Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Remember Trayvon

Several months ago, I was reading a book to children at church. I pointed out the different skin tones of the kids in the book and asked why the children in the picture looked different. One of the children sitting across from me looked at me like I had crawled out from under a log, "Because they're people," he said.

Being "people" means having different skin tones, abilities, hair colors, tendencies, heritage.

It's great that these 3, 4, and 5-year-olds knew that. May they never forget it.

Apparently, some adults have. Or never knew it.

The stories about Trayvon Martin are breaking my heart. A teenage boy, on his way home from a store, shot to death for being people. For being black people.

There may be enough evidence within a few days or weeks to arrest the shooter, based on witness accounts. (Though, if a black man were suspected of shooting a white teenage, someone would already be under arrest.)

Or Florida's "Stand Your Ground" laws may protect the shooter, who claims he was defending himself.

I want to see outrage. I want to hear anger. I want to witness righteous foaming at the mouth on the behalf of Trayvon.

I am called to preach forgiveness, but right now not only would I not give the shooter "air in a jug", I would be likely to beat him with said jug. Remember the presumption of innocence does not mean that someone is actually innocent, just that the court treats them as such.

Then I see a racial slur directed at the president with regard to his re-election: "Don't Re-Nig in 2012". Horrible examples here.

I can't believe I just typed that, but this needs to be called out. I don't care what you like or don't like, you don't say that, print that, wear it, or stick it. Not about the president. Not about anybody.

It's bad in America for black Americans. Bad. Bad. Bad.

If your response to the sentence above is anything less than, "She's right", you're not paying attention.

The first boy I ever kissed was black. M.W. and I were practicing our multiplication tables when we were 8. We dared each other to kiss. It was chaste, dry, and quick. We went on to memorizing the sixes and no further. This is not my credential, it comes to mind when I think of Trayvon.

Trayvon was someone's first kiss. Someone's son. Someone's friend. Someone's confidante. Someone's grandchild. Someone's customer. Someone's future employee. Someone's future employer.

And all that he could have been is no more because of a trigger happy bigot who couldn't see past the color of Trayvon's skin. Which was black.

In the Civil Rights era, one could encourage by offering, "Remember the Little Rock 9", "Think of Rosa Parks", "Don't forget the Birmingham 4", or "Selma".

If we cannot rise to this occasion by an appeal for justice and neighbor love in Sanford, Florida and across the nation, let us cry out for equality in the name of Trayvon. Remember Trayvon.

Put it in your window. Say it in the prayers at your church. Put it in your Facebook status. Email one Florida politician a day until you've gotten to the whole delegation, state and federal. Pray for justice. Pray with your hands, your feet, your dollars, your vote, and, lastly, with your words to God.

If you are not angry enough to speak out for Trayvon, no matter where you live, you cannot delude yourself into thinking that you have been any different than the crowd that will sing "Hosanna" and "Crucify Him" with the same breath.

Yes, I just said that.

If not you, who?

Remember Trayvon. Who died for being black. Who died for being people.




Unraveling Religion

I recently read Christianity After Religion, a new book by Diana Butler Bass. I reviewed the book here


Bass unpacks the struggle in contemporary society between Christian dogma (teachings) and Christian practice (habits). She argues that Christianity in America (and around the world) is undergoing a Great Awakening, the fourth in American history. 


One of the hallmarks of this awakening, Bass writes, is way people are combining their experience of the Holy with reason that comes through study, examination, and experimentation. Faithful people are trying to bridge the divide between the head and the heart and come together in the territory of the Spirit. Bass calls this experiential faith or experiential religion. 


Experiential faith seems to turn the current expectations of  religious life upside down. Bass details how in our vocations and our hobbies, we learn by joining a profession, a group, a mentor. We take on the habits of the people or person from whom we are learning. Over time, we then come to believe things about our profession or hobby- what it means to us and how it helps us. We belong, then behave, and then believe. Yet, we expect people to these tasks in the exact opposite manner when it comes to church.

If you want to knit, you find someone who knits to teach you. Go to the local yarn shop and find out when there is a knitting class. Sit in a circle where others will talk to you, show you how to hold the needles, guide your hands, and share their patterns with you. The first step in becoming a knitter is forming a relationship with knitters. The next step is to learn by doing and practice. After you knit for a while, after you have made scarves and hats and mittens, then you start forming ideas about knitting. You might come to think that the experience of knitting makes you a better person, more spiritual, or able to concentrate, gives you a better sense of service to others, allows you to demonstrate love and care. You think about what you are doing, how you might do it better. You develop your own way of knitting, your own theory of the craft. You might invent a dazzling new pattern, a new way to make a stitch; you might write a knitting book or become a knitting teacher. In knitting, the process is exactly the reverse of that in church: belonging to a knitting group leads to behaving as a knitter, which leads to believing things about knitting. Relationships lead to craft, which leads to experiential belief. That is the path to becoming and being someone different. The path of transformation. (202)
 
With all due respect to John Wesley, I think that’s one of the best descriptions of sanctification this Lutheran has ever read. The contemporary narrative touts Christian faith as adherence to dogmas and standing firmly behind the line of orthodoxy, no toes in sight. That’s Christian perfectionism, not perfection, and that’s not what Bass has in mind. Nor the early church. Nor Jesus. 

We are brought ever closer to the possibilities God has stored within us through our Christian practices. The practices, prayer, study, hospitality, discipline, communal life, create the space for the Spirit to bring us to perfection. We can best learn these practices from people who already love them, who are further along in their "mastery" than we are. 

Here's the question for us and for our congregations: do we love the Christianity we are practicing? Are we experiencing Christ? Are people learning about the Way of Jesus through us and from us? 

It's time to consider what it means to belong... to behave... to believe, in that order. Can we unravel what is a couple centuries of religious expectation and knit back together, with the help of the Spirit, a new way of living as Christians? 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Theology of the Cross (Sermon 3/18)


Lent 4 (Narrative Lectionary, Year B)

Mark 12:38-44

            I like to start sermons with a story. I feel like a story helps us to get into the groove of listening and pondering what’s happening in the Scripture reading. The story is like a little bridge that we cross over into history and that history crosses over to meet us.

            However, in order to be true to the gospel of Christ according to Mark, today’s passage does not lend itself to a good story, to a catchy story, to a story that I want to remember and to tell. In Luke, the widow with her two coins is the hero of the story. In Luke’s account of this story, Jesus praises the woman for giving her last two coins. For generations, she has been upheld as the model of sacrificial giving for the cause of the church.

            For Mark, the woman is symbolic, too. But she doesn’t represent sacrificial giving. Instead, in Mark’s gospel, the woman is a sacrificial lamb, preyed upon by greedy church leaders who posture at showy displays of piety, but in truth consume the goods of the poor, down to their last coins and then their houses.  Mark’s version of this story puts me in mind of all of church history, the bad parts, not a story I want to open with today.

            In 70 A.D., the temple in Jerusalem is destroyed. This is the second temple. The first temple is built under Solomon’s direction, with the conscripted labor of the Israelites. (Conscripted labor is a fancy phrase for slavery.) When it is destroyed and the people of Israel are held captive in Babylon, there is a deep longing for a place to connect with God. After the time of captivity, the second temple is built with money from Cyrus the Great. No matter how great he was, no matter how respectful of Hebrew history, Cyrus is Persian. This is not a king of Israel.

            The building project that is begun by Cyrus continues until it is finished under Herod the Great. By now, the structure of worship life in the temple is strictly monitored. Animals must be bought from the temple. Money has to be changed to temple coinage. The scribes and temple leaders demand, in the name of God, offerings for all kinds of sins. The cost of living righteously keeps many people in a cycle of poverty.

            Many people, regular people, probably have a deep sense of ambivalence about the temple because of this history. The building itself, the worship inside, the people who run the show. Yet it is also the place where people have felt close to God, where they have had deeply moving moments in their hearts or with members of their family, it is a place that is connected with hope, a future, and promises. This is what the woman believes she is giving her last two coins, too. So that someone else may have what she has experienced.

            Mark is trying to convey all of this in his story, in this fleeting description of Jesus and the disciples witnessing temple life. If Mark is writing before the temple falls, he is trying to remind people of what the story of the building is and of what Jesus said it would be, should be. If Mark is writing after the temple has fallen, he is trying to remind people of the corruption that was and the wholeness that can be.

            What Mark is conveying, what Jesus is showing, what the widow remembers is the best of what a community of faith can be. The truth that is revealed to and through a community of faith comes via the story that it tells. Is it a story of obvious glory, of fancy structures, of powerful leaders, of devouring the houses of widows for the sake of show? Or is the story of glory in the cross, of welcome and consolation, of quiet conversations, food and fellowship, support, and making ends meet?

            It’s amazing to me, though it shouldn’t be, that church history is filled with this story repeating over and over again. The story of people whose power or position went to their head and they began to build towers, cathedrals, and cities. They expected their influence to last forever. It didn’t and it can’t.

            We can’t hold the earthly idea of power, the idea that the scribes and so many since them have had… we can’t hold that idea and, at the same time, say that we trust God-in-Jesus who noticed the widow, who called unschooled fishermen, who spoke with isolated women, who healed lepers, who blessed children. The theology of glory, honor, and triumph can’t hold a candle to the theology of the cross. One is empty because it is hollow. The other is empty because of the power of God. One is pyrite, sparkly and worth nothing. The other is the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

            The deep, dark valleys of church history, the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly, can’t overcome the hope and comfort that is the story of God. This is the call to us, to each of us and to our congregation. We are called to remember that the life of faith isn’t about the story of this church, but about the story of God. The story of God-in-us and with us. The story of the family into which we have been adopted through baptism, the family table at which we eat together, the family circle that we see here and is completed in heaven.

            The story of the temple, of the building, of the scribes… the stories of seeking earthly power never end well. These things do pass.

            The story to which the widow belonged, the story into which we are called, the story of abundant life, the story of grace… it’s a story for the ages. For all ages. It’s the story that will carry us into the life that is to come.

Amen. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wikipedia, The Great Evangelist

I have no idea where I heard this the first time, "For every bear you see when hiking, nine bears see you." Given that I've taken treks during which I saw 3-4 bears, I get a little shaky at thinking about 25-30 bears seeing me. That's probably a high estimate, but- in general- more bears see you than you actually spot with your own eyes.

This leads me to tell you that, in the past 10 days, two separate people have told me that they learned about a) the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and b) Lutheranism through Wikipedia.

That's right. Wikipedia.

Wikipedia!

The first person, "A", was looking for a church with a specific social bent. A read on Wikipedia (!) that the ELCA was a gay-friendly denomination. Technically, this is true about the denomination, but not necessarily true of all congregations. A visited Lutheran Church of Hope, felt very welcomed, but was a little overwhelmed by the structure of Lutheran liturgy, more formal than A's previous experience. A asked questions of me, the pastor, about what was confusing. (Yes, please!! Ask away! Even if you aren't visiting.) In the exchange about the service, A told me that everything a person wanted to know about the ELCA, but didn't know who to ask was available on Wikipedia.

The ELCA wikipedia page has LOTS of information. Most of it seems correct, if very technical. There is a long comparison chart between the ELCA and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that I'm not sure is necessary, but maybe someone finds it helpful.

Things on the Wikipedia page that I would find useful if I was looking for a denomination:

ELCA clergy tend not to subscribe to a doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, but see validity in various scholarly methods of analysis to help in understanding the Bible. (Questions are allowed!)


Like other Lutheran church bodies, the ELCA confesses at least two SacramentsCommunion (or the Eucharist) and Holy Baptism (including infant baptism). (What's a sacrament? I'll follow the link, but these two sound good.) 


Unlike certain other American Lutheran church bodies, the ELCA practices open communion, permitting all persons baptized in the name of the Trinity with water to receive communion. Some congregations also commune baptized infants similarly to Eastern Orthodox practice. The ELCA encourages its churches to practice the Eucharist at all services, although some churches alternate between non-communion services with those containing the Lord's Supper. (Everyone participates. I like inclusion.) 


The ELCA ordains women as pastors, a practice that all three of its predecessor churches adopted in the 1970s. Some have become synod bishops. The most recent ELCA hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, includes alternate gender-neutral invocations and benedictions in all settings. (Women get to play! Women get to lead! Everyone has a role!)


The Church maintains full communion relationships with member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (which is a communion of 140 autonomous national/regional Lutheran church bodies in 78 countries around the world, representing nearly 66 million Christians), the Moravian Church in America, thePresbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion), and the United Methodist Church. (These Lutherans play well with others. Do these other churches all get along with one another in the same way? They do not, but Lutherans join in for Jesus.) 


As a Lutheran church body, the ELCA professes belief in the "priesthood of all believers" as reflected in Martin Luther's To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, that all baptized persons have equal access to God and are all called to use their gifts to serve the body of Christ. (Sounds good to me.) 


Things on the Wikipedia page that are a little overwhelming: structure of the church, long discussion of ELCA v. LC-MS, history of the ELCA via predecessor bodies.  


Of course, if one was really curious about a denomination, it's all there in spades. 


The second person, "B", called to see about pre-requisites to communion after reading about Lutheranism, wishing to attend a Lutheran church, and desiring to take Holy Communion for the first time ever. I explained that an openness to the presence of Christ was the only pre-requisite and B explained about reading about pre-requisites on... Wikipedia's page on Lutheranism. In conversation, B held forth that Lutherans were most aligned with Person B's own beliefs in the areas of Holy Communion, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the two natures of Christ.


Given that I'm not certain everyone in the congregation I serve holds the same thoughts on those three things, I went to Wikipedia to check it out on those three counts. 


Lutherans hold that within the Eucharist, also referred to as the Sacrament of the Altar, the Mass, or the Lord's Supper, the true body and blood of Christ are truly present "in, with, and under the forms" of the consecrated bread and wine for all those who eat and drink it, a doctrine that the Formula of Concord calls the sacramental union. (Technically, yes. We believe that the bread and wine remain what they are, but that the presence of Christ comes to us through them. How? We have no idea, but who are we to doubt that Christ will show up where he promises to be?)


Lutherans are Trinitarian [...] Lutherans reject the idea that the Father and the Son are merely faces of the same person, stating that both the Old Testament and the New Testament show them to be two distinct persons. Lutherans believe the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. (Yep, the doctrine of Trinity... making a beautiful relationship confusing since, what, 431 A.D.?)

Lutherans believe Jesus is the Christ, the savior promised in the Old Testament. They believe he is both by nature God and by nature man in one person, as they confess in Luther's Small Catechism that he is "true God begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man born of the Virgin Mary". (Do you know what Lutherans talk about even less than the Trinity... the two natures of Christ.)

So, Wikipedia's page on Lutheranism... technically correct and way overwhelming. It's like my whole church history class, plus Lutheran history crammed into one loooooong page, with enough rabbit hole links to keep you occupied for days. 

Why am I bringing this up? Well, like the bears you see, I now know 2 people who have sought out Lutheran churches because of Wikipedia. How many bears people are looking at those pages and not visiting, calling, or asking? How many people are turned off by the pages? 

Most people I know end up in a congregation because they are 1) invited by someone they know or 2) are in close proximity, but either way they stay because they are welcomed and feel connected. 

The need for welcome and connection remains, but the ways people are finding churches is changing. There's a lot more information out there that people are, apparently, more likely to seek out first before they set foot in any building, tent, or worship space. 

There are fairly serious implications to this. We must make sure that our congregations are up to date on new media and that it looks good and inviting. Your fellowship hour may be AMAZING, but no one will know if your webpage looks like no one cares. 

Secondly, we must keep an eye out for other information about our denominations. Google your denomination (and your church). What comes up first? Is it the first thing you'd want people to see? 

Thirdly, you (and I) are still primary communicators of what it means to Christian and, after that, a particular flavor of Christian. Do you know what you believe? Do you know why? Faith stories aren't just for pastors. Nor are the clergy the sole keepers of denominational information. You don't have to have all the doctrines memorized by name, but it's worth considering, deeply, why you believe what you believe. 

After all, what will you talk about during a power outage when Wikipedia's unavailable?  



Sunday, March 11, 2012

No Elaboration Needed (Sermon 3/11)


Lent 3 (Narrative Lectionary, Year B)

Mark 12:28-34


            When I was in my first couple months of seminary, there was a guy in a couple of my classes named “Bob”. Bob was one of those people who is not good at picking up on social signals. He talked a little too loudly, asked questions that were a little too personal, and volunteered more information than you might want. He was a very nice guy, though, friendly and well-meaning. No one disliked him, but no one really sought him out either. (Yes, you may point out the painful irony of this behavior in seminarians.)

            One evening, I decided to walk from my apartment to downtown New Haven and I ran into Bob. He had been riding his bike, but he hopped off and walked along with me. We talked and we went to a little diner and had a piece of cake. Then we walked back up the hill to the divinity school. He was really talking and I felt awkward trying to say goodnight, so I invited him in for a cup of tea.

            I called a friend to let her know that Bob was with me, just so someone would know this information. (For the record, there was never any point where I was concerned about my safety with this guy. Otherwise, I would not have allowed him into where I lived.) In the meantime, Bob looked at my shelves and asked about watching a movie. I made tea and he sat in one of my two chairs and I sat in the other. At one point, he was chilly. He asked about a housecoat, but I gave him my huge flannel bathrobe, which he put on over his clothes and a blanket he put over his lap.

            I emailed my friend, “Bob’s STILL here! Watching a movie! Third cup of tea! Wearing my bathrobe over his clothes!” I could practically hear her giggling over the email, “What are you going to do?” I didn’t know what to do, so I sat through the rest of the movie thinking about how to get him out of my apartment. When the movie ended, he announced that it had been a terrible movie and proceeded to go through the reasons why. He brought up things I had never considered and he was right.

            Then he asked to use the bathroom and said he thought he should go home. He asked if he could give me a hug. I opened the door to the apartment and we hugged briefly in the hallway and then he left. At this point, we’d spent about seven hours together. I called my friend and we kept laughing about the oddity of the situation and about “Bob”. Not my finest moment, that.

Many weeks later, he returned a borrowed book to me with a note thanking me for helping him to feel less lonely. Thank you, he said, for being a friend when I wasn’t sure this was a good place for me. Thank you for being so generous with your tea, your housecoat, and your time. Your friend, he said, Bob.

            That note made me want to kick myself and I’ve never forgotten it. I especially remember it in my own Bob moments- when I talk too long, tell a story that doesn’t quite hit the mark, when the words I offer seem woefully inadequate. When I’m trying to love my neighbors as I love myself, even when I’m not sure about how I feel about them or about me.

            The greatest commandment, the Shema of Deuteronomy 6, doesn’t need elaboration. It says what it means and it means what it says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus adds to it from Leviticus 19:18, “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The commands go together and are the foundation of what it means to have faith. These commands are how we respond to the way God has loved us, even in our most human moments… especially in our most human moments.

            We’ve all been welcomed when we were Bob… when we awkward and uncertain…when we have over-stayed a welcome… we’ve had makeshift families or friends in odd places who offered us hospitality… we’ve all let someone who needed to stay longer than we wanted… We will be called to offer that welcome again. And we will receive it again. These are the moments of God-with-us and God-in-us that are the challenges of living in this world.

            Fulfilling these commandments doesn’t make us closer to God, but helps us to perceive God’s nearness to us. In those moments, of welcome and of being welcomed, we are not far from the kingdom of God.

Amen.

           
           

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Whose Vineyard is It? (Sermon for 3/4/12)


Mark 11:27 – 12:12

            I don’t know about you, but I am about finished with this year’s politics. I know we have not even voted yet, but sometimes I think if I hear another political story my head might explode. Not only does the rhetoric seems particularly bad this year, but the issues on which people are choosing to focus seem, to me, coming from nowhere. And, I confess to you, this year’s politics are making me judgmental.

            I mean… JUDGY… to extent that I’m not proud of, but seems hard to avoid. I keep trying to think of the 8th Commandment; however, that plan is not going so well. The 8th Commandment, you may remember, is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” We usually interpret this to mean that we should not make things up, speculate, or tell lies about our neighbor. In fact, Martin Luther said we’re not only to fulfill this commandment by omission of lies, but by also coming to the defense of our neighbor, speaking well of them, and interpreting everything they do in the best light.

            Um… I can’t do that with some people. In fact, not only do I not interpret their actions in the best light, I kind of want Jesus to come back, just so he could punch them in the nose. Better yet, I’d like to punch them in the nose and yell, “For God, for country, and for Yale” (or something like that).

            Which pretty much makes me (and you if you’re like me) exactly like the scribes, chief priests, and elders of this story.* These are the people, the men, who make up the hierarchy of the church and the leadership structure of the Jewish community. Jesus does not only unnerve them, but he also frustrates and angers them by the threat he poses to their power and to the order they have lived to carefully cultivate and maintain.

            He uses this parable of the vineyard to pin them exactly where it hurts. This parable appears in Matthew and Luke as well (and for what it’s worth, in the Gospel of Thomas), so it’s fairly certain to be something that Jesus said. The vineyard is a particular metaphor for Israel that appears in several of the prophets, particularly Amos and Isaiah. Israel is spoken of as the vineyard that bears the fruit of God’s grace to the world. Jesus is leading these religious leaders along the path of the story until they come to the end and recognize that he’s talking about them.

            But what’s he saying about them? Presumably, they are the tenants of the vineyard in this allegory and the owner is God. The servants who come to collect the harvest are the prophets. The owner’s son is… Jesus.

            Why do you think the tenants act the way they do? Do you think they are deliberately cruel? Do they really think they will inherit the land if the son dies? Is it possible they began to think the vineyard and all its fruits belonged to them and they were angered by anyone who made it seem otherwise?

            We are talking about nearly a thousand years after King David, when the Messiah, God’s anointed, is supposed to show up and be like David- the 3D experience. People waited and waited. One hundred years. Two hundred years. Five hundred years. Still they waited for the Messiah. Once people waited for a few hundred years, they probably began to wonder if it was true. As they waited, as they were exiled, as the temples fell and were rebuilt… the idea of the Messiah who would come became more and more grand. As they waited, it became easier and easier to think of themselves as the owners of the vineyard.

            The mystery of stewardship, the caretaking of God’s garden of creation, took a backseat to Messianic speculation and preservation of life-as-they-knew-it. (Particularly certain types of power) When Jesus shows up and people proclaim him as the Messiah, not only is he coming to talk about the harvest, he is, in part, shining a light the people who have been keeping the garden. To be clear, he’s not casting all Jews in a bad light, but specifically the people, Jews and Gentiles, who have refused to acknowledge God’s intentions and plans for the vineyard of creation.

            The scribes get what Jesus is saying, the stewardship of the vineyard is going to be opened up… with the criteria of tenancy being faithfulness to the plans of the owner, God. The only criterion of tenancy is faith in the plans of the owner. Not how well you behave, not how much you do, not how good a gardener you are… the owner has faith in you and you are called to respond in faith.

            Which brings me back to the 8th commandment and the people who I want to hit in the name of Jesus. That’s not what Jesus would have me (or you do). The Messiah of grace and peace that upsets the religious leaders of two thousand years ago still expects the same thing today.

            We are certainly called to point out rotten fruit, to say when a vine seems to be rotten. But we are also called to try to love our neighbor. Who is your neighbor? If you wouldn’t call a person a family member or a friend, then he or she is your neighbor. So we have three categories- family, friends, and neighbors. All of whom are with us in God’s garden of this world.

            In anger and judgment, we easily make the same presumption that the tenants make- the assumption that the vineyard belongs to us. That whoever is against us is a trespasser. Then it follows that we begin to think that the harvest is ours. And then we are so focused on what we have done that we will fail to recognize the Messiah when he’s right in front of us, loving us.

            One of the purposes of the season of Lent is to give us time to think about what we need to change and how God is trying to shape and change us. In this challenging church season, we are called to consider that all we have is a gift from the One who made us, knows us, and loves us still. We are called to see our neighbors and to attempt to see them in the best possible light, if we can’t do the same for all their actions. We called to remember that we are ambassadors for Christ and that it is, in part, through what we do that people have an experience of Jesus, of God-in-us. (Which means punching someone in the nose is right out.)

            We are also called to ponder in our hearts the message that the vineyard was opened to all people, through the faithfulness of the Son. Open to all people, with the standard for tenancy being faith… which is itself a gift from God. Which goes to show you that even when we are not able to see a person in the best light, God still sees us through the best light… through the light of Christ.

Amen.


* (Please note the absence of Pharisees, the reform movement that can get a bad rap.)