Archives for February 2007

A roadmap for our Lenten journey, 1 Lent (C) – 2007

February 25, 2007

Deuteronomy 26:1-11Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16Romans 10:8b-13Luke 4:1-13

The lessons for the first Sunday in Lent can be viewed as a roadmap for our Lenten journey. They embody the theme of journeying: travel, protection, and longing for a destination. If we look at each of them as Lenten guides, they will richly serve us through this season.

Deuteronomy talks about our heritage as spiritual children of a “wandering Aramean.” People today throughout the world are on the move. We know that historically we are living through one of the largest migrations of human beings ever witnessed. Our own tendency as Americans is to be uncomfortable with new races and cultures, yet our heritage was just that kind of migration to a land “flowing with milk and honey.”

Our spiritual ancestors were wanderers, strangers, who found their Creator in the midst of the wilderness. So, is it not right that on this day, at the beginning of our own Lenten journey, we should remember that we were once strangers, immigrants, and wanderers?

The other theme in Deuteronomy is that of offering and celebration. It is perhaps odd that Lent would begin with that emphasis, but on this Sunday we are also asked to make an offering (ourselves) and celebrate (make Eucharist) as a way of remembering how we can do both wherever we are. And, we are to make this offering and celebration fully aware of “the aliens who reside among us.” Today, as we mark the beginning of Lent, let us reach out to the stranger, the one we don’t know in Church, the people who have moved into the rental house across from us, and remember that God welcomes them, as he does us. Lent starts with an expanded community, not a select faithful few.

Psalm 91 is a favorite of many – even the devil, who quotes part of it to Jesus during the forty days in the wilderness. It is important to note that Hebrew thought didn’t make much of distinction between body and soul. The promises of protection in this Psalm are not physical amulets to keep us safe. They are, rather, promises based on a relationship with God that will always be there, regardless of what happens to us. “Because he is bound to me in love, therefore will I deliver him; I will protect him because he knows my name.”

Because of our relationship with God, strengthened by our Baptism, we are safe to venture forth.

In our Lenten journey we approach others with the stance that everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved. Our Lenten journey will be a generous one, extending graciousness and forgiveness. This is truly a time to put away differences and distinctions, whether they are religious, political, or personal. Spiritual travel to a new place has to start with some new premises, and one is surely that the truth is not just found in one church or one point of view. God has always found ways to mix us up with one another so we can be shaped and formed in God’s image – not our own.

The gospel reading from Luke (4:1-13) depicts Jesus’ physical and spiritual journey in the wilderness. Those who have visited the Holy Land know there are, even today, vast areas of wilderness in which one could easily get lost and die from thirst or hunger. Most of us have not experienced that kind of deprivation in our lives. Our “wilderness” today might be the Internet, or the Mall of America! Strange to think of places of plenty as wildernesses, but what they promise and offer never truly fill our longing and craving.

The three temptations are ours as well. Commanding stones to become bread is the temptation to make something into what it was never intended to be. Stones are stones, and bread is bread. Making sexual objects out of people comes to mind as a modern example. People are not objects, but when we make them into idols and objects they become less than human.

Offering power over the things we don’t control is the second temptation. There are moments when we would all like to run the world, but this temptation is more subtle than that. Much of modern success and motivation is based on how to get others to do our bidding. We can look better, feel better, and learn to think better all with the object of getting what we want. Jesus’ reply to that is to expose the humbug in it and remind us to worship the Lord, and serve only him. Anything else is a waste of time, his and ours.

We’ve already spoken about the third temptation, of being protected from suffering and harm. It is not for nothing that Jesus journeys to Jerusalem and faces the worst evils we know: betrayal, beating, and crucifixion. Jesus’ journey stands as a stark reminder that our Lenten journey is not soft or quiet. We are always faced with contradiction and suffering. But in the recesses of our minds, in the time of our faithful prayer, we know that because Jesus did do these things for us we are never far from his gracious help and goodness.

So our Lenten journey begins. May it be one of honesty for each one of us. May it be one that expands our horizons and connects with others unlike ourselves. May it be a journey grounded in our Baptismal relationship with Jesus, one that builds up our dignity and that of others. May it be one that helps us to learn that in Jesus we are never powerless, but that in walking the road to Calvary with him, each one will find him mighty to save.

 

— The Rev. Ben Helmer is currently serving as an interim priest in the Diocese of West Missouri. He and his wife will be traveling to Guam to serve a longer interim with the Episcopal Church in Micronesia, beginning June 2007. 

Today we are invited to swim against the tide. Let us consider that invitation., Ash Wednesday (A,B,C) – 2007

February 21, 2007

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Today we are invited to swim against the tide. Let us consider that invitation. In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

A man was recalling his grandmother’s recipe collection. Some, he remembered, were in well-used cookbooks, and some were on index cards.

But he recalled the oldest recipes in her vast collection were printed on fragile, yellowed paper, fragments from mysterious sources. These recipes were in German, her native language. Moreover, they were printed in small Gothic type, a style still in use when his grandmother was a bride. Because he knew no German, confused one Gothic letter with another, and did not want to touch paper that might crumble, these oldest recipes remained incomprehensible to him.

Bringing up recipes – and by implication food – may seem inappropriate here on Ash Wednesday, which is the fast day in the Episcopal Church. But remembering that grandmother’s oldest recipes may be helpful. For many people find the traditional disciplines of Lent as incomprehensible, as unapproachable, as her grandson once found those crumbling clippings.

Consider today’s gospel. Jesus takes for granted three practices central to Jewish devotion: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. He does not doubt that his disciples will continue to keep these practices. His only concern is that they pray and fast and give alms in the right spirit: not to impress people, but to deepen their relationship with God.

But prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are not behaviors we take for granted today. Traditional Jewish practices that became traditional Christian practices, they are not exactly forms of behavior encouraged by the dominant culture in our time and place. To engage in these practices is to swim against the tide. And so the words about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that we hear in this Ash Wednesday service may be as puzzling and impenetrable as German recipes in Gothic type once were to that grandson.

Yet translation remains a possibility. Prayer, and fasting, and almsgiving need not be quaint, obsolete customs confined to the pages of the Prayer Book and the Bible. They can reappear in a contemporary lifestyle, one that calls into question the status quo, that refuses easy answers, that exchanges contemporary craziness for deep-down, delicious sanity. This is a lifestyle that gets us right with God, with creation, with other people, and even with ourselves.

Ask people how they’re doing, and so often the answer includes the word “busy.” People take their own busy-ness and other people’s for granted – almost. There’s a strain in how people say the word, as though they want you to tell them they really don’t have to be so insistently busy. They want to be absolved of their busy-ness by something less drastic than cardiac arrest.

Then down the road Jesus comes talking about prayer. With him comes a countless crowd of matriarchs and patriarchs, priests and prophets, apostles and martyrs, and many others less distinguished but no less holy, all of them walking to the same beat.

Some of them by their words, all of them by their actions, deliver to us the same message. If you want to live a life worthy of the name, then pray. Leave some empty space for God. Give up rushing.

Have you ever been in an affluent residential neighborhood in an urban area, with splendid houses whose prices go well into the millions? Ever notice how many of these houses had bars on the windows? Bars on the windows put the homes of the extremely wealthy in the same category with jails and insane asylums. Are these people imprisoned by what they have? Is it driving them crazy? Yet a million-dollar mansion is not necessary for us to need to face the question: Do we have stuff or does our stuff have us? Are we stuffing our houses, our bodies, our lives to the point of no return?

Then down the road Jesus comes talking about fasting. With him comes a countless crowd of matriarchs and patriarchs, priests and prophets, apostles and martyrs, and many others less distinguished but no less holy, all of them walking to the same beat.

Some of them by their words, all of them by their actions, deliver to us the same message: If you want to live a life worthy of the name, then fast. Don’t exist as simply a consumer. Unclutter your life.

Author Richard Hart tells the story of a Russian woman whose son was court-martialed and executed shortly before the start of World War 2. The grieving mother searched out the soldier who had fired the shot that killed her son, only to discover that he was critically ill and near death. The mother nursed him back to life – and then adopted him.

So often we experience the world as full of strangers. We do not look for the connection between them and us. The humanity common to them and us goes unrecognized. Their problems have nothing to do with our problems, or so we say.

Then down the road Jesus comes talking about almsgiving. With him comes a countless crowd of matriarchs and patriarchs, priests and prophets, apostles and martyrs, and many others less distinguished but no less holy, all of them walking to the same beat – even a Russian mother who adopted the man who killed her son.

Some of them by their words, all of them by their actions, deliver to us the same message. If you want to live a life worthy of the name, then give alms. Not just a few coins, but the love in your heart. Always look for the connection between you and that other person. Treat no one as a stranger.

Don’t leave the message of Lent dead on the page like a recipe in an unknown language in a strange typeface on crumbling paper. It’s a hungry world out there, waiting for the word to become flesh, the recipe to become food yet again.

Live your life as a translation that’s unmistakable: give up rushing; unclutter your life; treat no one as a stranger.

Do these things, make them your lifestyle, and you’ll find yourself walking to the rhythm of Jesus and the saints.

In the name of the One who, though we are dust, invites us to sparkle with eternal light: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

— The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is an Episcopal priest and writer. He is the author of A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals (Cowley Publications, 2002). 

Close encounters, Last Sunday After the Epiphany/World Mission Sunday – 2007

February 18, 2007

Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)

Today’s readings take us into “close encounters” with God – the kind that don’t seem to happen too often, but when they do, they are the ones that change us. In an instant of a transfiguring experience we can fully grasp who we are and what we can create. Today’s gospel reminds us to search our past to find times when we have already experienced transfiguration, and calls us to be open in the present to transfiguring experiences in unexpected places and times.

In the natural world, the metamorphoses of tadpole to frog, of caterpillar to butterfly, of acorn to oak tree, of bulb to tulip, depend on a complex and miraculous combination of factors coming together: genetic, environmental, seasonal and more. What’s amazing about these natural processes of transformation is that each being’s biological potential has already been programmed by God into their very genes.

Consider the growth of a bulb into a tulip. Before it is planted, it doesn’t look like much at all, something like a Spanish onion. Yet so much of what is essential to what it is to become is already lurking inside of this inanimate lump. With the right combination of soil, water, light and weather, there will be a moment when it is transformed from something that seems to sleep under the ground into something that lives and breathes above the ground. It is in what seems to be only an instant that we notice this change. It is a change that is not a subtle one, but one that is compelling, one that causes us to double take, to catch our breath. Our imaginations are captivated because there is deep down a reordering of what the world is and what God intends for it to become.

These sudden changes can happen to us, too. Think back to a moment in your own life when you had a mountain-top experience, when you felt that you suddenly knew God better. It might have been in a place that was a getaway for you. Did you feel the temptation to stay in that moment, as a moth is attracted to a flame, as Peter did? Recall how that experience changed you.

Today is the last Sunday of the season of Epiphany, a season of light, with stories of ultimate light, the shining light of God’s presence. It is also the Episcopal Church’s observance of World Mission Sunday, a yearly reminder for all of us to reclaim our common calling as missionaries sent by God into the world to bring healing and reconciliation.

In today’s gospel, Christ came to reveal a new and different way. The story is not just about showing the divinity of Christ; even the greatest figures from the Hebrew scriptures, Moses and Elijah, acknowledge his authority – Moses representing the Law, Elijah representing the Prophets. It is about so much more – about the possibility of the transformation of ourselves and our world that can so easily be missed.

There are two important clues Luke gives us that this is the meaning he intends. First, note how the passage begins: “about eight days later.” It is highly unlikely that this is a factual reference. Instead, it is Luke’s way of signaling that what comes next will speak of a new week, in other words, a new order, a new creation. As we all know, the story goes that God made the world in seven days. Now here on the eighth day something even more amazing and wonderful is about to happen.

Second, Christ is transfigured, but, as this happens, he talks of his departure about to take place in Jerusalem. “Departure” is the English word you may have heard in your translation of the gospel, but the Greek is “exodus.” It connects Israel’s liberation from Egypt to God’s liberating us through Christ’s suffering. A new exodus, a new departure, is about to become a possibility, one that will free us from the bondage of sin and death.

Instead of a departure into an unknown darkness, we will be drawn into God’s own amazing light, into a new reality. When the voice from the cloud says, “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!” we know God in a new way. God will always be with us in all the wildernesses, exits and departures that we will find in mission – not high up on the mountain, but back down on the plain where ministry happens. This was not the usual mountain-top experience you would write about in a journal, with a beautiful sunrise, gentle breezes, being with friends and quiet time with God. The subject of this mountain-top experience was death.

What happened when the disciples went back down to the plain? How did they communicate what they saw and heard to those who had not been up on that mountain? How did they share the experience with the disciples who had stayed below? How do we communicate transfiguration or other mountain-top experiences that God gives to us?

Luke tells us that the disciples “kept silent” about the transfiguration and “told no one any of the things they had seen.” Maybe that’s our clue. Don’t run off at the mouth about it or tell people that they “should have been there.” Maybe we are better off telling the story of the transfigured Christ when we serve the people who appear in our path, those who are desperate for release from the things that seize them, maul them and scarcely leave them. This is God’s invitation to us to become companions in transformation, partners in God’s mission of reconciliation.

Perhaps the glow of God on our lives will disturb the people around us, but now we have witnessed with the disciples an ultimate revealing, an extreme Epiphany. With Paul’s encouragement that he shares with the church in Corinth, we can acknowledge and embrace our transformed lives: “we do not lose heart.” We see the glory of God as if reflected in a mirror (in Paul’s age, most mirrors looked like worn-out brass doorknobs), being transformed more and more into the image of God. In God we become a new creation, made for mission. So instead of staying on our mountain-top, let us find ourselves back on the plain, working among the crowd that needs us so much.

 

— Thom Chu serves as program director for Ministries with Young People at the Episcopal Church Center.

Joining the saints as we rejoice and leap for joy, 6 Epiphany (C) – 2007

February 11. 2007

Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26

Consider your condition in life. Are you relatively well off financially? Are you secure, with an abundance of material possessions? Do you often eat out, sometimes in expensive restaurants? Do you have a comfortable home? Do you enjoy life? Are you well thought of in your church, neighborhood, and community? Do you have a lot to look forward to?

Probably the answer to these questions is “Yes. Yes, I am secure, well fed, well thought of, and well off, with a future of hope and promise.”

Now, consider others in your community and the world – those who live in other neighborhoods. Are any of them poor, hungry, grieving, hated, excluded, reviled?

Of course, we all know people like that and consider them extremely unfortunate. Happy are we. Unhappy are they.

At least that is the common view. But fantasize for a moment. Imagine your bishop gathering the unfortunates of your diocese and telling them: “Are you ever lucky! How blessed you are to have such poverty and grief and misery in your lives.” Most of us would think the bishop had gone crazy. Such a conclusion, however, must take into account the message of today’s gospel reading.

Jesus, as he so often did, confounded popular wisdom. The Lord looked to the kind of people whom we pity, who seem hopeless, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, who are hungry, who weep. Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, revile you, and defame you.”

Then, even more astonishingly, Jesus looked to another group of people who are like most of us – who seem to have it made – and said, “Woe to you who are rich, who are full, and who are laughing. Woe to you when all speak well of you.” Woe to the likes of us, for he says we are subject to great sorrow – to grief and misery.

What Jesus is really saying to us is “Watch out!! For your seeming blessedness is in truth a great danger.”

How can this be? Do we not ask with bewilderment, “What in the world is going on here? Doesn’t Jesus have it all upside down? If the poor, the hungry, the grieving, the hated, the excluded, and the reviled are the happy ones, how are we to understand this? How can we long to be poor? How can we see being hated as a positive value? Does Jesus really mean that hunger and grief will improve our lot? Why would we honor being poor? Don’t we use our wealth to serve God’s purposes? Could we not do more for our neighbors if we had more with which to help them?”

How do we answer these inevitable questions? Let’s begin by understanding that in using these sayings, these “blessed”s and “woe”s, Jesus is not glamorizing poverty and suffering. He is not calling us to go slumming or make ourselves sick or weak. No, there is something much deeper and more important in his message.

Jesus doesn’t want us to see disability of one sort or another as a magical cure for what ails us. Surely he knew as well as we know that poverty can lead to despair and suicide, to crime and violence. But he also knew, as we must learn, that need can lead us to God. Poverty and hunger and despair can provide a beginning for one seeking unity with God.

He added the “woe”s because he knew that most people like us would have a hard time imagining that being poor could help a person. Jesus focused on the very things that most of us work and hope and pray for. So he listed them as woeful and miserable to get our attention. He knew that being well fed, happy, and well thought of is what we really seek – as we smile all the way to the shopping mall or bank.

Above all, he knew that purchasing material possessions, and buying insurance, and setting aside savings for retirement or rainy days would lead us to imagine ourselves as safe and secure and in control of our lives. He knew that people like us stand constantly in danger of assuming, consciously or subconsciously, that we can work our way into happiness or buy our way into joy and peace.

It is far too easy for us to believe we are powerful enough or independent enough to provide everything we could ever need. With the kinds of resources and abilities most of us have, we are in danger of forgetting that we need anything – especially a savior. And in so forgetting, we fail to let God fully into our hearts.

What Jesus knew is that the most likely way for us to turn to God is when we are in danger and difficulty. Then, we may knock on the door that God will open. Then, we may find a savior to befriend us.

It is so much easier to welcome God into our lives when we know our sin and our spiritual bankruptcy. We will know our absolute need for what Christ can offer, and that we cannot produce for ourselves. How blessed – how enviable – how lucky are those who understand their urgent need for the resources that only God can provide and that they may have simply for the asking.

Through these “blessed”s and “woe”s, Jesus calls us to join the spirit of the poor whom he addressed so long ago. Those have-nots of the first century of whom Jesus spoke had nothing to expect from the world, but they had everything to expect from God.

It is through their need that Jesus shows us the way to look toward God, to turn to God for help in our lives and in our attitudes and in our values. If we can recognize our need we can begin to learn where God leads us. We can understand the necessity of seeking God. Our deep sense of helplessness brings us before God just as we are – not as we imagine ourselves to be. We can recognize the power of God that can transform us into the happy, complete, caring and loving people Jesus calls us to be.

The poor can help us get to that glorious day when we will give up on seeking personal resources of privilege or power as the path to true happiness. The poor of Jesus’ time turned to God who cared, who healed and uplifted – who, above all, loved them as they were. Their story can teach us that the love of God is gently close at hand and powerful far beyond those who rule this world. The poor can help us see the need for a power greater than ourselves to heal us and give us happiness and meaning. They help us come to the day when we will see clearly the source of this power: Jesus, the Christ, our Savior.

And on that day, we will join with the saints of all ages as we “rejoice and leap for joy.”

 

— The Rev. Ken Kesselus, author of “John E. Hines: Granite on Fire” (Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1995), is retired from full-time, active ministry and lives with his wife, Toni, in his native home Bastrop, Texas.

Letting our nets down in faith, 5 Epiphany (C) – 2007

February 4, 2007

Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13); Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

“The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said, ‘Woe is me!’”

“Woe is me” seems to be an understatement. The prophet is having a vision that’s not only very vivid, but also frightening. Everything is immense. The hem of the Lord’s robe fills the temple. There are seraphs with multiple wings. There’s shouting and trembling and shaking and fire. In all this, the prophet realizes that not only is he privy to amazing sights and sounds, but he has also seen the King, the Lord of hosts. The prophet knows that to see the face of God invites death. To make matters worse, the prophet is a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips. He feels afraid and hopeless.

We can feel that fear and hopelessness.

That’s because the Bible – in addition to being God’s word to us, the story of our salvation, theology, literature – the Bible is also very good theater. Imagine what a movie director would do with this story. The special effects would be spectacular – so spectacular perhaps that we’d lose the real point of the story. The prophet is indeed living among people with unclean lips. They have become so unfaithful, so far from being a people of God, that God has almost despaired.

The conversation between the prophet and the seraph and then between the prophet and God is wonderful theater, too. The prophet moans, “I am lost!” The Seraph, instead of just telling him that he’s wrong, takes a live coal from the altar and touches the prophet’s mouth cleansing it from guilt and sin. A little more exciting than our usual absolution for sin, isn’t it? Then we hear from God. God asks, it seems, a rhetorical question: “Whom shall I send (to these difficult people)?”

Can’t we imagine saying, “Please, please send me – just keep those seraphs away from me!” And if we had stopped our first reading there as if it were the first act, the main character would come off as a real hero – very brave and confident. “Here am I,” as if God didn’t notice him, “send me!”

Good for him! We hear that sentiment many times in the scriptures, sometimes in different words – Samuel, David, Mary, eventually the disciples of Jesus. It’s a beautiful thing to say, a selfless and loving thing to say, and we can rejoice with that throng of seraphs crying, holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.

But the lectionary offers us the chance to go further in this passage. We can get a taste of what happens when God’s people say, “Send me.”

In the second act, so to speak, the prophet finds out that he must take what will be a very unpopular message from God to the people. “Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand. … Make the mind of the people dull so that they will not understand and be healed.”

That seems very harsh unless we understand that the people have ignored every message God has sent so far. Until they hit bottom, they won’t repent. Our brave and selfless prophet has a difficult mission, but he has been anointed and he will be supported by God.

It’s the same in today’s gospel.

In this passage from Luke, we have one of the “great catch of fish” stories. Jesus is beginning his ministry. He’d been baptized. He too had been “anointed” for a ministry. He spent forty days in the wilderness praying and preparing, and now he has come to preach and teach. But he hasn’t started in the court of the king or the temple with the high priest. He’s begun his ministry among the common folk – fishermen, farmers, women, and children. This might make some interesting theater, too. Imagine how a bunch of professional fishermen felt when Jesus, a carpenter by trade, told them to put their nets out again for a catch. Can’t we hear the incredulity in Peter’s voice: “We’ve worked all night and caught nothing. But if you say so…” We can imagine the eye rolling the fishermen did – maybe even the quiet but pointed snickers. But of course, they bring in a boatload, and they are amazed.

But the boatload of fish isn’t the point of the story. It really doesn’t matter how Jesus managed that miracle. The same goes for the vision of Isaiah: it really doesn’t matter how the Lord’s hem filled the temple or the prophet got his lips singed and didn’t die. The point of both passages is that God expects each of us to take a part in building the kingdom of God.

By our baptism we are anointed as Isaiah was – as Jesus was – and as Peter was in today’s passage. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t among the mighty of the land. It doesn’t matter if we’re not even among the mighty in the church.

Notice that neither Isaiah nor Peter – nor many of the other great people of the Old and New Testaments: David, Mary, Joseph, Anna, Simeon – were numbered among the high priests or important government leaders. Both these readings can be a real inspiration to all people who are called to make a difference where they are.

We find the same message in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. He talks about his own call – reminding the Corinthians that it was by the grace of God that he became an apostle. With God’s grace he had the strength to continue spreading the good news of Christ – the same thing we’re supposed to do. In this passage, he tells us what that good news is for him in words that we now say every time we pray the Creed. “Of first importance,” he says, is that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day.” If we would continue reading to the end of Chapter 15, we’d hear Paul remind the Corinthians that they, too will be raised from the dead and that Christ would come again – that what happened to Jesus would also happen to them.

The Corinthians thought Christ’s second coming was imminent, but here we are, 2000 years later still striving to live a godly life. We live a life of faith in the promises of God. Each time we say the Creed, we remember Paul’s words and believe even though we’ve never seen Jesus.

We also believe, as the Corinthians did, that what happened to Jesus will also happen to us. We too will share in the resurrection. This story we share with others is a life-giving story. The more we read the scriptures, the more we try to model our lives on Christ’s, and the more we realize that no matter what happens to us – good or bad – we are part of God’s family and God will be with us.

Like Isaiah, Peter, and Paul, we’ve been anointed and are full of the Holy Spirit. Each one of us has a work to do in proclaiming the kingdom of God, whether it’s by working for the church or being a witness to a godly life among our co-workers or in our homes. And each one of us has the same promise that was given to them: Do not be afraid – be at peace.

God is with us every step of the way. We are nourished and strengthened right here at the altar. We have the ability to bring others along with us – to be fishermen – even when it means going out again and letting the nets down another time, letting our nets down in faith that the Lord will fill them.

One of our hymns says it well: “Jesus calls us! By thy mercies, Savior, may we hear thy call, give our hearts to thine obedience, serve and love thee best of all.”

 

— The Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz is the executive director of the Center for Ministry in Small Churches at the School of Theology, Sewanee, Tenn., and assistant professor of Contextual Education. She is also publisher of Tuesday Morning, a quarterly journal of ministry and liturgical preaching.