Dec 16 2020: Suspension of In-Person Worship & Changes to Zoom

Dear Friends of Grace:
I pray this finds you all well and hopeful as the season of Advent moves us toward Christmas and the celebration of our Savior’s birth.  If you joined us for the Mass on ZOOM this past Sunday you heard the announcement that we will be suspending in person services until sometime after Epiphany. 

This is not a decision we make easily.  While the in-person attendance at Sunday Mass has remained low we had hopes of being able to return to some version of normal by Christmas.  Unfortunately, the Covid-19 numbers in the state, and particularly in Jefferson County, have risen dramatically and it has been reported that there are very few ICU beds available in our local hospitals.  Both the vestry and I have decided that in keeping with our responsibility to care for the vulnerable among us it would be unwise to continue to meet in person. 

So, going forward we will make a few changes in our Sunday worship.  We will have Church over Zoom as usual up to the Peace.  In other words, the Liturgy of the Word will look very much as it usually does but with just enough people to make the service happen….priest, deacon, lector, 2 cantors and the organist (and the camera technician).  Following the Peace we will have a short time of ZOOM fellowship to greet and check in with one another.  After that anyone who chooses to can remain on Zoom for Holy Communion…this will be a shortened version of the Liturgy of the Table without music. It was brought to my attention that many of you are missing the fellowship at the end of the service.  We decided to bring it forward to the peace so that those who do not find “ocular Communion” spiritually satisfying can still connect with the community even if they choose not to stay with us for the Lord’s Supper.

I realize that any of these “new” methods are problematic and not always spiritually fulfilling but in these difficult days we do the best we can.  The point is that we continue to meet together…even if remotely…to worship and share fellowship.  While we will not be having our usual Christmas observances please watch for announcements of opportunities for meditation and devotion.  We are working on some creative alternatives.

Thank you all for your patience and our faithfulness in this time of tribulation.  We will get through this together and I believe we will be made stronger by the challenges we have overcome.  Be safe, be well….be blessed.  Remember, dear brothers and sisters, you are called by His name and in his love you will find peace and the deep joy of knowing yourself beloved.

In Christ,
Mother Robyn

The Rev. Robyn E. Arnold, Rector

Sermon — Third Sunday of Easter. April 26, 2020

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 1 Peter 1:22-23

In the Easter lectionary cycle this week we find ourselves on the road to Emmaus with two of Jesus’ disciples. It is several days after the death and resurrection of Jesus and there is still confusion and uncertainty about what has happened and what it all means. The tomb where Jesus’ body was buried has been found empty and apparently, some folks have seen visions of heavenly messengers claiming that Jesus, who had been dead, was now alive.

The two disciples are recounting what seems to be gossip and hearsay to a stranger who has joined them on their journey. The men give no indication that they have seen any of this for themselves but they express some surprise that their traveling companion seems to have heard nothing about the events surrounding Jesus’ trial and death. “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” After the disciples tell the man what they know and what they have heard he says something rather odd, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”

He proceeds to explain the Holy Scriptures in the context of himself. The disciples still do not recognize him but seem to accept that that he has the authority to teach them about the sacred texts. They are so engaged in the discussion that when they finally arrive at their destination they invite the teacher to dinner. When Jesus’ blesses and breaks bread with them the cloud of their confusion is lifted and they finally recognize Jesus… and then he is gone.

There are a number of inexplicable bits of this story that the author feels no need to clarify. The reader is asked to accept that Jesus was at first unrecognizable to his own followers but later his identity is unmistakable. He seems to appear and disappear miraculously and the disciples have no hesitancy in believing that Jesus had indeed been resurrected from the dead.

Reading this two thousand years after the facts we have no way to either prove or disprove the validity of the disciples’ account of these events. It is not really useful to argue over the particulars….at least not on a Sunday morning. We come to the Gospel looking for insight into our own relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We seek spiritual comfort in the deeper meaning of the story…that Christ, who is always walking with us is not always visible to us and yet, if we open our minds to the possibility he will reveal himself to us….in the breaking of bread and in the companionship of fellow seekers.

When I was in seminary I spent some of my time taking classes at the Center Theology and Natural Science which was part of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. It was one of the most exhilarating and frustrating times of my academic life. I was in class with a number of other students…most of whom were also studying physics and philosophy. As a biologist, I was in the minority. If you want to be humbled sit in a room with a bunch of physicists discussing metaphysics.

Every day I would leave class feeling like I was hovering on the edge of some deeper understanding…that a profound truth was just out of reach waiting for me to recognize it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to grasp it and it would slip away. I am embarrassed to admit that for a year or so I carried around a little notebook so that when I finally did have my one really good idea I would be able to write it down for posterity. I never did think that one great thought and what I did write in my little book would probably be incomprehensible to me now.

While some more practical people might consider my studies at the Center a waste of time I disagree. The bright people I met there were seeking a deeper knowledge of God through their study of the natural world. They helped me realize that there is not some great divide between the spiritual and the physical and certainly not a conflict between science and theology. It is part of our human experience to ask questions… about the world…about ourselves…about God. Asking the big questions in no way indicates a lack of faith. I think we all realize that there are many questions for which we will never have provable, definitive answers but in asking the question we open ourselves up to communication with the Holy Spirit.

If we learn anything from our Gospel lesson of the disciples’ experience on the road to Emmaus it is that sometimes we do not recognize the Lord when we encounter him. Our vision can be clouded by any number of confounding factors…fear…anxiety…guilt. Sometimes we do not see because we have not been taught how to do so…or we have acquired a world view that is too narrow to allow us to see what we cannot accept. But we do not always need to understand to experience the truth of something. The incomprehensible mystery of God cannot be reduced to a collection of facts.

We read in the 1st letter of John chapter 4 that God is love. If this is true then we will know God like we know love….in the very deepest part of ourselves…beyond thought…beyond understanding. There comes a point where we must admit that we cannot explain but we can experience it. We cannot describe or quantify love but we know it when we feel it….we see it when someone reveals it to us…in an action or a word….or even in a moment of silent togetherness… a hand held in the darkness.

Even though the disciples did not recognize Jesus until right before he left them they had a sense that something important was happening. They wanted to prolong the encounter so they asked him to stay with them. It was in the simple act of breaking bread, something Jesus had done with them countless times that they saw him as he truly was and knew themselves to be in the presence of the risen Lord. They only understood what had happened in retrospect. The same is true for many of our most profound experiences. It is only in looking back…in reflecting on them …that we see the lesson we learned….the truth that was revealed…that moment of growing insight.

I have no doubt that when the time has passed and we look back on our experience in quarantine we will realize that we have learned some very important truths…about ourselves…about our worshipping community…about the power of faith and endurance of love. Never doubt that our Lord is walking with us on this strange journey and if we allow our eyes to be opened he will reveal himself to us….in our new way of communing with each other and in our solitary communion with God.

Brothers and sisters…hold tightly to your faith…it will sustain you in these trying times. Be patient with others and with yourself…be kind to others and to yourself…and do not fear. Christ is risen from the dead and even now we too are being resurrected….reborn in his likeness, new creatures filled with light and born of love.

Sermon for Fifth Sunday in Lent. March 28, 2020

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” John 11:25-27

These words from the Gospel of John will be familiar to many of you as they are often read at the burial of our dead. I often wonder how or even if Martha understood what Jesus was saying to her in her grief over the death of her brother Lazarus. We hear this declaration of Jesus’ promise as filled with eternal hope but we listen secure in the knowledge of our Lord’s resurrection. Martha did not have this perspective. She stood desolate in the road looking to her friend for solace and for some words to help her understand the tragedy that had befallen her family. She believed that if Jesus had arrived before Lazarus’ death he would have been able to heal him. But to ask her to accept that her friend had the power of life and death…that he could resurrect someone from the grave was perhaps an unreasonable expectation.

In all probability, neither she nor Mary knew what Jesus intended to do or that he even could do such a thing. But at this moment all that mattered was that they trusted Jesus…trusted that he loved them…trusted that he loved Lazarus and trusted that he was a man of his word and would not offer them false promises. In Martha’s confession, we hear the declaration of one who believed in the fulfillment of God’s promise in the person of Jesus. He was the Messiah …the One sent by God to save his people. No one could really know how that deliverance would happen until it was accomplished.

The raising of Lazarus is perhaps Jesus’ greatest miracle…the definitive example of God’s power working through him in real-time. Although Jesus knew and accepted that God would grant him this extraordinary thing he still wept at the suffering of his friends. He could not undo the pain that they had already experienced in Lazarus’ sickness and death. Lazarus’ death was not just a means to an end. God does not intentionally inflict suffering upon his children…not to teach us a lesson or to show his omnipotent displeasure. Yes, I believe that God as the power to control every aspect of life on this planet but I do not believe that God does.

As for we the created, we live in a world limited by time and space and by our own biological processes. Everything that lives must eventually die and the bits and pieces of elemental matter that make us up, go back into the universe to become part of the whole. But the essence of us…whatever that is…goes back to the Creator. In the resurrection, we will be embodied in a new way…in a way that allows us to be one with God and yet remain ourselves. This is our hope of eternity…the nearer presence of God and for time without end.

But in this life, it is our lot to walk by faith and not by sight. We cannot know how or when God will bring his promises for us to fulfillment… we can only trust in the love of God and seek to follow the path of righteousness while we have the will and ability to do so. There is no guarantee that life will be easy but our Lord has promised to be with us no matter what we face. Whether in joy or travail we are not alone…our God is with us, loving us, strengthening us when we falter and helping us back up when we fall.

Sometimes the presence of God with us comes in the form of another person…who says the right thing at the right time….who steps in to help us carry a burden that has become too oppressive…who offers comfort and friendship without condition. Sometimes the voice of God is that still small voice within oneself telling us to get up from the dust where we have fallen…to try again. Sometimes it is the Holy Spirit that strengthens our weak limbs and sustains our trembling hearts giving us courage in the moment we need it. We sense her in those moments when we have that feeling of expansive potential…when we feel the possibilities of life stretching out before us….or when we find ourselves able to do that very thing we never thought we could do.

In my own life, I have discovered that if I expect and look for the Presence of the Holy Spirit she will always show up. In fact, I have come to believe that She is always there…what changes is my willingness and ability to accept the gift of her abiding companionship.

Our Lord has given us the gift of free will and that means that we are free to turn away from the loving presence …. We are free to reject our Lord’s guidance and go our own way. But no matter how often we refuse God does not abandon us. Yes, we will be left to our own devices and the consequences of our own behavior but our Lord waits patiently to forgive and to welcome us back if and when we realize our need for God’s love.

In these strange days when we are learning new ways of living out our faith do not forget the lessons of the ancient Church fathers and mothers who sought the Lord in solitude and contemplation. In the stillness of the silence, we can often hear the voice of the Lord more clearly than in the midst of the noise of our usually busy lives. I think the issue that most of us have with contemplative prayer is our aversion to being alone with ourselves.

Perhaps the first conversation we need to have in those moments alone is the conversation with our own soul. In this intimate moment, we can bring out all of those hidden things we have pushed to the back of our mental closet…the anxiety….the fear…the anger…our internal struggle with pride and arrogance…with greed and the insatiable hunger for more….

Brothers and sisters, our Lord already sees into the depths of our hearts and knows those things that cast shadows on our lives….knows…accepts…and loves us anyway. If we can bring ourselves to lay these broken parts of ourselves before the Lord we will find comfort…and often healing. Perhaps we can take this time of imposed solitude as an opportunity to grow in self-awareness and in our awareness of the presence of the Sacred Other….the Holy Spirit.

Our Lord has not caused this crisis in which we find ourselves but God will be present in our response to it. We can take this as a spiritual challenge…a chance to practice our faith in ways we would never have imagined before. Our minds and our souls are not bound by the same restrictions of our bodies. In those moments with God, we are free and love is infinite. Do not despair. This will all pass in time and perhaps we will find ourselves stronger….more faithful…more loving and more confident in our own faith.

Paul told us in his letter to the Romans that we are not in the flesh; we are in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in us. We do not have to seek the Spirit of God she is already there within us waiting for us to recognize and welcome her indwelling Presence. This was the gift of the Incarnation. God would no longer dwell in temples made with hands but in the human heart. We do not have to gather in our Church buildings to worship our God who lives within us. We are the temple of the living God and the abiding Spirit will enliven us with her joyful energy.

Let us continue to check on one another…to pray for one another….to help the vulnerable…to reach out to the isolated using the means at our disposal and to respect and care for the temples of our own bodies. Trust in the Lord and he will see us through this life and into the next.

Be blessed….be safe….be of good courage.

Sermon. February 16, 2020

The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. I Corinthians 3:8-9

We can always depend on the Apostle Paul to remind us of our place and our purpose. In our portion of his first letter to the Corinthians, he is admonishing the community about their bad behavior…gossiping and backbiting and apparently striving for power and position based upon their loyalty to particular Church leaders. Paul is quick to declare that none of us is anything special for it is God who determines the outcome of any of our endeavors. Each Christian is only as strong as the community of the faithful and only as effective as God chooses to allow us to be. As Christians, we are to be examples of humble service not seeking our own recognition but glorifying God in all that we do and say. Paul is not addressing particular behavior but rather the attitude and intent driving the behavior.

When I was in seminary in California I did my field education internship at the Church of the Advent of Christ the King. While many of us here at Grace like to think of ourselves as “High Church” compared to the liturgy at the Advent we are merely amateurs. Advent was THE Anglo-Catholic parish in the Diocese of California and had the reputation for nose-bleed high liturgy. It also had the dubious distinction of being the most unfriendly parish in the diocese but that is a story for another time. When I arrived at Advent I was immediately placed under the care and tutelage of the Acolyte Master Anna, who was an obstetrician and a full colonel in the Air Force specializing in field medicine. Anna was a wonderful person and we became friends partly based on our common origins. Anna was also from Kentucky.

Anna was also a liturgical drill sergeant. She had no patience with those who did not take the honor of serving the Altar seriously and she would not put a poorly trained server on the schedule. We all wore soft-soled black shoes and dressed each week in cassock and surplice. The clergy even wore a cassock under their vestments and a biretta at every service. I learned some very important lessons from Anna, but I think the most important was something she called “custody of the eye” and “custody of the body”. When we were serving at the Altar we were instructed to keep our eyes on the liturgy; we were not to watch the congregants or let our gaze just wander aimlessly around the room. We were also to sit very still, back straight, knees together, feet on the floor…no exceptions. Serving the Altar was a sacred duty and we were to do it with humility not drawing attention to ourselves or distracting the congregation from their worship.

All of this self-discipline did make for beautiful liturgy. The service ran like a well-oiled machine and we were part of an impressive liturgical regiment. I am sure there are those who would have considered the whole thing a bit cold, desiring something more spontaneous perhaps. But I found that losing the need to be the focus of attention freed me to worship with a deep internal quietness I have never experienced anywhere else. We were not there to entertain but to help create a peaceful space for worship and for people to be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. There was power in the sacred rituals.

This recollection of my time at Advent came to me while I was reading our Gospel lesson for today because Jesus is talking about a different type of “custody”. Rather than custody of the eye or the body our Lord is describing custody of the mind. Our Lord is not so much concerned with one’s behavior as with the attitudes and intentions that lead to that behavior. In his discussion with his followers, Jesus dissects the Law seeking its intent rather than its practice. He states that while the Law commanded “you shall not murder” I say that if you are angry with your brother…if you insult or offend a brother or sister you are liable and in danger of hell. The same is true with adultery. It is not enough that you refrain from committing the act. If you look at another with lust you have already committed adultery in your heart. Jesus does not soften his words at all. When he uses the disturbing example of ripping out one’s eye because it offends or lopping off a hand because it offends he does not mean this literally. Rather he is suggesting that if there are situations that are prone to lead to a temptation to sin then do not put yourself in those situations.

The Law of Moses was primarily concerned with behavior. Sin was a matter of what one did. Jesus redefines holiness in that he is concerned with the thoughts and intentions of the mind and the heart. It is not enough to keep from the physical act of sin one must also control one’s mind and desires. Everyone knew you were not to sleep with your neighbor’s wife but Jesus tells them that leering at her with a lustful eye is just as displeasing to God. The same is true for all manner of sins of the flesh. Sin begins in the mind with an evil thought. The action is that thought coming to its fruition.

Jesus was very concerned that the exterior person be a reflection of the interior. Holiness is a state of being not a set of behaviors. The same is true for sin. Now, he is not suggesting that we will always be able to get this right all of the time. We are all prone to sin….both of the mind and the body. We all have failures in our attempts to live a holy life before God. But when we do sin and fall short we have an advocate in Christ and a heavenly father who loves us and waits to forgive when we repent and turn back.

Just as Anna’s custody of the eye and of the body is rooted in humility so too is custody of the mind. When we do not have to be the center of everything….when we realize that it is neither right nor healthy to be able to feed every appetite….when we put the needs and concerns of those we love before our own petty desires we will find that keeping our minds on the things of God will not be such a burden. There is a peace and contentment to be found in focusing on the good…in seeking the holy.

The writer of Sirach tells us that if we choose, we can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of our own choice. We can decide to do the right thing. Our Gospel lessons remind us that we can also choose to think the right things. God will not leave us at the mercy of our unhealthy or unholy desires. If we feed our minds and our hearts on holy things….reading the Scriptures, wholesome conversations with kind-hearted people, entertainment that edifies we can become people whose righteous exterior reflects and inner holiness.

We live in a time where everyone seems to want to push boundaries. It is entertaining to make people uncomfortable to say and do things that shock and often offend…all for the emotional high of getting a reaction. We see this in our political climate…and in our forms of recreation. We feel a need to either be the center of attention or to say and do things just to upset and distress others. Our humor is sarcastic and bitter chipping away at the self-esteem of others for the sake of a laugh. I am afraid we have become a petty and cruel people. This is not the life our Lord intended for us. As Christians, we are to be kind to one another above all else. While we are to be truthful we are not to be cruel or unfeeling. We must always strive to consider the wellbeing of those around us…and that includes their emotional and spiritual well-being not just their physical. If we are indeed to be the lights of the world that light needs to illuminate not blind…it is to shine the path to a better way of living.

Brothers and sisters, Lent is quickly approaching. As you prepare for our sacred time in the spiritual desert I hope you will reflect on what it means to nurture your interior self in the ways of holiness so that your exterior life may reflect the love of God in Christ Jesus. We have been given a choice…life or death…fire or water…holiness or sinfulness. I pray that each of us will follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and choose wisely so that our lives may be reflections of the Christ who dwells within us.

Sermon. January 18, 2020

John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

This season of Epiphany is all about seeing things clearly. To have an “epiphany” is to experience a moment of life-changing realization. As a season of the Church, Epiphany refers to the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles as reflected in the visitation of the Magi. The implication is that the Incarnation of God in Jesus the Christ was recognized and acknowledged not only by the wise men but subsequently by Simeon and Anna in the temple, by John the Baptist, the first disciples, the guests at the wedding at Cana, by all those who would encounter and believe in man Jesus and eventually by generations of Christians on down to this very moment. For the Christian believer the realization of the indwelling and transcendent presence of Christ and the growing understanding of who he was and is are continual…not just a single moment.

While I wish that every moment would be an “aha” moment with God I know that is not the case for most of us. We go about our ordinary lives, often distracted and rarely fully engaged in life. We wander about spiritually sleepy…just going through the motions….most of the time. But occasionally something will happen….someone will say something…or we will hear the melody of a song in a particular way…or look at the world around us with a briefly clear vison and something inside becomes still and our mind says…”there it was….I felt something special…and we know that the Holy Spirit has breathed upon us and God is near.” In these fleeting moments of awareness, we feel ourselves to be a part of God and God to be one with us.

For some those moments happen in prayer….when an individual sets him or herself apart with the intention of communicating with God. It can happen in worship….hopefully it happens in worship. But epiphany is not limited to the liturgy….and interaction with another of God’s children….a poignant moment with the creation….a new visit to an old “thin place” can be the occasion for a close encounter with God. Some people spend a great deal of time and energy trying to recreate such a moment once it has been experienced. But the truth is epiphany cannot be manufactured or maneuvered. It is a moment of grace…a gift of light coming down to us from the father of lights.

When I was a very little and yes, a rather odd girl I used to have these moments of clarity when I felt that God was right beside me….but somehow hidden from sight. It was as though a veil of invisibility hung between God and myself. But at any moment a quick movement or a passing breeze might blow the corner aside and I would be able to see God. I loved going around the corners of buildings or coming to the end of a wall because I thought that if I moved quickly enough I would catch a glimpse of God. This early season of Epiphany was during the years before my 7th birthday. In those days I remember being really happy … engaged in an ongoing conversation with the God on the other side of the wall. I would make up my own hymns of praise to this God…songs that would last all day….with limitless verses. I doubt that they were particularly pretty songs and my mother must have had the patience of Job to suffer through them…but this time reflected an innocent and unquestioning, albeit primitive faith in God and in my ability to connect with God.

It all ended one Sunday when I heard an unpleasant and seemingly angry preacher say that “God did not hear sinners and anyone who wasn’t baptized was a sinner.” At the time I was convinced that preachers would never lie. Since I knew that I had not been baptized I knew that I must have been a sinner. So if God doesn’t hear me then who was on the other side of the invisible wall listening? The answer became obvious….”no one”. I had been talking and singing to no one. God couldn’t hear me …. a sinner….and if God would not listen to me then no one would. At that moment at 7 years old, I felt myself abandoned by God.

I would spend the next 27 or so years of my life searching for that connection to God that misguided religion and an angry man in a pulpit had taken from me. In the time since I have had wonderful moments of Epiphany but never have I had such clarity or certainty of belief as I did in those first days…when I knew God to be as close to me as my own breath.

I believe that God, who created us and loves us speaks to us in the deepest places of our hearts. It is a language of emotion…of intuition….an internal guidance system that shows us our best selves and if we allow it will direct us in living into that good self. This is God the Holy Spirit who resides within us and draws us all together in love and faith.

While God has been loving and communicating with us and all of creation since the beginning of all things humanity has not been receptive and is not always aware of it…..or perhaps it is that we do not want to hear God’s message so we close our ears and harden our hearts. In the time of the prophets, God revealed his message to individuals who were purposed with sharing that word with the people. But the people often did not care to hear or abide by the wisdom of the prophets. But even in those ancient days, God was revealing the ultimate plan for humanity….when Godself would become incarnate and live among us….not just for a particular chosen people but for the sake of all people.

In our lesson from the prophet Isaiah we read

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel. I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

The prophet shares the voice of God speaking to his chosen one….his “anointed”….his Messiah….telling him that he will be the one to bring light to all people. This is echoed in the words of the last prophet John who proclaims….”Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus, who was God incarnate would be the one to bring salvation to all of. Creation. He would be the one to lead God’s children into a new way of life and the suffering servant who would minister to the least of these. He was both the good shepherd and the lamb who offered himself in sacrifice for the world.

In our Lord Jesus God became all that we would need…teacher, healer, example…friend. He came that we might learn the ways of love….that we might live our lives as he lived….loving others as he loved. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit we now are the ones called to carry the light of Christ’s love into the world. Having experienced the realization of his presence in ourselves we are to become the instruments of that epiphany for others. We are to speak as Christ spoke…to act as Christ acted….to offer ourselves as living witnesses of the power of God’s love to transform lives and communities bringing the Kingdom of God into reality.

Perhaps most important is our call to share our realization of our own belovedness…and the belovedness of all of God’s children. We do this in treating others as beloved to us… showing kindness and compassion…in seeking to understand and to love without judgment….to serve without expectation of reward….to treat others as we would like to be treated. In helping others to realize that they are also the beloved of God we share our own experience of reconciliation to God and the power that accepting love gives us…..the power to overcome fear….to endure hardship….to transform lives for the sake of the Gospel.

We live in a time where many are confused about what is true and what is a lie. There are those who manipulate information and pervert the truth for both power and profit and only the most discerning can see through the charade. We, as Christians, are called to seek and speak the truth in all things. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to keep our minds focused on the things of God so that we may be holy as God is holy.

The first disciples who came looking for Jesus recognized him as something special and willingly followed him. They could not know where that decision would eventually lead but in that moment they saw him clearly and recognizing God in him they wanted to be a part of whatever he was doing. I pray that each of us will have that clarity of vision…to recognize Christ in our midst and to follow him in his way of love. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul writes that Christ will strengthen us to the end that we may be found blameless when he comes again. Our strength is in Christ and in this fellowship of believers to which we have been called. This strength will make us willing and follow Christ into the dark places to do the hard work of loving humanity and this broken world.

Bothers and sisters, may God grant each of us the gift of clarity of mind and strength of heart that we might be the conduits of Christ’s love in the world. Be brave…speak the truth…love one another.