Trinity Sunday 6-12-22 Sermon by The Rev. Jim Stickney

St. Alban’s Church June 12, 2022

Trinity Sunday Pastor Jim Stickney

 

“Do you want to know what goes in the core of the Trinity?  I will tell you.

In the core of the Trinity, the Father laughs, and gives birth to the Son.

The Son laughs back at the Father, and gives birth to the Spirit.

The whole Trinity laughs, and gives birth to us.”

 

This whimsical theology was written by the 14th century Dominican preacher,

Meister Eckhart, whose daring writings caught the attention of the Inquisition.

Fortunately for him (or perhaps not) he happened to die before his trial started.

 

I have a whimsical speculation of my own — about the time-honored practice

of placing our recitation of the Nicene Creed right after the sermon. Now, most Sundays

this may not matter too much, but on Trinity Sunday the preacher may be liable

to fall into one of the many subtle heresies that arise from trying to articulate a mystery:

one God in three persons. So no matter which heresy I may seem to articulate,

soon we’ll all proclaim the Creed together and vigorously affirm our orthodox beliefs.

 

Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker: If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?

We may feel far removed from the questions that led to the teaching about the Trinity.

So: If the Trinity is the answer, then just what was the question? This theology

did not begin as some kind of abstract divine geometry. Where did it come from?

 

The first Christians grew up as Jews, insistent upon the basic insight that God was one.

Jews speak of God like this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Yet the first Christians experienced that God was revealed in a completely new fashion

through the life and death and rising of Christ Jesus. Slowly and carefully,

these believers questioned their way through until they could speak of “God the Son,”

and understand that God was not divided, & yet was manifested in human form.

A later generation of Christian thinkers understood that the Holy Spirit (whose feast

we celebrated last Sunday on Pentecost) also revealed the power of God’s love.

 

Now, we know some people who are “spirit” persons, who cultivate inspiration —

these are the poets and musicians, people who bring into existence new creations.

Other people are more like “Christ in action,” serving Jesus in the neighbor,

concerned with social justice, and working to help those on the margins.

Still others are the strong silent types, not talking much theology, but just living it.

These three spiritual types don’t always understand one another’s views,

but today, on Trinity Sunday, we can say that all three express a face (facet) of God.

 

Some people are very uneasy about sharing “what God is doing in my life”.

If you’re one one of them, “Rejoice! You are God the Creator’s strong silent types.”

Next, consider a title from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer for Jesus:

“Pain-Bearer.” Jesus is the personal expression of a God who knows human pain.

He is the divine Pain-Bearer, and human pain-bearers find refuge and meaning in Jesus.

 

Lastly, Jesus promised to send an energy, a power more than just memory, a Spirit

unlimited by time and place, a Holy Spirit that works to overcome all human obstacles

of language and culture. These cultural differences, far from being suppressed,

are celebrated in the worship and witness of Christian communities around the world.

 

Human beings can know some things about God, not directly, but by a reasonable faith.

In our spiritual progress, we don’t proceed from the Father to the Son to the Spirit,

even though that’s the sequence in which we proclaim the sections of the Creed

 

The Creator is opaque to us, the least able to be perceived by the limited human mind.

Instead, we are first moved by the Spirit (in community, or family, or in beauty).

The Spirit’s task is to remind us of what Christ Jesus said and did.  And when we look

more closely at Christ’s words and deeds, we find Jesus wants us to meet “Abba.”

 

And we do — for a moment, briefly.  But humans can never endure too much divinity.

Something in us backs off from infinite love and power — we hide our faces.

We get distracted, or feel unworthy. So we need a human model — Christ Jesus.

And he in turn continues to send us the Holy Spirit to be our Advocate & Comfort.

 

Do you see the pattern?  When we consider one person of the Trinity for a while,

we soon find ourselves handed off to another divine person — and so on and on.

When we feel inspired and even ecstatic, that’s the work of the Holy Spirit.

When that inspiration leads to serving the neighbor, that’s what Jesus wants.

And after our work is done, we rest in quiet, “Alone with the great Unknown” —

which is a favorite phrase of mine for contemplating God the Creator.

 

Theologians used a Greek word for this pattern: Perichoresis: Trinity’s “round dance”

from “peri” (as in perimeter), and choresis (as in choreography).

The theologian Elizabeth Johnson, in her book, “She Who Is”, enlivens

this unusual theological word “perichoresis” with a compelling image:

 

A divine round dance modeled on the rhythmic, predictable motions of a country folk dance 

[is] one way to portray the mutual indwelling and encircling of God’s holy mystery.

I have one final suggestion for contemplating the community of the Holy Trinity —

by looking closely at the little prepositions we use in our Eucharistic Prayer.

We address our community’s prayer TO God the Father, THROUGH Christ Jesus,

IN the Holy Spirit. Notice these prepositions at the end of the Eucharistic prayer:

 

All this we ask THROUGH your Son Jesus Christ. BY him and WITH him and IN him

IN the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father,

now and forever. Amen.

 

I’m going to conclude this sermon on Trinity Sunday in the same way I started —

with that brief reflection of Meister Eckhart from the 14th century:

 

“Do you want to know what goes in the core of the Trinity?  I will tell you.

In the core of the Trinity, the Father laughs, and gives birth to the Son.

The Son laughs back at the Father, and gives birth to the Spirit.

The whole Trinity laughs, and gives birth to us.”

 

 

Modalism

Tritheism

Arianism
Sabellianism

Unitarianism

Noetianism

Ebionitism

Docetism

Macedonianism

Adoptianism

 

Patripassionism

(gets around objection of crucifixion as divine child abuse)

Reflection 6-5-22 Pentecost Sunday by Larry DiCostanzo

Reflection for June 5, 2022
Pentecost Sunday

Lawrence DiCostanzo

Acts 2:1-21
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17, 25-27
Psalm 104:24-28, 30, 33

Today is the Feast of Pentecost, and I’d like to begin with a quote from Hymn 209 which we sang last Sunday. The quote is just part of a verse, really just a fragment. And it goes:

We may not touch his hands and side,
nor follow where he trod . . .

When I think of Easter, I think of the Resurrection, and I think of the beautiful traditions of the holiday – the Easter eggs, the family dinner. And when I think of Christmas, there is literally an explosion of exciting tradition – pictures of the Nativity from all the ages, the smell of greenery, the darkness and the candles, the songs. You can each put yourselves into the atmosphere of these holidays.

But when I think of Pentecost, there are no Pentecost cakes or dishes, no family dinners, no colorful traditions. At least, I don’t know of any. It does not seem a feast that brings up a lot of exuberance. – except of course in today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles.

Why is this? I think it’s because actually Pentecost is the holiday of our loneliness. Or maybe I should say it is the holiday without Jesus. Since Ascension, the apostles had to deal with the absence of Jesus in the flesh. And we have to do the same. As much as we love Jesus, he is not physically present to walk the trails and roads with us, to eat with us, to touch us, to take our hands, to wash our feet, to talk to us. Jesus has ascended and he is not here on earth anymore. And we are left with the deep expressed among the very last words of the Bible – Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

Jesus knew that we would feel alone. In the great farewell of the Last Supper in the Gospel of John, Jesus prays: And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you, Holy Father, protect them in your name . . . so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name . . . I guarded them. . . [I] am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them . . . (John 17:11-12) He knew that the Apostles would need and that we do need protection and care.

So, I feel sometimes that the great challenge of being a Christian is how to live in a world in which Jesus the man is no longer walking. The Gospels give us such a bright picture of him and now he’s gone.

How do we live with this challenge? Well, he feast of Pentecost addresses this loneliness. We are challenged to find God. And Pentecost supplies the Holy Spirit. But, despite the exciting events of the first Pentecost in Jerusalem and occurrences like Philip’s being whisked away by the Spirit after he’d spoken with the Ethiopian eunuch, the Spirit seems fairly quiet. Yet, the Spirit is Jesus’ great promise. The Spirit is the beginning of the Age of Us. It’s the beginning liturgically to the “long green season” of Pentecost.

So, how do we meet the challenge of Jesus’ physical absence? How do we sensitize ourselves to his promise of the Spirit? We have to do this because we live in a demanding world that claims our energy and attention. Just look at all that the Apostles had to deal with in the story Saint Luke relates in Acts. How do we live? How do we hope? How do we endure?

Well, first, as a child, my catechism taught me that “Our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.” This is a healthful call to respect the body, but now I think it goes beyond. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul makes a memorable statement, or perhaps he is quoting even a pagan philosopher: . . . [T]hey would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being . . . (Acts 17: 27-28

Paul is saying God and Jesus are in you. They are close to you. They are family members. They are part of our being. They are as close as the joints of our limbs. . . . [B]ecause I live, you also will live. On that day, you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:19-20). I think this is what Jim Stickney meant when he mentioned “divinization” in his sermon last month.

And so we look for Jesus in our hearts and in our bodies. I say we look for Jesus, but I think I mean we try to realize that he is present. He is in us as he is in God the Father. This occurs because we have the Spirit.

Second, the gentleness and strength from the Spirit is our being together! I mean in Saint Alban’s, the church as the Body of Christ. It is we who obey Jesus’ command that we love one another. (John 15:12) We can find the power and the courage to love, which as Steve Hitchcock preached a couple of weeks ago, is in fact our work. He did not say it is something that we just do: he said it is our work.

How I would love to meet Jesus in the flesh. What a great hope that is. In the meantime, let’s consider how we act in this world without Jesus in the flesh.

So, here are some suggestions kind of in the spirit of how Margaret Doleman called on us to talk about the occasions when we thought we’d said the right thing at the right time::

Suggestion 1: On the first Pentecost, Peter preached and quoted the prophet Joel, saying . . . your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams . . . (Acts 2:17) So, when have you prophesied or dreamed dreams. Was it the thrill of hearing the notes of the first hymn of the service? Was it saying to a non-Christian or unchurched friend that you’ll pray for her daughter with Covid and seeing their eyes light up? Was it being in a meeting to hope and plan and manage something beautiful, like a musical ensemble, or in a vestry meeting to plan our continued future and to scratch heads over what to do about the drainage on the north side. Was it calling someone in the hospital and taking the lead to pray over the phone with them?

Suggestion 2: So, when have you loved recently? Did you grocery shop for your children and grandchildren? Were you kind in your interactions with people on any given day, both friends and family or simply people you encounter in a shop, a homeless person you give a banana to? Have you tried to put away the thought that some people are lesser because of their opinions or political party. Did you care for someone sick or disabled in your home or family? Did you give away some money – even a widow’s mite – to the Alameda County Food Bank, or the Richmond Rescue Mission. or something else. I am not going to ask whether you’re planning on becoming President of the United States or founder and leader of an NGO because actually we have to love where we are.

Suggestion 3 involves seeking God within us, in the joints of our body, as the person in whom we live and move and have our being. I can only imagine that a big part of this finding of the “absent Jesus” is prayer. Prayer is the place I know of where we sit down and actually talk to God. It is direct. And there is no such thing as bad prayer! You can be distracted, your mind might wander. That’s fine. You can say, “I’m sorry, Lord. I drifted off.” or not. The point is you are talking to him. If you talk to him, you realize he is there, to comfort us, to just be present, to strengthen and assist, to recognize us.

I want to close with another quote from Hymn 209. It summarizes in four lines just about everything I’ve said. Here goes:

We walk by faith, and not by sight;
no gracious words we hear from him
who spoke as none e’er spoke;
but we believe him near.

This is our season. Happy Pentecost.

Thank you.

05-15-2022 Reflection by Margaret Doleman

By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. For me, this is the core message of our faith.  Love one another.  And, in Acts, Peter confirms that Gentiles, that is, others, are worthy of love as well.

We all know that sometimes, we just don’t get this.  We talk a lot about how we fall short of Jesus’ commandment to love one another.  But today, let’s talk about the times we get it right.  We do a lot of good deeds around here, some small, and some pretty big.  And I’m betting that every one of us can think of a time when we found ourselves in the right place to do the right thing, maybe for someone we didn’t even know, When I look back on experiences like that, sometimes I feel as if it wasn’t really I who did that, or said that – God was using me. I’m just glad I could get out of the way, and let God use me.

When did you get it right? When might you have been the face of Jesus for someone?

I’m going to tell you a little story about something that happened to me, and then I hope that a few other people will feel comfortable sharing a few sentences about a time they felt as if they were showing God’s love.

It was maybe 15 years ago.  I was setting up the altar on Saturday, and there was a work party that day, so several people were around, and the church doors were open.  I saw a woman I didn’t recognize, kneeling in one of the front pews, praying.  Then she got up, and I heard her tell someone that her grandson was having surgery the next week.  That person was in the middle of some task, and didn’t really know how to respond, so she started walking out.  Here’s what went through my mind: her grandson can’t be very old. If he needs surgery, he might have a birth defect.  I know something about birth defects (since I’d been looking a birth defect data for about 20 years).  I also thought, she wants to talk to someone, and the first person she found wasn’t able to talk to her, so she’s leaving.  I need to talk to her. So I scurried off after her. As soon as I caught up with her and spoke to her, she started telling me all about her grandson (who did have a birth defect), and pretty much all about herself.  I realized right away that what I really needed to do for her was mostly just to listen, and I did. I couldn’t tell her anything that someone who knew far more than I did about her grandson’s case already had. My knowledge probably helped me to be a more active listener, but who knows? I just know that I was in the right place at the right time, and I think that with God’s help, I gave her something she needed right then.

 

05-22-22 Reflection by Steve Hitchcock

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church ● Albany, California ● May 22, 2022

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10,22-22:5
JOHN 5:1-19

For me, one of the blessings of this ongoing pandemic years been working with Becky
Osborn-Coolidge as she prepares the bulletin for our Sunday services. I’m always
impressed how Becky assembles the assigned Scripture readings, finds appropriate
prayers, and puts everything together in four, easy-to-use pages.
It’s not entirely Becky’s fault, but this Sunday’s bulletin is somewhat deceptive.
Becky does use the Episcopal Church’s Lectionary Page. She cuts and pastes the
lessons and psalm for each Sunday. Thus, we see that the Gospel for today, which
Margaret just read, says John 5:1-9.

The truth, though, is that Margaret read only seven and a half verses – not
nine. That’s because the oldest and most authentic Greek manuscripts omit the last
part of verse 3 and all of verse 4. You may recall that those verses suggest an angel
periodically stirs the pool of water, imbibing them disease-healing power.
The other peculiar thing about today’s Gospel is that the last word – Sabbath –
is the key to unlocking the very good news in this Scripture reading. That last word
also explains why the spurious verses should be omitted when reading this Gospel
text.

The promise on offer today is that if we hear that one last word, we
too will experience healing in our lives. We will be able to get up
and get going – and face our challenges with hope and confidence.

John’s Gospel gives us signs

Before we get there, though, let’s step back for a minute or two. During this
Easter season, except for the Second Sunday of Easter, we’ve interrupted our reading
Luke’s Gospel to be treated to the Easter-drenched Gospel of John. Like Matthew,
Mark, and Luke, this so-called Fourth Gospel is comprised of stories and sayings, but
90 percent of what’s in John’s Gospel isn’t found in the other three Gospels, which
share have 50 percent or more content with each other.
The first half of John’s Gospel is built around seven signs, what other Gospels
depict as miracles. The first was the wedding at Cana with its overflowing
abundance of premium wine. The second also took place at Cana, where Jesus cured
the royal official’s dying son – without actually going to see the boy in Capernaum.
Today’s Gospel is the third sign, which like the Cana wedding and the
Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4 involved water. After today’s Gospel
comes the feeding of the 5,000 in chapter 6. Here, once again an abundance of

nourishment takes place. Then, for the fifth sign, we’re back to water: this time Jesus
walks on the water during a storm. In chapter 9, we have the sixth sign: the healing
of the blind man.

The seventh and final sign wraps up the first half of the Gospel: the raising
Lazarus from the dead. This time, Jesus does go to the dying person, but he arrives
too late. So, Jesus must go into the tomb and shout Lazarus alive.

God works on the Sabbath

Now we can look more closely at today’s Gospel, the third sign, and get back to
that last word: Sabbath. As is often the case, the verses that follow today’s appointed
text explain the significance of what we heard read the Gospel. On the Sabbath, no
work is supposed to take place. At first glance, it appears that the crippled man – not
Jesus – is actually the one working: he carries his mat, which was considered work.
And we learn that the crippled man didn’t even know who it was who had healed him.
As all this comes out, the Jews – John’s words for Jesus’ opponents, not the
Jewish race – become incensed with Jesus for breaking the Sabbath.
Jesus rebuts their accusation in a different manner than he does in Matthew,
Mark, and Luke. And that’s good news for us today.

Jesus reminds his opponents – as well as those first readers of John’s
Gospel and us today – that, even though the Sabbath was a day of
rest, God, the creator of all that exists, does not stop working on the
Sabbath. God, who is the life force, is always at work.
And this is what really upset Jesus’ opponents. Jesus claims that he is the
Child of God. As God’s equal, Jesus too works on the Sabbath. Jesus is busy working
– creating abundance out of scarcity, washing us clean through baptism, healing our
infirmities, rescuing us from death.

That’s why it’s important to omit the verses about an angel stirring the waters.
It’s not some angel or agent of God who is at work in our lives. No, it is God at work.
It is God in Jesus who makes it possible for us to get up when life knocks us down –
or when we’re too tired or discouraged to face another day.

I don’t know about you, but these days when I get up in the morning and make
coffee with my achy hands and foggy brain and then read my newspaper articles, I’m
ready to get back in bed. Another wave of coronavirus, a faltering economy, the
brutal war in Ukraine, and hate-filled killings in our own country. Overwhelmed by
confusion and anxiety, getting up out my chair seems a chore.

God, who is supposed to be constantly working as the Creator of all things,
seems to be on an extended vacation – if not part of the great resignation.

Jesus’ death is God’s life-giving work

In the midst of our uncertainty and weariness, John’s Gospel shows us how
Jesus is busy in our lives today, how he heals us and gets our discouraged selves
moving. Paradox of paradox, Jesus does this life-saving work by dying. We hear in
chapter 5 that Jesus’ opponents begin plotting against him. By chapter 11, the raising
of Lazarus finally puts his opponents over the edge, and they begin seeking a way to
put Jesus to death. In other words, giving life to Lazarus precipitates Jesus’ death.
That’s where all those signs in the first half of John’s Gospel were pointing: to
the hour of Jesus’ death on the cross. The hour when he would be lifted up, when he
would be wounded for us. If we had any doubt about this, not long after the raising of
Lazarus, his sister Mary anoints Jesus’ feet – with lots of very expensive perfume.
Jesus defends her extravagance by saying that she’s preparing him for his burial.
And it is this fragrant extravagance that invites us to trust the Easter promise
that, in his death, Jesus overcomes death. That Jesus is lifted up to be with God, the
one who is always working on our behalf. That the wounded Lord is able to breathe
his Spirit of new life into us. That, even in our dying – which is our human condition,
for some more noticeably than others – God is giving us new hope, deep joy, and –
yes – life eternal.

We are fed so we can busy doing God’s work

After John reveals the unfolding plot that will put Jesus to death, he takes time
to reminds his readers – and us today – how we can trust that Jesus’ death – and our
own death – is not the last word. In chapter 6, we are invited to share the loaves and
fishes that become the new manna of the new Exodus. We are invited to take part in
the Eucharist that is the Bread of Life. We have this “standing invitation,” John tells
us because of our baptism, by which we are adopted to be siblings of Jesus, to be part
of God’s family.

Because of the pandemic, we don’t get to take part in the Eucharist as often as
we would like, but the good news is that just a morsel bread – and a sip of wine –
become a feast that nourishes us for weeks on end.

And strengthened by this holy food, we can get up and walk. We, too, as
adopted children of God, can be busy doing God’s work all the time. Despite our
frailties and infirmities, we are a source of healing and hope for others. Our smallest
gestures make the biggest difference. In a time of worry and despair, we are beacons
of joy and hope.

As we heard in last week’s Gospel – and in Margaret’s marvelous reflection –
this work we’re doing is called love. It’s what holds our lives – all creation – together.
So, today – and every day – is our Sabbath. Let’s get to work! Amen.

Easter Sunday Sermon by The Rev. Jim Stickney

Easter Sunday 2022                        St. Alban’s Church

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!        The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Christ did not die and rise from the dead just to make bad people into good people. Christ died and rose to make fearful people truly alive!

 

I’d like to begin this sermon for Easter morning with a special word of welcome

to those who are visiting with us today. We’re glad you’re here this morning,

and we invite everyone who wishes to join us to receive Communion.

 

Today we celebrate the heart of Christian faith, that death is not the end of the story.

Today we rejoice that we share in the new life of Christ Jesus beyond death.

Today we proclaim our freedom from any fear of being imprisoned in this world

of such swift and varied changes — we know where true joys are to be found.

 

Last Sunday we waved joyful palms to celebrate the easy way of being believers —

following Jesus in fair weather, when there’s a crowd cheering all of us on.

Then we shifted and became a mob crying for this one man to die for the people.

Some of us gathered on Good Friday in a vigil for divinity seeming to die —

trying to be faithful, when bring a believer seems to be the hardest thing to do.

And today we celebrate new life, risen life in which we all can share.

 

Christ did not die and rise from the dead just to make bad people into good people.

Christ died and rose to make fearful people truly alive!

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!        The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

 

I’d like to share an unusual sort of Easter story, dating from the year 1996.

I had taken a two-month sabbatical from my ministry as a Rector,

and I spent several days at an Episcopal monastery above Santa Barbara.

I was not on a silent retreat, and I shared a few lunches with some gay men

who were on a very different form of retreat — they were living a kind of resurrection.

 

All of these dozen or so men had contracted AIDS. They had seen friends

and lovers die all around them. They themselves had been facing their own deaths —

in a sense, they had been preparing for death quite intentionally.

But around 1996, scientists had developed new treatments for those with AIDS —

a class of drugs called “anti-retrovirals.” They were not a cure,

but by working with an array of drugs, doctors could extend their lives.

 

These men were spending a few days at a monastery, getting spiritual guidance

about re-entering the regular ups and downs of daily living after getting ready to die.

I might be off-base, but I think they experienced a kind of Easter story.

 

Christ did not die and rise from the dead just to make bad people into good people.

Christ died and rose to make fearful people truly alive!

        Alleluia!  Christ is risen!                        The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

 

In the Gospel reading we heard, a woman named Mary, from Magdala, just can’t sleep.

She is thinking of what she plans to do at dawn — to visit the tomb of Jesus.

Finally she thinks, “I’m not sleeping anyway — I’ll just walk over there by moonlight

and be ready at first light for the anointing of the corpse of my beloved teacher.”

 

She discovers that the stone (the stone of doubt) has been rolled away, the tomb empty.

Then she runs and locates the official apostles, sharing this amazing news.

The men visit, and one of them has the insight that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

Mary waits until they leave, and then peeks in, and sees angels robed in white,

who ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”     Why are any of us weeping?

 

Well, we grieve for the return to European war in Ukraine, war in Somalia

and other countries. We grieve the divided state of our country, and of course COVID.

We try to help with donations and prayers, but it can seem so limited.

 

Are we holding back our tears, our anxieties, our dread of the future?

“Why are you weeping?” Tell God what it is that deeply touches your heart. For a few,

though, it will not be anxiety, but joy — you are weeping to express your bliss.

 

In Luke’s Gospel, the men in dazzling robes ask a different rhetorical question:

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Why do we keep returning

to old habits of mind and heart that we know do not bring us joy and peace?

On this Easter, on this day when we celebrate our share in Christ’s new life,

let’s look for new attitudes of mind and heart, and not seek new life in old dead habits.

 

Was it difficult for the disciples who went to the tomb to open their hearts again

to the love they felt for Jesus? Is it difficult for us to break out of the tombs and the traps

of our fond pleasant memories, and look around at the changed circumstances

of our life today, and find Jesus there? Among this world’s swift and varied changes

we know where the true joys, the authentic riches, are to be found: in our souls

and in our communities, which will not fluctuate like the breaking news of each day.

 

Let’s not be pasting last year’s leaves on the tree and trying to call that Spring.

Instead, look at your life this day! This moment Christ Jesus wants to live in you!

The new life     just won’t be the same as the old life — God intends to do a new thing.

 

Christ did not die and rise from the dead just to make bad people into good people.

Christ died and rose to make fearful people truly alive!

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!        The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Good Friday Sermon by The Rev. Jim Stickney

St. Alban’s Church                                April 15, 2022

Good Friday                                    The Rev. James Stickney

 

At the beginning of this week called “Holy,” just before the procession with palms,

we prayed that we might “enter with joy upon the contemplation

of those might acts whereby [God has] given us life and immortality.”

On this Friday called “Good,” we’re at the very heart of Holy Week.

 

We’ve just finished John’s version of the saddest and most tragic story in the world.

We’re about to re-enact an ancient ritual, the Veneration of the Cross.

In this homily, the most I hope to do is negative — not to get in the way

of your contemplation of God’s might acts that we observe and re-enact.

 

When I was active here as your full-time pastor, we shared most Good Fridays

with our ecumenical brothers and sisters. The Lutherans, Methodists,

Baptists, Roman Catholics, and Presbyterians would share our reflections.

We would rotate around to our various churches, and divide the three hours

into sections of one-half hour each. That way people could come and go,

as their work schedules determined attendance.

 

For several years we adopted the overall theme of “Personalities around the Cross.”

Nobody would choose the personality of Jesus, of course — too profound.

But the disciple Peter was a very common choice, as was his Mother, Mary.

The villains were also popular — such as Judas and Pilate and Herod.

 

One year I came across a book of medieval Christian poetry, and discovered

“The Dream of the Cross.” The unknown author recounts how he dreamed

that the actual Cross of Calvary appeared to him and began to speak of Jesus’ death.

I knew that the Cross of Jesus would the “personality” I would choose

to shed some new and different light upon the meaning of Good Friday.

 

As I recite parts of this poem, I hope you discern its positive tone —

frankly, its heroic portrait of Jesus being eager to embrace his redeeming death

as he confronted the powers of the Roman state and cynical religious leaders.

In this poem, Jesus is not a helpless victim, meek and mild — but our strong Savior.

 

 

 

 

 

Then I saw the King            of all mankind

In brace mood hasting            to mount upon me.

Refuse I dare not                nor bow nor break

Though I felt earth’s confines        shudder in fear.

All foes I might fell            yet I stood fast.

 

Then the young Warrior            God, the All-Wielder

Put off his raiment            steadfast and strong

With lordly mood                in the sight of many

He mounted the Cross            to redeem mankind

When the hero clasped me            I trembled in terror

But I dared not bow me            nor bend to earth

 

I must needs stand fast!            Upraised as the Cross

I held the High King            the Lord of heaven,

I dared not bow!                With black nails driven

Those sinners pierced me            the prints are clear,

The open wounds.            I dared injure none.

They mocked us both            I was wet with blood

From the hero’s side            when he sent forth his spirit.

 

Now I give you this bidding            O man beloved

Reveal this vision                to the children of men

And clearly tell                of the Tree of glory

Whereon God suffered            for one man’s sins

And the evil that Adam            once wrought of old.

 

Death He suffered            but our Savior rose

By virtue of his great might            as a help to men.

He ascended to Heaven.            But hither again

He shall come to the earth            to redeem mankind,

The Lord himself                on the day of doom.

 

And all shall be fearful            and few should know

What to say to Christ            But none at his coming

Shall need to fear                if he bears in his breast

This best of symbols.            And every soul

From the ways of the earth            through the Cross shall come

To heavenly glory                who would dwell with God.

Maundy Thursday Sermon by The Rev. Jim Stickney

St. Alban’s Church            Maundy Thursday 2022

 

A while ago I heard a part of an interview with two Jewish comedians who were summarizing the essence of many Jewish celebrations.

 

So I crafted it in the form of a Japanese haiku!

 

They tried to kill us — // we escaped — our enemies  // are dead now — let’s eat!

 

That’s the stark and yet joyful background of the Passover meal Jesus shared with his friends, his students and fellow-travelers, the night before he died. It didn’t take divine foreknowledge for Jesus to perceive that his death was near. His pattern of confronting religious authorities brought their final solution: eliminate him.

 

They tried to kill us — // we escaped — our enemies  // are dead now — let’s eat!

 

Someone might ask me, “what does the word “Maundy” mean? It’s a word derived from Latin: Manadatum — which means commandment. But this day’s commandment  is not of the official Ten Commandments. It’s the new mandate of Jesus, impossible to legislate, but essential for authentic Christian life.

 

This mandate of Jesus is found in the final verses of today’s Gospel reading:

 

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Such a mandate was counter-cultural in the Roman province of Palestine in the first century. It remains counter-cultural in our divided country today, and in a world that seems intent on reverting to a brutal philosophy that “might makes right.” And yet, the way of loving one’s neighbor remains the high challenge for authentic Christians.

 

They tried to kill us — // we escaped — our enemies  // are dead now — let’s eat!

 

After more than two years, we seem to be emerging for the worst of the Covid epidemic. Of course, we are taking prudent precautions at this church and in other places as well — masking, distancing, ventilation — to name the most obvious.

 

As we take stock of what has changed, it seems like the practice of sharing a common cup for Communion will be “on hold” for the foreseeable future. Our parish has taken a page from Protestant churches in using small glasses set in a tray. I would paraphrase the implicit theology this way: one tray, many glasses.

 

Let’s go a little deeper. During the most rigorous months of the shutdown, we realized

how much we depended on community — this specific community — for mutual spiritual support and basic human fellowship. Zooming in on a screen is better than nothing, but mediated worship can’t give us the fullness of Christian community.

 

They tried to kill us — // we escaped — our enemies  // are dead now — let’s eat!

 

So we’re grateful that we once again can gather to share the spiritual food and drink — the blessed bread and wine that presents to us, by faith, Christ’s body and blood. And yet this particular day — Maundy Thursday — includes the ritual washing of feet. This practice is for now another casualty of the Covid epidemic. But I still intend to use the wording found in the Book of Common Prayer — mindful that we are not physically re-enacting the practice Jesus told us to do.

 

At the Passover meal Jesus shared with his beloved friends (which we call the Last Supper) he could easily foresee his immediate future — he would be handed over to the power of the state. so he gave two signs, two very puzzling signs of how authority would operate among his followers after his departure.

 

The first puzzling sign the one who leads the best is the one who serves the most. Who’s washing the feet? Who’s the servant of the servants? That’s the leader!

 

And the second greater puzzling sign: an ancient ritual meal now becomes Christ’s Body and Blood! What did he mean? He gave no theology, no explanation of these symbols. But precisely because he did not explain himself, his followers puzzled over it. I imagine his conversation went something like this:

 

“Do you remember the night before he died, how he met with us in that upper room,

passing around ordinary bread and wine and calling it his own Body and Blood?” And then, as his bereaved friends re-enacted those most peculiar words and deeds, they found Jesus, present among them again in a spiritual form, as he had been among them physically. The eyes of their minds were opened and they once again perceived the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

 

They tried to kill us — // we escaped — our enemies  // are dead now — let’s eat!

4-3-22 Reflection by Laurie Schumacher

April 3, 2022  Reflection

 

The readings for this Fifth Sunday of Lent have a theme of “past and future” and of distance over which people move.

In Psalm 126

when the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion …then we were like those who dream…then was our mouth filled with laughter…

‘Restore our fortunes O Lord…those who reaped with tears…will reap with songs of joy…’

In Philippians – Paul looks at his past, all the reasons why he was ‘confident in the flesh’

Now, he regards that past and what he had – as a loss because now he knows the greatest value is in knowing Jesus…

…I have suffered the loss of all things and I regard them as rubbish, in order than I might gain Christ and be found in him…’sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead….

In the Gospel reading from John …the story begins in the home of Lazarus – whose past was literally dead.  He is beginning a new life, setting out a dinner and sitting at the same table with Jesus.  Mary has purchased expensive perfume and is anointing Jesus’ feet.  In response to being chastised for the expense by Judas, Jesus speaks out forcefully – it was bought to be used at an event in the future – his burial.

The book of Isaiah is considered a composite work, the product of several different prophets ministering at different periods in the history of Israel.  Three sections, first, second and third Isaiah, written years apart, the writer for parts two and three building upon what came before.

The namesake of this book lived in Judah about 700 years before Jesus – during the waning years of the kingdom, a contemporary of the prophets of social justice (Amos, Hosea, Micah).  To their cries for reform, he added his own prophetic admonitions: the holiness of God, the coming Messiah, God’s judgment, he exhorts the people to place their trust in God – not fleeting movements or nations.

Our readings on this fifth Sunday in Lent, are in the second book, written somewhere around 538 BCE.  The writer (not Isaiah) is living in Babylon.  The time is toward the end of the Judean exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

The Judeans have lived for (an estimated) 70 years following the Judean defeat and the destruction of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. Seventy years is almost four generations.  Most of the people who survived the trip have died by this time.  Others have lived their entire lives in this foreign city.  In 2015 a cache of cuneiform tablets (found in Iraq) were made available for the first time for critical examination by western historians and archeologists.  These tables fill in a critical gap in understanding what was going on in the life of Judeans in Babylonia more than 2,500 years ago. The Judeans traded, ran businesses, and even has positions within the administration of the kingdom. They were not slaves – or not all of them.

Kingdoms rise and fall, the Persians conquer Babylon and allow the Jews to return to their homeland. By this time the population in Babylon had swelled considerably and the estimate of those who chose to return is 40,000.  They could not all leave at once – it would take several years for all those who wanted to go back to actually get there. Second Isaiah is about exhorting the people to return to Jerusalem and to participate in the rebuilding of the temple.

If first Isaiah is about judgement, second Isaiah is the promise of deliverance, help and consolation, the returning Judeans are reassured that God will protect them, provide lifesaving water …

I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert), free from fear of wild animals (…wild animal will honor me

God is the controller of their destiny, not a nation, a king or government.

The reading refers back to great deeds – the parting of the Red Sea…

(thus says the Lord who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior, they lie down they cannot rise they are extinguished, quenched like a wick)

and then to go forward as it is written

‘…do not remember the former things or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs, do you not perceive it?’

We are reading these words in the 21st century in the season of Lent – thousands of years after it was written, read, absorbed – and obeyed by the writer’s target audience.  We know the entire story – we can read all the books and we know the characters and the outcomes of that time.

But in the year 538 BCE, those people did not.  They did not know their futures.  Something on the order of 40,000 people took on a journey of 900 miles across a desert – a journey of 5-6 months for an individual or a family.  They packed up their lives – what would they take that would be most valuable to them along the way – items to trade with hostile desert tribes for food or directions to find water?  What would be valuable enough to take over all the miles of this perilous journey?  They walked in heat and dust, carrying all their possessions, at risk from hostile Bedouin tribes and trusting they will find water – because not enough water can be carried.  Some chose not to make this journey across the desert.  Perhaps they had no memory of Jerusalem, the stories of their elders, passed down over generations were not enough and instead they struck out in smaller numbers, west and north, and settled in new areas.  Some stayed in Babylon.

There is a tension between the past and the future – how much to hold onto, how much to acknowledge and how and when we let go.  In Lent, we are charged to reflect on who we are, what and where we have been.  We journey from the past…

…Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old…

to the future …

…I am about to do a new think, now it springs forth…

I am trained to study the past.  I think a lot about time, about people moving through time, how the past is used and when is it buried and when it brings light.  We could talk about the thinking of people who returned – or those that chose not to return. Were they looking to the future?  Or could they not let go of the stories they had been told of their homeland and the risks were worth it.  I do not know.  We can finish this story as it suits ourselves.  But I want to talk about something else I see in these lessons, this history and us – today.

We live in time where looking to the past seems to be a persistent and comforting occupation – we still talk of ‘before 9/11’ and ‘pre Covid’.   The utter failure of the public health message, ‘mask up to move on’ is a sad reminder that our new reality is an unwanted future – not progress.

Many of us remember a time when TSA were only letters, when the words ‘climate change’ was a mere warning – recycle some bottles and paper – we did not fully know the meaning of a ‘tipping point’ as a steady drumbeat of destruction.   We did not think about where water comes from as it dripped from garden hoses in driveways.  We laud the fortitude of exiles forced to leave their homeland.  In fact, they are weary of what seem to be easily said platitudes – they want safety – they want their lives back – not forced to persevere into a ‘new thing’.

Now the threats of nuclear war, chemical war, biological war seem too close to our own lives, a Texas size garbage dump is floating toward the west coast and there is even talk of garbage floating above our planet as spiraling out of control. The news brings daily reports of a new variants, its threat to us uncertain – we must keep our masks close at hand. Culture wars, political instability – what other threats can emerge? The world seems very small, there is plenty to worry about and we cannot see where we are going.

So, I wonder – how do God’s people in this time, move forward to a ‘new thing’?

I watched most of the hearings for the candidate for the Supreme Court.  It was on the radio – I was doing other things listening randomly.  Then I turned on the TV as my interest was caught by her voice as she answered questions – the degree of difference between her voice and those of her questioners.  And then, I sat down and watched for the two days.

Judge Jackson is a black woman – with an impressive resume, brilliant, thoughtful, a descendent of slaves, and a powerful reminder of the history of our own country and the people who were brought here against their will.  A story some people in our nation are, sadly, all too glad to abuse the words of Isaiah …’ do not remember the former things…

For me, it was a revelatory two days watching Judge Jackson, alone at a table facing two rows of interrogators.  At times it was confrontational – white men yelled at her, talked over her, interrupted her, twisted her words most egregiously.  A white woman told her she should proud that ‘she had made something of herself.’  It was cringe worthy and hard to witness.

Judge Jackson remained calm, composed – sometimes showing slight vexation, but never raising her voice.  She remained serene and focused, losing her temper would have derailed her purpose in being there.  She found strength, she was hopeful, and she persevered.

Isaiah writes – ‘thus says the Lord

…do not remember the former things or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing; and now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert…

To give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself…

Judge Jackson’s past encompasses all of us. Her story evolves out of slavery and that history belongs to all of us.  She spoke movingly of her family and what she knows she represents.   How could she forget?   How could we not remember?

I doubt this ‘day of judgement’ in front of Congress was the only time she has ever faced the disrespect and incivility that surely was common to generations of her ancestors.  But what I saw was that it did not define her, instead I think she embodied what is written in Isaiah… words of deliverance, hope, consolation, and promise

…now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert…To give drink to my chosen people

Judge Jackson drank of the waters in the desert, felt God’s consolation and hope, and saw the ‘new thing’

As I watched her, I was thinking of the remarkable coincidence that my witness of her day of ‘judgement’ occurred during Lent.

Lent is one of the most enduring seasons in our Christian calendar – we set aside something, we pray and reflect in preparation to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Despite the turbulence of church history, the ebb and flow of human migration, kingdoms rising and empires failing, for centuries Lenten practices remain pretty much unchanged for nearly two thousand years.

We here in 2022 look back over thousands of years – Isaiah’s words come to us as they were written and first heard.   We do not know our outcome anymore than the Judeans of Babylon knew theirs.  It seems dire, we are walking in a desert wondering if we will find lifesaving water so we can carry on. But they did it and so can we.

In our Lenten journey, we give up to move forward – painfully and slowly – we need to find God’s water and drink of it – to work toward fixing the broken things in our lives, replenishing our perseverance.

As it was written in Philippians…

…I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own…this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Jesus Christ.

And if we do this

…then, we were like those who dream…then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with shouts of joy

…those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy,

shouldering their sheaves…

 

3-27-22 Reflection by Larry Di Costanzo

Reflection for March 27, 2022

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Lawrence DiCostanzo

Joshua 5:9-12

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Psalm 32

– – –

We are living in dark and sinful times — again.  It is certainly a dark time for Russia.  I’m reminded how, in 2019, Barbara and I had the privilege of visiting Russia.  We went to Saint Petersburg, and we were able to spend a whole morning in the “Hermitage” which is one of the world’s great museums of art.  Our guide was an art historian, and she was excited and proud.  After seeing many beautiful art works housed in a magnificent palace, our guide stopped us at the end of a long gallery.  Her eyes were shining as she said, “Now we will turn this corner and see one of the world’s greatest paintings.”

We held our breath and turned the corner, and there it was —  Rembrandt’s painting of the Return of the Prodigal Son.  We all felt a moment of reverence, so gorgeous is the love and the sorrow of the old father embracing the young man who is kneeling before him.  The young man’s face is hidden against the old man’s body; his shaved head is riddled with ring worm; his clogs are worn out and stinking.

The father and son take up maybe half or more of the painting.  The rest is dark, dark.  In the darkness there are figures, half seen, half painted.  Perhaps they are meant to be the Pharisees and scribes who had criticized Jesus for hanging out with sinners and tax collectors that day.  Perhaps they are the elder son of the parable and some of the father’s hired hands.  Perhaps they are us.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is the closer of a string of three parables about losing and finding.  The first two are not included in today’s Gospel reading.  The first parable is about the shepherd who leaves his flock to find one lost sheep and rejoices to find it and invites his friends to rejoice too.  The second parable is about the housewife who searches for a lost coin, rejoices to find it and also invites her neighbors to rejoice with her.  The third is the parable of the Prodigal Son.

This third parable appears only in Luke’s Gospel.  But it is definitely Jesus talking.  The parable reflects his genius.  It has layers that make it timeless so that it applies the people who were there listening to Jesus and to us who listen to him in the Scriptures.

Jesus had been talking to so-called sinners and tax collectors that day.  As was often the case, there were Pharisees and scribes there too and, as usual in the Gospels, they criticized Jesus to his face for being with these low people.  In response, Jesus tells us the string of three parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the Prodigal Son.  Maybe the elder son in the parable of the Prodigal Son is a kind of stand-in for the Pharisees — not necessarily bad people generally speaking, but also unable to understand or accept that the Year of the Lord’s Favor had arrived. (Luke 4:16-21). They don’t realize God’s urgency to gather us all in.

God’s urgency to gather us in is evident in the shepherd parable and the parable of the lost coin.  But the parable of The Prodigal Son is different.  Unlike the shepherd or the housewife, the father does not go looking for the son who fell into trouble in a faraway land.  That son, the one we call The Prodigal, goes looking for the father.

The Prodigal had gone his own way.  In his eventual poverty, he’d even reached the point of envying the animals their feed.  The darkness and the failure of his life led him to come to himself, actually to walk inside his own head.  [The Greek implies physical movement into himself.]  He thinks how his father’s hired hands are probably eating well.  There is longing here, but there also seems to be some self pity.  But the prodigal makes a much bigger move inside his head: he concludes that he is unworthy to be his father’s son.  And this is what he says when his father runs out to meet him.  This, I think, is the moment of the embrace in Rembrandt’s painting.  But the father is so happy, he doesn’t seem to hear.  He moves directly to celebration.

So, Jesus tells us that the darkness, of which Jesus himself must have had a lot of experience, can be a place where light grows.

But, there is another son in this parable — the elder brother.  He is the one I always think about the most.  And I identify with him more than I identify with the prodigal.  I think he may be the more important brother in the story.

The elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is, in fact, a good guy.  Like many of us church people, he is one of the sheep who did not stray.  He is one of the coins that stayed in the box.

And the beauty of the Parable of the Prodigal Son is that, through the elder brother, Jesus talks about the good sheep and the inert coins.  So how does it work?  The elder brother, the good sheep, is angry.  He begrudges what the father is giving the younger son.  But really what he says to his father shows that he is hurt.  “I’ve been good.  I work all the time.  I never got your permission to kill a measly goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  And you favor this lowlife who spent your money on prostitutes.”  He is falling apart, melting down. In fact, like his brother the Prodigal, he is in darkness.

And in his anger and his grief, he is really saying:  “You don’t love me.”

This elder brother presents to me the depth of the humanity of the Parable and the greatness of its challenge.

For how do we people who go to church, live our lives, go shopping, garden, visit our friends, volunteer, and so forth feel the love of God?  When we are sometimes in our own darkness, we say, “I’m just a humdrum guy.  Show me that you love me.”

I suggest that we, who are the elder sons in the Parable, see the light in a different way than the Prodigal did.  We have to reflect, maybe all the time, on the father’s really important response to the elder son in the parable.  The father does speak to his concerns directly.  He does show him love.  He addresses him intimately.  He uses a really important word that I can’t find really translated well, in my opinion, in any of the English translations of the parable that I read.  That is, the father calls him teknon.  This is a Greek word that means “my child.”  He says, “My child, you are with me always.  And all that is mine is yours.”  How much more do we need?  It’s Jesus who said this!  God puts his flock in green pastures and by still waters.  He restores our souls in the same way as he restores the soul of the prodigal son – through his love.  (Psalm 23)

And then we move on.  How do we do that?  The Parable of the Prodigal Son is really different because we have to finish it ourselves.  Here is an example that I think is like how the parable of the Prodigal Son might continue after the father’s loving words to the elder son.

In my work, I came across felons and evil-doers who had found Jesus while they were in prison.  I always found these so-called jail-house conversions to be moving.  In the darkness, these prodigal sons had been bathed in waterfalls of light.  And the regular old sheep of the flock were often the roadside evangelical churches that took these ex-felons under their wings and whose pastors and members came to testify on their behalves.  These regular people decided to go into the feast.  I hope the elder brother in the parable did too.  As I said, it is up to us to finish this parable in our own lives.

Thank you.

3-13-22 Reflection by Chanthip Phongkhamsavath

Second Sunday in Lent
March 13, 2022

Why do we constantly ask what God will do for us? Why is it so important for Abram to know
what his descendants will have and why is it that heirs are so inherently important – why is it that
a slave would not be as worthy to be an heir.

I wonder about our own Christian history and its role in creating the social structures we live in
today. Within many readings we encounter roles of the masters and slaves. There is a
differentiation that existed, that would change eventually, however it is easy to dwell on that
existence of privilege that existed through the ages. For as long as we have known it seems there
have always been those who are more privileged than others in land, wealth, strength, and other
ways. Where privilege for some becomes so inherent that there isn’t even a willingness to
understand its root in order to begin to address and unravel it.

It makes me think about the focus in recent years on diversity, equity and inclusion in the
workplace and in education overall – the beginnings of understanding privilege and its impacts.
Earlier in the year as a staff we had a professional training day on diversity and race and there
was one particular exercise that stood out for me. Because it was all virtual we had an
opportunity to participate in a jamboard exercise where we were all asked to respond to the
question of our experience with race with one word – and the benefit of being virtual – if a word
was repeated by multiple people it was larger on the screen.

When the exercise ended, I was surprised that one of the largest words on the screen was
privilege. I had to take a step back and think about the demographics of our staff versus the
students that we serve, especially in Richmond and East Oakland. And it made me wonder what
the difference in response would be if we had our students do the same exercise. If we looked at
those responses side by side what could we do then to recognize our inherent places and
experiences in the world. One of our campuses recently attempted to further engage the staff in
an exercise on privilege and there was an overall negative response with certain staff refusing to
even participate – and I was surprised although in thinking about it I shouldn’t have been.

It is uncomfortable to think about the benefits that we have been born into, whatever they may
be, and there is natural resistance if someone attempts to disrupt or even point it out. It seems to
make sense then that Jerusalem keeps killing the prophets and stoning those sent to it. Maybe
they were not ready to hear the news because it meant that there might be changes that on the
onset might not look so positive for them – even if it might mean a better overall future for their
children and other children who were not theirs.

I know I struggle with balancing what benefits myself and my family versus what might better
the greater good. I can see why Abram would keep asking what the benefit would be for him to
follow God, because oftentimes it can be challenging to look at what is ahead of us and think
about the future and what is left after we are gone.

Although that is the piece that we look towards, not being gone, rather, being able to join God in
heaven and salvation. For being true to following the way of everlasting love and grace. When
God is already light and salvation – when our salvation and citizenship is in heaven – why is what
is left in the flesh so important. It is not what is left, as what opportunity we leave to those after
us. The opportunity to know and love God – to be able regardless of position and privilege, to all
strive together for salvation.

We are constantly asking God what can be done for us and it makes me wonder why God keeps
trying. Then I remember that God is light and salvation and love. That God is the strength when
I am weak or when I am afraid. And maybe then it isn’t what will be available for our heirs in
the here and now in the flesh, but to ensure for them the opportunity to hear of God’s love and
grace. That change and salvation is for all the heirs of the earth, if there is willingness to lean
into God’s grace and love and be open to the constant change in one’s life. Amen.