Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reflection on Psalm 121 and Genesis 12:1-4a

I am not sure that I have many answers for you today, but I have plenty of questions. As we stare out to the hills and beyond, staring at a world destroyed by an untamed ocean of tsunami waters that wash away cars, buildings, and lives; staring at a world where dictators gun you down for disagreeing; staring at a world where loved ones can be taken away in seconds; staring at a world where all you have worked for (house, job, car, etc.) can be taken away in seconds either by a flood or by the complete breakdown of your relationships; as we stare at such a world we wonder with the Psalmist, “where is my help to come.”

Of course, the Psalmist has the answer; “my help comes from the Lord,” and that is supposed to be the end of it, I guess. Every Sunday School student knows that either “God” or “Jesus” will stop the incessant questions from the teacher and allow you to go back to eating your crayons. But, it is one thing to say, “my help come from the Lord” in order to answer the question correctly, it is another thing to actually believe it.

The world, has all the answers, of course. When life has destroyed all you have, the world answers, “Maybe you deserved it. Maybe you did something wrong and you are being punished? Why don’t you just work a little harder?”

That is always the world’s answer, is it not? Work a little harder. Trust in yourself, and you will get through it all. Trust in your abilities, and you will be fine. Dig deep down! Find your hidden potential. Your grandfather overcame the greatest of obstacles. This implies at best that you also will overcome the greatest of obstacles and at worst, you are not worthy of your grandfather’s name if you do not.

Sometimes the world’s ideas leak into the church and we say, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” The typical misunderstanding of these words from Paul are not a call to trust in the Lord who comes to your help or a call to trust in your community who, together, can surely overcome anything, as Paul actually meant when he said “God will not let y’all be tested beyond y’all's strength." Rather, we hear it as a call to trust in yourself. God will never give you more than you can handle. So, try harder.  The words wreak of failure when you indeed have more than you can handle. Sometimes, the church of grace sounds an awful lot like the world: your works will save you. What if my works cannot save me? Where is my help to come?

Surely, there is something to buy that can save you: a book of wise answers maybe; some chocolate cannot hurt; some more clothes will always help. What if you do not have the money to buy these cheap gods? Where is my help to come?

You know where all of this is going, of course. The end of the sermon will surely follow along with Psalm 121 and say, “my help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and earth.” Then there will be some sort of exhortation to just trust in God. "Trust," another work to be done if you can swing it. Surely that is where the sermon is going.

But, what if you cannot just trust? What if life has beat you down so much that you just are not sure that there is a God to trust. The sermon cannot end there and be considered a helpful Lutheran sermon. I cannot tell you to trust. Luther himself in the small catechism (you know, that little book that you were forced to memorize but don’t actually remember…it actually says some pretty profound and amazing stuff) it says in the explanation of the third article of the creed that, “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him.” A good Lutheran sermon cannot end with, “just trust in Jesus and things will be fine,” because we actually believe that we are incapable of trusting God. Luther goes on to say that faith is a gift given by the Holy Spirit. You cannot go out and collect it off of the lawn or gather it up from the store shelves of your soul. Those shelves are bare.

So now what? If I cannot even get faith, then what?

I guess we wait and hope that Holy Spirit will come to our help. I think that hope is really underestimated in its power. Hope allows you to remember that God created the heavens and the earth. If God can do that, maybe God will create a new life for you also. This is not trust in what is certain, but hope that God may make it happen. Hope allows you to remember that God saved the Israelites from Pharaoh, and brought the exiled back from foreign lands, and raised Jesus up on the third day, and actually helped you through the death of your grandfather. Hope is not certain, but, if God delivered us in the past, maybe God will deliver us again. We do not know for sure, but we have hope.

It was in hope that Abraham set out from where he lived to journey to unknown places with God. Did he know for certain that God would take him somewhere where God would make of Abraham a new nation? Of course not. Just as a newly dating couple has no idea where the relationship will go, Abraham sets out in hope. Nothing more. Just hope. He hopes that God will bring him to someplace good.

I guess, sometimes, there is not much more that we can do either. We can just hope that God has not fallen asleep; we can just hope that God will deliver us from evil; we can just hope that God will give us something to trust; we can just hope that Jesus’ death and resurrection means new life for us also; when all else has failed, at the bottom of life we still have the gift of hope. And sometimes, hope is enough. When we stare out at the hills, we imagine that God will come and deliver us in some unexpected way. But, until we see God crest the hill, we lift our eyes to the hills and hope. Maybe, this sort of hope is actually what faith is all about.

Reflection on Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

The serpent slithers its way down the tree, the beautiful, bright fruit is plucked from the tree, a crisp bite is taken, the woman shares it with the man and the delicious juices of the knowledge of good and evil run down both of their lips. They look down in shame, the nakedness of who they are and what they have done laid bare.

This is the story of Adam and Eve, of course. It is one of the most iconic biblical images in our culture, featured in fine art, film, and the most refined genres of all the arts; shampoo commercials. It is the story that we all think we know. It is the story about humanity’s fall from grace. It is the story that describes humanity’s sin. But more than those, it describes what it means to be human. And it says, to be human is to be insecure. Before the first sin was ever committed, before the first bite was ever taken, defying the order, “you can eat of all the trees, just not that one, or you will die,” before any of that, there was insecurity. Theologian David Lose goes as far as giving it an official name, not original sin, but original insecurity.

This story of insecurity plays itself out soon after God tells the humans not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent, like a cat surrounding its prey, toys with the human soul and the hole leaching of insecurity that can be found in each person’s heart. “You will not die if you eat the fruit, you are simply missing out on something,” the serpent bats at the couple as they stand there. “You are missing out on knowledge that only God has. You can have it. You can be made whole…more complete…just like God…just eat,” the snake insinuates with its slippery words.

Humans may have been made good, but this story indicates that we were not made completely whole; we are missing God. Being created is a beautiful thing, but it has one inherent problem, the very act of creation separates us from our God. We inherently have a God shaped hole that we try to fill with many things we find at hand; fruits of knowledge, intense relationships, personal accomplishments, delusions of self-sufficiency, and the things we are told will make us more complete, like good looking running shoes that will make us healthy and develop us into a stronger person. Do not believe those advertisers, I have great looking running shoes sitting in the closet and I am not healthier or stronger. They did not fill my God shaped hole.

Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth-century French philosopher, spoke of the God shaped hole, but did not speak of it in these negative terms as I have. He thought of the hole as the one thing within us that continually and inherently draws us to seek a closer relationship with God. Note: that Jesus’ very own notion of ultimate wholeness is when he abides (or lives) in you, and you live in him. You are made complete when Jesus is able to live inside. The hole is a gift that makes us yearn to be closer to God.

So, with that gift in mind, Adam and Eve then are tempted, not to sin, but to fill their God shaped hole with something other than God. Adam and Eve are tempted to think that God is not trustworthy; that God is somehow holding out.

Is this not the very thing that Jesus is tempted with in the wilderness? “If you are the Son of God, you will be given the power to make stones into bread.  Prove that God will provide.” “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down and prove that God will send some angels to save you.” “I will give you all the world, all you could ever want, just worship me,” the tempter says. In other words Satan asks, “How do you know that God isn’t holding out on you? Why don’t you fill your hole with something else right here and right now? Why wait?”

You may disagree with me, but I think that most of us would do much worse than Jesus with these temptations, and would then try to cover up our naked shame with the nearest fig leaf. Though I am not going to ask you directly, I bet you could name right now what temptation you use to fill your God shaped hole. This story is about us.

Most of us think we know the end of the Adam and Eve story: Adam and Eve are punished by God with the consequences of working hard, having painful childbirths, and being kicked out of the garden forever. I would pose that this is not the most important part of the story’s end. What we fail to see when we focus on the punishment is that God does not kill them on the day they ate, as promised. God shows mercy. We also fail to see that God takes away the stupid fig leaves and sows real clothes for them to wear. God cares to their needs. And, we ultimately fail to see that God helps them to thrive in the world and build great cities. These acts of love are all in the story. Look it up for yourself. These acts are a sort of resurrection for Adam and Eve, a new life given to them by God; the God who does not forget God’s own children. Even when it appears that insecurity and death are going to win, God still triumphs; this is the promise of the cross.

Perhaps, we fail to see these good things because we are inherently insecure and cannot see good things. Perhaps, we are in too much of a rush to fill our God shaped holes with something else that we fail to allow our holes to be a gift; a gift that draws us toward God just as a baby is inherently drawn towards its loving parents.

The Adam and Eve story, in the end, is about us. We do not do any better with our temptations than Adam and Eve did with theirs; but Jesus did. Jesus remembered who he was and whose he was through all of his temptations in the wilderness, through all of his doubts in the garden, through his pain on the cross, and beyond his death into his resurrection. And, though we might not always allow Jesus to fill our God shaped holes, Jesus most certainly does not forget to keep us in him. We are in him as he rises to new life and to new possibilities.

Pray with me the words of Saint Augustine, "[God,] you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you." May we at last find rest in you, Almighty God. Amen.

Reflection on Matthew 17:1-9

Welcome to everyone’s favorite church holiday! Transfiguration Sunday! I know you have been waiting all year for this holiday to arrive. After all of the anticipation you can finally…well…go to church and listen to the bible…and sing hymns…and listen to the pastor blab on…you know, stuff you cannot do any other Sunday! Come to think of it, we do not do anything special for Transfiguration Sunday really. What a lame holiday. But, at least you can go to church and see the white banners! That is something you do not see every Sunday except for the season of Easter and the 40 days of Christmas and Holy Trinity Sunday and All Saints Sunday, and Christ the King Sunday, and other random saint commemorations throughout the year. Forget it! It’s lame.

As you may already know from years past, I hate this Sunday. And, it has a lot to do with the story. Look at this wreck of a piece of scripture! It is a story of wandering up a mountain, Jesus glowing like a plastic night light shade, Peter stuttering and bumbling over the appearance of Moses and Elijah, and then as soon as it has all started, it is over…not to be talked about.

What does a preacher say to you about this? Give me a nice “blessed are the poor in spirit.” Or, a striking “love your neighbor as yourself.” Or, at least a story with Jesus healing someone. These I can do something with! “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” You are all loved. No matter how hard you fail and wreck your spirit, you are blessed! Nice…very nice. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Since you are loved by God, join with God in the mission of love others! Bold challenge there. “You are healed.” Words for even the lowest of us…words that promise hope. You are healed. God does not forget you. Inspiring!

What can I say about the transfiguration? Sometimes Jesus likes to rip open his superhero suit and glow in the dark. Should the church buy some glow sticks and wave them around in the dark in celebration? This is all just ridiculous.

I am admittedly a heady person. I like to think about the faith. I like to hold a reasonable faith. I like to understand. And, this story does not allow me to do that. This story is anti-intellectual. It is beyond reason and plays on the soul somewhere else entirely.

Even Peter knows this to be true. He cannot make heads or tails of his situation. He sees lighthouse Jesus, displaying a beacon of hope to all ships sailing up mountains. He notes with interest that Jesus likes to talk with dead people…at least they are famous people; Moses and Elijah. And, as soon as he tries to make sense of the whole situation, create a tent around the situation, create a proper sanctuary for everything…being reasonable about it all, God blasts a voice from the heavens that stops him mid-sentence, mid-understanding, and mid-boxing-in of God.

Maybe, this story is not meant to be understood, or even talked about. Jesus does tell Peter, James, and John to keep their mouths shut, at least until the resurrection. Maybe, they should have just kept their mouths shut period.

It is like the great preacher Will Willimon once related about this text. Once you start preaching about weird, mystical experiences like this to people, they feel like they have an invitation to pull you aside and tell you about their own weird experiences. Like the guy who pulled him aside and said “This might sound crazy but I think that I’ve finally figured out what I am going to do with my life. I am going to be a teacher!”

“Oh,” Pastor Willimon said, “that’s a big thing, how did you come to this conclusion?”

“Well, you see, I was thinking about teaching while driving, and I saw this bumper sticker that said ‘Go!’ It was like it was from God. When I saw that, I was certain.”

Pastor Willimon looked at the man and said, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Stories like this are a problem to those of us who want to understand the faith. These sort of stories have meaning way beyond the way we do or talk about church. But, they are powerful experiences non-the-less. They are experiences that often shape and define who we are and who we will become.

Maybe that is the problem with this story. It is a story that judges our need to understand God and judges our own need to safely predict the future and make a stable present. It defies our need to make sense of the world and leaves us in an uneasy state of bewilderment.

Struggling in his own state of bewilderment, Peter literally starts to babble, not understanding what he is saying, and like a big finger that reaches down and finally shuts him up God's voice thunders, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" In other words, God says, "Enough of trying to understand and control and predict already! You don’t need to understand! Jesus already has a direct connection. Just listen to him!"

Theology and religion are fun to talk about over a beer or a cup of coffee, but that is not what being a disciple is about. Being a disciple is about a relationship with God. The best relationships are not analyzed; they are just lived and enjoyed. Being a disciple is about living with Jesus and listening to him. You do not understand what God is up to? It does not matter, just listen to him. He will not lead you astray.

As I think about this more and more, I realize that I cannot bad-mouth this text much longer. I remember sitting with a man, behind the locked doors of his hospital room, talking about why he tried to kill himself. His main reason was that he could not find answers. Why did his wife die? Why did his Dad die a week later? Why did he lose his job? I did not have any of the answers. I recall starting to babble a little bit, struggling to find a way to help to young man. I cannot believe I forgot about this, but I actually told him this story, about how Peter did not understand what was going on. And, the solution for Peter was not understanding, but simply listening.

“Seeing as we are both confused, why don’t we just try to listen to Jesus,” I suggested. And, so we did. We listened our way out of the pain. We listened our way into a future life. We did not understand, but we did not need to; Jesus already understands and knows how best to guide us as people of God. We just did our best to listen. Listen to him.

Reflection on Matthew 5:38-48

I think that by now most of us have seen that amazing photograph stemming from the protests in Egypt that portrays Christian protesters linked, hand-in-hand, circling and protecting the Muslim protesters as they set their bodies toward Mecca in prayer. The Christians, in effect, created a human shield that would block those in prayer from any harm.  The photograph is amazing and it strikes us as a rare gift of love on the part of the Coptic Christians.  However, this was not the first time that something like this has happened in Egypt.

Some time ago, another photo was taken in Egypt.  The photo was not as popular and did not spread around the Internet in any viral way, but it is not any less powerful.  It portrays Muslims circling around Coptic Christians while the Christians gathered for Christmas Eve worship just after the New Years Day bombing of Coptic Christians. It is an amazing photo, because among the Muslims protecting the Christians are women and children. They had decided to create a human shield that would protect the Christians against a regime that hated the Coptics.

As we in the West stare at these two photographs, we cannot help but think that they might make ideal posters for Jesus’ message: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

It looks like an example of loving your enemies to Westerners because Westerners, in general, have been convinced by friends, political pundits, some Christian leaders, and maybe even our own experience that Christians and Muslims are to be enemies.

However, in Egypt this generally is not true. In Egypt, most Christians and Muslims are friends.  With a bigoted regime aside, most Christians and Muslims in Egypt would never consider each other enemies.  Most Egyptians say that any haterd between the two groups either stems from the regime, or it is a foreign hatred leaking onto their soil from the outside.

So, this leads me to wonder, if Muslims are not the enemies of Christians in Egypt, then must they be our enemies in the West?  I am not certain that anyone is inherently an enemy of anyone else.

I recall my enemy in late elementary school: Rich (the name has been changed to protect the guilty).  He was the class bully and was the enemy of the entire class, including me. There was not much that our class could agree on, but one thing was that Rich was to be uniformly hated. I was fine with this arrangement, except for one small problem, there were times when I actually liked the guy. For some insane reason, I invited him to stay the night once in my home. To my surprise, we had a blast playing in the woods and jumping over the creek. During our adventures, I learned that his Father was constantly on his case, pushing him around, literally.

This story does not have an amazing end.  The day together changed nothing at all. Following the night, he was still horrible in school. I can recall wanting to believe that he was a monster; an enemy. However, there was one problem; I knew better. I knew he was a person who suffered and desired to be loved by his father, like the rest of us.

In Rich's story, and in the Egyptian photographs, we see the world as God sees the world.  It is a world full of people who God loves. God makes the "sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" alike. Maybe God does this because our enemies are not necessarily God’s enemies. Maybe God cares for the good and the bad alike because God sees them the same: as children that God loves and desires to redeem.

I ask, what Father wishes for their children to wander far away? And, what Father, when their child has wandered far away, does not wish for someone to befriend them, turn them around, and send them back?  I have the sneaking suspicion that God wants us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” because when we do that we see them as our brothers and sisters who need to our love and prayer.

Loving our enemies is really what turning the other cheek is all about. Turning the other cheek is not a warrant that allows others to abuse us. The truth is that when a right handed person strikes you on the "right" cheek it must be done with the back hand.  This is a slight against you meant for an inferior.  But, when you offer the other cheek, the right handed aggressor must slap you with an open hand.  Not only do you force a person to do more damage than they first intended, but you also make them hit you with a slap intended for equals (the open-handed slap).  In other words, a person is forced to consider you as an equal, a fellow person. This offers them the opportunity to reconsider their actions.  By offering the other cheek you are doing none other than treating your enemy the way you would want to be treated; as a lost person who is worthy of being turned around.

This care for the enemy reminds me of President Abraham Lincoln near the end of the American Civil War.  In a speech, the President was heard speaking kindly about "our southern brothers" An older northern woman chastised him after the speech saying,

"Should we not destroy our enemies?"

Abraham Lincoln wisely responded, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I consider them my friends?”

Abraham Lincoln spoke the truth that Christ embodied; love of the enemy. On the cross, Jesus died to free the world.  On the cross, Jesus died to free the enemy.  And, because you have been freed, you are also free to love your enemies as a brother and sister.  You are free to do this, because in Christ they are your brother and sister.

Reflection on Matthew 5:13-20

It was the day that the world went weird. The first clue was when the airports started cancelling flights across the nation. For some inexplicable reason, the wings on the nation’s airplanes could not create the natural air foil that causes lift. The ends of the nations runways were looking like used plane lots. Turning the channel on the TV, I found that Regis Philbin was not saying anything annoyingly funny and when switching over to the radio, I heard Rush Limbaugh doing the impossible, praising a liberal.

To sooth my nerves over the strangeness of the day, I picked up my guitar and started to plunk. That is all I got, an empty plunking sound; the vibrations did not bring about any beautiful music. Turning to my coffee for comfort, I found that it was not bitter nor did the sugar I dumped in offer any sweet treat. Dipping my finger directly in the sugar I found that it tasted like flour. In an experiment, I grabbed the flour container, put my finger in, and the substance inside tasted like, flour. The day was ridiculous. I had enough with it. I grabbed the salt shaker, stuck my tongue directly in, and I found that the salt had lost its saltiness. Wondering if it was good for nothing, I threw it over my shoulder and our ceiling fan immediately unscrewed itself from the ceiling and fell on my head. I concluded that the salt was good for nothing.

Of course, the day I just reported never happened. Air foils always lift planes, sound always comes from taut strings on guitars, and salt cannot possibly lose its saltiness.

So, when Jesus calls you the salt of the earth, he is saying something quite incredible. You are already who you need to be to have an impact on God’s kingdom. You need not strive to be more than who God shaped you to be. You are the salt of the earth. You are a gift from Christ to the world.

As Pastor Roger Prescott, my internship supervisor, walked with me into the congregation that I would be serving for one year, he started to describe the people. He described them as real “salt of the earth” people. Previous to this, I had always heard this as a half derogatory comment…referring to people who are nice, but extremely uneducated. To my surprise, I found that I was wrong. Roger’s “salt of the earth” people ended up being a small, biracial congregation, who were passionate about God’s love, passionate about equality in everything that they did, desiring very much to do the right thing to their neighbor, and wanted to make an impact for the good of their community. They knew that their little congregation would not survive in their tucked away neighborhood (in fact, they just closed their doors a couple of weeks ago). They had the opportunity to move to an affluent part of town and potentially build a huge mega church. But, they stayed where they were. Such aspirations were not what they were about. They were salt of the earth people. They stayed because they cared about the small, forgotten community around them. They could not leave. They were salt. How could they choose to do otherwise?

You are the salt of the earth. It is who God created you to be. You cannot be otherwise. You do not have a choice; you are the salt of the earth. You are God’s people and you became one of God's when Christ chose to die for you. Loving you and including you in the kingdom was what Christ was about. He could not rightly do otherwise.

I suppose it is at this point that I have to bring up an unfortunate point. My youth ministry professor put the point this way in class. “As an adult in the faith, children will look to you. You do not have a choice. You are a youth minister. The only question is, what are the children learning about God when they look to you? Are they learning that God does not care about the “least of these,” or are they learning that God loves all? Are they learning that caring for the poor is not important, or are they invited along with to care for others. All adults are youth ministers, the only question is, what the children learning about God when they look to you?”

So, when I declare that you are the salt of the earth, it is more than sending good vibes your way. It is declaring the truth about you. You are God’s representative wherever you are.

What are the people at work learning about God when they talk to you? Do your emails reflect God’s love and forgiveness for the whole world? What would people say Christ is like when they describe your life? This is what some people are saying when they look at the faithful in our area:

“I saw God when I was having an audition and my friend helped me get ready for it so that I would not be nervous.”

“I've seen God this winter when my neighbor shoveled my driveway while I was at work.”

“I saw God today when we overslept and I gave my 15 yr old the chance to stay home or go to school and he choose to go to school.”

“I saw God when I forgot to light the candles on the altar this morning, and my pastor giggled and said ‘It happens.’"

“I saw God these past couple days when a friend made me smile when I definitely needed one.”

You are the salt of the earth. Just as Christ was a gift to you, you are created to be a gift of God to the world.  Because God chose you to be, you can be salt wherever you are.

Reflection on Matthew 5:13-20

“God bless you!” the grandma says to the little girl. Smiling, the girl runs off into the living room. “God bless you!” the Uncle says. The little girl giggles and runs into the dining room. Running up to the edge of the dining room table, peering over the edge to see her Mom and her aunt talking, she takes a deep breath and gives out a large sneeze. “God bless you!” the aunt says. “That was fake…you blessing stealer!” the mother playfully chastises. The little girl giggles and runs off, filled with the joy of God’s blessing.

Of course, in the middle ages, the little girl’s sneezing would not have been such a laughing matter. The blessing for the little girl would have stemmed from fear that she had caught the plague. So many people were dying that the words, “God bless you” were used to ward off what many feared was the inevitable. In the middle ages, blessing came out of fear, rather than joy.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” the father hissed at his son. With the redness of the fight still draining from his hands, the son lowered his head. “Is that any way to solve anything? What did that little display of fists prove anyway? Blessed are the peacemakers!” the father reiterated with force in order to drive the point home.

Again, blessing is used in a context of fear. But, more than that, God’s blessing is used to reinforce failure. I think that I often hear these blessings the same way that the son did, as a reinforcement of my failure. I am not necessarily meek. I am not certain that I thirst for righteousness in the way God would like me too. After-all, you do not see me out protesting on the streets, at the courthouse, or on the lawn of the national mall for the rights of the ones God loves.

“My anger flares way too quickly for me to ever be a peacemaker.” A friend of mine once observed about himself. “You got that right,” I chimed back. “What do you mean?” he fired back immediately, somehow missing to irony of the entire conversation.

But, I do not think that Jesus intended us to hear his blessings in such a negative light. Caught in our own moral shortcomings and failures, we fail to hear the words as actual blessing. But, they were just that, bestowals of honor upon people who God cares about.

We cannot all have righteous anger when we see someone being treated unfairly. But, it is good that some of us do. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Those same people probably are not the peacemakers. Not all of us are mellow enough to sit back, see the situation from all sides, and enact a plan that will resolve the conflict. But, it is good that some of us are able. Blessed are the peacemakers.

The meek will never take charge like those with righteous anger or the peacemakers, and the mourners will be necessarily fixated on something else, but God does not forget them either. Neither does God forget those who are struggling in life; the poor in spirit. Blessed are they.

Blessed are you. People of God, do not forget that you are members of Christ family. You may be as different as the nations of the earth, but that is of no difference. Each of you is uniquely gifted and each of you is uniquely blessed. Together, we are a blessed community. So, blessed are you.

Do not forget, in your baptism, you were named child of God, never to be forgotten. Blessed are you.