Food for the spirit
|Where do "liberals"
find the strength they need - and the direction - for the struggle for
freedom and justice and peace? We hope to share in this page an
occasional morsel of nourishment for the liberal spirit.
And we invite your contributions! If you
have a poem or meditation, a prayer or even maybe a sermon (but it
better be good!) to share here, please send it to
Click here for "Food for the Spirit"
posted from 1999 through 2005
"More food for the
posted in 2010 and ....?
O God, You Give Welcome
A Hymn for Family Promise
ST. DENIO 18.104.22.168 (“Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”)
O God, you
give welcome; you care and provide.
You cherish each person with love reaching wide.
We’re made in your image and so hear your call
To humbly reach out with a welcome to all.
Yet near us
are families with no place to stay
And children who won’t have a good meal today.
Your will is for justice where everyone thrives;
May we build communities, strengthening lives.
who wish for a permanent place
And youth who are longing to have their own space.
Bless parents who feel that they’re struggling alone;
May we share their journey to find a new home.
of worship we use a new way,
As classrooms are turned into places to stay.
Bless kitchens where suppers are gladly prepared
And each sacred space where your welcome is shared.
Tune: Welsh folk melody.
Alternative Tune: William James
Kirkpatrick, 1895. CRADLE SONG 22.214.171.124 (“Away in a Manger”)
Text: Copyright © 2011by
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is the
Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor
(Discipleship Resources/Upper Room Books, 2009) and
Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today's Worship
(Geneva Press, 2000) and the co-pastor of Limestone Presbyterian
Church in Wilmington, Delaware (a hosting congregation for
Family Promise) . A complete list of her 180+ hymns can be found
For this same hymn in
easy-to-print PDF format >>
Just a little prayer for you all --
May the sun bring new energy by day,
may the moon safely restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your worries,
may the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk through the world
and know its beauty
all the days of your life.
– Apache blessing
I saw this prayer on
the wall of a fair-trade gift shop in Viroqua, Wisconsin, and it
just feels like it's worth sharing. [7-22-10]
A poem for Lent
This comes to us from
the Rev. Bobbie McGarey, a regular contributor to this site, and
pastor serving First Presbyterian Church, Lawton, Oklahoma
We watch the Olympic athletes make their best
and sometimes that is not enough.
We, not so unlike them. fall on our best faith move
sometimes our faith is not enough.
So we walk through Lent
Thanks be to God for God's mercy.
Overtures, reading and seeing, and looking at
the same Jesus
dare we claim to see issues before us with Jesus' eyes?
But so do they... they claim they are seeing right.
'They is a four letter word' Let's give it up for Lent
Thanks be to God for God's mercy.
Are we the We of Christ we were/are called to
Lenten contemplating time for followers .
Thanks be to God for God's mercy.
Bobbie's almost daily musings are found at
A Hymn for the First Sunday in Lent
The Rev. Carolyn Winfrey
Gillette has written a hymn entitled “Our Lord, You Were Sent,”
which is suggested for the first Sunday in Lent.
You can find it on her new website, which
includes over 150 of the new words she has written for singing
with mostly familiar hymn tunes.
hymn “Our Lord, You Were Sent” >>
For the home page of her
A "What If" concerning Generosity
From Phil Leftwich, Executive Presbyter of
the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee. We thank him for his
permission to post this.
I both saw and read several news articles this
past weekend about a family in Atlanta who have started a
foundation to set a model before us of "sacrificial giving." It
began with the father and his daughter driving in the city. A
Mercedes pulled alongside their car just as the teenaged
daughter was reading the sign of a homeless man asking for help.
She began to do some personal soul searching, and then her own
spiritual journey became a discussion around the family's dinner
table. Once they looked at all they owned and how little they
were proportionately giving others the course became clear. They
moved out of their multi-million dollar house and downsized,
began giving to others in a meaningful way that has included a
mission in Ghana, and have humbly stayed out of the media
spotlight until this last weekend. What a change this has made
in all of their lives!
I'm not oblivious to the reality that we are
living in hard times and that the fears that are driving the
economics and politics of our nation are permeating the heart of
our churches. Nevertheless, if there was ever a time when giving
to others as individuals and as the Church are important, I
don't remember it in my lifetime. I am convinced that each of us
– and our congregations – can reach deeper than we have. I also
read that so far $600,000,000 has been sent in charitable relief
to Haiti. That's a wonderful statement of how we Americans do
respond to human suffering and tragedy. The personal
proportional amount of charitable giving, however, hovers at
around 1.5% of net income. In many of our churches in PMT the
pledge amount hovers at around 2.5%. Can we all reach deeper
into a form of more sacrificial giving? I believe we can. Has
this changed my own way of looking at my life? You bet!
As Lent begins next Wednesday we enter a
season of self-discernment and prayerful thought about whose we
are. What if it becomes a time of rethinking and perhaps
revisioning who we are called to be as disciples of Jesus the
Christ? What if we all reached a little deeper into our hearts-
and into our wallets or pocketbooks – so that we begin a new
journey of stewardship that is a lifestyle that reflects our
discipleship? As one person said yesterday in a TV interview,
"Give until it feels good!" What if. . .
Grace and peace,
|A little Christmas story – when
God didn’t do quite enough
THE MISSING FIVE
are on our own, and we are not alone."
you believe that faith never changes, and that “Church” should be a
reasonably stable set of beliefs and behaviors that we can depend on
in a changing world – then DON’T READ THIS SERMON.
But if you believe that faith is a radical
attitude of trust which enables us to be open to the new and the
strange, even to the “Other;” if you think living as “Church” means
being on a journey, a pilgrimage with no settled end, but always
moving forward, higher, deeper, into light and often through
darkness – and that we do this best when we have the right kind of
company on the way – then
And let’s talk about it!
send a note.
True Story from President-Elect Barack Obama’s Life (20 years ago)
We just received
this from the Rev. Bruce Gillette, with the note that many
preachers might find it helpful. He begins:
lectionary lesson for Christ the King Sunday is
There is a true story from the life of President-elect
Barak Obama that is a good illustration of spontaneous acts of
mercy that Jesus praises in his final public teaching before his
The past election
includes far too many personal attacks and rumors that were
false. It would be good to share this true story to help
Americans get to know our new president. More importantly it is
a reminder of how Christ calls us to care for the strangers that
we encounter in our lives.
the full story >>
|A thanksgiving hymn:
“Whatever You Do”
The Rev. Bruce Gillette has just sent a new hymn written
by his spouse and co-pastor, Carolyn Gillette, which he describes as “inspired
by Matthew 25:31-46, this year's lectionary text for this coming Sunday.
Many churches have special offerings for the poor around Thanksgiving that
make this hymn very appropriate.”
|The Fiction of Boundaries
a big deal these days -- be they national, racial, religious,
economic, or whatever. But Trina Zelle, former Co-Moderator of
the Witherspoon Society, recently preached a sermon for the
Presbytery of Grand Canyon in which she explored Jesus' radical
teaching about family as including everyone. That means, she
says, that "welcoming the stranger," while it's a good thing, must
always be following by accepting that "stranger" as fully a part of
read her sermon >>
A little poem about being right
S T O P
we are really
mcgarey 2008 july 27
to the Rev. Bobbie McGarey
A Pentecost gift for Witherspoon ... and for you
Ralph G. Clingan sent us a sermon he has prepared for Pentecost
Sunday, for a congregation that he describes as having been
“mortally wounded by a homophobic fundamentalist fellow
He traces the meaning of the gift of the
Spirit as helping us to overcome “Past Hurts, Low Self Esteem,
Grudges, and Resentments,” and helping others to do the same.
Read his sermon >>
Working for peace
...“beginning from within”
Your WebWeaver recently joined about a dozen other men for a
five-day retreat at a nearby Trappist monastery – observing
silence for most of the time, with an hour and a half each
morning for work alongside the monks. I reflected on this deeply
good time in the Spring issue of Network News, and would
like to share my thoughts with you in our wider web audience.
I came home thinking of how all of us – right, left and center –
might benefit from giving ourselves more time for silence, and
taking our own inwardness more seriously. As one Buddhist
teacher puts it, we need to begin peacemaking by dealing with
the wars within us.
The Whale ... and liberation
This liberating story was
forwarded to us by Witherspooner Bill Knox.
If you read the
front page story of the SF Chronicle [in December,
2005], you would have read about a female humpback whale who had
become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She
was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her
to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of
line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line
tugging in her mouth.
A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands
(outside the Golden Gate ) and radioed an environmental group
Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that
she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and
A very dangerous proposition.
One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer.
They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed
her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed
like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver,
one at a time, and nudged them, pushed gently around-she thanked
them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience
of their lives.
The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was
following him the
whole time, and he will never be the same.
May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate as
to be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from
the things that are binding you. And may you always know the joy
of giving and receiving gratitude.
I pass this on to you, my friend, in the same spirit.
Easter Hope in a Good Friday World
by Paul E. Capetz[5-28-07]
Dr. Paul E. Capetz is joining Douglas Ottati
in the writing of "Theological Musing," a regular column for Network News.
He is Associate Professor of Historical Theology at United Theological
Seminary of the Twin Cities.
In this personal reflection on the events we
recently remembered and celebrated in Holy Week, he suggests that the heart
of the story is not the cheering story of Easter, but the painfully real
story of Good Friday. He writes:
It is not the doctrine [of atonement],
but the story of Jesus’ crucifixion that is essential. The gospel is,
after all, a story about a messiah whose victory does not look very
messianic. It is the story of a faithful Jew, whose fidelity led him to
the cross and who calls us to the same fidelity even if it might also
lead us to the cross. To illustrate what such fidelity means for modern
people we only need remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King,
Jr., and Oscar Romero. The story is as timely today as it was in ancient
The full essay
A blog for eager readers and explorers of faith
Your WebWeaver must confess he is a bit baffled by the current flood of
blogs, but he’s slowly recognizing that there are good things worth a visit
now and then.
Let me introduce just one of them today, and I’ll try to
be back with more suggestions in the weeks to come.
And if you have suggestions, please send a note! We don’t
want this website to become just a advertising list of blogs, and we won’t
automatically recommend just anything that is mentioned. But if you can
suggest a blog page that offers helpful news and commentary about church
and/or society – and especially the interactions between them – we’ll be
happy to consider mentioning it. (Even if it’s your own!)
Just send a note!
Enough introduction. Here’s our first venture into the
wild world of blogs:
Shuck and Jive
is the creation of the Rev. John Shuck, who
describes his blog thus: "A Presbyterian minister blogs about spirituality,
culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution,
literature, Jesus and lightening up. John Shuck is the pastor of the First
Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tennessee (a liberal church on the
buckle of the Bible belt)."
A couple recent samples:
On March 29, as part of a series of blogs on
readings for Holy Week, he gave very brief introductions to books such
as Marcus Borg's latest, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and
Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary; Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s
The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus' Final Week in Jerusalem;
and James Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty – among others!
Shuck reads a lot, but he doesn’t limit himself to the
library. He offers his own theological and ethical reflections on a wide
range of issues, including the environment, politics, the church, the
American Empire, and more. Much more.
For a slightly different tone, check out his thoughts for
Saturday, March 31, on the topic
"Sometimes I wish I was a RevGal," which begins: "Do you notice the
difference between clergy boy bloggers and clergy girl bloggers? There
really is a difference."
As with many bloggers, he invites visitors to subscribe to
e-mail updates sent whenever he adds to his blog.
So – what do you think of blogs (either Shuck and
Jive in particular, or others, or the whole proliferating genre)?
Just send a note with
your comments and recommendations, and we’ll share it here.
The Rev. Bobbie McGarey shares with us her poem,
celebrating the hope of Easter in the midst of a war-torn world.
Lenten readings just for our unpeaceful times
Even cracked pots can carry life and light in times of death and destruction
from your WebWeaver, Doug King [3-15-07]
Yesterday evening some people of our congregation gathered for our
regular Lenten observance of a simple supper and a time of prayer using the
I listened to the three scripture readings after a day of hearing about
the continuing concerns about the Bush Administration’s actions in firing a
number of US Attorneys, and the Attorney General’s lame efforts to
deal with those concerns. And I sat there knowing I would be leaving the
next day (this evening) to join thousands of others for the
Christian Peace Witness
for Iraq, to be held Friday in Washington, DC.
The progression through the three readings led me ...
|from the psalmist’s lament at the evil all around him,
and rejoicing at God’s promise to stand against the evil-doers and the
|through God’s word to Jeremiah that we are clay in the
hands of the divine Potter, with the hope of being useful vessels, but
only if we repent and change our ways as a people |
|to Paul’s ringing affirmation that while we are just
clay pots, we can serve as life-giving vessels even in times of death and
Nothing new here, but for me it was the right Word at the right time. And
I’d like to share it with you.
The passages >>
leads us on a new path through Lent
The Rev. Peter Sawtell, the Executive Director of
Eco-Justice Ministries, is posting a very provocative and helpful
exploration of what he calls the four core norms of an eco-justice ethic:
solidarity, sustainability, sufficiency, and participation.
The one for this week, on sufficiency, asks "How much is
enough?" – "one of the central questions for those who seek eco-justice in
The current meditation, on Sufficiency, is entitled
The first meditation, on Solidarity, bears the title
"All In It Together."
The second, on Sustainability, he calls
"Nothing Left for the
The final one, due out in a couple weeks, will deal with
Go to the
archive index of his Eco-Justice Notes to find all these essays (and
many more) listed.
|A Lenten reflection ... or vision
The Best of the Temptations
On the first Sunday of Lent, Lisa Larges preached a
profound – and funny – sermon on Luke’s account of the temptations of Jesus.
She began by lamenting what so many are experiencing these days: that it
seems the Presbyterian Church would rather be right than be in love.
She went on to explore Satan’s temptations of Jesus as
inviting him to escape his human vulnerability – and he refused, because for
him the Scriptures were about loving and being loved, not about being right
and being invulnerable. That view of Scripture she offered is what the
church needs now, for itself and for the well-being of the lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender people who are still seeking a place within that
Read the sermon – for its sly humor or for its warm depth, or both.
|Reflecting on the film "The Good
Moral blankness in fiction and in reality
Berry Craig writes about the popular new spy film, "The
Good Shepherd." One reviewer has noted the "moral blankness" of the
main character as he progresses in his profession of espionage; Craig sees
that as a helpful way of understanding our country's present mess as well.
The essay >>
for Christmas [12-21-06]
Having recently moved from Minnesota to Georgia, your WebWeaver has found it
difficult to "think Christmas" this season. Blue skies and 70-degree days
are great, but not for Christmas shopping. (We have little inclination,
though, to seek out the good old days of snow, ice, sub-zero temperatures
and all the rest.)
But as Christmas seems to be
coming just the same, we want to share with you two pieces that have come
our way – and we’ll add more if they come to us.
Carol Wickersham, one of the founders of No2Torture, offers a Christmas
letter that shows how powerful Christmas thoughts can be when they are
grounded in the stuff of struggle of justice, peace, and human dignity.
And then my brother, Jack King, has sent
a Christmas poem, as has now
become his excellent annual custom. I’m happy to share this gift with you
And here’s a delightful thought presented in "flash video" format by the
Global Good Neighbor Initiative of the International Relations Center.
Finally, you may want to look at the page of
Advent and Christmas thoughts that we
offered last year at this time. [Over 2,000 people have accessed the
page during this December, so there must be something helpful there.]
And we welcome your suggestions and
Just send a note,
to be shared here.
This is True
by Allan Boesak
It is not true
that this world and its people
are doomed to die and be lost.
This is true;
God so loved the world
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believes in him,
shall not perish but have everlasting life.
It is not true
that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination,
hunger and poverty, death and destruction.
This is true;
I have come that they may have life,
and that abundantly.
It is not true
that violence and hatred should have the last word,
and that war and destruction have come to stay forever.
This is true:
Unto us a child is born,
and unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Allan Boesak (b. 1945)
"This is True"
Allan Boesak, who was a courageous and insightful leader of the Reformed
Church in South Africa in the struggle against apartheid, served as
President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches from 1982 to 1991.
May this brief reflection bring a little of his passion for justice into
our observance of this season of Advent.
save us? [7-15-06]
John R. Preston, author of the recent book Wrestling
Until the Dawn: The Fight for Biblical Justice in a Postmodern World,
builds on the recent books by David Korten and Mark Taylor to urge that in
preaching today, we follow the example of Jesus, who "in his non-violent
approach to injustice, used stories to question, satirize, and thereby
undermine the empire of his time and place."
Preston looks briefly at the parable of the mustard seed
as one example of this approach to prophetic preaching for our time.
We sinned and saw The
Da Vinci Code
history prof and journalist, takes a keen (and light-hearted) look at the
reactions of his religious-right neighbors to The Da Vinci Code. And
through them he offers observations on the alarms being sounded by James
Dobson and Focus on the Family, who don't seem able to accept the novel and
the film as fiction.
A Song of Empire
How about a little poetry? Not a
cautionary tale, exactly, but a little cautionary verse for American
Oh, sing a song of Empire great;
Our country right or wrong!
We’ll sing a song of Empire great;
We’ll be forever strong!
rest of the poem >>
Seeking hymns for progressive Presbyterians
We recently posted a request by a Presbyterian pastor for
help in finding hymns with words
that are appropriate for congregations of liberal/progressive convictions.
The Rev. Mitch Trigger offers some
The Rev. Bill LeMosy sends
some hymns of his own.
Reflections for Epiphany --
Christianity and Empire
As Epiphany approaches, Witherspooner Byron
Bangert reminds us that the story of the wise men also includes the
slaughter of the male children in the area of Bethlehem – a clear
confrontation between the reign of God and the rule of Empire.
"Bringing in the Sheaves"
– and the politics of Advent and Christmas
The Rev. Thomas Davis, pastor of Hanover Street Presbyterian Church in
...., offered a quick, clear look at the political dimension of Mary’s song
(the Magnificat), and visit of the Wise Men, and Christmas in general.
for "Food for the Spirit"
posted from 1999 through 2005
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!