Faith Lift: Following Signs

The last time I flew in a plane I need to make a visit to the rest room.   Once inside I noticed big signs that said, “No Smoking.” (You know the kind with a picture of what you’re not supposed to do with a red circle around it and a line through it)

However, I also noticed an ash tray on the door with a smoking cigarette etched on the cover. That sign was telling me where to put out my cigarette that I wasn’t supposed to smoke.  Then I noticed a sign that said, “Do not put your cigarette butts in the trash.”   What?

If we aren’t supposed to smoke in the little boy’s room why do they have signs telling us where to put out our cigarettes and where not to put their butts?  Is the airline assuming that people will ignore one sign and yet obey another?  When signs collide, which do we follow?

As Christians do we sometimes convey mixed messages?  Do we say one thing and do another.  Do we ask others to “Don’t do as I do, do as I say?” Do we send out conflicting signs?

On Mount Sinai Moses was given 10 commandments.  (There’s an old joke that has Moses saying, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.  The good news is I got it down to 10.  The bad news is the one about not committing adultery is still in there). 

Eventually the commands grew to 613.  Yet when Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment he combined two from the 613 to make one with an addendum.   He said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  He added an addendum, to love ones neighbor as oneself.  He said on these two hang all the laws and the prophets.

The gospel of Mark ends with these words that speak of what the disciples did after Jesus ascended into heaven, “, And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.”   My prayer is that we will go forth like those disciples, preaching everywhere and that the Lord will confirm the words we share with signs following us rather than content ourselves with following signs.

Rest

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Psalm 45:10-17; Romans 7:15-25; Matthew 11:16-19; 25-30 – July 5, 2020

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 24:34-48

We’ve seen God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah result in the birth of a son Isaac.  Last week we saw Abraham pass the ultimate test of his faith in being willing to sacrifice his only son in obedience to God’s command.  We saw how God interceded and provided a ram in the thicket.

This week we pick up the story of Isaac when he is a grown young man. Isaac’s mother Sarah has died and Abraham determines that it is time for Isaac to find a wife.  Abraham instructs his servant to go to the land from which Abraham came and find a wife for Isaac.  The servant does as instructed, and when he gets there in prayer he asks God to show him which woman is the one God wants Isaac to marry.  He asks that the first woman who responds to his request for a drink and offers to water his camels will be the one.  The first woman he meets who fulfills these requirements turns out to be Rebecca, the daughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor.  Hear the words of Abraham’s servant from Genesis 24:34-38. 42-29.  When Rebekah’s family heard Abraham’s servant’s story they called for Rebekah.  Read 58-67.

INTRODUCTION TO MATTHEW

As we read last week Jesus’ gave explicit instructions to his disciples to prepare them for their first missionary journey.  In chapter 11, Jesus has finished their instructions and sent them on ahead and then Jesus proceeds to follow them and teach and proclaim his message in their cities.  Jesus’ cousin John, whom we call John the Baptist, is in prison and has heard about what Jesus has been doing and sends a message from prison asking Jesus if he really is the Messiah or should he look for another.  Prison tends to make people doubt, especially those on death row.  Jesus responds with an encouraging message to John and then launches into a praise of John as the greatest of all the prophets.   In verse 16 Jesus laments the fickleness of the generation to whom he and John came with God’s message of the kingdom.  Hear the word of God from Matthew 11:16-19 and then 25-30.

********

Are you weary?  Are you carrying heavy burdens?  Some of us are weary from work.  Some of us are weary from not being able to work. Others of us are weary from worry. A lot of our fatigue is mental and emotional. I am always amazed at the number of things some people find to worry about.

An elderly woman at the nursing home received a visit from one of her fellow church members.  “How are you feeling?” the visitor asked.

“Oh,” said the lady, “I’m just worried sick!”
“What are you worried about, dear?” her friend asked. “You look like you’re in good health. They are taking care of you, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they are taking very good care of me.”
“Are you in any pain?” she asked.
“No, I have never had a pain in my life.”
“Well, what are you worried about?” her friend asked again.
The lady leaned back in her rocking chair and slowly explained her major worry. “Every close friend I ever had has already died and gone on to heaven,” she said. “I’m afraid they’re going to think I’m not coming!”    (2)


In our gospel lesson, Jesus laments that people could not grasp the message that he and his cousin John came to bring.  Jesus described them as acting like children who complain when people won’t follow THEIR lead! (Know any children like that?)  They complained when they wanted to play the flute and be joyful and celebrate and John wouldn’t join them. They complained because John lived the austere life of a prophet, eating locusts and wild honey and fasting and not drinking (which might be easier to fast if all you ate was honey dipped locust—Fear Factor wilderness style).

 They complained that when they wanted to mourn and wail that Jesus partied hard with folks that were not their kind of people.

They were acting like babies and yet, there were real infants that got it. Jesus said the wise ones of this world were stumped but the “infants” in the ways of the world caught on to who John and Jesus were and what they were about.  Then Jesus invites his hearers to come to him.  He invites them to not listen to the generation of complainers, the whiners. He invites them to not listen to those who claim to be wise in this world, but to listen to the infants to whom God has revealed who John and Jesus are.  Jesus says that those who come to him will be truly free.  

This week as we prepared to celebrate our nation’s birthday there was much talk about freedom.  On July 4th we celebrate our Independence from being a mere colony of Britain.  It is said that King George wrote in his diary, July 4, 1776, “Nothing of importance happened today.” Well, we think something of importance happened, and we are grateful that it did.

We may celebrate freedom FROM England, but true freedom is not only freedom FROM, it is freedom TO.  We celebrate freedom FROM England, but it is also a Freedom TO be the United States of America.  As Christians who have been forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ we celebrate freedom FROM sin and the freedom TO serve.  In Jesus we are freed FROM being unequally yoked to sin and freed TO be yoked to Jesus and to followers of Jesus TO serve others in his name and share his love with others.

Nicky Gumbel is an Episcopal priest in London and he tells a story about the day he was pressed into service to referee a football game. (We call it soccer)  I’ve always thought it ironic that in American Football only four people per are actually allowed to touch the ball with their feet—punters and field goal and kick off kickers. In European football, soccer, the only people are allowed to touch the ball with their hands are the goalies, players who are out of bounds and the referees. .

Nicky said that he didn’t really know the rules, but the regular referee didn’t show and Nicky was the only dad there.  So Nicky began to referee.  It soon became evident to the children that Nicky didn’t know the rules and so they started breaking them….and pretty soon they were breaking each other.  It escalated into mayhem until the real referee arrived.  He took the whistle in hand restored order and the boys got on with playing and had a fabulous time.

For a few minutes they experienced freedom FROM the rules of the game for a few minutes, and lost the joy of the game.  But when they took on the yoke of order, they were able to experience the freedom to play the game and enjoy it.

Jesus calls us to enjoy the freedom OF being yoked to him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and let me teach you for I am humble and gentle at heart and you shall find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light.”

Are any of you tired or weary and carrying heavy burdens? The stress on people today has been well documented–particularly those with families. There are many people today working full-time on the job and then working just as hard off the clock meeting their responsibilities at home.

Kim Bolton tells of a workday to which that many moms can relate. She looked around at mounds of unwashed laundry and un-mopped floors, and she silently dedicated herself to a day full of cleaning. And just as she was getting into a cleaning rhythm, her two-year-old son called to her, “Hey, Mom, why dontcha come and sit wif me in da big chair.”

Kim protested. She tried to explain how busy she was. She promised to sit with him later. But he continued to smile that charming smile and pat the chair next to him. Finally, Kim put down her laundry and settled into the chair with her son. The two of them snuggled for a minute or so, and then her son patted her on the leg and said, “You can go now.”

In a hectic day, he had insisted that she take just a moment to rest with him. He understood her busyness, but he also understood that their time together was more important to both of them. In that moment, Kim Bolton said her two-year-old boy was an example of Jesus to her. (1) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” says Jesus, “and I will give you rest.”

Few emotions take a toll on us like worry does. Author Stephanie Stokes Oliver in her book, Daily Cornbread, asks whether we are worriers or warriors.  Chronic worriers let their anxiety and fear interfere with living their life to the fullest. They manifest their worry in physical symptoms like headaches and knotted muscles. Worriers seem unable to take control of their situation and make a positive change for themselves.

Warriors, on the other hand, find healthy ways to deal with their fears. They don’t automatically shut down and go into crisis mode. They trust that God will sustain them. Warriors take positive action to change a negative situation. (3)

Astronaut Jim Lovell is a warrior. In a news conference he was asked about Apollo 13. He was in command of that spacecraft when it experienced an explosion on its way to the moon. With their oxygen almost gone, their electrical system out, their spaceship plunging toward lunar orbit, it appeared Lovell and his crew would be marooned hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth.

Lovell was asked, “Were you worried?” Such as obvious question drew snickers. But then Lovell gave a surprising answer. “No, not really.” he said. “You see, worry is a useless emotion. I was too busy fixing the problem to worry about it. As long as I had one card left to play, I played it.” (4)

People who allow worry to overwhelm them will often complain of fatigue. Fatigue, they’ll tell you, is why they do not do anything about their situation.
Friends, you may be tired because of your work. You may be tired because of worry.  But more of us are tired because of what is happening in our brains than what is happening in the workplace. Negative thoughts will drain the life right out of you.

Some of the worry we experience may come to us from a breakdown in integrity. Nothing will drain us like the fear of discovery–always looking over our shoulder will not allow us to make much progress in the world.

Are you weary this morning? Weary from work? Weary from worry? Weary from guilt or fear? Hear again the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  

Jesus calls us to come to him and take him on…to follow him and that as we do so with others in ministry the load is lighter because it is shared.  Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  It’s still a yoke.  Work is still involved.  It’s more than taking a seat in a recliner. It’s strap on and let’s work together in partnership with your other brothers and sisters and we’ll make light work of it. 

Jesus calls us to celebrate freedom FROM the bondage of SIN and enjoy the freedom TO SHARE God’s love.  Jesus calls us to not only celebrate Freedom FROM being a Colony of another nation, but to celebrate the freedom TO SHARE God’s love with other NATIONS.  Jesus calls us to come to him even if we are in a dead-end job or we think we’re too busy to “come and sit wif me in da big chair.”  Jesus came to free us from worrying, especially about our friends who have gone to heaven thinking we’re not coming.  So let us answer Jesus call to come to him and let him give us…..rest.

Let’s pray.  We hear your invitation, Lord. Come. Rest. It sounds so appealing. Come! Rest! Come share the load with others.  Lord, lift us out of our self-concern and focus our attention upon your word of life. Help us to find rest for our souls. Amen.

1. Kim Bolton with Chris Wave, Finding God Between a Rock and a Hard Place, compiled by Lil Copan and Elisa Fryling (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1999), pp. 134-135.
2. bounce-jokeseveryday-1807004@ripple.dundee.net
3. Stephanie Stokes Oliver. (New York: Doubleday, 1999).
4. Second Thoughts–One Hundred Upbeat Messages for Beat-up Americans by Mort Crim, Health Communication, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 1997, p. 154.

                 Offering Song: “Abide With Me”  -Henry Lyte

On Friday I had a phone conversation with David Cade. In the course of our visit we got to talking about some of the old hymns.  I talked about the one I’ve been signing off with on my emails—“God be with you till we meet again.”  David said one of his favorites was “Abide with Me.”  I think that hymn is a great follow up to Jesus call for us to come to him when we are weary and weighed down. Abiding with Jesus is a great way to find rest.

I looked up the author of the hymn and found its history fascinating. It was written by Henry Lyte.  Henry was left an orphan at the age of nine and was taken in by a kind Irish minister named Dr. Robert Borrows. Even though Dr. Borrows had five children of his own, he took Henry in and paid for his schooling. Henry followed in Dr. Borrows’ footsteps and attended Trinity College in Dublin, where he won prizes and scholarships for poetry. Henry graduated in 1814 and became an ordained ministry of the Church of England.

Henry overworked himself taking care of the sick and soon had to visit France to regain health. Henry and his wife Anna spent their days carrying for the sick and needy every single day and visiting warmer France in the winter. Henry became ill with tuberculosis and was not expected to live much longer. At the age of 45, Henry prepared a farewell speech for the morning of September 4, 1847 which included the lyrics of “Abide With Me.” Henry Lyte passed away 10 weeks after preaching his farewell sermon.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Faith Lift: Americas

“South America stole our name.”  That’s a lyric from Randy Newman’s song “Political Science” that has always made me stop and think.   As we gather on July 4th with family and friends to give thanks for the freedom we enjoy in the United States of North America I pray that we will keep the other two Americas –South and Central America in our minds and our prayers as well.

Some are starting to suggest that our national anthem should be changed.  For one thing, it’s a really hard song to sing.  For another thing it has a lot of bombs and rockets in it.  Some have suggested it be changed to Woody Guthrie’s “this Land is Your Land.   Others are suggesting that it be changed to “America the Beautiful.”  The chorus of that song says, ‘America, America God shed his grace on Thee.”  The only problem is that there are three Americas.  All of them need God’s grace shed upon them.

In my previous churches we used to sing, “In Christ there is no East or West, in him no South or North, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.” It is because of the freedom we have in Christ that we can be joined in fellowship with people in all three Americas and indeed in the whole wide earth. 

A couple of years ago when Anne and I went on vacation to Colonial Williamsburg, as I stood in the chapel in next to George Washington’s pew there was a track playing “My Country Tis of Thee.”  (which are lyrics set to the tune of “God Save The Queen”) Every Wednesday at the Rotary meetings I used to attend in Baytown we would begin with a pledge of allegiance to the flag of our country that says we are “one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” 

Having spent time on my vacation on a battlefield where men died to gain liberty from England (so we could change the words of “God Save the Queen” to “My Country Tis of Thee,”) and on a battlefield when we fought against each other to prove that we were not permanently “divisible,” I spent that 4th of July remembering what it took to secure and to preserve our freedom.  The following Sunday I stood in the pulpit and shared about Jesus commissioning his 12 disciples to go and proclaim repentance and offer freedom in Christ for all … throughout the “whole wide earth.” Here’s to hoping and praying and working so that God would shed grace on the “whole wide earth” including all 3 …  Americas.

Message from Council President

Hello Joyful Life,

As you are probably aware, the Coronavirus Pandemic has taken a turn for the worse in our area. Out of an abundance of caution, the Joyful Life Church Council has voted to suspend worship in the building until further notice. This was a very difficult decision for us since we just returned to the building and were getting things rolling again. We realize that this is late notice for this Sunday, June 28. Therefore, we will have the building open for prayer, meditation, and a time for you to drop off your prayer requests and offerings beginning at 10:30. Church council members will be available to answer any questions or just talk further if needed.  Please wear a mask if you are planning to come by. The council will then be holding a planning meeting to discuss further direction so we can keep you updated as necessary. We will continue to provide the service online for your convenience, so please watch for information to be sent to you via e-mail. Stay safe and let us know if you or your families have any needs or special requests.  


Gerald Evans, Council President

Faith Lift: Vacation

Summer has begun.  The longest day of the year has happened.  Vacation time is here. 

I wonder what professional golfers do on vacation. Do they spend their winter months sitting behind a desk? 

How will you spend your summer vacation?  Last summer we spent our vacation moving into our new house in Jersey Village. (Good News!  We have a closing date on our Meyerland house before July 4th)

The summer before last my wife Anne was serving on the Holistic Review Committee for the American Association of Medical Colleges and they met in Washington D.C.  She has been there many times but I had never been.  My son went when he was in the 8th grade.  My daughter has been for her work.  So, at the risk of continuing to be left out, I finally got to go.

While Anne was in committee meetings, I went to tour the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  One of the exhibits I naturally wanted to see was the History of American Music exhibit.  When I asked a volunteer for the way to that exhibit, she informed me that it was closed for renovation. When she saw the look of disappointment on my face she said, “We have Sting’s guitar.  Will that do?”

Not exactly.  First of all, Sting, the lead singer from the Band “The Police,” is from England. Second of all, Sting primarily is a bassist.  Third of all, one guitar owned by a bass player from England does not make up for missing the History of American Music.  Luckily, I did manage to catch a 45-minute film on the History of American Music which helped. 

Anne and I had a wonderful time seeing not only the Nation’s capital but also visiting Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.  That’s how I spent my summer vacation summer before last.

Of course, this summer we are not planning on flying anywhere. In fact, last week and this week Anne has been taking vacation because if she doesn’t take it she won’t get it. So we are staying at home and doing things around the house.  We had a great Father’s Day Game night. (see pictures of my getting “carded”) We played a new card game our daughter brought over “The Great Dalmuti.”  Last night our son and his wife came over and we went bike riding in the neighborhood. 

From time to time Jesus took time to get away from the crowds.  He would go mountain climbing to spend time in prayer.  Other times he would get in a boat with his disciples and head out on the lake. (Luke 8:26-39)

I hope that you will be able to take some time off to enjoy yourself this summer.  Stay safe.  Wear a mask. Keep your distance.  If you are a professional golfer, I hope you can find some time for relaxation…behind a desk.   Enjoy your summer … vacation.

On the Sparrow

Genesis 21:8-21; Ps 69:7-10, 11-15, 16-18; Matthew 10:24-39; Romans 6:1-11 – June 21, 2020

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS- Abraham had a dilemma.  He had a promise from God that he would be a father, but he and Sarah had gotten impatient waiting for God to fulfill the promise.  So, Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar to Abraham so he could be a father, and Sarah could become a mother through a surrogate handmaid.  This was a common practice.  The union of Hagar and Abraham produced a son who was named Ishmael. 

It wasn’t until thirteen years later that God’s promise of a son through Sarah was fulfilled when Sarah herself bore a son and named him Isaac, which means “laughter.”  It was laughter for Abraham and Sarah, but it wasn’t long before there

wasn’t so much laughter for Hagar and Ishmael.  Now that the promise of a son as fulfilled in Isaac, a rivalry breaks out between Sarah and Hagar and guess

who wins?  Hear the word of the Lord from Genesis 21:8-21

INTRODUCTION TO MATTHEW- When Ishmael was cast out of his father’s camp, we saw how Ishmael’s heavenly father intervened.  God cares for Ishmael and his mother and sees to it that Ishmael becomes the father of one of the nations who will call Abraham their father. 

In today’s gospel lesson Jesus talks about his Heavenly Father, and how he cares for God’s creatures and how nothing escapes God’s watchful eye.  Jesus continues to warn his disciples of the dangers ahead, but warns them of the even greater danger of rejecting or denying or being ashamed of their Heavenly Father and the hope of the promise of the love and caring of their and our Heavenly Father.  Hear the gospel of our Lord from Matthew 10:26-39

Let us pray.  Dear Lord bless to our ears, hearts, and souls this reading of your Holy Word.  Speak to us. Challenge us.  Call us to follow you above all. Amen.

****

In my midweek meditation I shared about a mom and her son in a grocery cart.  She warned him not to ask for Chocolate Chip Cookies, but when he got to the check out and saw his chances diminishing he yelled, “In the name of Jesus I want some Chocolate Chip Cookies!”  

Well since this is Father’s Day, I have a story of a father and his son in a grocery cart.  Grocery cart stories have been on my mind since for weeks that was one of the only places I could go.

A dad stopped in the grocery store on the way home from work to pick up a couple of items for his wife. He wandered around aimlessly for a while searching out the needed groceries. As is often the case in the grocery store, he kept passing this same shopper in almost every aisle. It was another father trying to shop with a totally uncooperative three-year-old boy in the cart.

The first time they passed, the three-year-old was asking over and over for a candy bar. Our observer could not hear the entire conversation. He just heard Dad say, “Now, Billy, this won’t take long.” As they passed in the nest aisle, the 3-year-old’s pleas had increased several octaves. Now Dad was quietly saying, “Billy, just calm down. We will be done in a minute.”

When they passed near the dairy case, the kid was screaming uncontrollably. Dad was still keeping his cool. In a very low voice he was saying, “Billy, settle down. We are almost out of here.” The Dad and his son reached the check-out counter just ahead of our observer. He still gave no evidence of losing control. The boy was screaming and kicking. Dad was very calmly saying over and over, “Billy, we will be in the car in just a minute and then everything will be OK.”

The bystander was impressed beyond words. After paying for his groceries, he hurried to catch up with this amazing example of patience and self-control just in time to hear him say again, “Billy, we’re done. It’s going to be OK.” He tapped the patient father on the shoulder and said, “Sir, I couldn’t help but watch how you handled little Billy. You were amazing.”

Dad replied, “little Billy?  His name is Wesley.  I’m Billy!”

It is not easy being a father. It is not easy juggling all the issues and providing for one’s family.  It is hard to bond with those you love when by necessity you must be away from them to be able to earn money to provide for them.

One cynic, speaking from his own experience, noted that children go through four fascinating stages. First, they call you DaDa. Then they call you Daddy. As they mature, they call you Dad. Finally, they call you collect. (of course, since the advent of cell phones when all long-distance calls are free—they do not call at all …and may not answer when you call.)

The role of a father is more important in today’s world than ever before. It is a different role than in earlier generations. In many households today, Dad is called upon to play more of a nurturing role in caring for children. If his spouse works outside the home, Dad must take a more active role in doing household chores. Today’s father needs to be nurturing of his children, supportive of his spouse, and yet at the same time provide for spiritual direction in the home. It is a rare man, a special kind of man, who can combine all three of these qualities


Today we salute fathers. Dads, we love you.  We wish you more than an ugly tie.

I’m wearing my Father’s Day tie from 2008 when my son took me to an Astros game, and I got a tie.  But we wish you more than a tie. We wish you peace, the kind of peace that Jesus came to bring. 

However, our lectionary scripture lessons this Father’s Day are hard to hear. Abraham exiling his 13-year-old son and his mother because of his wife’s jealousy and Jesus saying “I have come to set a man against his father are hard to understand. Is Jesus calling us to not love our fathers–to not love our mothers, our children? 

We must remember the context of these words of Jesus.  Jesus is warning his disciples about what is ahead for them. He knew that to follow him would mean that some parents would disown their children who did.  He knew that to follow him some children would turn in their own parents.  His call to follow him had to take precedence over even love of family.  In that sense he would come “not to bring peace but a sword” –a sword that would cut family ties rather than bring peace.  These words come from one who is about to give over his body to be crucified.  They are not to fear man who can only kill the body.  

I think a key to understanding these verses in Matthew is to understand them is to compare them to other statements Jesus made about peace.  In John 14:27 Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you.”  He said, “My peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives give I to you.  My peace I give to you.”  There the key, I think.  Jesus did not come to bring peace to the world.  He did not come to bring WORLD PEACE.  He came to bring PEOPLE PEACE.   He came to bring peace to those who would take up their cross and follow him.  He came to bring peace to people who would follow him even to their death.  He came to bring peace to those who would answer his call to follow him, even IF it meant that to do so it would bring anything BUT peace to family relationships. 

Ideally, whole families would answer Jesus’ call to follow him and his peace would be a part of their family life and strengthen their family ties. The peace Jesus came to give, sustains his followers in the worst of times, in the cruelest of treatments.  It is not the kind of peace the world promises and rarely delivers.  It is the kind of peace that separates the followers who have faith from those who do not. 

In verses 29-31 we have one of the most important Scriptural reminders of the love of our Heavenly Father for His children. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” Jesus asks, “And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” What a moving testimony to the very intimate love that God has for each of us.

Here is one of my favorite testimonies+ as a father. Once when my daughter was around 7 years old, she and I were sitting outdoors eating pizza on Montrose.  Abbey started throwing some of her pizza crust crumbs to some sparrows in the shaded parking lot. A couple of bully grackles came down and sent the sparrows scrambling.  Abbey jumped out and sent the grackles scrambling and the sparrows came back.  Abbey squealed with delight, “Victory for Sparrows!”  In Matthew 6:26 Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air.  They do not sow nor reap nor gather in barns.  Yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?”  Sometimes our Heavenly Father feeds sparrows through the efforts of 7-year-old daughters.

A second grader once asked his teacher how much the earth weighed. The teacher looked up the answer in an Encyclopedia. “Six thousand million, million tons,” she answered. The little boy thought for a minute and then asked, “Is that with or without people?”

Viewed from one perspective, it might very well seem that people do not really matter very much. After all, we are but microscopic inhabitants of a tiny planet orbiting a relatively obscure star in a small galaxy among the billions and billions of stars and galaxies that make up creation. Yet the God of creation has counted the very hairs of our heads.   (Some of us are doing our best to give God some time off by having fewer hairs on our heads to count.)

There is a troubling side to this truth. Sparrows do fall from skies. It happens all of the time. Sparrows do not live forever. Sudden storms or droughts can deprive them of their food. Predators prey upon them when they fall.

Our Heavenly Father’s love does not protect sparrows from falling.  Neither does our Heavenly Father’s love protect us from life’s problems. Those of you who are parents, you would protect your young from all life’s problems if you could. Deep in our hearts we would like to build a protective bubble around our children.  After all, when they hurt, we hurt. When someone abuses them, we are just as angry.  When they are confronting a crisis, it is we who toss and turn in our beds with sleeplessness. We would like to protect our young from any and every hurt. But what would happen if we did? They would never grow into responsible, competent, mature adults. Those little sparrows would never leave the nest!  (Bless their hearts).

God has placed us in a world that is designed to bring out the best within us if we deal with life in an attitude of faith and love. That does not mean that God has forsaken us or forgotten us.

There is a second truth related to this one. The Father’s love does not exempt us from life’s problems, but neither are life’s problems God’s punishment for our sins. Remember Job?  It was bad enough that he lost his children and his lands and his flocks and was covered with sores, but his friends accused him of deserving his wretched condition.

How often people blame themselves, and sometimes blame God, when life deals them a difficult blow. We hear someone say, “God must be using my child’s sickness to punish me for some sin.” What a petty God that would be to injure a helpless child in order to punish their parents. No!  Grief is tragic enough without adding to it the crushing burden of guilt.

Sparrows do fall from the sky. (Hairs do fall from our heads.)  Sparrows fall, but that is not because they have been good sparrows or bad. Sparrows fall because they are part of a lawful universe in which sparrows fall.   But here is the good news. The little sparrow never falls beyond the watchful eye of the Father. The child of God who knows that he or she is under the watchful eye of the Father can, by His grace, bear any burden, triumph over any tragedy, get on top of any circumstance because he knows that he is not alone. She is not alone.

We live in a world where fathers also fall.  Ishmael was cast far beyond the watchful eye of his father Abraham.  But Ishmael was not beyond the eye of God.  As fathers we will fall short. Thanks be to God who is a Heavenly Father who makes up for our shortfalls. 

Jesus warns his disciples that because of answering his call to follow him some families would be torn apart.  Some fathers would turn in their children and some children would turn in their fathers…but he also warns that the first and foremost loyalty is to our heavenly Father. 

It is time for fathers to face some hard truths. Sometimes our supposed busyness with business is often nothing but a camouflage, an easy way out. It is easier to provide a house than it is to provide a home. It is easier to give dollars than it is to give time. It is easier to write a check than to check out of work early to watch a child’s game or play or concert.  It is easier to provide a fun time than to share our wisdom. It is easier to be a good provider than it is to be a good leader. It is easier to push our children through the door of the church rather than lead them into the church. It is easier to be the bread winner, than to teach our children about the bread of life. Someday we will be called to give an account of our lives and woe be to those who were ashamed of their heavenly Father on earth, because Jesus warns, of them will their Heavenly Father be ashamed.

I do not know exactly what heaven will be like. But I know what God is like. He is like a Father who notices every little sparrow that falls from the sky and every hair that does or doesn’t …… God is a heavenly Father who cares for us much, much more than he cares for sparrows. That means even though we still must face obstacles and crises, we do not face them alone, and someday, somehow, all that which is hurtful will be turned into that which is helpful, and we shall live with joy in our heavenly Father’s house forever.  That is a promise that is good news in the grocery store for little Wesley AND big BILLY.  That is good news for us.  We will live in our Father’s House forever because the one whose eye is on us ….is the same as whose eyes are …  on the sparrow. 

Let us pray. We thank you for faithful fathers, for men who have not only brought children into this world but who felt a responsibility to help their children grow not only in stature but in wisdom and in favor with God and others.  Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for stepping in when earthy fathers have not lived up to their calling—for hearing the cries of abandoned Ishmaels of the world.  For answering those cries through your agents in the world, the church, yes even us. 

Faith Lift: My Father’s Guitar

This Sunday we will take time to express our appreciation for fathers.  The idea for creating a day for children to honor their fathers began in Spokane, Washington. A woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd thought of the idea for Father’s Day while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909.  This was a case where mothers took the lead.   

Having been raised by her father after her mother died, Sonora wanted her father to know how special he was to her. It was her father that made all the parental sacrifices and was, in the eyes of his daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man.  Her father raised her and her siblings after her mother died in childbirth, and she thought that fathers should get recognition, too. So she asked the minister of the church if he would deliver a sermon honoring fathers on her father’s birthday, which was coming up in June, and the minister did. Sonora’s father was born in June, so she chose to hold the first Father’s Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on the 19th of June, 1910.

In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.  I didn’t know this, but I discovered that roses are the Father’s Day flowers.  I always thought roses were the kiss-and-make-up flowers.  Roses were what I bought when I needed to apologize. 

I the truth be told, many fathers would be more honored to have a “Get out of church free card” on Father’s Day.  Many of them would rather be playing golf or napping on the couch or maybe even going fishing.  So, my hat’s off to those of you who will come to sit in church or at least  … watch church on this Father’s Day.

 For our 25th wedding anniversary I wrote a song on the guitar that was my Father’s. It was the guitar I didn’t learn to play on. The strings were too far off the frets.  The steel strings hurt my fingers.

My Father told me that he bought his guitar in a hock shop.  It was painted white with the name “Tex” on it in black.  He stripped the white paint off the guitar and underneath was this bird’s eye maple.   (I hope the guitar didn’t once belong to Tex Ritter). 

For Christmas when I was 19 my father took me to a hock shop in Wichita Falls and bought me a nylon string guitar. I learned to play. I sometimes wonder if the hock shop in Wichita Falls was the one where he bought his “Tex” guitar. 

Of course, I have since learned to play his guitar. Here’s the link to the song, My Father’s Guitar. https://youtu.be/U4hBvBjMavU 

Happy Father’s Day.

Passion & Compassion

Gen. 18:1-5, 21:1-7; Psalm 100; Matthew 9:35, 10:24; Romans 6:1-8 – June 14, 2020

When you think of Abraham you think of him as being the father of many nations, right?  Well in Genesis 15, God first makes a covenant with Abram that this will be so. In Genesis 16, Abram there is no child in sight so Abram’s wife Sarai gives her Egyptian maidservant named Hagar to Abram so they can “help God out” with God’s promise.  Hagar bears a son and names him Ishmael.  At this point Abram is 86 years old.  Thirteen years later, when Abram is 99 and Ishmael is 13, God speaks to Abram again. In Genesis 17, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and his wife Sarai’s name to Sarah.  God reiterates the promise that Abraham and Sarah will be parents to a son and tells Abraham to seal that promise with the sign of circumcision.  So, at 99, Abraham and at 13, Ishmael and all of the males in Abraham’s household were circumcised.  This brings us to chapter 18: 1-5..READ   Now let’s skip over to chapter 21:1-7. for the rest of the story.

INTRODUCTION TO MATTHEW 9:35-10:24

This morning’s gospel lesson focuses our attention on the first missionary journey of the twelve disciples of Jesus.  I know we heard Jesus’ Great Commission last week about Jesus sending his disciples out to share the good news of his resurrection, but this week’s gospel text focuses here he is sending them out to share the good news of God’s love. …for the house of Israel.

I find it interesting that in this first missionary journey Jesus specifically charges his disciples to only go to the house of Israel.  Even though Abraham became the father of many nations Jesus’ initial focus is to be specifically on just one of the nations who count Abraham their father, the nation of Israel. 

Israel, had a specific calling to be a LIGHT to the other nations-to lead the way, to set the example, to be witnesses to the other nations about the light they had received from their Lord and God.  Let’s read about Jesus charge to his disciples as he sends them forth on their first missionary journey.

***********   (Put up Passion Slide)

Carl A. Boyle was a sales representative who was driving home one hot afternoon when he saw a group of young children selling Kool-Aid on a corner in his neighborhood. They had posted the typical hand scrawled sign over their stand: “Kool-Aid, 10 cents.” Carl was intrigued. He pulled over to the curb. A young man approached and asked if he would like strawberry or grape Kool-Aid. Carl placed his order and handed the boy a quarter. After much deliberation, the children determined he had some change coming and rifled through the cigar box until they finally came up with the correct amount. The boy returned with the change, then stood by the side of the car. After a few moments the young boy asked if Carl was finished drinking. “Just about,” said Carl. “Why?” “That’s the only cup we have, “answered the boy, “and we need it to stay in business.”
It’s difficult to operate a Kool-Aid business if you only have one cup.


For many persons the word “evangelism” brings to mind one cup: it’s either the televangelist or the tent revivalist, or the street corner preacher handing out tracts or maybe even going door to door as Jesus’ disciples were charged to do until they came upon a “man of peace.”  In some churches, it means a once a year special event like a Revival.  For some churches it may be a particular strategy for incorporating newcomers into the life of the church.

But limiting our vision of evangelism to only one of these cups will cheat us out of one of the most rewarding endeavors Christ offers us: the joys of sharing God’s love with others.  When it comes to that mission, Jesus wants us to be more than a one trick pony or a one cup church.  

Why should we share God’s love? What is our motivation?  What is it that moves us to want to do that?  What would ever possess us to move out of our “comfort zone” to doing something like that?  Because we’re commanded to do so?   Because someone shared God’s love with us?  Because God’s going to get us if we don’t?  (Have congregation supply reasons)….

I believe our primary motivation for sharing God’s love is because we have a passion for our Lord.  

What first comes to mind when you hear the word passion?  About what are we passionate?   Family?   Our country?   Our sports teams?  Our cars?  Our money? Our Politics?

A seminary professor friend of mine, who taught evangelism courses once told me that evangelism is like sex—“if you have the passion you’ll find the method.” To be passionate is to be excited, to be delighted, to be consumed to be not able to sleep for thinking about your passion.  Let me tell you about my grandbaby!  Wait till you see my new car!   Let me show you some pictures here on my cell phone. Pumpkin Spice blizzards are back!  (I was at DQ yesterday and had to settle for a Reeses blizzard)

Mel Gibson, the actor who has made a career portraying men of passion leading other men into battle like Braveheart and Lethal Weapon 1-12 had a passion for the Lord that moved him to make a controversial film, a tremendously moving film called “The Passion of the Christ.”  The film depicted in graphic detail the last week of Jesus life on earth. 

Traditionally, the words used to describe the last week of our Lord’s life have been “Passion Week.”  We know that Christ endured great suffering on our behalf. So should we have a passion for our Lord.

I believe a second equally important motivation for sharing the love of God is because we have COMPASSION for the World.  (change to Compassion slide)

This compassion is the reason Jesus tells his disciples to go forth.  Verse 36 says, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Can you think of a better description of the mass of people today than “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd?”Can you not see a flock of sheep milling around in a pen –frightened and confused, stumbling blindly, bumping helplessly into one another, because they don’t know which way to turn? How like so many of us.


Jesus had compassion on the crowds because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. They had no idea where they were headed or how they would get there.  Jesus understood the real tragedy of a life of empty values, a life with no direction, a life linked to false gods. He “had compassion for them,” THEN he said to his disciples, `The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The men to whom he spoke had virtually no wealth, no social position, no prestige, no extraordinary talent; nevertheless they took our Lord at his word. 

Here’s a teaser for you.  (slide of 3 frogs)

 There are 3 frogs sitting on a log and two of them decide to jump off. How many frogs are sitting on the log?   There are 3.   Deciding to jump and jumping are two different things.

Why do you think that Jesus told them to travel light–to depend on the kindness of strangers?  So they couldn’t load up on impersonal tracts?  So it would be easier to go from place to place?  So if they came somewhere and they were not received they could easily move on…or maybe even run on to the next place?  I think it serves as a model for us in our everyday lives.  Our mission is to share God’s love with folks in our everyday lives.  You don’t have to go on a trip to be in mission. 

A Mission trip can be a trip to the grocery store.  You don’t have to pack a bag to go to the Grocery store–although you may come home with some.  Mission can take place through a chance meeting, a business meeting, or an over the fence greeting. 

Part of my mission is to greet folks every day with a smile and a wave as I take my daily 4 mile trike ride around my neighborhood.  On Thursday I was on my “mission trip” and I approached two mothers walking with their little girls. One of the little girls had a mission of her own. As I got closer one of the little girls yelled out, “What’s Your Name?”  I told them my name was Jim.  Then I asked them what their names were.  They were “Chloe” and “Nora.”  I ride with a teddy bear in the basket on the back of my trike. (Which I borrowed from the church nursery).  . (Show Slide of Trike and Bear)

I promise to bring it back when our nursery is open again.

So I asked the girls if they could guess the name of my teddy bear.  When they couldn’t guess I told them his name was “Yogi.”  Chloe squealed with delight. “That’s a FUNNY name!”  I asked them if they would like to give Yogi a “high five.”  They did.  Then I asked them if I could take their picture.  They said yes.

Here’s Chloe and Nora. (Show Slide of Chloe and Nora)

They beat me to my mission that day.  They reached out to me.  In their childlike faith they hadn’t yet learned to be cautious of strange old men in their second childhood on the second tricycle of their lives with a teddy bear in the back.  

We have a mission.  We are not a business enterprise. Our motive is not a more impressive bottom line. Our goal is not to enhance institutional pride. Our aim is not to be the biggest and the best.  We are a family whose mission is to share God’s love because we have a PASSION for the Lord and a COMPASSION for the world that moves us to jump off the log.

(Show slide of Passion/Compassion)

Jesus warned his disciples that it would not be easy.  They would go as sheep among wolves.  They needed to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves and still they would be arrested and whipped in church, in the synagogues, and put on trial in the courts. They would be hated for what they were being called to do. They would be called worse names than their master and yet….The disciples did more than decide to jump.  They jumped!

In our gospel lesson we heard their names read. Tradition tells us that Peter died in Rome, John in Ephesus, Andrew in Greece, and Thomas in India. Virtually all of the disciples gave their lives carrying Christ’s mission to the ends of the earth.

From the twelve, the group grew to120 by the time Jesus ascended into heaven.  Ten days later, on festival day of Pentecost, it increased to over 3,000. By the time the last of the disciples died, there were an estimated half-million followers of Jesus.  Before the first century had lapsed, there were Christians in the Middle East, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Egypt and Africa. They were equipped to share God’s love and they used their equipment. That was the end of the first century.

By the end of the second century, this number had increased to almost ten million. By the end of the third century, heathen temples were destroyed or converted into church sanctuaries. By the close of the ninth century, there were 100 million Christians. Today, the number has grown to over one billion believers around the world. None of this growth would have been possible had Christians not had a PASSION for the Lord and COMPASSION for the world.

There are people outside the walls of this church who are confused, angry, hurting, dying helpless and harassed like sheep without a shepherd.  And we have a shepherd, a good shepherd, Jesus. There are families that are disintegrating, young minds being destroyed by drugs, old folks feeling forgotten.

Jesus had compassion on the crowds.  To remedy their harassed and helpless condition he sent his disciples to heal them and announce the gospel and share God’s love with them.  And Jesus calls us to do the same.  Jesus is looking at us  and is filled with compassion on the crowds and is calling us to care enough to become involved in the lives of others.  Jesus calls us to be willing to take our time to show love to young people and old folks, to the substance abuser and the victims of broken families, to the down and out as well as the up and out. 

Jesus calls us to invite folks to come and see what the Lord has done in our lives.  Jesus calls us to reach out to waitresses and seniors and share with them the love of God and the peace of Christ and the fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus calls us to follow the example of Chloe who joyfully shouts, “What’s YOUR Name?” and starts a conversation. I think that for Chloe, a stranger is a friend she hasn’t met yet. There are conversations waiting to be had.  What is your mission?  Jesus calls us to be laborers who are willing to do more than make a decision to jump, but to actually … jump—to be followers whose lives will be characterized by … Passion and Compassion. Let’s pray.  Dear Lord, give us the passion and compassion to be used by you to reach others in your name.  Give us the courage to step outside our comfort zone, as we know you did when you left your home in heaven to come walk among us, live like us, and die for us.  Thank you for this wonderful fellowship of followers to encourage us, to lift us up to stir us up to good works.  This we pray in Jesus’ name.

Faith Lift: Forward

Even though I took last Sunday off knowing you had a video sermon provided by the Presiding Bishop I did watch the service.  Kudos to the Band, the Videographers, and the Council for stepping up.  As my daddy used to say, “There is no rest for the weary.”

I write today as New York City, the once epicenter of the Virus, is opening up.  I write this today as people gather to pay respects to George Floyd and his body is laid to rest.  I write this as our country and indeed our world is in a state of upheaval and unrest. 

In the gospel of Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Even though we had a lot of time off from things we used to do, some of us are weary.  Some of us are and have been carrying heavy burdens.   Jesus invites us to come to him to let him teach us how to be humble and gentle at heart even though our actions may, at times, need to be hard to strive for justice, and to show mercy with humility.  Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you what is good; and what does the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?   

Being yoked is easier than carrying the load alone. It is easier because the burden is shared with Jesus and with our fellow followers.   The burdens we carry are lighter because we have help carrying them.

A week ago, I attended a gathering of about 200 clergy.   We were led in prayer and then we walked over to Discovery Green for a Rally prior to a March to City Hall in memory of the death of George Floyd.  The organizers of the Clergy meeting, Houston Interfaith Ministries, were giving out T-shirts that said, “Let My People Go Now.org.”  It reminded me of Moses and what he went through to win freedom from slavery for his people.  Exodus 12:40 says they were enslaved for 430 years.  Freedom doesn’t come easily.  

When I got home from the Rally, I remembered a song I wrote over 20 years ago.  I reworked the last bridge and recorded it on my iPad.  The song is called “Hacer Justicia- Micah 6:8”  Here’s the link for the song if you would like to listen.  https://youtu.be/yGRhrp2aBhk I don’t think what we used to perceive as “normal” will ever be the same.   As Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  I do not want to go back to normal the former normal was not good for everyone.  I want to go forward to making the future brighter and easier and lighter for all.  I look forward to doing that with you as we all move….forward.

Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday

Delivered by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton – June 7, 2020

The holy gospel according to St. Matthew, the 28th chapter.

Glory to you, O Lord.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee,

to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

17 When they saw Jesus, they worshiped him;

but some doubted.

18 And Jesus came and said to them,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

baptizing them in the name of the Father

and of the Son

and of the Holy Spirit,

20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The gospel of the Lord.

Praise to you, O Christ.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

How are you? How is it with your soul? We live in uncertain times. In these difficult and unprecedented times. These have become catch phrases, but they are true. The world has been disrupted. We are finding ways to stay connected even while we shelter in place. I am impressed by the creative ways congregations are providing digital worship. We know we are reaching people who would otherwise not feel comfortable to enter our congregations. I am grateful for the resourcefulness of pastors and deacons who use new ways to connect with parishioners and the surrounding community. We continue to study scripture, worship, feed the hungry, and serve the neighbor. In fact, the church has not been closed these past months. We are showing up.

I long, as I am sure you do, to gather together in in-person worship; to share a meal, Holy Communion and potlucks, to greet each other face-to-face, to have children running around through coffee hours and church gatherings. That day will come. We have provided recommended guidelines for returning to in-person worship. These can be adapted to your context. We want people to be safe. I have heard the slogan, “Faith not Fear.” This is a false dichotomy. The faithful response is to care for the vulnerable, those at risk.

Today is Trinity Sunday. We have already passed so many important days in our church year, the end of Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost. All celebrations that are part of the story of God’s merciful and gracious will to redeem the world. Wandering in the wilderness for forty days, the commandment to love, the gift of Holy Communion, the unbelievable sacrifice of the crucifixion, the victory of Easter. Last Sunday, we celebrated the Holy Spirit showing up, blowing open windows and doors and sending the gospel out through the apostles in clear, ringing proclamation.

And now, today, the church sets aside time to consider how God has shown up, still shows up, will continue to show up as the Trinity. It is an unusual holy day. We are guaranteed that there will not be Netflix series or greeting cards to mark the day. It’s a difficult concept. Theologians have wrestled with this mystery for centuries. Hoping to gain further insight I googled “Martin Luther Trinity” I thought I had found a promising lead when “Martin Luther wrestling versus Trinity” popped up! I was disappointed when it turned out to be a story about boy’s high school wrestling between the high schools, Martin Luther and Trinity. As believers tried to make sense of a Triune God major heresies shot up: Modalism, Arianism, Nestorianism, Patripassianism, Adoptionism. Yikes! But this is how God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is at work in the world and this is how the church has experienced God.

In the beautiful song of creation in the first chapter of Genesis we hear, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Martin Luther put it this way, “So also the Christian Church agrees that in this description there is indicated the mystery of the Holy The Father created through the Son, whom Moses calls the Word, and over this creative work brooded the Holy Spirit.” Later God says, “Let us make humankind in our image.” This is the glorious relationship within God that spills out into all creation. God is not a lone ranger and all of God shows up delighting in creation, caring for the creation, weeping for the creation, redeeming the creation.

I confess that I do not fully understand or have language to describe the mystery of the Holy Trinity, probably won’t until I complete my baptismal journey and stand in the presence of God. I can’t explain the how, but I can testify to the great Lutheran question, “What does this mean?” God is relationship. Within God and flowing from God. Creation is God’s decision NOT to look after God’s self, but focuses God’s energies on the creation. God is the one who does not grasp. As we hear in Philippians, “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Likewise, the Spirit is poured out on all.

And again, what does this mean? God is relationship, within God, with the creation, with humankind, and among humankind. And since we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit baptized into the Trinity, we are also part of this powerful, dynamic, living, giving, loving relationship. With God, in God, with creation, with each other. We are, inextricably woven together. No one is alone, no one is beyond the fierce, tender love of God. And God is not far off. God is present in creation, in each of us and all of us. God is flesh and blood made visible in Jesus of Nazareth and in every human being. God is Spirit, closer than our own breath, breathing life in and through us.

We are months into the pandemic. As we tentatively emerge from sheltering-in-place, divisions are emerging. Is it too soon? Is it too late? How do I balance my rights and freedoms against caring for my neighbor? What risks are acceptable? What am I willing to sacrifice for the greater good? When will this be over?

The Triune God into whom we are baptized, calls us, molds us, loves us into divine relationship. We are free. We no longer live to ourselves or in ourselves. We live to God and each other because God, all of God, lives in us.

At the end of his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul announces a promise, “the God of love and peace will be with you.” This full court press, all in, expansive, intimate, relational, Triune God will be with you. This is the promise. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with us all.

Amen.

%d bloggers like this: