Love is stronger than Empire

The Rev. Julie Wakelee-Lynch St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Albany, CA Sunday, July 15, 2018, Proper 10B

Gospel: Mark 6: 14-29

 

There are a lot of words in that story, especially for the Gospel of Mark. So let’s be clear about what happened: King Herod, who is something of a puppet ruler for the Romans, has a very broken relationship with his brother, Philip. As the king, Herod only answers to Rome, a power that doesn’t seem to care much about his morality. So he takes Philip’s wife for his own. John, the truth-teller, speaks out against the king’s lack of moral fiber, and is thrown in prison. Herod sees that John has power and a following. But Herod is also curious about John and his teachings. Then one night Herod gets drunk, is enthralled by his step-daughter’s dancing, and promises here whatever she wants. Salome is smart – she knows Herod is powerful, so she asks her mom what she should do. The Greek used indicates that she is a girl—not yet a teen.

Herodias, maybe to test Herod, wants revenge on John for publicly shaming them.
And of course Herod doesn’t want to appear weak, so he agrees. It’s an old, old story, one that plays out in various shapes time and again, and one that is also stunningly contemporary.

It reminds us of the cruelty and randomness of violence in the Roman Empire, and of the end which generally awaits prophets. In case we are tempted to think that the state murder of Jesus, in whose name we gather, was a singular event, John’s death shows us that even a dinner party can be deadly if the powers that be decide you are a threat.

Corrupt leaders are not a new thing in the 21st Century, and anyone who is a puppet for an occupying force keeps an eye out for potential trouble-makers. So that’s how John’s head ended up on a serving platter (literally). And then Herod hears of Jesus, John’s cousin, and he starts getting VERY nervous. It’s starting to look like this might be a bigger movement than just one guy with some followers.

You might wonder: we proclaim this as gospel—as good news. Where is the good news here? This story has another, critically important layer, because it shows us the power of prophecy, of speaking the truth in public, of being part of a movement based in God’s love.

John, who may have been languishing in prison for over a year, represents a threat to a corrupt regime. But he is not alone. Mark points out that at John’s death, Jesus and his followers are right there, coming up in the next flank. It is a portrait of non-violent resistance, of refusing to be cowed, of claiming the power of something stronger than fear. Herod stands in for the power of Empire. Empire does what is expedient, often motivated by fear. The love of God demands something else, calling us to go deeper, broader, higher, to live in gratitude for what Ephesians describes as “the riches of grace lavished upon us.” Love is always stronger: stronger than fear, than greed, than grasping for power.

For years now, people have been gathering the first Saturday of every month at the ICE detention center at Pt. Pinole, demanding and end to policies separating immigrant families and imprisoning tax-paying residents whose only crime is trying to live here and support their families. On Tuesday, the mayor of Contra Costa County announced that he would not be renewing his contract with ICE. He credited public outcry for a large part of the reason he is willingly giving up this $3 million dollar contract.
Speaking the truth to power makes a difference.

 

I had the great privilege of hearing the Rev. Dr. William Barber speak Thursday night at First UCC Church in Berkeley. Barber, who is just a year older than I am, is a modern day John the Baptist, and a true prophet. I so wished Anne Langston was there with me,
and I suppose she was. The authorities no doubt keep their eyes on Barber, because he has already shown that he can mobilize communities for change, for healing, and to live out the power of Gospel love.

He is the leader of the Moral Mondays movement which began in 2013 in North Carolina, when, over the course of 40 weeks, growing from a handful to thousands, people gathered at the statehouse to protest regressive legislation. Their voices made a difference, and their method has spread to other states. More recently, he has revived the Poor People’s Campaign, a grassroots movement begun by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., focused broadly on social issues and rooted in a call for resuscitating the moral fiber of our country.

At the packed 1st UCC church, speaking to a mostly non-religious crowd and receiving multiple standing ovations, Barber repeatedly turned to his bible to talk about what God demands, the call of the prophets, and the power of love, when we are willing to let go of our narrow self- interests, and let them be bound together with the needs of others.

The movement he calls people to join does not focus on one issue, but looks broadly at voting rights, economic justice, labor rights, education, healthcare, environmental justice, immigrant rights, criminal justice, LGBTQ rights and militarism, arguing that we cannot win progress if we stay in our particular issue silos, but look toward a new moral movement that calls for a renewed heart of our nation.

One of the most humbling moments for me was when he acknowledged that this is an exhausting time to be alive and speaking truth to power. And then Dr. Barber, a former high school football player, who stands 6’2” and still has a formidable build, asked the largely white audience, “Are you tired of fighting for justice?”
And went on with a litany…

Do you think Japanese Americans interned in WWII were tired? Do you think enslaved Africans were tired? Do you think Rosa Parks was tired?
Do you think the workers in the fields picking our vegetables are tired?

So, do you think John the Baptist was tired? We know Jesus and his followers got tired. But we must not grow weary of speaking the truth, of calling, in love, for justice, for mercy. Love is not the easy route. Love demands our best, our highest. And love is more powerful than Empire.

You can whip up a crowd with fear, with hatred. But to build a movement that will endure, and heal, and welcome and rejoice that takes the Love of God which nothing on earth can break, and against which not even death can prevail.

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them. Amen.

(For more information about The Poor People’s Campaign, see https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/; Rev. Dr. Barber’s organization is here: https://www.breachrepairers.org/poorpeoplescampaign/)

What does it mean to be “blessed”?

The Rev. Julie Wakelee-Lynch, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Sunday, January 29, 2017
Readings: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Epiphany/AEpi4_RCL.html

How often do you say (or hear others say) “I am blessed”? What do they mean?
Looking today at the teachings of Jesus, I have to wonder: Do they mean, “My heart is broken and I am blessed because I’m learning to be compassionate, now that I’m awake? I am blessed because I can now imagine what it is like to bear someone else’s burden— my heart is broken, and I can see things I never saw before?”

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God. They shall see God in the midst of this broken world, and they will never be the same again. Or do they mean, “through this grief I carry, I now have insight to be in deeper relationship with others who suffer great losses–what a great blessing!”

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted—they shall be comforted by the community of those willing to make the journey together, and they shall find healing on the way.
When we hear, “I am so blessed!”, do we think the speaker means: “No one assumes I have ideas to contribute. I would never presume to push my way in, but I am listening, and learning. I am blessed to carry such depth in my soul.”

Blessed are the meek, for they are building up a deep, deep well of wisdom and goodness, and they shall be the ones to lead the reign of God.

Maybe we hear this: “I am so blessed, I pour out my energies, my hopes, my resources in the struggle for people to be loved and accepted, and to make the world a better, healthier, safer, fairer place. I am blessed because I can see the potential for this so clearly I can almost taste it. I’m so thirsty for it and I’m grateful for the dryness that draws me on without giving up.”

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they are building the beloved community, which will fill their bodies and souls with goodness.
Do we consider people blessed who are able to offer mercy and loving kindness to others? Blessed in letting go of judgment, in loosing the ties of anger and the need for retribution.
Blessed are the merciful, because they understand the freedom of the soul, and they shall receive it in kind.

Or are the blessed those who don’t let the world besmirch their souls, who still look at each person and see a child of God. Who are not hobbled by wanting what they don’t need. Who are focused on the love of God, and are at peace, calm before God.
Blessed are the pure in heart, because they have the clear space of conscience and spirit to see God in all of life.


Do we think it is a blessing to work for healing of the world? To work tirelessly for something most people think is a pipe dream?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are learning to model for the rest of us how God’s children behave.

According to Jesus, prophets and others who get in trouble for standing up for the marginalized are especially blessed. We might think of them as the opposite of blessed. It’s a big mantle to carry.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, who are reviled and against whom evil things are said, for they are in the best company of all the faithful. They are doing the hard work now of living into the reign of God and will be at home with ease when it comes in fullness.

God’s blessings are not like gold stars for work well done. The richest blessings come through living faithfully, courageously, humbly, and with clear intent into the love of God, which necessarily means living and struggling together with other people. We are built to be on this journey as a community.

Why does Jesus single out all these marginalized categories of people for special status as “blessed”? Because living in these states makes one vulnerable enough to welcome the love of God. All of these ways of being that Jesus describes are expressions of vulnerability before our Creator that offer the chance for hearts and lives to be transformed.

If you identify with any of these blessings today—whether you are in a hole of broken- heartedness, or struggling to show mercy and loving-kindness–I invite you to take time to ask God how your heart can grow in this time. How can the love of this community grow stronger, and your faith deepen in this midst of what you are learning and living through? How will you be different, and more Christ-like, when you turn the page on this chapter? Brian MacLaren writes:

Our choice is clear from the start: If we want to be his disciples, we won’t be able to simply coast along and conform to the norms of our society. We must choose a different definition of well-being, a different model of success, a new identity with a new set of values.
Jesus promises we will pay a price for making that choice. But he also promises we will discover many priceless rewards. If we seek the kind of unconventional blessedness he proposes, we will experience the true aliveness of God’s kingdom.¹

To paraphrase St. Paul, “The message about the cross is foolishness to those whose hearts are closed to it, but to those who are vulnerable to being blessed, it is the power of God.”

How blessed are you willing to be?
How much of a blessing will you choose to be?
¹ Brian MacLaren, We Make the Road by Walking (New York: Jericho Books, 2014), p.129

Third Sunday Concert Series

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church presents

Third Sunday Concert Series

Third Sunday of every month at 4pm in the Parish Hall.

Tickets: $25 general, $20 seniors and students, under 12 free.

Buy tickets online

 

Up next:

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Paul Caccamo, solo piano

DSC_0111editedpaulmart (2)

Pianist Paul Caccamo takes us on a tour of a fascinating time in music history – the early Twentieth Century. Come and hear masterworks from four giants of the era: Claude Debussy, Béla Bartók, Sergei Prokofiev, and George Gershwin. Each is a composer with a unique compositional style inextricably linked with the country in which he lived, and the music you will hear was all composed within the same twenty-year period.

Caccamo has over thirty years experience in the Bay Area as a pianist, vocal coach, chamber musician, conductor, orchestral pianist and recording artist. Please join us for this intriguing journey into the musical world of a century ago.

Tickets on sale here.

You Are the Light of the World

Sara Warfield

February 5, 2017

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church

 

It’s my practice the week before I preach to read the texts every day and carry them around with me—on BART, through the streets of Oakland and the Tenderloin, into Trader Joe’s and CVS—wherever I go. I trust that in doing so the Spirit will give me her message, in images, in brief little phrases that pop into my head in the shower, in songs that she brings me.

What struck me about this week, though, was that the Spirit rose up most prominently in a feeling, in waves of something unnamable and powerful. I couldn’t quite name it. Was it happiness? Love? Peace?

There were elements of those in the feeling, but eventually I started to realize that the word I was looking for was light. It was the feeling of light. Do you know what I mean? Lightness, maybe. It was a feeling of being unburdened, and of seeing the people around me as unburdened. That we didn’t have to carry it all ourselves. That God was already present in me, in everyone, and was shining through each person I encountered. It felt lofty and bright and lovely.

And of course it was light. Because it’s Epiphany, and the light of the world has come, is here. Because Isaiah says, “then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly.” Because Jesus tells us in Matthew, “you are the light of the world.” It’s not subtle. It’s not a secret revelation—it’s there for all of us to see in these readings.

There has been some criticism of the Women’s Marches that took place a few weeks ago that no one knew exactly what they were about. Women’s rights? All minorities’ rights? To oppose the new president and the policies he was bound to put into law—after all, it was only his first day in office. These might be important questions. They might help to clarify the purpose of such actions. Maybe. But to me, that wasn’t the point.

To me, the point was that millions of people around the country decided to put their body in a particular place at a particular moment, to let their own light shine with so many others’. Maybe each of them couldn’t articulate exactly why they were there, why they brought their children, why they were wearing pink hats. But something was calling them.

I went to both the Oakland and San Francisco marches. Estimates are that 84,000 people marched in Oakland and 100,000 in San Francisco. There were lots of signs, some that made me laugh, some that made my heart sink. But it wasn’t the signs or speeches or chants that inspired me most. It was the lifeforce, the bodies that drew together to form a much larger body, standing in solidarity. It was our collective light, each of us bringing our own unique light to shine together.

When I came back to Christ after many years away, it was when dozens of bodies gathered around an altar and passed bread and drink among us. Do this in remembrance of me. My knees collapsed, and I started to sob, as I knew with my whole body that I was loved and that I belonged. I felt my light uncovered. I can’t remember a time before that when it wasn’t partially covered, but now I felt it fully, dancing through my veins, my bones, my heart—irrepressible.

That same feeling rushed through me as I stood among tens of thousands of my neighbors at those marches—where all of us knew we were loved and that we belonged to one another, that all of our light together made a difference.

I think where I am often challenged in my own work in this world is that I tend to align myself according to what I stand against. To be honest, when I first read the readings for this week, I was immediately, impulsively drawn to one tiny bit of Isaiah: “Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.” How much do I love announcing to people their sins? You have no idea how many facebook posts I write rashly to tell people how they’re sinning, only to come to my senses and delete it. My personality tends to go towards confrontation and anger, and while there’s a place for turning over tables, I’m not sure if that serves me well most of the time.

My guess is that this is a temptation for many of us. We want to fight, to argue, to be right. We want to quote scriptures from Isaiah or post that incisive Washington Post article.

But Jesus isn’t as into arguing right and wrong as he’s into light: “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others.”

As most of you know, I have been discerning my call to the priesthood for several years now. It’s a very intentional process, and I’ve learned many things along the way, but I think all of my discernment has pointed me towards this: who is the unique person God has made me to be? What is my particular light, and how do I let it shine?

That is what I ask you today. What is your particular light, and how do you let it shine?

God isn’t interested in what you stand against or what makes you most angry. We know this if we read a little further down in Isaiah than I initially did: “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil…then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.”

God wants nothing more than for you to discover what makes you most joyful, what you are most passionate about, what makes you most you. And God wants nothing more than for you to put your body there, to embody those gifts.

I know there are people in this congregation who joyfully serve: setting up the parish hall for all of us on Sunday mornings, and organizing showers for folks who don’t have easy access to showers, and sharing breakfast with the kids at the YEAH shelter. There are those of us who are gifted listeners, providing steady presence to those who need it. There are those of us who shine through words—the poets and theologians among us. In this church are musicians and programmers and preachers and managers, all manifesting God’s light in different ways. Even you knitters, your gift shined a few weeks ago when every store sold out of pink yarn. You never know when your light, however inconsequential it might seem, will be most needed.

So I ask again, what is your particular light, and how do you let it shine? What makes the Spirit dance in your veins, your bones, your heart? No, really! Think about it. I’ll give you a moment.

That light shines wherever we invest our body—our hands, our voices, our presence. We bring our body to marches, to church, to our child’s room to read a bedtime story. We use our body to create, to write, to organize and administer, to teach, to laugh, to dance. This world needs your light, your gifts. It needs you to do, to embody, what gives you joy—however big or small it might seem. You are the light of the world.

Marianne Williamson wrote:

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

That’s probably the best news I’ve heard lately: that God’s light can be contagious, and not only contagious but ready to eradicate whatever darkness we encounter. I saw it spread at the Women’s March. I saw it taking over our Annual Meeting a few Sundays ago, as the people here stepped into their gifts for this community.

It’s already there. Right now. That unique gift God created in you, ready to shine, ready to inspire others to shine. It’s just a matter of removing the bushel basket.

 

What does it mean to be “blessed”?

The Rev. Julie Wakelee-Lynch

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church

Sunday, January 29, 2017

 

Readings: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Epiphany/AEpi4_RCL.html

How often do you say (or hear others say) “I am blessed”? What do they mean?

Looking today at the teachings of Jesus, I have to wonder: Do they mean, “My heart is broken and I am blessed because I’m learning to be compassionate, now that I’m awake? I am blessed because I can now imagine what it is like to bear someone else’s burden— my heart is broken, and I can see things I never saw before?”
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God. They shall see God in the midst of this broken world, and they will never be the same again.

Or do they mean, “through this grief I carry, I now have insight to be in deeper relationship with others who suffer great losses–what a great blessing!”
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted—they shall be comforted by the community of those willing to make the journey together, and they shall find healing on the way.

When we hear, “I am so blessed!”, do we think the speaker means: “No one assumes I have ideas to contribute. I would never presume to push my way in, but I am listening, and learning.
I am blessed to carry such depth in my soul.”

Blessed are the meek, for they are building up a deep, deep well of wisdom and goodness, and they shall be the ones to lead the reign of God.

Maybe we hear this: “I am so blessed, I pour out my energies, my hopes, my resources in the struggle for people to be loved and accepted, and to make the world a better, healthier, safer, fairer place. I am blessed because I can see the potential for this so clearly I can almost taste it.

I’m so thirsty for it and I’m grateful for the dryness that draws me on without giving up.”

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they are building the beloved community, which will fill their bodies and souls with goodness.

Do we consider people blessed who are able to offer mercy and loving kindness to others? Blessed in letting go of judgment, in loosing the ties of anger and the need for retribution.
Blessed are the merciful, because they understand the freedom of the soul, and they shall receive it in kind.

Or are the blessed those who don’t let the world besmirch their souls, who still look at each person and see a child of God. Who are not hobbled by wanting what they don’t need. Who are focused on the love of God, and are at peace, calm before God.
Blessed are the pure in heart, because they have the clear space of conscience and spirit to see God in all of life.

Do we think it is a blessing to work for healing of the world? To work tirelessly for something
most people think is a pipe dream?
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are learning to model for the rest of us how God’s children behave.

According to Jesus, prophets and others who get in trouble for standing up for the marginalized are especially blessed. We might think of them as the opposite of blessed. It’s a big mantle to carry.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, who are reviled and against whom evil things are said, for they are in the best company of all the faithful. They are doing the hard work now of living into the reign of God and will be at home with ease when it comes in fullness.

God’s blessings are not like gold stars for work well done. The richest blessings come through living faithfully, courageously, humbly, and with clear intent into the love of God, which necessarily means living and struggling together with other people. We are built to be on this journey as a community.

Why does Jesus single out all these marginalized categories of people for special status as “blessed”? Because living in these states makes one vulnerable enough to welcome the love of God. All of these ways of being that Jesus describes are expressions of vulnerability before our Creator that offer the chance for hearts and lives to be transformed.

If you identify with any of these blessings today—whether you are in a hole of broken- heartedness, or struggling to show mercy and loving-kindness–I invite you to take time to ask God how your heart can grow in this time. How can the love of this community grow stronger,

and your faith deepen in this midst of what you are learning and living through? How will you be different, and more Christ-like, when you turn the page on this chapter?

Brian MacLaren writes:1

Our choice is clear from the start: If we want to be his disciples, we won’t be able to simply coast along and conform to the norms of our society. We must choose a different definition of well-being, a different model of success, a new identity with a new set of values.

Jesus promises we will pay a price for making that choice. But he also promises we will discover many priceless rewards. If we seek the kind of unconventional blessedness he proposes, we will experience the true aliveness of God’s kingdom, the warmth of God’s comfort, the enjoyment of the gift of this Earth, the satisfaction at seeing God’s restorative justice come more fully, the joy of receiving mercy, the direct experience of God’s presence, the honor of association with God and of being in league with the prophets of old. That is the identity he invites us to seek.

The gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ has never been clearer. To be blessed of God, we must be vulnerable. And we must seek out and stand with those who did not choose their vulnerability: their material poverty, their landlessness, their being passed over for the color of their skin or the place of their birth, their skill at speaking truth to power. This is not an option for the people who follow Jesus, it is the path of faithfulness. We must get out of our own way. We must be open to the transformative love of God. We must turn the world’s view of blessings on its head and open our hearts to the love of God.

God’s blessings are not measured in material wealth or any other benchmark of worldly success.

In the reign of God, the blessed are those who are open to the deep, unbounded love of the Creator of us all. The world around us is calling out for the blessings of justice, mercy and humility, and of courageous proclamation of the Gospel.

To paraphrase St. Paul, “The message about the cross is foolishness to those whose hearts are closed to it, but to those who are vulnerable to being blessed, it is the power of God.”

How blessed are you willing to be?
How much of a blessing will you choose to be?


1 Brian MacLaren, We Make the Road by Walking (New York: Jericho Books, 2014), p.129

Jesus Raises the Bar

The Rev. Julie Wakelee-Lynch St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Albany, CA

Sunday, February 12, 2017 (Epiphany 6A)

 

Twenty-eight years ago yesterday, The Rev. Barbara Clementine Harris was consecrated Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Massachusetts. She was the first woman elected bishop in the Episcopal Church, and also the first in the Anglican Communion. A woman of African-American decent, Bishop Harris was the recipient of death threats and obscene messages. A breakaway group, the Episcopal Synod of America, formed in opposition to her consecration. An acolyte at the first “irregular” ordination of women to the priesthood in July of 1974, Bishop Harris was by that time already a seasoned fighter for social justice: she was a Freedom Rider, marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama with Dr. King, and spent summer vacations registering voters in Mississippi. Boston police dispatched an entire unit to protect her consecration, and she is noted for having refused to wear the recommended bullet-proof vest. Her remark? “I don’t take it personally.” You could say that she was warned, she was given an explanation, and nevertheless, she persisted.

Bishop Harris was an honored guest, panelist and preacher at a conference for clergy women in Province VIII of the Episcopal Church (the western states), held here in the Bay Area in 2009. It was an incredible gift to meet her, to hear her preaching, and to enjoy her famous and outspoken wit. I clearly remember that after an evening worship service which was lovely, if a little dry, she took to the grand piano and said, “sisters, now let’s have some CHURCH!” and she proceeded to play gospel tunes and lead us in a rollicking time of spirit filled singing.Bishop Harris is a leader whose Yes means Yes, and whose No means No. In her active ministry, she was faithful, courageous and clear.

In his teaching in today’s gospel, Jesus drills deep. He takes teachings already known to his hearers and amplifies them. He calls his followers to an even higher standard than that of the Hebrew Law. Why? Because he does not want people to just follow the rules. He wants those who would be part of his movement to embody the very best of peacemaking within the community.

In Jesus’ time, and still in many cultures today, familial and community honor and cohesiveness are of ultimate importance. The passage we heard this morning has been trotted out into all kinds of interesting interpretations. But let’s step back a bit and look at what’s actually going on: First, Jesus makes reconciliation the highest good. More important than Temple worship is making amends with those who have been wronged or who have done wrong. “Leave your gift before the altar and go; first be reconciled…then come and offer your gift.”

He moves on to other kinds of fissures in community life: To break up a family is to cast dishonor upon and threaten the stability of the community. Scholar Bruce Malina writes that adultery, in this case, means for a man to dishonor another man in his community by having sexual relations with the latter’s wife. In other words, the offender breaks bonds of trust by disregarding the integrity of the family.1 And, because this has happened, there is a debt to be repaid. At some point it was decided that the risk of tearing the whole community apart was too great, and so the penalty was that both the man who offended, and the woman with whom he had relations, were to be killed, stopping the cycle. We know that so-called “honor killings” persist today, and that, in reality, it is women who bear harshest treatment.

But Jesus says, “don’t even commit the disrespect of crossing the boundary in your mind.
Place the value of the healthy community above your lust, your need for power, your need to prove yourself over someone else.” Marriage was both a political and economic bond, bringing two families together for the mutual benefit of both. It was not about romantic love. If marriage was the bringing together of families for a beneficial bond, divorce, was the breaking of this partnership between the two families. Again, if shame is brought, restitution must be paid. It gets messy.

All of this is in a context in which the wellbeing and survival of the community is a very high good. Far higher than the wishes or desires of an individual. The concept of the individual as separate from the community was not something that people in Jesus’ time would have grasped or even considered. There is a lot of beauty in the understanding we have for individual rights and persons, but in many cases, we have also lost a sense of considering the impact of our actions on the community.

Perhaps the idea of having this kind of measure even leaves us wondering how a community could so privilege group needs over individuals, as much as if someone from the First Century were dropped into our time, they would be amazed at our idea that we are somehow separate from one another: that our actions are individual and don’t shape the fabric of the whole community.

In the marketplace, vendors often made great claims to their clients about the goodness of their products—swearing “before heaven” or “by Jerusalem” about their veracity. Which, as is still true today, served primarily to cast doubt upon their claims. Jesus says, “let’s cut to the chase: don’t make God responsible for what you are trying to cover—just be straight with people. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.”

Taking all of these little windows together, I wonder: in what ways do we, today, try to take the teachings of our faith tradition and make them barriers for people, rather than doors? In what ways might Jesus be calling us to step up to a higher standard? One thing that strikes me in Jesus’ teaching that lays such a heavy emphasis on the health of the community is that we would do well to remember that we are not alone. Our decisions DO impact one another, and, we are part of one another, whether we choose that or not.

Bishop Harris, when asked about the risks she took in the Civil Rights Movement, brushed it aside, saying, “Everyone was in danger.”2 As at her consecration, it wasn’t about her.

I’ve been in a number of small meetings lately where people have been talking about how to act on issues of great concern. Having done peace and justice work since I was a teen, I wonder how long it will take for these groups of enthusiastic people to start pulling at one another’s seams, or, if they, if we, will be able to stay rooted in a common vision and set aside our individual quirks and peeves to keep our eyes on the prize. This is one of the most foundational values of Church: to struggle together as human people called together in the love of God: to offer our best selves to the community, to seek forgiveness from one another when we slip, to value the well- being of the community so much that we are willing to make personal sacrifices to ensure our shared journey to being people of peace and healing for a broken world.

After the sermon she preached in Burlingame on that autumn evening in 2009,
Bishop Harris offered us this blessing, which is reputed to come from the Franciscan tradition:

May God bless you with DISCOMFORT

at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,

so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with ANGER
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with TEARS
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war,

so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into JOY.

And May God bless you with enough FOOLISHNESS to believe that you can make a difference in this world.

 


1 Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1992) Pp. 52-55

2 U.S. News and World Report, June 19, 1989, Lynn Rosellini, “The first of the ‘mitered mamas’.”

Jesus calls us oer the tumult

The Rev. Julie Wakelee-Lynch St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Albany, CA Sunday, January 22, 2017 (3rd Sunday after Epiphany)

Gospel reference: Matthew 4:12-23

 

Jesus calls us, o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea;

day by day his voice still calls us

saying, ‘Christian, follow me.’1

What do you hear, over the tumult of your life? Do you hear Jesus calling? What does it mean, “to follow Jesus?”

Yesterday, over lunch in downtown Berkeley after some 3 hours of marching together, a Canadian friend, not a church person, was asking me about Christianity in America. He said, “so, most Christians in America must be like the new president, yes?” When I answered that I think there is a very, very broad array of what Christianity looks like in America, he was surprised. He said, “well, why don’t we ever hear about that?” I didn’t have a good answer for him.

What does it mean to follow Jesus, out loud? There’s an awful lot we don’t hear over the tumult. Even though we know from so many sacred stories of our tradition that it is often in the midst of trial and storm and waves on the sea that God comes with peace, or with thunder, or with the quietest of voices, and calls us, I think we are still surprised when it is indeed in the midst of tumultuous times that Jesus’ call is clearest.

I love this hymn we just sang. Not because it’s the best music (and there are two beautiful versions!) in the hymnal, but because it really reflects a prayer of my heart.

In the midst of the tumult that always seems to be my life, I am reminded that Jesus is right there, right here, calling me to be faithful. Calling me to follow. And calling me to set aside things I love, when I get them in the wrong order:

Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store, from each idol that would keep us, saying, ‘Christian, love me more.’ [2]

Love me more—more than ideology, or the illusion of control, or security, or middle class comfort and privilege: more than things that are so much a part of me, I don’t even think how much I love to love them.

[1] Verse 1 of “Jesus calls us, o’er the tumult” as found in The Hymnal 1982. Words by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895).
[2] “Jesus calls us…” Verse 3

 

 

Last week I saw the film “Hidden Figures.” It is the true story of African American women who worked as mathematicians at NASA in the pre-civil-rights era. It’s our history, but history I never learned in any school. The story follows three particular women, brilliant women, (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson) who were very, very clear that God gave them amazing brains, and that they would answer the call presented by this gift to serve their country.

It was also very clear that they were women of faith. The practice of faith was both implicit and explicit in their following of the call. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. It reminded me that there are a lot of ways to be faithful—while the Civil Rights movement was unfolding on the streets, they were quietly, consistently and unabashedly opening doors for women and African Americans inside one of the most male, most- white institutions in our country. There are as many ways to follow Jesus as there are children of God. There are a lot of ways to say “yes” to the call.

These women made sacrifices. Their families made sacrifices. When one woman’s supervisor tells his staff to “call your wives and tell them you’ll be working long hours” you see her take a deep breath. She is a widow, getting help from her mother in raising her three daughters. And, there is no phone on her desk.

What would you sacrifice or let go of to follow Jesus? The disciples left their livelihoods. They stepped away from tradition. They gave up known patterns for the unknown. What would we, the church sometimes jokingly referred to as “the frozen chosen” be willing to move to free up space to follow?

As Jesus is calling Andrew, Peter, James and John, he is simultaneously demonstrating to what he is calling them: to be people of healing; and to upheaval in their spiritual lives; to uncertainty, and to trust; to something so powerful, they will give their lives for it.

My friend, I think, was asking why Christianity isn’t messier here. Why, if it’s a broad tent, only some are talking out loud about what their faith says about following Jesus in this time, in this place. Why aren’t we, who welcome all; we, who see all people as God’s beloved ones– why aren’t we making a ruckus about that?

Why aren’t we making sure that in this land that is built on a dream of freedom–why aren’t we talking about the vast and healing freedom of Christ, in ways that can bring healing, and not division; peace that is fueled by mercy and her sister justice, and not passivity, in the face of so much evil in the world.

Instead of lamenting that things are broken, why aren’t we focused on what we bring to repair the world?

Jesus does not call us to be perfect. He calls us to follow.

 

Leonard Cohen’s refrain in his beautiful song, “Anthem,” reminds us to

Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering.
There’s a crack, a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.3

It is through our beautiful gifts AND our imperfections, through the cracks in the world around us, that the Christ light shines. We know from the disciples’ attempts that they most certainly were fishermen. They were not always “catcher-men.” In this call today, Jesus is inviting them to a new kind of fishing lessons. People, as we know, are far more slippery than fish!

What would it take to pry open our resistance to the radical call of the Gospel (and we all

have it) and “give our hearts in glad obedience” to be disciples, and followers, out loud,

proclaiming healing, and peace, and justice? To let the light of God shine out joyfully

and exuberantly through the cracks in our lives? To offer the gifts of who we are and

what we bring, not to make ourselves look better, not to line our wallets, but to build the reign of God, here and now?

Over what tumult is Jesus calling you today? Can you hear the call? How will you answer?

Let us pray:
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works. Amen.4

3 “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen. Full text can be found here.
4 Book of Common Prayer. Collect for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany.

 

Excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”

Excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” Read at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Albany, CA by the Rev. Julie Wakelee-Lynch, Sunday, January 15, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929 – 88 years ago today. On Sunday, March 31, 1968, he gave a sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,”[1] it was his last Sunday sermon. He was a master among preachers, though. So, rather than talk about him today, I thought I’d go straight to the source. Since we are not Baptists, I am going to read you excerpts, and not the whole thing. Although some of his language is dated, it is shocking how current his analysis remains.

…I would like to use as a subject from which to preach this morning: “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” The text for the morning is found in the book of Revelation. There are two passages there that I would like to quote, in the sixteenth chapter of that book: “Behold I make all things new; former things are passed away.”

I am sure that most of you have read that arresting little story from the pen of Washington Irving entitled “Rip Van Winkle.” The one thing that we usually remember about the story is that Rip Van Winkle slept twenty years. But there is another point in that little story that is almost completely overlooked. It was the sign in the end, from which Rip went up in the mountain for his long sleep.

When Rip Van Winkle went up into the mountain, the sign had a picture of King George the Third of England. When he came down twenty years later the sign had a picture of George Washington, the first president of the United States. When Rip Van Winkle looked up at the picture of George Washington—and looking at the picture he was amazed—he was completely lost. He knew not who he was. And this reveals to us that the most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution. While he was peacefully snoring up in the mountain a revolution was taking place that at points would change the course of history—and Rip knew nothing about it. He was asleep. Yes, he slept through a revolution. And one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.

There can be no gainsaying of the fact that a great revolution is taking place in the world today. In a sense it is a triple revolution: that is, a technological revolution, with the impact of automation and cybernation; then there is a revolution in weaponry, with the emergence of atomic and nuclear weapons of warfare; then there is a human rights revolution, with the freedom explosion that is taking place all over the world. Yes, we do live in a period where changes are taking place. And there is still the voice crying through the vista of time saying, “Behold, I make all things new; former things are passed away.” Now whenever anything new comes into history it brings with it new challenges and new opportunities. And I would like to deal with the challenges that we face today as a result of this triple revolution that is taking place in the world today. First, we are challenged to develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.

Now it is true that the geographical oneness of this age has come into being to a large extent through modern man’s scientific ingenuity. Modern man through his scientific genius has been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. And our jet planes have compressed into minutes distances that once took weeks and even months. All of this tells us that our world is a neighborhood.

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured. John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” And he goes on toward the end to say, “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” We must see this, believe this, and live by it if we are to remain awake through a great revolution.

Secondly, we are challenged to eradicate the last vestiges of racial injustice from our nation. I must say this morning that racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame. It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle—the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic. And I can see nothing more urgent than for America to work passionately and unrelentingly—to get rid of the disease of racism. Something positive must be done. Everyone must share in the guilt as individuals and as institutions. The government must certainly share the guilt; individuals must share the guilt; even the church must share the guilt. We must face the sad fact that at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning when we stand to sing “In Christ there is no East or West,” we stand in the most segregated hour of America. The hour has come for everybody, for all institutions of the public sector and the private sector to work to get rid of racism. And now if we are to do it we must honestly admit certain things and get rid of certain myths that have constantly been disseminated all over our nation.

One is the myth of time. It is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. And there are those who often sincerely say to the Negro and his allies in the white community, “Why don’t you slow up? Stop pushing things so fast. Only time can solve the problem. And if you will just be nice and patient and continue to pray, in a hundred or two hundred years the problem will work itself out.” There is an answer to that myth. It is that time is neutral. It can be used wither constructively or destructively. And I am sorry to say this morning that I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation—the people on the wrong side—have used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.” Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be coworkers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time and realize that the time is always ripe to do right.

Now there is another myth that still gets around: it is a kind of over reliance on the bootstrap philosophy. There are those who still feel that if the Negro is to rise out of poverty, if the Negro is to rise out of the slum conditions, if he is to rise out of discrimination and segregation, he must do it all by himself. And so they say the Negro must lift himself by his own bootstraps. They never stop to realize that no other ethnic group has been a slave on American soil. The people who say this never stop to realize that the nation made the black man’s color a stigma. But beyond this they never stop to realize the debt that they owe a people who were kept in slavery two hundred and forty-four years.

In 1863 the Negro was told that he was free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed by Abraham Lincoln. But he was not given any land to make that freedom meaningful. It was something like keeping a person in prison for a number of years and suddenly discovering that that person is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. And you just go up to him and say, “Now you are free,” but you don’t give him any bus fare to get to town. You don’t give him any money to get some clothes to put on his back or to get on his feet again in life. Every court of jurisprudence would rise up against this, and yet this is the very thing that our nation did to the black man. It simply said, “You’re free,” and it left him there penniless, illiterate, not knowing what to do.

And the irony of it all is that at the same time the nation failed to do anything for the black man, though an act of Congress was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest. Which meant that it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor. But not only did it give the land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every years not to farm. And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps. It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps. We must come to see that the roots of racism are very deep in our country, and there must be something positive and massive in order to get rid of all the effects of racism and the tragedies of racial injustice.

There is another thing closely related to racism that I would like to mention as another challenge. We are challenged to rid our nation and the world of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, poverty spreads its nagging, prehensile tentacles into hamlets and villages all over our world. Two-thirds of the people of the world go to bed hungry tonight. They are ill-housed; they are ill-nourished; they are shabbily clad. I’ve seen it in Latin America; I’ve seen it in Africa; I’ve seen this poverty in Asia.

…Not only do we see poverty abroad, I would remind you that in our own nation there are about forty million people who are poverty-stricken. I have seen them here and there. I have seen them in the ghettos of the North; I have seen them in the rural areas of the South; I have seen them in Appalachia. I have just been in the process of touring many areas of our country and I must confess that in some situations I have literally found myself crying.

…Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. America has not met its obligations and its responsibilities to the poor. One day we will have to stand before the God of history and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we built gargantuan bridges to span the seas, we built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Yes, we made our submarines to penetrate oceanic depths. We brought into being many other things with our scientific and technological power. It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, “That was not enough! But I was hungry, and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me. And consequently, you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness. If ye do it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.” That’s the question facing America today.

I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” The world must hear this. I pray God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.

…It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat would be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine. This is why I felt the need of raising my voice against this war and working wherever I can to arouse the conscience of our nation on it.

… …Let me close by saying that we have difficult days ahead in the struggle for justice and peace, but I will not yield to a politic of despair. …I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be as a people, our destiny is tied up in the destiny of America. Before the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before Jefferson etched across the pages of history the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, we were here. Before the beautiful words of the “Star Spangled Banner” were written, we were here. For more than two centuries our fore bearers labored here without wages. They made cotton king, and they built the homes of their masters in the midst of the most humiliating and oppressive conditions. And yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to grow and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery couldn’t stop us, the opposition that we now face will surely fail. We’re going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. And so, however dark it is, however deep the angry feelings are, and however violent explosions are, I can still sing “We Shall Overcome.”

We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. We shall overcome because Carlyle is right—”No lie can live forever. “We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right—”Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right—as we were singing earlier today, Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne. Yet that scaffold sways the future. And behind the dim unknown stands God, Within the shadow keeping watch above his own. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair the stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. Thank God for John, who centuries ago out on a lonely, obscure island called Patmos caught vision of a new Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, who heard a voice saying, “Behold, I make all things new; former things are passed away.” God grant that we will be participants in this newness and this magnificent development. If we will but do it, we will bring about a new day of justice and brotherhood and peace. And that day the morning stars will sing together and the sons [and daughters] of God will shout for joy. God bless you.

[1] I found the text in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., edited by James M. Washington ((Harper One: New York, 1986) pp. 268-278 Online, it’s at: http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_remaining_awake_through_a _great_revolution.1.html

Overwhelmed with Joy

The Rev. Julie Wakelee-Lynch

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church 

Feast of the Epiphany (transferred) January 8, 2017

Overwhelmed with joy

Who were those three people who visited the Holy Family? Jesuit scholar Michael Simone writes

In Matthew’s day, the word magi described many different occupations. The word could be used for learned scholars who studied natural phenomena, like the stars. It could also be used for charlatans in the marketplace who dealt in potions and amulets. English takes the word “magic” from the latter description, but Matthew almost certainly meant the former. The magi in today’s Gospel were scholars who believed, as did many in the ancient world, that great events were foretold in the shifting patterns of stars and planets in the sky.[1]

So, if we take Simone’s word, they are three learned scholars. In any case, three people.

We don’t know how they knew one another, how they got word of this baby. But there they were, the three of them. I can’t help notice that this first visitors from afar echo the number of trinity: the community of the Godhead.

Nothing can be unilateral with three. Consensus is harder. But three people know more together than one person, or even two. They have more courage, more insight… Three is the start of a team—three people together can compare notes, link arms, hear different parts of the story, discern together.

I wonder, when they met with Herod, if they all heard the same thing, had the same dream, or if it was one of them in particular who said, “I had the craziest dream last night!” And they fit the pieces together. And maybe they talked about it. Maybe they weighed the options and the possible cost of going home by another way. Because with three there are enough, together, to say no. To sift out dreams and to discern a broader call.

Three foreigners, foreshadowing the offering of the gospel for all people, making a long journey with uncertain destination. Isn’t it interesting that when they went to the religious leaders, those folks knew where to point them, but they sure didn’t seem to care anything about this baby! Herod, the actual king in power over the Jewish tribe, has no information, but he is very, very concerned.

Michael Simone suggests that two things are happening in this story: there are people who want to find Jesus, but don’t know where to look (the magi), and people who know where to look, but are not interested (the clergy and Jewish leaders).

Now, anyone who hears the story of Jesus probably doesn’t have much trouble concluding that not everything about him fits into a “normal” pattern. If he were a “normal” royal child, Jesus would be in a royal household. Right? His first visitors would not be shepherds and farm animals, they would be high priests, people of society. The gifts his parents would receive would probably not include myrrh, used for embalming. Probably not even frankincense, used in the church for centuries to, well, cover the smell of the great unwashed masses, and for scenting the altar where burnt offerings were laid.

In Luke’s gospel, Mary “ponders” these things in her heart. I think that has to be one of the great understatements in the bible! Her family is visited by shepherds, then by these unusual foreigners, the only people recorded as bringing gifts for the baby. The people of their own tribe don’t seem to pay much attention at all.

Where are you this Epiphany – do you want to find Jesus? Are you eager enough for this to go out of your way? Would you change your life’s direction based on your discovery?

Or have you read about Jesus and just want to stay out of the way? He is, after all, not a normal member of the tribe, and people who meet him always seem to end up in trouble with the powers that be.

I know that I go back and forth: some days I really can say, “yes”! While other days, I want to protect my comfort zone. But there is something in the gospel today I just can’t shake, it is just so deeply true that it explains why these first seeds of Jesus people, wandering in from afar off, were never the same again. It’s this: “they were overwhelmed with joy.”

When I dare to be open to the journey, to focus on God’s call to me to follow deeper into the community of Love, I cannot help but fall into that profound space of joy. And when I allow myself to be on the journey with others, to be in community, where we wrestle together about the call, and the meaning, and the direction God call us, hope becomes much more tangible.

Walter Bruggeman, in his beautiful little book, Prayers for a Privileged People, offers this:

Epiphany

On Epiphany day,
we are still the people walking.
We are still people in the dark,
and the darkness looms large around us,
beset as we are by fear,
anxiety,
brutality,
violence,
loss —
a dozen alienations that we cannot manage.

We are — we could be — people of your light.
So we pray for the light of your glorious presence
as we wait for your appearing;
we pray for the light of your wondrous grace
as we exhaust our coping capacity;
we pray for your gift of newness that
will override our weariness;
we pray that we may see and know and hear and trust
in your good rule.

That we may have energy, courage, and freedom to enact
your rule through the demands of this day.
We submit our day to you and to your rule, with deep joy and high hope.[2]

[1] http://www.americamagazine.org/content/the-word/show-way

[2] Walter Bruggeman, “Epiphany” in Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), p. 163.