Grace! Now what?

The Gospel lesson appointed for this morning was another WAKE-UP kind of Gospel. If folks weren't awake before I started reading, they probably were by the last verse!

The readings appointed for this Sunday are tough...for several reasons. First, the topic of forgiveness is generally a hard one. Where do we start?!..

In addition, take a look at the ending of this parable, Matthew 18:21-35. It ends with this:

"Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Ouch, right?! While this parable isn't one you'll find on a fridge magnet, I find that the most difficult passages in scripture are sometimes the best to consider!

In the sermon below, I work to make some sense of Jesus' commands for forgiveness, and how they fit with Jesus' overall wisdom regarding how the community is called to be accountable. I've entitled my sermon: 'Grace! Now what?' 

May you be gifted with a strong sense of God's grace today,

Giulianna+

First, below is a link to the readings appointed by the Revised Common Lectionary. We used Track 1 this week:

Readings appointed for Sunday, September 17th

birds flying.jpg

Grace! Now what?!: a sermon on forgiveness & accountability

Our scriptures this morning get us thinking about big salvation events and encourage us to consider how we respond. First we heard a wonderful story that prepares us to imagine God doing something really big for God’s people.

The story was the one of the Israelites passing through the red sea; of escaping the life of slavery in Egypt to be given entry into the freedom of the Promised Land. God saved them. It was huge! I’ve heard this salvation story as the Easter Event of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Israelites responded to this moment of salvation by breaking out in song. What a good prelude to this parable, a story that Jesus told about a man who was forgiven an impossible debt.

According to the story, this particular slave owed 10,000 talents. Scholars help us make sense of this number helping us see that the amount was equivalent to 150,000 years of work. My husband, who is a numbers guy figured this out, assuming that the person was earning around $12/ hour, and realized that this debt would have been around 4 billion dollars.

The lord of the story, however, simply said to the slave, ‘don’t work about it’! Forgiving the whole, impossibly huge debt, he wiped the whole slate clean. But then, notice how the slave’s response…

The man who had just been forgiven a huge debt then went to a person who owed him 100 denarii  (equivalent to $10,000 or 100 days wages)… grabbed him by the throat and forced him to pay!

Things do not end well for the man who lacks the same generosity he himself had just been given. Parable ended the way many parables in the Gospel end: with harsh judgement. Because of the harshness of this portion of scripture, I find many of us find this parable rather difficult for most of us to get into.

When we read parables, we often try to ask ourselves the question: who am I in this parable? Perhaps the way to get into this parable is to allow ourselves to pause at the point where we find ourselves.

If we do this, I suspect that many of us may relate to the one who was forgiven an enormous debt. Afterall, we all are imperfect people. We all sin. We all fall short of the glory of God.

When we come to that momentary silence before the confession of sin in our liturgy, we can call to mind some ways we have fallen short. Over the course of our lives, for things known and unknown, done and undone, we are acutely aware that we have sinned.  

Again and again, we turn to God, we confess our sins.  And we people of faith believe this radical thing: We believe that our gracious God does forgive us!

The Christian community has been founded on God’s radical generosity. We are given second, and third--  and endless opportunities to continue walking in the light and the love of God. In God’s mercy, we are made new.

 

We who are members of Christ’s body are called to rejoice in the free gift of God’s grace we receive, and then respond. We are called to give it back. In big and small ways, we are called to extend to others that grace we ourselves have received.

Jesus always imagined the beloved community to be a group of followers who know ourselves to be forgiven. Consider, for example, the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. We pray that God would forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. We respond to this knowledge by working to forgive one another.

Forgiving comes easy… sometimes. It seems to me that it is pretty easy to forgive if: 1) The hurt has been fairly minor, and 2) if the person who hurt us is genuinely remorseful. 

When the offense is small and remorse is real, it’s so simple for us to say: “hey-it wasn’t that big of a deal… and I know you didn’t mean to do it… it’s ok!”

And in situations like that, the breach is repaired simply. We may swallow a little pride, but we accept their apology. Harmony is restored pretty easily…

All of this is very good. And yet, forgiveness is not always so easy. The work of forgiveness is so much harder when the hurt has been significant and our trust has really been betrayed.

Forgiveness is also so much harder when the offender isn’t actually repentant at all!! And even worse yet, if the offending person seems intent on continuing to harm us (or other people) that we love again and again, there are times when forgiveness doesn’t even actually seem healthy… or just!!

Friends, I know that I’m muddying the water on the topic of forgiveness. This, however, is what life does. Life complicates things. The wide array of experiences we have in the course of our lives muddy the water on topics like forgiveness.

Bear with me. Before I hop back into the scriptures appointed for today, I want to call to mind a full year of experiences I had that really muddied the water on forgiveness.  

This was when I was still in my twenties. I lived in New Orleans and worked as a clinical social worker with victims of domestic violence and their children. The grant funding required that all my clients were parents who were currently in violent relationships with significant others.  Officially, my clients were the children who lived in the home, but to work with them, I spent time proving support and counsel to their caregivers.

In our time together, I started to catch onto the fact that many of the families with whom I was working were getting some really bad advice from seemingly well-intending folks at church. Sometimes that bad advice was rooted in the scripture we heard today.

The quote was told to them, again and again was this very quote we heard in today’s Gospel. “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times”.

Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness were reiterated to them in the form of advice. In effect, clients were being admonished, essentially, to stay quiet, to not rock the boat, to forgive even while (every form of suffering) suffering continued. This pressure to keep from holding abusers accountable for their behavior had disastrous consequences... for the whole family!

Looking back on this time, I wish I knew then what I know now. What I know now is that if we want to understand the wisdom of scripture, we need to place it into the whole narrative of the Good News. As we hop back into the scripture we did hear today, what we find is that when we place Jesus’ command to forgive back into the context of the rest of the chapter 18, it is clear that the call to forgive is set within the context of the call to be accountable to neighbor.

At the very start of chapter 18, we hear Jesus speak of children (of the little ones) as being the greatest in the kingdom of God. Woe to you who would be stumbling blocks to them, Jesus warns. Some verses later, just before the passage we heard today, Jesus provided clear instruction about how members of the body are to properly hold one another accountable when they are injured. “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” If they do not listen, go and get support from others in the community.

Even as we joyfully recognize that God forgives the Sin of the whole world by Jesus Christ, it is critical that we also recognize that Jesus always imagined God’s kingdom as a place where the little ones, the vulnerable ones, are safe and protected.

This means that sins are worth paying attention to. This means that the conflicts that arise in community are not to be swept under the rug, but rather are to be dealt with carefully, thoughtfully, and in the open.  

When we put Jesus’s words of this call to forgiveness properly into the context into which he was speaking, we can see that the call to forgive DOES NOT MEAN that we hide our eyes to abuse of any kind.  

We need each other to hold us accountable. Our relationships are gifts of God’s grace when they are based on mutual care, on fidelity, on trustworthiness.

Sometimes all of us need truth to be spoken in love in order for us to recognize the ways we are failing to keep our promises to love our neighbors. None of us are perfect. None of us can see clearly how we effect one another. While it may be uncomfortable and awkward, what we are doing when we hold one another accountable for what we have done and what we have failed to do, what we are doing in effect is helping one another grow in grace and love.

The beloved community is called to be a place of safety; a community where we protect one another so that ALL of us can dwell in the safety and freedom that God intends for each and every one of us.

Forgiveness does NOT take the place of accountability. Forgiveness comes along side accountability. These are not mutually exclusive.

Forgiveness and grace infuse the Christian community. Forgiveness and grace is the glue that hold the Body of Christ together.  

God has paid the debt for our sins. This salvation we have come to know; to know in a personal way.

The parable begs us to ask ourselves the question: What do I do with the freedom and grace I have received?

-          Do I extend the gift of grace to others I have received to others?

-          When I forgive, do I forgive from my heart and really wipe the slate clean?

-          Do I act graciously to others when they are courageous enough to let their guard down and be real with me?

-          But- just as importantly: Do I use my freedom to protect others from violence and oppression? Do I do all I can do from my position to make our world safe and free for even the little ones among us?

There is challenge and there is grace in today’s Gospel for all of us. We all have places where we KNOW we could grow; grow in our ability to hold one another accountable; grow in our ability to forgive as we have been forgiven.

Regardless of what grace and challenge this parable raises for us as we enter a new week, let us remember that the God we follow is a God who is gracious and abounding in steadfast Love. Our God forgives us our debts, not because of how much we deserve forgiveness, but because of how much God loves us.

Thanks be to God, our forgiving, life giving God offers us new life and more freedom each and every day.

May we strive, each day, to forgive as we have been forgiven; May we strive, each day, to walk in Love as God loves us! Amen.   

Pick up your Cross

accept hardships.jpg

This weekend is Labor Day. Hurricane Harvey has been making a mess in the gulf. And this reading on taking up your cross appears in the lectionary. Seems a good time to prayerfully consider the crosses we're called to carry and what prevents us from doing just that.

The characters we discover in scripture remind us that we're never alone in the struggle to accept hardships. Below is the passage where Peter seems to get into a little trouble, and then below is a reflection...

May we accept hardships as a pathway to peace, pick up our cross, and follow!

God bless you,

Giulianna+

First, here is the passage from Matthew's Gospel we read on Sunday:

Matthew 16:21-28

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 

Labor Day Weekend is a pleasant weekend for most of us. We have a three day weekend. Casual get-togethers and family time. It’s the start of football season, and the start of dove hunting season-

And yet, I imagine most of us have been enjoying Labor Day while keeping an eye on the news from Houston. Hurricane Harvey has done incredible damage to our nation’s 4th largest city, a place lots of us know so well. In Mississippi, we’re not all that far from Houston. We may go there from time to time, and many of us have family and friends who are live there.

In addition to all this, we all have clear memories of Hurricane Katrina, and the fact that the devastation is said to be even more widespread is a disturbing reality to be sure.

We don’t like thinking about people suffering. We see other people in pain, and we want to ignore it… avoid it… we may even try to numb it away…

When we suffer ourselves, we often want to do the same thing. We want to ignore it the pain, avoid it, numb it away.

While our natural inclination to avoid pain is totally understandable, lots of times in our life, many times in our lives, we are called to walk right into it; to walk right into pain and anxiety and discomfort while holding onto hope: hope that tells us that tomorrow will be different, that pain will not last forever, and that, ultimately, God will have the final word.

Because we understand our human inclination usually is to avoid pain at all costs, we can’t be surprised too much by the awkward interaction in the Gospel passage we just read when Peter, Jesus’s dear friend and trusted companion, just couldn’t take it when a certain topic came up when Jesus started talking about his impending suffering. Peter had to take a stand. “God forbid it!”…”This cannot happen!” (not to you!)

The thing is, though, Jesus knew the truth about pain. Jesus knew that there could not be Joy without Pain. Jesus knew that Easter would not come without Good Friday. Jesus comprehended this wild notion that God’s power is capable of transforming pain so that it becomes nothing but a doorway that leads to fuller life!

Jesus accepted pain. He walked right into it. Jesus didn’t avoid it or numb it. Jesus accepted suffering. And Jesus essentially told his followers that they were called to do the same thing.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it”

Take up your cross and follow. This was, and is, Jesus’ invitation.

Millions of people in Texas and Louisiana have had crosses to bear this week.  For some, the storm has been distressing and inconvenient. For others, it has been devastating. Even with the protections that were in place, those 50 of inches of rain were unavoidable.

And yet, amazing stories are surfacing from the Gulf Coast. Stories of neighbors helping neighbors. There are stories of people crossing town in their boats and putting their own lives on the line to save people they have never seen before in their lives! There are stories of brave neighbors, people of hospitality,  generous regular folks opening their homes and sharing meals with neighbors they’d never met before.

As we hear these stories, we hear of people taking up their cross. When people resist temptations to cower in fear, but instead enter into suffering boldly with hope and with love, God blesses that effort.

We are not out of the woods with Hurricane Harvey’s devastation. Perhaps we’ve not even entered into the woods yet! May it be our prayer that the collective human response to this suffering will remind the world not just of disaster, but of unity and love for years to come.    

I ran some errands yesterday. Everywhere I went—Walmart, Walgreens, the gas station— encouraged me to donate to the Red Cross. Here today, and next week, we’re gathering donations for Episcopal Relief and Development to do the same. When disaster comes, there are so many ways for us to pick up our cross…. Even from afar, there are so many opportunities to extend love and generosity and care. When we do this, we do make a difference!   

Jesus’s instructions were so clear: Take up your cross and follow me.

We don’t (literally) each have a wooden cross to bear. But each of us have burdens: some are ours we have to bear all by ourselves… others are family burdens… others are ones that belong to the whole human family!

Jesus all us followers to accept the burdens before us, not to run from them, not to avoid them, or try to numb them… but to take a deep breath and accept them, and each day, to find a way to take these burdens up in a spirit of faith, facing them head on and trusting that, with God, joy will come in the morning.

We people of faith know the truth: pain is a doorway… a doorway to more abundant life.

May we willingly walk through whatever suffering and challenge we may have, courageously take up our crosses, and holding onto hope… hope that, with God, life will get the final word!

I am going to close Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity Prayer. This prayer is one that has been embraced by the 12 step communities, but it such a great prayer for all of us who are following Jesus and working to take up our cross.

Let us pray:

Serenity Prayer

- Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.


When Circles Collide and Grace Enters In...

Below is a sermon excerpt based on the story of a Canaanite Woman encountering Jesus...

canaanite woman.jpg

 

Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

___________________________________________________________________________

We human beings draw circles.

Circle of Trust. Circles of Friends.

We can imagine that Jesus was the same way. Jesus had a circle of trust; a select group of friends.

They all were Jewish. They all were from Galilee.

When it was Passover, they knew what to do. When other holidays and customs came, they honored them the same way.

They too had similar life experiences. They shared the same faith story.

 

Our Gospel this morning presents us with a powerful story of circles colliding… Our Gospel is a story of what happens when circles collide… and then God’s grace enters in.

 

In today’s Gospel story, we find Jesus and his friends traveling way up North. It’s helpful (as it often is), to remind ourselves where this passage is set within the rest of the story. We are here at Matthew, chapter 15. Right in the middle of the Matthew’s Gospel.

At this point, Jesus was gaining popularity. He’d been going place to place. Its as though he was picking up speed… covering more ground.  Jesus was going from place to place. As he went, he sharing the story of God’s salvation. Jesus helped people open their eyes to consider the wideness of God’s mercy. Jesus went about healing people and casting out demons.

This Good News was news that could not be kept hidden. Word was spreading like wildfire!

Because the news was spreading far and wide, seemingly random people, even as far north as Tyre and Sidon were talking about this Jesus. Jesus: A Jewish Man from Galilee was doing things and saying things that were breaking open ancient promises in new ways.

 

It was all moving fast! Until. A particularly unlikely sheep approached Jesus. This woman was a Canannite. She and Jesus were as different as they could be.

 

Her people and Jesus’s people? They were simply not the same people.

Their religious heritage was different.   Their traditions were different. Their world worldview was different. She had a child—was a parent. Jesus did not. They were from different worlds!

 

Nonetheless, the woman had been listening. She seemed to know about Jesus.

Perhaps people had told her about the miracles of abundance Jesus was performing… Perhaps she had heard how Jesus took just a little fish and bread and fed 5,000! (with leftovers)

Perhaps she had what Jesus had been teaching to the crowds…. Like how Jesus had taught that what defiles a person is what comes out of the heart that defiles…

Perhaps this woman (who likely was seen as unclean and ostracized due to the illness of her daughter) had come to believe there could be HOPE; hope for her and hope for her daughter… Maybe, just maybe, with Jesus, there was enough mercy to go around…

 

The woman mustered the courage to approach Jesus.

But instead of responding, immediately, with compassion (as we expect) Jesus seems to sort of give her the silent treatment!

As the woman begged Jesus for mercy for the sake of her tormented daughter, Jesus ignored her. He remained silent in the face of her pleas.

(I can’t help but wonder… while we are shocked by Jesus’ response… I wonder… is this exactly what she had come to expect? The world can be so cruel… especially for those who are drawn out of the circle)

 

The brave, relentless woman refused to be ignored. She pleads her case once more. This time, Jesus insulted her, and explained that his task wasn’t to reach everybody, but only to reach the lost sheep of Israel.

The woman spoke up. Accepting Jesus’ language for her, she then turned it-

“Yes, Lord. Yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

The woman was clever. She was inspired. In her clever retort to Jesus’ insult, it’s as though she found a way to say: “See me!”

‘See me, Jesus!’…‘I don’t need everything, but I do have needs. See me as a person, not as a foreigner. See me as a person, not as a burden.’…‘See me for what I am: a person who believes in you.’

Jesus healed her daughter, saying simply: “Your faith has made you well”.

Interestingly, no one left that encounter unchanged.

The woman experienced a miraculous healing for her daughter. But she was not the only one who was blessed. I can’t think of any other way to put this except that Jesus was taught something here in the 15th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel that was crucial for him to learn.

Jesus’ circle started out small… But Jesus’ circle grew wider. Jesus was a person with a family and a culture just as we all have.

And yet, the abundant mercy, and grace, and compassion of God at work in him and through him could not be limited…

Jesus was destined to live, and to die, and to rise again for ALL of us; That all the ends of the earth might see the glory of God.

Just as the bread God blessed and broke went on to feed over 5,000 people WITH LEFTOVERS, God’s abundant mercy, and grace, and compassion could fill up the circle and overflow into the whole earth!

Jesus may have started out only with the circle of Israel in his mind, but the plan for Jesus’ life and ministry and ultimate destiny was a plan that constantly caused circles to collide and grace to enter in-

We who have been baptized into the name of the resurrected Christ and have been set on fire by God’s Holy Spirit know the truth. Even though we too are often blind and often have trouble seeing beyond our small circles of similarity, we know that with God, there IS enough to go around.

Our circles of trust and friendship can be instruments of God’s grace. But they are not an end within themselves.

Our circles of trust and friendship: whether they are our household, our families, our church families, our schools, our places of work are circles that God intends to infuse with an abundance of God’s grace that is, in fact, SO abundant that it can pour out and into the world around us!

May we follow in the way of Jesus. When our circles collide, may we respond to our neighbors with curiosity and grace, moving beyond judgement and into the peace our God desires for us.

Thanks be to God. The Holy Spirit of the resurrected Lord dwells among us and nudges us to grow in love.

Amen.  

 

 

 

 

All in the Same Boat: A sermon for August 13 2017

Paying attention? Anxious about troubled water?

Me too.

Turns out, Jesus had a lot to say about fear. Below is the passage from Matthew's Gospel yesterday, and below is a link to my sermon.

May God bless you and me with the courage to move out into the troubled water as instruments of God's love, God's justice, God's peace.

Giulianna+

 

Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

A prayer at the start of a new school year

A new year starts for so many children and teachers this week. Our household will see our oldest now entering grade school. We parents find ourselves unsure of how he will do with his new teacher and classmates, unsure of how we will navigate more homework in the evenings, and unsure how we will do at getting him to school on time again now that summer is over! 

This is always a good time to pray. It's a good time to pray for our own children, and it is certainly a good time to pray for other people's children.

How good it is that we have a God who joins us in our anxiety and renews our strength. 

Below is prayer that came to my heart prayer this week:

God of Life, Father of All, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world. Bless all who teach and all who learn, that wisdom is taught, love is made known, and all your children are safe. I pray these things for the sake of your love. Amen.

A dwelling place for you and me

Joyful, joyful we adore thee... we opened worship singing these words today-

I love this old hymn of the church for lots of reasons-- not least of which is my favorite line:

-         “All who live in love are thine." This sentence strikes me every time. 

As most of the best lyrics in our hymns, this was inspired by scripture... As the First Letter of John, Chapter 4, verse 16 states:

-         “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”(1 John 4:16)

The ideas of "living IN love" and "living IN God" are ideas that really resonate with the Gospel passage we were given for today.  Here is one part of the Gospel we read today at St. Stephen's:

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house, there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I not have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, you may be also." (John 14:1-3)

 When we look at the Greek Word used for “dwelling place”, we learn that Jesus was not speaking so much about a concrete place as he was a place of relationship.

The Father and the Son dwell in completeness… in perfect love. They live in connection to one another. And where they are, there is plenty of room for us also.  “Where I am, there you may be also.”

This idea sounded good to those who first heard it. But it was puzzling...especially to Thomas… ever our critical thinker.

Thomas found the idea of having to find this place Jesus was preparing to be sort of overwhelming… he thought ‘how could I possibly find the WAY’ to find Jesus again when he goes away to dwell with God?

How can we KNOW we’re on the path?

Jesus assured them that he was worthy of trust, and present… really present to them. But Jesus assured Thomas and that HE was the way.

Even through change and grief, Jesus promised his abiding presence. Jesus promised a dwelling place with God and the Holy Spirit right there with Christ.

The key to finding the way was not complicated. They did not need a map. They did not need an entrance fee.

All they needed was a relationship-- a real connection-- with Jesus.

This Gospel is one of those selected for funerals. We can understand why. The passage It has a lot to say about our hope in eternal life. But, like all pastoral texts, this Gospel is not only useful for funerals. Really, it is a good one for us in any time of stress—

Notice how our passage began. It began with Jesus saying: “Do not let your hearts be troubled”…

Troubled hearts. We all have had troubled hearts from time to time.

A stressful morning at home with the kids; A family member or a loved one going through a hard time; a health scare; a big problem you know you just cannot solve no matter how hard you try..

It was to those with trouble in their hearts that Jesus simply began:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me”

Jesus assured his followers there is plenty of room in the place where God abides. There are no third wheels.

Friends, we can trust this promise. We can trust that the dwelling place where God dwells in perfect love and harmony is a dwelling place where we will find connection, and rest, and security too.

We will bring our troubles with us when we come to Jesus in prayer. We will bring our troubles with us when we meet Jesus again in the Eucharist. But even with our arms full of troubles, our God welcomes us and helps us carry the load.

I'm tossing up a copy of our opening hymn from this morning. Take a look at it... maybe sing a long... maybe this old song of people with troubled hearts throughout the years can be your song too!

Peace and Love to you,

Giulianna+

 

joyful joyful

Abundantly Alive

We used some really beautiful scriptures for our worship today. While it was tough to pass up the 23rd Psalm, I decided to preach on the tenth chapter of John.

John 10:10 contains a gorgeous line from scripture:

I came that they may have life and may have it abundantly. - John 10:10

I came that they may have life and may have it abundantly.

- John 10:10

How can a life of faith make life more abundant? What did Jesus mean by "abundant life" anyway?...

I enjoyed spending some time in John Chapters 9 and 10 to prayerfully try to figure that out!

Grace and Peace,

Giulianna+

Keep on Walking: A sermon on the Road to Emmaus

The liturgical season of Easter is 50 full days long. This means we have an extended focus on the resurrection of Jesus long into the Spring.

I always enjoy preaching on this powerful text from Luke's Gospel. It is a great Easter text. And this year, it struck me as particular encouragement for those of us who need fuel for our journeys...

Click here to read Luke Chapter 24:13-25 and my Reflection on the passage

Click here to read Luke Chapter 24:13-25 and my Reflection on the passage

Considering Sin and Evil...

There is so much that is good in the world.

Love. The beauty of creation. The ability of humanity to learn, and grow, and change.

So much in the world is graceful and wonderful.

And yet, there is also so much that utterly dismal. 

In every moment, countless human beings suffer even as others rejoice.

In every moment, so many hunger- and thirst- and live in fear, even while as others enjoy lives of safety and extravagance. 

I think that most modern, educated people want to believe that that the right amount of money... or education...or policy could simply cure us those things that cause suffering. But in spite of all of the progress that has been made in our world, misery in all of its forms persists. 

Why? This is the question that I believe those of us who follow Jesus are uniquely equipped to answer...

Cross of Fingerprints