Reading The Bible Together
The Rev. Howard E. Blunt
September 30, 2018
The 19th Sunday After Pentecost
All Saints’ Church
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
I have been looking forward to a time to do the Sunday homily here. We have heard much from our rector, we have heard from our newly ordained Julia Offinger, we have heard from Deacon Jennifer, we have heard from our theological students Carl and Chris. We have even heard from some of you our regular membership giving witness to the faith that is in those of you in pews. I will hope to add to all of that grand tradition. So now, I like the Delany Sisters remember them, I can have my say. If you don’t remember them see me later.
By now we have all heard about the Bible study that takes place here every Tuesday. This gathering is a faithful remnant of our membership. Most of us in this class are in the age range when the day is not constrained by the 9 to 5 duties. Last year we 8 to 10 people were studying the Acts of the Apostles. It was a mighty journey through a book that is often neglected. So we learned much. This time we have decided to look at the lessons just ahead on the coming Sunday. This approach will look at all the lessons recited each Sunday, so the many books in canon of scripture will be referenced.
When we were looking at the book of Acts, we found out what life was like in beginning years of the proclamation that Christ Jesus is Lord and Savior. It was fascinating to find out that our spiritual ancestors had many of the same challenges in teaching and preaching and believing this faith. I can well imagine our new course of study will render similar insight. For to study the scriptures appointed each Sunday is to understand more and more what we hear from the given three lessons and just exactly what they mean to say.
First of all we might know that the large tradition across many denominations is to hold up a set series of readings. This means the Church reads scripture together. Yes you can and do read the bible alone. But reading it together is like feeding on the one bread and the one cup of Christ. The scriptures inform the Church and the church lives it and explains it. The two stand together and neither stands alone.
To illustrate that, lets review each lesson just read. And let’s agree that each Sunday we are in one grand bible study trying to consider what God is saying and what all we together can hear. First we look at the story of Queen Esther. This story is in the 16th book of the Old Testament. It is, of course, revered by our Jewish neighbors. They observe it on the 14th day of Adar. That day was observed this year on March 1, 2018. It is a joyous day for this Queen has persuaded King Ahasueras that his overseer has fatal plans for the Hebrew people. So the king makes this sin righted and he sentences that overseer to the same outcome he had planned for the Jews. Haman is justly punished for his tragic behavior. Another insight to this text was shared with me by our own Mother Julia.
Due to the fact I missed this week’s study I would not have known how it was discussed and understood. So for sure Julia let me in on a helpful tutorial. She indicated her well-known feminist insight. She let me know that the story of Esther witnesses to what women have always been doing in a world of the historic patriarchal dominance. That was a class I should not have missed. Julia, while you have been called elsewhere, know that you have left the legacy of the female voice in the divine chorus here.
This theme should ring a lot of bells in our contemporary #metoo time. Nowadays women are having their say and they are in succession to Queen Esther. Even the story of America has had its own Esthers: Abigail Adams, SoJourner Truth, Susan B Anthony, Rosa Parks, and just now an unknown soul named Christine Blasey Ford speaks to power. Whatever comes of that event this someone has worked her heart over a heartless time. Just look at all these women now coming forward demanding justice. We are learning right now that women less heard from are stepping out into the pages of history. Queen Esther, bring on more of your sisters.
So on the day called Purim our Jewish neighbors dance and sing about a mighty achievement. And it is good for us Christians to revere this story and to dance and sing for the Lord is the God of justice. Now, Church, we move on to the second lesson. It is from the book of James, part of scriptures known as the Pastoral Epistles. Here the Church wants us to see that we all fall astray of divine purposes; whether King, Queen or just the common every one here and there.
So in James we hear this appeal: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises. Is any among you sick? Call for the elders of the church and let them pray anointing with oil in the Lord’s name; and the prayer of faith will save….if you sin, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed, for the prayer of the righteous availeth much. I love the King James way of saying that. These lessons maintain that as time goes by we are all contending with the slog of life and so it is right and necessary to pray.
At a recent study time Fr. Steve was giving us all the details of his present testing when he is being considered for higher office. One of us asked him, how do you stand all the tension. He looked at us in that class in his familiar way of pausing, and then he gave his thoughtful answer. He said, “ I pray”. This is what we do in and out of season, in all sorts of conditions, predicaments, afflictions that come our way in this our mortal time. So whatever happens in that election, we have in this rector someone who prays. And if he gets a vote up or down, scripture says he is in the reach of the righteous realm. Thank God we have come to know him.
Now let me give fair attention to the Gospel. That part of the word liturgy rounds out the three-lesson lectionary. In our tradition the Gospel is the supreme announcement. It gives us to know the Savior, who he is, what he did, and why he did it. Through it we say Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. This lesson says that some asked Jesus to forbid the works of others for they do not fall in line correctly. Then, oh my then, Jesus says this: do not forbid anyone who does a mighty work in my name, for such a person will not be able to speak evil of me. Up and down this street there other places of God: Baptist, Reform, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Jewish...we need not see them only in how they are different. We might just come to see that they in their way are an honor to God and a picture of the Savior. Pray for an increase of that posture.
Then there are several more items in this passage which beg for attention even though they confuse the mind. They all amount to what it will mean to be disciples of Christ Jesus.
The gospel ends on three anathemas. And they are hard to comprehend and hard to hear. I am tempted to omit any mention of them, for on the face of things they are ridiculous. I am sorry I missed the most recent bible study. It would have been interesting, informative, and reassuring to hear some seminar on these words: if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Really! If anyone thinks such words are to be taken literally, listen up and listen well. A draconian piety like this will not get you into heaven. It will get you into the locked ward of Bellevue Hospital. This is best reason for reading scripture not alone but in church, for with your fellow Christians, you can find help towards a holy and wholesome interpretation and commentary. There, in the Church and with the church you can know and appreciate the meaning of metaphor, allegory and hyperbole.
There are many examples of sound interpretation in church and in scripture. Note: Jesus speaking with travelers on the Emmaus Road. Philip speaking to the Ethiopian eunuch. Or you here at All Saints' speaking with another from the various biblical texts hard or easy. That will keep in a healthy understanding of holy writ and it will keep you out of Bellevue. May the Lord make it so through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Founders Day 2018
The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
September 16, 2018
All Saints’ Church
Welcome to Founders Day at All Saints’ Church! 151 years ago this very day, a group of twenty or so families living in this neighborhood voted to incorporate as a parish to serve the spiritual needs of Park Slope. So much has changed since September 16, 1867, and the people who founded this church could never have imagined the world or even the church that we inhabit today. But every year we celebrate the gift they gave to us: faith. Faith in a future they could not imagine. Faith in a God who would carry this place through troubled times and into promised lands that look different with each passing generation. Faith in a Lord who teaches us that life is not something to be taken for granted or hoarded, but allowed to flow like the waters of baptism, an ever-moving river of grace and love.
So let me begin by offering a welcome once again to all people who have come into this holy house that turns 151 years old today. If you are a visitor or guest here today, you are in good company, because this place remembers a century and a half of newcomers. Our founders created this parish so that each successive generation could come and wonder at God anew. You are now part of that long and holy story. In doing so, you bless us. It does not matter who you, where you’re from, or what you believe—you are welcome here, and you bless us with your presence.
It may seem strange to welcome visitors with the message of the Gospel we hear this morning. In case you missed it or thought you heard wrong, let me repeat it. Jesus says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?”
Indeed, what can we give in return for our life? This question reminds us of one of the hardest and most profound teachings of Christianity: that our lives do not belong to us. We do not own our lives. We determine neither the time nor the circumstance of our life or our death. We do not choose what kind of body we have, or the family we are born into, or even the span of our days. These are unpleasant things to remember. Most of us spend a lifetime trying to forget these facts—and when we do, it can get us into a heap of trouble and confusion.
But it is only with the knowledge of this truth that we can begin to be free. Because when you acknowledge that your life is not your own, you are liberated to dedicate it to everything that isn’t just about you. And that is a joyful life. That is a full life. That is a life well-lived, a life that flows within that river of grace and love. This is why Jesus tells us these hard words: because he wants us to live life freely.
This Gospel truth has been proclaimed in this church for over a century and a half. In that time, countless souls have been set free from the captivity of believing in their own self-superiority. Where else are we to go to receive this healing? Where else can we turn for our very being to be shaken to the core? This is a temple built to honor and glory of God—and no one or nothing less. And the lessons our ancestors learned have been passed down to us today.
It is so perfect that today is Founders Day because today we have among us living, breathing examples of people who are heeding Jesus’ call to abandon life as they have known it, take up their cross, and follow him into the light of love. They breathe life into the mission of our founders and show us what it means to be the beloved community of Jesus in our time.
As many of you know well, our beloved Julia has been made priest in the Church of God. [applause] Many here today witnessed as Julia took her ordination vows yesterday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and was ordained a priest forever. In being ordained, Julia has left behind the life of her past and bravely stepped forward into a new reality. There is no other way to describe what it is like to be a priest. Like so many things in life worthy of our time and effort, the priesthood requires us to lose our life so that we can gain it. It is a life of dedicated service in which the needs of God and God’s people most often come before our own. God has called Julia into this life in part to remind the rest of us that our lives are not our own.
In a few moments, Julia will celebrate her first sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. We are incredibly blessed to have a brand new priest adorn the font and altar of this church with her first sacraments. There’s an old prayer for priests that goes like this: make this my first Eucharist, my last Eucharist, my only Eucharist. Julia, this is my prayer for you today. The sacramental life in which you now lead us is one in which the present is suffused with the eternal. It opens for us the gate of truth that God is with us in this moment of time and unites us with the eons. Your sacramental ministry will remind us constantly that our lives are not our own and will release us into the eternal bounty of God’s love. That may sound naïve. It may sound poetic. But guess what: that’s what priests do. In a world made brittle with cynicism, poisoned by the love of things that are not worthy of our love, a world shattered by hatred and misunderstanding, your job is to join God in softening the hearts of the mighty. They have forgotten that their lives are not their own. As a priest, you will remind them and all of us of who and whose we truly are.
And Julia has two fellow messengers today. She will baptize Margie and Beatrix, using those same waters that flow throughout time. In baptism, we welcome God’s children into God’s kingdom on earth. Margie and Beatrix will join us in Christ’s royal priesthood. Julia, after all that work you put in to get ordained, you might be a little jealous that all these girls to become royal priests was to show up and look cute. But that’s kind of the point. We are all God’s beloved—the same God who lifts up the lowly and casts the mighty down from their thrones. Margie and Beatrix’s families know that they are blessings beyond compare. Today we recognize the gifts that they are to the world. They are royal priests just by their being, and they remind us that we are too.
We are priests every time we walk in love as Christ loved us. We are priests every time we reach out when one of God’s own is in need. We are priests every time we allow ourselves to be humbled, just as Jesus was humbled. God is love. Every time we love, we are God’s priests.
Indeed, there is nothing we can give in return for our life. There is nothing Julia can give in return for hers, nothing Margie and Beatrix can give in return for theirs. Let them be examples to us. Let the love they embody be signs to us of God’s love for us. Life is gift. Let us take this precious gift we have been given, and, like priests at the altar, offer it up to the same one who laid down his own, so that we may be set free to love. Amen.
Can We Love Our Enemies?
The Rev. Steven Paulikas
September 9, 2018
All Saints’ Church
The message from Holy Scripture this morning is crystal clear: God shows no partiality to any person, and neither should we. As we can tell from these lessons, people of faith have struggled with this teaching for two and a half thousand years. In all that time, somehow we still haven’t gotten it right. By grace, God doesn’t seem to have gotten tired of trying to teach us. But it’s up to us this morning to try to learn.
The passage we read this morning in the Book of Proverbs proclaims that the Lord is the maker of all. It warns that those who sow injustice will fall—and especially those who are unjust against the poor.
Chapter 2 of James’ epistle begins with the rhetorical question: do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? Echoing Proverbs, it seems that the Christians James was speaking to preferred to welcome the rich into their assembly over the poor. I hate to say it, but I understand why. The rich can donate money to the church. They are usually well-connected in society. Sometimes it feels when you’re with a rich person that some of their glamor can rub off on you, too. The poor, on the other hand, have nothing to offer the church…but their souls. James reminds us that no amount of silver or gold can add up to the value of a human soul. When we follow Jesus, we are in the business of souls. Everyone has one, and no one’s is worth more than anyone else’s. If only we treated one another equally in light of this truth.
Then we arrive at the Gospel of Mark and the story of the healing of the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter. Up to this point, Jesus’ ministry has been exclusively with Jews like himself, not with gentiles like her. Jesus ignores her first request to help the little girl. You see, even Jesus isn’t immune to the temptation to treat some with favor. But her argument and her faith prevail, and in the process, she is able to teach even our Lord a lesson.
So there we have it: two ancient truths. First, that the God of all people demands that we treat one another as equals. This rule holds regardless of status, wealth, or even religion. And the second truth is the sadder one: that this lesson has fallen on deaf ears throughout the generations. And yet, if you want to know God, truly, deeply, you must show impartiality toward none and welcome and love toward all.
This lesson has a special meaning this time of year as we approach the anniversary of that terrible day seventeen years ago in this city. Perhaps you remember that on Friday, September 14, 2001, Americans observed a National Day of Prayer. President Bush’s proclamation establishing the day cites Matthew 5:4, “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I remember the comforting effect of a nation gathering to grieve, as vigils and prayer services were held from the National Cathedral to the one I attended at my home parish. At the same time, because I was freshly graduated from college and exploring a call to ordained ministry, I was deeply curious about what faith leaders would say at such a horrible time. I was happy, of course, to hear healing words of sympathy for the victims and their families and reassurances of God’s presence in our times of need. And yet there was a key message missing back then that I fear we are still suffering from a lack of. I thought Christians would proclaim the message of impartiality that we hear this morning, a call to love all people regardless of who they are. Sadly, I barely heard this truth.
A few verses deeper into Matthew 5, Jesus says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is one of the most difficult of spiritual teachings, and yet 17 years after the tragedy of 9/11, it is time to ask: would we be better off today had we sought to love our enemies and not destroy them? How would our society today be different had we channeled our grief and anger into a spiritual effort to treat all people with equal dignity and respect as we are commanded to do in Scripture?
Even with almost two decades of hindsight, it is still arguable whether the tremendous suffering inflicted by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq started in response to 9/11 have made the world a safer place or bolstered domestic security. Yet the clearer impact of wars abroad may be in plain sight at home. The unrelenting mentality of entrenched conflict against a permanent perceived enemy has infected American domestic life and is at least in part responsible for the bitter political and cultural divide in Western society today. If this is indeed the case, then the only way out of our current dark chapter of common life is to strive for reconciliation rather than retribution. It is not too late to learn to love our enemies—in fact, I believe it may be our only hope for a peaceable future at home.
Showing partiality toward none is not the same as excusing the actions of those who hurt you. The attacks on 9/11 were a terrible sin. The sacrifice of the victims that day was a slaughter of the innocents, and almost two decades later, Americans must give thanks that nothing like it has happened on U.S. soil since. Some of the smartest and bravest people among us work tirelessly in the military, the intelligence services, and elsewhere to prevent a future tragedy. This week is an appropriate time to offer them our personal gratitude.
But in spite of trillions of dollars spent and the massive mobilization of the U.S. government, we have yet to see the ultimate victory of the “war on terror,” and it should now be clear that we never will. This war on a concept rather than a traditional adversary was launched on the premise that the defeat of sets of external enemies would be both retributive justice and prevention of future threat. This has always been a war that could only yield suffering without the hope of victory, waged at the cost of, among other things, almost 200,000 civilian lives who could hardly be called enemies. This is hardly the picture of a people committed to equality and dignity among all.
What has gone overlooked in this prolonged season of war is the spiritual illness with which it has infected the culture that pursued it. Over time, we have watched as the thirst for retribution that took hold shortly after 9/11 has entrenched itself within American society to the point that we are convinced of the presence of the enemy within. It is truly striking to me how domestic politics have replaced enemies abroad as the target of the rhetoric of punishment. That Russia--an historic American adversary--actually intervened in the 2016 election with only mixed public outcry is but a symptom of the degree to which American voters have internalized the notion that the democratic process itself is a form of political and cultural warfare between enemies more dangerous than any beyond their borders. As New Yorkers head to the polls this week for the primary election—and you better get out there and vote!
If we are still suffering from an unwise response to 9/11, how do we right the ethical wrongs of the past? The answer is not simple and will require hard work—but nothing more difficult or painful than the heart-rending loss of life and human suffering that has masqueraded as a solution for the past 17 years. We have become entitled in this century to demand neat solutions to deep problems, slogans and soundbites that soothe and seduce. What will be necessary instead is what the St. Paul called “metanoia,” or a full conversion of the heart. The root forces driving the current crisis in our national life are moral and spiritual ones; it is only moral and spiritual remedies that will quell them. We must be converted to a real and true love of all people, beginning with those who are most difficult to love.
We must believe there is still more we have to learn from the tragedy of the 9/11 victims. Our sympathy for them must extend to the suffering of those who are not our own. We must strive to find a basic common understanding with those opposed to us--not in order to condone their actions or opinions, but to witness to the oneness of humanity. We must pray for our enemies, knowing—even if they don’t—that our fates are inexorably linked. We must be as concerned for the children of the countries we have invaded or the counties that vote against our preferred party as we are for our own. Otherwise, those same children will perpetuate our own failures and miss the precious opportunity to love one another as we have so ostentatiously done.
Seventeen years ago, I was a young man. I have lived my entire adulthood in the unrelenting climate of hatred and violence our society has chosen to perpetuate since then. Today, as we approach this sad anniversary, I choose a different path—a path of peace, healing, and sanity. Wars will rage and rulers will come and go. But none of this can ever prevent me from loving my enemy. None of it can prevent me from striving to treat all people with dignity. Nor need it prevent you.
A Holy Moment
Carl Adair, preacher
September 3, 2018
Ordinary Time, Proper 17 (Year B, Track I)
All Saints’ Park Slope
Song of Solomon 2: 8-13
James 1: 17-27
Mark 7: 1-8, 14-5, 21-23
Let me tell you a story.
A few months ago, I was taking the subway home at the end of a long, exhausting day. A young girl and her mother got on and sat down across from me. The girl was maybe 3 or 4: curly hair pulled up into a messy ponytail, white Minnie Mouse t-shirt, pink leggings, Velcro sneakers with the little neon lights in the soles. It looked like she had been at the playground, and it looked like she had been playing HARD. Her shoes were dusty, her knees were stained, and there were tiny beads of sweat on her forehead.
Without speaking, her mother reached into her bag and took out a water bottle covered in Hello Kitty stickers. She handed it to her daughter, and the girl downed half of it in three long draws on the straw as her big eyes surveyed the other straphangers. Having slaked her thirst, she went “Aaaaaaahhhh,” and I was totally charmed.
She handed the bottle back to her mother, who silently exchanged it for a little ziplock bag of Cheerios. I don’t know why, but their wordless routine reminded me of a boxer and her coach in the corner between rounds. The coach knows and anticipates the fighter’s every need, so she can stay completely focused. The girl had that intensity of focus. And she pried the bag of Cheerios open and was about to chow down when her mom suddenly interrupted: “Wait a minute, now. Let’s clean up a bit first.”
Mom pulls out a wet wipe. Daughter sticks out her hand. Given what’s happened so far, I’m expecting an efficient, silent scrubbing. But something different happened: something that, in retrospect, I would call holy. Mom slowly, mischievously draws the wet wipe over her daughter’s hand, so only its very tips tickle her palm. The girl squeals with delight. She sits up super straight; she points her toes; but she keeps her hand very still. Waiting for more. “Oh yes,” Mom says, grinning as she tickles the palm again, “we’ve got to get these hands clean...”
It takes at least two minutes for Mom to wash her daughter’s hands. Not because they are so dirty, but because both are enjoying themselves too much to rush it. “Shall we wash...this finger?” Mom asks, looking deep into her daughter’s eyes. “Oh yes, Mama,” her child answers, consumed by giggles. The air conditioning in the subway car is on full blast and that cool wet wipe must feel so good against her warm skin. “Shall we wash your pinkie finger?” “Oh yes, Mama!”
And on and on, both mother and daughter savoring these moments of connection, until the Cheerios were remembered and Mom answered an email on her phone and their stop came and they got off the train to walk the rest of the way home, holding hands.
I have thought of this moment again and again over the last few months, and as I said, I think of it as a holy moment. And it came back to me especially this week as I have spent a lot of time on the subway, commuting up to Union Theological Seminary for my new student orientation. Like Chris, who preached last week, I am a postulant for the priesthood in the diocese: the Bishop is postulating that I will be ordained a priest after three years of seminary. So I am looking forward to having my backpack blessed shortly.
But I have also been thinking of this mother and daughter this week as I have meditated on our scripture readings, which ask a question that pervades scripture, and the life of the church, and our own lives. What does it mean to be holy?
In our Gospel reading today we get a sense of what it meant to Jesus to be holy. It comes out in a conflict with some prominent religious leaders of Jesus’ own day: the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus and his disciples have sat down to eat, and they have not washed their hands. They are tired, and hot, and probably more than a little sweaty. They have been busy. In the chapter that precedes our reading today, we hear that so many people were coming to see Jesus that he and his disciples “had no leisure even to eat.” My friends, even Jesus struggled with work/life balance.
They had tried to go off by themselves in a boat. But crowds of people just followed them around the shore to where the boat landed. So instead of having a quiet meal alone, Jesus and his disciples sat down with five thousand people and they all ate their fill from five loaves and two fishes. You know that story? They left and Jesus calmed a storm that threatened to overwhelm the boat and terrified his disciples, and they promptly arrive in another place where throngs of other people flock to Jesus, desperate to be near him, to hear his words of grace and to feel his healing touch. And we note that Jesus does not hesitate—not for a second. He touches their hurting bodies. He touches people with open sores, people we would now call mentally ill. He touches people who have been abandoned by their communities because they are seen as frightening, dangerous, even disgusting.
In our reading today, the scribes and the Pharisees are upset that Jesus and his disciples have skipped the wet wipes and gone straight for the Cheerios. But given what Jesus has been up to, it’s clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg, just a small piece of the much more significant conflict between the movement of revolutionary love that Jesus is beginning and the status quo that the scribes and Pharisees represent.
At the root of that status quo is the idea that holiness entails separation. To be holy is to be set apart from all that is profane, ordinary, everyday. This is easy for us to understand instinctively, and it is an important way that we still honor God and one another. This sanctuary is a place set apart from the rest of the block, and we enter it more reverently than we enter into Five Guys. We approach the altar differently than we approach the ATM at Bank of America. And that is right and good.
But Jesus says that the scribes and the Pharisees have lost perspective. They are enforcing traditions that are less about setting certain things in a place of honor and more about separating oneself from the unfamiliar, the strange, and the wounded. They are making people anxious that they aren’t good enough, pure enough, to be in the presence of God. And, they say, if you want to protect your own purity—if you want to be clean—you had better avoid contact with those people who seem dirty, or strange, or broken.
Such purity codes, Jesus says, have become barriers to God’s commandments: to love God with our whole heart and mind and soul, and to love our neighbors--all our neighbors—as ourselves. Jesus doesn’t seem to care if we eat clean or not: it’s not our failure to live up to an impossible standard that defiles us. What defile us are the thoughts and actions that diminish our capacity for love: our selfishness, our indifference, our pride, our lies.
If Jesus had been concerned about his own purity, he would never have eaten with five thousand poor people, or prostitutes, or tax collectors, or people of other ethnicities. He would never have touched the sores of a leper, or a hemorrhaging woman. No one, in the eyes of God, is worthy of contempt. No one is untouchable.
Jesus shows us that the deepest root of holiness is not separation but connection. And that means that we cannot be made holy alone. We cannot be whole while others are being broken down or cast out. Our freedom and joy is bound up with theirs.
In Jesus, the very Son of God, we see that what makes us holy are not the things we do to protect ourselves, but the actions large and small that restore and guard the integrity of others. The word of kindness, the gift of time spent listening, the half a sandwich shared, the protest chant, the silent prayer, the transformation of our institutions in the pursuit of justice and joy for all; the gentle play of a wet wipe across a child’s hand on a crowded subway car.
Was the point of that wet wipe to clean the little girl’s hands of dirt and germs? Sure. But more importantly, it was an opportunity for mother and daughter to delight in one another. And it moved me because I see it as an image of the kind of connection that God wants with us, and for us to have with one another. “Holy, holy, holy Lord: God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.” Heaven and earth connect wherever there are relationships of honor and care and delight, in which we are renewed and restored to the fullness of who we are. A holy people: people created to love and be loved.