Archives for October 2006

I’m blessed, Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 25 (B) – October 29, 2006

(RCL) Jeremiah 31:7-9 or Job 42:1-6, 10-17; Psalm 126 or 34:1-8 (19-22); Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52 

Gospel singer and evangelist Clay Evans sings a song entitled “I’m Blessed.” It’s a great piece about God’s goodness and mercy, always present, always here, through all things. In one verse, Evans soulfully sings:

“If you want to see a miracle,
All you gotta do is just look at me.
I’ve been blessed, I’ve been kept, by goodness and mercy,
Right now, I’ve got the victory.
I’m blessed.”

It’s of note that Evans is African American, born in Tennessee in 1925, who became a leader of the Civil Rights movement. Certainly no small or easy journey.

In today’s gospel reading, we hear another story about a difficult journey. We hear the story of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar.

In the pre-industrial society in which Bartimaeus lived, a beggar was the lowest of the low in the social hierarchy. One can well imagine the pain and suffering he endured. But through it all he somehow managed to maintain his hope, opening him to be in a place where he could call out to Jesus as he passed by. Sitting by the side of the road, Bartimaeus called out, “Jesus, have mercy on me.” But he was sternly ordered by the people in the crowd to be quiet. Yet in hopefulness he persisted, crying out more loudly still, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And Jesus heard. Bartimaeus was healed, made well, to get up and follow Jesus on the way.

As much as we might wish otherwise, our Christian faith does not provide immunity from hard times and struggle. Our churches are filled with people of faith who are suffering through some of life’s most difficult challenges. People who have lost a child or a spouse, people who are battling addictions, people who are loving yet anguished caregivers, people who are fighting life-threatening illnesses, people wracked with worry about their loved ones fighting overseas, people who are trapped in cycles of extreme poverty and oppression. The list is almost endless. It is a sad but true fact that many Christians at some point endure painful, soul-wrenching struggles.

But while our faith cannot prevent us from experiencing these struggles, God’s promise of goodness and mercy can carry us through even the worst of times. The difficulty is maintaining our belief in that promise. The question this morning is therefore, “How can we, as Christians, maintain our belief in God’s goodness and mercy through life’s most painful challenges?”

First and foremost, we can turn to the promises of Holy Scripture. We can find hope in the story of Jesus’ own suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus knows our suffering. He experienced first-hand what it is to suffer, and He knows our pain and suffering. Through God’s continued spiritual union with creation, we can be assured that when we suffer, we are not alone. God suffers with us. Every tear, every heartache, is one also felt by our creator. And we can be assured that God stands in solidarity with us through even the worst of times, whether or not we sense God’s presence. And God gives us hope. Just as Jesus’ crucifixion was not the end of the story, our suffering is not the end of the story either.

Another way we can maintain our belief in God’s goodness and mercy is through prayer. A young seminarian who lost both her parents at an early age shared a way of praying that helped her through the worst of times. She shared that in those most painful of days, she used to sit with her grandmother. Together, they would read the Bible, focusing on two particular passages.

First was the one that follows directly after the Bartimaeus story we heard this morning – the story of Jesus approaching Jerusalem, when he asks two of his disciples to go ahead and find a colt for him, on which they place their cloaks.

The second is Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; 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.”

The woman used these two images together to prayerfully imagine Jesus inviting her to take his yoke of love, in exchange for the heavy load of grief, loss, and doubt that she carried. She pictured releasing the pain she carried, which was placed by Jesus on the back of the young colt in exchange for the yoke of spreading the message of Christ’s love in word and action.

We close this morning with the story Captain Porter. The captain served in the Vietnam War. After an exemplary tour of duty, he was called home. On his last night overseas, he wrote excitedly in a journal about a young nurse from Kansas that he was to see that evening. But then tragedy struck. On his way home, the Captain’s vehicle was attacked, resulting in injuries that left him paralyzed from the neck down. It was twenty years later when a newly ordained priest came across him in an assisted-living facility in New Mexico. He had been living in the facility for nearly two decades, confined to his bed or a wheelchair. The new priest was nervous about meeting the captain. She knew his story, and fully expected to find him bitter and downcast. She wondered how she could be of comfort and offer hope to someone whose promising life had been cut short and severely compromised. It was with some trepidation that she knocked on the door of his room.

Imagine her surprise when he greeted her with eyes that sparkled, expressed his joy at seeing her, and invited her to sit down. The two spoke, and she finally asked how he was able to maintain his faith and optimism. He shared that each night, a caring attendant came in, and together they read a few passages of scripture. Next, she would prop a flashlight up on his nightstand to illuminate the icon of Jesus on the crucifix hanging on his wall. The captain explained that as they gazed at Christ’s image, he and the attendant would recite the Lord’s Prayer together. As he finished his story he looked at the young priest, smiled, and said, “You know, I’ve lived a blessed life.”

One can almost imagine The Rev. Clay Evans singing in the background:

“If you want to see a miracle,
All you gotta do is just look at me.
I’ve been blessed, I’ve been kept, by goodness and mercy,
Right now, I’ve got the victory.
I’m blessed.”

 

— The Rev. Suzanne E. Watson has served as a priest in the Episcopal Dioceses of El Camino Real, San Diego, and Connecticut, and in the Anglican Diocese of the Waikato in New Zealand. She currently serves as a Staff Officer for Congregational Development working with small-membership churches (those with an average Sunday attendance of 70 or less) at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

Jesus tells us that our baptisms have given us power, 20 Pentecost, Proper 24 (B) – 2006

October 22, 2006

(RCL) Job 38:1-7, (34-41) or Isaiah 53:4-12; Psalm 91:9-16 or 104:1-9, 25, 37c; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45 

Sounds like the office doesn’t it? Two up-and-coming members of the team take the boss aside and ask to be made vice presidents. Maybe they thought Jesus had an easy time talking, healing, and feeding. People often assume that a genius is someone who does things without much effort at all. It just happens. They forget that genius is “ten percent inspiration, and ninety percent perspiration.”

Following a great woman or man can be exhilarating. The roar of the crowd, preferential treatment, and adulation rubs off on those who walk in the shadow of the great. This even happens in the church. We’ve all met people who get their excitement and empowerment by being on the vestry or controlling a committee. They see themselves as special, licensed to get away with behavior that would not be tolerated at home or at work.

Jesus’ answer to these two disciples is ironic, perhaps even a little sarcastic. These brothers, nicknamed the “the sons of thunder,” were into power. They wanted Jesus to call down thunderbolts on a group of seemingly disrespectful people. Now they wanted a share of the power Jesus seemed to exercise.

Jesus assures them that they will share his ministry to the full. They will be baptized as he was baptized and drink of the cup from which he will drink.

When the other disciples hear of all this, they are annoyed. Whether their annoyance is at the brothers’ temerity, or whether they had hoped to make a similar request, we are not quite sure. In any event, Jesus goes on to give power a new meaning.

It is important for us all to remember that there is a Christian vocabulary suited for Christian living. More often than not we get into trouble when we give a word its secular meaning when we are supposed to be talking Kingdom language. “Power” is one of those words. Instinctively we translate the word “power” into “force,” or “dominance,” or “oppression.”

On the other hand, using the vocabulary of the world, we translate “servant” or “slave” as one who is oppressed and down-trodden. I’m sure the first Christians had the same trouble. But if we get the vocabulary wrong, we often find ourselves asking for the same sort of “justice” James and John sought. We seek empowerment.

Jesus tells us that our baptisms have given us power — dynamic power — power enough to lay down our lives, and if it is our lot, die for the Gospel and die for the Church. Jesus tells us that the cup we drink, the bread we consume, gives us the strength and fortitude to be servant-leaders, of which the diaconate is the example-ministry.

Surely that’s not the deal, is it? But Jesus tells us that servanthood, slavery, is exactly the deal.

Elsewhere Jesus tells us that if we want to save our lives, make something of our lives, exist to live, to be recognized, to succeed, we will die. Our only hope is to walk the way of the cross, dying in order that we may live. The strength of the church is in mutual self-offering in Christ for the life of the world.

The death of the church, at least from our point of view, is when we all seek the things we want — even if they are good, and caring, and virtuous, of great help to the boss — and thereby lose the courage to die, to let go, to offer up. Perhaps we need to re-learn that lesson; to offer up and let go of our most cherished passions and causes, trusting that God will see these things through the death of sacrifice, and restore them in his good time, and in his good way, shaped now into his will.

 

— The Rev. Anthony F.M. Clavier, who has most recently served in France in the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, has returned to the United States and is interim rector of St. Thomas a Becket Episcopal Church in Morgantown, West Virginia. 

True humility, Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 23 (B) – October 15, 2006

(RCL) Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Psalm 90:12-17; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31 

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear this Gospel? Do you wonder if you are one of the rich people whose wealth will make it next to impossible to get into heaven? Have you ever heard this Gospel used in stewardship campaigns in which the prescribed fix or remedy for wealth is to give it to the church, ensuring that God would look favorably on you? Does this sound familiar?

As far back as the early Church, there have been suggestions that good graces and favor with God are obtained by sharing our wealth with the church. The burden of wealth is lifted, paving the way to heaven by the simple transfer of money or possessions. In fact, there was a time when it wasn’t even a suggestion – you could purchase the indulgences you needed. If you were wealthy, you were blessed in many ways. If you were poor, you were out of luck. It is no wonder that people living on the margins may hear hope in the words “many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” It suggests a certain promise of justice.

It should come as no surprise to you that the number of possessions or the amount of money we accumulate defines success in our society. Along with this success comes power. The power to choose how we live, where we live, and what we eat are among the many choices. Are we to accumulate wealth and give it all to the church or good causes in order to gain God’s favor? Is the answer in well-publicized gifts to good causes or in supporting our local congregations or churches?

This Gospel makes us squirm and feel discomfort, especially about wealth. Can there really be a trade off: do this, and that will be the reward? Do you think that Jesus meant what he said to the man in the Gospel? Is he asking us to sell all our possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him? This is one of those moments when Jesus is being really clear, but our ears want to hear a more subdued version.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Are we to believe that wealth is incongruent with Christianity?

We begin to feel the conflict between being a person of faith who follows Jesus and the commandments while at the same time living by secular standards of success. This is one of the ethical challenges of living as Christians. The answer may be in stewardship, but not in stewardship limited to giving money and possessions away. Rather, it may be in understanding stewardship as caring for all of creation. If we understand stewardship as a social justice issue that provides security for all, we might come closer to knowing what Jesus is calling us to do in this Gospel.

Jesus tells us that living a good life requires more than obeying the commandments. The commandments are specific, listing do’s and don’ts, but they are not all inclusive. There is more to living a Christian’s way of life – loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. And when we love God and our neighbors as ourselves, we naturally follow the commandments. With this in mind, the lessons today point us to loving God and our neighbors: the two great commandments.

We can probably name individuals whose lives modeled simplicity and obedience to the commandments. They seem to be given hero status, people such as St. Francis or Mother Theresa, for example. We can’t imagine ourselves living as they lived. They are saints; we are not. It is unimaginable, impossible, or unrealistic to think of ourselves in this way. Yet we are closer to understanding the principles they lived by than we are willing to admit. What might be missing are the bold and radical actions that came out of loving God and their neighbors. Jesus gave us the best example of total surrender to God. Through bold and radical actions and words, Jesus trusted that God would provide. He humbled himself in faith and obedience.

When we are most genuine, our humility shines through all the veneers that the world paints over us. The veneers of wealth and riches do not define us. Our possessions do not carry identity. However, these things may indeed separate us from being in relationship with each other and with God. They may be a barrier to the experience of surrender to God. If we allow it, they may lead us into a false sense of security and self-reliance.

The reading from Amos further clarifies this Gospel and its ethical challenge. In Amos, wealth is to be shared. Our covenant with God extends to the just distribution of wealth as a way of loving God and our neighbor as ourselves. Sharing resources with everyone around us is a concept confined to co-ops and the like, not pervasive outside those intentional communities. The wealthy do worse than ignore this idea; they sit in judgment of it.

We have to ask ourselves how justice is obtained concerning wealth. This is not an easy task, particularly because it is one of the most power-producing or power-diminishing elements of our society. Money issues break many relationships, so why would we be surprised that it might strain or break our relationship with God?

We have to ask the hard questions. Are we engaged in the just distribution of wealth because we participate in Outreach projects such as feeding and clothing the poor? If so, then how do we justify supporting wealthy companies and corporations whose practices are unjust, particularly in relationship to the poor?

Think about companies who cleverly build in depressed communities, in close proximity to Reservations, and places where people are desperate for jobs, but they offer only enough hours to keep them from paying for benefits.

Or consider companies who encourage our elderly to supplement their retirement by offering them part-time jobs while the company continues to destroy the environment with chemicals because it is cheaper to pay fines than to upgrade their photo processing?

Do we consider ourselves just and concerned about the environment, but continue to drink coffee out of styrofoam cups at our coffee hours and drive SUVs – those four-wheel drive vehicles that usually never leave the road?

We will know that there is a just distribution of wealth when someone loses a job and we all feel it, or when the cry of the earth causes us to make conscientious choices, or when no life is lost for lack of food or medicine.

Our covenant with God to love one another requires that we consider our choices and our actions. The awareness of our neighbors is the first step toward understanding what the Gospel is calling us to do. True humility is concerned with the just distribution of wealth as the only real stewardship. Jesus teaches us that surrendering the false security of wealth makes us good stewards of all creation. The simplicity of good stewardship is the uncluttered state, which may allow us to pass through the eye of that needle.

 

— The Rev. Debbie Royals, Pascua Yaqui from Tucson, Arizona, leads the Four Winds Congregation in Sacramento, California, and is Missioner for Native Ministry in the Diocese of Northern California. She is actively involved in all aspects of Native Ministry in the Episcopal Church. She has been appointed to the Episcopal Council for Indigenous Ministry by the Presiding Bishop and has been selected as Convener for the Indigenous Ministry Network of Province VIII.

They are sacred mysteries, Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 22 (B) – October 8, 2006

(RCL) Genesis 2:18-24 or Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Psalm 8 or 26; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16 

Sometimes we are so familiar with something that we don’t even notice it anymore. The little bit from the second chapter of Genesis that we just heard, and that we just heard Jesus quote, is like that. It’s so familiar it’s invisible. But it is dreadfully important and says some absolutely basic things about our vision of the world and of human life.

Remember the central pronouncement of God in the creation story? Throughout the first chapter of Genesis, God has said one thing about His creation over and over: “God saw that it was good.”

But now God looks at all he has made, everything, and says, “It is not good.” It is not good that the man – and here “man” means, not a male person, but a human being – should be alone.

Think about that. Listen to that. Everything else is good, but this isn’t. Notice also that Adam, the human being, was hardly alone in the garden. First of all, God was with Adam in the garden. That’s a lot all by itself. Then, when the animals were all done, all of nature, all of creation, was with Adam in the garden. The whole world was there. The man was not alone.

In fact, this sounds like the perfect situation for much of popular American religion – one man alone, surrounded by nature, with God close at hand. How many times have we heard people say that this is really all the religion anyone needs: just me, God, and the great outdoors? Sometimes this is symbolized by a golf course or a trout stream. But when God saw it, when God saw one person, God, and the great outdoors, God didn’t say, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Instead, God said, about this and only about this: “It is not good”.

Creation wasn’t finished yet. As long as the man lived in isolation from other people, the creation of a good, a complete, human being, had not yet happened.

It was in order to complete creation, to make a whole human being, that the other person, Eve, is created.

There are a couple of things to notice here. First of all, this story is not as much about the roles of men and women as it is about what it means to be a human being. Also, it is not saying that everyone should be married or that only married people are whole people. That’s just not true. After all, Jesus, the perfect image of God, was single. But this is saying that we human beings can only grow into who we are created to be with and through the other – through relationship and community. This growth happens in many ways, but it does not happen alone. If you ask an honest monk where his biggest and most important struggles come from, he’ll tell you “other monks.” We do not become whole or complete in isolation, but through community, through the “other.”

It is to this end that God has given us certain structures and situations in which we can, maybe, begin to discover what it means not to be alone, and where we can have our humanity drawn, and sometimes dragged, out of us. God has given us schools of love, places to grow.

Marriage and families are first of all about this. They are schools of love. And while not everyone is called to the vocation of marriage, for those of us who are, this business of helping one another grow into who we are created to be is one of the primary reasons God created marriage. To be sure, there is more to it than this, but that is primary.

In much the same way, God has called us to be the Church, and he has called us into this church, because without something like this we simply cannot be very Christian, in spite of – or more likely, because of – both the difficulty and the joy other people bring.

One of the central insights of Christianity is that being a part of a real, human, chunk of the body of Christ is essential to any serious Christian growth. Like marriage and family, parish life, church life, is not really about agreement, success, having our needs met, or happiness. Instead it is a school of love. It is about growth into wholeness. That is why, in Church as in families, the real ties that bind are ties of love and circumstances, not of any other sort of homogeneity.

Such growth is simply not possible without commitment to a lifetime of effort and intentionally seeking the grace and help of God. God’s intention that marriage be life-long is not an arbitrary and difficult rule God gives us to make our lives even more difficult. Instead, such intention is a gracious and necessary (if minimal) requirement if a real marriage is even to be possible.

In the same way, our Baptismal vows, which include a commitment to the life of the Christian community wherever we find ourselves, are also for the long haul; for better or worse.

So are life vows in monastic communities and the commitments involved in the other schools of love we are given. These vows are life-long in intention, because God knows we need at least that long to begin doing what we promise to do.

Sure, there are times when that does not happen. There are sometimes situations in which separation is the only option that contains hope and the possibility of healing. We have all known that reality. People leave churches and find new ones – as most of you know from experience.

And the pain and tragedy of divorce – and the fact that it brings very real possibilities of both destruction and new hope – is, in one form or another, a part of the lives of every one of us. If it hasn’t happened to us personally, we have been affected, often deeply affected, by it. These failures of relationship are devastating, and those who hurt need our love, our compassion, and our support.

But there is also an important thing about these experiences, about the times we fall short. We see them as tragic exceptions to the way we know life should be, and the way we want our lives to be. We know that we often miss the mark of our convictions and our beliefs. Yet even in the midst of our failure, we continue to stand firmly for the truth of God’s vision of life. Our vows, our marriage vows and our baptismal vows, our Ordination vows, these are not for just now, they are not for just when it feels good; they are for life. That is our standard and our goal. We may fall short, but we hold to that standard.

All of this is really to say that, at its heart, marriage is not a convenient human institution for protecting property, regulating sexuality, and safeguarding children. And at its heart, the Church is not a voluntary social convenience for like-minded people to share in an essentially private task.

As ordinary and as unglamorous as they usually are, both marriage and the Church are vastly more than this. They are sacred mysteries, built into creation and into human nature. They are schools of love, gifts of a loving God. For it is not good to be alone; and the only way to goodness, to wholeness, is through commitment, relationship, community, and the grace of God.

 

— The Rev. James Liggett has been rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Big Spring, Texas, since 1994. He is a native of Kansas and a graduate of the University of Houston and the Episcopal Divinity School. He has served parishes in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. Father Liggett and his wife Kathleen have a 20-year-old son.

We must begin within, 17 Pentecost, Proper 21 (B) – 2006

October 1, 2006

(RCL) Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 or Numbers 11:4-6,10-16, 24-29; Psalm 124 or 19:7-14; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50 

“No one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me”  (Mark 9:40).

You may be familiar with an outfit called the Church Ad Project. Started some years ago by a dynamic Episcopal priest with an interest in evangelism and church marketing, it got some of the best brains in the advertising world together to donate their time and talent to produce catchy, if somewhat offbeat, ads for the Church.

One such ad – a favorite – highlights the Episcopal Church’s acceptance of women in the ordained ministry. Above a photograph of a very traditional-looking altar reads the caption “Where Women Stand in the Episcopal Church.” The message is clear and simple. Women have indeed been accorded their full and equal share in the grace and responsibilities of ordained ministry in our Church. Some are now even serving as bishops, including our newly elected presiding bishop.

Perhaps this popular ad or poster could be revised from time to time to highlight where others stand in the Church. Pick a marginalized or out-of-favor group, and somewhere in the Episcopal Church you will find them accepted and fully integrated into the life of their local worshipping community. That is where they stand in the Episcopal Church. Our Church has tackled some of the toughest issues of our time in order to make all people feel welcome in its ranks. After all, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!” has been our motto for many years. No matter who “you” may be.

In today’s Gospel account, the disciples come to the Lord troubled about someone, an outsider without standing in their community, acting in his name to cast out demons. Scripture does not record who this someone was, so we can only speculate. It may have been a religious zealot with his own agenda. It could have been a genuine believer not yet fully integrated into the circle of Jesus’ disciples. It may have been an imposter or fraud. We will never know for sure. But the disciples certainly do not put out the welcome sign for him. Like overeager corporate attorneys defending their company’s trademarks in the marketplace, they act quickly to protect their exclusive franchise on the use of Jesus’ name and authority. They want this outsider stopped. And they take the matter right to the top, confident that Jesus will get the point and lower the boom.

It does not work out that way. Jesus is not concerned that others are acting in his name. He probably knows that his world – just like ours today – has more than its fair share of evil spirits: war, violence, hatred of those who are different, and greed, to name but a few. Casting out such demons – no matter who is doing it – is bound to be a good thing. “No one who does a deed of power in my name,” Jesus tells his anxious disciples, “will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” He reminds them, and us, of what should be an obvious truth: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

Jesus’ tolerance for those not of his following is astonishing for his troubled times. But it is more than just tolerance. Jesus does not simply put up with those who do not belong to his circle, as if they were an annoying but harmless irritant, like summer bugs at a picnic. He welcomes them. They are the disciples to come. Those who do not now belong will soon enough have a full share in the reward of the very kingdom he has come to proclaim. Whoever bears “the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward,” says Jesus. All are welcome to work wonders in his name. Casting out demons is not the personal prerogative of the disciples. It is the challenge for all.

Our world is scarcely less fearful and frightening than that in which our Lord lived so long ago. People are still afraid of those who do not belong, of the exile and refugee, no matter what “deeds of power” they may demonstrate. We see this played out every day in distant lands and in the corridors of power in our own country. Our prejudices remain a stumbling block to our common life and to world peace. We remain too ready to perceive enemies everywhere at work against us. We are as much as ever in need of Jesus’ reassurance that all will be well. We still need to be reconciled, one to another.

Reconciliation is of course the definitive “deed of power” that drives out the demons and evil spirits of any age. It requires that we see the other in a new and different light – as the neighbor in the next village and as the distant relative who shares our bloodline. Only this kind of change of heart can bring an end to suspicion and bloodshed. But it takes hard work and patience, both of which are in short supply.

Too often, like the people of Israel described in our first reading, we complain when things do not go our way. We want instant answers and immediate gratification. We think back to good times that probably never were. We grumble. God must sometimes be as exasperated with our demands and grievances as he was with those of the ancient Israelites. But the problem is not with God.

As always, the problem is our own fear and lack of trust, our inability as individuals, churches, and societies to live by faith, to be reconciled, to see in the good deeds of others the reflection of the love of our common Father in heaven. Perhaps the Lord needs to send seventy elders into our midst today, as he did among the people of Israel in the wilderness, to prophesy to us and bring once again order to our chaotic lives and compassion to our hardened hearts.

The Lord is still able to cast out demons. The welcome signs in front of our churches are a constant reminder to each of us that no matter who we are or where we come from, we are all capable of unimagined “deeds of power” if we but call upon the Lord’s name as did that someone in our Gospel narrative. That is where we stand in the Church today. There are plenty of demons left in the hearts of each of us. In the name of Jesus, we can cast them out. But we must begin our work with humility and reconciliation. We must begin within. For as the comic-strip character Pogo said decades ago, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

 

— The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedus is priest-in-charge of Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church in El Cajon, California.