The Rev. Deacon Christopher Lee
January 26, 2020
The Third Sunday after Epiphany
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?
the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?
There’s something that typically happens at social gatherings, whether it’s a backyard barbeque or a formal dinner party, a wedding reception or gallery opening. Maybe you’ve experienced it—you’re introduced to someone you haven’t met before, and you fall into conversation with them. And after exchanging the usual pleasantries, one person inevitably asks the other: “so, what do you do?”
I don’t know why this question has always bothered me. It’s not like it’s too intrusive; I’m not being asked to reveal the deepest, darkest secrets of my soul. And I’m not in the CIA. (As far you know.) I think what I find annoying is the assumption that what I “do” will then be identified with who I am. So if I say I’m a journalist, or a banker, or a cop, or a Deacon in the Episcopal Church—all of these descriptions give people permission to define me by my occupation.
And I think that’s especially frustrating for anyone who doesn’t necessarily love what they do professionally, or people who just see their jobs as a way of paying the bills, and who pursue their passions—what they see as their real calling in life—in their spare time. There are plenty of people who don’t equate who they are with what they do for a living.
This tendency to define people by their occupations can be especially difficult for those who feel deep in their hearts they have a certain calling, but struggle to earn a living from it. They yearn to be a professional athlete, or an artist, or to start their own business. They believe beyond the shadow of a doubt, and usually not without good reason, that God put them on the earth to do just that. And if things don’t work out quite the way they’d hoped, they face a pretty awful dilemma: Who am I, if I’m not what I always saw as my true calling? And if I wasn’t called to be that after all, then who was I called to be?
In today’s lesson from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus calls his first disciples: Simon/Peter and his brother Andrew, and then another set of brothers, James and John. All four live in Capernaum, and work as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Now this was a very good living in those days; the brothers very likely enjoyed a stable, respectable, middle class existence. And yet in spite of this, Matthew tells us that all four, at Jesus’ simple request, immediately dropped everything and followed him. According to Matthew, they didn’t ask where they were going, or why. They didn’t even ask this apparent stranger who he was or where he had come from. The first pair of brothers at least got the odd explanation that they would be made “fishers for people.” OK Jesus, that clears everything up, thanks a lot!
Why would these hardworking and upstanding men toss their lives aside for this eccentric figure? What gave them the courage to answer Jesus’ call so quickly? Remember, at this point Jesus hadn’t said or done anything especially remarkable—he’s not yet Jesus the miracle worker, the charismatic preacher and teacher. The Sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper, the Transfiguration, Passion and Resurrection, all of this is still to come. In Matthew’s account, Jesus has only just been baptized by John in the Jordan, and resisted the Devil’s temptations in the desert. He has just moved from his native Nazareth to a brand new town, and is going around making the rather obscure proclamation “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
And that’s what, to me, makes this text so extraordinary. What made Jesus’ call so irresistible? What was it about his sheer being that inspired enough trust in these fishermen to drop everything and follow him? I wonder if it’s because in Jesus, they recognized someone who was truly and fully and fearlessly himself. And I wonder if direct contact with that kind of raw personal freedom and honesty radically and instantly transformed how these first disciples saw themselves. My guess is that seeing Jesus suddenly made them feel, perhaps for the first time, fully alive, fully human. Apart from anything he said or did, Jesus simply embodied and radiated light, strength and the promise of salvation, as the Psalm says. And Jesus’ presence alone produced a fearlessness in these first disciples that empowered them to answer his call, to give up everything and follow him.
The Gospels don’t tell us how the disciples felt about their professions. Did Andrew and the others feel that fishing was their true calling in life? Were they called because they were fishermen, or did Jesus simply make use of what was already there? Whatever the answer, meeting Jesus made these two pairs of brothers recognize that they were called to be more than fisherman; by calling them to be disciples, Jesus freed them to be fully themselves, and empowered them to do things they would not otherwise have done.
Now what about us? The disciples experienced a kind of intimacy with the earthly ministry of Jesus that doesn’t seem available to us, all these centuries later. How do we get close enough to Jesus to hear that same irresistible, empowering call? One simple but profound way is through the sacraments: first of all Baptism, which grafts us irrevocably onto the Body of Christ, and then the Eucharist, which nourishes that Body, week after week by bringing us into a mystical union with one another, and with the risen Christ, at the Lord’s Table.
But the fact is that if we really want to spend time with Jesus, we need to be with those he came to lift up. Not the wise and powerful, not the winners and the heroes. If we’re looking for Jesus, we will find him with the sick and the dying, the prisoner and the refugee, the homeless, the hungry, the victims of violence. We’ll also find Jesus in what is perhaps, for many of us, an even scarier place: in our own hearts and minds, the places where we keep our deepest, darkest secrets, where we relive our most heartbreaking and traumatic experiences.
The miracle is that when we meet Jesus in these painful, difficult places, we are also most likely to meet ourselves—sometimes for the first time. We can finally see ourselves as God sees us, and instead of feeling unworthy or insufficient, we suddenly we feel, in an instant, that God holds and loves us more deeply than anyone or anything else can; we finally know that, despite all our self-doubt and imperfections, we are more than enough in God’s eyes. The closer we get to Jesus, the clearer his call becomes; it drowns out all our fears, and frees us to become who we truly are.
Now I understand that in the real world, and especially New York, life is expensive; it’s not entirely clear how the ability to see ourselves as beloved children of God is going to put food on the table. All this talk of our true calling and vocations might seem like a luxury, maybe even an insult, to someone who is struggling desperately to make ends meet. What we do is obviously important, it’s an integral part of who we are. Research shows over and over again that meaningful work is crucial to self-esteem and overall happiness. A good job fuels our sense of dignity and integrity.
No one would deny that, and yet I believe there’s still more to it. I’m convinced that the more we suppress our deepest longings, and the more cut off we are from the joys and sorrows of our neighbors, the more difficult it is to find meaning in anything, including our work. By the same token, no job, no career will ever give us everything we need. And the more we identify ourselves with our jobs and careers, the less likely we are to be in touch with our true selves. What we do is important, but it’s not who we are.
There is an unfathomable and blessed diversity in our world: we are doctors and baristas, teachers and custodians; we are rich and poor; black, brown and white; female and male; trans and non-binary; bi-, gay and straight. But I believe that none of those descriptions alone captures the full reality of our being. None of them alone does us justice. At our very core, each of us is an utterly unique and irreplaceable human person, whose most fundamental identity is as one of God’s beloved creatures.
My friends our true calling, our primary vocation, is to be fully and fearlessly ourselves. This is what those Galilean fisherman instantly recognized in Jesus’ call—the freedom to be who they truly were. Which was more than what they did for a living, more than who their family or society, their friends or enemies, said they were.
This freedom is God’s gift to all of us. And we receive it whenever we let Jesus into our lives. So move closer to him, close enough to hear his call, close enough to know that, as a beloved child of God, you have nothing to fear. You are free to be who you are. AMEN
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
All Saints' Church
January 19, 2020
The Rev. Howard E. Blunt
Let us pray:
O Lord we give thanks for all divine manifestations in Epiphany tide. And yes we give thanks
for our American prophet the unexpected revelation of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. May his life and work be ever remembered in our time. In the Father in the Son in the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I think this is the second time I have been asked to preach here on this weekend. The first time it was 2000 something I can not remember exactly. But I remember speaking about my recall of what he was like, the effect he made on all all around. I remember telling us here that he was killed in Holy Week 1968. Those of you who can recall that year you know it was an annus horribilis. Today in this time frame we should hope that such a one might rise up and come among us again. O lord may it be so. I was talking with myself ( I do that) and then others about him. In the midst of that conversation, I heard myself say, if he had not occurred in our history he would need to be invented. For he came at the right moment for the right reason and the right effect. The moment was the era of Civil Rights and the war in Vietnam. There as on was our need for a divine resounding voice speaking truth to power for the powerless. The effect we should hope is that the ark of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. That was a glorious phrase in his oratory.
I believe in spite of all the possible nay says We in this country and even beyond we are far better off because there was in his time such a person such a prophet and such a martyr for this troubled landscape USA. You know I was going look at this celebration from the mixed mess of our contemporary America. I am so tired of doing that. I am watching the media too much. Maybe you are doing this also and you find it a hopeless fog. Surely our national life is in a fowl miasma; it is like a fog that that hasn't lifted. I consulted a friend of mine, he is a fellow priest who pastors a parish in Bedstuy. He advised me to leave the fog behind, get out of it. He said and ask yourself "who are we now because there was this man who rose up from his pulpit in the city of Atlanta and preached to the world. " He said we Americans are now far different and blessed by far, raised to a new level way above the one on which we once stood. And that platform is not going to changed. " No matter what else happens. " This priest serves his constituency in Bedstuy and he was telling me that he and his congregation feels and knows they are an equal partner with the human race with the Christian faith this country and the city of New York. I stood there in his office, him looking at me straight in the eye and I was transfixed. I was hearing good news calling me out of my fog. I tell you of another who was called out of his usual life. John the Baptist was full of doing his work day to day, calling people to repentance. It must have been hard going. I baptize you I baptize you and you. Suddenly his work is given a new direction. His sermon is changed. Look at him doing his ceremony at the Jordan. I baptize you and you, then the son of man comes down by the water, John is startled to see him. He says behold the Lamb of God. After that every thing changed. We are all different and blessed because John the Baptist met Jesus. Have you noticed our moment in the liturgy at this Jordan, All Saints, it is when we get out our pews and we meet each other to say the peace of Christ be with you. This gesture should tell means we go from glory to glory with each other in communion with Christ. I believe something indelible takes place each Sunday here. When we hear the scriptures listen to the sermon, say the prayers and receive the sacrament of renewal of Easter. Take a look at last Sunday when we took two little ones into our arms, son and cousin to Mother Julia Stroud. We baptized them and told them you are marked Christ's own forever and therefore you are lights to the world.
As I look out from this pulpit I see a whole conclave marked as Christ's own for ever shining and using lights for the world around you. Moreover we are a people here who circle the globe. It is a blessed diversity bringing light to our corner of the globe. These Park Slope people pastored by Fr. Steve. It is a place that has a full share of Martin Luther King. I hope there are many other gatherings in Christ like this one.
I think my friend in Bedstuy was saying this type of mixture would not be possible but for Dr. King. His coming was a surprise and not always accepted by the way. But gradually folks understood his prophecy and now we have a holiday in his honor. That holiday is holy. Did you know that this man came from a line of preachers. His father, I believe his grandfather and then
himself. Three generations from the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. GA. It is now a national
shrine. If you go to Atlanta you should not miss going there. The original church is cared for by the parks department. And across the street is a brand new modern and larger ediface where thousands gather every Sunday. I was there some years ago. The service I attended began with "come thou font of every blessing" It was a joy to be in that font of every blessing. Such a blessing came from the witness of that place. That blessing has touched every church, every synagogue every mosque. It has circled the globe and we here receive its benefit gratefully. And
this blessing wonder of wonders it continues. It is now a succession generation to generation.
In just a few days we are going see one of our own going on and on to continue that succession. I think we are all very proud of this young man. He will pick up the baton in St. Paul's race that is set before us. When Fr Spencer leads us in the consecration giving thanks for the creation and salvation of the Lord Jesus we could include thanksgiving for the recent baptisms here, for the phenomenon of Dr. King every year and now for the one who will made deacon next saturday.
Did you know that Martin L. King was originally named Michael. His father changed it to Martin. He must have wanted to put him in line with the great reformer of 1517. The one banged his theses at the Wittenberg Gate. But I would offer that his name might have stayed as Michael. For in the Book of Revelation Michael is the who leads an army of the righteous against all perfidy
all sinfulness all straying from the holy way. I googled his church in Atlanta and found the service there for last sunday. The minister used his text from the 2nd chapter in the Prophet Habakkuk. Not a text usually heard from but it goes like this: "I will stand on my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart. I will keep watch to see what God will say to me.....then the Lord answered me and said: write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that the runner may read
it. This latter day prophet descended upon our scene in the 20th century and wrote a vision on tablets so that no one going by could miss it. His vision was all God's children hold hands with each other, all God's children would maintain respect for each other and all would refrain any violent intention nation to nation, religion to religion, race to race. For he was like the vertable Michael in the book of Revelation. That one who descended to earth to route out all bedevilment in the human heart. Some of us were in our study of that book and there many viewpoints to
consider that difficult book. However you see it trying to head us towards the ultimate Kingdom of God. I 'd like say that we have glimpses of that kingdom here and surely part of that glimpse is of Martin Luther King. Gratias ago pro Martini Lutheri. Pray that in this present time we do not lose sight of this man and his work. I told you my priest friend offered me a very optimistic out look. Let us pray that he is right and that we will be enabled to keep our lights burning. Amen.
The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
January 12, 2020
Baptism of Our Lord, Year C
When John baptized Jesus in the River Jordan, Jesus stood up from the waters, and the spirit of God descended on him. And then a voice was heard from heaven, and it said, “this is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Every year on this Sunday, in the bleak midwinter when it’s cold and snowy, we remember and celebrate the fact that Jesus was baptized. It was at the beginning of his public ministry, before he called his disciples, before he became famous, before his miracles, before his passion and his resurrection. Jesus didn’t do any of these things until he was baptized. His baptism was the act the initiated a lifetime that would change the course of human history.
And what did Jesus do to deserve this baptism? Did he take a course or pass a test? Did he have to prove himself or explain the mysteries of the universe? What did he do to prove his worth?
The answer is: nothing. Yes, Jesus was God, Son of God. But at this point, this was nothing in particular he had done in his life other than be born and go out to see John. The Father is well pleased in Jesus simply because Jesus is, because he exists. And that’s the same way God feels about you, too.
You know, every time I’m at a baptism, I listen for that voice, and I can swear that I hear it. “This is my child, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” One of the things we do in baptism is acknowledge that those being baptized truly are God’s children. It’s a pretty basic part of being human, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that we didn’t create ourselves—someone created us. Our parents play a pretty big part in that, but as these underslept parents in the front row can already tell you, their children already have minds, personalities, and souls of their own. Even if you think we’re just the product of an intricate biological process, there’s still that something, that deep well of mystery about who we are and where we came from that makes us us that can’t really be answered by science. And as those same underslept parents will tell you, the birth of a child—any child—is a miracle. I think that’s what that voice means when it booms out: “this is my child, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”
Friends, what would the world be like if we all treated one another as beloved children of God? And what would our lives be like if we all believed we were God’s beloved, in whom God is well pleased? Again, these are simple questions—they’re easy enough for children to understand. And yet as we get older, they seem to get harder and harder to grasp. Nonetheless, the answers are central to this old, old faith of ours. Yes, every human being is a miracle. Everyone is a beloved child of God. You, the members of your family, the people in these pews. Friends, strangers, enemies. The people you see in the news every day and the people you’ll never hear about. The rich and the poor, prisoners, victims of violence and war and climate change. Babies born today and people on their deathbeds. God is saying of each and every one of them: this is my child, my beloved. As we get older, we inevitably to some things that God probably isn’t very pleased with. But like the bond between any parent and child, the love behind that voice never ends.
So if God loves each of us that way, then we should love one another the same. Imagine, for a moment, that every time you met someone, you thought about how they were God’s beloved child. It’s actually not that difficult. If you’ve never tried before, you can start today, right now. Aha, you’re God’s beloved child. You’re God’s beloved child. Imagine if every meeting began that way, every session of Congress and the UN, every corporate negotiation, every classroom session, every courtroom trial, encounter on a crowded subway car…
…well maybe that’s getting carried away. Because we all know it’s hard to love everyone on the subway. And the fact is that it can be pretty hard to see loved-by-God child in certain people. There’s a reason every event doesn’t begin with people acknowledging God’s love for one another. We are offended or hurt or even repulsed by something someone else does, and it becomes hard to remember that they are God’s child too. But just remember: when that happens, when it’s too difficult to see the child of God in someone else, it’s probably because there’s a little part of you that’s having trouble remembering the child of God in yourself. We are all children of God—including you. You’ve done nothing to deserve this status, which can make it hard to believe it’s real. So the annoying person reminds us of the ways we think we’re annoying. The criminal reminds us of our own offenses. Even the person from that other political party reminds us of the things we don’t like about ourselves. So it’s just easier to think of them as somehow not God’s beloved children—because they frighten us, trigger our own anxiety that maybe that booming voice from heaven wasn’t meant for us, or doesn’t mean it any more.
I’m convinced that most of the crazy things people do in this life—good and bad--they do because they are desperate to hear the words Jesus heard at his baptism. Mother Theresa wrote in her journals that she was desperate for God’s affirmation. But then, children that we are, we sometimes try to get God’s attention by being naughty. We all know the mischief kids get up to to test their parents’ love for them. When we grow up, we do it on an adult scale. Let’s trash the planet to see if God’s watching. Let’s bully the vulnerable and make life harder for the poor and see what Dad says. The mistreatment we visit on one another—abuse, dependency, neediness, violence—most all of it stems from our deep, deep fear…that our heavenly Father doesn’t really see us, that we are not God’s beloved.
So, friends, listen once again to the Gospel. Listen to it and believe with all your heart and all your mind that the same voice that says this about Jesus is saying it about you—and everyone you’ve ever met. “This is my child, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” You are God’s child. That’s why you’re here. You are God’s child, and you will always be God’s beloved.
There are two special children here this morning. Oscar and Harry are cousins. They are two beautiful 12 year old boys…just kidding that’s an inside joke between Julia and me. Oscar and Harry are just beginning their lives, and it is our prayer that they will remember long into the future that they are God’s beloved. I was thinking about Oscar and Harry on Friday, when I visited the senior member of our parish, Vera Crane. Vera lived in Park Slope from the time she moved here as a teenager—in 1927. A few years ago she moved to a lovely facility in New Jersey, and I went out with Chris Lee, our parishioner who will be ordained a deacon here at All Saints’ next Saturday. Chris heard his call to ordained ministry in part through is weekly visits to Vera to give her communion when she still lived in Park Slope. Vera is 106 years old. She reads without glasses and takes no medication. And I can tell you, when you spend time with Vera, you always leave feeling better about yourself. Everyone who has ever known her says she’s never been anything but kind and generous—and quick-witted. Once when I asked her about her favorite memories she said, well the first fifty years were so long ago I can’t remember a thing from then. Vera turned 50 in 1963.
You don’t spend over a century on this planet like that without knowing that you are God’s child, without that continued faith that we are all God’s beloved. When Oscar and Harry are Vera’s age, it will be the year 2125. And even though that is a future too distant for us to imagine, one thing is certain: there will still be a voice from heaven. It will be the same voice we hear this morning, at their baptism. It will be the same voice that calls out to you and to me and everyone you will ever meet. “This is my child, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Amen.
The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
January 5, 2020
All Saints’ Church
Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas! And while we’re at it, Happy New Year! Pretty much everyone says this every year, but honestly, it’s hard to believe it’s already 2020. To me, it sounds like a futuristic number for a year. I’m old enough that when I was a kid, I assumed that by 2020 we’d be living in bases on Mars. But I’m also young enough to know that I will be living with the consequences of decisions made this year for the rest of my life. It’s a strange place to be this year.
One thing I will say about 2020 is that rarely have the people around me greeted a new year with so many expressions of anxiety and dread. Maybe you feel it too. Of course the focal point of this impending stress for many is the election this fall. And the news of U.S. military action in the Middle East has been a deeply unsettling way to start the year. I hate to state the obvious, but this is just the beginning of what promises to be a rollercoaster of a year. I know of few people who are looking forward to the media saturation and public drama that we will have no choice but to be part of for the next 12 months. I am observing how the uncertainty about the future is taking its toll on many of us in this parish and in our wider community. And that’s the point where the things happening in the news meet your own spiritual welfare and the spiritual well-being of this church.
If you are feeling a gnawing sense of anxiety at the beginning of this year, let me say: the time to start building up your spiritual defenses is right now. And you’re in the right place to do so. We come here to worship the Immortal, Invisible, God only wise. We come here to encounter Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega. We hear the words of Scripture, which have comforted and guided countless generations through times even scarier than these. We address our prayers to an all-hearing ear, a God who has promised to hear the supplications of all. And we partake of the Sacrament that is the very body and blood of Christ, so that his eternity becomes part of us and we of him.
All this should be of great comfort, and it is. It is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving, twelve days later and beyond. Because the way to keep yourself sane this year is to ground yourself in God, who enfolds the troubles of the present in the knowledge of the past and the future, who holds all times in the hand of the divine.
Maybe it’s a little bit of a stretch, but I see this message pretty clearly in the Gospel reading we hear this morning. It’s the story of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus at the Temple. We’re still in the Christmas season this Sunday, and believe it or not, this story about the 12-year-old Jesus is in the same chapter of Luke’s Gospel as the story of Jesus’ birth. Pre-teen Jesus and his family go to Jerusalem for Passover, then leave with the rest of the people from their village. An entire day passes before they realize he’s not with them. When they go back to Jerusalem to look for him, it takes them three whole days before they find him back at the Temple.
Can you even begin to imagine what Mary and Joseph felt when they realized their child was missing? First, shock. Next, panic. After that, I’m sure there was a mix of adrenaline, guilt, and anger. Jesus was old enough to fend for himself, but I don’t know any parent who wouldn’t be beside themselves at losing their 12 year old.
Those must have been a rough three days of searching in the holy city. Some twenty years later, there would be another three days of loss in Jerusalem that would shake more than just Jesus’ family—they would rattle the world forever. Adult Jesus would return to Jerusalem with triumph, only to be crucified and buried. Those three days of the sealed tomb were for his disciples much like those three days of searching for Mary and Joseph, a time of shock and anxiety over the loss of the world as they had known it.
Maybe right now you feel like Mary and Joseph frantically looking for their child. Maybe right now you feel like the world the way you’ve known it is sealed in a tomb, a past that can never be reconciled with the present. We all feel that way at times in our lives, the bitterness and confusion of life as we knew it being shattered. We can have those feelings about the world around us, the way of being we once knew changing before our eyes. But the more difficult times are when our personal lives follow the same pattern; someone you knew and loved is no longer around, a setback with work or money, or relationships that seem broken beyond repair. All these things are our moments of panic, the times when we, like Mary and Joseph, turn around in disbelief and see the thing that meant most to us all of a sudden—gone.
Friends, if this weren’t something everyone experiences, it wouldn’t be in the Bible. But look what else is in the Bible: after those three terrible days, Mary finds her son. Not just anywhere, but in the Temple itself, the holiest and safest of places. He was right where he belonged all along; she just couldn’t see it.
Being a Christian means having faith in times of panic and loss that the same God who was with you before is with you now—and will deliver you into a better future. It means having hope, like the apostle Paul, that nothing can separate us from the love of God. It means trusting that that which is lost is being cared for even now in ways we cannot understand, like the young Jesus in the Temple.
This is anything but a simple faith. It is not a naïve belief that things will get better on their own. Nor is it a way around the pain of loss. Quite the opposite. Our faith in the enfolding love of God is an acknowledgement that loss is inevitable. But it is also the motivator for us to push forward to a new future. When Mary lost her son, it was her faith that he was still out there that kept her searching for him. She didn’t just give up and go home. It’s how she kept her cool enough to keep doing the work she needed to do in the midst of stress and heartache. So too must we press on, keep searching, ruthlessly, tirelessly, until we discover the new reality that God has prepared for us.
So how do we live out this faith in a time of anxiety? How are we going to stay grounded in a year that will undoubtedly end much differently than it is beginning?
For answers, we can look to the Gospel. First, pray. Prayer is your immediate connection to the eternal. When we pray, the Spirit prays in and through us. Through prayer, we surrender our perception and our will to God. Think of the words we pray in this liturgy of Holy Eucharist. Most of them are almost two millennia old. They refocus us away from the terrors of the present and into the fullness of time. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were bathed in prayer; it bound them together even when they were separated.
Second, fellowship. Again, the Holy Family wasn’t just on their own—they were part of a fellowship of pilgrims who went up to Jerusalem. Jesus was kept safe by the fellowship of the temple. You’re not going to get through a time of anxiety alone. There are so many nurturing communities in our community. I can only speak for this one, where every single person is welcomed and greeted with love. If you are here, these are your people. Show up. Lean on us. Lift up those who are down. This is what the saints have done since the first days. It is one of the great ironies of our time that though we are more connected than ever, we seem to be more isolated than ever. A fellowship centered on God not only connects us to one another, but invites God into our midst.
There are so many other ways to ground ourselves in God. We can enjoy the gifts of beauty around us in art, music, and nature. We can care for ourselves and others gently and with love. We can vow to begin each day anew with wonder at this Creation before we move on to the disturbing headlines of the day. We can resolve to serve this church our the wider community in new ways. We can outdo one another in acts of generosity and love. These are the things Jesus did—and remember, he’s the one who said who said, “it is I; do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid, for Jesus is here. Let him transform your fear into action. Let him turn your anxiety into confidence. Hand over your gloom to the God of hope. For our God will never abandon us. Amen.