First Congregational Church
February 24, 2019
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
“So Much More”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
A woman is sitting at her husband's funeral listening to the eulogies being read...
A man in the pew behind her leans forward to ask, "Do you mind if I say a word?”. "No, not at all", she replies. The man stands and clears his throat. “Bargain", he says, and sits back down. "Thank you", the woman responds, "it means a great deal."
This morning’s scripture passage continues where we left off last week, the passage from Luke 6 known as Jesus’ Blessings and Woes Sermon or the Sermon on the Plain, verses the Sermon on the Mount. In the middle of his sermon, Jesus says, “But to you who are listening I say…” That statement makes you wonder if Jesus was aware of some people that were daydreaming, getting restless or even falling asleep.
Hearing weather reports for the last couple of days, and not being at all sure what this morning would bring, I figured that rather than assigning one person to read the passage, I thought we all might do just that - together. After all, what better way to help all of us listen better? So if you will take out the bulletin insert, let us read.
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Thank you, everyone. Last night I came across a Facebook meme that smacked me right between the eyes. It said, “I thought that I was a good person but the way I react when people drive slowly in the left lane would suggest otherwise. Sometimes truth can really sting!
A cell phone in an upscale gym locker room in NYC rang and the man turned on the speaker phone next to him. Everyone else in the room stopped to listen.” Hello? Hi honey, it’s me. Are you at the club?” The man said, “Yes,” and the woman said, “I’m out shopping and found a beautiful leather coat. It’s only $2,000 – is it OK if I buy it?” The man said, “Sure, go ahead if you like it that much.” She continued, “I also stopped by that new Lexus dealership and saw one of the new models I really like – it’s on an opening special.” He said, “How much?” She said, “$90,000.” He said, “Wow! OK, but for that price I want it with all the options.” She said, “Great! Oh, and one more thing … I was just talking to my sister and found out that the house we wanted to buy last year is back on the market. They’re asking $980,000 for it. Remember it was well over a million when we looked at it?” The man said, “I dunno. Make an offer for $900,000 and they’ll probably take it. If not, we can go the extra $80,000 if that’s what you really want.” The woman said, “OK. I’ll see you later! I love you so much!” The man ended by saying, “I love you, too,” and then he hung up. The other men in the locker room were staring at him in astonishment, mouths wide open. The man turned around and said “Anyone know whose phone this is”?
At first glance, the passage from Luke 6 can read like a list of rules for being a Christian. And as good as it is to love enemies, to pray for those who mistreat us and help those in need, the passage is actually far more than rules and behaviors.
That’s “good news” for people who question a passage that can seem to make such gracious givers and helpers into a bunch of chumps. Scott Hoezee of Calvin Theological Seminary is not the only one to voice the question, “Won’t we become the world’s doormat if we assume as passive a posture in the face of abuse as Jesus seems to suggest?” I would venture to guess that there are a good number of folks here this morning that share such a thought and question. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to do ministry, telling them to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” The commission is as much for us as for the disciples. But the passage is more than a set of rules, especially rules for the sake of rules.
Jesus points out, near the end of the second paragraph, that if we are kind and prayerful and generous, even loving the hard to love, “Then your reward will be great.” Yay! After you clean up your room, you can have a treat! After shoveling snow all morning, you get to take the afternoon off! We can stop there, with just that much reasoning, and we’re on par with any behavior modification program you want to imagine. But it’s only a one-sided, or human-to-human program, and Jesus has a bigger message to impart. There is much more to Jesus’ sermon, more for even us modern followers.
For doing these things, loving and giving and praying and turning cheeks, we will get great rewards, but - we will also be children of the Most High. Being known as a member of a group of individuals is an important thing for most of us. Being a member of the Daughters or Sons of the American Revolution, or a Mason or Eastern Star, PEO or the Wednesday Morning Book Club are important parts of identity for some people. Those are all worthy enough groups in and of themselves. But they can also become exclusive and restrictive. Being exclusive and restrictive is not necessarily a bad thing - unless it is attached to God and Christ and the Holy Spirit. That’s why we have the entirety of that sentence: “Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
It is retired Methodist minister, William H. Willimon who receives the credit for making the point that “this sermon by Jesus is not first of all a list of human rules. The sermon is based on a claim about who God is and how God acts.”
I’m guessing that even the great Mother Teresa and Saint Francis would look back on their lives and recall moments where they were ungrateful, perhaps even wicked - at least in their own eyes. We all do things that are less than gracious and loving in our lives, and yet, God is kind to us. Each of us have - on purpose and innocently - excluded and looked past, been condescending and hurtful, and God has been merciful to us in forgiving us when we ask to be forgiven.
Scott Hoezee put it so pointedly. Jesus is recommending no more and no less than the same thing he’d seen all along in God. As the Son of God himself, Jesus is speaking from divine experience. When you are the Creator God of the entire cosmos, you sooner or later get used to seeing people snarfing up and consuming all the bounty of your creative imagination, yet without even once giving a sidelong glance back to the Giver of all that good food, good wine, and good everything. Seeing ungrateful people is a commonplace for God. God has spent altogether too much time watching delicate creatures fashioned in God’s own image strutting around this world and fancying themselves to be “self-made people.” God has witnessed altogether too many people sighing over the glories of a crimson sunset only to see those same people marveling at how this whole big and beautiful world of ours just happened to evolve all on its own.”
Ole showed up at church with two red cheeks and a black eye. Sven asked him how it happened. Vell, Torvo and I were having a discussion about which was better. I said lutefisk is better with butter, and Torvo said it was better with cream sauce, and he slapped me. Sven said, Vell, that explains one red cheek. How’d you get the other red cheek and the black eye?” Ole said Vell, I turned both cheeks, he slapped them both, and since I was fresh out of cheeks to turn, I slugged him and he slugged me back.”
It makes obvious sense to be wise with our blessings. Being so wise, we’ve been able to assist somewhere around a hundred kids to attend camp - in the time I’ve been here. And that’s just a whopping guess. We’ve been able to support 35 families of four to make a visit to Benzie Area Christian neighbors for food, we’ve allowed for three families to obtain complete sets of tires to remain employed and transport children, filled five household propane tanks and purchased home weatherization kits for ten households, reducing their heating bills up to 25%. And those are things that people with generosity-like hearts do, too.
Loving and doing good to enemies, or at the very least - those hard for us to love - blessing mis-treators, withholding judgment and condemnation, those things are much more costly to us as individuals, and therefore, more “pressed down, shaken together, running over and poured into your lap.” Doing so in response to God’s kindness and mercy is perhaps a little easier, but make no mistake, we don’t do any of this on our own or with our own steam. So let us recommit our hearts and efforts and enter into the power that allows us to be movers and shakers of the God of So Much More.
Kind, Gracious and Loving God, thank you for your Son, for his wisdom, his love and his desire for all of your children to live in your kingdom - the son who died to make your love known. Forgive us, Lord, when we dismiss your demands as impossible expectations. Forgive us when we set our own bar too low, when we let ourselves off the hook too easily. May we remember always the mystery that those we consider enemy and our own selves are one; for all are one in you. Help us, when we are tired, cranky, sick, or just uninspired to love generously, graciously, over-flowingly. May we see those who are cruel, as your beloved children, especially in need of your love. Help us to discern the difference between injustice and personhood. Help us to do so by tapping into your love, that has no limit, no parameters and no exclusions. Give us the courage to turn the other cheek, the creativity to give away our coats of protection, and to lend with the knowledge that nothing we have is ours, except our souls - that all we have is yours and we are merely caretakers of such richness and blessing. And then allow us to see how you provide, if even in the strangest and goofiest of manners. For all with which you have blessed us, and all you empower us to share, all your people say, Amen.
First Congregational Church
February 17, 2019
6th Sunday after Epiphany
“While You Are…”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Early on in his career, according to Luke, just as it seemed that Jesus was transitioning from his life as a carpenter to that of a rabbi, healer and Messiah, there were a number of people following Jesus, and one day he appointed twelve of those followers to become his disciples. It was immediately after choosing the disciples that Jesus gave his Blessing and Woes sermon.
Luke 6:17-26 Blessings and Woes
17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
Thank you, Robin. There’s definitely some interesting stuff around this passage. Why did Luke point out that Jesus stood on a level place? I, for one, would love to have seen how the power was coming out from Jesus - if it was anything one might actually be able to see. It’s fine that Jesus “bestows” these blessings on people, but since martyrdom awards are not worth what they once were, how does one actually make it through the times of hungering and weeping and rejection and, say, even sheer boredom? And if we’ve already been so blessed, then why bother trying to move forward? At the end of the day, what is left - in terms or striving and pressing on?
I came across a passage in my current nighttime reading book that seemed to paint a picture that may be helpful in seeing how blessings and woes go from the focal point to faithful companions. The book is Cathedral of the Sea, by Ildefonso Falcones - purported to be the new Ken Follett.
The story takes place in fourteenth century Barcelona, and tells the story of Arnau, who is fourteen years old in this particular passage. His father and mother are both gone, and he has to begin fending for himself in the world. It ends up that he is asked to become a bastaix (bash tash’), one who carries freight on and off ships - on their backs. The bastaixios were a revered guild, because they were the ones who also brought stones for the building of the new cathedral in Santa Maria on their days off.
“One bastaix, one stone,” Arnau repeated to himself when the first man and the first stone came past him on their way down the mountain. He and his friend, Ramon, had reached the spot where the stonecutters were cutting the huge blocks. He looked at his companion’s taut, tense face. Arnau smiled, but his fellow bastaix did not respond: the time for jokes and pleasantries was over. Nobody was laughing or talking now; they were all staring at the heap of stones on the ground. They all had the leather thongs fixed tightly round their foreheads; Arnau slipped his over his head.
As Arnau stared at the stones, he could feel his stomach wrench. A bastaix bent over, and two other laborers lifted a block of stone onto his back. The man stood still for a few moments, straightened up, then walked past Arnau on his way back down to the city of Santa Maria. My God, he was three times as strong as Arnau, and yet his legs had almost given way! How was he going to…? “Arnau,” called out the guild alderman. There were still a few other bastaixos waiting. Ramon pushed him forward. “You can do it,” he said.
As three aldermen and one of the stonecutters determined the stone he would carry, Arnau tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry. He was shaking: he had to stop! He moved his hands, then extended his arms backward and forward. He could not allow them to see his fear or trembling!
Seeing two masons approaching with the stone, Arnau went up to them. He bent over and tensed all the muscles in his body. Everyone fell silent. The masons slowly let go of the block and helped him grasp it with his hands. As the weight pressed down on him, he bent still farther over, and his legs started to buckle. He clenched his teeth and shut his eyes. “You can do it!” he thought he heard. In fact, nobody had said a word, but everyone had said to themselves when they saw the boy’s legs wobble. “You can do it!” Arnau straightened under the load. A lot of the others gave a sigh of relief. But could he walk? Arnau stood there, his eyes still closed. Could he walk?
He put one foot forward. The weight of the block of stone forced him to push out the other foot, then the first one again…and the other one a second time. If he stopped…if he stopped, the stone would crush him.
Ramon took a deep breath and covered his face with his hand. “You can do it, lad!” one of the others who were waiting shouted. “Go on, brave, heart.” “You can do it!” “For Santa Maria!”
The shouting echoed off the walls of the quarry and accompanied Arnau as he set off on his own down the path to the city. But he was not alone. All the bastaixos who set off after him soon caught up and made sure that they fell in with him for a few minutes, encouraging him and helping him on his way. As soon as another one reached them, the first would continue at his own pace.
Arnau could hardly hear what they said. He could scarcely even think. All his attention was on the foot that had to come from behind, and once he saw it moving forward and touching the ground under him, he concentrated on the other one; one foot after the other, overcoming the pain.
As he crossed the gardens of San Bertran, his feet seemed to take an eternity to appear. By now, all the other basaixos had overtaken him, but eventually, he rested the stone on one of the lower branches of a tree; he knew that if he left it on the ground, he would never be able to raise it again. His legs were stiff as boards.
“If you stop,” Ramon had advised him, “make sure your legs don’t go completely stiff. If they do, you won’t be able to carry on.”
So Arnau, freed from at least part of the weight, continued to move his legs. He took deep breaths. Once, twice, many times. “The Virgin will take part of the weight,” Ramon had told him. My God! If that was true, how much did his stone weigh? He did not dare move his back, even though it hurt terribly. He rested for a good while. Would he be able to continue again? Arnau looked all around him, but he seemed to be completely alone.
Could he do it? He stared up into the sky. He listened to the silence, then with one pull managed to lift the block of stone again. His feet began to move. First one, then the other, one, then the other…
Eventually, he stopped again, this time resting the stone on the ledge of a huge rock. The first basaixos reappeared, on their way back to the quarry. Nobody spoke, merely exchanging glances. Arnau gritted his teeth once more and lifted the stone again. Some of the bastaixos nodded their approval, but none of them halted. “It’s his challenge,” one of them would comment later, when Arnau was out of earshot and he turned to look at the boy’s painful progress. “He has to do it on his own,” another man agreed.
Eventually, Arnau came across the first inhabitants of Barcelona. All his attention was still on his feet, but he was in the city! Sailors, fishermen, women and children, men from the boatyards, and shop’s carpenters all stared in silence at the boy bent double under the stone, his face sweaty and mottled from the effort. They looked at the feet of this youthful bastaix, and he could see nothing else. Everyone was silently willing him on: one foot, then the other, one after the other…
Some of them fell in behind him, still without saying a word. After more than two hours’ effort, Arnau finally arrived at Santa Maria accompanied by a small, silent crowd. Work on the church came to a halt. The workmen stood at the edge of the scaffolding. Carpenters and stonemasons put down their tools.
“Keep going!” a boatman’s son shouted. “You’re there! You’ve made it! Come on, you can do it!”
Shouts of encouragement came from the highest scaffolding. The crowd that had followed Arnau though the city cheered and applauded. All Santa Maria joined in, even the priest. Yet Arnau still stared down at his feet; one, then the other, one, the other…all the way to the area where the stones were stored. As he reached it, apprentices and craftsmen rushed to receive the block the boy had carried.
Only then did Arnau look up. He was still bent double, and his body was shaking all over, but he smiled. People crowded all around to congratulate him. Arnau found it hard to tell who they all were: the only one he recognized was Father Albert. The Father was staring in the direction of Las Moreres cemetery when Arnau followed his gaze. “For you, Papa,” he whispered.”
I’ve often wondered how I could give encouragement to those going through hard times, encouragement that wasn’t sanguine or lip-service. Any one of us can pray, and that is definitely and truly good. But for those going through the darkness, it can feel isolating, lonely and unbearable. Except that is only the feeling and not the truth.
I sometimes hear people wonder why it seems that God is targeting an individual for some unknown and cruel reason. That, too, is not a correct understanding. Even when it seemed that Arnau was completely alone, the others doing their jobs were near, but perhaps not near enough that he could see them with his head bent parallel to the ground. Perhaps that is why Luke mentioned that flat ground where Jesus was standing - so that people would know that God is not looking down on us, but with us, even when it makes little sense.
It's not that it's great to be poor. Or hungry or mourning. But it is that that blessing comes from God, not from wealth or satisfaction or happiness. It’s not that those who are at ease now will be punished later, but that ease is not life, and if that's what you seek, sooner or later you will mourn what you missed. So don't miss it by trying to avoid the very thing you have to go through, because no one else can live our lives for us.
And while any one of us goes through that thing or things that we have to go through, may we be reminded that we can choose how we walk those paths - with integrity to the call, respect toward the task, and giving of the glory to the very God who has seen each of us - throughout all of time - as dearly beloved and worthy of God’s presence as we make our journeys. So let us pray.
Gracious, Eternal God, for you, it is easy to see the goal. And that can be helpful to know when we struggle to see our next step. But for those times when we are bent down to ridicule and insignificance and distractions, we ask for your forgiveness, as well as your guidance to refocus and recommit ourselves to the tasks you have for us. While we prefer not to hear the woes of life, help us to embrace their lessons, just as heartily as we embrace the lessons of blessings. For the fullness of life that you have always seen for each of us, all your people say, Amen.
First Congregational Church
February 3, 2019
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Communion Sunday
1 Corinthians 13
“If You Love…”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Sven was talking to his sweetheart the other day, and he said, "Freja, on this Valentine's Day, I want to tell you something... I'm not rich like Jack. I don't have a mansion like Russell. I don't have a Porsche like Martin. But I do love you and I want to marry you."
Freja replied, "Oh, Sven, I love you too! What was that you said about Martin?"
This morning’s scripture passage surely falls into the Top Ten Bible Favorites of all Time list. Well, at least since the first century A.D. It can easily stand alone, but it seems even better when the last verse of the previous chapter is added. “And I will show you - a still more excellent way.”
1 Corinthians 13
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Thank you, Cheryl. It is highly tempting to - sometime - read that passage at the beginning of the sermon portion of worship and then sit down - for all 15-20 minutes - in silence. There is so much to capture one’s attention and thoughts - and I don’t know that most any of those thoughts or attentions would necessarily be called “bad.” At least for today, I would feel badly about doing that; cheating you all of “a still more excellent way.”
If you ever wanted to see patient love in action, kind love, humble love and honest love, get yourself to a fifth grade basketball game. In fact I know that there will be such a game Saturday, February 16 at Benzie Central High School, and since it’s free, and there will be nothing good on tv at 10:35 a.m., there are few reasons to miss this golden opportunity.
You will see basketball plays and moves that you will not see in older players. You will see referring and coaching that is selfless and noble and even altruistic. And you will be reminded again of what it is to be part of a child’s village upbringing. More than that, you will be doing what the writer of Corinthians, the great Paul, is encouraging all of us to do - being the people of God and Christ’s church.
This passage can sometimes be misread. Between the lines, we get an idea of what Corinth was like back in Paul’s day; just think opposites of the bullet points about patience and kindness and such. But it is not a list of spiritual gifts. It is a job description - of how not to be a Corinthian.
If you love you will not be arrogant. If you love you will not be rude. If you love you will be a partner for the kingdom of God and not insist on your own way. If you love you will not be irritable. If you love you will not be resentful. If you love you will not rejoice in the failings of others but you will rejoice in their best nature and their successes. If you love you will be strong and have forbearance. If you love, belief will come, hope will happen, and you will endure.
This is hard medicine because the key ailment of Corinthianitis is that we don't want to love the ones that are hard to love. We only really want to love the ones that are easy to love. Deep beneath this reality can be the even more poignant feeling that we don't believe or feel that we are loved.
Ole died. So Lena went to the local paper to put a notice in the obituaries. The gentleman at the counter, after offering his condolences, asked Lena what she would like to say about Ole. Lena replied, "You yust put 'Ole died'." The gentleman, somewhat perplexed, said, "That's it? Just 'Ole died?' Surely, there must be something more you'd like to say about Ole. If its money you're concerned about, the first five words are free. You must say something more." So Lena pondered for a few minutes and finally said, "O.K. You can put 'Ole died. Boat for sale.”
I get that there is potentially one person here that is reeling back from the message - or at least the passage - at this point. Love patient? Yep, been there. Love kind? Been there, too. Love not dishonoring? I have tried and tried and tried to be honorable, and what do I get in return? If it’s a good day - perhaps vitriol or anger. If it’s a typical day - nothing.
If this passage were about becoming instantly perfect, I don’t think Paul would have included the part about one day seeing fully and clearly, rather than the foggy, tarnished glass sight we currently have. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully. It’s not immediate perfection but transformative maturation.
If we give up the idea about this larger-than-life love, called agape love, being reciprocal, then we get closer to becoming the church Christ called us to be - the arms and feet and ears and mouth Paul talked about in the previous chapter of 1 Corinthians. While it may still seem overwhelmingly impossible, here’s the big hint behind the ability to love so largely and rightly and even elegantly. This sort of love is not sourced from us or the world. It’s source is from God.
Whether it’s a Hallmark card or a Facebook meme, we’ve all seen pictures of little kids wearing professional adult clothing and footwear: little kids standing in the huge boots of fire fighters, peeking out from under police hats, attired in ridiculously huge lab coats and stethoscopes. Those are cute pictures, but there is a bit of “practice” in those play times, for adult jobs that are important and transformational. We do the same thing as adults, when we spiritually step into Jesus’ footprints, facing the same direction as he faces, genuinely loving from the same motivations - at least as close as we can humanly do.
Most all of us can grasp the idea of this passage being our job description, business plan and mission statement all rolled into one. And most all of us know, all too well, that we don’t always get great scores when we do our own annual or quarterly reviews. Regardless of how well - or not well - we have loved those needing our love, how kind - or not kind - we been to those needing our love, how patient - or impatient - we’ve been to those watching our witness, we have this day to put down regrets, imperfections, burdens, Corinthianitis, that we may take up the bread of life and the cup of love. As we prepare our hearts, minds and souls to partake in our Lord’s Supper, let us also be reminded that we do any and all of this through the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s love for each of us. So shall we prepare.
Let us pray. Beloved God, we are truly vessels of your Spirit. Empty us of all that is not your love. Flood our souls with your tender self-giving to wash away our fears and embolden our hearts. May our whole lives flow with your love: humble, powerful, gentle and strong. Strengthen us in each moment that we seek to serve and to bless,
heal and to set free all whom we meet. May this be our only work, our strongest desire: not to be right, not to be safe, not to be approved, but to love, especially with those with whom it is hard; because it is love, your love, that saves us and makes us whole. May the love of Christ live in us with every word and every breath, as all God’s precious ones say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.