This week the book is Prayers of the Martyrs, compiled by Duane Arnold, Zondervan, 1991.

Here we are confronted by the sufferings and strong faith of those saints through history who have held onto their faith even as they face death because of it. The New Testament greek word for witness — “you shall be my witnesses” — is “Martureo” – Martyr.

Encountering Ignatius of Antioch (35-107), We contemplate courage. Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch, in modern day Syria. Arrested there by the Romans, he was taken to Rome for execution. On the journey he wrote a number of letters to churches in Asia Minor in which he reflected on the nature of the Church and his impending Martyrdom. As he stood in the Roman Colosseum and the lions moved in on him, he prayed:

My desires are crucified, the warmth of my body is gone. A stream flows whispering inside me; deep within me it says: Come to the Father.

Oh, to live with such a faith, such a hope!

Another prayer, this one anonymous, helps me to consider the radical power of forgiveness. Found in the clothing of a dead child at the Ravensbruck concentration camp:

O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But, do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering– our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble.

When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.

And thinking of the saints in light, this anonymous prayer of thanks:

We thank you, O God, for the saints of all ages; For those who in times of darkness kept the lamp of faith burning; For the great souls who saw visions of larger truth and dared to declare it; For the multitude of quiet and gracious souls whose presence has purified and sanctified the world; And for those known and loved by us, Who have passed from this earthly fellowship into the fuller light of life with you.

Peter Hawkinson

(This blog is dedicated to the memory of Tom Wright, Craig Anderson, and Ray Wallgren, faithful saints who having lived, have died. Well done, good and faithful servants.)

What is it that you need?

Last year, as 2020 was just about to begin, a crafty friend of mine asked if I had chosen a word of the year. She was going to print her word of the year on a bunch of stickers – for her laptop, water bottle, refrigerator, etc. – some visual reminders of the word that would encompass her priorities and focus for the months ahead.

Grace, I told her.

Grace is my word of the year.

And it turned out to be more fitting than I ever could have imagined, as the rollercoaster of 2020 would require me to have grace in nearly every area of my life: grace for myself, as I struggled to navigate the fears and challenges of a pandemic; grace for my community, as they did the same. Grace for our elected leaders, and health professionals, and perfect strangers, as we all tried to make it through a season of unprecedented trials.

I didn’t pick a word this year, but if I did, I think it might have been: pivot.

Because I’ve used that one an awful lot in just the first five months of 2021. I thought things would look a certain way, but they didn’t, so I’ll have to pivot. Pivot my plans, my expectations. Pivot my actions and behaviors. Pivot how I approach certain challenges, or how I care for myself and others.

And part of this is because, in a world that is changing so fast, old answers to questions and old ways of doing things just don’t always cut it anymore. The things that I needed before are very different from the things that I need now, to take care of myself, to grow in relationship with God, to follow my calling as a pastor faithfully, to connect with my community.

I learned this in a big way last weekend, when I was able to take a few days off to spend at a cabin in Michigan with friends. It was all of our first trip out of state in many months, our first vacation certainly of this year, and so we arrived exhausted, depleted, and much in need of rest. But how to rest?

I often think that I need to get away in order to think about things; to gain new perspective on my current challenges, to find some wisdom or new ideas. But I realized, this time, that what I needed was to get away not to think. Not to run over problems in my mind a dozen more times, but to leave them be. To sit outside in my hammock, reading a book or listening to birdsong. To walk along the beach, hearing nothing but pounding waves. To stare into a campfire and maybe not even talk.

To trust that, after a year of running around like crazy, trying to understand and plan and control as much as possible, I could sit down and relinquish it all back to God. And allow myself to just BE, for a while.

It surprised me – a lot. And it required me to pivot. So that instead of lots of journaling and reading and conversation over this weekend, I actually spend the time doing a lot of sitting. Listening. Staring into space. Sleeping.

I wrote several weeks ago about how we’re living in a transition time, between the height of the pandemic and the end of it. An uncertain, in-between time. And the great biblical example of that is the Israelites living in the desert for 40 years. 40 years of in-between, wandering, transition time. But it was during that span of years, when God had them start practicing the Sabbath, and resting for a full day each week.

It is perhaps when we least feel able to rest, that we most need it.

And that rest can come in surprising forms.

So I invite you this week to take some time, and ask: what is it that I need? what do I need to rest from? and how might God be inviting me to rest? And then (here is the real challenge): follow that. Rest in the way you need to. And pivot if you must.

You’ll be in good company.

-Pastor Jen


Markings are the best part about books. What I mean is that I can come back to books and find the markings — the underlines, circles, and highlights that bring me right back to significant words and thoughts again. Writers must hope for this, that we mark up their books, thereby making them our own. For a number of weeks now — who knows how long — I’ll find some wonderful words from marked up books and share them with you.

I’m starting with Joan Chittister’s The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage (2019, Convergent Books). Reflecting on Risk: “There is risk to every life.Those who risk nothing risk much more”, the Talmud teaches…It is to us in this place that the scripture calls us most clearly: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.” We must not fear the darkness; we must simply resolve to carry the light into wherever we are. The call to discern the difference between what is holy and what is simply popular, between what is and what should be, is the essence of the good life. The work of God is in our hands. To ignore that is to ignore the very fulness of life. Every prophet contemplated the price of the risk and went on regardless–calling the world to become its best self– and so must we.” (p. 31).

and this: “It has been said that every community needs at least one prophet…The prophet is the one who speaks the truth to a culture of lies…who lives with a spirituality of awareness, of choice, of risk, of transformation. It is about the embrace of life, the pursuit of wholeness, the acceptance of others, the call to co-creation. It is a call to live not only in praise of God but in union with God’s will for the world. In short, prophetic spirituality is about living out our faith on the streets of the world, rather than just talking about it.”The poet Mary Oliver may have written the best definition of what it means to be a prophet in contemporary spirituality. She writes, ‘Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” (p.41).

Poetic and beautiful words. Much to consider here in the realm of always current realities of risk and fear, and God’s call to engage both as they challenge us. I’ll never forget the ridicule that came my way at River Park in the summer of my ninth year as I went up and back down the steps of the high dive in front of my friends, who all felt free to launch. I remember it as an excruciating time. It reminds a metaphor for the journey of faith for me.

Yes, I did it one day! Yes, I belly flopped. And though I figured out how to conquer the high dive, new challenges, scary challenges much more daunting have emerged, always, and everywhere.

And have you ever thought about yourself as a prophet? Are you the one? Can you locate in your own restlessness about the way things are in the world the love of Jesus, the Spirit calling you to speak up, and act out? In this sense, maybe we’re all called –all us Pentecost, Holy Spirit people– to live a prophetic life.


Peter Hawkinson


Our spiritual ancestors were identified as LASARE (Readers). the Bible was their primary document, was in their hands constantly and used faithfully…They spoke of themselves frequently as gathering around the Word as if to encircle it, like gathering around a campfire on a cold day or a dark night.

The “Readers” did not come to the Bible because they had been convinced by theological and dogmatic discussions of its authority…It’s authority was found In the new life in Christ they found there. They knew that speaking about food could not satisfy hunger and that speaking about thirst could not quench thirst. They trusted the Bible to be its own defense as well as their own, not by speaking about it, but by proclaiming its message in testimony and sermon, song and living.” (Eric Hawkinson, Images in Covenant Beginnings, Covenant Press, 1968).

Our way into the Bible is to read, to understand, and to believe. It is possible to read but not understand. It is possible to understand and yet reject in unbelief. But to believe in the Bible is not the same as to believe in God. It is possible to believe the Bible instead of believing in God. The worst way to lose the Bible is to make it into an idol.

The Bible is God’s book, but it must in a special sense be the Christ book. the Bible’s meaning and unity is Christ, but the Holy Spirit needs to witness to Christ in our hearts. Hence to keep the Bible means at the deepest level that it becomes God’s Word about Christ made fruitful through the Holy Spirit.” David Nyvall (1863-1946)


These words speak to our unique and rich theological history of scripture’s authority, while at the same time giving way to the Living God who we find there inviting us to life. The truth of scripture is found ultimately in our experience of New life in Christ. We come to scripture for life, and we live to witness to the good news of God we find there. While the text is important, it is the message to which it points that brings life.

What strikes me as I reflect is how these “readers” gathered together to read for the sake of assessing others, or resolving all the tensions of their lives, but to be formed — to learn and grow as disciples of the crucified and resurrected Jesus. The crucial element of this was the relational aspect of their faith.

Last Sunday’s sermon wrestled with this idea of coming TO scripture and reading it together NOT to figure out who God is — but to reverse the order — experiencing the presence and goodness of God and reading scripture with an openness to learn more of this God of love. Here’s the quote from Luke Timothy Johnson that I read and pondered:

The task of scripture is not to dictate how God should act: rather, God’s action, even these days, dictates how we understand scripture.” (Writings of the New Testament).

This gets at what I experienced as a child and through my life, among these Pietists whose hearts were strangely warmed, that “scripture rings true because of the grace of God in my life.” Scripture is no less authoritative, but locates its authority not in propositional truth but in the life of faith.

Just some rambling thoughts! I’d love to talk more with you about your thoughts. How about a walk, a coffee, or some lunch? Be in touch!

Peter Hawkinson

Transition Time

A couple of years ago, our Wednesday night adult group studied a book called Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges.

The book was first published almost forty years ago, and from what I can tell, has continued in print ever since, even coming out recently with an updated edition. This little book deserves all its acclaim, as it charts out the three parts of any transition: “the ending, the neutral zone, and the new beginning,” in ways that each of us can identify with, and gives the reader a much deeper understanding of transitions and how to navigate them well.

I love this book, and yet I also struggle with this book, because of one of its simple premises: that we are all, always, experiencing some sort of transition.

I might find this less objectionable if I liked transition and change, but to be honest, I really don’t.

I love a good routine. I like habits and well-worn rhythms, I like schedules and predictability.

I bet some of you do too.

Which has made this past year of pandemic living especially hard. First, there was the sudden dramatic upheaval of all of our routines, as everything shut down in a matter of days. No more school, work, gatherings; no more regular shopping or recreation or travel. Instead, lots of anxious watching of the news and wiping down packages with disinfectants. Figuring out how to sew masks. Learning what a six-foot distance looks like.

And then, ever since, we have been changing. Pivoting, as my friends and I like to say. Depending on what the positivity rates and case numbers are like in our area, or responding to the changing science around this virus. The availability of vaccines. The prevalence of new virus variants.

Are you tired too? Are you over this, yet?

Looking back at Bridges’ model of transitions, we all raced through the “ending” part of our old lives, and in some ways have been living in the “neutral zone” ever since. And the neutral zone, as he writes in his book, is rough. You might think of it like the wilderness that the Israelites wandered in, or a river you are crossing. The middle of it, between the old and the new, is frightening. Unfamiliar. Disorienting. And getting through it can’t be rushed – it takes as long as it takes.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, as I am getting ever-wearier of the neutral zone in this pandemic. I have my vaccines, and my loved ones are getting theirs, and I want normal life again. I want to travel without fear, and to gather with friends; I want to stop taking temperatures at church and marking off spaces in the pews that are six feet apart.

I know many of you feel the same.

And yet…people are still dying by the dozens every day, here in Illinois, of COVID. New variants continue to appear. Science keeps changing on how long vaccine protection lasts, and against which strands of the virus. All of this tells me that it’s too soon to declare ourselves through the neutral zone and at the new beginning.

We have come far enough that we can take some good guesses at what the new beginning will look like – that we will still wear masks for a time, and need to take a few extra precautions about sharing food and indoor space. But so much is still unknown: whether we will need annual booster shots to the vaccine, whether COVID will endure throughout the years but become less lethal and more like a flu…we have to wait and see.

So what do you do, stuck in the neutral zone? How do you live through the uncertainty and the impatience and the weariness?

Perhaps you make like the Israelites who were stuck in that desert for forty years, and you look for manna. For God’s gift, delivered every day, just enough for a day at a time.

You look for little bits of beauty, and grace, and hope. A hug with a friend who you haven’t touched in months, but whom you can embrace now that you’re vaccinated. A meal outdoors in the sunshine, with someone bringing you food that you didn’t prepare and you won’t have to clean up (wonder of wonders!). A trip to the grocery store, free of fear and Lysol wipes.

It may not be much. But it just needs to be enough to keep going. A day at a time. One step further.

And as you look for this, may you find – as the Israelites did – that God is faithful to provide just enough for us to keep going. Amen.

-Pastor Jen

Bold To Pray

When Episcopalians share in what they call the Holy Eucharist, they work through a familiar liturgy. No surprise there! The words first appeared in the book of common prayer thanks to Anglican Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (d.1556). With the taste of grace still in their mouths, the celebrant enjoins the congregation: And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,and then the people say the version of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.

You and I, we know the prayer so well! We speak the words every week, simple and few. But as “we are bold to say” reminds us, the words are much more few than simple. That word BOLD is worth thinking about. We do well not to pray the prayer lightly. It takes guts to pray it at all. Just listen to the words of Frederick Buechner:

“Thy will be done” is what we are saying…we are asking God to be God….”Thy Kingdom come…on earth” is what we are saying. And if that were suddenly to happen, what then? What would stand and what would fall? Who would be welcomed in and who would be thrown the hell out? Which if any of our most precious visions of what God is and of what human beings are would prove to be more or less on the mark and which would turn out to be as phony as three-dollar bills? Boldness indeed. To speak those words is to invite the tiger out of the cage, to unleash a power that makes atomic power look like a warm breeze.

You need to be bold in another way to speak the second half. Give us. Forgive us. Don’t test us. Deliver us. If it takes guts to face the omnipotence that is God’s, it takes perhaps no less to face the impotence that is ours. We can do nothing without God. Without God we are nothing.

It is only the words “Our Father” that make the prayer bearable. If God is indeed something like a father, then as something like children maybe we can risk approaching him anyway. (Listening to your life).

We are BOLD to say, to pray as our Savior Christ has taught us. Reflect deeply on these few words of this prayers so central, so formational to our faith. Though you know them by heart, and though we spit them out by memory evidenced in familiar cadences, let us pray the words as though for the first time, each time. Each time a radical new act of letting go and throwing ourselves onto the mercy of Almighty God, each time catching our breath as we realize again that God Almighty wants to be our Father.

Bold to Pray.