Rooted and Grounded, Paul’s Love Poem

Sun-Sky-Quote-Picture

Click here for the audio file~09031901

I had to take this scripture into myself this weekend. To let it work on me, to feel the poetry of it. The kneeling, the bowing, the praying, the astonished heart of one who has been overcome by the fullness of God, of God’s love. This text reads like a love poem to the Damascus road experience. The astonishing moment where a bright light shines lovingly on all the dark and hidden corners of one’s soul and changes everything. This river of grace and love which flowed through Saul the persecutor changing him, altering him forever; breaking open his heart, enlightening his eyes, drawing forth love and compassion from one who was, who had been a persecutor.

And then he is no longer that, but something new. Love paints all things with a new light and his life is transformed. One might wonder if Paul ever regretted it, this move from wealthy pharisee with political power and prestige to hunted revolutionary speaking and preaching the gospel of Jesus to a hurting and lost world. But if we wonder then perhaps we have missed the love poem written in this text. So many years after the Damascus road incident, so many years and experiences later, Paul writes:

Kneeling before the Father,
The archetypal father from whom all fathers
On earth or in heaven (perhaps even the third heaven but who can say? In the body or out.)
Take their name

And I

I only a simple child
Moved by the love of the Father
Moved by the love which,
Is beyond my knowledge

Yet

Somehow I feel
A new experience
An abundance of glory
(can you not feel it? )
This then
Is the love of the Father

A love which has no height
No depth
No width nor circumference
With which to contain it.

(can you not feel it?)

An abundance of glory, an earth shattering, life changing, unexplainable fullness of God. All these years after Damascus and he’s still in love with God. Paul is given to some rebukes in his writing; he is given to some self promotion, but mostly, he is given to love and surrender for the sake of the gospel. And Paul knows that this is not an easy love, it is not a comfortable love but one which will change you, which will shake up your life and take you to places you cannot at this time imagine. Even as he prays that we too might have the experience of God’s love he also prays,

But be strengthened
Be rooted and grounded
In love
Because you’re going to need it
Because this love,
It will change everything and change is hard
Even when it’s good.

(Love lives in your heart now, can you feel it?)

Be strengthened
In your inmost being
In the depths of the dark inside places
Of your soul.
Be strengthened
Because hope grows.
A new light
A new potential
Future possibilities expand
And
Love says yes
Be strengthened
Because your heart
Just might break open
To wondrous new possibilities
And you may find yourself
Opening up to impossible people
And impossible situations
Which are quite possible now

(how cool is this? But do you dare believe it?)

Paul who had been Saul, who had been replete with all the signs of success that one might hope for in his day, must have spent a lot of time shaking his head, wondering how he came to be in the places he ended up. How did this upright pharisee end up running from the law, hanging precariously in a basket as it was lowered down the city walls. How did he end up shipwrecked on an island. How did he end up in prison? He must have been shaking his head in wonder at times, because no matter how bad it got, it was better than anything he had ever known. It was a fullness of God’s presence, of God’s love, of God’s Spirit that he could not put into words. It was the love of God in Jesus Christ which he could not contain, could not encapsulate such that he could somehow convey it.

It was beyond the height, the depth, the width or length, of anything he could hold up and show. It was uncontainable, this love which flowed through his veins and remade him, which rebirthed him, a whole new creation.

Paul threw it all away. All of his privilege and his influence, his respectable position in society. All gone. He was no catepillar refusing to become a butterfly, creeping around on all those legs, staying safe and remaining in all that he knew. He threw it all away, entered the chaos of the chrysalis and was reborn, remade, because this uncontainable, unknowable love shattered every preconception and expectation that he had. And in this love poem that is our Ephesians text he prays the same for us. “In the abundance of his glory may he, through his Spirit, enable you to grow firm in power with regard to your inner self, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith.”

In the abundance of his glory, that unrestrained, indomitable, life-changing, life-altering glory, which no person can witness and not be changed by-

Be Changed! Grow firm and strong, be brave, so very brave, because this will change everything; it will take you to new places and new roles, new positions in society, it will change everything!

This is no prosperity gospel! This is not a promise that if you believe God will give you everything you ever wanted, but rather that God will fill you with good thing you’ve never even considered, never imagined, never even knew you needed. You may find yourself dangling from the city walls in a basket, on the run from the police because you fed the homeless, because you protested the violence, because you stood with those who suffer and demanded justice. You may find yourself walking away from a life of prestige and privilege and yet feeling somehow deeply fulfilled and not lacking anything at all.

But it is an act of bravery, an act of trust to open one’s heart so fully to Jesus. To surrender so deeply and let God remake you. Because, if you are like me, then you know what it is to say, ‘I have plans. I know where I’m going and I know what I want to achieve, so the sooner God gets on board with my plans, the better we will get along.” It’s an act of bravery to let go of our expectations, our hopes and dreams and let God bring something new and unknown into our hearts.

I wonder if you will try something with me. Hold your hands out and clench your fist tight. White knuckle it for a moment. All that God longs to give you, the goodness and abundant life that Jesus came that we might have, is not something that God will force upon us. Go ahead and release your fists, turn your hands over, palms up, feel the openness, the release, the surrender of an outstretched hand, an open palm.

When Saul was riding down that Damascus road he was holding tightly to all he knew. He was a white knuckle pharisee, trying his very best to do every right and correct thing. He was in control, till God knocked him for a loop, unseated him, and offered him an opportunity for growth. Paul, courageously opened his heart, released his grip, and surrendered. God does not pry our hands loose but offers us opportunity, after opportunity. The pain of a tight-fisted grip on life is unnecessary and therefore sad and painful. God asks only that we will release our grip on our preconceptions, our plans, our insistence on safety and being right, and let God fill our surrendered, up-turned palms with good things!

God longs to fill our lives with good things, with a rich, full, abundant life. Jesus looking down over Jerusalem, that city which kills its prophets, where he would meet his own death, was filled with compassion. “If I could,” he said, “I would take you all under my wing, like a mother hen.” If you will let me, I will love you, I will care for you. What more do we really want, than to know we are loved, we are accepted, we belong?

Glory be to him who, working within us, can do infinitely more, than we can ask or imagine. Infinitely more, and yet we struggle to allow this, to let go of our plans, but Paul says, let go, let God work within you. It will be more and greater than anything you could ever imagine! It will bring you to places you never thought you would be, you never thought possible! Infinitely more. Just let that sink in. God will do infinitely more than you can imagine.

But be filled with the fullness of God, that incomprehensible, life-changing, life-altering love and then watch what happens!
God who is at work within us,
will not abandon us,
will walk with us as we go,
leading us, bringing us to a new land,
a new way of being.

This new way of being that is not rooted in fear and self protection, but is rooted and grounded in love. It is not rooted in white knuckle sobriety or propriety, but in deep surrender, faith, and trust in the One who loves us. This new way of being that insists we be rooted and grounded in love, that we act with love, that we open ourselves up to love, that we release our fear-based grip and allow God to fill our lives with good things.

Paul, in his deep-rooted love, in the rich abundance that has flowed into his heart and soul, changing him, taking him to unimaginable places, opens his heart with deep compassion for the church, for that beleaguered, struggling community and he prays:

Kneeling before the Father, from whom every fatherhood in heaven or on earth takes its name: in the abundance of his glory may he, through his Spirit, enable you to grow firm in power with regard to your inner selves, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith and then, planted in love and built on love, with all God’s holy people you will have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth, so that knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge, you may be filled with the utter fullness of God.

Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever amen

This prayer, this love poem, it is our prayer, is our love poem to God, to one another. May we be rooted and grounded in love, may we speak with love, may we act with love, and may we be strengthened in our inner selves, may we have the courage to release our tight-fisted, fear based grip and allow God’s grace and love to flow through our veins, remaking us, re-birthing us, making us a new creation, that God might look down upon us and say, “I’ve got kin in that body.” May God who can do infinitely more than we can ever imagine forgive our fear and continue to work within us, remaking us, reforming us into the body of Christ.

Amen

Feeding All of God’s People

cafe reconcile

 

Click here to hear the sermon~09031201

 

He knew they were tired. The disciples had just returned from the first ever mission trip. But Jesus could not turn away from the crowd which gathered, which appeared lost and desparately seeking some source of sustenance, of authority, of nurturing. And seeing their need, their seeking and their asking, he had compassion, he was moved in his guts with empathy, he could not turn away.

 

It was almost too much, these apostles whom he sent out to proclaim the good word, to heal and to serve, to be caretakers, they were tired, and yet when he sees this crowd, he responds immediately. He turns to them, cares for them, teaches them. And when they get hungry and his disciples, who, let’s face it were tired and hungry themselves (oh how they their hearts must have leapt when he first suggested they move off to a lonely place, to rest and rejuvenate!), tired as they were, they must serve and heal, and care for others again. Right now. Urgently, respond. They must have been so deflated.

 

Imagine that moment when you have worked hard all day, meeting people’s needs, helping them, hearing them out and you know they are going to be getting hungry very soon and you say to your boss. “Let’s call it a day, before they get hungry and cranky and irritable. Let’s send them away so they can feed themselves.” And your boss, your teacher, the one you admire so much says, “You feed them.” Wow. It’s not as if you haven’t worked hard all day, and now he asks the impossible.

 

Yet, the disciples know too what it is to be lost, to be frightened and to be desparate. Alone on the sea, after feeding this huge crowd, they too cried out, and again Jesus , moved with compassion, responded. Our text tells us that he “intended to pass on by” but hearing them, seeing their lostness, their fear, their seeking and their crying out, he could not refuse them. Our text also says, they did not understand because their hearts were hard. What is it about our human nature that helps us to see our need while failing to see the needs of others? It’s a very human thing to do.

 

Our Ephesians text deals with just this type of hardness; that of self selecting our own kin, of seeing the needs of those like us and for us. Last week as I wandered through the streets of New Orleans I wondered what Jesus would see differently than I did.

 

It might have gone something like this: As Jesus walked through the city of New Orleans there were many people of many different tribes. They were tattooed and wore little clothing. Some slept outside in the parks and washed themselves in the fountains. They were brown and white, some with close cropped hair, others with long dreds hanging down their back, still others wore their hair braided or in long luscious locks, each according to the custom of their people. Jesus walked among them without regard to these divisions, speaking, healing and teaching as the need directed him. If his disciples had been there they might have wondered, why would he speak to such as these? Yet when they themselves were lost and scared, they would cry out, and Jesus would answer them, assuring them that all is well, God is still in charge, and things will turn out OK.

 

If you have traveled much you know the need of keeping one’s eyes away from other eyes, especially those belonging to people holding cardboard signs. Just as, if you have lived in a touristy area, you learn to spot the tourist quickly and avoid any unnecessary entanglements. We learn early to protect ourselves and our resources.

 

But…Jesus calls us to another way of being. See one another, he asks, feed one another, he commands, care for one another.

 

This last week I visited a place called Café Reconcile. It is in what used to be called the murder capital of the US, according to a member of their board. On the corner where the Café is located an old pay phone used to hang. It was the phone drug dealers and pimps would use to conduct their business. But not today. Today it is a place of hope, a place of promising futures, of health and wholeness, of new beginnings.

 

Walking up the roads to Café Reconcile is a bit of a stretch for an upper middle class white woman. I walked past lovely houses which were in horrible states of disrepair. One of them bore a grafitti stating , “No one cared,” not so much grafitti as a cry for help, a cry for caring. As my daughter and I walked by it brought up instant reflections on the Matthew’s farmhouse where we live. We care. And it is only because we care and John cares, and other family cares, that the farmhouse is still standing. Because we care. And in the middle of this poor neighborhood, a black neighborhood which borders on the wealthier white neighborhood, the grafitti calls out, “Will no one care?” And this touches my daughter and I especially because we care, we care that the Matthew’s farm and cemetary be saved. We care that this old historical house, with all its history, be saved. And so we walk by this grafitti on this gracious old house, with its windos knocked out and the walls rotting, with our hearts on our sleeves, talking to one another about how one person, with a power drill and some determination, might care. We walk by another house, large enough to house at least two generations if not three, but it’s roof had collapsed against the brick and plaster front wall. Does no one care if this family is left on the street?

 

But one walks on, avoiding eye contact with the black men in lawn chairs seated in the shade on the corner. Because it’s scary and it’s different and to be honest, I’m the circumcised, circumspect, grade a approved american citizen and they are not, and I feel this difference in every wondering stare that greets me as I walk down these streets. Do I need to say more? In a country where the risk of being killed is 18 times greater if one is black than white? (Feed them, Jesus says, but I, scared and frightened, walk by, avoiding eye contact).

 

But then, woohoo! We made it to Café Reconcile. Which today feels like the domain of white people trying to do good in a black neighborhood! Safe! At least, it feels that way. Here black youth hold open the door and greet me eagerly, guide me to a table and serve me a delicious meal.

 

OK, let me be honest. I know these are youth, scared and excited and hopeful; hopeful that they too might share in the economic safety and growth that I was born to, but I want to know them. And I want to feel good about this, because I know that the huge tourist industry, which crowds the streets of the french quarter, and which pays for lap dances on Bourbon street, or cheap Mardi Gras masks at every other venue, won’t venture down into this neighborhood, so I want to pat myself on the back….but I can’t.

 

I can’t because, even as I see these wonderful, incredible young people, who are just beginning to seek out a better future, I know I am one of those people who would avoid eye contact with any of them if I met them on the street. I know that I am one of those people who would be scared if a group of them approached me on the street. Like the Ephesians, I am scared of people who are different, and like the disciples, I cannot believe that Jesus would ask me to feed this crowd…but, that’s what he asks me to do. It’s what he asks you to do.

 

Sitting at the table, in the Café with the board member, I hear her say, “Some people think that coming here and eating a meal is a fair way to support our work but it isn’t. It doesn’t begin to cover our costs.

 

Feed my sheep! Jesus said, and how could I not? How can we not? All around us are youth who see an impoverished future waiting for them. How can we not help them out? Some part of us wants to say, “Well, if they worked harder, if they were willing to make the sacrifices I made, if , if, if..” but all that does is excuse us from our own venture, our own risk of caring for the other. Jesus stands before us saying, “Well, you feed them.”

 

It does not excuse us from seeking the safety of a white place with white rules where brown and black youth serve us with the hope that they might be cared for, that they too, might matter. It is so easy, for me, for others to simply see these smiling young faces and feel as if we have done enough, but if we allow that to be enough, then we have failed to follow Christ, we have failed to join him in the response to such grave need. “For he intended to pass them by’ and perhaps seek some well deserved time off and perhaps take a breathe, just one breathe that wasn’t dedicated to serving someone else, but he heard their cries and out of deep need he responded; out of deep need and deep caring, he responded. He had compassion and so should we.

 

Do we feel God responding to our need? When we cry out, and we are frightened, and we are scared, do we feel the rising of the spirit in God’s community? And are we willing to be that response? Are we willing to be that response to those who do not look like us? Who are not the “appropriate” people to care about? Are we willing to be the answer to those who cry out, “No One Cared”? are we brave enough to care?

 

A couple years ago a wonderful ministry was begun in Bend Oregon to feed the homeless people. It was called Common Table and the theology that began it was one that said justice is not the receiving of scraps from the table, but an invitation to the table, and as such everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, was invited to share the same meal at the same table. When I visited I would sometimes pass homeless youth on the streets begging for money, hoping to spend a night in a hotel instead of outside in the cold, in temperatures cold enough to kill, but then, moments later, I would be sharing a sumptous meal with them at Common Table.

 

It isn’t really enough, but it’s something. White people, doing good, in a black neighborhood, those who have sitting side by side with those who don’t have, and sometimes, yes, trying to absolve themselves of some guilt in the process, but still, trying to do some good. We see the writing on the wall, does anyone care? And we must respond, no matter how tired we are, that we care, that we will give of what we have, and yes, we really, really, care. Even when it’s outside of our safety zone, we care.

 

We will not be reconciled to those who our society disregards simply with a meal or a smile, a simple hello or how do? We will be reconciled with the disempowered and disenfranchised, the disregarded when we participate in their struggle to be seen, to have a voice, to make possible a brighter future. There is no simple solution but there is a call to participate, to identify those systems which continue to oppress others and to help break through these systems to a better way of being.

 

Jesus did not tell his disciples, “Well, tell them you’re sorry they have nothing to eat and tell them you’ll pray for them. Wish them well and then let’s move on.” No, he said, “You feed them.” And so we stand challenged to pull together what resources we have, even if they seem too small, and set about feeding God’s beloved people. Does anyone care? We do. We do because God cares for us, because God has changed our lives, because God asks us to care. We do. We care. Go forth and love my people, Jesus said, go and love them and heal them, bring them a word of grace and love, feed them. And so we shall, even if all we have is five loaves and two fish.

 

 

Seeing the blessing, being the blessing

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Audio File~09022601

The weaker I get, the stronger I become. And there the Spirit goes again, inverting our understanding, turning everything up.side.down. Does it ever feel like we will never get it right? I go to the gym pretty frequently. I lift and I enjoy getting stronger and here Paul goes saying, my handicap is my blessing, is my gift, to keep me in touch with my deep need of God and God’s grace. I don’t want to be weak or handicapped! I want to be strong and smart and successful! That is what we are supposed to want right?

But Paul calls us out. We are not here to live and be for ourselves. Paul goes a little beyond the spirit of Ubuntu that we have been speaking about; that spirit of “I cannot be well if my brother, if my sister is not well.” Paul goes further. Glory in your weakness, because it is through this that God will speak, it is through this that God will work. Most of us have experienced that it is through sharing our stories, through acknowledging our own faults and weaknesses that we become connected to one another. A friend of mine once said that a hallmark of a healthy community is that when we acknowledge our faults, our weaknesses, our baggage, that someone present will say, “yeah, me too.” We do not connect to one another through our perfections, through our strength, which is lucky for someone like me. We connect through the fullness of our stories and in 2nd Corinthians, Paul does just that.

This community had gone off the path. They had begun to long to be the big steeple church, the one with the biggest numbers, the biggest crowd and the biggest social standing. We all know churches like that. We study them in seminary as even seminary professors sometimes long for those “glory days” of Christendom—but, is this who we are called to be?

This text is Paul playing at court jester, calling himself a fool and in the nature of a court jester he is calling out those in power; those who feel they are beyond and above the criticism because they have, in one way or another, made it. They are the big, the powerful, the moneyed. For Paul, they are the “super-apostles,” sort of sounds like a comic book story doesn’t it? The super-apostles have come to save the day! All we need do is follow them…except, that we are called to follow Christ. In our bible study over the last few weeks we have talked about the need to seek out that which points towards Christ and not confuse it with Christ. Like a finger pointing to the moon we don’t want to focus on the finger, but see and appreciate the moon. But it feels safer and more secure sometimes, to turn our conscience over to the care of those who know. There is something scary and unsettleing about having to look and see on one’s own. If there is some charismatic person to tell us the answer, to suggest which way we ought to go, well that’s easier.

Or perhaps there is some program, something that other churches are doing that is bringing in the people. One of the bigger cowboy churches began featuring bull riding recently. It seems the pastor had decided that riding a bull was just as powerful as giving a good sermon. I hope you all aren’t expecting that! Talk about your super-apostles!

The weaker I am, the stronger I become. No super-apostles here. We are called instead to a life of humility and self-giving. When Paul does brag about his strength, his accomplishments, he talks about the community of believers lowering him in a basket from the city walls. He talks about God working through ordinary people to subvert the powers that be. He talks about being in a very vulnerable and dependent situation. This is not the way of the world.

We are drawn to largess, to a certain majesty and power of position; this is the way of the world. This is the way we avoid our vulnerability. This is the way we avoid our complete and utter dependence upon God.

500 some odd years ago the poet Hafiz wrote:

Don’t surrender

Your loneliness so quickly.

Let it cut more

Deep.

Let it ferment and season you

As few human

Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight,

Has made my eyes so soft,

My voice so tender,

My need of God

Absolutely

Clear.

It is in seeing and knowing our brokenness that we are brought face to face with our inescapable need of God. It is in opening our hearts in true humility, in a childlike honesty, that we begin to grow, to learn, to change. How often do we pray that we might be conformed to the way of God but in our minds we already have a vision of what that ought to look like, we think we know and we aren’t really open to whatever God wants of us. We are open instead to what we have already decided God should want of us.

Outside of Eli Minnesota there is a dirt logging road that leads through the woods, a couple hundred miles to the great lakes. On the outskirts of town a sign on the road says, “Choose your rut carefully, you’re going to be in for quite a while.” How often are we set in these ruts before we are even aware of them? How often do we soak up cultural biases and prejudices, certain expectations, without even being aware that we have done this, are doing this? How often do we get a chance to step outside of ourselves and see ourselves? See how we are living, what we have accepted as normal and acceptable without any ability to think about it critically?

But along comes Paul and says, “Hey you, you think you know what you are supposed to be doing, what you are supposed to be accomplishing, but I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. I’m here to tell you that in your weakness, not in your strength, not in your accomplishments, not in your advanced degrees or fancy houses, not in your great speeches or sermons, not in your fancy cars, or good jobs, not in your fancy credentials or any other thing you can imagine, will you be made great. Only in God, only in surrender, only in humility and self-giving, only then will you be made great. This is the way of Christ. Not one of authority or power, not one of greatness as the world would see, but only through giving of oneself in all humility. Only through Christ.”

The world tells us we must be strong and mighty, we must be successful and grand. But Paul reminds us that God’s grace is sufficient. End. Stop. Period. Nothing else need follow. We are so given to seeking our own safety that it is hard for us to stop. This is the rut we began in. Is it the one we want to continue in? Achieve, earn, be the best student, the funniest, the prettiest, the best athlete, only be something! be something. Is this the track we are supposed to be on? The rut we are supposed to be stuck in? The word that is used in the text for perfect is teleos, as in finished, complete, mature, the end, teleology. Perhaps our maturity, our completeness is found in making peace with our weaknesses and faults, in surrendering and accepting our deep, deep need, our utter reliance on Christ? Perhaps it means learning to rely not on ourselves but increasingly on God’s grace, which we are promised, will be, is, sufficient.

These two scriptures are paired together in the lectionary and this suggests that there is a connection to be made. Both Paul and Jesus are facing rejection, are being judged as not quite good enough, too common, too ordinary. In our gospel today we see Jesus faltering a bit, missing the mark. This is a different Jesus than we are used to seeing. This one doesn’t know who just touched him, this one can’t accomplish much in a town where few people believe. Where does Mark get off showing us this portrayal of Jesus? And what does it mean for us that Jesus, early in his ministry, sometimes seems to be shaking his head, wondering “how can they not see?” What does this say to us as we struggle not really to understand Paul, because he is very clear as he defends himself against the implications that he himself is not enough but to live as if we are enough?

If Paul has been replaced by these glamorous super-apostles, the new in-crowd, Jesus is in his hometown, the place where he used to run up and down the streets like any other child. The place where he used to get in trouble for staying out too late and being too loud. How can he have any significance? And it’s not like the people of his hometown are unaware that he is healing people; they recognize the power, they just doubt the source. It is too great, too unimaginable that God would work through the common, the ordinary. They are too familiar with Jesus to actually see him. Their biases and understanding of who he is and what he might be were established long ago when he was just one more kid running the streets. Perhaps Mark shows us another Jesus in order to ask us if we too are too familiar with him. Can we see Jesus for who he really is?

Perhaps if Jesus had been a super-apostle! Then it might all have made sense, but he is too ordinary, too usual, and how can God have anything to do with that? The sheer potentiality, the possibility that Jesus is, is caught up with fierce trust, fierce faith, with our participation. Isn’t that incredible? Jesus isn’t able to do much without their faith, without their belief, and what about our faith, our belief? How often do our expectations keep us from seeing the miracle that is there for us, the gift in the ordinary blessings? When we name the blessing around us, recognize and name that which is sacred we make our whole lives holy. We invite others into the sacred by our recognition of the holy. Today’s text reminds us that when we limit our expectations to the everyday and ordinary we limit our ability to receive grace, to receive the blessing that is all around us.

We have a God who does not force himself upon us. A God who stands at the door and knocks, who does not impose himself upon us. We have a God who participates in our hopes, dreams, fears, and loneliness. We have a God who does not hold himself separate or apart from us, but one who weeps with us, one who sings, dances, laughs with us too!

What does all this say to us and our craving for safety and social standing, for achievement and success? What does this mean for churches that long for their glory days, to sustain themselves in all their worldly influence, and what does it mean for churches that long to be a part of change in the world, even at the cost of sustainability, glory and influence? What would it mean for us to be humble and assume the servant role? What would it mean for us to participate in the hopes, fears and dreams of the people around us, how are we doing this? This is an invitation to participate that involves the manifestation of the kingdom.

We are given a word, but this word is not just for us, but for all people. We have been blessed that we might be a blessing to all people, to all nations. This blessing is not just for us but for the whole world. We have this gift, this incredible gift, but we can only keep it by participating in it. Like love itself, it only survives when it is given away.

It is in weakness, not strength, that we are blessed. It is in vulnerability and a tender, compassionate heart, that we draw closer to God, and are a blessing to others. May our hearts and our minds be open today, that we might see the prophets and the blessings all around us, that they might call us into being the people of God we were created to be, that we might be a blessing to all people and live fully into our identity as children of God.