Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Luke’s Gospel passage is set at the place called "The Skull”: it is the crucifixion of Jesus.
Jesus has been preparing the disciples (and us) for months; yet this event feels much too soon. It is shocking. We’re not ready. We desperately want to look away from the brutal execution.
(As adults we may have even become inured to it as we live with hindsight and the knowledge of the resurrection.) But if we are willing to look closely, the crucifixion is where we see the cruel violence of the World conquered by compassion and forgiveness.
We even speak of the tenderness and mercy of Christ in connection with this horrific event. How can this be?
On Wednesdays our study group has delved into the writings of Julian of Norwich, a nun who spent her life exploring this very question.
Julian lived during the plague of fourteenth Century England, and is thought to have been the first woman author published in the English language. Her writings are called The Showings.
When Julian was about thirty she had a near death experience. While she was close to death the priest came into her room and placed a crucifix in front of her face.
Julian had an intense experiential vision while gazing upon the crucifix, with several more visions to follow. She had what we call a "mystical experience.”
Surprisingly Julian did recover, and she spent the rest of her life contemplating, reflecting and writing about the meaning of the crucifixion.
Julian does not look away from the blood, the pain, and the suffering of Jesus. Actually, it is a deep dive into the gruesomeness of the crucifixion. While at the same time, her interpretation of these visions upon the cross are pregnant with the knowledge of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ love, faithfulness, companionship, forgiveness, tenderness and mercy. It flows unceasingly for us. The font of every blessing.
As we recited in the Canticle this morning:
In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Jesus is broken open not only by human violence, but also through his heart given over completely to humanity. It is that break that allows new light to shine upon our very human predicament with tender compassion.
If you are willing to look closely at the crucifixion, the dark forces of the World are not overcome solely by Easter Morning. They are overcome by and with the cross, where the intersection of humanity and divinity is fully revealed. Jesus empties himself completely and joins us in our humanity.
The cross reaches both vertically and horizontally to bring heaven and earth into a shared point and purpose. Although I do not think of heaven as being in the sky, The Cross as intersection of humanity and divinity is central to our concept of who Jesus is and why he came for us.
We are not to feel guilty because Jesus died for us. It is unfortunately the message that so many received growing up in a church of penance. That is the church of human tendency. Not the church of God’s tenderness.
We are affirmed by the very earliest of Christians, In the letter from Paul to the Colossians, that we are “rescued through Jesus who reconciles us to himself and forgives us of all of our sins.”
Jesus empties himself upon the cross and offers forgiveness to the crowd and to the soldiers:“Father, Forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Christ's voice still rings out today in the violence we perpetuate against one another, both globally and at home.
The mission of the church as our catechism states, is
“to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice,
peace, and love.” That’s who we are. That’s what we do.
The prophet Jeremiah also speaks of this reign of justice and righteousness; Against shepherds gone awry, against those who have scattered the flock.
Another helpful way to view this prophetic vision is that it helps define what is and what isn’t the reign of God.
We can therefore see the divisiveness and separation, the scattering occurring in our World has nothing to do with the true Kingdom.
The Reign of this Kingdom is about justice and righteousness and Peace. We may think of Power as in complete control. But another way to look at power is to have agency: The activity. Paul tells us, “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power.”
When we died with Christ through our Baptism our voices were meant to rise with his in a chorus of forgiveness and compassion. We believe in One Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. This one crucifixion & this one Baptism intersect on the Cross with forgiveness. We are made for this.
Forgiveness for ourselves and for others is the way into Peace. As difficult as it may feel when we have been hurt, forgiveness works to release us from the torment of those abuses, just as Jesus was released from the torment of the cross.
If we are willing to look closely at the crucifixion, we see the Resurrection is not a separate event. Together they are part of the fullness of his being.
And our ascension from where we "dwell in the shadow of darkness” is also part of God’s fullness. We are made for this.
We may not be able to change another’s behavior, just as Jesus did not change the behavior of the soldiers who nailed him to the cross, or the crowd that heckled him. But we can resist the temptation to further the cycle of trauma by forgiveness. Lead us not into temptation. forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Forgiveness is not about amnesia. It does not mean excusing the harm. It means release from the torment of grudges; release from our captivity to pain and anger and revenge.
The crucifixion is where we witness this release. This outpouring of love.
Baptism for our forgiveness from sins is a sacrament: We call sacraments an outward sign of inward Grace. The inward activity (agency) of that Grace involves loving. Loving ourselves and loving others.
We need to begin with loving and forgiving of self so that we can pour it out for others. Most of us struggle with loving ourselves. We want to turn away from what we feel ashamed of. We often were given the idea as children that we had to show only our perfect selves to God, so we hid the things about ourselves that didn’t feel perfect. We trained to hide from God because none of us is perfect.
In Julian’s writings, she reminds us that we are going to miss the mark. Often. And God loves us anyway. In Jesus we see that invisible God seeking after us always. Offering compassion to those thieves suffering with him: "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” You who have missed the mark. You who have sinned by your own admittance. You shall be with me in Paradise.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
Christ’s Kingdom was revealed through Jesus’ healing ministry even unto death. He was healing those hanging beside him.
Christ's Kingdom was revealed in forgiveness poured out from the cross.
Christ’s Kingdom was revealed in Jesus’ humanity for humanity.
Like Julian of Norwich, and like Paul, perhaps if we are willing to look closely into the crucifixion, not for penance, but for strength….
We will see where it intersects with our lives and sets us free. Remembering it daily when we say:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.
In the Gospel this morning the disciples are exclaiming about the beauty of the temple. Jesus responds with a story about impermanence. All of this will eventually be thrown down.
Essentially: Do not confuse this human-made lavishness with eternity. Eternity belongs to God.
This does not mean that Jesus was against the Temple the Holy Place. When he enters Jerusalem a couple of chapters before this scene, he weeps at the state of things. He sees the corruption of the society. He prophesies its destruction.
But Jesus continues to spend time in the temple teaching. And fter his ascension in the book of Acts the disciples continue to pray in the temple. Actually they return to the temple with great joy, praying unceasingly. So we know that Jesus was not against the temple, but that Jesus was about God’s Kingdom (not of this world) and ascension.
And the story points to that deep truth, that structures of this world will pass away, literally need to pass away, in order for transformation to occur…
It is a message that connects us to our deepest human truth:
Our physical bodies pass away in order for the Spirit to ascend.
In that process there is a “letting go” required throughout our lifetime. We often do this kicking and screaming.
Change can be very difficult for us. When the structures we rely on, shift.
When our own understanding of things is challenged, or when are bodies are injured or start to age…
Our egos require letting go.
Our bodies start to fail us.
We begin to recognize we are not permanent.
But we are a resurrection people.
There are little deaths we withstand as we practice letting go:
Asking for help
Recognizing our own weaknesses;
Little persecutions are also when our families and friends or even strangers disregard our faith. We might think of them as the persecutions Jesus names. These moments can feel like little deaths as we may suddenly feel cut loose, misunderstood or even ridiculed for our faith.
(Our metaphors and rituals that point to a greater reality in God are deep and often misunderstood.)
We can handle these little deaths (all of them, social and physical ) because we have already embraced a Larger Death.
In our Baptisms we speak of of dying with Christ.
We have died to the world and have been risen to a new life in God. We believe in that higher love as both our foundation and our eternity.
The pains, the disappointments of this world cannot really touch us, because our Souls belongs to God.
Jesus prophesies, “some of you will be put to death, but not one hair on your head will perish.”
He’s telling us there will be death, but what he’s also telling us, is that there will be ascension.
The temple in Jerusalem did fall.
They thought it was going to be the end of the world.
(But it wasn’t.)
Religious practice moved into homes and communities.
Rabbinic Judaism was born - a Judaism that does not require pilgrimage and ritual sacrifice at the temple.
And Christianity spread.
Again, today these religious structures are being challenged. Culturally the U.S. is moving away from organized religion.
This weekend Jon Symer and I were at our Episcopal Diocesan Convention for two days of marathon meetings, presentations, and voting in committee offices and resolutions.
There was a strong overtone that the church is going through change. There is some grief, but as I’ve said before, this is a cultural shift. And our bishops tell us that we are not to feel like failures because the Episcopal Church is struggling.
We do need to change: as we shrink, we do need to collaborate, share resources.
We don’t know what that will look like yet.
But we are a resurrection people.
We are here to do the work that we have been given to do, and that will never change.
The church is doing amazing work as detailed through many of our resolutions. We are taking seriously the church’s historic role in slavery, and what that means for a body of Christians who follow Jesus’ way. We created a 501c3 for our Reparations Committee to function similarly to Episcopal Charities; safe-guarding this important work which officially began in the diocese in 2008.
We have started a credit union. That has been a project ten years in the making. It will make possible savings, loans and banking to so many in our diocese that have been left out of the traditional banking system because of poverty and racism.
Many other wonderful things came out of the convention related to domestic violence, reducing our carbon footprint…proving that we are willing to do the hard work - we are already doing the hard work of developing humility, looking at ourselves, recognizing our weaknesses, but also using our collective communal gifts to make change.
We are a resurrection people.
Jesus came to heal and teach about love and forgiveness; the most transformational forces of life. We do not need to fear change.
Jesus tells us that we will be filled with words and Wisdom as we enter into the future.
This Wisdom is coming through the power of the Holy Spirit which we believe is God working in our lives and working in our churches.
The Spirit is moving in our collective body to raise us all up, all of us!
So on the last day we all may ascend into the joy of the everlasting Kingdom. Amen
Today we celebrate All Saints Day.
We say we believe we are part of a community of Saints; those who came before us and those who are with us.
In this scene from the Gospel, Jesus’ message was for all of us, but also for this particular group of apostles he has chosen, who stand before him. We may project that these apostles were “perfect” Saints, forgetting their specific trials and tribulations. We might imagine that these disciples were all quite alike: They were first Century Jewish men. Yet, Jesus chose a diverse crew to be his apostles: from different strata, with differing opinions, and from poor to rich.
We have Peter (a fisherman) and his brother and friends who were economically lower middle class. We have Matthew (a rich tax collector). And he was basically also a sworn enemy of Simon who they believe was a Zealot… (One of the rebel Jews willing to fight Roman occupation); We had Thomas who doubted. We had Judas who betrayed. The mysterious Beloved disciple. All of them offer us versions of ourselves, and also the profound notion that such a diverse group was capable of walking the way with Jesus.
This not-so cohesive group heard Jesus’s cohesive message.
This passage is referred to as the Sermon on the plain. It sounds quite similar to the sermon on the mount (from the Gospel of Matthew).
Did you notice it begins: “Jesus looked up at his disciples and said…” He has specifically chosen to sit on the ground and teach from a posture of humility.
Looking up, he begins to speak about the blessings to come for those who are lacking. And woes to come for those who are fulfilled…And he ends with the famous teaching about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek. He’s talking to his close group of followers.
We may also hear the message as if all of the blessings belong to one group and all of the woes to another… but that may not be all of what Jesus is saying here.
He is showing that we all share in these realities. You who are mourning will one day be laughing. You who are rich may one day be poor. One day your’re “up”, the next day you are “down”… One day we are well. The next day we are ill. We all need to be awake to the condition of one another and our moment. He is saying this to his very first followers and he is saying it to us. It takes humility to recognize this reality and the greater reality of God’s everlasting constancy.
Jesus is using a style of teaching which includes Non-duality.
“Non-duality is the recognition that underlying our diversity of experience there is a single, infinite and indivisible reality… [Some say] the recognition of this reality is not only the source of lasting happiness within all people; it is the foundation of peace between individuals, communities and nations.” 
"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you… Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
It is a teaching style and world view that emphasizes our hope: That “we all may be one.”
As covenant people we recognize that there is a mutuality in our life with God. It is a relationship, not a top down system. It is a reality that is formed by communion.
But we are prone to duality. We like to divide things into categories of this and that and them against us. But Jesus is forever reminding us that God’s system is always about reconciliation, reunion, redemption: unity, constancy and peace.
It’s not quantitative, it’s qualitative. And it is everlasting. There is an infinite, indivisible reality at our source that we name God.
We like to speak of “this World and the Next”, “Heaven and Earth.” But today we celebrate All Saints Day which asks us to really consider and pray about this indivisible reality as our source in which the community of Saints is a part. We remember we are not alone on Earth in our spiritual pilgrimage.
You might say we embrace our faith fully today. I say this, because while we regularly pray for those who have died, today we recognize that those who have passed before us are praying for us too.
We are affirming that we believe in eternal life in God: The eternal Word. This indivisible reality.
It is key to our faith. We acknowledge the communion of Saints weekly through our Eucharistic Prayers, and our creeds. We claim it daily in morning and evening prayer. Every day is All Saints Day. We may say the words without truly absorbing this. But this is our theology.
Today in our litany we will pray for those who came before us and modeled great healing in their lives (for themselves and for others). But it is important to remember that we all are part of the community of Saints: blessed and holy. This does not mean that we are perfect. God is loving us into perfection.
Our very woundedness is the catalyst for our seeking wholeness through the love of God and one another. We are on a spiritual journey to be healed in this world, to come through it, and to be that healing presence for others. (That is the way of Jesus). We are all Saints on the way.
Consciously praying into this reality - making it a part of your daily routine - will not only support you in your suffering, It may help you in discernment of your life choices.
Praying with those who came before us - those we hope to emulate, or who played a significant role in our lives gives us strength. And it repairs those damaged relationships.
And in time it may, most helpfully, break down our fear - as we break down the walls we imagine exist between life and death.
Our culture is constantly reinforcing fear. Communion is our way through that. In our Eucharist we believe The Holy Spirit binds us to the communion of Saints. It is a ritual that points toward that greater indivisible unity and the path we are walking. But it is not simply something we do on Sunday.
It is what we are doing. And what the mystical body of Christ, all of the saints are eternally doing
To heal, To forgive, And to be a healing presence for others.
Communion requires humility.
Like Jesus who sat down before his followers and said “Love one another. Love your enemies.”
Just like those first century apostles gathered by Jesus. They were as human as we are, hearing the good news of Christ for the first time, trying to absorb this message: to turn not only to strangers but to one another with Love.
"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you… Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
This message is eternal.
From our lesson today: I pray that God may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know the hope to which you are called, and to the riches of your glorious inheritance among the saints. Amen
In our story from the gospel, we meet Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in this region, a Jewish authority secured by Rome to collect taxes from the people (his own people). Roman occupation was a place of taxation without representation and apparently ripe with fraud and extortion. Zacchaeus was reviled (hated) as a sinner, as most of the tax collectors were.
Zacchaeus hears of Jesus’ plan to pass through the area and climbs a tree in order to get a better view. He can see over the crowd. In doing so, he literally broadens his horizons. Perhaps for the first time he is alerted to the amount of poverty that exists, and the role he has played in it. He vows to give half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back (four times over) his past fraudulent activity. He has a conversion experience that transforms him and his activity in the world.
Zacchaeus’ new vision and conversion brought Martin Luther King Jr. to mind: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” These are the sentiments of an 19th Century clergyman, Theodore Parker who was an abolitionist clergyman. He made this statement one hundred years before MLK Jr.
And we are still working on it. It seems we have a long way to go before the world really reflects a radical conversion to love.
This week our message from the prophet Habakkuk gives us a cathartic plea.
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrong-doing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
When I read this in preparation for today I felt a great wave of consolation in the knowledge that I am not alone in my pain over current events and contentions; And the slow climb toward peace, justice and love.
I was also reminded of the passage from Romans: "the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” It reminded me that even when I doubt my prayer is helping (which can feel like empty words) it is actually filled with the Spirit of Love and hope. Something is actually working inside of us for the good. Conversion is happening.
Bishop Tutu said, “We Christians are prisoners of hope.”That is what keeps us looking even when we can’t bear to see the “wrong doing” as Habakkuk says. That is what keeps us bearing witness to the violence in our world. As faithful people we continue to trace that arc of morality with hope. We scan toward the horizon. Love is what keeps us looking.
Generally we don’t speak of morality in terms of an arc, but rather a compass. “Do you have a moral compass?” Most of us would say we do… and we try to follow it. But morality is not personal, just as we don’t have a personal Jesus. As Christians we believe in a radical Kingdom of Salvation - and a Savior for the whole World.
Rev. Theodore Parker and MLK wisely told us morality is an arc that bends toward justice. In this regard we must acknowledge the necessity of our adaptability. We must have faith in our ability to change course. We must be willing to bend (try on a new perspective) to see the hope of others. In doing so we may discover new horizons like Zacchaeus.
The text says, when Jesus asked Zaccheaus to come down and take him to his home, “All who saw it began to grumble.” All: Everyone. There was not one person that believed in Zacchaeus. There was no hope for conversion. There was no faith in salvation. There was only hate. Yet, Jesus calls him into relationship. Jesus says, I need you too Zaccheaus.
Today, like yesterday, we find that our societies are in need of a massive conversion to love (locally and globally). Morality is not in one’s hand. The scope of the moral universe is something that is gleaned through forgiving dialogue at every level. MLK is also famous for following in Jesus’ way by telling us that “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Conversion is turning our hearts to others. It is a life-long journey. We may have had a moment we can point to like Zaccheaus, when the overwhelming love of God spoke clearly to us. But turning our hearts, is practicing that moment, by opening to others every day: to our children and families and to our neighbors and community and to strangers. Conversion is a life-long practice.
Jesus often changes minds through his skilled debate, and yet it is his radical love that stirs peoples’ hearts and leads to conversion. Great knowledge and wisdom is when the mind becomes attuned to the heart. And that opportunity happens moment by moment. I may not understand you, but I am going to climb down from whatever perspective I’ve held because we need each other to understand the greater picture.
We need one another to ease our family problems, our nations’ problems, and our world problems.
There is nothing that guarantees perfect outcomes with those we love or around the world. But we can work on our conversion to love that furthers, that arc of salvific justice.
Jesus says, I need you.
That is the saving power of the Kingdom.
The Gospel today seems pretty clear. We hear it and it resonates with the stories thus far from Luke.
"For All who exalt themselves will be humbled,
but all who humble themselves
will be exalted.”
Jesus was the great equalizer. It is a theme. We hear it from the very beginning of Luke. Mary sings in the Magnificat:
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
John the Baptist goes into the the region around the Jordan, baptizing people for forgiveness of sins proclaiming:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
God’s path smoothes out the rough edges, and builds up a community of equity for God’s saving Grace.
In the Gospel today the pharisee is speaking to God of all of his virtues. His need to build himself up in this way is a lack of self awareness in the moment. He’s gotten caught in a self rewarding trap that doesn’t allow for God’s grace, God’s mercy. There is no space for forgiveness.
Additionally, he is casting aspersions at another:
Causing that separation, creating a wedge. He is forgetting that prayer is about being connected to God and interconnected to one another on one playing field, literally in one body.
There’s a saying: “God’s glory is the human being fully alive.” Cutting others down is a descent into dark spaces in our own psyche, and when justified heralds a domino effect of darkness, cutting ourselves off from others. It is not just a lack of awareness but a Lack of life.
The tax collector is standing afar beating his breast. Crying for mercy, he uses the language of psalm 51: Have mercy on me a sinner. This phrase is shorthand for everything that psalm holds. Hearers of the day accustomed to oral teachings and storytelling often knew scripture from heart. This would signal them to a whole picture, the whole theme of the psalm which is asking for God to remove their guilt.
According to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
This is not merely a confessional prayer, but the tax collector is humbly asking for the presence of God’s saving Spirit to sustain him. He is asking for God’s help. He is asking for justification which means to remove guilt.
The other seems to merely be justifying himself. But let’s not be too hard on him. In this moment, he is not fully awake. And of course we want to pray prayers of thanksgiving… but not at the cost of being unaware of our blind spots, our hidden contempts that may show up in self justification.
Righteous judgment separates us from one another. It makes others feel unaccepted, and it falsely makes us feel protected. It fuels our tendency to let ourselves get fired up about something, and generally justify what we want to do, or did do, or how we feel. It fuels anger; not just in other people but in ourselves. It stokes the fire of personal discontent as well as the fire of war, whether that’s quarreling family members, or world nations.
By dividing into you and me we feel we can set standards and measure everyone up against ourselves… but using our self as the measure is quite the illusion…
My mother had this great quote on her fridge for years:
“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”
We often take everyone else’s missteps as a definition of who they are rather than simply as a lack of awareness, a difficult day in a life, or a hard lesson for them to reflect on. To have a Christlike consciousness, is to identify with the predicament of another.
Right now The Russians feel justified in war. The Ukrainians feel justified, Nato and the U.S. feel justified. And where does that leave us: death and destruction. That lack of life. Our political leaders are modeling self righteousness. Our media is modeling it. I really don’t recall any point in my lifetime when the people we looked up to used such damaging judgmental and reckless language. Resisting these voices takes all of our effort. It requires staying awake.
Preparing the way of the lord… means trying to stay awake and finding our way back onto God’s path: the “way.” We all have our moments: It is easy to recoil or turn on someone when their version of the truth feels threatening. But in our best of moments we can return again to the path, empty ourselves and pray for a clean heart, for God to fill us with knowledge, wisdom and compassion.
For us to be humbled in very simple terms, is that unhappy moment when we find ourselves eating our own words. On a grander scale it is the humility that comes with illness or hardship, or war: The times when we desperately need connection. It is the humility when we realize our lives are not ultimately in our hands.
And our lives are not different from one another’s when it comes to that truth. When we turn to God in these moments, forgiveness also begins to flow more freely. We begin to wake up a little bit to our shared circumstance as flawed and fragile children.
Ultimately it is God drawing all of us into the same forgiveness that makes us know we are equally beloved. That all life is precious.
Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Luke (the patron saint of physicians). Physicians take a hippocratic oath to do no harm. Following the sermon we have a special litany written by one of our parishioners to honor those healers in our lives.
Today I pray that we would individually follow their lead. I pray our political leaders would follow such an oath, be filled with wisdom, and may we all come to know God, that saving Spirit who sustains us, and who ultimately we name the great physician!
Good Morning. Today we are having a Baptism! Welcome all of you! Beginning with the creation story in Genesis, scripture abounds with stories of events that help form community and build identity as the people of God. And Community is the antidote for epidemics of isolation and polarization.
In the Gospel we have the perfect metaphor for this. What could be more isolating than leprosy? We have ten lepers who Jesus comes upon in his travels between Samaria and Galilee. They are complete outcasts. They are what communities at the time considered untouchables. Their disease has cut them off from society. Not only that, Samaritans and Galileans were peoples at odds with one another. Imagine: this group is really adrift. They are in this in between place. They see Jesus, and seem to know who he is: they ask for mercy. And he points them in a healing direction.
Fast forward to now… we are often traveling a million miles an hour to keep up with things while feeling stuck in our own isolation. It is quite the contradiction. We find ourselves in what is known as an epidemic of loneliness in this country. While at the same time in polarized camps that separate us from one another. We begin to forget who we are by nature. Humans are meant for community and connection.
In Christian community we come together to tell ancient stories in order to pull a thread through time, to feel connected to how we made meaning in the past and to also celebrate where God may be newly revealed for us.
That is the great part about Christian fellowship: it is not a solo journey, but a journey of support and mutuality. It is one of the reasons we make such a big deal about baptism. It symbolizes rebirth and restoration, because we believe in new life, in a life that models the healing qualities of Jesus and is aligned with God’s restoration of the earth, both for human kind and for planet earth itself.
The church also celebrated St. Francis of Assisi this week. Many of you know him as the 12th Century monk who talked with animals and is often depicted with a bird in his hand. His ministry emphasized that we and the natural world are interconnected. His writings address “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon” and call us into greater depths of relationship with all of reality, really.
He is credited for saying “I asked the almond tree to speak to me of God and the almond tree blossomed.” Another translation of this is “I asked the almond tree to speak to me of Love and the almond tree blossomed.”
I’ve seen both translations. But both work perfectly in our theology because we believe that Jesus came to teach us that the nature of God is Love. It says it right in our catechism. Actually the very first lines of our catechism says, and I quote: “we are part of God’s creation made in the image of god which means that we are free to make choices: to love, to create, to reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God.”
We say that Holy Baptism is an outward sign of an inward spiritual grace. We make it public because that grace is recognized by and through the community. It is a ritual that says, we believe that Henry is a beloved child of God, with the free will to make choices, but blessed by being part of the body of Christ (us) and with the Holy Spirit (God at work in the world). And all of this together will help him grow into wisdom and Love.
It is a tough world out there. In the gift of Baptism we pray to be given an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage and will to persevere.
Part of being a Christian is to acknowledge that we don’t run away from the chaos, and from the realities of life. Instead we choose to be loving witnesses to the suffering in the world. We are people who reach out to make others feel welcomed and loved. There is true healing and restoration in such a spirit of hospitality.
There is a lot of Chaos in the world, but we have this precious life to live into. How do we want to show up? How do we live in the moment? How do we grow wiser?
One way is to share in rituals that make meaning, that connect us to other people over a millennia; a ritual that expresses our deepest values: Love is the highest form. We call that form God. And we continuously hope and pray that that love will manifest in a restored and peaceful world.
Living in the moment is both a gift and a sacrifice: a surrender to being fully present. It is a sacrifice in terms of the letting go of self, the preoccupation of my needs, and trying to be present to the needs of others around me. That type of sacrifice is Christ consciousness.
Sometimes that’s a donation to charity, volunteering at the food pantry, or really listening to a friend or loved one (not problem solving…simply being present). It’s learning to take a deep breath and try to “stay in the room” and listen to those we don’t understand. Or greet a stranger without judgment. Jesus always manifested presence through his healing ministry. Touching people, calling them by name, eating with them, making them known. He was present.
He was the great equalizer. He wasn’t afraid to talk to the people he didn’t agree with. He was always in conversation with the religious authorities and other leaders of the time he disagreed with. He was always engaged… with people at every end of the spectrum… of ideology, the spectrum of wealth or health. Jesus was pro humanity. As St. Francis preached: "Your God is of your flesh, He lives in your nearest neighbor, in every man."
Being in the moment can also be very simple, like St. Francis staring into the face of a flower and feeling the ecstatic energy of all creation. It is a reawakening that we are interconnected and share with everybody, and everything the very DNA of God.
When we are in the moment, We feel more integrated: body, mind, and soul. We may experience a wisp of something fresh (name it the fragrance of God - or a glimpse of what the Bible calls the Kingdom). We experience a “knowing” that wants to express itself as praise.
In such moments of connection…it is easier to feel thankful. It is like the gratitude the Leper shows in the Gospel today.
It is the tenth leper who turned and thanked Jesus. He wasn’t just cured of his leprosy along with the other nine. He experienced something greater: connection. He had an internal awakening that expressed itself in praise.
He was the one leper who was a Samaritan (He was an outsider or “Foreigner” as Jesus describes). He was doubly outcast. But Jesus saw him. Jesus’ included him. This type of hospitality not only physically cured him, but internally restored him. An experience of Wholeness. Someone reached out and drew him in.
Like the leper we pray for physical transformation when we are ill. But we also long to feel integrated… To feel connected on deep levels to one another in community, which can bring about real spiritual transformation.
Jesus was the master guru of “I see you.” I really see you. You are known and called into relationship.
And that’s how many of us are healed: When we finally feel seen, finally feel a sense of belonging.
In a world where we need connection, today we vow to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. We vow to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
And today we pray that Henry (like Jesus) grows to be that strong servant of hospitality for his peers and for the future of our community. We pray that Henry (like St. Francis) will be given the gift of joy and wonder in all God’s works.
Let us end with the great prayer attributed to him:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is
in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we
are born to eternal life. Amen.
In the gospel this week, Jesus told his disciples to pray always and not to lose heart.
Last week, a parishioner and I were going through some prayer books in the cupboard. They are a bit worn, with fading covers and threadbare bindings. When we flipped from the back binding to look at the white block of pages we noticed a discoloration running down the center. At first we thought it was a stain, but one by one we checked - and each shared the same dark line in the midst of the white. So we opened to those pages. You may already be guessing what this was…Our Eucharists…“Of course!” we nodded to one another. The discolored pages were the Sunday morning Eucharists. Those pages held onto the oils from our hands from years of use; from fingers opening to those few pages time and time again. It is a testament (a record even) to a community committed to prayer.
In the gospel, Jesus essentially asks us to pray ceaselessly. But what does that mean? As we grow up, we recognize that prayer is less about persuasion and petitions, and more about letting God work inside of us; in the dwelling place of the heart. Praying connects us to our hearts. There it dwells ceaselessly from that eternal spring that Jesus offers us, and where we can take ceaseless comfort.
As Jeremiah prophesied:
The days are surely coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant…
…I will put my law within them,
and I will write it on their hearts;
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Jesus is known as “the way,” pointing us always into relationship with God. He taught that if we put the intention of letting God’s living water flow within us, then prayer also flows more naturally. It becomes a way of being.
But there is not one correct way into prayer.
When we saw the prayer books’ mysterious “line” revealing a commitment to ceaseless prayer, I also wondered about the rest of those white pages: untouched - or nearly so. The prayer book is an incredible resource to have at home. There are daily devotions for families, all of the psalms, prayers and thanksgivings, canticles (which are early Jewish/Christian songs that show up in our offices of morning and evening prayer, compline), prayers for the sick, prayers and services of grief and mourning, and of great celebration. It offers us an outline of our faith and information about the councils who helped draft the theological language we use to try to name our belief about God. It is a rich resource for use - and much of it is for personal use. You do not have to be a clergy person. It is the book of common prayer.
What is telling about our prayerbook use, is that the Eucharist is what we are most familiar with. It is vital to our common life, to commune with one another and God. But to tell you the truth, the Episcopal Church has done us a bit of disservice in terms of making this the priority at the expense of the rest of the pray book and other forms of prayer. We forgot to teach prayer.
The Eucharist is our highest form of liturgy. We celebrate the great mystery of communion. We recite the creed which is an effort to use language to point to the very mysterious nature of the Trinity. There is a lot about the Eucharist that many people don’t understand which is why we call it a mystery… but in this day and age, many no longer want to participate, or even be Christian. And for many of us remaining, we still don’t trust our own ability to pray. Sometimes we are afraid of not doing it the “right” way.
There is no “right” way.
It may be very helpful to use the book of common prayer and daily devotionals to develop a practice. Practicing Prayer is our foundation. That’s why we often memorized prayers as children. To have something, and some language to connect us to God. It is not about practicing so that you will be considered good and lovable in the eyes of God. God already loves you. It is about having a life line to God. When you have a prayer practice it is the greatest resource for handling what the world throws at us.
At one point when I worked in the hospital, I used a little devotional three times a day: on my commute to work, at lunchtime and on my way home. It’s what got me through a particularly difficult time. Someone recently told me she uses part of a psalm, and it can lift her like a cup of coffee. Prayer can be a favorite passage, it may be focusing on your breath. In and out. Prayer unites us to our own being. We say our body is a temple because we are made in the image of God, so in Centering prayer we focus on God in the indwelling of our hearts.
Jesus says, “don’t lose heart.” Discovering spontaneous conversation with God; your unique and personal dialogue with God throughout the day may become an antidote for anger, to help quell the spirits, a shield against fear, an embrace of consolation.It alters how we make our way through life, how we respond, how we connect with others, and how we manage the big upsets and notice the little blessings.
It is nourishment, the daily bread that feeds us all week long until we come again to the communal feast of the Eucharist.
How sweet are your words to my taste! *
they are sweeter than honey to my mouth.
Here Jesus is offering a strange vision of the afterlife. It is not one we are familiar with. Where is God? Abraham, our Jewish patriarch is the great comforter and transmitter of the lesson.
Tonight in Judaism is Rosh Hashanah. It celebrates the Jewish New Year. Traditionally the next ten days are days of reflection about the past year leading up to Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the Day of atonement when Jews ask for forgiveness. They say similar prayers to the confession we use on Sunday. The purpose of this holy day is to bring about a reconciliation between the individual and God and between individuals. They ask that the gates of Heaven be open at a time when they normally are closed.
Craig was telling me about a scenario he remembered in which a rabbi was asked, Do we believe in Heaven? What happens after we die? The rabbi responded the afterlife is part of our internal journey. Our bodies are an extension of ourselves during life. But when we lose our bodies the soul continues on an interior journey. Heaven is not an external event. It is a deepening of our journey within. We speak of something similar in Christianity. Christian mystics believe that the soul is the dwelling place of God. Teresa of Avila speaks of the indissoluble relationship with God at our center. The deeper our encounter with God the greater our compassion is to others.
And our Gospel story today is about compassion and connection, and as Paul says in his letter to Timothy, it is about “taking hold of the life that really is life.”
In our story today we have a rich man suffering in Hades, who pleads with Abraham while being separated by a fixed chasm. Lazarus is comforted in death at the side of Abraham while the rich man is tormented but there is no way to remedy the situation. The gates are closed.
Hades was neither a Jewish, nor a Christian belief at the time of Jesus. It came from Greek mythology. Scholars believe this parable is based on a prior Greek myth. Whether the words came straight from Jesus, or was added by the Gospeler Luke, is still debated.
The Gospel of Luke is actually directed to a more affluent Greek community. For weeks Jesus has been offering several parables common to other Gospels about the misuse of wealth, of giving up possessions, of focusing on the lost and the lonely; about treasure in Heaven. Here Luke has also incorporated this myth about Hades into the words of Jesus, as a culminating point, as if to say to this Greek audience: “you already know the story. It is familiar to you.”
What Jesus is teaching, is that the values of this world, ignore, victimize and reject the poor. For weeks Jesus has been expanding on this message. Each time he takes us deeper and deeper into our interior.
He is winding us towards our hearts.
This teaching, essentially about “doing the right thing” is taught through a predicament with black and white values. There is either this or that. There is Hades or comfort. There is no grey area. It is similar to Jesus’ other teachings that employ “hate vs love logic” that we’ve spoken about, hyperbolic language used to emphasize the importance of decisiveness in decision making.
In this predicament the rich man’s behavior is deemed bad; uncompromisingly bad. Even his brothers will not be convinced by someone rising from the dead if they didn’t first listen to Moses and the Prophets. Jesus is telling them the good news is an extension of our foundation as the people of Israel. Essentially: “You already know this story. You already know how to do the right thing” :
40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ And ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Jesus message asks us to reconsider our values and what we value. In most societies the wealthy are the ones with status and authority. Not only are they named, they often have more initials before and after their names. Dr. Rev. Ph.D. Esq. CEO, CCO. We like lots of names and labels (Barring the Really famous who get away with simply Prince, Oprah, Sting & Madonna… and Jesus!
In this story Jesus upends this tradition as usual. It is the rich man who remains anonymous. The rich man isn’t acknowledged by name, but it is the poor man who is named and becomes the protagonist of the story. This reversal plays on the idea of the named gentry and the unnamed anonymous poor. This poor man has a name: Lazarus. And the name Lazarus in Greek means “God is my Help.”
This is the only parable in the bible that names names. All of the others use generics like the rich man, the sower, the father, the man, the tax collector…That’s a significant point for us. Jesus gets very specific here: turning to a specific poor man, a specific person with a name.
The Gospel story takes place after the death of Lazarus and the rich man. But the emphasis is on what happened during their lives. "Ignore human need and despite external appearances, there is only deep internal poverty:”  A gap between us and God and others. Heaven is internal. Sometimes we speak of Heaven on Earth. Hell on Earth for many of us is the knowledge of suffering that we cannot remedy. It is internal: What feels like that insurmountable chasm. Our hearts ache.
In the vision that Jesus offers, it is the victim who is to be exalted, it is his very need that provides the opportunity for the rest of us to experience the divine, by reaching across the gap not only to the poor and the hungry but also responding with compassion to others who perceive things differently.
How do we remedy these disconnects while we are living? I feel like this community has embraced the life; the message that Jesus is describing. What troubles us primarily is how our societies are embracing this teaching. (The World.) This is what troubled Jesus. The “World” gives us news feeds and social media that are constantly creating schisms, disconnects: chasms …even amidst our friends and family.
Labels like the rich man, tax collector turn into republican, democrat, maga, anti-vaxers, Trumpers, conservative, liberal. It is still so easy for us to dismiss, to put people into categories and dehumanize them in the process, which always dehumanizes us.
I don’t know about you, but I know Trump supporters who are also pro women’s choice and pro vaccination. I know Liberals who don’t like Biden, and who are against vaccination mandates. Conservatives who believe in free speech, Liberals who believe in free speech. Veterans who vote Democrat and artists who vote Republican. We are complicated. We are individuals. We are unique. We each have a name like Lazarus. A real name not a label.
Chasms are made by humans. In that predicament we stand as a community of hope. Being God’s people makes us available witnesses to the World in all of its discord and messiness. Sometimes it may feel hopeless, but I would offer that Jesus, our teacher, is always trying to bridge this gap. This is why we say he came down from Heaven, To reconcile us to God and to one another. Rather than hopeless we can feel empowered by this identity. Like Lazarus we have a name: “God is my help." As the children of God we can also take hope in a future because Jesus invites us to follow him by being bridges, by opening our gates and letting our guards down with each connection we attempt to make.
Taking hold of that “life that really is life” is about days of reflection: wrestling with important issues until we are transformed. “Life that really is life" is not censorship and closed gates. It is connecting: facing into difference and giving of ourselves through listening, staying awake emotionally, spiritually and sometimes financially. “Life that really is life” is centered in our Soul where God dwells and where we can expand our sense of Heaven.
“Life that really is life" is Love and "Love is not about what you are going to get, but about what you are willing to give away, which is everything." 
1. The Rev. Steve Yagerman
2. Kathryn Hepburn
“You shall be like trees planted by streams of living water.”
This is a line from psalm 1. I’ve been using it to publicize Maribel’s Creation Care workshop on trees for the kids. This week I also thought of it: “trees planted by streams of living water,” in the context of the mulberry bush. This notion of being re-rooted and thriving in “new" waters.
Jesus gives us two seemingly strange examples in this Gospel today to get his point across. The mulberry bush and the role of servants. But as strange as they are, what they have in common when he relates them to Faith is this: Faith is a God-given natural state that manifests itself in service to life.
The disciples ask to have their faith increased. Jesus gives them an answer based in embodiment! Jesus says, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you." It’s an example of embodied metaphor for versatility, conversion, and growth in the midst of new waters - and how living water roots us even in dangerous waters.
One pitfall that occurs with this phrase about Faith (when it is taken out of context from it's story) is the idea that if we just had more faith everything would go right. It has been harmfully used to make us feel that we are not acting faithfully when bad things happen. It can be used as an easy and dismissive answer to life’s difficult situations.
Lamentations has a response that some may feel seems unfaithful, and yet it is a prayer. It is a lament. But it is a conversation with God… about abandonment and lack of hope. The community has been in Babylonian exile after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Lamentations both cries out on behalf of community and gives voice to one individual.
It is cathartic, in that it allows us to know we may also voice our personal suffering to God. This is not faithlessness. This is truthful expression in relationship with God. It is a process of faith.
Our current Global situation is scary, and lifting our voices to say, “help us God,” “help me God” is not faithlessness. We know that some of our greatest peacemakers and workers for justice were what we call “people of faith.” Martin Luther King, Jr., ArchBishop Desmond Tutu, Ghandi, The Dali Lama, Mother Teresa, all had and have deep conviction, but also constant dialogue with the divine, asking in continuous prayer for hope and for help for humanity and for themselves, to do the work they’ve been given to do.
We can imagine all of them in daily prayer postures. (I’m sure many of these times spent in lament)…Yet many of these leaders also emulate joy for us, an undercurrent of deep peacefulness as part of their character and approach to living, a manifestation of their rootedness.
When the disciples ask this question, "how do we increase our faith?” they aren’t showing faithlessness, but rather entering into direct conversation with the living God about how to embody and live out a faith-filled life.
Jesus brings us back to his mustard seed again. It is this tiny seed with potential to bloom into a huge bush.
And it is this small degree to which we show up in this crazy world with the sense, that things ought to be different. We have not bought into the World, nor have we given into it. We see the world, we become witnesses to the problems and we keep showing up to do our part.
The good news shows up in the midst of the world and the choppy waters. We have to remind one another of this innate and natural response on our part.
People show up in the midst of horrendous hurricanes to serve one another. People show up in during war with supplies and medicine. People show up at our food pantry to help feed families in the midst of a recession. It is a natural response. Like the mulberry tree rooted in the sea, in the midst of our salty tears and …in a sea of distress…there is a tiny seed that draws us to one another and to a higher love…and that love grows.
One of the mysteries of being a Christian is that we stand in the middle of two things that might sound quite contradictory. As Rowan Williams says, “We are in the middle of the heart of God, the ecstatic joy of [the Trinity]; and in the middle of a world with threat, suffering, sin and pain. And because Jesus has taken his stand right in the middle of those two realities, that is where we take ours. As Jesus says, “Where I am, there my servant will be also’ (John 12:26).” 
The Faith we are speaking of in the Gospels is not about a trusting comfort in things going "our way.” Faith is not belief based in a surety of outcome. Faith is about imitating Jesus as "the way" in service to a transformed world. Jesus is saying you already have the tiniest drive toward transformative life, it’s in your nature. God makes this happen naturally. And you disciples (and us by the way) have this power naturally germinating inside of too. We have the power to help shift and transform communities) one situation at a time, one prayer at a time… To embody what being rooted in living water means, and to help others see that.
Remember last week, Jesus said, one who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much (Luke 16:10). Faith in God is an activity in service to a transformed community…
Faith is believing ultimately that God is about restoration. The nature of God is Love, and that while it may take time, mysterious works that we don’t understand, there is also a lot we do understand in our small human ways that reach out toward that love and through that belief in a restored and healed World.
1. Rowan Williams, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible Eucharist, Prayer.
I know over this year, I keep repeating that there is a theme of Joy in the Gospel of Luke. Well, because there is! But is that what you heard when the Gospel was read?
Our pharisees are once again grumbling against Jesus for flying in the face of tradition and spending time with those whom society considered inappropriate to fraternize with. Jesus actually eats with them. Eating was specifically a way to show that you were in communion with others. You sit down to eat with equals and people you care about.
Here we are with Jesus, standing up to the Pharisees, not in order to defend his actions, but to teach about the reality of God, the reality of the Universe. The Pharisees present are part of a Jewish sect who observed strict law and considered themselves religiously superior. The scribes are here too. They are the teachers of religious law. Later in Luke, Jesus warns…
“Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes and who love respectful greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets.”
We know how the Gospeler Luke feels about the Pharisees and the scribes: self-righteous hypocrites!
Jesus goes onto tell these grumblers two short parables to make his point about who God is and what God does. First we have the story of the shepherd who has gone after the lost sheep. He has left the rest of the herd (99 of them) in the wilderness in order to find the lost one. In fact, he basically challenges them, which one of you doesn’t do this?! And Jesus is poking fun at them. When he tells this story about rejoicing in finding the lost, he adds “that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” That’s just a little jab there wrapped in a compliment…
Plus the ninety-nine are not safely in a sheltered pasture or in a barn… no, they are in the wilderness (the wilderness which is traditionally not safe space.) Jesus is poking just a little more fun at the pharisees and scribes. The lost majority with all of their righteousness and human-made rules. Jesus had a sense of humor. There is a lot of double meaning in his remarks. We often overlook how artfully he is wielding language through “word play.”
There is joy in the presence of Jesus.
Joy is used twice in both of these parables. In the second story about the woman who finds her lost coin, like the shepherd, there is also rejoicing with friends and Joy as a source that has been established in Heaven.
The lost sheep and the lost coin are symbols of reunion and communion with God. This is a source of rejoicing in "the here and now” with friends, but also as a source of joy on an eternal level: That stream of True life - the Well that Jesus speaks of, that is never empty. To be tapped into this everlasting communion is joyous. God searches us out and knows us.
While the story frames the situation in terms of sin and repentance, the theme & emphasis is about everlasting joy. Jesus knows we are only human. Right? As in another story he suggests, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone…” We all have our issues. The theological definition of Sin really is our separation from God. To “Repent” as Jesus says “metanoia” … is literally to change one’s mind. Theologically we think of it as turning our minds and hearts toward God. Turning toward that Well of Love that Jesus offers us. It is not about beating ourselves up over what we’ve done, but turning our minds and hearts anew: to communion.
The Christian lens sees Abundance in communion. Sometimes we hear the phrase tossed around that the “universe is abundant” in a kind of superficial understanding… I usually hear it from more well-to-do individual’s who don’t want to concede that there is a correlation between wealth and poverty that has more to do with power structures than with hard work. I can cringe when I hear a “spirituality of abundance" especially in the World right now; especially in the midst of the climate crisis. We haven’t been able to manage our planet’s resources very well. Our passage from Jeremiah is so apt for today with its imagery of desolation. “the birds of the air had fled.” How poetic in its language; “the earth mourns.” My people “do not know me.”
Today is also the anniversary of 9/11 with all of its destruction and the aftermath of more and more war, we can hear Jeremiah’s judgement “my people are foolish.” Most of our children, did not grow up with 9/11, but are reeling from what they’ve been told about the future of the planet. Jeremiah and most Scripture reminds us time and time again that humans can make such a muck of things. But it also reminds us that we are in the midst of things. Jesus’ message about communion, is not abundance as if our resources are unlimited, but rather abundance in terms of what is possible… the potential for hope, sharing, and communion: Our potential.
The visible potential in our passage today is offered up in the very first line. The group of tax collectors and sinners are coming to Jesus. They are drawing near to listen. In doing so they are already turning; looking for this healing relationship - as opposed to the group who stand aside criticizing and grumbling with their sense of human righteousness. Jesus knows we are human. We all have facets of our life, relationships that are out of union and essentially work to drive a wedge between us and God. We have pieces of ourselves that are lost. And we see this manifest in society and on a global level through destructive choices and misuse of our resources. Repentence is about making new choices based on a higher love for our families and for creation. God does not solve our problems, but helps us to move into them.
The visible potential manifested today also shows up in the letter to Timothy. We are reminded of Paul’s conversion, (his metanoia) his turning. And Paul represents more than just one man’s change of heart and mind. He offers us hope that society can change. Before Paul saw the light, Saul (as he was called) represented the very elite of society who benefited from the power structures that persecute and victimize; intolerant social structures that discriminate; agencies who monopolize economic resources and damage natural resources. 
Paul was lost and then he was found. Like the woman’s lamp, God illuminated Paul. The woman looking for the coin lights a lamp. We know this is a metaphor for God who searches for us without limit, with every effort and in the middle of the night, in the darkness of our own journeys to illuminate our hearts…. And to change our minds.
One way to grapple with this passage (which seems so simple and clear on a basic level) and to take it deeper, is to wonder where you might be situated in this story?
Where do you find yourself in the story today?
Are you a grumbler? Are you missing the joy?
Are you feeling lost?- Or found?
Are you drawing near?
Are you one of the friends who shows up to rejoice!
As we come together to the communion rail, we offer the ultimate expression of our desire to draw near: for unity, for reunion. We eat with equals across the very globe. It reminds us of our potential. The Lord’s table is sacred and serious, but don’t forget the eternal joy manifest there as well. As we say in the Eucharistic prayer:
“It is right and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.”
1. Yang, Sunggu. https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-24-3/commentary-on-1-timothy-112-17-5, Sept. 10, 2022.