glory of god

glory of god

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Shaking the Foundations and Meeting Christ: A Sermon for Easter Day

If you are anything like me, you have been anticipating this Easter day for some time. Not only for the candy and flowers and the visit of the Easter bunny, wonderful as they are (the Easter bunny actually sent me my basket or box by UPS this year, arriving a little early—I think because he knew that clergy are busy on Easter morning, and because he’d be so busy visiting your houses last night). But that’s not why I have been looking forward to this day.

And not only so that we can resume eating or drinking whatever we may have given up for Lent. In my case, it was diet pop (that’s soda or tonic to most of you not fortunate enough to be from Minnesota or the Midwest). I did really well, too, but it was an epic spiritual battle sometimes. But that’s not why I’ve been anticipating Easter.

And finally, it’s not just because Easter seems to be a signal of spring—much as we need it. Yesterday, I was out and about in the gorgeous sunshine and I even saw some pretty purple crocuses sprouting up—much better than in Minnesota, where my family and friends are enjoying one of those classic white Easters people sing about, with a fresh coating of snow and an expected high today of 33. Last night it got down to 9 degrees. But the promise of spring is not why I have been anticipating Easter, either.

No, instead of all of that, it is the promise, and the reality of new life that Easter offers us. Our world—so broken, so lost, so marked and marred by the nails of crucifixion—needs Easter light, Easter life and Easter joy. We need the transformative hope that meets us and sometimes even confronts us, shaking the very foundations of our lives, especially when, like the women at the tomb, we are feeling lost, alone, afraid. We need good news. We need to be reminded that what we see and experience and expect are not all that there is. We need resurrection.

Often, when we feel buried under mountains of snow, or far worse, mountains of worry or despair, the promise of resurrection can seem far off and elusive, even when we are told to believe it, or sometimes especially when we are told to believe it—by the Bible, or by our friends and family, or certainly by some preacher in a pulpit. That’s why I find this morning’s unusual gospel story of the women at the tomb so compelling. It is so real and so human. So untidy, just like our lives a lot of the time, mixing faith and fear, doubt and hope.

Did you notice anything unusual about it? Did you notice that there’s no appearance of Jesus? Or that the women ran off, afraid? It even says that they were even afraid to tell anyone what they had seen and heard. You may have been thinking what kind of weird Easter gospel is this? Where’s the joy? Where’s the hope? As it happens, though, this passage in the Gospel of Mark is the very earliest gospel telling of the resurrection we know of, with its suspenseful ending: "So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had siezed them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." In fact, that’s how the gospel itself ends. In suspense and uncertainty. Eventually, later on, some monks decided that this wasn’t very satisfactory, definitely not very Eastery. They thought that the story needed a cheerier, more “happily ever after ending,” with Jesus actually appearing to his disciples, as in the other gospels. So they added a new ending, more traditional, more of what you would expect.

But in the very earliest version Jesus is not there—just the stone rolled away, the good news proclaimed by a mysterious messenger dressed in white (we are left to imagine who he is: an angel, the author of the gospel, or maybe even Jesus himself, unrecognizable in the moment), and the women running off, having been told that Jesus was alive and would meet his friends in Galilee, where they had lived before the last traumatic days in Jerusalem.

If Mark’s Easter narrative were a TV show, you might imagine after this scene, the words: “To be continued” flashing on the screen, perhaps a dramatic end of season cliff-hanger, or maybe, if it were a Star Wars movie, there would be the promise of a sequel coming in a couple years. Only, in the case of the gospel, this is all that Mark wrote. Leaving us, like the women at the tomb, unsure ourselves of what we should be believe. Sometimes, that’s exactly how resurrection, Easter faith is for us today, living as we do in such a state of brokenness, confusion, and uncertainty. Living in what too often seems to be a Good Friday world, in which we, like the woman at the tomb, are too often afraid, confused, and broken.

And, you know what, I think that’s probably how it really was on that first Easter morning so long ago. There were no chocolates or bunnies, and the good news was hard to believe. It was unexpected. It was even fearful. The unfolding story was not yet complete.

I think Mark wrote his gospel that way because if he had written, like the other evangelists, about how Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and then to Peter and John, his readers might have come to conclusion that resurrection is something that is done and finished. It was something amazing, fantastic, that happened a long time ago, but doesn’t have much to do with us here and now. People might have believed that Easter, resurrection was an event of the past, confined to the annals of history.

But that’s not what Mark believed, and its not what the first Christians believed. They believed that the resurrection story, the resurrection experience, was still unfolding, for Jesus’ friends long ago, and even for us and among us now. Mark wanted us to believe that Jesus’ life so long ago—his teaching and healing, his death and resurrection—was just the beginning of the Good News. He wanted us to believe that all of the events that happened in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, and Jerusalem, some 2000 years ago were really the opening few chapters of all that God would do for us and in us, among us and through us.

Mark wanted us to believe that we, too, might experience—in our own lives, in our own hearts, in our own souls—the earth-shaking power of God, the life-shaking power of resurrection. More than anything, he wanted us to believe that the risen and living Christ would meet us, too, on the road home, in our locked rooms, or in our locked hearts. He wanted us to believe that the Gospel story is our story, that the Good News of Jesus Christ is really and truly Good News for each and everyone of us.

Mark’s Easter gospel reminds us that risen Christ doesn’t belong only to Mary Magdalene, or to Peter or John, to those who knew and loved Jesus in the flesh in ancient days. Rather, the Christ belongs to us all. He belongs to anyone who longs for new life. He belongs to anyone in need of his healing touch. He belongs to anyone suffering oppression, degradation, or exclusion. Anyone longing for liberation. It is for them, for us, that the risen Christ appears—not a ghost, not an image, not even a life. But rather as life itself. New life. Radiant life. Liberating, God-filled life. Life that transforms sorrow to joy. Life that transforms fear into faith.

Easter is the awesome, fearsome, and liberating power of God. Easter is God’s power to bring new life out of disappointment, abundant life out of despair, and resurrection life out of death and the cross. Easter is God’s way of shaking the foundations of our lives, and transforming us, and the world, from the inside out. What we see and have experienced are just the beginning of an unfolding story, the opening chapter of the Good News. And the rest of the book? Well, it will be written by us, in our lives. In our very own resurrection lives.  

Mark writes: ‘As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

This Easter, let’s join them on that road to Galilee, where we, too, will meet the risen and living Lord.

Alleluia Christ is Risen. Amen.

© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD   

Friday, March 30, 2018

Love One Another: A Sermon for Good Friday

Sometimes I have wondered what it must have been like to witness to crucifixion. What it must have been like, for Mary and the other women, to gather at the foot of the cross on that awful day. In John’s gospel, which we just heard, we read that the Beloved Disciple was there, too. In the other gospels, it doesn’t seem that any of the men were there. From the distance of time, it’s hard to know. But certainly, most of Jesus’ friends had fled. They were in hiding when he was crucified. Locked away. Afraid.

Perhaps even afraid that they might be next. “You also were not one of this man’s disciples,” Peter was asked. But the women were there, Mary his Mother. Mary Magdalene. Mary and Martha of Bethany, perhaps. It was a confused and confusing time. And it all happened so quickly. Less than 24 hours before, Jesus was sharing his last supper with his friends, embraced in love. He was even washing their feet. And then, he was gone—ripped away. How could it happen like that? How it could it end like that? How do you make sense of such a thing?

You will undoubtedly remember the moving image following the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida: the one of a woman on the school grounds, holding another mother who is crying, perhaps even screaming. The latter woman is wearing a heart necklace, and she has a back cross imprinted on her forehead—because, of course—that day was also Ash Wednesday. These two women, holding each other in grief and loss and uncertainty, their beloved children killed, it’s an image one doesn’t soon forget. This, I imagine, is how Mary and the other women huddled at the cross felt on that first Good Friday. They, too, had black ashen, bloody crosses on their foreheads—or at least they felt as if they did—marked as family and friends of Jesus, a beloved son, friend, teacher, mercilessly killed. From now on, when I see that iconic, tragic picture of Valentine’s Day, I will think of Mary and the women at the crucifixion. From now on, when I reflect on the crucifixion, I will see that picture in my mind—our modern day equivalent of Good Friday, our modern day equivalent of the crucifixion.

Two thousand years after the horrific event we commemorate today, two thousand years after Jesus was crucified, nailed to a cross, killed in the most painful way humanity could devise, two thousand years later, we continue to live in a Good Friday world. Why is it that pain, death, and even the power of evil still seem to have the upper hand, holding us in their steely grip? Why? Read the newspaper, visit the internet, or turn on the TV and you know it’s true. Here in the United States we have been focused on gun violence of late, a disease that seems to hold our nation in bondage. Some have called it a public health crisis.

In other parts of the world people live and die in different circumstances, enduring unimaginable horrors—war, violence, starvation, disease. The world we live in is so very far from the kingdom of God that Jesus envisioned when he taught and healed, gathering friends and followers around him, calling them to fish for people. Indeed, we are infected with the same disregard for life that sent Jesus to the cross so long ago.

People often wonder and ask: why was Jesus killed? Was it because he was a revolutionary? Was it because he upset the religious authorities? Or was it just because? Simply because they could? There are plenty of theories of course, but no real answers. Nothing is definitive, except that for some reason, we human beings are so afraid, so broken, so lost, that we find it necessary to turn away from love, to reject God, to kill.  

What is definitive is that Pontius Pilate, nervous religious authorities, and the mighty Roman Empire were somehow so intimidated by Jesus, so afraid, so threatened by him, an upstart Jewish peasant teacher from a nowhere backwater, that they couldn’t bear the thought of him being alive, not even one day longer. Such was the power of his teaching. Such was the example of his life. Such was the empowering, radiant glory of his love. Jesus was dangerous—not because he and his scraggly disciples carried weapons or amassed armies—but because he and they loved, because he broke down barriers, and in that he threatened the world order.  Because Jesus turned society upside down.

He ate with people he shouldn’t. He touched people he shouldn’t. He rejected the idea that just because you were a fisherman or a tax collector, just because you were sick or blind, or you couldn’t walk or you had too many failed relationships, or whatever, that you are a nobody, worthless. Jesus rejected the categories and prejudices that kept people in their place. And that was dangerous.

It’s dangerous to tell people that they have value. It’s dangerous to give people hope. It’s dangerous to give them a voice and a vision, to instill in them the belief that what we see is not all that there is. That’s why American slave owners didn’t want to teach enslaved peoples to read—especially the Bible. That’s why the East German communists built the Berlin Wall. It’s also why some people today, people of power and influence, are so afraid of the youth and young adults who have found their voice and have begun speaking out bravely and powerfully against gun violence. Powers and principalities are always intimidated, they are always afraid, when enslaved, oppressed, demoralized and subjugated people embrace their full humanity, when they realize that they are not destined for enslavement, but instead for life, for abundant life, for God-created, God-infused, God-blessed life.

That Jesus wasn’t actually a political figure, that he had no interest, not really, in overthrowing the Roman Emperor or the High Priest or anyone in power, was irrelevant. He was an example to other would-be upstarts. An example to others who may have dared to dream of freedom. Who dared to believe that they, too, are God’s sons and daughters.

What those mighty powers didn’t understand, though, is that you can’t kill the spirit of God. Not really. You can’t keep people enslaved once they have caught a glimpse of freedom and felt the power of God’s love unleashed in their lives. In fact, that’s why we are here today—because the love of Christ, the love of God, was unleashed into the world in Jesus’ life so long ago.

Though killed on a dark Friday, Jesus continues to live, even 2000 years later. He lives in and through us—who follow him, who are his body and his blood. He lives in the love he continues to pour onto the world and into human hearts, the love that he shares with us, even now, across time and space from the cross.

We here today, living in our own Good Friday world, gathered like the women and the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross, marked with ashen crosses on our foreheads, and doubtless like them, filled with pain, grief, and sometimes disbelief, are nothing less than the living manifestations of Christ’s eternal and limitless love—shared with the world throughout his life as he taught and healed and unleashed especially, and powerfully, on that first horrific Good Friday.

And so, as we gaze on this broken and crying world of ours—a world filled with too many crosses and too much death, Jesus calls out to us. He calls out to us from his cross: Behold your mother. Behold your son. Love one another as I have loved you. Hold one another, like the women in that powerful iconic photo of Florida on February 14. Abide in my love.

If we listen, if we follow, if we love, and embrace, and welcome, if we heal and hold, Christ’s death will not have been in vain. In fact, he will live. He will live in us and through us and with us. And this dark Good Friday world will be transformed, day by day and person by person, into the bright light of the resurrection.

So, let us pray:

Strong Son of God, who didst pour out thy life that we might live, and who by thy cross didst show to the uttermost the forgiving love of God: We praise thee that through death thou hast destroyed death and opened unto us the gate into life that is strong and free. Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Reaching for God, Not Guns: A Wilderness Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent

In our gospel this morning we are invited to accompany Jesus, just after his baptism, as he is driven or forced or compelled—by the Spirit of God—into the wilderness, where he is surrounded by wild beasts, faces temptation, meets Satan, and receives the ministration of angels. Scripture tells us that he was there, struggling with Satan and doubtless with himself—for 40 days which, when you think about it, is a very long time to be left alone in the wilds of nature.  40 is a magic number in the Bible, recalling the 40 days and 40 nights of the flood during the time of Noah, the 40 days that Moses was on Mount Sinai alone in God’s presence, and the 40 years that Israel wandered in the wilderness.

I imagine that during his time in the wilderness Jesus felt and experienced the full range and scope of human emotion—fear, anger, despair, confusion, isolation, abandonment, but also love and comfort and strength. As presented to us in scripture it was, I think, a time of testing. Was he up to the task to which God was calling him? Did he have the strength necessary to take on all that would come his way?  All the loss, all the pain, all the illness, all the death—even his own?

Matthew and Luke go into greater detail about Jesus’ wilderness trials than Mark does here. In those other gospels we read about the various temptations Jesus faced—the lure of power and wealth, food to satisfy his hunger, the adulation of crowds, protection from harm. Jesus rejected these. He rejected easy answers. He rejected the promise of false security. He rejected anything that might have drawn him away from his own life in and with God, even in those moments, like here, when God must have seemed especially distant, remote, and far away.

This has seemed a lot like a week spent with Jesus in the wilderness. Yet another school shooting, indiscriminately and mercilessly killing 17 wonderful people—youth and adults alike—reminds us that as a nation, we are wandering in a deep and dark wilderness, confronted by hungry, howling wild beasts, and temptations of every kind. Where is God in this horror? Where are the angels, who bring comfort and hope? Where is the rainbow in the sky we heard about in our first reading this morning, offering the promise of new life after the dark and tempestuous storm?

I shared in my parish email on Friday that I didn’t hear about the shooting until I got home from a long day at here at church on Ash Wednesday. If I had known earlier, I likely would have preached a different Ash Wednesday sermon. Doubtless still focused on God’s love, but reflecting in a different and deeper way on the profound brokenness of human life, on such painful, horrific display this week. The whole thing is just beyond comprehension or understanding, or at least it should be.

Of the various tributes I have seen since Wednesday, I think the best was on the PBS Newshour on Friday evening. To close the show, Judy Woodruff shared photos and stories of each of the students gunned down on Wednesday: Jaime loved to dance, she said, and Nicholas was a swimmer and was looking forward to college. Aliana loved to serve, Judy said, finding ways to help people in need and volunteering after Hurricane Irma. Alex played the trombone, winning a state championship last year. His mom died when he was just 5. His brother, a fellow student, survived the shooting. Peter, aged 15, was in the Junior ROTC. His cousin said he would be friends with anyone. He didn’t care about popularity. Alyssa played soccer and was on the debate team, placing first in a debate tournament. Carmen, aged 16, was an active member of the youth group at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church. Aaron Fies, an assistant coach and security monitor, had been a student at the same school years before. He looked out for students who got in trouble, struggled, or didn’t have fathers at home, offering them a positive role model. He died helping others find safety. These are just 7 stories out of 17.

17 lives ended for no reason. 17 sons, daughters, dads, students and teachers who will never come home again, never pick up another pencil, never read another book or swim another lap, never hug a friend, never again laugh or cry. Another mass shooting in a country that prides itself on being a nation of laws, a refuge of safety, a beacon of hope, freedom, and justice. 

How did we get here, into this wilderness? How do we get out?

Following the shooting, the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida offered the following statement: “There are no words that can adequately give voice to the madness and the violence done to those gunned down, and to their families and friends so cruelly robbed of those they loved. There are no words to describe the pain of loss and grief, of shock and horror, of outrage and anger… Only the anguished cries that well up from the very depths of our being. There are no words to make sense of what makes no sense, and in the face of such senseless killing we are numbed and rendered speechless.”

The bishop of the diocese offered a brief further reflection, saying: “We bring our longings and convictions for a different future. What happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is not the world as it ought to be, or as it needs to be, and we who follow Jesus accept the responsibility for being partners with God to bridge that gap between what is and what could and ought to be.”

“We who follow Jesus accept the responsibility for being partners with God to bridge that gap between what is and what could and ought to be.” I believe he’s right. I believe that it is precisely our call, as Jesus’ followers and disciples—to be partners with him, and partners with God, in bridging that gap—so that what could be and ought to be becomes what is. In real life. Not just in dreams. Not just in hopes. Not just in thoughts and prayers, however sincerely offered.

So for me, the question is what do we do? How do we act? How does God want us to act, to partner with Christ, with God, to transform the world?

I don’t have all the answers. Though I certainly have convictions about guns and safety, especially when it comes to semiautomatic, military style weapons—which have mass killing as their primary purpose. I don’t see how they have any place in civilized society. In 1963 the prototype for these weapons was presented to President John F. Kennedy, for military use, and he rejected them, not seeing the need. They were introduced in 1964—the year after Kennedy was assassinated, by a man with a rifle—for use in the Vietnam War.

The same kind of weapon was used in the Sandy Hook school shooting, and in the Pulse Night Club in Florida, and in the concert shooting in Las Vegas, and the church shooting in Texas last year. When a disturbed person wants to kill masses of people, whether in a nightclub, a concert, a school, or a church, it seems that this is the weapon of choice. That the military feels the need to use such weapons is bad enough. But there’s no reason for them to be in our homes and on our streets, purchased legally by 19-year-olds. If you can’t buy a beer but you can buy a weapon capable of killing so many in a matter of minutes, there is something wrong in our priorities, something wrong in our values, something wrong in our humanity.

And so, at some point, like Jesus, we will have to emerge from the wilderness in which we find ourselves. We will have to take on the tempting, seductive powers of death. We will have to partner with God and fight for life. We will have to fight for our very souls, and for the life of all of God’s people. We have to reject the temptation of thinking that someone else will do it, or that it couldn’t happen here, to us, to the people we love and care for. And instead understand that a part of us all dies when lives are so senselessly taken.

The present sad state of our life together as a nation does not have to be our story or our reality. We can reach for God, instead of guns. We can help each other be well. We can be people of hope and life, instead of death and despair. We can be. We should be. We need to be, if we want to be fully human, fully alive, fully free. And so, at some point, we will have to leave behind and finally reject the temptation of believing that we will find our strength and security through arms and war, instead of through the far more powerful gifts of healing and new life offered us in faith, in community, in Christ, in the life of God.

You know, Jesus used his time in the wilderness to overcome fear, to confront demons, even Satan himself, and to fight back temptations of many kinds. He used that time to emerge stronger, more faith-filled, more deeply grounded, centered, and rooted in God. He used that time to become even more the Son that God wanted and needed him to be. And I wonder if maybe, hopefully, we can use and utilize our time in the wilderness in which we find ourselves in much the same way—so that we, too, can emerge strong, faithful, committed, and full of hope, full of the life, full of the love and Spirit of God.

And so, like Jesus, we pray. We pray so that we can act. We pray so that we have strength. We pray to find hope. And we pray so that, like Jesus, we are filled with the life and power and Spirit of God. The life and power and Spirit that, through you, through us, will change the world.

May we find it so. May we make it so.

To God be the glory: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 © The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD

Sunday, November 5, 2017

They Lived Not Only in Ages Past: An All Saints Sermon

One was a soldier, and one was a priest, one was slain by a fierce wild beast…..

Today we celebrate one of the best days in our church year–the Feast of All Saints. Besides the really big days—Christmas and Easter— All Saints is one of my two favorites, along with Epiphany. It’s our annual opportunity to remember all those who have gone before us–the well-known saints like Mary the Virgin and Mary Magdalene; St. Francis and St George who slayed the dragon. We also recall those who aren’t saints in the strictest sense, but nonetheless were people of courage and conviction–people like Martin Luther and Martin Luther King. 

We remember as well those who are less famous–not so much remembered by the church at large, but who nonetheless had a deep and profound faith: our own loved ones, those who worked for the building up of the church, even right here, who helped this parish to grow and flourish. Every culture, age, and place raises up its own saints—people whose hearts are aflame with the light of God, and who by their words and actions are able to draw us, as well, closer to God’s radiant light.  

The church, typically, has come to see the saints as people whose lives are complete and have been received into God’s greater glory. But in the Bible, all Christians are considered saints–those who have died, and those living and sharing God’s love with the world. I like this expanded understanding–saints are not only the few who have successfully completed a lengthy canonization process, but really are the millions who have loved God and witnessed to God’s love for the world with their words and with their lives.

Given this expanded understanding, I wonder, can you think of any saints you have known personally? Are there people in your life, now or in the past, with a special ability to draw others into the heart of God? Who seem to put the needs of others before themselves? Or who stand up against oppression so that others can know the peace, hope, and healing that God intends for us all? Do you know anyone like that?  Do you know any saints?

For me, a few special people come to mind. Some have died, parishioners we have known and loved right here at Emmanuel, and some are still living. One such, for whom I give thanks, is the Rev. Jane Gould, the rector of St. Stephen’s Church in Lynn—but notably only through today, her last Sunday in the parish. Because very soon she’s moving on to St. Luke’s Church in Long Beach, California. I think Paul LaSpina remembers Jane from their days at Church of the Epiphany in Winchester. One infamous Jane in Winchester story has her as a young and very pregnant priest going into Labor at the altar on Easter Sunday morning. If I remember the story correctly, she made it through the service and to hospital before the baby came.

Yesterday, at our diocesan convention, we honored Jane for her tireless, visionary ministry in our diocese, and it only seems appropriate for me to honor her this morning, as well, because her impact on my own life and ministry has been nothing short of profound. The perfect reflection for an All Saints celebration.

I first met Jane just about 20 years ago, when I was in seminary and in search of a field education internship site. At the time, Jane was the Episcopal Chaplain at MIT, and that chaplaincy seemed especially interesting to me—it is a combined Lutheran-Episcopal ministry and at the time I was 25, so not far off in age from many of the students. I knew nothing about math or science, really, which ended up being fine. That time and place in ministry was absolutely life-changing for me, and Jane was a big part of that, along with the interesting, geeky, unusual students, whom I came to love. What I especially appreciated about Jane, besides her always fun-loving nature, was the respect she showed her students—whether the MIT students for whom she was their pastor, or me, her intern. Although I was just 25, without much experience, she treated me like a fellow minister and was enthusiastic about my ideas, which undoubtedly were half-baked some of the time. I can honestly say that the two years I was at MIT was the most fun I have ever had in ministry.

Most important, as I reflect back on it, was Jane’s philosophy that interns like me should have some ministry all their own, without a supervisor looming in the background. Mine was a Bible study. I lured students there with free pizza and soda, or pop, as I call it. It started out rather slowly. I think the first week only one or two students came. But over time, it grew to as many as 20 or more, each week. Can you imagine, 20 MIT students leaving their labs and math problems for pizza and Bible study on a Monday night? Jane let us use her office—students sat in chairs, on the sofa, on the floor. After studying the gospels of Mark or Luke, we moved on to the epistles, with a series called “Pizza, Paul, and Pop.” They were never too convinced by Paul, I am afraid. His arguments just weren’t logical enough for MIT students, but we had fun. Jane wasn’t there for it, unless I was sick or had to be away on occasion, but as a good mentor, she created the space for me to flourish.

It was while I was at MIT that I first applied to be accepted into the ordination process here in the Diocese of Massachusetts. I was turned down. The bishops and the Commission on Ministry didn’t really give a reason—I think mostly it was my age—but it was absolutely devastating. Jane was, for me, a tower of strength—consoling, encouraging, and prodding me along, helping me make the right choices for the future. She was close to our late Bishop Tom Shaw, and I have no doubt that she advocated behind the scenes, so that eventually I was accepted a few years later. When the time finally came for me to be ordained at the cathedral, Jane was one of my presenters, standing alongside me. A few years later, she visited Emmanuel on what was, I think, my third Sunday here—9 years ago—to show her support. What a gift.

Jane’s ministry at MIT was powerful and profound. She mentored divinity students like me. She coordinated a program called the Technology and Culture Forum, drawing together people from across the university and beyond to consider issues of ethics and science. She was a caring pastor to students in what must be the most difficult and competitive university in the world. She encouraged the Episcopal and Lutheran community there to participate in the Common Cathedral homeless ministry on the Boston Common one Sunday every month—sharing in worship, making sandwiches, being present and exposed to the realities of life on the streets.

Not long after I left MIT, Jane did, too—moving on to an even more challenging ministry in Lynn, where she has been for 17 years. St. Stephen’s is a unique place—it’s a grand old building, though not as grand as it once was. It houses the whole kingdom of God. On Sunday mornings they worship both in English and in Swahili. They are the home to refugees from the Sudan, and Spanish-speaking youth in their Kids in Community summer camp. Recently, they’ve begun a Kids in Community after school music program, and they opened their doors to a program called “Be You”—a youth group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens. Knowing of the high suicide and homelessness rates of these teens, the parish wanted to provide a safe space for them. It took time for the teens to trust that a church would welcome and not judge them, but now it’s home. Hearing that the Lynn Public Schools had eliminated summer school for elementary-age children, the parish organized college-age mentors and committed volunteers to provide tutoring in literacy and math, so that the most vulnerable students would not lose grade levels during the summer. While Jane would never take sole credit for these extraordinary ministries, they undoubtedly are due to her leadership and vision which, just like back at MIT, is always focused on lifting others up, helping the people of God to claim their own ministry, their own discipleship, and their own voice.    

In our diocese—at conventions and whenever people gathered—Jane pushed and prodded on issues of justice and inclusion, whether it was about racial justice, equality for women and LGBT persons, or against gun violence and poverty. Wherever there was a microphone, you could expect Jane to be there. And most importantly, you could be sure that wherever Jesus stands, Jane Gould would be standing alongside him, speaking truth, challenging powers, lifting up God’s people. I know for a fact that I would not be here with you today if it were not for Jane. She is my hero. She will always be one of the most special saints in my life, just as I know you have special saints in yours.

You know, we often say that “so and so” is no saint, or that we are not saints. When we do that we make a disclaimer about our lives or suggest that because we are not perfect, God wouldn’t choose us to spread his love. But this, really, is messed up thinking. None of the saints were perfect—not Mary, not Paul, not Peter or Francis. They were, and are, all human. But they also knew that whatever their frailties or shortcomings, God still needed them. God still wanted them. God still used them–to live holy lives, to spread the gospel, and to shine with the light of Christ. And through their examples, they call us to do the same, right here, and right now.

Yesterday, at our diocesan convention, Bishop Gates ended his address by sharing the words of Jonathan Daniels, a seminarian from Episcopal Divinity School—30 years before me, 20 years before Jane Gould. Daniels was martyred in 1965 in the civil rights era. I shared the some of the same piece with you this summer, on the anniversary of his death. It makes sense to reflect on Daniels’ words now, again, on All Saints Day. Describing his ministry in Alabama, he wrote:

“This is the stuff of which our life is made. There are moments of great joy and moments of sorrow. Almost imperceptibly, some men grow in grace. Some men don’t. The thought of the Church is fraught with tension because the life of the Church is caught in tension. For the individual Christian and the far-flung congregation alike, that is part of the reality of the Cross.

“We have activists who risk their lives to confront a people with the challenge of freedom and a nation with its conscience. We have neutralists who cautiously seek to calm troubled waters. We have men who are willing to reflect on the cost and pay it. Perhaps at one time or another we are all of these. Sometimes we take to the streets, sometimes we yawn through interminable meetings...  Sometimes we confront a posse, sometimes we hold a child.  Sometimes we stand with men who have learned to hate, sometimes we must stand a little apart from them. Our life in Selma is filled with ambiguity, and in that we share with men everywhere. We are beginning to see as we never saw before that we are truly in the world and yet ultimately not of it. For through the bramble bush of doubt and fear and supposed success we are groping our way to the realization that above all else, we are called to be saints. That is the mission of the Church everywhere. And in this, Selma, Alabama is like all the world: it needs the life and witness of militant saints.”

Daniels was killed a few months after writing this, shot while saving a fellow civil rights activist. If our faith tells us anything, it is that we don’t need to be rich to care for the poor and the weak, we don’t need to be powerful to share the love of God, and we don’t need to be kings to build the kingdom of God.

On this Feast of All Saints, may we be inspired by the examples of the saints all around us, and then shine just as brightly with the light and love of God.

To God be the glory: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Loving God and Loving our Neighbor: A Sermon for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Jesus said, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

That’s it. Love God, with all your heart. And love your neighbor as yourself. When you strip away all the words, the dogmas, and doctrines that people get so fussed over, when you take away all the extras, that simple command is the core of faith. Love God and love your neighbor. The rest, really, is elaboration. And if lived and practiced truly and fully, this faith will transform souls, communities, societies, and the world. Because, of course, it’s hard to drop bombs on neighbors whom you love as yourself. It’s hard to cheat or rob or shoot or abuse them. It’s hard to burn them at the stake, as our Reformation ancestors did to those with whom they disagreed. Probably you wouldn’t even have time for such, because all the while you are loving God—with all your heart, soul, and mind.

Unfortunately, we know that these commands, simple as they sound, can be rather challenging to live up to. All too often we put ourselves and our narrow concerns first. We can become so turned in on ourselves sometimes that we don’t have enough space or time left for this extraordinary and life-giving loving of God and neighbor that Jesus commends to us—at least not in it fullness.

It was precisely the resultant inner sense of “spiritual inadequacy,” or some might call it “guilt,” at the inability to live into these Great Commandments—loving God and loving our neighbors—that led directly to the event we commemorate today, the start of the Reformation, 500 years ago. Because people then, living in a different context but with the same human condition as we today, felt that they, too, had failed to live up to the great commandments. Like us, they struggled with spiritual and emotional and physical temptations. They fought with their families, and sometimes they didn’t care much for their neighbors and co-workers. They didn’t always put their faith in God first, and they knew it, just as we do.

Where they differed from us, probably, is in believing in a God who would punish them for their sins and limitations. Thankfully, we’ve largely left that vengeful God behind. Or at least we try to. But for our ancestors—five centuries ago—he was a present reality and a future fear. It’s not that they believed that they would go to the eternal punishments in hell if they messed up in their loving and living. If they were baptized and went to church and confessed their sins, they believed they likely would make it to heaven… eventually. But before they got there, they had to make a detour by way of purgatory—a place and experience of spiritual cleansing, of purging the soul of its sinful ways and deeds. One’s time in purgatory depended on the nature and depth of one’s sins in life.

It makes rational sense. After all, it wouldn’t seem fair for a notorious sinner, one who lived a dissolute and worldly life, to end up in heaven with St. Francis or Mother Theresa, without first accounting for his or her actions. Very early on the church fathers concluded that there must be a stop along the way, a layover on the flight to heaven, where sins are purged—through suffering after death, as well as through prayers and spiritual offerings, such as votive masses, offered by one’s loved ones left behind. Those prayers and masses aided the deceased on their journey toward paradise with God.

So, people did what they could, for family and friends who had died. They prayed for them. They made donations to the church, so that special votive masses would be said on behalf of deceased family. And they received, and sometimes bought, indulgences. The idea of an indulgence is a special act of grace, offered by the church, to lessen time in purgatory. Sometimes, one received an indulgence for doing a special kind of good work—such as supporting a hospital, or making a spiritual pilgrimage to a holy site or shrine. Or maybe one donated to the construction of a new church.

It was the latter, especially, that got the church in trouble. Early in the 16th century, the Pope decided that St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome needed to be rebuilt, the previous structure beyond repair. Construction on the new St. Peter's began in 1506, and continued for over a century, until 1626. Only, the costs for the massive project were just that-- massive--requiring considerable financing. Thus, the church invited and encouraged the faithful to help. In contributing to such a holy site, by buying an indulgence, they would be engaging in a spiritual act, a good work, which benefited the church in the present, and had eternal benefit as well—freeing oneself or one’s family from the suffering of purgatory. The more the faithful spent, the less time in purgatory. They even got a nice certificate, with the name of the beneficiary hand written on it, noting the amount of time released from purgatory. For us, today, it starts to feel uncomfortable. But it got worse.

In 1515, the church, looking to earn more with the costs in Rome accumulating, voided indulgences already purchased, for a period of eight years. If the faithful wanted that time covered, they had to buy new indulgences. Knowing this would be a hard sell, the church declared that purchasers of these new and improved indulgences did not have to make confession or show remorse for sins they or their deceased loved ones might have committed. Just pay, and eternal freedom was secured.

In Germany, sales were strong, due to an innovative Archbishop named Albrecht and a Dominican friar by the name of Johann Tetzel, the 16th century equivalent of one of those "as seen on TV" infomercial salesmen, who can slickly sell you all kinds of stupid stuff you don't need. Tetzel traveled around Germany, utilizing creative techniques to sell freedom from purgatory. His most famous line was “once the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” 

While Tetzel’s words and actions likely moved beyond the official teaching of the church, as slick salesmen often do, there were indeed significant abuses in the 16th century. The church had become increasingly powerful—spiritually and politically. Even kings had to submit to the power of the Pope. So, it should not come as a surprise that there would be some kind of resistance or protest, and there were some from time to time. What made the 16th century such a tinder box was the invention of the printing press—allowing for wide distribution of new ideas.

Enter Martin Luther. The father of the Reformation was a complex person. He was brilliant, beyond brilliant, and also deeply disturbed. He was tortured by the thought of his own sinfulness, his inability to live up to Jesus’ command to love God with all his heart, soul, and mind, and to love his neighbor as himself. He suffered from what he called his Anfectungen: his tribulations, which included “cold sweats, nausea, constipation, crushing headaches, ringing in his ears, depression, anxiety, and a general feeling that… the angel of Satan was beating him with his fists.”  See here:

Luther entered the monastery to calm his distress, engaging in spiritual and physical humiliation to free himself of his sense of sin and failure. He went to confession daily, with long lists of sins to be forgiven. And then left, worried lest he had forgotten one. His superior at the monastery suggested that he teach—to set his mind at other things, instead of focusing on his troubles all day. It was while teaching New Testament that Luther discovered in Paul’s epistles the idea that we are “justified” or made acceptable before God, not by our actions, but by God’s grace, made available to us through Christ’s life and especially his death. What’s more, there’s no way we can add to what Christ has already done for us. We can’t earn it and we can’t buy it. It is always God’s free gift. Indulgences were absolutely worthless, because we can never do more than God has already done in Christ. For Luther, the discovery was revelatory. It freed him from his spiritual prison and allowed him to live. He thought it would do the same for others.

In October of 1517, 500 years ago, Luther wrote his 95 points of dispute, his theses, attacking the sale of indulgences for perverting the doctrine of grace. Tradition tells us that on October 31 he nailed them to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. Historians are not sure whether that happened. It may have, the church door was sort of the town bulletin board where notices were posted for discussion. Or, he may have just sent them to Archbishop Albrecht. Whatever it was, soon people were discussing his ideas, some appalled at the monk’s audacity, while others agreed with his concerns.

Over time, Luther became a celebrity across Germany. The church didn’t know what to do with him, and they surely didn’t foresee what was to come. If they had, they might have found a way to accommodate his ideas. In the moment, though, he seemed to be hammering at the heart of the church—striking the power and authority of the pope, driving nails through the sacramental system and the faith of believers. So, he had to be rejected, excommunicated. Some powerful friends saved him from arrest and possible execution as a heretic, kidnapping and hiding him in a castle—the Wartburg—where he translated the Bible in German, and wrote secretly, his works smuggled out and printed, spreading like wildfire. A revolution had begun. Within 20 years, the church was torn in two, with some loyal to the Pope and the faith they had known, and others inspired by the spiritual freedom offered in Luther's interpretation of the Gospel. 

Sometimes Luther was profoundly right, as in his beliefs about God’s grace, and sometimes he was profoundly wrong. In 1525, German peasants rose up against landowners who exploited them. Inspired by Luther, they believed that the freedom in Christ meant not only spiritual but physical freedom and liberation as well. Luther disagreed, siding with the nobles and princes. He wrote: “Let everyone who can, smite and slay... nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just as one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him he will strike you.” Not his finest hour.

Far worse, and longer-lasting was his anti-Jewish attitude. Early in life he assumed that once the Jewish people heard the liberating Gospel of Christ (especially as he presented it), they would be drawn to conversion. When they weren’t, he became virulent in attack, suggesting actions to deprive Jewish residents of their rights, including setting fire to synagogues and schools, forbidding rabbis from teaching on the pain of loss of life and limb, destroying homes, seizing property, and setting them to work as manual laborers in fields. Even by the standards of the time, his ideas were extreme. Thankfully, they were not followed to the full, in his time.

But they would be re-read centuries later. His pamphlet, “On the Jews and their Lies” was cited as a blueprint for Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany. Of course, the Nazis didn’t have use for the rest of Luther’s teachings—on grace and love. But they found what they needed. It is a bloody stain that no amount of bleach can wash away. So much for God's grace and love. So much for loving your neighbor as yourself.

It's interesting, though, that at the same time the Nazis were finding inspiration in Martin Luther's writings, so too was a Black American Baptist preacher named Michael King. After taking a trip to Germany for a Baptist conference in 1934, a year after Hitler's rise to power, this preacher and early civil rights leader was so inspired by the faith and bravery of the reformer that he decided to change his name. Thus, he went from Michael King, to Martin Luther King. He changed his son's name, too, becoming Martin Luther King, Jr. 

So we balance the good, even the extraordinary, with the bad, and the dreadful.

Thankfully, the Reformation was and is not about Luther, nor any person—John Calvin or John Knox, Henry VIII, Thomas Cranmer, Queen Elizabeth. Rather, it was and is about the gracious gift of God, the love of God, and the people of God, searching for fresh and authentic ways to express their faith. The Reformation reminds us that God’s church, God’s Body, is not static, but is ever changing and growing, evolving and becoming. Which also means that the Reformation didn’t stop with Luther in 1517. If it had, we wouldn’t have Presbyterians and Congregationalists, Baptists, Mennonites and Unitarians, and maybe not even Anglicans.

In fact, Reformation has never stopped. We have been living it for 500 years—in prayer offered in the language of the people; in democratic church governance—like vestries and the Diocesan Convention several of us will attend next weekend; in the ordination of women; in multiple translations of the Bible; and who knows what to come—changes that likely seem unimaginable today. Even the Roman Catholic Church has adopted some of the reforms that were so contentious in the 16th century. They haven’t sold indulgences for years, and now they, too, worship in the language of the people, just as Protestant churches have re-adopted Catholic practices and traditions in recent years—such as celebrating the Eucharist each week. We have found ways to grow closer together, in and through Christ, setting aside centuries of division. Loving God and loving our neighbors.

And so, we are back to where we started. In every day, in every age, and in every life the Great Commandments—love God and love your neighbor—stand before us, written in our hearts, as the substance of our faith. What’s more, they apply whether we identify as Protestant or Catholic, or even Jewish or Muslim. Unfortunately, human history suggests that sometimes, we are not very good at living into them. Try as we might, we know that sometimes, too many times, we will fail in living up to Jesus’ simple yet profound commands. However, with the gift of God’s grace, we also know that we can live in hope and faith, assured that our sins and failings are not held against us, but are instead always covered and wrapped in God’s forgiveness and love— a love we can’t earn, a love we can’t buy. And, thankfully, it’s also a love we can’t ever lose.

To God be the glory: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

You Shall Not Kill: A Sermon on Guns, the Ten Commandments, and Human Flourishing

Back in the olden days, in the foggy mists of time, when I was growing up and going to church, it always felt like an all-day activity: first Sunday School for an hour, and then church for a second hour. My mom taught Sunday school herself, so we were in our classes while she taught hers. We’d go to coffee hour in between, and then attend the later service for the second hour. I admit that I would have preferred to stay home sometimes—watching cartoons in my pj's—but that was rarely an option.

I was one of those kids that preferred being in the church service itself, over Sunday School classes. Not that I paid attention to the sermons much, but I always appreciated the music and liturgical action. I guess that’s why I do what I do today! One aspect of Sunday School that I really didn’t like was memorization work. We had to memorize lots—the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, and the Ten Commandments. Usually, our teacher would give us a line from the prayer, creed, or one of the commandments that we were supposed to memorize over the coming week. If we did and could recite the line the following week, we’d get a star or something. We don’t emphasize that so much today. But it was the thing then, 30 or 40 years ago. What I really don’t remember from those Sunday School days, though, is if our teachers ever gave us any context or content for what we were learning. You know, did they ever tell us what the prayers or creeds or commandments mean? If they did, it wasn’t in much detail. Mostly, I think it was just memorizing.

When it comes to the Ten Commandments, some of the themes are rather adult—like adultery. We wouldn’t have understood what that was about when kids learning the lines. Though, interestingly, that’s the Commandment Moses is pointing to in the stained-glass window above the altar. It makes you wonder just what the congregation here was dealing with in the 1950s and 60s. Others hit very close to home at any age—like honoring your Father and Mother—my parents loved to emphasize that one at particular moments. And the last one about coveting what it is your neighbor’s used to strike awfully close to home, too. Still does, sometimes.

Further removed from the real-life experience of most of us—whatever our age—is the one commanding us not to murder or kill, depending on the translation. It’s interesting that it’s even included among the top 10 dos and don’ts. The others deal with more every day temptations and struggles, while thankfully for most of us killing another human is beyond the pale. But it must have been something that people struggled with in ancient days. Indeed, any read through the Bible makes clear that the impulse to kill has infected the human heart from the very start—beginning with the brothers Cain and Abel, sons and Adam and Eve; down to Moses—who himself killed an Egyptian; to the tenants in this morning’s gospel parable, reflecting the crucifixion of Jesus himself.

Something in the human heart and soul, some seeds of violence and hatred are so deeply planted and deeply rooted, that God felt the need to inscribe on tablets of stone, for all to see and know, that this is absolutely not how we are called to live. Murder, killing, like adultery, covetousness, and faithlessness are as far from God’s design for human life as anything.

For those of us instilled with the values of faith—whether Christian or Jewish, and doubtless from other traditions as well—this should be obvious. But, of course, it’s not. Increasingly, we seem to live in a society that considers murder and killing ordinary, routine, and even expected, if not exactly okay. Last Sunday’s mass murder, we might even call it a massacre, in Las Vegas, is just the latest example of what has become all too commonplace in the United States over the past years.

Last week it was at a country music festival, last year it was at a gay night club, the year before an African American church in South Carolina during Bible study, and five years ago an elementary school in Connecticut. What’s next? Who’s next? We learned over the past week that the shooter in Las Vegas had also considered a music event in Chicago and even Fenway Park as possible sites for his killing.

Whatever the motivations—whether hatred caused by racism or homophobia, or mental illness that would lead one to target school children and their teachers, or even an indiscriminate hatred of people in general and the perverted thrill of power—it is a manifestation of those seeds of violence, hatred, and division planted in the human heart, and nurtured and watered by a culture, a society, that seeks always to divide people into categories of us vs. them, me vs. you, instead of all of us together.

I’m sure this tendency is found across other nations and societies. Clearly it is, or we wouldn’t find examples of the same actions in scripture, as in this morning’s gospel parable of the tenants in the vineyard killing the owner’s slaves and son. But for some reason, it seems particularly alive and acute here in the United States. Perhaps it’s because the nation was born in the crucible of revolution, with guns drawn and a shot heard around the world. Or perhaps it’s because our early financial system and economy was undergirded by slavery—both in the north and the south—which relied on violence to rip people from their homes, chained them in ships, and then sold them to the highest bidder. Human beings treated like property that you could beat, starve, kill. And perhaps it is because the expansion and flourishing of the nation could only come with the bloody acquisition of land and power at the expense of those native peoples who were here first—pushing them further and further out, starving, killing, and massacring along the way.

Whatever it was or is originally, there is something in our national identity, even still, that seems to idolize violence and even murder. Just consider the fact that inscribed in our American constitution is the right to bear arms. Now, some would argue that the original meaning of that right has been perverted over the years—since in its original context it was focused on the ability of a dispersed populace to organize into a militia, in the event of attack from foreign powers. We don’t need that today, with a proper military and police force and all the rest.

But even if you are of the view that the American right to bear arms is absolute and must be preserved, surely one would have to recognize that the framers of the constitution couldn’t have imagined semi-automatic machine guns that could indiscriminately injure hundreds and kill nearly 60 people in a matter of minutes. After all, the guns they knew were muskets. There is no conceivable reason that an individual should have ready access to such instruments of death and terror. That militaries have and use them are bad enough—also in violation of God’s commandments. But ordinary citizens, people like you and me, with full arsenals in their homes—serving no purpose but the potential murder of fellow citizens, fellow human beings—is to me, beyond comprehension.

I imagine it is beyond comprehension to God as well—the God who spoke through the prophets and came among us in Christ Jesus, to teach us a different way. Indeed, Jesus was himself killed by the powers of evil and death. By the hatred which so infects human hearts. And in his death, Christ showed us the power of love. He showed us the power of life. He showed us that retaliation, armaments, and weapons are not the instruments of human flourishing. The instruments of human flourishing are love and hope and trust. What’s more, in raising Jesus from death, God broke the human cycle of violence and hatred. God showed us, through Jesus, that there is another way, a better way. A way that leads to fullness of life.  

As some of you know, I was very briefly in Minnesota over the past week. It was perhaps my shortest trip there ever—just Thursday to Saturday. So, I didn’t have much time for visiting. I went primarily for the meeting of the National Scandinavia Advisory Board at Gustavus Adolphus College, of which I am a member. I can’t go to all the meetings, but I try for one or two a year. At Friday’s meeting, we were joined by a number of students—some who studied in Sweden last year and reported to us on their experience, and others who are from Sweden, studying in Minnesota for the semester or year.

It was particularly interesting to hear of the experience of the Swedish students. They were impressed by how friendly and welcoming everyone is. They universally felt supported in their studies—despite being unprepared for the amount of weekly homework expected of them. But they also said that some of them were worried about coming to the United States, or in some cases, their families were worried about them coming here. Because there is a perception across the world that the United States is a dangerous place. That people are randomly and routinely shot here. We think of the US as a place of liberty, freedom, and hope—the land of the free—and yet, others from other lands worry that they might even be shot as they step off the airplane upon arrival here.

Thankfully, we know that would be highly unlikely. Even so, many in this country do live in dangerous circumstances. And random acts of hatred and death are all too common—not only on a massive scale as in the horrific events of Las Vegas last week, but also as children are hit and killed by stray bullets on neighborhood streets. Something has to change. For the sake of our nation and its people, something desperately has to change.

In my mind, that change has to come through bipartisan work to change gun laws. I realize there’s no way to get all guns out of the hands of all bad guys. But that sad fact should not stop us from making it harder to access weapons that are built for the sole purpose of killing people, in many cases on a disturbingly massive scale, as we witnessed last week. We have to move out the realm of political bickering and grandstanding, worrying about lobby groups and special interests, and instead worry about human life, and human flourishing. We have to mend the fabric of our national life, moving us away from a culture of death to a culture of life. After all, that’s what the Ten Commandments are all about—moving God’s people away from a culture of death to a culture of life. That’s what Jesus’ life was all about as well.

And the good news is, we can all embrace this work and this calling—whether we are men or women, young or old, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, whatever our background, race, color, sexuality. In fact, we need all our voices, speaking and acting in love, for each other and for our world. Those of us who follow God in Christ have the perfect model, with laws, commandments inscribed not only on stone, but on our hearts. They can guide us to fullness of life.

To God be the glory: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD