see ourselves clearly! 

Third, I think part of the reason people with privilege don’t recognize our own privilege is that we don’t feel good. Our culture teaches us that we should pursue privilege (wealth, possessions, education, etc) because those things will make us feel safe and good and virtuous. There is some truth to that – we do feel good if we are not worrying about how to feed our children or find shelter for the night. But if we have more than we need, if we have stuff that came to us unfairly, or if our privilege keeps other people from having what they need – we can’t possibly feel good! God will be pricking our consciences all the time. What do we do if we don’t feel good? Our market-economy-run-amuck has a one-size-fits-all-solution: try to get more stuff, more privilege! Our society – our churches in particular – fail in that we don’t speak enough about the fact that many of us would feel better if we gave something away. So when people with privilege feel bad, all we know how to do is seek MORE privilege. It is a very, very sad vicious cycle.  

Fourth, I think many of us who decide to take on the injustices of privilege presume that people with privilege know they are privileged. During the school assignment discussion, it honestly never occurred to me that people in my predominantly wealthy, highly educated neighborhood would be upset with me for describing us as privileged. Even though I know better, I made the mistake of buying into the idea that people with privilege feel good and I expected that they would know they can afford to give up their goodies. But people with privilege don’t feel good, and consequently don’t think they have any goodies they can give up! They are scared that, as badly as they feel, they’ll feel even worse if they give something up.

Fifth, when we combat injustice, I think we often fail to understand just how miserable and scared those with privilege are. We don’t have much compassion. But what I have learned as a chaplain is that a person who is afraid is often to all intents and purposes deaf: only compassion can reach a scared person, and only promises of something good can open the frightened heart. Jesus told us to love our enemies for good reason. We need to speak about how good it feels to give up privilege. And it DOES feel good!

Sixth, my experience is also, if we are privileged, it is easier to accept the fact of our privilege if we are offered both forgiveness and concrete suggestions for steps to take to correct the situation. For most people it is harder to leave the relative comfort of what we know if we don’t know what the next step will be. When parents at our children’s school were offered an opportunity to go into a partnership with a school with fewer privileges than ours, there was immediate and enthusiastic involvement. I think we like to be generous and helpful if we only know how! 

And finally, I think to redress the privilege that education can be, we need to make it a little less lopsided. Today it is geared primarily towards academic knowledge. That hurts us all because it makes for competition. It makes education into an idol. In addition to academic knowledge, our schools ought to teach how to achieve economic justice, compassion for the marginalized, that the important things in life are not things but relationships, and that we can’t feel good unless everyone in the world has the basics of education, food, shelter, and the resources to be productive.  

More Thoughts about Faith and Class

As I have read and pondered the question on class and faith (see yesterday’s post for links), I have also thought about my own background and how it might influence my perspective. I don’t know how to answer more than a couple of questions in the various questionnaires that try to place a person in terms of privilege, so here’s the quick background on my “class” in bio form. 

My father is South African, my mother Norwegian. I grew up in Botswana with two Batswana foster siblings, one of whom died of “witch craft” as a teenager. I spent 10 years in Botswana, then 16 years in Norway, and have been here in the USA now for more than a decade. My life has been lived being tugged between opposites. Who knows what my culture or class was or is? Not Norwegian, not South African, not Tswana, not American. I belonged to the rich elite by Botswana standards, but was poor by Norwegian standards. Here in the USA I’m a “legal resident alien” with few legal rights, but I’m privileged by virtue of education. My profession gives me status, but let me advise you not to go into chaplaincy or spiritual direction if you want to earn enough to pay your bills. 

I spent decades in painful identity struggles, feeling like an outsider no matter what setting I was in. In 1996, I became a hospital chaplain, and here’s what happened: 

One of the reasons I think I do well as a chaplain and spiritual director with the mentally ill is that their pain is real to me, even when the cause for their pain may be a delusion. When a woman believes that the man she loves is trying to kill her, she is in agony, and it makes no difference to her whether it is factually true or not. She is in agony one way or the other. My spiritual responses to that woman are quite similar, whether the man is trying to kill her or not: I address the sense of betrayal, the fear, and the heartbreak in similar ways. The difference in my response would lie in whether or not I call the police and other support services, and how much I would involve her reasoning capacities in my support of her (hardly at all if her fear stems from mental illness).

Another gift of chaplaincy is that I have learnt what is important in life and what is not. Whether I listen when someone looks back on their life as they approach death, or I listen to a grieving family talk about what made their loved one important, what I have noticed over the years is that they rarely talk about work, success/failure, or income levels. Unless, of course, those things caused conflict or estrangement between family members. Because relationships with loved ones seems to be the most important thing to everyone, and the extent to which they lived honorably and/or lived in accordance with their faith can also be important.

Suffering comes in many shapes and forms, and what I have learned is not to judge whether or not it has merit, but to accept each form of it as real, to respond with love and compassion, and to offer hope that the suffering will end one day. The hope I offer is something like this: there is no life without death, no love without loss. I borrow from Ecclesiastes with an added emphasis of my own: there is a time to mourn, which WILL be followed by a time to dance, there is a time to weep and it WILL be followed by a time to laugh. And God promises over and over again that no matter where we are in this life, God will be with us in it. When we mourn, God mourns with us. When we laugh, God laughs with us. 

“I thought this was supposed to be a post on class and faith?!”, you may be wondering. Bear with me a little longer, dear reader.

I said that it was a privilege to be a hospital chaplain because I have learned what is important and what is not. I need to add that that privilege came at a high price. The price I have paid is that I have been with parents holding their dead newborns in their arms. Sometimes it is a wealthy family, sometimes it is a poor family. The agony is no less real either way. It takes me weeks to recover each time I am present in a situation like that. Each visit I make to the hospital is a reminder of just how fragile my happiness is, because I know how easily I could lose everything I love in life. In the midst of privilege, I hurt.

Although I have lost my innocence, I feel I have ultimately gained far more than I have lost. What I see is that the basic human drama is the same, no matter what our class, culture, ethnicity, nationality, faith, or other background. This doesn’t mean culture, faith, etc are unimportant. There was a time in my life when a friendly question of “Where are you from?” was enough to make me burst into tears. So I’m not trying to say that class doesn’t matter. Class matters, as do other identifiers, because they are part of who we are and how we understand our world and how we understand God. And God uses the particulars of our language, culture, ethnicity, nationality, and faith to speak to us. And identifiers like class can be used to include or exclude, they can be used to give or withhold privilege. When that happens it is wrong. And I think my denomination and others ARE guilty in this regard.

Even more importantly, it REALLY matters if someone is starving or suffering any other kind of physical deprivation. 

My musings today are about the solution, and to me the solution to the problem of exclusion and privilege lies in going together to a deeper, more fundamental level, the level at which all human beings are united.   

What we all share is this, as I see it: When we mourn, we need God’s words of comfort and promise of hope. When we rejoice, we need to be reminded of those who suffer. When we are close to giving up, we need to be reminded to persevere. When we are feeling hopeless, we need to hear words of encouragement. When we are wealthy, we need to be reminded to share. When we are poor, we need to know we will be cared for. When we are hungry, we need food. When we are afraid, we need to be made safe. When we feel we are boxed in, we need to hear of God’s freedom. When we stand before a daunting task, we need be reminded to tap into God’s strength so we can survive. We need to be loved and respected.

I refuse to accept the idea that one denomination speaks to the faith condition of one class more accurately than another class, one nationality better than another, one culture better than another, one income bracket better than another. If a denomination addresses one group more than another, I think it has failed.  

Faith, for me, is ultimately about God’s love for every single human being in his or her particularity. Our calling is to be a conduit for God’s love into every person’s life, whatever their condition may be.

Query for prayerful consideration:

What is God stirring up in me with regard to these issues?

A Time to Mourn

I have been rereading Ron Sider’s book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving fom Affluence to Generosity. He starts by taking us through accounts of real men, women and children’s experiences of poverty and gives statistics that show just how many people are affected. One of those numbers is that 30,000 children die every day because of poverty. I also have been reading media accounts of suffering in places far away, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, and Kenya, and that adds to the burden. Then there is the daily dose of pain and suffering closer at hand, dutifully reported, too. Add to that the places where suffering happens outside the media’s watchful eye. All of that is painful enough for those of us who know it from experience or have the sympathetic imagination that allows us to know it, even from afar.

And then Ron Sider takes us through the causes of poverty and I get the unbearable feeling that suffering will never end. He has sections on each of these causes: personal choices, worldviews that support inequality, natural disasters, lack of technology, inequalities of power locally/nationally/globally, Western colonialism, market economies, international trade, national debt, the environmental crisis (climate, pollution, overfishing, deforestation, misuse of land) hungry countries exporting food, multinational corporations (economic, political and cultural effects), discrimination, and war. If this is what we’re up against, how can we possibly believe that some day every man, woman, and child will have food and shelter, access to education and the resources they need to be productive?

The lump in my throat grows as I consider how difficult it would be to effect change in any one of these areas. And the world needs to change in every one of them!

When the full futility hits me while I consider the amount of anguish that exists, words fail me.

Surely this can’t be real? My mind tries ideas like “Maybe none of this is real? Maybe I’m really inside a Matrix-type existence, where this other being is testing my response to perceived suffering, but the people I’m seeing and their troubles don’t really exist, except inside my mind?” No, that’s too weird…..

Another thought that comes to me is the concept of the Lamb’s War, which early Quakers liked and took primarily from the Book of Revelation: They believed that there is a spiritual realm that is parallel to this physical one which we inhabit, but the spiritual realm is actually the Real one. Each act we undertake here either strengthens the Light or weakens it in its battle against Darkness. Instead of measuring our lives by the happiness, joy, sorrow, or pain we experience, we should measure our lives by the extent to which Love grows as a result of what we do. 

Ultimately I cannot discount the suffering of the world. The stakes are too high. If there is even the remotest possibility that the vast ocean of suffering is real, I believe God calls me to wade in the water to stand with those who hurt. So I let the tears flow and despair to flood me. Not forever – soon I must return to the hope that makes it possible for me to continue tackling injustice and suffering. But for now I believe that I am called to shed my tears, and they help give expression in this physical world to God’s grief at the suffering of every one of his sons and daughters.

I see nothing that gives me logical reason to hope, but I desperately want to believe it when Jesus says:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12, NRSV)

Query for prayerful consideration:

What do I believe about mourning and faith?