Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Everything happens in a body

Luke 24: 36-48
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
April 15, 2018




            




         Third week of Easter and the disciples are still grappling with what resurrection actually is and what does it mean. Two thousand years later and so are we.



         

          Sallie McFague, in her book Models of God, asks what if the resurrection of the body was seen “as God’s promise to be with us in God’s body, our world? What if God’s promise of permanent presence to all space and time were imagined as a worldly reality, a palpable, bodily presence? What if, then, we did not have to go somewhere special (church) or somewhere else (another world) to be in the presence of God but could feel ourselves in that presence at all times and in all places? What if we imagined God’s presence as in us and in all others, including the last and the least?”


         
         Usually I would work my way up to a piece of good news like that, but things being the way they are these days, I’d rather start with it right from the beginning. It’s never been easy to live as intertwined flesh and blood and spirit, to live in a body. From the rampant flu we had this winter to a low immune response due to the stress of the daily news to chronic pain and illness to sometimes a general malaise when things are not right—our bodies tell us when something is wrong. We experience everything in our bodies, in the body of the earth, and in corporate bodies, like church and work and school and communities—our state, our nation, our world. And all of these bodies could use some resurrection right now—some very real palpable presence of the sacred, of what’s good and right and true and whole.



         
         Buddhism has a meditation, a teaching called the Five Remembrances; they sound like bad news but they are intended to set us free. One, I will grow old. Two, this body will know sickness. Three, there is no escape from death. Four, everything and everyone changes. And five, all I have are my actions; my actions are the ground upon which I stand. Ironically, it’s when we don’t accept the reality of a bodily life that we cause suffering for ourselves and others. The problem isn’t that people and things change but when we live as though they don’t change. When we accept the reality of our lives and our bodies, we realize that they really don’t belong to us but they are all of life making itself known through us. Our bodies, our whole lives are a sacrament.



         And so the disciples recognize Jesus resurrected from the dead in the Eucharist, in the breaking of the bread on the way to Emmaus and eating broiled fish. Resurrection happens in our bodies. He shows them his hands and his feet, the instruments of his ministry of healing and meeting people where they are. He shows them that he was wounded, that he had been through the fire and come out on the other side—not the same but changed; not perfect but whole.



         
         
         These bodies of ours are complex. We are so very fragile and yet so resilient. We can feel such pleasure and yet experience such profound pain and still live. We inhabit a temple to be cared for and cherished and we are all sizes, all genders, all colors, all abilities, all without shame. How we feel on the inside and how we look on the outside is a complicated relationship. Then we gather them together in corporate bodies, like church and work and school and community and government. We create structures and powers and beauty; we celebrate and corrupt and destroy. We confuse thoughts and emotions, project them on others, carry wounds and chipped shoulders, and yet words of forgiveness have the power to mend our hearts, to restore relationships, to reconcile division.


         
         Forgiveness is a form of resurrection. So are acceptance and justice and solidarity and compassion and sacrifice and generosity and perseverance. Resurrection is about whenever we’ve been wounded, gone through the fire, and come out on the other side. A colleague quoted these words: “I’m not able to talk to you of resurrection, if you have yet to realize that you have died.” And we die inside when Syrian children, any children are bombed, and someone dies of gun violence, and police ignore their fear by abusing their power, and people of color and transgender folks are not safe in public space,
and thousands of gallons of oil spill on the earth, and a whole nation, the Congo, threatens to destroys itself in genocide, and refugees and immigrants are turned away, and our family and friends suffer pain and loss over which we are powerless. And we wonder when will the resurrection come? How can we live out the resurrection in our bodies? How can we summon the power to forgive, to accept, to work for justice, to know that the only ground we stand upon is our actions?


       
         What if the resurrection of the body was seen “as God’s promise to be with us in God’s body, our world? What if God’s promise of permanent presence to all space and time were imagined as a worldly reality, a palpable, bodily presence? What if, then, we did not have to go somewhere special (church) or somewhere else (another world) to be in the presence of God but could feel ourselves in that presence at all times and in all places? What if we imagined God’s presence as in us and in all others, including the last and the least?”


         
         
         Resurrection is persistent—it does not give up—and so we must persist with it. The bodily, palpable presence of God surrounds us and upholds us, moves through us and with us. A few years ago a Christian koan or contradictory wisdom saying came to me: the Incarnation is the Resurrection; the Resurrection is the Incarnation. When we allow the bodily, palpable presence of God to fully inhabit us, we are resurrected. When we are resurrected, when we forgive, accept, work for justice, share compassion, the bodily, palpable presence of God is made known through us. And when we do these things, wherever we do them, we are Church, the Body of Christ: a body also wounded, gone through the fire, and come out the other side. Deeper still, when we do these things, we are the body human.



         Everything happens in a body—every body, no matter your body: the palpable presence of God made known to us and through us, through all things, the universe and then some. May the resurrection come and may it be made known through you.  Amen.




Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Belief + doubt = sanity

John 20: 19-31
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
April 8, 2018 (Bright Sunday)

         



         Earlier this week Andrea and I went to Washington DC to visit the Botanic Gardens, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Hirshhorn Museum. By the time we got to the Hirshhorn, I had walked over 11,000 steps and we still had to make it back to Union Station. So while Andrea ventured upstairs, I took my hurting little puppies down the escalator to the gift shop.


         
         To my delight there was an art installation that covered every surface of the lower level lobby: floors, walls, even the sides of the escalators. The artist, Barbara Kruger, surrounds the viewer with language, with provocative questions and statements writ large in red and black and white, (reminiscent of what’s black and white and red all over?) that poke at our assumptions and our desire for certainty. Through this piece of artwork, Kruger said she was “interested in introducing doubt”, especially in these days of sound bites, fake news, and propaganda. One panel on the floor read:
“WHO IS BEYOND THE LAW? WHO IS FREE TO CHOOSE? WHO SPEAKS? WHO IS SILENT?”



         
         Right outside the gift shop I read:
PLENTY SHOULD BE ENOUGH. and YOU WANT IT. YOU BUY IT. YOU FORGET IT. IT’S A SMALL WORLD BUT NOT IF YOU HAVE TO CLEAN IT. THE WORLD SHRINKS FOR THOSE WHO OWN IT. and MONEY MAKES MONEY. speak to economic justice issues. WHOSE BELIEFS? WHOSE BODY? WHOSE POWER? are questions we’ve been asking since humankind developed the language to ask them, and we’ve been struggling with and often dying because of the answers ever since.



         
         The title of this work is “Belief + Doubt”, and the statement
BELIEF + DOUBT = SANITY is the first statement you see when you come down the escalator. But not all the statements and questions are so serious. There’s a bit of whimsy if you look for it. You have to look up to read DON’T LOOK DOWN ON ANYONE. In a wry bit of humor the statements BELIEVE ANYTHING. and FORGET EVERYTHING. are interspersed with happy face emoticons. My favorite one is the question over the entrance to the women’s restroom: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU LAUGHED? Laughter is one of the many treasures of being human that helps keep our beliefs and our doubts in balance. Laughter keeps us sane. Like doubt, laughter prevents us from taking anything, even ourselves, too seriously.



         
         I’d like to think that when Thomas put his hand in Jesus’ side and touched his wounds, that there was a deep laughter born of relief, as when we face our worst fears and our wildest hopes. Thomas was the only one of the disciples who was not behind locked doors, not afraid to be out and about. When it comes to Thomas we talk a lot about doubt and faith but not so much about doubt and fear. There are times we put more faith in our fears, and we have a word for that: despair.



         
         This story is about so much more than one person who missed out on seeing Jesus alive again for the first time. It’s about Jesus not judging Thomas just because he wants to have the same experience as the rest of the disciples. It’s about the power of forgiveness and sharing peace and the giving of the Holy Spirit and being in community, all of which allow these traumatized disciples to continue living the gospel despite their fears. It’s a story that reminds us that having faith in something we can’t see is uniquely human.



         
         Belief and doubt and laughter are the holy trinity of Easter joy. We need to check in with ourselves when we think jokes and laughter and downright silliness have no place in worship. Laughter and foolishness have their own reverence—reverence for things we often take for granted or don’t think much about like our bellies and blood pressure and oxygen intake, immune cells and endorphins and increased blood flow, hips and knees and ankles. Laughter helps release stress and relaxes the body: the one we live in and this Body, the one we worship and serve with. Laughter has the power to resurrect us from the dumps of despair and transform anger and fear into something else.



         William Sloane Coffin once said that “the primary religious task is to think straight (which is funny, because many people would say religious people don’t think straight); we can’t think straight with a heart full of fear, for fear seeks safety, not truth. If our heart is a stone, we can’t have decent thoughts about personal relations or international ones. A heart full of love, on the other hand, has a limbering effect on the mind.”



         Laughter has that limbering effect on our hearts as well. Laughter is one of things that make it possible for us to love, especially when it is difficult. It’s too easy these days to give ourselves over to fear and anger and despair. So every day, laugh some. Get your news from Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, or Stephen Colbert. Turn off the news once in a while and listen to some George Carlin or Robin Williams or Dave Chappelle or Paula Poundstone. Have a dance party while you’re waiting in line, any line, in the kitchen while you’re getting dinner ready. 


         


         Think of your laughter as prayer, as hope, as possibility. Easter is as real and as deep as we live it. As we laugh it. Amen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Dare to be fooled

Mark 16: 1-8
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
April 1, 2018 – Easter Sunday



         None of us likes to be fooled nor do we want to miss the boat on anything either. Sometimes we can be persuaded that there must be one right way to do things, to be in the world; much of the time it’s our way or the way of the mob, the trend, the majority, the status quo, or those in the resistance camp. We want to know who and what is right so we won’t have to be wrong. For many folks certainty is the not-so-unconscious drive behind religious faith. Or the rejection of religious faith. None of us likes to be hoodwinked, to be sold a bill of goods, to be taken for a fool.



         
         And yet Easter is the most foolish story of all and dares us to be fools in the telling and the living of it. Frederick Buechner puts it this way: “Resurrection means the worst thing is never the last thing.” We dare to be fooled, that our worst thing is not the last thing. This is the heart of the foolishness of this story and the foolishness that this world needs most right now.


         


         23 year old Stephon Clark shot in the back by police while talking on his cellphone in his grandmother’s backyard is not the last thing, is not the end of his story. And Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, John Crawford, and too many more.



         17 students and staff members killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is not the last thing. The thousands who have been killed due to gun violence—it is not the last thing.



         


         Being insulted, ridiculed, and threatened because of your age, your sexuality, your gender, because you dare to speak truth to BS and to power, because you survived, is not the last thing.



         Being excluded or not feeling safe at school or in the workplace or on the street because of your color, your gender or gender expression, your sexuality, your ability is not the last thing.





         Countless women, men, children, people of all ages and colors sexually abused and assaulted, their stories only now being told, is not the last thing.



         Being misgendered and invisible to others, having your pronouns ignored or disregarded is not the last thing.





         Environmental protection laws being dismantled by our current administration is not the last thing. An ever-increasing military budget is not the last thing.



         Wars in Yemen, Syria, Nigeria, Sudan, the Congo, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, and so many more are not the last thing.





         Having to leave one’s country and family and home to go to a strange place, speak another language, depend on others, is not the last thing. Being deported from this country, the only country you’ve ever known, leaving behind your family and home, is not the last thing.



        The ever-widening gap between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of us, the 46 million Americans who live in poverty, the more than 3 billion people worldwide who live on $2.50 a day, is not the last thing.


         


         Your worst thing, whatever was done to you, whatever wound or hurt or rage you are carrying, whatever shame or guilt over something you’ve done or left undone, whatever you fear about the future, is not. The. Last. Thing.

         
         
         UCC colleague Ben Guess who now works for the ACLU says, “Easter has always been somewhat difficult for me, one of the hardest Sundays to preach — for me. Grateful I leave it to others to do these days. The ultimate cheerful victory proclaimed is glib and empty without realization of the vast oppression, violence and racism many know. My hope and bet is on resurrection still, but I believe the crucifixion is probably still the more obvious place to invest our work and lives. I’m invested in Easter but with wide eyes opened. The stone is large and heavy.”



         
         It is entirely appropriate that we meet Easter at this Table; it is the best foolishness of all on this day. Resurrection sets the table with broken body and blood shed because there is still justice to be restored; there are still wounds to be acknowledged and healed; there is still forgiveness to be sought and repentance to be offered; there is still betrayal and desertion in the human heart; there is still the death of innocents at the hands of empire. And there is still compassion to be shared; there is still unconditional love to be learned and given; there are relationships that still need to be repaired; there is still peace to be achieved; because as long as we don’t give up on these things, there is still hope.



         And for this we must dare to be willing fools. Suckers for Jesus, for wholeness, for resurrection. Amen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

March for our lives

Mark 11: 1-11
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
March 25, 2018 – Palm Sunday


(I started writing this on Friday and finished Saturday evening after I returned from the march.)



         



         Tomorrow is the March for Our Lives, and I have to admit I’m a little scared. I don’t like big crowds. I’ve been to First Night in Boston and to a Junkanoo parade on New Year’s in the Bahamas, both occasions for celebrating and I hated both. I couldn’t escape from being pressed up against people. I’m 5’2” so most people are taller than me. It felt almost suffocating. I even had my butt grabbed and had to walk with my fist behind me, ready to punch any other would-be grabbers. At Barack Obama’s first inauguration, which was an entirely different kind of crowd altogether, I just wanted some space.


         
          So why am I going to Washington DC when I could’ve marched in Wilmington? Why am I going the day after a Rainbow Chorale performance, the day before Palm Sunday? Because this march is the civil rights March on Washington of our time. Because this march is the 21st century march against empire and violence.


         
         When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, it was a 1st century protest march against empire and violence. Like any other observant Jew, he was there for the festival of Passover. On that same day, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, would have also entered Jerusalem, not to observe Passover, but to quell any kind of disturbance that might result. Remember that Passover is a festival of liberation from captivity and slavery at the hands of another empire.



         
          So more than likely there were two processions that day, from the east and the west, entering the holy city of Jerusalem, the city of peace. Pilate would have entered on his horse, a stallion, a symbol of strength. Jesus entered on a colt, a young one since it had never been ridden before. Pilate entered as a show of imperial force, accompanied by soldiers both on horseback and on foot, a military parade. Jesus entered with his disciples, his friends who were peasants and fishermen.



          We don’t know what the crowds would have shouted as Pilate came into the city but they definitely didn’t say what they said for Jesus: “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

         


         ‘Hosanna’ means “save us”, and normally the people would shout this to the one who had the power to save them, the one who held their very lives in their hands, namely their lord and master, the emperor. In fact, beginning with Emperor Augustus, the Roman emperor was referred to as the Son of God, having been conceived by the god Apollo, and thus was to be worshiped as such. There are inscriptions that refer to him as “lord” and “savior”.



          So for the crowds to shout “Save us” to Jesus and call him “Lord” and “Savior”, to even go so far as to look to Jesus to inaugurate a new government—blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David—this is what makes this parade a protest march and also seals Jesus’ fate of execution.


         


         Some biblical texts refer to what we call Palm Sunday as Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. And maybe it was in the sense that the crowds acknowledged him as lord and savior rather than Pilate or the emperor. But it is those same crowds who will call for his execution by the end of the week. True and lasting change hardly happens in a week. It takes a very long time.


         
         Earlier this week I was reflecting on our rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights: the right to assemble, the right to free speech, the right to peaceably protest our government. People revolt and resort to violence when they do not have these rights and change is desperately needed. And yet the men who wrote these documents were for the most part rich landowners, many of whom owned slaves themselves. And so under what biblical scholars call a hermeneutic of suspicion—which is just a fancy of way of saying some things don’t always mean what we think they mean—I wondered if perhaps these rights came from a desire to prevent revolution. After all, it’s bloody and deadly and costly, especially to those who have the most to lose. But revolution also comes from the bottom up, from those who have no rights, no voice, no agency, no legitimacy.



          So let there be the ability to change government, to protest against its powers but allow the change to come about slowly, peacefully, nonviolently. Maybe it takes longer for those with too much power to be divested of it, but at least we don’t replace one bully with another. We don’t become the very thing we’re trying to change.


         
The March from space.  We're PURPLE.


         And so my fears were blessedly unfounded yesterday at the March for Our Lives. Yes, there were big crowds. The permit for the march applied for a crowd of 500,000 but it was estimated at about 800,000. But it was a peaceful, nonviolent crowd, with families and small children in strollers and on shoulders, busloads of high school students, teachers and principals, and grandparents who probably protested the Vietnam War. We were all colors, all ages, all sizes and abilities. We were there to bear witness to one another and to those who have died and to the power of being together.



         

         David, Andrea, and I got separated from the group of students we came with. We couldn’t get near Pennsylvania Avenue, let alone of the large screens that were displayed in some areas. We finally got a view of one in front of the National Archives. We could hear the crowd roar from the other side. We stood with thousands of other people as Emma Gonzalez led us through a protracted silence to show us just how long and how short a time it takes for 17 human lives to end. Some in the crowd couldn’t take the silence and started to shout “Never again!” over and over.



         
This photo came up in the slide show
just as I got to this paragraph.
Passions were high as evidenced by some of the sassy signs we saw, some of which were rated PG-13, most of them pointed and unequivocal in their message. One chant, “Hey, hey NRA, how many kids did you kill today?” was reminiscent of a Vietnam protest chant, “Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” One of the most poignant, truthtelling signs I saw held by a student read: “I don’t know anyone who isn’t afraid of getting shot at school”.







         



         People marched in all kinds of weather from California to Florida sun to rain in Kentucky to snow in Indiana and Iowa. There were more than 800 other protests planned around the nation and the globe. Just to name a few: Poughkeepsie, NY; Athens, GA; Denver, CO; South Bend, IN; Dubuque, IA; Killeen, TX, home of Ft. Hood; Chattanooga, TN; Montpelier, VT; Charleston, WV; Concord, NH; Oxford, MS; Cleveland, OH; Hartford, CT; Bowling Green, KY; Birmingham, AL; Anchorage, AK; Las Vegas, NV; Bogota, Columbia; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Paris, France; Berlin, Germany; Sydney, Australia; London, UK; Geneva, Switzerland. In New York the crowd numbered about 175,000; Paul McCartney was one of the protesters because, as he put it, he lost a very dear friend to gun violence. Early estimates say that the March for Our Lives could be the biggest single-day protest in DC’s history.



         
Art by Pia Guerra
And the message is the same as it was twenty centuries ago: we are not only tired of living in a violent culture but we are dying as a result of it and we can stand it no more. Every march that has ever been is about the right to exist safely in public space, to breathe the same air without fear for our lives; to have life and liberty and be able to pursue happiness like anyone else. We are indeed marching for our very lives, for the life of future generations, for the future of the human race. As Emma said yesterday, fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.



         
         As I have said before, not only here but around the world we are crucifying our children on the cross we were supposed to take up. These children and young adults remind us again and again that they have grown up in the shadow of 9/11, in a nation that conducts endless war, and who have witnessed 10 of the deadliest shootings since 1999. We can no longer be surprised by their prophetic witness, their righteous anger. We must now not only celebrate them and encourage them, but get out of their way.



          Hosanna! Save us! The human race does indeed need saving, but we’re the only ones who can do it. The question is, will we? After yesterday, I’m beginning to think we will. Amen.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The next right thing

Jeremiah 31: 31-34
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
March 18, 2018


         
The Prophet Jeremiah, Marc Chagall, 1968


         “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” Let’s be clear about one thing in regard to this passage and the Hebrew scriptures in general: The new covenant or the suffering servant of Isaiah or any of the hopeful writings about the long-awaited Messiah are not prophecies about Jesus. Christians may prayerfully read these scriptures with hindsight, but these hopes and promises must be allowed to stand on their own, because our Jewish friends and neighbors still harbor these hopes, still look to these promises as yet to be fulfilled.


         

         And to a certain extent, so do we. Though we may look to Jesus as the new covenant, the fulfillment of this covenant is not yet realized. On the whole, we human beings do not behave as though God’s law of love is written on our hearts. We do not act as though we live in a state of grace and forgiveness. We do not live our lives as one people nor do we seem to be getting closer to that hope. In this age of global communication and information it appears we have fed our fears and anxieties and hate more than we have nourished our hopes and dreams and loves. We seem more divided and conflicted than ever.





         Yet I believe nothing is inevitable, because we always have a choice, and it does indeed make a difference what we choose.  These times are only as dark as when we forget we are the light of the world and brighter still when we shine together. Even when we are powerless over other people, situations, and events, we can still choose how to meet those challenges. And it is through our choices whether we will move closer to this new covenant of radical forgiveness, unconditional love, restorative justice, and fearless compassion or not. 



         

         And yet God is already there waiting for us. In every covenant story God initiates the promise, the hope, the dream, and with these comes a code of behavior, not just for individuals or a community but for a people. We keep looking to God to see if God will keep these promises, fulfill our hopes, manifest our dreams. But it’s not God who hedges a bet or seeks their own way or finds loopholes in that code of behavior. Can you hear your heart in God’s broken heart? “It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.” Or “though I was married to them” since God is beyond gender.



         We’re the ones who divorce ourselves from what is sacred, from the Ground of All Being, even from the earth itself. I say ‘we’ because this is the human story as much as it is a story unique to Israel and Judah. And even though we human beings break our promises, the old story tells us that God reaches out again and again, forgiving our sins and remembering them no more.



         But now this new covenant will not exist on stone tablets or in circumcised flesh or as a bow set in the sky—though God still upholds all the promises set forth in these previous covenants: promises of peace, descendants, and God’s abiding presence. “The days are surely coming” for this new covenant, when exile will end and God’s people will be one. This time God will put this law of love within and write it on human hearts. It will become a part of the people, their identity, how they will know who they are and how to be with others. This is our fervent hope as well.



         

         Now as then we have to choose. None of this is coerced but offered freely. When I read “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts”, when I understand it as identity, as part of who we are, I think of our DNA, that this law of love will become written into our DNA; that we can flip a compassion switch in our genetic code; that we can still evolve, change, and grow as a human race. We can choose compassion, forgiveness, unconditional love, and restorative justice. We can imprint God’s law of love into our very being.



         
         So in dealing with this passage I’m going to call forth one of my first loves which is psychology and specifically human development. Because all along in these stories of God and God’s people, God has been trying to develop a better relationship with human beings so that human beings will be better. This passage in Jeremiah reminds me of one development theory called object relations. When we are small we treat everything and everyone around us as an object, and we manipulate these objects to get what we need and want. We learn what happens when we cry, how the objects called parents respond to us, and we learn how to manipulate that response. Ideally, as we grow and hopefully mature, we internalize what our parents and other caregivers did for us: we mother ourselves, father ourselves, parent, care for ourselves. We no longer have to manipulate the world around us to get what we need and want. We realize our interdependence and our ability to care for others as well as ourselves.



         I see the same relationship between human beings and our parental God. Throughout Judeo-Christian history human beings have treated God as an object external to us to be manipulated to get what we need and want. We entreat God with prayers, make promises, “if you do this, I will…”, compete with our siblings in faith, throw tantrums (cause conflict) when we don’t get our way. But when we choose God’s ways of love and forgiveness, we evolve. We internalize unconditional love, radical forgiveness, restorative justice, fearless compassion. They become part of who we are, our identity, how we see ourselves and how we have relationships with others.



         
         We are at a unique stage in our evolution as human beings. I don’t think we’re done yet; I certainly hope not. We’re at a point where we can choose who we will be as a human race. Will we be fearful, obeying our fight or flight response without a second thought, or will we be thoughtful, consider the choices before us, taking into account who will be affected by our behavior besides us? Will we dominate and control, compete for everything—power, resources, what we need to live—or will we embrace our interdependence and learn to trust each other? Will we continue externalize God as something apart from us or will we realize that God, what is good and holy and true, is within each of us, within this living universe? Will we despair the future or live passionately for it? Will we allow this law of love to be tattooed on our hearts or will our descendants read something else there?



         Evolution takes an enormously long time, baby step by baby step, but instead of survival of the fittest, it’s going to be survival of the kindest, for it is only by taking on what does not always come naturally to us—compassion, forgiveness—that we will not only survive but thrive. So what do we do? We do the next right thing, one thing at a time. We let go of the agenda to get it right, to be right, and instead we move into the mystery of trusting the stillspeaking God. We listen. We pay attention, especially to those parts of the gospel that we don’t like because they aren’t easy, like love your enemy and pray for them, forgive seven times seventy, if you got two coats, give one away, lose your life to find it, take up your cross and follow me.



         
         

         Someone I know quoted a line from a song: “Sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are the same.” That’s how we grow. It’s how we end up asking for help. It’s how we become brave. It’s how we end up at the cross. And it’s how we get to the other side. Amen.