In the Space In-Between, Easter 7 (B) – May 13, 2018

Episcopal Sermon Easter


[RCL]: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

Today the Church gathers around the world in the space between: just a few days ago, the Church celebrated the feast of the Ascension and today the church finds itself on the threshold of something new. It isn’t quite here yet. We are invited on the Seventh Sunday of Easter to enter a period of waiting once more. But this period of waiting is a bit different; it’s the pause between the hope of the past and the hope for the future. It is sometimes hard to hold this space because we’re so eager to move on and find new direction. It is possible to treat this day as a preemptive Pentecost, but to do so misses one of the most important lessons of life. It is the in-between that invites us to find depth and to hold the anxiety and fears of the future at bay and embrace this one moment.

If you’ve ever stood at the door of a significant change in your life and found yourself anxious and waiting, longing for an answer or a direction in your life, you’ve experienced what psychologists and anthropologists call liminal space. Richard Rohr describes liminal space this way: “It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run… anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.” It’s a very natural response to the uncertainty and ambiguity of this place. One finds oneself longing for the truth and structure of what was or of what will be. Uncertainty is not easy to live with.

In the uncertainty, Jesus doesn’t run away from the liminal space between his ministry and his crucifixion. Instead, he enters into that space and he reflects on the current state of the unknown. Jesus provides us with some idea of how to properly inhabit the space in-between the answers. Inhabiting the space in-between the answers is hard, but it is also most formative. Learning to live with the paradoxes of life and faith takes spiritual maturity. This Gospel text can be a confusing one for most of us to read, and it was only after considering that this text is a struggle in the space in-between that this passage might begin to make sense. Jesus seems to be looking back at his time with his disciples and his work in the world in certain places in the passage; in others, he speaks of his reunification with the Father in heaven and receiving once again the glory that was his from beyond time. Jesus’ discourse gives us this beautiful proclamation of his relationship with God the Father, with his disciples, and with the whole world.

Jesus speaks about his relationship with God and how he has proclaimed God’s word to the whole world. At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus says, “Since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” He goes on to discuss his mission and ministry in the world. He talks about the way that he has proclaimed God’s word to those whom God has given to Jesus. It does raise the question of whether he’s speaking just about his ministry to the disciples or to the whole world. There’s no real answer to that question in keeping with the paradox of liminal space—it is simply a question to which the answer may well be “both/and” as opposed to “either/or.”

Then Jesus bids us embrace yet another paradox as he proclaims God’s provision. The Word has come, that is, Jesus has come. The world has hated those who received Jesus because they do not belong to the world. But it’s worth asking the question: can one belong to both this world and the next? It seems a weird thing to suggest that those who belong to Jesus are citizens of both heaven and earth, and yet this is in keeping with the Gospel message, too. Nicodemus once came to Jesus seeking to understand the kingdom of God. Jesus explains that in order to see the kingdom, one must be born again. It left Nicodemus perplexed. He was so perplexed that he asked, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” It is a paradox in which we’re called to live.

We live in the already and the not-yet of God’s kingdom. At the end of this passage, Jesus begins to talk about the need to be sanctified. Sanctified is simply a word that means to be set apart. It is in the already and the not-yet of God’s kingdom that Jesus asks that we be set apart for God’s work in the world just as he has already set himself apart and is about to set himself apart through the cross. Jesus says, “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

This Gospel passage calls us to set ourselves apart for God’s purposes in the world. We hear that setting apart in our baptismal rites as we join a new family with an amazing responsibility. The purpose of the Gospel message is not that we would withdraw from society in order to be set apart, but that in living our lives faithful and true to the Good News, we would speak truth, create justice, and offer mercy. We who hear the words of the Gospel remember the message that God has given throughout history: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” It is a simple profundity that the prophet offers. Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. This is the example that Jesus sets for us in his life, death, and resurrection.

Jerrod McCormack is a postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Calgary, Anglican Church of Canada. He works as a spiritual care practitioner for the Alberta Health Service and is the manager of the bookstore at St. Mary’s University. He earned an A. Sc. in Pre-Medical Studies from Hiwassee College in Madisonville, Tenn., a B. Sc. in Biology from Tennessee Wesleyan College, Athens, Tenn., and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Ky. He is married to Ali, and in their spare time they love to drive through the Rockies and stop for random photo opportunities.

Download the sermon for Easter 7 (B).

To Be One, 7 Easter (B) – 2015

May 17, 2015

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

“That they may be one.”

We might be tempted to say, “Who are you kidding, Jesus? It didn’t happen in your time, did you imagine it would ever happen in ours?”

But Jesus told his followers that they should be one in this world, in their culture and their time. It goes along with Jesus always reminding them that the Kingdom of Heaven is here – not something that will come in the next world. So, this may be one of the most puzzling verses in the gospels, and Jesus says it several times, in several different ways. He says it always as a very positive statement, not as a question, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they became one as you and I are one?” He says it as if he expects this to happen. He says it as if he thinks we understand what he’s talking about.

Either Jesus is wrong, or we’re wrong. Well, let’s take a vote on that!

How many of you think Jesus doesn’t quite understand the penchant for human beings to be divisive?

Now, how many of you think we may be misunderstanding what Jesus means when he calls us to unity?

It’s pretty much a guarantee that Jesus knows what he’s talking about. It’s probably our misunderstanding of “unity” and “respect” that is at stake here. We may not even understand truly what it means to “be one as Jesus and the Father are one.” It’s hard enough to understand the vagaries of human nature, as evident in our lack of understanding of people and cultures who are different from us. How can we ever understand the theological implications of the unity within the Trinity? And we are supposed to emulate that?

In a 1997 edition of the magazine Christian Century, the Rev. Dean Lueking wrote an article that put this conundrum very well:

“Nevertheless, that they may be one still haunts as well as inspires. It is wearisome, deadly wearisome, to endure church battles that split not once but repeatedly. The blight of triumphalism, of power games, and the obsession with always being right still throw up huge, offensive roadblocks against Jesus’ prayer. Such sin drags us back to the Upper Room, to dull disciples among whom we now sit, to the grief of our Lord over our tearing apart the seamless robe of unifying love in which he would wrap us.”

Lueking is focusing on the tearing apart from our own church battles. Jesus included not only those, but also the tearing apart of cultures, peoples, nations, every bit of our human existence. Oneness with God means being at one with all God’s gifts: cultures, peoples, nations, every bit of our human existence. To tear apart one bit of our gift is to put a tear in the beauty of oneness with God and oneness with each other.

If we begin just with our problems of division as churches, we see how quickly we destroy what we often hear called “unity within diversity.” In our churches today we speak often of the importance of working ecumenically – respecting differences in things such as theology, liturgy and tradition. But in some denominations, ecumenism means that we all hope those who are different will “come home,” so to speak, to rejoin our way of doing things so we can all be the same.

Being the same is not the basis of unity. Love is the basis of unity.

When St. Paul said there was no more male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, he certainly didn’t mean that men and women morphed into some other form of human being or that Jews and Greeks would suddenly become one new nationality. He meant that each of us in our uniqueness would look with love on all the other precious creatures of God. He meant that we would see beauty in the gifts others have and join together to build the Kingdom of God.

Perhaps Jesus was praying that we would be able to worship God in many different ways, many different liturgies, and many different traditions – that our unity would be in the fact that we share our love and praise of God with others and invite them to seek our God with us.

This kind of love is hard when we put barriers in place to make sure those who join our particular brand of religion, so to speak, all behave just as we do. These barriers can be like the unspoken rules about who is of the right social class to join us, or as obvious as ignoring those of a different race or culture.

To the division we find in church, we must add the divisions we find in many other places of our lives. Watch any news program today and we find ourselves immersed in the evils of war, poverty, fanaticism and greed. We’re becoming used to seeing horrific killings brought right into our living rooms from across the world. How do we feel when we see this? Are we horrified enough to go right to prayer, not only for those being killed, but for those doing the killing? Or do we immediately lump those doing evil with every other member of their tradition? Do we pray that those doing evil will somehow be guided toward repentance? Do we do pray enough for each other when much smaller aggravations happen in our church lives?

The love that exists among the Trinity is not a stagnant, complacent love. It’s a love that not only draws the Trinity into one, but also burns outward to include all creation. Jesus offers this love to be our reservoir of strength and truth, that sacred place where we gain the words and guidance we need as we build God’s kingdom here on earth.

If we take Jesus’ words seriously, we’ll hear that the same vibrant, outpouring love that is God, is there for us. All we need to do is believe it and then let it guide our words and actions.

Who knows? One of us might be called to do something public – to write, to join an activist group, to lead others in helping those less fortunate, to get involved in challenging harmful political issues. Others of us will lead by our prayers and our lives lived through love.

We can do this if we are willing to be transformed by God’s grace. Transformation also comes through the love of the Trinity for us. Next Sunday, Paul reminds the Romans that the Spirit prays for us in sighs too deep for words. There is a well of strength for us who work in the world that will never go dry. Imagine how we would live if we really believed and acted on the fact that God’s Spirit prays for and through us even when we have no energy or understanding ourselves. There could be no greater gift.

Then the following week, on Trinity Sunday, Paul tells us that we are adopted children of God and heirs with Jesus. We will also read that wonderful imagery of Isaiah where the angel touches his mouth with the burning coal and he steps forth when God calls, answering, “Here am I: send me!”

All this is our heritage. These gifts are ours if we only believe it and open our hearts and minds to God’s guidance and strength. It’s pretty powerful stuff, all these things we learn in scripture, and it’s not just words of history or good thoughts. Jesus is the manifestation of God that we may see and touch the One who loves us.

We are called to love. In our baptism we promise to respect the dignity of every human being. We promise to make the Good News known to all. And we begin all this by sharing the breaking of the bread, given for all without exception.

– The Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz is vicar of Petrockstowe in the Torridge Team, Diocese of Exeter, North Devon, England, and is the publisher of Tuesday Morning, a quarterly journal focused on lectionary-based preaching and ministry.

The opposite of scoffing, 7 Easter (B) – May 20, 2012

By Craig Canfield

(Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19)

“Once there was a little girl who always laughed and grinned
and made fun of everyone, of all her blood and kin,
and once when there was company and old folks was there,
she mocked them and she shocked them, and said she didn’t care.
And just as she turned on her heels to go and run and hide,
there was two great big black things a-standing by her side.
They snatched her through the ceiling ’fore she knew what she’s about,
and the goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!”

Did any of you go to bed as children having the poems of James Whitcomb Riley read to you? Well, for those of you who did, you might recall what was just read from the poem “Little Orphan Annie.”

So what has this to do with the major themes from our Bible readings of this week? Everything.

It is not that our little girl lost cannot be found, it is that she is on a bad road. “Scoffers” or, depending on your translation, “the scornful,” is something we encounter in our reading from the First Psalm this Sunday. “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of the scoffers.”

“Sit in the seat of the scoffers.” Now here is a word we don’t encounter every day. Would that the actual adult scoffer be as absent as the number of times we come across that word. Perhaps the substitution of synonyms would ring more clearly to our ears – words such as “mockers,” or “deriders,” or “those who treat others or God with contempt or ridicule.”

If, on the other hand, we are reading verses from our Bible every day, then we will definitely come across the word “scoffer.” Countless times. The Bible is full of references to the scoffers. There is “scoffing at the Lord’s prophets,” and verses such as “All your enemies open their mouths wide against you: they scoff and gnash their teeth.” Then there are the scoffers that “will come in the last days.”

The readings today from Psalms, John and Acts are crucial in fostering a change of attitude not only among the mockers, but among those who are attacked by the mockers and the traditional ways in which people have learned to deal with their attackers. In these readings we are not only led away from the road of the scoffer, with their goblins of separation and alienation, but we are led away from the customary road of revengeful reaction to the scoffers. We are led toward the path of forgiveness.

Given that much has been made recently of the connection between psychology and spirituality, why not look at what psychologists have to say about the corrosive effect scoffers might have on others, the effect on people when they are mocked or negated, and of the effect such treatment has on our souls?

The word “therapist” is taken from the Greek word therapia, which means “soul server” – so helping the soul to expand, to reach God, is something that, if we do not limit ourselves to the pursuit of secular therapy, ought to be the work of therapists as well as clergy.

In the book The Politics of Experience, Erving Goffman is quoted as saying, “There seems to be no agent more effective than another person in bringing oneself alive, or by a glance, a gesture, or a remark, shriveling up the reality in which one is lodged.”

The mocker is the blocker. He is the one, in comedies, called the blocking agent – the one who prevents the success of the hero’s action. But in the act of the soul’s journey toward salvation, this is no joke, no laughing matter. The scoffer is the adversary, the one who interferes, the one who stands in the way.

Other psychologists have written about how the words of the mocker can put one back into the acorn from which the soul is supposed to emerge as an oak tree, back in the cocoon from which the soul is supposed to morph into a butterfly. Many reclusive and traumatized people inhabit these shells, these prisons of isolation. Sometimes strong forces are needed to shake up the rigidity of such confinement. But we are looking at two forces: a loving force that is coaxing one to grow, and another that is thwarting all growth. Few realize the effect that scoffing or mocking can have on someone.

Mocking is betrayal that leads to alienation and separation; alienation of the mocker from what is mocked, whether it is man or God, and alienation of the one who is mocked, who may get caught up in a spiral of hatred and revenge toward the mocker.

Our gospel reading for today gives examples of Jesus’ way and the way he advocates for his disciples, and hence, the way for us to avoid such a negative spiral. In the passage from John, Jesus warns his disciples that because he has set them apart by truth, others will hate them. It is illuminating to see how, although aware of the hatred that comes from the world toward himself and toward his disciples, nevertheless, Jesus’ response is the opposite of scoffing. It is the choice of forgiveness.

If we can stop revengeful responses to the scoffers, take up our own crosses of moving beyond our egos, then we can employ Jesus’ healing energies to learn the way of forgiveness.

Referring to Judas, Jesus said, “I guarded them, and not one of them was lost, except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.” Note the mildness of the language. Jesus does not issue a harsh condemnation, judgment or ridicule Judas, even after Judas’ act of betrayal.

Forgive the betrayer, forgive the murdering Roman soldiers. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Yes, forgive 70 times. That is the way, the highway, the road.

Hopefully the “old folks” in the James Whitcomb Riley poem with which we started our sermon were old enough and wisdom-filled enough to have arrived at the conclusion that scoffing, with its attendant belittlement and betrayal, might be met with forgiveness, by recognizing in the injustice of the other a real call for love. Hopefully the same can be said for us.

 

— Craig Canfield is a psychotherapist with a focus on the links between psychotherapy and spirituality, particularly dealing with the Biblical text.

Seeking to be on the right path, 7 Easter (B) – 2009

May 24, 2009

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

We have arrived at the end of the Easter season in the church calendar. Throughout the season we heard the stories once again recounting the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and we read about how the apostles, disciples, and followers of Jesus adjusted to the idea of Scripture fulfilled.

Like the apostles, we have been given time, through the stories, to understand how this journey and especially how the resurrection helps us to be what we have been called to be. This has been a period of discernment as we redefine what Easter means and how it changes who we are and our lives.

Today’s gospel takes it to the next level. This is the point in our journey where we ask ourselves how God is calling us and what God is calling us to be and to do.

Discernment is no easy task. When each of the disciples was called by Jesus to follow him, we remember that most of them dropped what they were doing with hardly a second thought. We were amazed by their clarity and direction, and we certainly had to acknowledge the obvious charisma of Jesus. But now, when the disciples needed to fill the spot vacated by Judas, it becomes clear that discernment is not an easy process. Jesus has not called the next apostle; it is up to the community to act, using the model he left them.

Why isn’t it easy then to recognize a call, or to affirm a call, or to act on a call? There are the lucky few who seem to know, with great confidence, what they are called to do. For others it is not so obvious, but with any luck – or grace – they listen and act.

This reading from Acts seems all too familiar in the church. Whether it is calling a priest to a congregation, a bishop to a diocese, or any of the various other call processes, discernment is essential.

The apostles seem either to be overwhelmed by the process or just unable to grasp the need for discernment, because they end up making their choice by drawing lots. We might not want to admit it, but sometimes I think we do exactly the same thing personally and in community when we are trying to discern God’s will for us and our call. Discernment cannot come from the flip of a coin. Discernment is a difficult but necessary process. Without it, how could we even imagine following the path that has been set before us or using the gifts God gave us to do what we have been called to do?

How can we know what the process of discernment should look like? Some guidelines for us to consider are found in the gospel reading today. This reading describes what Jesus prays for us. Jesus prays that the community be protected from evil; that the community be unified; that the community fulfill Jesus’ joy; and that the life of the church be distinct from the life of the world.

His prayer brings to mind the particular outcomes we seek in a discernment process, especially when taken in the context of this post-Easter period: new life coming out of death. As the world seemed to crack open, allowing the new light of Christ to be seen, we begin to understand this new light as the warmth of security, the comfort of safety, and the hope found in love.

Jesus prayed that the community be protected from evil. Some Native people would say this is to walk the Red Road, or in a Christian sense, to walk the path of righteousness.

In many Native cultures, decisions are made by consensus. As you can imagine, this process takes some time, and the overall affect is a bonding of the community, drawing it together in a closely woven, interdependent life.

Fulfilling Jesus’ joy might be best understood as modeling our lives after Jesus’ life and living the gospel imperative to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is why God gave his only begotten son to be fully human, so that he might bring the world back onto the path.

For the life of the church to be set apart or distinct from the rest of the world, Christians must first see themselves as sanctified, holy, and sacred beings. Knowing that God made us whole and holy from the very beginning, uniquely blessed with all the gifts we need to be God’s reflection in the world, sets us apart. Living in this way also makes it possible for others to see our gifts and to see God in us.

And as Christians, for what will we be known? Will we be known for damaging our mother earth out of greed to the point where we end life as we know it? Will we use our voice for justice and peace rather than to further violence and conflict? Will we invite prayerful contemplation in every decision, knowing that the answer is there, we only need to be still so we might hear God’s call?

Jesus’ simple but profound prayer in today’s gospel has the potential to be life-changing and life-giving. Imagine putting his prayer at the center of your own discernment process. Seeking to be on the right path, coming to understand this path after considering every angle, seeking to understand it through the lens of resurrection and God’s love will most certainly set us apart.

As we approach Pentecost, let us be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us move from the joy of Easter as a re-creation of new life with the hope that guides us all to be God’s love in the world.

 

— The Rev. Debbie Royals is a regional missioner for Native Ministry Development, based in the Diocese of Los Angeles. She is the Province VIII Indigenous People’s Network chair and a CREDO health faculty member.

We need to make our own pearls, 7 Easter (B) – 2006

May 28, 2006

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

Everybody knows that oysters sometimes make pearls; and that fascinating reality has been used to illustrate many a point. But here’s an old truth said in a new way, a way that gives it more power. It seems pearls aren’t automatic. When an oyster – who must ordinarily have an enviably calm life lying around eating soft, pleasant food – somehow gets a bit of sand inside its shell, then one of two things will happen. The oyster will create a pearl, or it will die. The pearl, a thing of beauty and value, is the oyster’s way of staying alive after something very irritating has gotten past its shell, into its heart.

That little bit of marine biology is background for today’s Gospel – not to present any sermonic pearls; be they pearls of wisdom, or pearls of great price. Instead, let’s examine the grain of sand, a bit of irritation, something small and rough that can slip past our shells and give us all something to work on. We – and indeed the church itself, in this and every generation – need to work on this bit of sand very carefully. It will not go away; and we will either make of it a pearl, or, in one way or another, we will die.

The grit, like the oyster’s sand, is well hidden in pleasant, soft food. The Gospel we just heard is a portion of what is called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. It is after supper “in the night in which He was betrayed.” Jesus is praying for his disciples, and for us. He prays for our unity, for our joy, and for our safety and protection. Jesus says that we are not of the world, but that we should none the less remain in the world – for our ministry is to be in the world, and for the world.

Now remember, when Jesus says “world” here, He is not talking about the created order: rocks and trees and rabbits and things like that. He is talking about human society organized as it sees best for its own purposes.

He is talking about business as usual; about the government, the society, the culture, the various human institutions; the world in that sense, doing what it usually does.

And Jesus says of his disciples that the world has hated them because they are not of the world. This hatred is to be the fate, indeed it is to be a real, distinguishing mark, of all who follows Jesus. They are to stand out because they don’t really fit in.

The bit of grit is this: When was the last time the world hated you because you belong to Jesus and not to the world? When was the last time your faith so set you apart from business as usual that you were met with anger, ridicule, or hatred? How about a little bit of contempt? Mild dislike? How about a tiny bit of irritation?

Hey, maybe Jesus was wrong; maybe, these days, we really are of the world, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But somehow that’s doubtful. Or maybe the Kingdom of God has arrived, and we just missed everything about it except for how convenient it is for us. But that’s doubtful too.

We need to ask whether we have become so totally caught in our culture, become so totally of the world that we have to work hard to discover if we are different, and how we are different, and what it looks like for us to be different, and whether it is worth it to be different.

In many ways it was easier for the early church. As an occasionally persecuted minority in a pagan culture, a lot of things were clear. For example, Christians couldn’t attend the public games, they couldn’t hold several types of jobs, they couldn’t join the army, and so on. The world often ridiculed or hated them – and both sides pretty much knew why.

It’s not so easy these days. Modern attempts to come up with lists of popular things Christians can’t do have usually been rather silly. And we Episcopalians have been downright smug in pointing out that we aren’t like those people (you know, the Baptists, and others) who say you can’t dance or wear make-up or go to movies.

By the way, have you ever noticed that nobody ever really nails us on that? Instead of trying to establish God’s disapproval for the waltz or bingo, they could really hit home if they responded to our self-righteous lack of lists with another question. What if they said, “OK, have your martini and go to the dance, but before you do, tell me how your faith does affect your life; show me how it makes a difference.” That is the grit for us oysters.

One way we try to get out of this pinch can cause a lot of trouble. That way is saying that it is the Church’s job to fix the world so there will be no conflicts for us to worry about. So from time to time, we rear back and try to change everything within reach so we can be both righteous and of the world at the same time. We do that in all sorts of ways, from all sorts of directions. Now, on one level, this is good. It is very important that we engage the world and try very hard to make things better. We need to do this; but we need to avoid getting confused about what that means. And we get confused easily.

It is not hard to forget that God will bring in the Kingdom, not us. And even worse, we find it very easy to begin supporting what we think is a good cause, for Christian reasons, and then to end up holding onto the cause and forgetting the Christian part of it altogether. Of course, the best way to tell whether the cause or the Christianity is more important is by looking at how we treat people who don’t agree with our cause.

And we get confused when we forget that the Lord does not call us to be powerful or effective as the world sees power and effectiveness. The Lord calls us to be faithful – to live his life, to follow his steps. Part of that involves remembering that, of the twelve disciples, Judas was the most effective at using both money and the powers that be to get what he wanted. Just trying to fix things doesn’t get rid of our problems, either.

This is grit, not pearls. We don’t have a list of rules telling us how not to be of the world because we know that it isn’t that simple. Still, we do know, and we must never forget, that the way we treat each other, and the way we treat our bodies, and our time, and our money, and the things we call “mine” – these are and will remain very important. And our Lord has something to say about them. We also know that all the good works, reforms, and changes we make, as important as they are, will not take away the problem, either. This side of the Kingdom, the world as Jesus spoke of it of business as usual, this will always, in one or another, be the alternative to faithfulness, and not the means to it.

We need to make our own pearls, or we will die. We need to look honestly at the world, at the culture around us, and at we are – and who the Lord would have us be. We must always make choices. We may even discover that Jesus was right, and that, in one way or another, the world will hate us. But the Lord continues to pray for us, we are promised all of the help we need. And pearls come from the oddest places.

 — 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. Fr. Liggett and his wife Kathleen have a 20-year-old son.