July 19, 2019

Why is contemplative prayer so needed in our time? What good does the mystic generate in a world of climate crisis, racial trauma, and violence? And truly, if contemplative prayer does not have something to offer to a world, for example, in which immigrants and refugees are scapegoated and violently marginalized, then contemplative prayer doesn’t have legs to stand on. Yet I believe that contemplative prayer–along with sustained action against injustice!–is the primary healing path forward. Here’s why, using a teaching… Read more

July 17, 2019

So dark the night!…I went with no one knowing upon a lover’s quest –Ah, the sheer grace! – so blest, my eager heart with love aflame and glowing.” –John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul Dark nights are inescapable. As Dante put it, we sometimes find ourselves in a dark wood. For the Hebrew prophet Jonah, it’s not a dark wood in which he finds himself, but a stormy night at sea.  The dark night is that space… Read more

June 7, 2019

God wants to meet with us. It goes both ways: we want to meet with God. Something deep in our human being yearns for more, to commune, meet with and contemplate divinity. But we often think of contemplation as something that only monks do, something that is an escape, something for people who have more time and care less about the world’s crises of injustice. The ways that people contemplate God in the Bible are the opposite of these stereotypes. Contemplation… Read more

June 4, 2019

Is Earth a sacred place for us, given by the hand of the Creator – or have we lost sight of Earth’s sacredness? Pope Francis, in the encyclical Laudato Si’, shows the grave consequences of our blindness to the sacred, living earth: ‘“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” –“Praise be to you, my Lord.” In the words of his beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and… Read more

May 29, 2019

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a celebrated speaker, writer, and activist living in Durham, North Carolina. He is the author, most recently, of Reconstructing the Gospel : Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion. Here are several of my questions to him about his groundbreaking book, and his responses. Mark: For someone devoting your life to overcoming racism, both personally and collectively, what do your practices of prayer look like?  Jonathan: My journey toward freedom from slaveholder religion has been one of unlearning a hyper-individualized piety. Part… Read more

May 22, 2019

Matthew Fox is a prolific writer, from whom creative spirituality passionately pours forth. His two recent offerings are not theological texts in his classic “Original Blessing” or “The Coming of the Cosmic Christ” vein; they are books to help us pray. But they are books that help us pray in the broad, deep, and universal way that Matthew Fox envisions prayer—as a radical response to life itself. In Naming the Unnameable, Fox gives readers a devotional-style, small book of paragraph-length… Read more

May 15, 2019

Last week, my local independent cinema in Williamstown, MA showed a one-time showing of the film Mary Magdalene. Rooney Mara stars exquisitely as Mary, and Joaquin Phoenix performs a beautiful and conflicted Jesus. A good number of community folks turned up for the showing, including a sizable crowd from the Congregational Church where I pastor; I slouched low in my seat, three to four rows from the screen, and wept quietly nearly the whole movie. I’m still unpacking why the… Read more

May 13, 2019

Wonder is a word for a life saturated with praise. Regardless of belief system, we don’t need to be afraid to praise. Praise! Praise God! Praise reality. Praise the cosmos. Praise color. Praise paint. Praise bodies, animal, human and celestial. By whatever name you call the endless depths, the ultimate concern, praise. There are some people who allow wonder and praise to overtake their lives. These are the saints, the prophets, the artists, the mystics. John Muir is one such wonder-filled man…. Read more

May 8, 2019

Note to the reader: This narrative is a summary in my own words of the tale told in A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos, by Dava Sobel. Read The New York Times review here. A man named Rheticus, in the year 1536, takes a job teaching mathematics at the University of Wittenburg. Wittenberg is the hotbed of Lutheran theology that galvanized a movement. The site of the 95 theses. Martin Luther’s colleague Philip Melanchton, a noted scholar in his… Read more

May 1, 2019

I had it all planned out: a stay at a Trappist monastery planned for my summer sabbatical from pastoral ministry. I put down the deposit to secure a room. I steeled myself with intention to make it to 3:30am vigils prayer. I looked forward to the rhythm of Psalm chanting, participating in lectio divina, intensifying my commitment to silence, chewing on small passages of mystical texts, dialoguing with monks in their daily conferences. Then, to my surprise, I received a… Read more

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