Sunday, July 25, 2021

Farewell Service, Central United Church

 Ephesians 3

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Everything I know about saying goodbye I learned from the movies.

My first instinct was to recreate the end of the Salzburg Folk Festival, where Max says “the highest musical honour in the Ostmark goes to the family Von Trapp” (applause, spotlight in an empty entrance). The family Von Trapp…” Then someone shouts “They’re gone!”

The other option, of course, was to rewind the tape and sing to you:

Regretfully they tell us/But firmly they compel us/To say goodbye to you./So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night.

But I’m not going to sing, so that won’t work. This, then led to my perfect fantasy ending where a twister carries me off to some magical kingdom (maybe THE magical kingdom) and then I wake up only to discover that you’re all still with me—only now you’re transformed into various farm hands and my Auntie Em.

Sadly, I expect it will be more like the end of Casablanca, where you insist we get on the plane, remind us that we’ll always have Paris, and say something like “Here’s looking at you, kid.” That might work.

Better yet, we might want to look to our dear friend St. Paul for some direction on saying goodbye. It was my late mentor, the Rev. Doug Paterson, who once said “do you really think your preaching can improve on the words found in scripture?” He was talking about funeral homilies, but the point stands, because everything we need for learning, guidance, and inspiration is found in the pages of the Bible. Case in point:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4)

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (2 Corinthians 13)

But wait until the pandemic is over. I think you can see that Paul is giving us the perfect balance of encouraging the faithful, praising their goodness, and highlighting what truly matters. Now I’m no St. Paul, but I hope that in our time together I have spent enough time encouraging you to be faithful, praising your goodness, and highlighting what truly matters—the love and forgiveness found in our Lord Jesus Christ.

But this sermon is not about me. This sermon—and hopefully every sermon—is about what God can do through us, the grace and peace that we discover through Christ and share with others. It is about lives transformed and communities renewed, it is about the power of work and prayer, and it is about remaining open to where the Spirit leads. Paul captured this too, in our reading for today:

Now to God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Glory in the church belongs to God alone, and we, as God’s servants, get to share in that glory, to dwell in that reflected light, to participate in the next thing God will do in this place. As one chapter closes and another begins, we trust in God’s power to work within you and continue to write the remarkable story of this church.

In a few moments I will stumble over more words, try to express more gratitude, and finally say “auf wiedersehen, good night.” Whatever I say, and however haltingly I say it, the meaning is this: to serve here has been a great gift, a profound honour, and a blessing from God. Amen.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

 Mark 6

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Suddenly everyone’s going into space.

Well, when I say everyone, I mean everyone who’s a billionaire and can fund their own celestial science project. Sir Richard Branson seems to have won the race to create a space tourism industry, but others disagree. He only went up 50 miles, and everyone knows space is 60 miles up, right? Quietly, some ask the awkward “couldn’t this money be better spent on problems here on earth” question, but that betrays the spirit of the age.

All of this put me in mind of the last time too few people held too much weath, and that would be during the Gilded Age. Generally the period began in the 1870s and ushered in rapid economic growth, industrialization, and massive wealth inequality. The names of the leading men of the age are still familiar to us, so dramatic was their share of the wealth. Rockefeller, Carnegie, Guggenheim, and Vanderbilt are perhaps the best known, some for the scale of their wealth and some for charitable causes they supported. The library across the street was funded by the Carnegie Co. of New York, an example of something the Gilded Age gave us—our own little piece of all that excess wealth.

Something else the Gilded Age gave us was stress. Yes, stress existed before 1870, but the race to become wealthy in this new age created a new kind of pressure. The myth that if you worked hard enough you could become the next Rockefeller tormented the minds of many, and the result was a new ailment, the nervous breakdown. And with a new ailment comes a new cure, or perhaps we might say a new old cure, and that would be rest.

S. Weir Mitchell, a neurologist based in Philadelphia, created the rest cure, “a regimen of forced bed rest, restricted diet, and a combination of massage and electrical muscle stimulation in place of exercise.”* He is also known for his theories on women’s health, particularly the idea of “hysteria,” and in doing so caused great harm. Yet on the rest cure, his influence was short-lived, to be replaced by another nineteenth century innovation, the work cure.

The work cure was definitely a product of the age. A new theory replaced the idea that troubled people were somehow depleted, suggesting instead that people are like streetcars, meaning they need only draw on “sources of power beyond themselves.” Like the crisis that follows when the 501 gets disconnected from the overhead wires, you just need to reconnect and get going. I expect this is where the foolish advice to “keep busy” comes from, something we still hear today. Eventually, the work cure was discredited too, but vestiges remain in the popular imagination.

Jesus said “Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest.”

It sounds familiar because it is, but it also sounds familiar because of a more famous passage in Matthew 11 where Jesus says to the crowd “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Looking closely, these two statements are somewhat different, and require a look.

The first cure is finding rest in a quiet place. This is advice Jesus lives and shares throughout the Gospels. He knows the power of solitude, the need to retreat from the crowds and their demands—and be alone. He makes time to be alone with God, which is a remarkable thing considering his utterly unique relationship with the Most High. Still, he takes the time, and commends taking time to others, to find a quiet place and get some rest.

The second cure is finding rest in Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” The reason we share this quote at funerals is precisely because Jesus is the ultimate source of comfort. We support one another, we try to find the words, we might give a little advice, but ultimate rest is found in the arms of Jesus. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” he said, “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Since I’m the third generation off the farm, I needed to look up yoke to recall exactly what it looked like. Essentially it’s a cross-beam, laid over two animals, often oxen, connecting them and allowing the farmer to control both animals. These “beasts of burden” work together to pull a plough, under the direction of the ploughman.

So a couple of things here. The first is the promise that Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light. When you choose to follow in the Way of Jesus, you are literally yoked to him and expected to do work. Preach and teach, forgive others, seek the Kingdom where it may be found; visit the sick, feed the hungry, encourage the despairing. “Love and serve others,” our creed says in summary, while you “seek justice and resist evil.” So we’re yoked, but the yoke is easy. And the yoke is easy precisely because we’re yoked to Jesus, the source of all rest.

That’s the first promise, yoked to the source of rest. The second part of the promise is implied in the design of the yoke. We are yoked together, not alone, but yoked to fellow travellers. We find greater rest when we share our burdens with each other, when we remember that we never pull alone. Everything that a life of faith demands is best met when we look to each other, and understand that discipleship is always a shared task.

In another time and another place, great wealth existed alongside great poverty. The time was the late Roman period, and the place was North Africa, called the “crown jewel” of the Roman Empire. North Africa was the wealthiest province, produced the most grain, and generated many other exports including ceramics and olives (and olive oil). All this made North Africa the place to acquire wealth and pursue your dreams. At the same time, great poverty existed with an underclass of labourers, slaves, and ex-slaves doing the bulk of the work. And into this setting stepped Augustine of Hippo, later St. Augustine, ministering to everyone in the busy port city of Hippo Regius.

You can imagine the pace of life in Hippo, the restlessness that surrounded everyone. The wealthy seeking more wealth, the poor seeking basic needs each day, the sick seeking relief. The early church stood in the centre of all this activity and tried to reach everyone. And finally, it took Augustine, with wisdom from God, to find the words, words that echo Mark 6 and Matthew 11 and offer a word to all the seekers of Hippo. He said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

However restless you feel today, and whatever burden you face, may you find rest in God, in this and every age. Amen.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 14

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child[a] or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” 6 And they had nothing to say.

7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

It seems unnatural to part with a book. A book is like an old friend. A book is like an engaging conversational partner. A book is like a member of the family. Alas, you can’t keep every book you read, or intend to read, or read then stop when some other book demands to be read. This week I thought long and hard about giving away Robert Putnam’s book. Not that Robert Putman, the other Robert Putnam, the one who wrote “Bowling Alone.”

So while I ponder the fate of my well-worn copy of Bowling Alone, maybe I’ll tell you about it as I try to decide. In a nutshell, it’s a book about social trends in the United States, and in particular the state of community or “social capital.” These things are measured and studied in depth, but Putnam has assembled all the studies and surveys into a single volume. Here are a few examples—apropos to our reading—on the topic of eating:

In the last two decades of the last century, the amount of entertaining at home dropped by 45 percent. The decline was so sharp, that if the trend holds, the entire practice of entertaining at home will cease. The evening meal? Down by a third in the same period. So, you wonder, if people are eating at home less, and entertaining at home less, perhaps there’s a shift to restaurants. Not based on statistics. Between 1980 and 2000, the number of “full-service” restaurants in America dropped by 25 percent, the number of bars and luncheonettes by 50 percent. People were not having picnics either: they are off by 60 percent (pp. 98-102).

After reading the first hundred pages or so, it all seems rather grim. The ties that bind people to each other are declining and ending, and I wish I could assure you that it is limited to south of the border, but I cannot. Still, it’s a book worth reading, because once you get past the bad news at the beginning, you get the part that he revealed in the sub-title of the book: “The Collapse and Revival of American Community.”

Eating, of course, is at the centre of our experience of being human. We think about food all the time, at least three times a day. If we’re not actually eating a meal, we’re just as likely to be planning a meal, or thinking back to a meal we’ve enjoyed. Some of us have others to feed, while others feed only themselves. Alone or with others, we cannot avoid the need to eat.

Taking the long view, eating has always been a primary preoccupation of humans, and most agree that it is the very foundation of society. Years ago I read a very convincing article that suggested that the foundational impulse of agriculture was the production of beer. The discovery of beer was the push needed to get our forebears in the Nile Delta to get it together and cooperate on farming. Now, whether you can accept the “beer theory” of human development or not, it seems clear that at some point food production (and the eating that followed) became a key factor in the formation of human society.

Key enough, that the study of eating unlocks much of what we can know about societies in general. From a couple of anthropologists named Farb and Armelogos, we get this:

In all societies, both simple and complex, eating is the primary way of initiating and maintaining human relationships…Once the anthropologists finds out where, when and with whom the food is eaten, just about everything else can be inferred about the relations among the society’s members (Crossan, p. 68).

Looking back at “Bowling Alone” for a minute, I wonder what future anthropologists will make of the fact that at the same moment family meals and conventional restaurants were in sharp decline, the number of fast food places doubled. Hold that thought.

Jesus, the first and best anthropologist, said this:

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”

He was describing what future scholars would call food exchanges, “a series of obligations to give, receive and repay” (p. 69). As anyone who has ever planned a significant meal or event will tell you, there are layers and layers of thinking involved:

Should we invite them? We were invited to their party. Where should we seat them? Can we put the second and third cousins at the back? We can’t serve chicken; everyone serves chicken. Where should we seat the minister? Surely someone on the list must go to church…we’ll put him with them.

You get the picture. Jesus understood the politics of food and meal planning and knew that the primary motive for issuing invitations was quid pro quo. We become obligated. We seek to create obligation with certain people, and avoid it with others. We tend to share our table with people just like us. The United States was 125 years old before an African-American was invited to dine at the White House. 36 years after the end of slavery, Booker T. Washington, leader and former slave, was invited to dine with then-president Theodore Roosevelt. The house itself, built by slaves, was standing for over 100 years before an African-American was invited to dine there.

When we imagine the people with whom we want to share a meal, we naturally begin with family, and then neighbours (usually our economic equals). Jesus takes this further and adds the people better off, and more likely to repay in style. Call him cynical, but as first and best anthropologist, Jesus knew that our selfish impulses usually win out. This might go some way to explain his waning popularity as the Gospel progresses. Jesus knew that comfort and selfish desire win over generosity and selflessness every time.

But he was persistent. And maybe even a little rude. He is invited to the house of a leader of the Pharisees (a social promotion for a humble Nazarene) and decides that this is the moment to share a couple of parables that would condemn most of the people at the party. “Thanks for the invite” he said, “but when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”

Not only does he suggest we reject the principle of “inviting up,” he goes much further and suggests that we invite the least desirable people in society, the people that his hosts thought were rejected by God. Remember the question “who sinned, this man or his parents that he be born blind?” There is an entire theological worldview in this one simple question. God punishes sin, according to this view, and the secret to understanding any misfortune is simply determining the source of the sin. Jesus couldn’t disagree more.

God’s kingdom, and the table in that kingdom, is long and eclectic, populated by exactly the people Jesus describes. God doesn’t enumerate sinners and bar the door: God opens the table to everyone, casting aside both the idea of desirable and undesirable and severing the link between misfortune and sin. God’s blessing is extended to those who model their table after the divine table, making invitations precisely because the people invited are in no position to repay.

Way back in time, some 13 years ago, some very dedicated elders received a resume from a minister who listed “daycare cook” as the first item under work experience. I expect that gave me the edge, since I soon learned that my hard-earned skill from the daycare would be needed at Central. As an aside, there is no greater character building exercise than cooking for preschoolers. I still have no adequate response to the words “Ewwww, what’s that?”

Of course, Tuesday night dinner is just the beginning of the story of Central and food. Eventually WKNC added more meals, groceries, and takeaway meals, and then our dear friends from WAES appeared on the scene, taking food distribution to the next level. Even Shakespeare in Action has been helping distribute food during the pandemic, illustrating the size and scale of the heavenly banquet happening at 1 King Street. And that’s without looking south to Mount Dennis, where we created an entire community ministry dedicated to food security.

In every way we can, we have been reversing the trends that disconnect people from their food, and underling the ways in which sharing a meal is at the heart of being human. We have made the last first, and in doing so, we helped bring the Kingdom to this community. May this banquet persist, and may we always find ourselves among the people with needs greater than our own. Amen.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

 Mark 6

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Most often, preachers are just preachin’ to themselves.

Take the lesson about travelling light. As the boxes pile up, and the donation guy at the Value Village becomes my new best friend, I hear the instruction to travel light. You read “no bread, no bag, no money” and I hear “no books, no nick-nacks, and no electronic gewgaws.” Clearly, when they say “the Bible speaks,” it’s speaking to me.

A colleague once told me that early on her possessions were limited to what she could fit in her Pinto. As a student she moved frequently, and often across the country, and so decided to limit herself to the contents of a car, neatly packed, but not so neatly packed that the Pinto would not move. Her life had defined limits in terms of what she would allow herself to possess, and as she recounted the story, it was obvious she looked on those days with some satisfaction.

So Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

Permitted: a staff, sandals, and one tunic.

Not permitted: bread, knapsack, money, extra tunic.

And this got me thinking about ancient lists, and a particular passage from John Dominic Crossan:

The Cynic would not appear anywhere without his knapsack, staff, and cloak, which must invariably be dirty and ragged and worn so as to leave the right shoulder bare. He never wore shoes and his hair and beard were long and unkempt. (Jesus, p. 115)

Permitted: a staff, knapsack, and one dirty tunic.

Not permitted: shoes (sandals) and apparently personal hygiene.

The reason I share these lists is to illustrate that each movement (in this case being a disciple of Jesus or being a Cynic) had a set of standards with regard to lifestyle. And apart from a few variables, the lists seem fairly similar. The key difference (aside from personal hygiene, which the Gospel doesn’t mention) is the use of a knapsack. In the case of a Cynic, the knapsack was an important symbol of all that you need to travel through life. So setting aside the modern definition of the term, essentially a Cynic was a person committed to travelling lightly and possessing few things.

Cicero tells the story of an encounter between Diogenes, the central thinker among the Cynics and Alexander the Great:

But Diogenes, certainly, was more outspoken in his quality of Cynic, when Alexander (the Great) asked him to name anything he wanted: “Just now, Diogenes said, “stand a bit away from the sun.” Alexander apparently had interfered with his basking in the sun.

The most powerful man in the ancient world offered him anything he wanted, all he wanted was a better tan. In many ways, this story best describes the Cynics’ beliefs: a desire to step outside cultural norms and embrace the freedom that comes without property and a raft of possessions. Hence the knapsack. A Cynic had to be free to travel through life with only the things he could carry in his bag.

Now recall that Jesus didn’t permit his followers even a knapsack. No bread, no bag, no money, no extra tunic: only a staff and a sturdy pair of sandals. The message of new life in Christ required no possessions, only the things that would make walking safe. In all things, the disciples were to be totally dependent on God and on the generosity of others.

And this, it seems, is the key contrast between the Cynics and the followers of Jesus: one achieved freedom through self-dependence (everything needed was in one bag) and the others achieved freedom through complete dependence. They were to trust in God to provide what they needed through the people they met on the way.

It would be impossible to have a discussion on possessions and Pintos without talking about the Desert Fathers and Mothers. By about the beginning of the fourth century, the desert began to fill up with monks and would-be monks who attempted to follow the example of St. Anthony. They made their homes in caves and abandoned buildings and practiced the most severe form of aestheticism: living without possessions and living completely on the generosity of others.

We learn about the fathers and mothers by the stories recorded by their many followers and admirers. They formed a collection of “sayings” that are told and retold down to our day. This retelling comes from Thomas Merton:

One of the brothers asked an elder saying: “Would it be all right if I kept two coins in my possession, in case I should get sick?”

The elder, seeing his thoughts, and that he wanted to keep them, said: “Keep them.”

The brother, going back to his cell, began to wrestle with his own thoughts, saying: “I wonder if the Father gave me his blessing or not? Rising up, he went back to the Father, inquiring of him and saying, “in God’s name, tell me the truth, because I am all upset over these two coins.”

The elder said to him, “since I saw your thoughts and your desire to keep them, I told you to keep them. But it is not good to keep more than we need for our body. Now these two coins are your hope. If they should be lost, would not God take care of you? Cast your care on the Lord, then, for he will take care of us.”

At some point a possession becomes more than a possession and becomes a hope. At some point it takes on qualities beyond its utility and is given some power of position that it does not deserve. An RRSP becomes a symbol of “freedom” rather than simply a reasonable approach to retirement. A certain car may seem to make you cooler, when in fact, through a strict application of the rules of the road, every vehicle will get you from A to B in about the same time.

Now, rather than giving you several more examples and adding to the self-indictment nature of this sermon, it might be more interesting to go back to the beginning, and try to understand the DNA of this dependence on God we are called to. We need look no further than Exodus 20.

It is Commandment One that we should have no other gods beside the One True God. In the Ancient Near East, this commandment was a little more tangible. Your neighbours, the tribe just over the hill, likely had a God for everything. Fertility problems? Try Min of Eqypt. Trouble with your tomatoes? Osiris. Heading to war? Horus (weirdly also the god of childbirth). Thing’s a little chaotic? Try Seth (actually, I think he brought chaos, but the page I looked at is not clear).

Imagine how unfair it must have seemed to the Israelites to be surrounded by people with a god for every occasion and be left with only One God. As a rule, whenever someone offers you the “one solution” to all your problems we should become appropriately suspicious. It just seems more practical to twin specific problems with specific solutions rather than imagine that one thing is going to be able to do it for us. The first commandment, however, is the reminder that in the world of God, we are meant to travel light.

So just as the twelve were sent out with no bread, no bag, no money, and no extra tunic, they were also sent out without Baal, Min, Horus and the rest. They were to be totally dependent on the One True God, not a Swiss Army Knife of divinities to keep them from harm.

As messages go, “be dependent” may be the toughest one to sell in this society. We spend childhood moving from dependence to independence, we hear the message from every side to forge your own path and set your own goals and be your own person. But here, within these walls, the message is quite different: be the person God wants you to be, follow in the way of Jesus Christ, let the Spirit guide you. This is what it means to be dependent on God—not helpless—but open: open to the idea that God will give you what you need to make your way in the world.

So find a staff, some sturdy sandals, put on your best Sunday tunic and go with God! Amen.