Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Marrakesh Declaration

This last week, a beloved church sister took part in an important conference in Marrakesh, where this vital declaration was signed by Muslim leaders re-affirming a traditional Islamic belief in religious liberty. Important, history-making stuff, this.

The Marrakesh Declaration

WHEREAS, conditions in various parts of the Muslim World have deteriorated dangerously due to the use of violence and armed struggle as a tool for settling conflicts and imposing one's point of view;
WHEREAS, this situation has also weakened the authority of legitimate governments and enabled criminal groups to issue edicts attributed to Islam, but which, in fact, alarmingly distort its fundamental principles and goals in ways that have seriously harmed the population as a whole;
WHEREAS, this year marks the 1,400th anniversary of the Charter of Medina, a constitutional contract between the Prophet Muhammad, God's peace and blessings be upon him, and the people of Medina, which guaranteed the religious liberty of all, regardless of faith;
WHEREAS, hundreds of Muslim scholars and intellectuals from over 120 countries, along with representatives of Islamic and international organizations, as well as leaders from diverse religious groups and nationalities, gathered in Marrakesh on this date to reaffirm the principles of the Charter of Medina at a major conference;
WHEREAS, this conference was held under the auspices of His Majesty, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and organized jointly by the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs in the Kingdom of Morocco and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies based in the United Arab Emirates;
AND NOTING the gravity of this situation afflicting Muslims as well as peoples of other faiths throughout the world, and after thorough deliberation and discussion, the convened Muslim scholars and intellectuals:

DECLARE HEREBY our firm commitment to the principles articulated in the Charter of Medina, whose provisions contained a number of the principles of constitutional contractual citizenship, such as freedom of movement, property ownership, mutual solidarity and defense, as well as principles of justice and equality before the law; and that,
The objectives of the Charter of Medina provide a suitable framework for national constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are in harmony with the Charter of Medina, including consideration for public order.
NOTING FURTHER that deep reflection upon the various crises afflicting humanity underscores the inevitable and urgent need for cooperation among all religious groups, we
AFFIRM HEREBY that such cooperation must be based on a "Common Word," requiring that such cooperation must go beyond mutual tolerance and respect, to providing full protection for the rights and liberties to all religious groups in a civilized manner that eschews coercion, bias, and arrogance.

Call upon Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world to develop a jurisprudence of the concept of "citizenship" which is inclusive of diverse groups. Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global changes.
Urge Muslim educational institutions and authorities to conduct a courageous review of educational curricula that addesses honestly and effectively any material that instigates aggression and extremism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the destruction of our shared societies;
Call upon politicians and decision makers to take the political and legal steps necessary to establish a constitutional contractual relationship among its citizens, and to support all formulations and initiatives that aim to fortify relations and understanding among the various religious groups in the Muslim World;
Call upon the educated, artistic, and creative members of our societies, as well as organizations of civil society, to establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorites in Muslim countries and to raise awareness as to their rights, and to work together to ensure the success of these efforts.
Call upon the various religious groups bound by the same national fabric to address their mutual state of selective amnesia that blocks memories of centuries of joint and shared living on the same land; we call upon them to rebuild the past by reviving this tradition of conviviality, and restoring our shared trust that has been eroded by extremists using acts of terror and aggression;
Call upon representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, villification, and denegration of what people hold sacred, as well as all speech that promote hatred and bigotry;
AFFIRM that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.

January 2016, 27th

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Juggling Facts and Weighing Opinions

I'm lifting up a question/response between Marshall and me from an earlier post to its own post because I think this is a very good point and gets to the heart of some disagreements I have with gentlemen like Marshall and other conservatives. It has to do with whether or not conservatives “know” as a “fact” that God opposes something as, on the face of it, moral and healthy and loving as a marriage between two guys or gals. Of course, Marshall thinks he does know it as a “fact” because of some lines in the Bible that, to him, are “obviously” saying that, yes, God would not approve.

Now, we are both/all clear that there is not a single line in the Bible that says “God would disapprove of marriage between homosexuals in the context of the 21st century world and the sex that would presumably occur therein...” That is, of course, not in the Bible. At all.

No, what is there are verses like rules given directly and specifically to ancient Israel like “men should not lie with men, if they do, kill them...” in Leviticus (two places in Leviticus... in one place it does not include the command “kill them...”). AND, if one holds the presumption that there really is a God and that this God really did communicate with humans and gave them a Bible and in that Bible, there were commands that were universal rules for what humans should and should not do, one could begin to make a reasonable case that this kind of rule really sounds like it's condemning all gay behavior (not at all an airtight case – at all! - but at least a reasonable case). However, there are all sorts of presumptions that have to be held in place before you could accept that as a reasonable argument.

At any rate, Marshall and folk like him thing they can “know” God's opinion of guys marrying and “know” it as a “fact,” not just a theory or a guess or a hunch. Of course, I respond by saying that no, it's not a fact, it's a subjective opinion based upon a fallible human interpretation of an ancient text. It could be a fact or it could be mistaken, but it is not demonstrably a fact nor does Marshall “know” it as a point of fact.

Marshall continually disagrees (demonstrating, I believe, that he does not understand what a demonstrable fact is). To try to find a way to communicate with Marshall on this point, I asked him this question:

There's a fella who says, "I KNOW that God wants us to cut off the hands of thieves. This is a fact about God because the Koran has a line that says that and I interpret that to mean what it clearly means - that in any and all circumstances and cultures, what God wants is for people to cut the hands off of thieves..."

Is that "hard data..."?

If not, why not?

Marshall's response was...

“In any case, unlike some, I do not believe the muslim god is God. Therefore, I don't need to argue against what the koran says...”

1. He didn't directly answer my question (“is that hard data?” - the answer is, of course, No. Presumably, Marshall agrees.)

2. His response, instead was, “I do not believe the muslim god is God. Therefore, I don't need to argue against what the koran says..."

 Now, setting aside the fact that he didn't answer my question directly (and that, presumably, he agrees with me that it is not a fact), he is arguing (correct me if I'm mistaken) that he does not even need to argue against the point made by the fictional Koran-believer because he does not share the presumptions of this man.

That is, the Koran believer (in this case) held some presumptions - that there is an Allah/God, that God wanted to communicate God's will in a holy text, that this holy text perfectly records what God wanted, that the holy text was written in such a way as to communicate God's rules for humanity, that these rules were universal, etc - and since Marshall does not share those presumptions, he doesn't even care to argue the point.

It's not actually a completely bad point that Marshall has made.

Like Marshall and this fictional Koran believer, I do not share Marshall's presumptions (at least some of them) regarding the Bible and how Marshall thinks it should be treated/read. So, I am wondering: Is Marshall making the case that I - like him in regards to my question - do not need to argue against Marshall's points because I - like him - do not hold the same presumptions that he does?

I also wonder, does Marshall agree that the fella saying "the Koran says it, therefore I 'know' it is a 'fact' that God wants us to cut off thieves hands" does not make it a fact? It just isn't and the reason it isn't is that the fella can't demonstrate it with hard data that can be substantiated.

Facts are data that can be tested, weighed, measured, considered, seen. One person's assumptions about how the Bible (or Koran) should be interpreted can't be weighed to see if it is "right." It is, like the Koran-believer, an unsupported and unproven and unprovable opinion.

Just as a point of fact in the real world. I wonder if, given this analogy and some time to consider it and his own answer to it, that Marshall (and others like him) can see that now?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What Obama Got Right

What Obama got right (quoted from his final State of the Union speech)...

"We live in a time of extraordinary change -- change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

America has been through big changes before -- wars and depression, the influx of new immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change; who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more people. And because we did -- because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril -- we emerged stronger and better than before.

What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation -- our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law -- these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible. It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations. It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.

But such progress is not inevitable. It’s the result of choices we make together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, in the incredible things that we can do together?"


We need to choose to unite, not divide. Disagree with grace, not bitterness. If we engage in rants and spouting off (and this is human, it happens, it's okay to a degree), let us acknowledge the difference between blowing off steam and making actual false claims and not backing down from false claims.
"Obama is trying to destroy our military! Liberals hate the US! Conservatives are Nazis!" these are rants. As a rant, as blowing off steam, that's fine if overly harsh. But to make these as a claim, well, they are false claims and we need to choose to abandon false witness and slander.

While I disagreed strongly with Reagan on a large number of his policies, he was a positive man who projected a promising future and noted that our strengths lie in our ideals, just as Obama was pushing last night. Let us abandon fear and divisiveness and live in the strength and comfort of our better ideals... ideals about human liberty, religious freedom (ie, the freedom to make your own choices of moral conscience, not the "freedom" to impose those beliefs on others) for all.

Our dear conservative family and neighbors are not the enemy. Our beloved liberal family and neighbors are not the enemy. Our Baptist, pagan, Muslim, Jewish, gay, lesbian, transgender, Catholic neighbors are not the enemy. We will disagree on implementation of our ideals, but that disagreement does not make them the enemy. Let us choose to work on the great progress we have made in our nation and do so together, as neighbors.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Two Old Oaks

Two old oaks on Whitney Avenue
 that have been around for decades
 came down today and damn the symbolism.

I and my family have been tending my parents even more closely over the last month or so, as they both have had downturns in their health. The last month almost, we have been on 24/7 rotation caring for my Dad. He's not near death, so far as we can see, but he is just not doing well. But this post is not to mourn their decline, it is to celebrate their lives.

Dad taught me, over his lifetime and without ever teaching me directly, to be an artist in all I do. Not to try or hope to be an artist, maybe, one day. He has taught me to be an artist, here, now. I may be an imperfect artist... okay, certainly I am an imperfect artist, but I am an artist in my eye, in my observation, in my passion, in my creativity and passion. This is largely due to my father, who is still an artist in all he does. Thanks, Dad.

My mother has taught me a great deal about how to help people. I learned that early on from her. I remember once, when I was about 16 or 17, I brought home a homeless family who had asked for some help. Mom didn't blink. Fed them dinner and clucked over their children. And WHY had I brought home a homeless family in the first place? Because of my mother's undying love for everyone, especially those who are downtrodden and in need of a friend. In countless ways, every day of her servant life, she has poured out her life in grace and love in ways as practical as a homemade meal right here, right now, when needed. Thank you, Mom.

I love walks in the woods and all of outdoors - rain or sun, snow, blasting heat or hurricane winds - and this is because my parents shared with me that love of God's good creation. They taught me that God created all things and God created them "very good." They taught me that we are not to exploit of abuse this very good gift, but to honor it and the God that created it. To walk in nature lightly and with joy and love. I have an indescribable appreciation for woods, mountains, streams, forest paths, fallen leaves crunching beneath my feet... for all aspects of creation (except for mosquitoes) and it has been an incredible joy in my life. I can never thank you enough, Mom and Dad.

With love,


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Winter's Coming

He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.... In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity.

~John Burroughs
I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. 

Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. 

~Andrew Wyeth

The simplicity of winter has a deep moral. The return of Nature, after such a career of splendor and prodigality, to habits so simple and austere, is not lost either upon the head or the heart. It is the philosopher coming back from the banquet and the wine to a cup of water and a crust of bread.

~John Burroughs
What nutriment can I extract from these bare twigs? Starvation stares me in the face. "Nay, nay," said a nuthatch, making its way, head downward, about a bare hickory close by, "The nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat.... If at any time the weather is too bleak and cold for you, keep the sunny side of the trunk, for a wholesome and inspiring warmth is there, such as the summer never afforded...." "Hear! hear!" screamed the jay from a neighboring tree, where I had heard a tittering for some time, "winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel, if you know where to look for it."... [A] red squirrel... came running down a slanting bough, and as he stopped twirling a nut, called out rather impudently, "Look here! just get a snug-fitting fur coat and a pair of fur gloves like mine, and you may laugh at a northeast storm."

~Henry David Thoreau

One of my current pet theories is that the winter is a kind of evangelist, more subtle than Billy Graham, of course, but of the same stuff. 

~Shirley Ann Grau

What a wild winter sound,— wild and weird, up among the ghostly hills.... I get up in the middle of the night to hear it. It is refreshing to the ear, and one delights to know that such wild creatures are among us. At this season Nature makes the most of every throb of life that can withstand her severity.

~John Burroughs 

Against the grey and brown debris
there gleamed a jade reminder
tho' Winter ruled for months to come
Spring was soon behind her

Said Spring, to me,
"Don't rush it, please,
dear Winter has her reasons.
Embrace the cold
breathe deep and hold
Don't wish away your seasons...

~Dan Trabue

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Who Knew? (Well, Besides Me and All My Friends...)


A new study out (recently covered in Christianity Today) shows that the more you actually read the Bible, the more likely you are to hold more progressive views on a variety of topics. Further, the more independent reading you do of the Bible, the more likely this is the case.

From Christianity Today (as reported in the story above - I can't see all of the CT article)...

Unlike some other religious practices, reading the Bible more often has some liberalizing effects—or at least makes the reader more prone to agree with liberals on certain issues. This is true even when accounting for factors such as political beliefs, education level, income level, gender, race, and religious measures (like which religious tradition one affiliates with, and one’s views of biblical literalism)...

“Support for abolishing the death penalty increased by about 45 percent for each increase on the five-point scale measuring Bible-reading frequency.”
“…the more someone reads the Bible, the more likely he or she is to believe science and religion are compatible. (For each increase on the five-point scale, the odds that they see religion and science as incompatible decrease by 22 percent.)”
“How important is it,” the survey asked, “to actively seek social and economic justice in order to be a good person?” Again, as would be expected, those with more liberal political leanings were more likely to say it’s very or somewhat important. And those who read the Bible more often were more likely to agree. Indeed, they were almost 35 percent more likely to agree… Those who are most engaged in their faith (by directly and frequently reading its source material) are those who are most supportive of social and economic justice. “
“For each increased level of Bible-reading frequency, support for the Patriot Act decreased by about 13 percent.”
Interesting report, with data that supports the reality for me and many of my friends. The more seriously we took the Bible, the more we read it and sought God's Ways, the more progressive we became, sometimes, almost kicking and screaming!

Of course, I have many friends from childhood (and maybe a few current friends) who I know to have also done a great deal of taking the Bible seriously and reading it independently who did not have this result that I had and that this study is reporting. Makes one wonder what the difference is.


Age of Reason

A relatively small excerpt from Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason..." While I may not always agree with Paine, he makes many perfectly rational points that are sustained by simple, common reason and, thus, I find I agree with Paine a great deal.

...Each of those churches show certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say, that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say, that their word of God came by divine inspiration: and the Turks say, that their word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from Heaven. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man. [emphasis, mine]

No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it...

I'm not sure of any reason, rationally or biblically, to disagree with this common sense observation.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Ring Them Bells

At my church, we begin Advent with a service where we ring bells, to ring in Advent, ring in the coming of a New Realm, where all are welcome and we stand side by side with one another, with the poor, with the marginalized, with our enemies.

A song from our service last week, Bob Dylan's Ring Them Bells.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Starry night

Beyond the shadows
of a thousand blackened trees
one billion stars shine

for Paris

Monday, November 9, 2015

...and now, for something a bit different...

This is, I believe, a 1920s era Stromberg Voisinet tenor guitar. It has no markings identifying it as such, but this shape (called "Venetian") was unique to them, so far as I've been able to figure out. If you're familiar with Kay Kraft guitars, Kay is the more well known company that bought out Stromberg Voisinet about 1930).

I got this at a junk store for a few bucks, had it restored for several more bucks and found out may be worth several hundred dollars, were I interested in selling, which I'm not.

The tenor guitar is similar to the octave mandolin, but with only four strings (whereas the octave mando has four courses of two strings, or eight strings all together). It's a very fun instrument to play. Unfortunately, I'm quite the amateur.

Here, I'm playing "Cluck Ol' Hen," a traditional tune. A third of the way in, I add in a guitar layer to round out the sound some.

Visit more junk stores. Enjoy.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Some questions for Marshall

Frequent commenter here, "Marshall Art" said recently, at another blog, that people like me are mistaken in how we portray Marshall (et al). He said....

I am "speaking for God" by restating the exact words that appear in Scripture, as if I made it up myself and merely claimed it is what God says, means or thinks. There's simply no need to do so when Scripture states things so clearly.

Nor is it "opinion" when having re-typed the words of Scripture, or even copy/pasted it from an on-line site that presents multiple Biblical version (KJV, NIV, ESV, etc.)

Now I'm told I am "assigning meaning" to words whose meanings are well known and easily verified by a look at any dictionary.

Just a few very simple clarifying questions, Marshall.

I. First of all, in spite of our disagreements, I am assuming the best of you, that you are a good and decent man, trying to do the right thing. I am assuming that  you would not intentionally misrepresent those who disagree with you.

Am I correct in my assumptions about your good will and honorable intent?

II. Proceeding on, then, I would posit that you do not believe what you just said. I would posit that you, like me, would agree that we need to and do interpret Scripture all the time. It's what reading is, for rational adults.

So, for instance, no one is disputing that Genesis 1 says "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." and all the rest of the text that sits in the book of Genesis in its various translations. The text says literally what it says. That's just a fact.

Do you recognize that we all agree with that fact?

III. From that point, then, we all use our reason - taking into consideration the source, the text and context, the apparent writing style, the time period, etc - to sort out, for instance, the genre involved. You (or others, if not you) look at the text and reason out that "this literal text that sits there waiting to be read is written in a style that is a literal history.

Others, also using their reason and taking into consideration all the same things, reach the conclusion, "this is NOT a literal history... it reads more like a mythic or figurative genre, given what we know of the text and given the data at hand..."

That is simply another observable fact: That both/all "sides" look at the text and use our reason to decide on the figurative or literal nature of the text, on the genre, on the meaning - if any - of the text involved.

Do you recognize that we all use our reason to sort out those sorts of conclusions?

IV. When you say, "I am "speaking for God" by restating the exact words that appear in Scripture, as if I made it up myself " do you recognize that we are, as a point of fact, NOT saying that when you quote Genesis 1 or any other passage, that we are claiming by that quote in and of itself, that you are speaking for God?

No, we do not say that when you say, "Genesis 1 says.. X" That is a demonstrable fact. Why would we? Clearly the text says what it says. No, we say that when you go from what the text literally says to what the text means. Thus, when you say Gen 1 says what it says and then proceed to say, "Therefore, it is a literal history..." THAT is when we say you are presuming to speak for God?

I know you've been busy lately, but hopefully, you'll find the time to answer these questions so that we can clarify your mistaken impression.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Teachings of Jesus

I was reading a conservative brother encouraging us to take Jesus at his word. To that, I can only shout, Amen!

Let us, please, take Jesus ExACTLY at his word, not adding to it things like "virgin birth," "sola Scriptura," "penal substitutionary atonement," "sometimes, it's okay for governments to bomb cities and kill innocents," "inerrancy," "you must take Genesis to be a literal history," "you must be opposed to gay folk getting married" and other nonsense that Jesus NEVER one time even mentioned, much less made an "essential"  component of his teachings (something that is never discussed by a teacher can not reasonably be called "essential...").

But let us please take Jesus at his word and take THAT word seriously, IF we are going to be followers of Jesus.

To that end, Jesus' words (some of them), as reminder:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

[D]o not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  ...Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Do not store up treasures here on earth.

You cannot serve God and money.

Sell your belongings, give to the poor.

When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.
Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Neither do I condemn you.

Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath.

Come to me ALL you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross every day and keep close behind me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it, but the man who loses his life for my sake will save it. For what is the use of a man gaining the whole world if he loses or forfeits his own soul?

Anyone who accepts a little child in my name is really accepting me, and the man who accepts me is really accepting the one who sent me. It is the humblest among you all who is really the greatest.

You must not stop him. The man who is not against you is on your side.

Yes, and I do blame you experts in the Law! For you pile up back-breaking burdens for men to bear, but you yourselves will not raise a finger to lift them. Alas for you, for you build memorial tombs for the prophets - the very men whom your fathers murdered. You show clearly enough how you approve your father's actions. They did the actual killing and you put up a memorial to it...

Alas for you experts in the Law, for you have taken away the key of knowledge. You have never gone in yourselves and you have hindered everyone else who was at the door!

Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?!

If your brother offends you, take him to task about it, and if he is sorry, forgive him.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must go on living in my love. If you keep my commandments you will live in my love just as I have kept my Father's commandments and live in his love.

There is no greater love than this - that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I tell you to do. I shall not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not share his master's confidence. No, I call you friends, now...

May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day the bread we need, Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us. Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil...

Don't criticise people, and you will not be criticised. For you will be judged by the way you criticise others.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; ...He will do even greater things than these...

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

For I deserve mercy, not sacrifice.

Follow me.

...for starters.