Sunday, July 17, 2022

Year C Proper 11 2022 Marthas and Marys

 Year C Proper 11, 17 July 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Marthas and Marys”

Collect: Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Luke 10:38-42

As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

Mary and Martha. A story like the Prodigal Son, or the Good Samaritan, they have become a cautionary tale unto themselves beyond the biblical narrative. Mary: good. Martha: bad. Mary: lovingly attentive. Martha: distractedly obtuse. 

I feel for the Marthas. They get a bad rap. Whether you are watching The Handmaid’s Tale, where the enforced servants are called Marthas (taken from this story, by the way), or just seen as tattling drudgers. Marthas in this context have it almost as bad as the horrible slander Karen in our modern day. All the Karens I know are pretty great, and always wince when I hear folks use that term as derogatory.

When Martha comes to Jesus, she is seen as missing the point. She is busy fussing, wanting to do the odd details instead of learning from the teacher like Mary is doing.

"Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." 

Now there is so much to unpack in her lament. Mary should be doing womens’ work, not lazing at your feet. Mary should do her share, instead of me alone. Mary, Mary, Mary! (Kind of like Marsha, Marsha, Marsha! from the Brady Bunch.)

But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

Worries and Distractions are what I want to focus on today. Somewhere along the way we have stopped having the main thing be the main thing. What is in the Driver’s Seat in your life? In mine?

Worries and Distractions can be oppositional to what we really want. They often are.

When I taught school, one of my favorite books to read with the students was The Book of the Dun Cow, a fantasy novel from the 1970s by Walter Wangerin, Jr. One part always confused the young readers.

The nanny/housekeeper of the main character has lost her charges. The three youngsters of the house were always running away and pranking the nanny, and it drove her crazy. Her anxiety was off the charts when they did this, and at one point in the story they do it again. And rather than hunt them down, as she normally does, she starts talking to herself. She scolds them and nags them under her breath, even though they are not there. Then she starts fixating and cleaning the house meticulously. In the meantime they could use her aid, but this one time she chooses not to give into their shenanigans. She spends an hour cleaning instead of chasing them down.

At this point in reading the book, one student would always raise their hand and say, “She would never do that!” And I have to let this young idealist know that often as adults, we focus on things we can control instead of the deep worry that we cannot.

Often I will get a phone call from someone hurting with a complaint. They make it much bigger than what it is. And I have to remind myself that the thing they really want removed/taken care of/forgotten is beyond their control, so they clamp down and try to control the things that they can. Or they come to me with complaints, knowing that I am safe to dump on because they are hurting over something else. We are strange and unreflective creatures, at times.

Jesus calls Martha on this. She is worried and distracted. Jesus sees that. She cannot control her anxieties, her frets. So she tries to control her sister, and she goes to Jesus to help her triangle with Jesus to get Mary to do something. It is not about Mary. It is not about work. It is about Martha's worries and her attempts to alleviate herself from them by these distractions and unimportant prioritized details.

Looking at what worries and distracts me, I am too often a Martha. I want to be a Mary, but those distractions and worries get the best of us at times.


Like Paul McCartney sang in his song Distractions:

Distractions, like butterflies are buzzing 'round my head.

When I'm alone I think of you

And the things we'd do if we could only be through

With these distractions, like butterflies they're

Buzzing 'round my head, when I'm alone I think of you

And the life we'd lead if we could only be free

From these distractions.

Whether that is a romantic relationship, or our spiritual lives in God, the affairs of this world pull us away from our primary relationship. The relationship from which our souls are breathed into existence, the relationship that will welcome us home when all these distractions have come to close with our bodily death.

We live in an age of distraction. We have become addicted to our phones and our channels. It has only gotten worse. We cannot come close to being a Mary when we cannot even follow the invective from the Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”

Oh, that I could just breathe that in all day.

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Or, “Be still and know that I am…” 

Or, “Be still and know…”

Or just, “Be still…”

I think God would be most pleased if we could get it down to “Be…”

And about that time I would pick up my phone and bust it all again. Alas.

In fact I would invite us now, to take a pause. To sit here, at Jesus’ feet metaphorically anyway, for a spell and just be with God. Let’s pause now. Close your eyes and picture just being in Jesus’ presence.

I hope you were able to let those Martha worries and those Martha distractions go for even just a minute. 

It may have been harder than you thought. I know for me, that daily ritual of pausing and being still depends so much on my attitude as I enter into it. Is my time with Jesus something I “need to do,” or is it something that I am privileged to do? Something God is inviting and begging me to do daily? Is this time a gift, a luxury in our hurried and busy world?

Am I a Mary or a Martha? Am I distracted and worried, or do I pause and savor this opportunity to be with the one who loves me more and knows more about me than anyone else?

Being relished in overwhelming love is Grace, and we all could use more of that. I hope you will take some time this week, and hopefully daily, to just “Be still and know that God is God.” Or at the very least, to just “Be.”

God help us all. Amen

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Year C Proper 10 WED 2022 God's Love

 Year C Proper 10 WEDNESDAY, 13 July 2022

St. James the Less, Ashland, VA 

“God's Love”

Collect: O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Romans 11:25-36

So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters,* I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

‘Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;

   he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’

‘And this is my covenant with them,

   when I take away their sins.’

As regards the gospel they are enemies of God* for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now* receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!

‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?

   Or who has been his counsellor?’

‘Or who has given a gift to him,

   to receive a gift in return?’

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.

Matthew 25:31-46

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

Just a few quick thoughts this morning. God is God. We are not. Duh! It is obvious, but in the Romans reading and in the Gospel from Matthew, we are told who is on the Lord’s side, and who is not.

Romans speaks to how God will welcome and redeem all of Israel, even though the hearts of many were hardened.

Then in the Gospel, we are shown how the ones who are gracious and giving, showing mercy, are the redeemed and those, even the ones claiming the Son of Man, that did nothing did not know him and are sent away. It was the claiming without transformation that I see as the problem here.

Tucked into our Romans reading was this little phrase about the love of God: “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable. What God has done is done. And God’s Love cannot, will not, be taken away.

I so love that.

I have sat with people in their final days and hours who have fretted that they were not good with God. So much of my theology, which has shifted dramatically over the decades by the way, comes back to this. 

  • God’s love is here. We are beloved of God. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

  • God’s love is irrevocable. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

  • God’s love is eternal. “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

There are times and places that I am not feeling that. It happens to all of us. But when I get still and quiet, that calm voice reminds me of these things. God’s love is here. God’s love is irrevocable. God’s love never ends. If I say any more I will mess it up. Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Year C Proper 10 2022 Be Merciful

 Year C Proper 10,  July 10 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Be Merciful”

Collect: O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Amos 7:7-17

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said,

"See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; 

I will never again pass them by;

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,

and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,

and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword."

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said,

`Jeroboam shall die by the sword,

and Israel must go into exile

away from his land.'"

And Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom."

Then Amos answered Amaziah, "I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, `Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'

"Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.

You say, `Do not prophesy against Israel,

and do not preach against the house of Isaac.'

Therefore thus says the Lord:

`Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,

and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,

and your land shall be parceled out by line;

you yourself shall die in an unclean land,

and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'"

Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

When I was learning to drive, I remember well what my teacher taught us. Always be on the lookout. You might be following all the rules, following the proper “right of way,” but the other driver may not be. You might be “right” but you could be dead wrong depending on the other person, emphasis on dead. That is defensive driving. Do the right thing at all times. But the right thing in that moment may not be the “proper” thing at all. If you claim the right of way when an 18 wheeler is not, you might be right and you might be flattened simultaneously.

Doing what is correct, and doing what is right can sometimes not be the same thing. I know it is not the first thing that comes to mind, but it is true.

We read the story of the Good Samaritan, and we see that the Samaritan showed mercy, and we praise him. By the transitive axiom of equality, the other two, who passed by on the other side, were in the wrong. Jesus’ story is about that conflict of what is correct and proper, and true Goodness. Kingdom of God goodness, which often goes against the norms and expectations of society.

The priest and the Levite passed the man. Now by touching a wounded man they would have been ritually unclean and would need to be purified before performing any functions. Now the wounded man was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho. It is about thirty miles of nothing. I have ridden on that road. They paved over the dirt path that had been the connector for thousands of years. This wilderness between the two is still there. It is where the Temptation of Jesus took place. Looking down from the heights of Jerusalem, you can actually see the shimmering Dead Sea, and Jericho is just above where the Jordan River flows into this lowest point on earth. It would have been a road well known to the Galileans who would travel that way to go up to the Temple.

If the priest and Levite were going up to Jerusalem, if they had stopped to assist the wounded man, then they would have been unclean, and would not have been able to perform their duties at the Temple. This would potentially have been a very rare honor that they would have missed. But even if it was not, society’s norms would not have allowed them to touch the man.

And then we have the other extreme. Society’s norms surrounding Samaritans. They had been left behind during the Babylonian Exile, and had interbred with the folks who had come in. They were despised religiously and culturally. And they were seen as “less than” by the powers that be.

Now remember, this is a parable, a story that teaches from Jesus. And it was a lawyer who had asked about “inheriting eternal life.” Jesus tells this story about breaking the “rules,” those cultural norms that bind us from being gracious. And after the telling of this tale, Jesus asks the lawyer this self-apparent question.

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Even the lawyer, knowing all the “correct” things, must answer that the Samaritan, the unclean and despised class or race of Samaritans, was more loving according to the commandment of loving the neighbor than the two professional religious folks. It is a story of extremes to point out the differences and truth.

This is another example of the Great Reversal, the last being first and the first being last. The Unclean are more Righteous than the Clean. And Jesus tells us to go and do likewise.

Do what is right and good and true, and let go of the Correct and Proper.

These days we are going to be tested, and there are accusations flying over what is right and good and true. We have lost our way, and have forgotten what truth is.

Remember it was Pilate who asked Jesus, “What is Truth?” The Spirit is what is in us to discern the right and good and true.

Jesus summed it up with which one was the neighbor to the wounded man. The lawyer’s response was the one who showed mercy. Jesus affirmed this.

What we do and what we say is so important. Our actions must let the love of God and neighbor come out. Our words speak what is right. Here is a way to look at that. You may have seen the slogan going around, to T.H.I.N.K. before we speak. T- H- I- N- K before we speak. Before we open our mouths, ponder if what is about to come out is all five of these things. Is it True; is it Helpful; is it Inspiring; is it Necessary; is it Kind? True-Helpful-Inspiring-Necessary-Kind. This is a secular way to look at what we are talking about today.

For me, in the language I use and the way my mind thinks, I use these filters. 

  • Where is the Good News in this?

  • Is this loving?

  • How do we get to Grace?

We need more Grace. We need more Love. We definitely need Good News to be good.

In our Amos reading, Amos uses the metaphor of the plumb line. A plumb line is one of the simplest and easiest tools, and masons still use it because you cannot go wrong. Amos holds a plumb line up to Israel to show that things are not straight, and need to be undone.

Somewhere along the way, many in the Church have gotten the idea that we are here to hold up a plumbline to condemn. But only God can judge. “None are righteous, no not one.” [Romans 3:10] And Jesus teaches us to “Judge not lest we be judged.” [Matthew 7:1] We can call people to righteousness, yes. But it is not our job to condemn anyone. We can invite someone to their better selves, but nagging them usually gets the opposite reaction.

Think of it this way. It is simple physics.

A plumbline is a way to show us when we are off kilter, when we are not on the straight and narrow. But how does it work? Is the plumbline magical? Of course not. The weight is attracted to the largest thing around it. It is attracted to the earth because it is massive and cannot be avoided. The moral universe is much the same way. We are held to the straight and narrow by what we are attracted to the most.

If God is the first priority in our lives, then that is what attracts us most and helps us hold the line to the straight and narrow. Even our word Orthodoxy comes from the Greek for straight belief, like our orthodonture comes from the Greek for straight teeth. Our spiritual plumblines are to hold ourselves to God’s way. 

Why on earth would we expect someone who is attracted to other things be held by what attracts us?

Our job is to make this thing we hold most dear, what attracts us most, so attractive to them that they shift the ground under their feet, and they can set up the plumbline for themselves and get on the path to the straight and narrow.

Jesus did it with the lawyer. “Don’t be fixated on the correct. Show mercy, and that way will be the right way.” That is what gets you eternal life, not by keeping all the etiquette that society demands of us.

A much needed lesson, especially in the living of these days. God help us all. God help us keep the straight and narrow. God help us live out Grace and mercy and love. A very narrow path to tread. May we “Go, and do likewise.” Amen 

Recorded version:

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Year C Independence Day 2022 Getting What We Pray For

 Year C Independence Day (Observed), 3 July 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Getting What We Pray For”

Collect: Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Friends, today we remember and celebrate our freedom. It is hard to discuss our freedom today, with protests in the streets and hearings over insurrections happening. It is apparent that we as a nation have lost our way.

We can no longer agree on what truth is, much less which way to move forward. And the question we, as followers of Christ, must ask ourselves, how do we follow Christ in days like these? 

Give my three people and we would probably have 5 opinions, and maybe an abstention thrown in to boot.

We are in a tough time, but this is nothing new. People are problematic. Groups of people are even worse. Some of the oldest stories ever recorded looked at the problematic nature of ruling and we collectively do not know what exactly it is that we want.

Whether we look at the Tower of Babel in Genesis, or even what we have reduced to Children’s Stories coming from Aesop, the Greek slave and storyteller from around the 5th century BCE. (620-560 BCE) Here is his notorious…

The Frogs Who Wished for a King by Aesop

The Frogs were tired of governing themselves. They had so much freedom that it had spoiled them, and they did nothing but sit around croaking in a bored manner and wishing for a government that could entertain them with the pomp and display of royalty, and rule them in a way to make them know they were being ruled. No milk and water government for them, they declared. So they sent a petition to Jupiter asking for a king.

Jupiter saw what simple and foolish creatures they were, but to keep them quiet and make them think they had a king he threw down a huge log, which fell into the water with a great splash. The Frogs hid themselves among the reeds and grasses, thinking the new king to be some fearful giant. But they soon discovered how tame and peaceable King Log was. In a short time the younger Frogs were using him for a diving platform, while the older Frogs made him a meeting place, where they complained loudly to Jupiter about the government.

To teach the Frogs a lesson the ruler of the gods now sent a Crane to be king of Frogland. The Crane proved to be a very different sort of king from old King Log. He gobbled up the poor Frogs right and left and they soon saw what fools they had been. In mournful croaks they begged Jupiter to take away the cruel tyrant before they should all be destroyed.

"How now!" cried Jupiter "Are you not yet content? You have what you asked for and so you have only yourselves to blame for your misfortunes." [Source: The Aesop for Children]

I have always heard, “Be careful what you pray for. You just might get it.” The frogs in our story wanted a laissez-faire government, until they didn’t. And then a strong hand, till they felt the weight of it.

Sounds too familiar.

But today we prayed for something particular: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace…

If I use that phrase, “maintain our liberties” each of us would prioritize and think of those differently. That is where the rage and fear that is being expressed is coming from these days, especially after recent Supreme Court decisions. What is liberty to some is seen as oppression from another. And vice versa. Where is our hope?

For me it comes from the approach to that phrase, “maintain our liberties.” How are we to do that? Through Grace. “...that we may have Grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace…” 

We give Grace, and we uphold Righteousness and Peace.

Last week, in one of the most heart-wrenching emails I have ever had to send. I had to write to you, the members of the flock in my charge, that someone somewhere was talking about attacking our congregations in our Episcopal church. The Presiding Bishop’s Office felt this credible enough to share with our bishops, and our bishops shared it with us. People were enraged enough to threaten violence over positions we have taken as a church. Our local police felt it important enough to reach out to me directly.

And this is where the price of freedom is shown. We have taken many positions that some see as wrong, because of our values. As a part of the Anglican tradition, we have always chosen the via media, the middle way. We are very protestant and at the same time very Catholic. We are very conservative while at the same time very liberal. We have a common form and a wide range of living our common faith out.

We chose to try and avoid the excesses and violence that took place on the European continent during the Protestant Reformation, to limited success historically, but we tried. One way we attempted to do that was this approach, the via media. 

This “Middle Way” focuses us on the form, and not the underlying beliefs which are a smorgasbord in most congregations, and we have chosen to be okay with that. As homogeneous as the Anglican Church appeared to be culturally, it recognized that the ways and motivations of the human heart, mind, and soul are varied and diverse. And we reside in the comfort of that knowledge and the occasional discomfort of that diversity.

My favorite example of this was Queen Elizabeth’s poem in response to what happens in the Eucharist: is it the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, or is the Spirit in the elements? 

Twas God the Word that spake it,

He took the Bread and brake it:

And what that Word did make it,

That I believe and take it.

She dances through the raindrops so beautifully, stating it is what it is, without straying too far one way or the other. It is what it is. And we, following in the Anglican path of the Via Media, attempt to do the same.

The sad part is in this environment of Black and White/bifurcated thinking, we see that not picking a way is an assumption of compliance or opposition, depending on whether we are given the benefit of the doubt or not. And so often we are not, living in times such as these.

Friends, we are about living out our faith and inviting others to join our path. And whether they do or do not, we are committed to their well-being and personhood. This is so integral to our approach to the faith of Christ that we include these vows in our Baptismal Covenant:

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

I will, with God's help. 

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? I will, with God's help.


This comes from our reason, our tradition, and from Scripture. “There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” [Galatians 3:28]

Friends, we need to voice our opposition to extremes (which may seem extreme in our climate) as too often we are pushed to adhere or be silent. 

Hanging near our front door, a reminder to myself and my family before we step out into the world, is this poem by German theologian the Rev. Martin Niemoeller. He wrote this during the time of the Nazis, but it is a poignant to speak up againts tyranny, but also God’s predilection for the outcast and the vulnerable throughout Scripture.

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me

If on this day we say we celebrate our freedoms, the best thing we can do is to work for and defend the freedom of all. “For freedom Christ has set us free.” [Galatians 5:1]

In my article this week I mention the quote from MLK, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I pray that when I have doubts and worries I am reminded that Justice will out, and that God is in control and will lead us out of any situation if we but follow him. Pray for this nation, and its leaders, ESPECIALLY if you do not like or disagree with them. Pray for wisdom. Pray for blessing. Pray for peace.

Think on it this way, if you hate the pilot of the plane you do not pray for their failure or demise. We are all in it together. Somewhere along the way someone thought it was in their interest to have us think in “Us” and “Them.” As we pray for our nation, may we pray for all of US. The U.S.A. US. And when I forget that, may God forgive me and nudge me back to our collect. 

Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen