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Two Pockets

Sermon for Midweek Services in Lent, 2016, the Rev. Anne Edison-Albright preaching. Texts: 2 Samuel 14: 25-27, 2 Samuel 15: 2-6, and
2 Samuel 18: 1-5; 9-15; 33.

On February 3, at a Democratic Town Hall Debate,

Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett from Nashua, New Hampshire,

Asked Hillary Clinton this question:

“Rabbi Simcha Bunim taught that every person has to have two pockets, and in each pocket they have to carry a different note. And the note in one pocket says the universe was created for me. And in the other pocket the note says I am just dust and ashes.

I want you to take a moment and think about what you would tell us about your two pockets. How do you cultivate the ego, the ego that we all know you must have—a person must have to be the leader of the free world—and also the humility to recognize that we know that you can’t be expected to be wise about all the things that the president has to be responsible for?”

He was asking about balance,

About humility and ego

And also about faith,

And how our understanding of God

Shapes the way we think about ourselves and relate to the world.

I’d never heard of the two pockets teaching before,

And what struck me as really beautiful

Is that both statements are true:

Both statements are good and right

Both statements are essential to understanding ourselves and God.

And we all need both,

And we’re all probably out of balance,

When it comes to which pocket we spend the most time living in.

If we live too much in the pocket that says that the universe was created for me,

We can lose sight of the truth that the universe was created for everyone else, too.

We can become selfish, arrogant, power-hungry and self-centered.

But if we spend too much time in the pocket that says

“I am just dust and ashes,”

That’s not the whole truth either.

We are dust and ashes, yes, we are mortal.

But we DO have hope, and we ARE loved and forgiven and blessed by God.

If we live only in the ashes pocket, we will surely despair.

The story you just heard about Absalom, the favorite son of King David,

Is, it’s pretty safe to say, the story of a man

Who lived pretty deeply in the “the universe was created for me” pocket.

Absalom was beautiful.

He was charismatic, he was ambitious, he was heroic.

And he was arrogant, self-righteous, and hungry for power.

There are large parts of his story that I chose to leave out

Of the reading in the interest of time,

But I commend it to you.

It’s a compelling story, a terrible story:

A story about violence against women,

And a story about violence breaking apart a family.

And even though Absalom is far from blameless or righteous or perfect

In his role in that story,

He does emerge as this strange hero: this beloved, beautiful, favorite son.

I met Absalom for the first time when I was a freshman in high school,

And read Walt Wangerin’s, The Book of God,

Which is the Bible written as a novel.

I loved Absalom, I think, because he’s such a tragic figure,

But also because his beauty and confidence reminded me very much of a boy

I was very fond of at the time.

He was a senior in high school, a star of the drama department,

Who just seemed to glow with this incredible inner light,

And whose arrogance seemed … justified, maybe?

Because he was just that beautiful.

I wrote poems about Absalom.

I reflected, rather melodramatically,

On the irony of Absalom’s beautiful long hair getting caught in the tree branches:

His vanity sealing his fate.

“Absalom,

David’s favorite son,

Your green-gold eyes flash,

Your long curly hair, raven black,

Is tangled in the branches of power and lies.

A hero dies.”

These poems were really about the boy I liked, of course.

But they were also about me.

They were poems about a girl who didn’t know how to live very gracefully

In either pocket.

Who struggled to balance ego and humility almost daily.

This two pockets question takes on some different nuances for women, I think.

And I wonder if it’s ever a question that anyone would have thought to ask

Bernie Sanders, or any of the other men running for president.

The question of how powerful women balance ego and humility

Is fraught, because women still aren’t fully allowed

To claim that pocket, that truth that the universe was created for me.

There are lots of people, whole groups of people,

Who we try as a society to keep very firmly in the dust and ashes pocket.

We humble them.

Which is another way of saying that we oppress them.

And when I say “we,” I mean, “I.”

I do this.

I’m the one who made a hero out of Absalom,

And cut his sister Tamar completely out of the story “for the sake of time”,

And because I was afraid to talk about what happened to Tamar,

To tell you that she was raped by her brother, Amnon,

And that Absalom killed Amnon,

But really, when Tamar needed help–from her father and her brothers–

Everyone she loved let her down.

She dressed herself in sackcloth and ashes.

She was deep, deep in the pocket of sorrow, death and despair.

The truth is that the Holy Hypocrite I’m preaching on this Lenten season,

Isn’t Absalom, really.

It’s me.

Because I don’t know how to balance these pockets.

I’m still struggling, almost as much as I was when I was 15,

With the truth that I am loved by God,

And with the truth that I am going to die.

Maybe you are struggling with that, too.

Whatever pocket you find yourself most in tonight,

Hear this Good News:

God is God.

And we are not.

Jesus didn’t come to save us because we have it all figured out,

Or will ever be capable of having it all figured out.

Our hypocrisy, our arrogance, our despair:

God will never abandon us or turn away from us because of these.

God will not leave us to our sins of self-righteousness,

God will not leave us in our ashes of despair,

And God will not let us die alone:

God will not let death have the last word.

The only thing I’ve ever found that made my life feel balanced between pockets

Is genuine gratitude for that grace and love of God.

The hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is one that brings it all together for me,

And has bCrossofasheseen a source of call to ministry for me since I was very young:

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small,

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life my all.”

I am only dust.

And yet, God loves me, and created the universe for me.

I want my life, short and dusty as it is, to reflect that love,

To serve that love,

To model that love and inspire that love in others.

We are hypocrites, we are sinners, we are dust.

We are also beloved beyond belief, and made in the image of God.

Thank you, God.

Thank you, Jesus.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mirrors

ErisedSermon on Transfiguration Sunday, February 7, 2016, the Rev. Anne Edison-Albright preaching. Today’s texts: Exodus 34:29-35, 2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2, and John 2:1-11.

There’s a scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,
Where the wizard Dumbledore finds young Harry
Sitting, late at night, in front of a magic mirror.
The mirror is enchanted to show the deepest desire of anyone who looks into it.
Harry, who is an orphan, sees himself in the mirror surrounded
By his parents and other family members who have died.
Dumbledore warns Harry that the mirror can be dangerous.
People have wasted away in front of it,
Unable to tear themselves away from the illusion of their heart’s desire.
A mirror’s job is to simply reflect what’s in front of it,
But the thing you see in the mirror isn’t actually the thing itself,
And anyone who’s ever experienced the natural process of aging knows
That even regular, un-enchanted mirrors
Seem to be playing tricks sometimes.
Writers love mirrors as plot devices and metaphors and
Even characters,
And so mirrors feature prominently in Harry Potter,
In Snow White,
In the Phantom of the Opera,
And in the letters of Paul to the church in Corinth.
Last week you heard what Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
And this week we hear, from the second letter to the Corinthians:
“And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
I think it’s really important to talk about this mirror image,
And to connect those two readings, this week’s and last week’s, together,
Because if we miss Paul’s reference to the mirror, here,
In this week’s reading,
If we overlook the connection to the mirror we see through only dimly now,
Then I think it’s pretty tempting to read our second reading today as
Superseding that first reading, the one about Moses coming down from the mountain,
With his shining face veiled.
I have to tell you, when I read or hear that reading from 2nd Corinthians,
My stomach just drops,
Thinking about all the terrible things the church has done
To people of Jewish faith because of misreading and misusing texts like that one.
Supersessionism is a really dangerous, very common form of anti-Semitism.
It’s something you’ve probably heard a lot of if you’ve grown up
In any Christian church.
We’re kind of steeped in it.
It’s something I have to work really hard to keep myself from doing
As a preacher and a theologian.
Supersessionism is the idea that Christianity
is the completed or perfected form of Judaism:
The idea that God was really only in relationship with Israel in order to bring about Christianity.
It denies the Jewish faith and Jewish scripture any value in its own right
Separate from what it means to us as Christians.
And it might lead us to say things like:
“The Jews are really legalistic,
But we have grace, so we’re free.”
As if there were no concept of grace or freedom in the Torah.
It might lead us to characterize the “Old Testament God” as harsh and violent
In contrast to Jesus,
As though the God that Jesus grew up knowing through his own Jewish faith,
Wasn’t the very same God of incredible, unconditional love.
And it might lead us to really glom onto that contrast that Paul seems to be making,
Between Moses veiling his face to shield the people from God’s glory,
And the unveiled minds of Christian believers.
I would argue with Paul, first of all, because I think the minds
Of ALL human beings are pretty veiled,
Especially when it comes to recognizing God.
You can see it in our Gospel lesson, up on the mountaintop,
When Jesus’ disciples,
The first missionaries of the Christian church,
React to seeing Jesus revealed in shining glory
By … speaking without knowing what they were saying.
Their vision is almost immediately veiled by a massive cloud,
And when that veil lifts the vision is gone,
And they’re not sure what to make of it.
The veil over their minds is still there, even with everything they’ve seen
And experienced firsthand as Jesus’ closest friends.
Most of us, I think, go through life pretty veiled when it comes to seeing God.
We have trouble recognizing God in our neighbors in need.
We have a LOT of trouble recognizing God in our enemies.
We know God is with us,
But God seems far away sometimes. Difficult to see.
That inability to see very far beyond ourselves
And our own immediate concerns … that’s a human thing.
That’s not unique to any particular faith group.
But at the same time,
The strange, seemingly innate desire for God,
The drive to find meaning beyond ourselves,
That’s a human thing too,
And also not unique to any particular faith,
Although each faith group articulates that search for
And that way of seeing and connecting with God
In particular, different, distinct ways.
That’s why I’m glad Paul mentions the mirror.
In the middle of this text that seems to try to claim some sort of superior
Divine vision for Christians,
Paul sneaks in this reminder that ALL of our experiences of God,
No matter what our faith background may be,
All of those experiences are mediated.
When we experience God, in this world, we are experiencing God
Through the lens of something else:
Through the bread and wine of Communion, for example.
Or through the kindness and care of a Samaritan:
A person of a faith and culture different from our own.
In this world, we can see God’s love, grace, and beauty reflected in the faces
Of the people around us.
But we can’t see God face to face.
Not yet.
We are, all of us, looking at God through a mirror.
Sometimes that mirror image is pretty dim and unclear.
And sometimes we get these incredible glimpses of God’s glory,
Shining so bright it hurts our eyes
And we might not know what to say.
What we say about God matters.
It matters because statements about faith can be used
To justify violence, oppression and hate.
And statements about faith can be used to promote peace,
Topple oppression,
And counteract hate with love.
May the love of God guide us, always,
And make a way for us. Amen.

Abundance

Sermon on the Second Sunday After Epiphany, January 17, 2016, the Rev. Anne Edison-Albright preaching. Today’s texts: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and John 2:1-11.
or right-click to download the mp3. Video version is available here.

I did not win the lottery.

It wasn’t for lack of trying, though …

Sean bought into the employee tickets at Sentry.

When his coworkers asked him about it, he said,

“So, if I don’t buy in and you all win … that’s terrible.

Or maybe it’s an instant promotion …”

But the employees of Sentry insurance were not the big Powerball winners,

So … that’s that, right?

Last week and the beginning of this week,

Leading up to the first and then the second big jackpot drawing,

I found myself drawn to conversations about the lottery.

I listened to friends talk about what they’d do with the money:

Pay off the student loans of all the young adults in the family.

Pay off the mortgages of all the homeowners in the family.

Pay off the mortgage of the church.

Pay the medical bills of people they know who are suffering and struggling.

When we see a jackpot of over a billion dollar and think to ourselves,

“My goodness, that would really help pay the bills.”

I think that means we need to think about

And talk about some of the economic realities of life in the US right now.

People in this country, in this community

In this congregation, feel trapped by debt,

By jobs that demand too many hours away from home and family,

By stagnant wages and rising costs,

By the pressure of trying to make ends meet while working multiple jobs

And trying to eat right, parent right, look right … BE right … or at least seem to be

Seem to be alright.

A recent article about millennials who hate “having to adult”—

That’s adult as a verb, like, “I don’t want to adult today, I’ll be in my blanket fort.”

Made the point that these statements about adulting aren’t just whiny self pity,

They’re a real critique of a system that is really messed up

A world where being adult seems to mean making impossible compromises

Or, as the article puts it, a world where we can’t work without losing our souls.

What the lottery revealed to me this past week

Was that people are hurting, really and truly hurting.

And winning some money to pay the bills would really help.

When we say “Money can’t buy happiness” we’re missing the point,

Because not having enough money to be secure,

To feed your children, to pay for housing, to pay for healthcare,

That’s not a happy place to be.

And people who don’t have to worry all the time about securing the basic

Necessities of life for themselves and their family

Are, statistically, happier.

There’s a real need to improve economic conditions in this country.

The lottery helped me see that,

Though the lottery’s clearly not the answer to that larger, systemic problem.

So what is?

I think God gives us some good ideas in our readings for today,

Some images of abundance to counteract our own anxiety about scarcity.

St. Paul writes to what we can safely imagine is a pretty anxious congregation of Corinthians.

History didn’t think to keep the letters the congregation sent to Paul,

But it my head it goes something like this:

“Dear Paul,

Please come at once.

There’s a bunch of new people in church and they CLAIM to have the Spirit,

But we’re like, we just met you, what makes you think you know

Anything about Jesus,

And then THEY were trying to teach US.

And some of them are speaking in tongues.

Also, no one is signed up to usher. Again.

Sincerely,

The Corinthians.”

So Paul’s response–that one we do have–

Is to remind the Corinthians that the Spirit comes to all people in all kinds of

Different ways.

And that different people have different Spirit-given gifts,

And that this diversity of giftedness is a good thing for the church.

Because when your gifts and my gifts and your gifts come together,

Suddenly we’re a lot richer and more gifted than we were or could ever be alone.

Suddenly my scarcity becomes our abundance,

And the little I have to offer is multiplied and shared by everyone in the community.

Our church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,

Needs to work on this idea,

Especially as it applies to becoming a more multicultural church,

And a church where racism finds no home anymore.

The words of the Gospel song we sang during the children’s time could be our guide:

The Body of Christ is diverse.

And we need to love and value that.

Looking specifically at the relationship of African Americans to the ELCA,

We need to say, and mean it:

“We love you.

We’re all a part of God’s body.

We won’t harm you with words from our mouth.

We love you, you are important to us,

We need you to survive.”

Not because it looks good for our numbers,

Not because we can say, “Hey look, I have a black friend.”

But because we can’t be the full Body of Christ if our church is only welcoming

To white people.

God will provide for all our needs if we come together as one Body,

But to do that we need to be able to say to black brothers and sisters in Christ:

You are important to me and to God.

You matter.

Your life matters, your black lives matter.

You may wonder how we’re supposed to have that conversation in Central Wisconsin,

But the truth is that it’s happening, now, all around us.

And we really need to listen.

We sent out an invitation to some listening events on race that our synod is hosting,

And we’ll send it out again … there’s one on the 31st of January and another

On February 6.

And if you can be there, I hope you’ll take part.

Listening, connecting, and benefitting from the richness of community

Is something we’re called to do as a congregation.

And in some ways I think this is something Redeemer does really well.

Our congregation is great at partnering with other organizations

And joining and supporting their work

Rather than feeling like we have to be little island

And do everything by ourselves.

Maybe it’s a gift of our size,

But I’d like to think it’s something we’ll keep as we grow, too,

Because it’s the future of the church, and it’s something that youth,

Particularly youth outside of church bodies, have said in a lot of the recent reports:

They don’t want a church to start a program and expect them to show up.

They want a church that will come out and meet them where they already are

And join them in the work they’re already doing.

So, for example, we don’t run our own food ministry at Redeemer.

But we support food ministries in our community as volunteers and with donations;

We are the home of Mobile Pantry and take great joy in supporting their work;

We contribute to food ministries around the world through ELCA World Hunger,

And I’m active in organizations that advocate for laws to fight hunger and poverty

In Wisconsin (and starting to do a better job of inviting you all to be advocates with me.)

And that’s a good segue into the part of this that I think we need to work on

As a congregation,

Which is getting to know each other well enough

That we can invite each other to share our gifts.

Part of being church together is all of us being able to say,

“You are important to this congregation, and to me.

We need your gifts. We need you.”

We very rarely dare to be that bold, that direct

When we talk to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

We very rarely share how important each one of us is to each other

And to this congregation.

But if we can pray for each other more.

If we can get to know each other’s names and gifts,

We can work on doing a better job, as disciples,

of inviting each other to share those gifts.

I’m going to pick on John Herder because I knew he was going to be here today.

You probably know that John is great with numbers,

And that he’s a great leader and speaker, too.

But have you considered that he’d be a really wonderful confirmation mentor?

He would be, you know.

Because he cares about young people,

and he has great faith stories and perspectives to share.

And, he could take them curling.

When we form relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ,

When we share our own gifts and encourage others to share theirs,

Suddenly we are rich.

Suddenly, there is abundance where before there was anxiety and fear.

The truth about the world is that there are many things to be anxious and fearful about.

And not having enough is a reality for many people,

And for others, it may seem like enough is never enough,

No matter how much money we make.

But Jesus went to a wedding, and his very first miracle was a miracle of abundance.

It was a miracle of making sure there was more than enough wine,

And not just any wine, GOOD wine,

To go around at the celebration.

It was not a necessary miracle.

It was a miracle that shows that God loves a good party,

That God loves it when people come together,

And enjoy time with each other,

That God gives good gifts, and gives them abundantly.

When we come together,

Our good gifts from God are combined to create abundance.

Thanks be to God.

Amen!

Why water?

Sermon on the First Sunday After Epiphany, the Baptism of Our Lord, January 10, 2016, the Rev. Anne Edison-Albright preaching. Today’s texts: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22.
or right-click to download the mp3.

Christmas Eve

Sermon on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2015, the Rev. Anne Edison-Albright preaching. Today’s text: Luke 2:1-20.   or right-click to download the mp3.

Singing in the midst of crisis

Sermon on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 20, 2015, the Rev. Anne Edison-Albright preaching. Today’s text: Luke 1:39-45 [46-55].   or right-click to download the mp3.

Do Not Be Afraid

Sermon on the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, November 15,2015, the Rev. Anne Edison-Albright preaching. Today’s texts: Hebrews 10:11-18 and Mark 13:1-8.

12239713_10153687424869754_5303400664338180299_nWhen I heard about the attacks in Paris on Friday,

Jesus’ words from our Gospel lesson today came to mind right away.

Jesus tells his disciples: “Do not be alarmed.”

Easy for you to say, Jesus.

Or maybe it’s not.

Remember that Jesus came to earth completely God and completely human.

He experienced everything it means to be human,

And he knows, and so God knows, the experience of human fear.

Any time the words “Do not be afraid” are used in the Bible,

It’s never in situations where there’s nothing to be afraid of.

It’s always in situations where people have very good reason to be afraid.

Jesus isn’t telling the disciples, “You have nothing to fear.”

Or “Your fears are unfounded.”

He knows that the changes in the world his friends will experience

Are going to be frightening.

Jesus’ friends are going to watch him be violently captured and executed by the government.

Jesus’ friends will live to see the temple destroyed,

Those beautiful, strong buildings with their large stones toppled and scattered.

Jesus’ friends will be forced to practice their faith under persecution,

And some of them will be executed the same way Jesus was.

The lives and worlds of Jesus’ friends will be so chaotic, uprooted, and violent

That most of them will live and die convinced that the end of the world

Was going to come very, very soon.

“These MUST be the end times,” they thought,

“Because everything I thought I knew

Everything I trusted and that made me feel safe and secure,

All those things are coming to an end.”

I think we might feel that way about our world today, too.

And still, Jesus comes to us,

as a friend and as our teacher and as a fellow human being,

And says, “Don’t be afraid.”

Today I’m going to end my sermon with a prayer for Beirut, Baghdad and Paris.

But I have to be honest with you:

I would not have mentioned Beirut and Baghdad today

If the attacks on Paris hadn’t happened on Friday.

The terrible loss of life this week in those places did not even enter into my consciousness

Until friends started posting comparisons of the attacks there shortly after

The Paris attacks.

I like to think of myself as a pretty world-aware person.

I listen to NPR.

I try to read news from a wide range of sources, including international sources.

But my awareness and my empathy and my level of concern is not equal.

And that’s a problem.

I think it’s a very human problem …

We react more strongly to events that impact us more directly,

Or have more empathy for people who remind us of ourselves,

Or listen better to news of violence that is unusual,

Like a Beirut-level attack in Paris.

Rather than ongoing, like a Beirut-level attack in Beirut.**

So, there are reasons for it.

And it’s a problem.

It’s a problem because as Christians we are called to love God and love our neighbors.

We are called to love God and our neighbors and even our enemies.

We are called to love God and love everyone the way God loves everyone.

And that’s a pretty tall order, but without that call,

What would we become?

Who would we be?

It would be so much easier to let go of any hope of caring as deeply about Beirut

As I do about Paris,

To just throw up my hands and say, “It’s human nature to be racist” and

Just go about my way,

Letting my view of the world become narrower and narrower and narrower.

But that’s not what God calls us, that’s not what God challenges us to do.

The most profound piece I’ve read since Friday night is a short article by Joey Ayoub,

a writer who calls both Paris and Beirut home.

He writes about the stark difference between the world’s response to the attacks

In Paris and the attacks in Beirut in the same week,

And with great honesty and openness, he writes this:

“The Human Body is not one. It sure feels that it should be by now. Maybe that in itself is an illusion. But maybe it is an illusion worth preserving because without even that vague aspiration towards oneness on the part of some part of the body, I am not sure what sort of world we would be living in now.”

As far as I know, most faiths have this ideal of the oneness of humanity.

In Islam, it’s called the ummah.

Just like our concept of the Body in Christianity,

sometimes the ideal gets bogged down in questions

Of who is included and who isn’t included in that oneness.

And the way we as people of faith around the world live out this goal of unity

And peace

Falls way, way short of the ideal.

But the fact that this concept exists, and persists,

In spite of all the evidence to the contrary screaming that there is no oneness,

There is no common humanity,

There is no peace …

I think that persistence is the persistent image of God in all of us,

Which DOES unite us,

Which DOES make us one family,

Which DOES connect us to each other and provoke us to care for each other

Beyond the usual boundaries of human empathy

Beyond our own narrow minds and prejudices

And beyond what pure reason and logic can ever hope to explain.

Lucinda Laird, the Dean of the American Chapel in Paris,

wrote a letter in response

To the many emails from colleagues and friends who wrote

Asking, “How can we help?”

Her answer connects to Joey Ayoub’s answer and it is this:

First, she asks us to pray.

Second, she writes:

“I urge you to give some serious thought to next steps.  Your expressions of support are strong and genuine – but where do they go?  We have all held each other up before – after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, for instance, and after 9/11 – and shared a strong sense of unity.  I’m not sure where I am going with this; I only mean that our prayers must lead us to action.  Here in France I suspect there will be very, very strong anti-Muslim sentiment, and one thing we must do is stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and foster conversation and understanding.  I think we also need to work harder to care for the flood of refugees fleeing terror in their own countries – work for immediate care and for political solutions.  You will need to find your own mission in the US, but I know that it must involve continued dedication and commitment to making justice and making peace, and being a light in the darkness.”

More than some vague aspiration for unity,

Can the Human Body respond to these attacks,

Not just in Paris,

But in Beirut and Baghdad and other places as well,

With prayers that lead to action?

How can we, here, in this place, work for justice and peace?

One thing we can do, right now,

Is baptize Hannah and Claire.

This baptism is one of the most important things we can do in response to terrorist attacks.

Here’s why:

  1. It gathers us together as the Body of Christ in this place and time. And being together is really important. That’s what our first reading today, from Hebrews, is all about. No matter what is going on in the world, our in our personal lives, we need to come together like this to encourage each other to help each other grow in faith. Baptisms gather and encourage us in a very special way, and we can remember our baptisms every Sunday when we gather.
  2. In rite of baptism, Peter and Katie are going to promise to raise Hannah and Claire in the Christian faith so that they will work for justice and peace for all people. Hannah and Claire are really important to God, and God is going to work through them to make the world a better place.  They will grow up knowing that they are made in God’s image, and that all the other people in the world are, too. And that it’s important for us to love and serve each other in our common humanity, and in our common dignity and love that comes from God.
  3. Everytime we have a baptism during worship, I’d invite everyone here who is baptized to remember your own baptism, whether you can remember the actual events of the day or not. Remember that you are baptized, and that YOU are important to God, and that God has called YOU to work for justice and peace in all the earth, as well.

We will take action.

We will live out God’s mission of mercy and love for all people in our lives

And in this place of worship.

But first, let’s go back to step one,

And pray.

This prayer comes from the Presbyterian Church, USA.

God of mercy, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance,
in the midst of unfolding violence and the aftermath of terror and loss,
we seek the grounding power of your love and compassion.

In these days of fearful danger and division, we need to believe somehow that your kindom of peace in which all nations and tribes and languages dwell together in peace is still a possibility.

Give us hope and courage that we may not yield our humanity to fear
even in these endless days of dwelling in the valley of the shadow of death.

We pray for neighbors in Paris, in Beirut, in Baghdad, who, in the midst of the grace of ordinary life–while at work, or at play, have been violently assaulted, their lives cut off without mercy.

We open our hearts in anger, sorrow and hope: that those who have been spared as well as those whose lives are changed forever may find solace, sustenance, and strength in the days of recovery and reflection that come. We give thanks for strangers who comfort the wounded and who welcome stranded strangers, for first responders who run toward the sound of gunfire and into the smoke and fire of bombing sites.

Once again, Holy One, we cry, how long, O Lord? We seek forgiveness for the ways in which we have tolerated enmity and endured cultures of violence with weary resignation. We grieve the continued erosion of the fabric of our common life, the reality of fear that warps the common good. We pray in grief, remembering the lives that have been lost and maimed, in body or spirit.

We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among global and national agencies and individuals assessing threat and directing relief efforts; and for our anger and sorrow to unite in service to the establishment of a reign of peace, where the lion and the lamb may dwell together, and terror will not hold sway over our common life.

In these days of shock and sorrow, open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams makes glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.

In the name of Christ, our healer and our Light, we pray, Amen.

**I preached that an attack in Paris was more surprising than an attack in Beirut, not realizing that Beirut hasn’t seen this level of violence since the early 90s.  The attack in Beirut this week was surprising, and it was unusual for the area.  I have much to learn.

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