Friday, May 25, 2007



Texts: Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:14-17, Jn 14:8-17

Verse 2: Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

In the fall of 2004, Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast with a fury that did not peter out until it reached the NC mountains. I know, I was there.

I had a group of young pastors in to Hinton Center for the First Parish Project. It was their first week together. They were from all over the country.

It had been a good week, a getting to know you week, but on Thursday night, it became a very interesting week indeed. It had been raining all day and we knew a hurricane had hit the Gulf, but we were in the mountains, for God’s sake. We were safe.

After dinner, I went out and sat on the Hinton porch and looked at the rain on the lake, trying to do some last minute program adjustment my coworker, Mollie Stewart. Suddenly, I realized what was happening right in front of my eyes. Mollie, I said, look at that, little tornados, water sprites, dancing across the lake. And waves. Big waves. We don’t have waves on mountain lakes.

Then it really hit. Trees bending toward the earth, electricity going out, roofs lifting up. Light pole breaking off 5 feet in the air, power lines dancing around on the ground.

And, in the midst of that, I had a stupid attack. David, who worked at Hinton, had tried to go home and failed. He came into the kitchen and said there was a tree down across the Hinton Road, the only way in and out of the Retreat Center. For some reason, David and I decided it was vital to get that tree off the road, in the middle of the hurricane.

So we got a chain saw and loaded a couple of young pastors in my old Jeep Cherokee, (Herb from South Dakota and I think John from Kentucky, I don’t remember who else was along.) We drove down until we got to the place where the trees had fallen across the road and began to work.

The wind was blowing, the rain was falling, the trees were slick, we made some progress on one and moved up to the next one. And then; well it’s kind of confusing but I’ve never been so scared in all my life, before or since.

The wind started blowing in a particularly hard and swirling manner, and the trees around us began to twist and twirl in the air and to crack and moan and make noises both mournful and threatening and looking up into the twisting tree tops was a vertigo inducing experience; and suddenly I and all those with me knew ourselves to be in mortal danger and we ran to the seeming safety of the car.

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

And here’s my question. If the Holy Spirit is indeed like a “violent wind,” like an untamed hurricane or a sudden and destructive tornado, what makes us think we want it in our lives? We say we want it. In the United Methodist Church we sang,
Breathe on me Breath of God;
It’s a comforting image; like a baby sleeping on your chest, or a wife or husband curled up, dozing at your back, breathing a sweet gentle breath.

Or we sing, (remember this one);
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me,
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
That ones best if you sway and hold your arms up.
Spirit of the Living God, Fall afresh on me.
(Close your eyes)
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Or, how about this one:
There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place,
And I know that it’s the spirit of the LORD

You know that do you? I wish I could be so sure, then maybe I wouldn’t be so afraid. For you see, the scripture says that is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God, and I think our scriptures show us this fearfulness very clearly. I don’t think the Spirit is all that sweet and gentle. Indeed I think the Spirit is a lot like my Mama.

Let me tell you what I mean by that. When I was a young teenager, 13, 14, 15, Mama and Daddy went to work in the Cotton Mill to supplement the family income. Up until then we got by on just the tobacco crop. They still raised the tobacco, they just did it after work and on weekends, and expected a lot of help from their children.

They would leave for the mill around 6:30 AM. They would leave us a list of things to get done, some around the house, most in the fields. They got home around 3:30. We tried to figure out how long it would take to get the jobs on the list done, then we always waited until the last possible minute to get busy.

One day, we had done nothing on the list. It was about 11:00 or 11:30. We were drinking Kool-Aid and eating peanut butter on cracker sandwiches and watching the Dialing for Dollars movie on Channel 8 out of High Point when:

“. . .suddenly, from the kitchen door there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire room where we were sitting . . . “

and the name of that wind was Mama and she was some kind of mad. She had gotten sick at work and came home early, and instead of finding her children busy about the business she had left them to do, she found them sitting around, doing nothing.

Mama roared into the den, the fly swatter she had grabbed off the hook by the kitchen stove in hand. She drove us out of that house, across the yard and up the hill, into the fields where we were supposed to be hoeing tobacco. We danced into that field, you know. Mama’s hand on the back of your neck, swatting at your legs and behind, while you stretch your feet and bottom as far away from her as you can get.

Yes, brothers and sisters, I believe the Spirit in Acts 2 is a whole lot more like my Mama on a bad day than any sweet, sweet spirit, any gentle breath of God, we might conjure up.

It was fifty days after Easter. And the disciples had done very little in that time but hang out with Jesus, spending some quality time with their Risen Lord. Then he left, really left, ascended into heaven left.

And before he went, he told them to get busy, he told them in Acts 1: 8, “you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth.” And then he ascended. And after he went up, an angel came to them and said, in essence, “Quit standing around. Get busy.” (Vs.11)

But, they really hadn’t been doing anything yet. And as our story opens, they were all together in one place, probably drinking first century kool-aid, i.e. watered down wine, and munching on fig and bread sandwiches, looking out at the crowded city streets, which are, after all, more entertaining than a TV movie.

“And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting .”

And, as the rest of the story tells us, that wind gave them a job, and the ability to do the job, and then it drove them out into the street so that they would get busy doing that job. Which is why the Holy Spirit, the mighty and powerful wind of God, is more like an angry Mama than any sweet baby or gentle lover.

And, on this Pentecost Sunday, 2007, that Holy Spirit is after us. It is after us to get out into the world with the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is after us to get busy with what we have been called to do, it is after us to quit worrying about being together in one room and to start worrying about going out together to witness to those in need of God’s love.

It is after us to look around us and see who it is that we know or know about who needs to know about the love and grace and forgiveness of God in Christ.

It is after us to know that the reason that we know that someone needs to know about Jesus is that it is our job to tell them or show them that love.

It is after us, and the only question right now is this:
Are we going to go voluntarily,
or is Mama Spirit gonna have to make us?
Amen and amen.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Easter VII - May 20, 2007

May 20, 2007

Texts: Acts 16:16-34 Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 John 17:20-26

Sometimes the things we hear in church are hard to understand, particularly when we’re little.

When I was a kid, I thought the song said, “Through the night, with a light, from a bulb.” Sang it that way until I was in High school.

Did you hear about the little boy who was praying the Lord’s prayer and said, “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets?” Actually, that works as well as trespasses.

And in THE FAMILY CIRCUS cartoon one Sunday, the little girl is shown in church, angelic look on her face, singing joyfully, "Amazing Grace!. . .How sweet the sound that saved a WITCH like me.” Witch, wretch, as my grandfather used to say, “Close enough for government work.”

Today’s Gospel lesson is taken from Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper. In it, he prays for the unity of the church. It is a prayer that is somewhat difficult to understand because of John’s convoluted style of writing. But the key point is that Jesus desires for us to be one, to be unified, to BE the new body of Christ in the world.

We can, perhaps, grasp more easily what John is getting at and its implications for our life of faith by looking closely at the Prayer of the Day, what used to be known as the Collect. It was called that because it was intended to COLLECT together the theme of the lessons, especially the Gospel, and to thereby set the tone for the worship, to help us focus our spiritual attention on this one thing on this one day. So, get out your bulletin or your insert out and look with me at this prayer. It has four inter-related petitions and we’ll take them each in turn.

(O God, form the minds of your faithful people into one will. Make us love what you command and desire what you promise, that amid all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 35)

1) O God, form the minds of your faithful people into one will. This is really antithetical and counter-cultural to how we modern Americans think about ourselves in relation to community. We are rugged individualists. We conceive of community, of society, of politics as competing ideologies, of wills in conflict, of pushing forward our own agenda, our own way, our own desires so that what we want becomes what the community wants. WE, humanly, achieve commonality of purpose through persuading others to see it our way, or by being persuaded to change our minds, or by being forced to buckle under due to economic or relational pressure.

But in this prayer, we look for something different. We ask to become one with one another by allowing God to shape our minds, our thoughts, our opinions into conformity with the will of God. This is not something which is achieved through human agency and human effort, and it does not come about because of politics or pressure, either of the religious or secular type.

It happens because we turn ourselves over to the will of God and allow ourselves to be shaped, mentally, emotionally and most importantly, volitionally, by the
truth and love of God. It starts with praying with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will, but thine be done.”

2) Make us love what you command and 3) desire what you promise. (Repeat)

I was ordained to the Gospel ministry the first week of June 1977, at Methodist College in Fayetteville. The Rev. Dr. Joseph Thomas of Cleveland, Ohio, an African-American United Methodist Bishop, preached the ordination sermon. There were 25 of us being ordained that night. He said several things in his sermon which proved important to me in the last 30 years, but the most important thing he said was this,

“We lay on hands to bestow the Holy Spirit because you are desperately going to need her. You will want to go where you want to go and do what you want to do and if you are to be a servant of God, you must allow God to shape you to his will and his way.” That’s what he said, I wrote it down.

But we would rather God command what we love and promise what we desire, just the opposite of what the prayer says. That is why so many churches are bending over backwards to “give people what they want,” as one pastor so bluntly told me. It reminds be of the dishonest tailor my Daddy used to joke about. He installed colored lights above the mirror to enhance the color of the suits. When someone would try on a suit, the tailor would whisper to his wife, “Man wants a green suit, turn on the green light.”

We spend way too much time turning on green lights instead of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to shape our wills to the will of God, not to reinvent God in our own image.

As long as we continue to willfully seek our own way by our own methods, we will remain divided and not as one or at peace. It is only by sincerely praying this prayer that we will begin to move toward the unity God wills for us, the oneness with God and each other that Jesus prayed for.

The heart of this prayer and of this day is in the last petition: 4)that amid all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Our looking around for places that will give us what we love and will fulfill our desires is ultimately a search for that which can only be found in Christ.

Blaise Pascal said, "There is a whole in the heart of (humanity) which only Christ can fill."

And Saint Augustine said, "Thou made us for yourself, O, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee."

All our loves and desires are but pale imitations of the real thing that we seek; peace with God and each other. And there is only one way to achieve these things, and it is no ACHIEVEMENT at all.

It is rather a receiving, an acceptance of God’s Grace and Love and Will in our lives. Until we let go of the striving and seeking and searching; until we turn our hearts away from the illusory and vaporous allures of this world, until we turn our attention to the true spiritual treasures which only God can give; we are doomed to a perpetual striving after and attaining of that which does not satisfy.

The only thing that will make us whole is Christ;
the only thing that will bring us true joy is Christ;
the only thing that will bring us together is Christ;
the only thing that will connect us to God is Christ;
the only thing that will save our very souls is Christ.

Paul and Silas in jail knew the true Joy that is Christ, they were beaten and threatened and locked away, but they sang and prayed, because they had God in their heart.

The Psalmist lived in dangerous times among dangerous people, but he knew true Joy, because he had God in his heart.

Old Elder John, marooned and isolated on the desert Island of Patmos, knew the true Joy that is Christ, and he wrote of the rapturous joys of an eternity with the Lord, b/c he had God in his heart.

And Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, not only by Judas, but by all of us, was able to gently pray for us and our unity. As he went out to face his death, he was able to go forth in confidence, because he had God in his heart, he knew true joy.

We are called today to turn away from the pursuit of false Gods and temporary solutions; to put behind us those things which not only do not satisfy, but actually hinder us in our pursuit of Holiness.

We are called today to sincerely, with every fiber of our being, with ever bit of our heart, mind and soul, pray the Prayer of the Day, and to mean it, to genuinely seek to have God change, transform, alter our will so that we will what God wills.

Pray it with me:

O God, form the minds of your faithful people into your one will. Make us love what you command and desire what you promise, that amid all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found, you Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Amen and amen.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Easter VI - May 13, 2007

I have no sermon for you this week. My mother had her knee replaced and I was back and forth to the hospital in Mt. Airy ( a two and a half hour round trip) and spent all day yesterday getting her out of the hospital and taking her home to the farm and getting her settled, etc. And my son came home from college this week, (he's 21 today) and I've got a Lutheran Men in Mission work day and a 6 o'clock wedding and I'll write a sermon sometime. If i get it done before 8:00 AM tomorrow, I'll post it.

A good cartoon: Dennis the Menace. Dennis and his pal Joey are leaving the house with big, freshly baked cookies in their hands. Mrs. Wilson is in the background, wiping her hands on her apron.

Joey says, "I wonder what we did to deserve this?"

Dennis replies, "Listen Joey. Mrs. Wilson didn't give us cookies because we're nice. She gave them to us because she's nice."



Well, I came up with something. here it is.

Easter Six May 13, 2007
Texts: Acts 16:9-15,
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5,
John 14:23-29

I am focusing on the lesson from Acts this morning, on Paul and the twists and turns of
fate (?), God’s will (?) which led him to Philippi, to a riverside prayer meeting and finally to the home of a woman named Lydia, who became the leader of the first church in Europe.

As the story opens, Paul is a very frustrated man. His first missionary trip had gone well. He had gone out from his base in Damascus into the eastern part of Asia Minor, what we now call Turkey, with his partner Barnabas, a gifted preacher and trusted friend.

But his second Missionary Trip was so far a bust.
First, he and Barnabas had had a falling out, a big argument over Mark. Mark had gone with them part way on their first journey, then got homesick and went home.
Now, Mark wanted to go on this trip and Paul wouldn’t hear of it. No second chances. Barnabas insisted, Paul said no way, and finally, Barnabas went out preaching with Mark and Paul picked up a new partner, Silas.

All of this is a pretty good reminder of two things.
1) Church fights and disagreements are nothing new, we’ve always been that way, and though Saint Paul is one of our most revered leaders, neither we nor the Bible make him out to be perfect after his conversion. Christianity at its best is an honest faith that admits that we are all sinners in need of a forgiving and loving God.
2) As a Portuguese proverb puts it, “God draws straight with crooked sticks.” Our modern way of saying it is that God “took lemons and made lemonade.” As a result of this spat, there were twice as many mission teams on the road, two instead of one. One of my professors at Duke was a Baptist. He liked to say that there were so many Baptists because they were good at fighting and bad at Math, “We multiply by division!” Truth be told, the same can be said of Lutherans. Look at us: two Churches named Peace five miles apart, because of a church fight here at Friedens.

Anyway, Paul’s mission trip got off to a rocky start; they were going to the western part of Asia Minor this time. But they couldn’t seem to get anything going once they got there. Silas had a vision in which God told them not to preach in Asia, and Paul’s going, “Well okay, but what do we do?”

Then Paul had a vision; a vision which called him to go to a new place, a place he had never thought of, a place and a ministry which had never crossed his mind. God showed him a “man of Macedonia” that is a Greek, pleading with him to come over the sea and bring the Gospel to that land.

Macedonia had been the kingdom of Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. From there, young Alexander launched the war machine that conquered the known world several hundred years earlier. The city to which Paul and Silas went was Philippi, named after Alexander’s father.

On the Sabbath, Paul and Silas went looking for the Jews. That was always their missional starting point. They went to people they were familiar with, hoping to get a hearing. There was obviously a very tiny Jewish community in Philippi, for they had no synagogue, no house of worship, so they met in good weather under the trees, down by the river.

Notice the text says, “outside the gate.” Many towns of that day had laws that forbade foreign religious practices within the city, for fear of the wrath of the gods, so people like the Jews had to go outside the gate to pray. And there Paul and Silas found them; at least they found the women.

Isn’t it interesting? A man spoke to them in the vision, but it was the women who were at prayer. Or perhaps there were both men and women at the meeting, but it was only the women who were open to hearing something new.

Anyway, Paul and Silas sat down there and shared with these women the Gospel. Verse 14 is so important I want to read it to you in its entirety, look at it with me:

A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was a dealer in purple cloth. The LORD opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.”

There are several things in that verse I want to focus on.
First “a worshipper of God.” This indicates that she was not Jewish, but was interested in the Jewish religion, in particular that she was interested in a faith focused on God, community and morality rather than the ancient cult’s mix of war, fertility, prosperity and revenge. She was a person primed to hear what Paul had to say.

Brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by unchurched people who are ready to hear the gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. We live in the midst of a people who are dying of spiritual thirst and we have the Living Water they need.

There are Lydias all around us; good, moral hard-working people, who are looking for something more in their lives, who are anxious and eager to be a part of something real and honest; people who need to know what God in Christ has done for them; and the question is
“Do we see the vision, do we hear the voice calling us to reach out to them with Christ?”

Second thing in this verse:
“The Lord opened her heart to listen “
Many times we fail to realize that God is the one who leads people into the faith, not us. We are simply God’s instruments, his tools, for saving the world. God does it, not us. One of the things that means is that we don’t have to worry so much about knowing the right thing to say, or finding just the right time, or developing a correct outreach strategy.

And, you know what, it’s really not that hard. It’s just telling the truth about your faith to another person, and inviting them to come and be a part of the community of faith with you.

In the April 23 edition of Time magazine, in the business section, there is an article called WORD ON THE STREET. It is, in part, about the fact that the “word on the street,” the “buzz,” “word of mouth” is the most powerful marketing tool around.
Here’s a research statistic, When it comes to brands, consumers say they’re influenced by people, not by ads.

56% reported trying a new product because of recommendations of friends or family,
10% because of TV ads, 9% newspaper ads, 6% radio ads.

Think of what this means for how important it is for us to personally share our faith story with our friends and neighbors. There is a scripture verse that is often translated How shall they hear without a preacher?

Because we’re used to thinking of the “preacher” as a clergyman, a pastor, we fail to recognize that it’s talking about us, all of us. What it really says is How can they hear without someone to tell them the Good News? We are called to be that someone to each other, to our family and friends.

Lydia responded to the Gospel. And she shared it with her family and soon she and her household were baptized. We don’t know how soon this took place, how quickly she converted, but notice how the conversion had a ripple effect, first Lydia; then her household, those nearest and dearest to her. As a wealthy woman, a household would have included personal family, plus quite a few servants and several children.

From this beginning there came a church, the church the letter to the Philippians is written.

Christianity is not a strictly private or personal religion; it is a corporate and communal one. Even the God of Christianity; lives in a community of three: the Trinity; the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

Dr. Paul Tournier, A Swiss Christian Psychiatrist, said,
There are two things we cannot do alone. One is to be married; the other is to be a Christian.

We need the church in order to be Christian, if for no other reason than that we cannot love and learn to be loved alone.

It is within the daily bump and grind of living and working together as the people of God that we find out what it means to be forgiven for our failures, praised for out efforts, appreciated for our virtues, prayed for in our sorrows, helped in the midst of our troubles, and loved in spite of ourselves. We need each other in order to practice and learn to be truly Christian.

The loving activity of God in community has been focused on making that community bigger; including all humanity through all time in the expanding family of God. The story of God is the story of ever widening circles of active love, moving always outward to bring more people into relationship with God and each other.

It is our call today to join in God’s missional outreach, to become a part of bringing more and more folk into the household of God. We are called to be Lydias today; people who hear the Good News and share the Good News in all that we say and do.

Amen and Amen.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Easter 5, New RCL texts for May 6, 2007

May 6, 2007

Texts: Acts 11:1-18, John 13: 31-35


My grandma Hubbard had a brother whose name was James. Uncle James was quite possibly the most worthless and trifling human being I ever met. He was mean to his wife, ignored his children, avoided honest work like the plague and was known far and wide as the biggest and most brazen liar in Southwest Virginia.

One day Grandma and one of her many grad-daughters were sitting on the front porch; rocking, shelling peas and gossiping about Uncle James. The young woman maintained that James was beyond hope and a serious embarrassment to herself and every other member of the family. She filled Grandma in on his latest episodes of public sorriness.

Grandma just rocked and shelled and nodded and listened and finally she said, I’m sure everything you say is true. Still, Jesus loves your Uncle James. The Granddaughter turned red in the face and sputtered,I doubt that, I don’t think even Jesus could love Uncle James. Yes child, Grandma said, Jesus loves everybody and Jesus loves your Uncle James.

Then she stopped rocking and shelling and sat perfectly still, while she stared off across the hills. ‘Course, she said, almost to herself, that could be ‘cause Jesus don’t know your Uncle James as good as we do.

IN today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus commands us to love one another. But Grandma has put her finger on the crux of our problem with that commandment; some people are genuinely hard to like. How in the world are we to be expected to love them? How can Jesus order us to do something so difficult?

Part of the problem is that, in our minds, we confuse Like a lot with love. We think love is just like taken to the highest degree. This is because in our culture, love is almost always associated with romantic love, what in Greek is designated by the word EROS. So to love is to have intense feelings of affection for. How can that be commanded, we think. The heart falls in love, feels what it feels.

Or, we associate it with friendship, philea, as in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. And again, this is a natural thing; we like some people and others we don’t. We get along with some people, with others we don’t.

Marriage is usually a combination of eros and philea, as well it should be. Friends we make along life’s way, people we just like being around, this is most philea, affinity and affection. All this is natural and cannot be commanded. But what we’re talking about here is agape, self-sacrificial love. This is love that has to do with how we act toward one another, not how we feel about each other.
Feelings are, in many ways, uncontrollable. You can’t help liking some people more than others, just like we like some foods and dislike others. Me, I love Pinto Beans and can’t stand cooked greens. I love the Braves and hate the Yankees, not personally, you understand. Same dynamic for Carolina and State. Nothing serious, just emotions. But, God calls us to move beyond our likes and dislikes and behave in a loving manner to all people.

This is the point of the story in Acts. An observant Jew didn’t eat certain foods and didn’t associate or eat with uncircumcised people who ate unclean food. Peter has a vision of being commanded of God to eat of the unclean food, then going to a Gentiles house to preach and eat.

Gad wants Peter to understand that all people are God’s people, that all races and colors and types of humanity are God’s humanity and are to be included in God’s Community of Faith. Peter’s feelings did not matter to God. Peter’s actions did. God was concerned only with how Peter acted toward those to whom God was sending him.

And, that’s what matters to God about us. God is calling us to love one another. God is calling us to act with love toward all those around us. Like Peter, we are being called to move beyond our comfort zones in terms of whom we relate to, and how we act toward them.

True story. It was a few days before Mother’s Day. Her 9-year-old son came into her bedroom where she was working at a desk and said, “Mama, would you read this. It’s my school essay for Mother’s Day.” This was a woman with a Master’s Degree in English. She grabbed a red pencil and went after that essay with a vengeance. When she finished correcting the spelling and grammar, she called her son and said, “Here you go. ”

She was quite pleased with what a “good mom” she was, so helpful with the homework, interrupting her own work, to be available to her children, etc. etc. So, she was totally unprepared for the moment when her son took the paper, now marked up in red, from her hands and stared at it with a dumbfounded look on his face. Then his little 9-year-old chin began to quiver and his lips began to shake and a tear began to run down his cheek and he said, But Mama, I didn’t want you to fix it. I wanted you to like it.

The Mother said later: That was the day I learned that the loving comes before the fixing; that the caring creates the relationship in which change can occur.

All too often, we give our children and our spouses and our friends and our loved ones and the man on the street the message that if only they’ll get better and improve and change and get fixed, then we will truly and completely be able to love them.

One marriage therapist I know says most marriages that go wrong start going wrong at the wedding, when the groom looks out and sees three things: the aisle, the altar and her; and the bride looks up and sees the same three things; the aisle, the altar and him. And if they’re both thinking I’ll alter her/him, there is real trouble ahead.

For the Gospel equation is different; the love comes first. Which is why Grandma was wrong about Uncle James. Jesus did love Uncle James, but not because he didn’t know him very well, but because he knew him completely and totally and cared about him in spite of what he knew; Jesus loved him because God’s love, Jesus’ love, is not determined by the worthiness of the object, but by the character and intentionality of the one who loves.

It is God’s nature, it the very core of God’s being, to love. Love is what compelled God to create us in the first place. Love is what makes God sustain us, Love is what brought Jesus to this earth, Love is what Jesus taught and lived every day of his earthly life. Love is what took Jesus to the cross and love is what Jesus left behind to bind us together.

And not one of us deserves that love any more than Uncle James did. But all of us have received it, and all of us are called to share it, pass it on, spread it around, we are to love one another, just as Jesus has first loved us.

Amen and Amen

Peace, Delmo