Monday, July 24, 2017

Prayer 1641: In conversation with Psalm 52

Sparrows rejoice in a stream in the National Gardens.

As the sun rises into the sky
on the songs of sparrows,
let me think on God, and praise God's Name.

Blessings upon you, Eternal One:
You are my rock,
my refuge to keep me safe above the raging storm.
Even when the heat of turmoil and trial swirls about me,
You, O God, are cooling water,
and my ever-present help.
You dry my anxious tears,
and comfort the mourning;
I find my home in your tender embrace.

Your love, O Savior, forever will I sing,
and I will sing to You even in the darkest hour.
You refresh my soul, Lord Christ,
and knit my tattered heart together again.
You draw to me the solace of friendship,
the prayers of friends to lift me up and ease my burdens.

May I stand upright before You, O Holy One,
and this day grow deeper in charity, faith, and hope.
Turn the eyes of my heart outward, O God,
that I may sing anew your grace in your community.
Blessed Jesus, take us by the hand,
and grant your blessing upon those we remember before you.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Prayer 1640: The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

Washington National Cathedral.

O God, creation is shot through with your beauty,
and the round earth joins in praise of your Holy Name!
Surely the Lord is in this place:
let us worship God with all our hearts!

Holy One, you have searched us out and known us:
your love is our shade and our strength.
May we walk in your truth, Lord Christ,
and our hearts rise on the wings of morning.
May we reflect your healing love into the world,
that our kindness shine like the sun at midday.
May your right hand lead us in charity and holiness,
that we may serve You and each other with joy.

By the power of the Holy Spirit,
bless and preserve us, O God,
and all those for whom we pray.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Prayer, day 1639: For God's blessing

Passion flower at the National Garden.
Almighty One,
Incarnate Love,
we lift our hearts to You in thanksgiving:
hear our prayer. 

May God bless us at our rising,
that we may dedicate this day
to the praise and glory of God's kingdom. 
May God bless us in our meditations,
that we may seek wisdom, compassion,
and unity with God and each other. 
May God bless us in our travels,
that our steps may take us toward reason, justice, and peace
through the power of the Spirit. 
May God bless us in our struggles,
that we may be strengthened and renewed
to persevere in the face of trial. 
May God bless us in our relationships,
that we may love and care for each other
and embody lovingkindness to all. 
May God bless us at day's end
with the peace of Christ,
which surpasses all understanding. 

Holy One, let your light of compassion and comfort
envelop these, your beloveds, for whom we pray.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Prayer, day 1638: at home in God

The fountain in the Contemplative Court lies at the end of the historical exhibits at the National Museum of African American History.

O Loving One,
may we make our home in You today,
and love You with our whole heart.
May we open our arms to embrace
the amazing gifts of your creation.

May we be guided by the light of compassion,
walk the path of wisdom,
and dance to the song of justice.
May we rest upon your breast like a child
when we are in need of comfort or ease of mind.

May we listen more than we speak,
learn more than we profess to know,
and give more than we take.
May we make ourselves a family of those we meet,
and always celebrate the chance to love and be loved.

We ask your blessing upon these beloveds,
whose needs we lift up to You,
especially those we now name.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Prayer, Day 1637: We belong to God

A rainbow cast against the floor and walls of the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

O God, You have given us our breath:
it is right that we use it to sing and glorify your ever-present Love.
May our thankfulness to You resound with each beat of our hearts. 

You are the center of our being:
may we make our hearts a fit dwelling place for your Spirit.
You have called us to truly love one another:
may we shrug off the coils of envy and resentment that choke us.
May we unlearn all that anger has taught us,
that hope and generosity may take root in our souls. 

May your peace calm all our fears,
as rain is soaked up by a dry and thirsty land.
May we turn our eyes from the mountains and valleys in our path
to the glorious light of your mercy and truth.
O Shepherd, protect us from the wolves that prowl among us:
may we hear, know, and trust your promises. 

Now, O Eternal One, accept the prayers of your people for each need which has been offered in love.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Prayer 1636

Sunrise while traveling.

Almighty God,
our times are in your hand,
and we rise today upheld by your love:
hear our prayers and praises, we humbly pray.

Strengthen us in your goodness and mercy, Holy One,
that we may see anew the unity and beauty of your creation.
Gather our restless hearts within your care, Lord Christ,
and help us to lean into your embrace in faithful trust.
Teach us to walk in charity and gentleness,
that we may honor the dignity of all whom we meet.

By the power of the Holy Spirit,
make us worthy testimony to your grace, O God,
and your healing ways.
Extend the hand of blessing
over all we remember before You, Lord,
as we offer our prayers for these beloveds.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Prayer, day 1635

Come, let us sit in silence before our Creator,
whose love is everlasting!

Most Merciful One, may we honor You in all we do this day. May we repent of our headstrong ways, O God, for we choose the crooked paths and rocky shoals even as You call to us to You.

Fill us with your Holy Spirit, that we may be inspired bearers of your message of love and peace. Strengthen the hands of healers and helpers, that those who suffer may be brought to wholeness and relief.

Pour out your peace like a balm on the weary of heart, and comfort the anxious and fearful who call upon You. Remember your children as they call upon your Holy Name.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Prayer 1634: grace and reconciliation


O Lord, You have brought us safely through the night:
may we waken the dawn with our praise.
Let us lift up our souls to God,
for You hold us under the shadow of your wing,
in your everlasting mercy.

Forgive us our sins, O God,
we humbly pray,
and help us to repair relationships we have damaged.
May we embody God's grace and compassion
that we ourselves have received.

May we be advocates of justice,
healers and reconcilers,
living in imitation of Christ.
Holy One, guide us in paths of faithfulness this day,
and grant your peace to those we now name.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Prayer 1633: for the Suxth Sunday After Pentecost

A contemplative space at the Episcopal Youth Event's chapel.

Blessed are you, O God and Creator of all,
who calls us before your altars for worship and praise!

You renew the face of the earth:
renew also our hearts, Lord,
that they be fertile fields for your truth to be planted.
Grant us wisdom and discernment,
that we may study your law with delight,
and serve others through your gospel.
Help us to amend our ways,
that we are led in all things
by compassion and humility
for your glory, Lord Christ.

Send your Spirit over us and within us,
O Holy One,
and grant your peace to those we now remember.


Matthew 13: 1-23

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Prayer 1632: Joining Creation's Song

A contemplative space set aside in the chapel area at the Episcopal Youth Event this week in Edmond, Oklahoma.

God of Unchanging Truth,
we rise in hope,
glad for your watch over us
through the shades of night.

Tune our ears to hear the song of praise
raised by all creation,
the mountains, hills, and streams singing, "Alleluia!"
Direct us and guide us in all that we do, O Spirit,
that we may work with healing hands and hearts in the world.
Lead us out in joy that we may return in peace, O Lord
 living our lives to your honor and glory.

Gather us into your keeping at day's end,
Loving Savior,
that we may be eased into your peace and comfort.
With a mother's care, Lord Christ,
watch over all whose cry is to you.

inspired by Isaiah 55:10-13

Friday, July 14, 2017

Prayer 1631: at the close of EYE17

The Missouri delegation (minus one) after the closing Eucharist of EYE17,
on the stage in front of an Episcopal flag that flew at Standing Rock.

Lord God, who creates and sustains the world,
we rise and center ourselves in You in gratitude.
We praise your ongoing creation, Lord,
in the world and in ourselves,
amazed by your love in our lives.

Thank you for your abundant grace
in drawing us together in community,
bound together through love of God.
Let us continue on the pilgrim road
walking gently upon the earth
and alongside each other in peace.

Send us out, Merciful One,
afire with the Holy Spirit,
to proclaim your truth with joy,
living into your dream of peace for us.

Let us now depart filled with Christ's light
carried forward by manifold mercies
safely to arrive at home.
Extend the awning of your compassion
over all whose hope is in You,
especially those we now name.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Prayer 1630: Witnessing the power of peace

Last night we had a candlelight Vespers service and vigil on the grounds of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

Holy One, abide with us
and within our hearts
as we seek You and praise your saving power.

Lord, on holy ground we have witnessed
how You work in the hearts
of healers and helpers
to work your peace in the world.
Make us instruments of that peace,
that we can sow healing and hope
in a world too often divided and hurting.
Empower us through your Spirit
to joyfully work for reconciliation, 
in the name of Christ, our Savior.

Bless and keep us, we humbly pray,
and draw us to You, O God, in all we do.
Lord Jesus, soothe the suffering whose cry is to You,
and grant your peace to all whom we now name.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Prayer 1629: On Oklahoma Day

The contingent from the Diocese of Missouri at EYE17.

Almighty God,
you have brought us safely through the night
and we rise to give you thanks.

Turn our pilgrim feet toward the path of peace,
and draw us together in unity with all creation.
Turn our pilgrim hearts to sing your grace
and embody your truth and love in the world.

Help us to see with new eyes
the wonder of your creation
in the world and each other.

Extend the shade of your right hand
over all who are bowed down by mourning or loss,
we humbly pray.
Shield and comfort those
who are in danger, sorrow or pain,
and grant them your peace beyond measure.
Lord Christ, we turn to You in hope,
and ask your blessing upon all for whom we pray.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Prayer 1628: Opening Day of EYE17

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches at the Opening Eucharist
of the Episcopal Youth Even 2017, held in Edmond, OK.

Blessed are You, O God of All Creation!
Let us join our voices in one song of praise and thanksgiving!

Holy Spirit, You give life to all that grows:
let our hearts be drawn to You on the Path to Peace.

Unite us with each other with one pupose:
to do justice, and love mercy,
and walk humbly beside You always.

Preserve us from sin, we humbly pray,
and help to reconcile and forgive as we hope to be forgiven.

Grant your peace to all who call upon You, Lord Christ,
and especially on those for whom we pray.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Prayer 1627

We travel to the Episcopal Youth Event today!

Arise, shine! May we travel a pilgrim's road today!
All-loving One, gather your children to You,
within a mother's tender embrace hold us fast.
We turn to You, O God,
as we seek to be peace-makers,
walking in love with you and each other.
Keep watch over those who are weary,
or for those who suffer in any way.

Still our souls to rest in You,
Our Creator, Our Guide, Our Shield.
Merciful One, reconcile us to You and one another;
and bless and keep those for whom we pray.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Prayer 1626: the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Today I return to preside at my home parish, Holy Communion in University City, which has raised me up and supported me through the long journey toward ordination. Thanks be to God for this community of the faithful!

Draw near, beloveds, to worship God in the assembly,
to offer God our thanks and praise with one voice.

O God, gather us, your children,
under the shadow of your wing;
keep us as the apple of your eye.

Watch over all who seek your Way, Lord Jesus,
walking in fellowship, wisdom, and grace.
Come, Holy Spirit,
lead us in Paths of Peace
that we may walk in justice and friendship with all.

May we grow in holiness and love,
bound together in mutual respect and kindness.
At day's end, may we rest in your care,
having borne your truth into the world in joy.

Merciful One, reconcile us to You
and one another;
and bless and keep those for whom we pray.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Prayer, day 1625: to the Eternal Lover of Our Souls

Lily blooms at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

God is our companion and savior:
let us raise our hearts
to the Eternal Lover of Our Souls.
We thank You, Lord Christ,
for preserving us and keeping us as your own:
your love is everlasting!

Adorn the brows of the joyful and the redeemed
with a crown of laughter, O Holy One,
as they offer their praise and gratitude.
Strengthen the faltering hearts
of those who worry or wait,
that they may be filled with your grace and compassion.

Send forth your Spirit
to illumine our minds with holy love for all creation,
that we may joyfully place our shoulders to the wheel of restoration.

Bind up the wounds
of those whose cry comes to You, O God,
rising like a tide,
whose hope is in You alone.
Shine the light of your countenance upon those we now name.



Friday, July 7, 2017

Prayer 1624: in response to Psalms 140 and 142 in the daily office

A redbud leaf discovered on our pre-ordination hike at Windridge Solitude in Lonedell, MO.

Blessed Savior, the curtain of night lifts and we rise,
glorying in You and praising your holy name.
You have watched over us in love and tenderness;
we feel your hand upon us, and rejoice.
May your good news, Lord Christ, take root in our souls,
and the Spirit lead us in right pathways today.

Enfold us within your lovingkindness, Lord God;
let your grace seep into us like a summer rain.
Place us upon the solid rock of your love;
place your hand of protection over us in times of trouble.
Save us from the hand of evil-doers;
establish justice and mercy in our hearts
and in our land.

Incline your ear to our prayers, O Holy God;
grant your peace to those for whom we humbly pray.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Prayer 1623: as a mother rocks her child

"There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."- Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"

Spirit of the Living God,
you have carried us through the night
as a mother rocks her child:
your mercy is everlasting.

Shine the light of your countenance upon us,
and hear our whispered praises and thanksgivings.

Abide within our hearts and minds, O Holy One;
lead us to holiness and compassion.

Through the power of love
let us work to build up your kingdom
and repair the torn places
within ourselves and each other.

Gentle us and make us peace-makers,
as we seek to witness to your wisdom
to the honor of your Name.

Extend the comfort of your embrace
to all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit,
to all whose seek the way of hope. 

Send forth your angels, we pray,
to guide and guard those whose needs we lay before You.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Prayer 1622: hope in times of trial

A beautiful hibiscus bloom.

O God of Hope,
accept our prayers and praises
as we lay them before You in morning's light.

Our times are in your hand, O Creator,
and our trust is in You
as we navigate the pathways of life.
With your benevolent help, Lord Jesus,
teach us to walk the good road,
and reconcile us to each other.
Make us humble,
aware of our own manifold faults,
ere we seek advantage over each other.

Pour out your peace and grace
like oil upon the turbulent waters,
that we may be unified by love.
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
renew our hearts and minds in holiness
and bless and keep those we remember before You.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Prayer 1621: On Independence Day

May we always let freedom ring for all, and be bearers of justice and wisdom into the world.

Most Merciful God,
your blessings are without number,
and we worship You alone
with joy and gratitude.

Make us lovers of peace
who embody your lovingkindness and compassion
in all the world.

Lead us to surrender our vainglory
for the better portion of prudence, gentleness, and equity.

Cleanse our hearts of division and selfishness
and fill them with your abundant grace and wisdom.

Teach us to lay down our swords
to take up empathy and wisdom as our armor.

Remind us that the greatest treasure
is love and knowledge of You,
O God of all the nations.

Open our hearts to receive your blessing, O Holy One,
that we may be healers and doers of good.

Rest your hand of comfort and grace, O Redeemer,
upon all who call upon You.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Prayer 1620

Paper cranes in the window of St. Augustine's chapel, on the campus of Vanderbilt University.

Almighty God,
whose mercy enfolds us and keeps us,
accept our hearts and praises, we pray.

Set us high above the tumult
and place us in the shelter of your might,
for You are our Redeemer and our Shield.

Guide us into deeper knowledge of You, O Holy One
 and teach us to walk in love always.

Help us to forgive those who hurt us,
as we seek, ourselves, to be forgiven.

Ease the hearts of those who suffer any anxiety or pain,
and embrace those who weep, O Comforter.

Pour out your healing grace
over all those whose needs we lay before You, Lord Christ, as we pray.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Embraced and Welcomed: Sermon for Proper 8A, the 4th Sunday after Pentecost

Presiding for the first time as priest as I say farewell to the people of Good Shepherd who welcomed me two years ago.

Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Good morning.

Well, it’s come down to this at last. You get to see me in yet another in a series of weird get-ups, because that is the Episcopal way.

I laughed out loud a little when I first read the readings appointed in the lectionary for this Sunday, because they can seem at first glance to be a mixed bag. I was comforted by the fact that this is like the third week in a row that that has been the case. I mean, here we are, just wanting to enjoy summer, and Matthew’s gospel gives us Jesus talking about persecution, and swords, and division, and even alienation.

So today’s readings start to pile it on pretty heavy. There’s the story of Abraham nearly engaging in human sacrifice of his son Isaac. Then our psalm resonates with feelings of loss and abandonment. But, thank God, then we make a turn. Romans then begins to offer a glimmer of hope by reminding us that, no matter how much sway sin may hold over our lives, that God’s love and embrace of us is greater than anything we might do to break the bonds of love between ourselves and God. Paul reminds us that we all have to serve somebody, as Bob Dylan famously reminded us in a song or two, and that’s not a bad thing, but rather a wonderful thing, because the way of service is the way of Christ. God’s love, through it all, embraces us, and holds us fast.

You know, the last few days have been full of a lot of embraces. On Thursday I was ordained to the priesthood with my beloved friends Andrew and Maria—we are known as the littermates, and we aim to make that term look good! (Our bishop referred to us as a litter of kittens, and I can honestly say that’s the first time I have EVER been called kittenish.)

But there were lots of embraces, and blessings, and a fantastic sermon, and beautiful music, and the laying on of hands, and tears of joy, at least on my part. And I am riding that wave into the beach right now to be here among you, my beloveds of Church of the Good Shepherd, which now is something I share with dear Maria-- may her ministry among you be long and prosperous. Andrew, Maria, and I have all been blessed to be attached to this parish, and we thank you.

So then I was glad when I read our short but insistent gospel passage, and saw that it was centered around the concept of welcome. I want to start by thanking you for the welcome, love, and grace you have extended to me for the last two years as we have learned and laughed and labored together. It has been a joy and privilege to have you accompany me as I have been your seminarian intern and later your transitional deacon. I am grateful beyond words to Pamela and Susan for teaching me how to lean into this strange and wonderful calling as first your seminarian, and then your deacon, and now a priest. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do as a parish, and for your embrace of me as I have learned and walked alongside you all.

Embraces are interesting things. They only work when both parties spread wide their arms, open themselves to each other, and are willing to press heart to heart together. There really is no such thing as a one-sided embrace, as anyone who has tried to hug an effusive toddler turned overnight into a recalcitrant teenager may know.

It’s easy to show hospitality to people we know. It’s much less awkward and more comfortable. It’s not very risky. This is why this gospel today is so precious, because it calls us out of our familiar rut and reminds us of the thread of radical welcome and call to hospitality that runs throughout scripture.  We see welcome exemplified starting from Genesis 18, when Abraham welcomes the angelic visitors who speak God’s own promise of children to a couple who has almost given up hope. Welcome is commended through the Letter to the Hebrews, when Christians are urged to welcome everyone, because you never know when you might be entertaining angels without recognizing them as such. Here’s a hint: the less "angelic" they seem, the more likely we are to be led to a deeper knowledge of the love of God through them.

If you have ever been shown hospitality by a stranger, you know what a holy thing that is. When I was 17, my mother took me to the UK and to Germany after my high school graduation. We arrived in London on an early Sunday morning, and as I was a new Episcopalian, the first thing I wanted to do was to worship in an Anglican Church. We found one not far from Heathrow, and were treated to a beautiful Morning Prayer service. At the door, the vicar greeted us. When he found out we were newly arrived from America, he insisted we come back to his parsonage for a real English breakfast. I’m sure his wife was thrilled. But we were treated to wonderful conversation, a lovely tour of his rose garden, the strange programming of the BBC on Sunday mornings (a tractor plowing methodically, back and forth, through the English countryside, presented without commentary, for hours). We shared a wonderful meal of boiled bacon, fried tomatoes, bangers and mashed, and even wee glasses of sherry. It obviously made quite an impression on me, as I remember it all these years later.

And in all of our family’s travels, we often encountered the same thing. There was the Korean woman who pulled my little brother off a platform in the New York subway right before he could have been knocked onto the tracks, who then insisted we go to church with her at her Korean Presbyterian Church. There was the time we three kids were dancing during a festival to honor the dead in Japan, and apparently the sight of three blond children in kimonos pretending to slay a dragon as we danced in a circle with the townsfolk was considered charming, because candy and other small gifts were pressed into our hands all night.

All of these experiences came to me as I read this gospel. Welcome is one of the key concepts of scripture. The word shows up 16 times in the gospel of Matthew alone, and this three-verse pericope (that’s a fancy word for “reading”) is one of the places where the word is most concentrated. It is interesting that the other place where there is a cluster of the use of the word “welcome” is in Matthew 25, where Jesus reminds the disciples that the keys of discipleship lie in taking care of and welcoming the chance to be with and stand alongside those who are weak, poor, or marginalized—what then and now could often be considered to be social suicide.
At the Cafe at Thistle Farms.

Welcoming strangers and refugees has been one of the great hallmarks of our nation, as we prepare to remember our Independence Day on July 4. It’s good to think about our national tradition of welcome near a holiday in which we celebrate independence, because it reminds us that independence is not really possible unless we first remember how dependent we are upon each other, really, when it comes right down to it. Independence isn’t possible without first welcoming each other to these shores, and being willing to embrace each other as one nation, one people, no matter how different we are.

When I was a kid, people would often piously intone, “You are known by the company you keep.” This dictum was supposed to keep us from hanging out with the riff-raff. But the problem is, that as Christians we are supposed to emulate Christ, and Jesus hung out with ALL the "wrong" sorts during his earthly life.

But they are right: as Christians, we ARE known by the company we keep, and that’s when it’s important to remember that Jesus comes to us and asks us to welcome him every time we encounter someone, whether they are a friend or a stranger. Matthew 25 will later remind us of this:

for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me.

....Truly I tell you, just as you did it

to one of the least of these
who are members of my family,
you did it to me.

There can be only "we" in God's kingdom. Everyone is invited into the circle, as the Rev. Becca Stevens says.

And even today, Jesus as our living savior calls us out into the margins, away from our comfortable, familiar places, and is often most real to us when we let all our internal walls come down as Jesus often did, and we too hang out with the sick, the friendless, the outcast, the refugee.

We are called to be welcoming to those who come among us, whether by design or by chance, as Jesus himself practiced radical welcome and hospitality with even the most unlikely of people. And there’s a reason for this. Jesus became God Incarnate in the world to help us live in imitation of him, so that we could live more fully into our calling to be true children of God.

Jesus’s welcome and hospitality mirrors that of God toward us. Just as we are welcomed as friends, companions, and even children, no matter how petty, impatient, or wrong we may be, so are we also called to do the same for others, to live our lives with our arms wide open to the possibility of fellowship with all of God’s creation.

Jesus sends his disciples, then and now, as sheep into the midst of wolves, we were reminded last week. We are called to be the sheep, not the predators. We are to stop treating each other as tools to be manipulated and exploited for our own benefit but rather as beloved children of God. Jesus sends his disciples into the world in Matthew 10 with a message of love and welcome, and he knows from first-hand experience that it will not always be met with rejoicing but with rejection at times. It doesn’t matter—the message of God’s love MUST be carried forth anyway, in order to confront the powers of empire and fear head-on. And we can’t welcome Jesus’s message of salvation for ourselves
without first being willing to reflect that message on to others we meet. 

We are reminded of that call to practice what the Rev. Stephanie Spellers calls “radical hospitality” as we kneel for communion, and Jesus asks us to be his guests-- and also to be his hosts, by embracing the love by which he feeds us here at the altar rail regardless of the risks. As Jesus bids us welcome, all he asks of us is to carry his love for all out into our lives and to welcome everyone and love them, the poor, the sick, the stranger, the refugee, and especially those some would label as sinners.

Our savior, Love Incarnate, Living God, knocks at the doors of our hearts, and asks to come in and be made at home within us. To do that, he asks that little thing of turning against the economics of exploitation and fear, and turning toward the radical kingdom of love.

That’s all he asks. Just that little thing. 

 Too often we may tell ourselves that we are not good enough to do this, and so we may give ourselves permission to not even try. But—never forget: those disciples he called and sent out certainly weren’t perfect, and yet they have through a chain of witnesses passed on Jesus’s message of love, risk, service, and hospitality, and made it sound so good that billions of people have been willing to try to take on reflecting it in their own lives. Theologian Stanley Hauerwas offers us some words of comfort regarding our own self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness when he says,

“The undistinguished character of the disciples is a sign of hope for us who inherit their task, for it is surely right that the church understands itself to stand in the tradition of the apostles. To be an apostle is to be a messenger of and witness to Jesus…. Christianity is not a philosophy that can be learned separate from those who embody it. If the truth that is Christ is a truth that could be known ‘in principle’ then we would not need apostles. But the way of the gospel is known by one person being for another person the story of Christ.”

“The way of the gospel is known

by one person
being for another person
the story of Christ.”

Over. And over. And over.

Here’s the good news: Jesus doesn’t call the perfect, but he does work to perfect the called, if only we will let him in and get out of the way.

Each one of us can be that one person for someone else.

It starts with opening our hearts in welcome to the Spirit of God, and to the love of Christ. It starts with the precious gospel of love and grace that we have received, clasping it to our stubborn, sometimes ravaged hearts.

It starts with taking seriously the reminder the Rev. Becca Stevens has made into a song of praise when she sings out “Love heals.”
It starts with trusting just a little bit to let love take root within the center of our souls.
It means starting with having mercy on ourselves--and those around us.

The love and mercy of God’s radical welcome reflected within us leads us to ourselves and each other, and then gives us the courage to open our arms to embrace each other as God embraces us.