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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Seeing is Believing? - John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.” As the father has sent me, so I send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them again and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Christ is risen! (Wait for response). Today is Easter. It may surprise you, but today is Easter. Last week, we pulled out all the stops. The choir was full, the church was full of flowers, we had brass and strings at the 11 o’clock service, and we all went home filled with the joy of the resurrection.

Today, the choir is off, the lilies are wilting, and the preaching duty falls to your associate pastor, lowly and humble is he.

And yet, you’re still here. Why are you here? Because, today is still Easter. In fact, every day is Easter for Christians, because every day we remember that Christ died and rose on our behalf, and we remember that he has conquered the powers of sin and death. Easter isn’t just a day on a church’s calendar to be celebrated only once a year. Easter is a way of life which unlocks all doors, and most especially, the door of death. May we pray.

Doubting Thomas
In our text this morning, we encounter the disciples of Jesus on the evening on the first Easter Sunday. Perhaps only 12 hours earlier, Jesus has appeared to the women in the garden, and the resurrection is now a reality rather than something hoped for. Yet, the picture we get of the disciples in our text this evening doesn’t exactly fill us with the hope of the resurrection. This text tended to focus on Thomas, and the moral of the story was that Thomas was a dull, doubting follower of Jesus whose example we shouldn’t imitate. Don’t be like Thomas! Believe! Don’t doubt!

I have to admit I always thought this treatment of Thomas was a little bit unfair. After all, we Thomases tend to stick together! Thomases are practical, down-to-earth, rational people. Thomases are concrete. Thomases are the ones you want on the team, because they usually assign lists of the work to be done to various team members, and help pull those silly daydreamers down out of the sky. Someone with the name Thomas simply wants all the available evidence placed in front of them before they make their mind up on something.

I don’t think Thomas’ request is all that unreasonable. In fact, I think it’s a shame that all we know him for is his doubt, when there’s really so much more to him. Thomases, you see, are complex people. Whenever this lesson was taught in Sunday School, the teacher would tell us not to be like Thomas because he doubted. Perhaps what was most troubling to me, however, was not the fact that we shared a name, but that I, like this other Thomas, had my doubts.

What is the relationship between doubt and faith? The point of so much popular Christian teaching gets boiled down to an oversimplified formula. Faith is good. Doubt is bad. Faith conquers all. Doubt calls too many things into question. In many places, the admission of doubt would cause others around us to question the sincerity of our spiritual commitments. Is that person really a Christian? Will they really inherit eternal life?

In the world of certain faith, where doubt is cast as an enemy, it’s difficult to proceed. We can too easily force people to deal with their doubts and questions in secret and dark places. I’ve watched people struggling alone with deep questions because they were afraid of how others might react to their doubts. Doubts and uncertainty frighten us. I think that’s why we tend to reject Thomas, because Thomas dares to bring doubt into our lives of faith.

But friends, doubt and faith are not opposites. James Fowler, in Stages of Faith, tells us that doubt often comes as a catalyst to deeper faith. The great reformer, Martin Luther, talks about working through his own doubts, and how those doubts became part of the process of faith and of being a Christian. John Wesley frequently spoke of “degrees of faith,” in which a person’s faith may be present to varying degrees. In my own life, periods of the greatest questioning and doubting have led to some of my most profound experiences of faith.

And yet, we single out Thomas. For 2000 years, we’ve known him simply as “Doubting Thomas.” But, take a look at what the other disciples were up to. The disciples of Jesus were gathered together. Remember, Thomas was absent from this gathering. Those disciples, gathered on the evening of that first Easter Sunday, are a picture of the most miserable little conglomeration of people to ever assemble and take upon themselves the name “church.” They were supposed to be out in the street, proclaiming the Easter Shout that Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed! Yet, there they were, like frightened rabbits behind a set of locked doors.

They were hunkered down, frightened, cowering, hoping no one would discover them there. As Tom Long says, this is the church at its worst: “scarred, disheartened, defensive.” How would such a church advertise itself in the community? The church where all are welcome? Locked doors are not a sign of hospitality. This church doesn’t have a warm heart and a bold mission. All it has, from our perspective, is shaky knees and sweaty palms.

And yet, we single out Thomas. But give the man some credit. Because, when he is finally able to touch the place pierced by the nails, he comes out with the boldest assertion imaginable. He falls to his knees as Jesus’ feet, and he says “My Lord and my God.” Do you get the significance of this? Thomas is the first one to get it. Thomas makes the connection that God has been among them the whole time.

Out of doubt was born Christianity’s most profound confession to date. As Thomas has shown us, there is a place for doubt, and profound faith can be born out of it. Jesus doesn’t rebuke Thomas because of his doubt. Far from it, Jesus meets Thomas where he is.

What the church had (and has)
Thankfully, Jesus is in the habit of meeting people where they are. Amen? I know the disciples must have been thankful for this fact on the evening of that first Easter. There they were, with locked doors, defeated members, and fear. They were a church with absolutely nothing. No sanctuary, no pulpit, no choir, no adorable preacher. No plan, no mission, no conviction. Nothing going for it – except that when it gathered, the risen Christ pushed through the locked door, threw back the bolt, and stood among them. And for any of us, when that happens, that’s as close as we get to being called “Church.”

Churches sometimes will try to define themselves based on a whole host of other things. Why are insignificant things are allowed to become more important than the presence of the risen Christ? We can put up all sorts of things that will block and lock Christ out of our lives, both as individuals, but also as a congregation. Are those things perhaps simply a form of those disciples locked doors?

We all know these things. We all know churches that define themselves primarily in terms of these things, and to whom the presence of the risen Christ is noticeably absent. Some churches are built around the personality of their pastors. Now, John Fitzgerald and I both have no shortage of personality, but we’d rather not be the center of attention here. To some churches, the clothing of those leading worship is more important than Christ. For some, the architecture or the bricks and mortar of the building themselves are more important. Some churches are proud of their formality of their informality. Others place their trust in their denominational identity, or the fact that they have no denominational identity. The list goes on and on – a liberal or conservative identity, political agendas, or even what type of coffee is served. And then, of course, worship style, time of worship, type of music that are more important to some than whether or not the risen Christ is actually present.

These things do not make the church. I get frustrated when people want to make these things the most important issue a church has to deal with. They are secondary to the presence of the risen Christ. When you are focused on Christ, these things fall to the periphery. If these things are the most important thing to you, if worship is dependent on their presence or absence, or if their presence or absence really grinds your gears, there’s a word for it. It’s idolatry.

My prayer is that we’ll find those doors unlocked and the risen Christ will appear in our midst.

My prayer, when people in this community talk about us, is they not even mention these other things. My prayer is that they say, “that is a place where you can expect to meet the risen Christ. Jesus shows up there. He lives and walks among the people there.

To the church who has nothing, and the church who appears to have everything, one thing makes the difference. It is the presence of the risen Christ. He gives us everything we need. Church is a gift from God to the world, a gift from a God who refused to leave us alone. His presence makes the Church, and gives us everything we need – mission, spirit, and forgiveness.

We are church not because of where we meet. Not because the bishop authorizes us to hold divine worship in this place. Not because of the building, the music, the programs, or even the adorable preacher. We are church because to us—yes, even to us—Christ has come and given us gifts of Spirit, mission, and forgiveness, and commissioned us to give them to the whole world in his name.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Out of Slumber - March 23, 2008 (Blackburn's Chapel)

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid, go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

It was early Sunday morning – the day after the Sabbath. Mary lay in bed, somewhere in that place between asleep and awake, relaxing out of slumber before beginning the day. Suddenly, the events of the past few days startled her into sober alertness. She remembered it all, and she remembered it so clearly it couldn’t have been some horrible dream. They had arrested her teacher, her guide, and her friend. They had trumped all sorts of false charges against him, beaten him, held his trial, sentenced him to death and carried out his execution. Now, he was dead. She couldn’t believe it. He was such a good teacher. He performed so many signs and wonders. He taught as one with authority. He had placed a glimmer of hope in the lives of so many people. And we killed him for it.

It was early Sunday morning – this morning. Mary lay in bed, somewhere between asleep and awake, relaxing out of slumber before beginning the day. It was still dark, but Mary got up and prepared to go to the tomb. She, with the other Mary, walked down the path that led to the base of the rock. Thinking about the events of the past few days, they began to weep. Words could not describe their grief. Words could not describe their anguish. Words could not describe their fear. As they came near the tomb, the ground shook violently. They arrived, and found the stone rolled away, and an angel sitting on top of it. Mary was not half asleep now; she was wide awake. The angel’s message was simple, yet so profound. “He is not here; he is risen.” “Well,” thought Mary. “This changes everything.”

This changes everything
He is not here! He is risen! This is news that changes everything. The text says the women went and told the other disciples the wonderful news. And what did the disciples do? They pretty much went about their normal business. Are you kidding me? This news shook the earth, for goodness’ sake!!! This is the day of victory! This is the day when history will never again be the same.

Only the disciples of Jesus could learn about an empty tomb and not let it spoil their plans for lunch. Throughout history, there have been people who wanted to deny the reality of the resurrection. They say the disciples sort of made the whole thing up. “Wasn’t it great being with Jesus before they killed him? You remember those great stories he told? The lectures, er, sermons? Just thinking about it makes him seem almost still here. Yep, by God, he is still here. Let’s all close our eyes and believe real hard the he’s still here. Okay?” But you know what? The disciples weren’t that creative. These were not imaginative minds we’re dealing with here. You don’t get the bodily resurrection of Jesus out of people with brains like Simon Peter’s.

In short, the disciples were people like us.

People like us like to believe that you can have resurrection and still have the world as it was yesterday. We want to have Easter and still have our world unrocked by resurrection. We are amazingly well adjusted to the same old world.

But today, on Easter, everything is changed. Today, on Easter, God is doing a new thing. Today, on Easter, God says the world is no longer the same as it used to be.

Why do you think the ground shook?

According to our text from Matthew, Easter is an earthquake that shook the whole world. We modern types try to “explain” the resurrection. One says that Jesus was in a deep, drugged coma and woke up. Another said that the disciples got all worked up in their grief and just fantasized the whole thing.

You can’t “explain” a resurrection. Resurrection explains us. The truth of Jesus tells on the faces of the befuddled disciples who witnessed it. Not one of them expected, wanted Easter. Death, defeat, while regrettable, are utterly explainable.

The world is in the tight death-grip of the “facts.” All that lives, dies. The good get it in the end. Face facts. It may be a rather somber world, but it is our world where things stay tied down and what dies stays that way. And there are few surprises. This is us.

But Easter is about God. It is not about the resuscitation of a dead body. That’s resuscitation, not resurrection. It’s not about the “immortality of the soul,” some divine spark that endures after the end. That’s Plato, not Jesus. It’s about God, not God as an empathetic but ineffective good friend, or some inner experience, but God who creates a way when there was no way, a God who makes war on evil until evil is undone, a God who raises dead Jesus just to show us who’s in charge here.

I wonder about that angel, sitting there on top of the tomb. I wonder if that’s the same angel who shook Joseph awake one night back in Matthew Chapter 1 and told him his fiancĂ©e was pregnant. At Christmas, God invaded a virgin’s womb. At Easter, God invaded a borrowed tomb. The tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. Some have said that when Joseph was praying about whether or not to allow Jesus to be placed in the tomb, God spoke to him. “Don’t worry,” God said. My son only needs it for the weekend.”

At Christmas, an angel was sent to tell Joseph, “Name the baby Emmanuel, God-with-us.” At Easter, an angel said to the women, “He is not here.” Little God-with-Us grew up, got crucified, made the earth shake, and is on the move to take back the world.

On the cross, the world did all it could to Jesus. At Easter, God did all God could to the world. And the earth shook. Why the cross, you ask? The cross was the inevitable, predictable result of saying the things Jesus said, of doing the things Jesus did, and being the Savior Jesus was. He had taught, he had healed, he had loved the poor and attacked the rich, in short, he had threatened to overturn the world’s entire value system. And so the world crucified him. This is simply what the world always has done to people who threaten it.

But on Easter morning, God inserted a new fact. God took the cross – the cruelest instrument of suffering and shame, and made it an instrument of triumph. God, the same God who made light out of darkness and formed the earth from a vast void, took the worst we could do and made the whole thing about life. And the earth shook.

On Easter, God shows us a world in which nothing will be the same. Jesus came back to forgive those who had forsaken him. And Jesus came back to love the world who despised and rejected him. And Jesus came back to let us all know that the world is really about forgiveness, and not vengeance. And the earth shook.

On Easter, the rules changed. On Easter, the rules changed with this simple pronouncement: “He is not here. He is risen!” From the hopeless fog that descended upon the earliest followers of Jesus Christ, to the stunned victims of the worlds worst tragedies - these words change everything. No matter how long the road or dark the way, the Easter faith proclaims hope in the face of despair, light in the midst of darkness, joy in the night of sorrow and most of all... life in a glorious victory over death! And the earth shook.

I know what you have come looking for
The angel said to the women, “I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.” They were looking for a body. The body of a friend. The body of a teacher. They came looking for a body, but instead they met the risen, life-giving Lord. Thanks be to God! They came looking to mourn, but instead, they were swept up in the celebration of new life.

Perhaps some have come today looking for proof of the resurrection. I can offer no such proof. Scripture provides no proof. Christian tradition provides no proof. I can’t explain, on a metaphysical level, how the resurrection works. It is beyond all logic and purely scientific comprehension. While I cannot show you proof, I can show you witnesses. The Scriptures provide accounts of people, like the two women at the tomb, who had an encounter with the risen Lord, and their lives were changed because of it. Christian tradition is full of encounters with the risen Lord. You want more witnesses? Just look around at the faces of the people with whom you have come to worship today. These faces testify that God is still working on us. These faces testify that God isn’t through with us yet. These faces testify that God is still very much alive, and even now, we are being transformed. He is risen, we have encountered him, and our encounter with him has changed us. Gathered in this place is the living testimony that He lives, and His life makes all the difference in our lives.

“He is not here. He is risen!” It was good news to the women and to the disciples on that first Easter Sunday. Friends, it continues to be good news for us today. Let that news wash over you, bask in the meaning of those words. “He is risen!” Everything is different for us now. Pity on us if we have heard this good news and go back the same way we came.

As the angel said to the women, so I say to you, “I know what you have come looking for.” The reason I know is because I’m looking for the same exact thing. I have come, looking for an encounter with the risen and living Lord. I have come, knowing that an encounter with Him will transform and change me. I have come, looking to meet him, because I have met him before. I have met him in a font of water where he called me “Beloved and sealed me with his Spirit. I have met him at a table lovingly and graciously spread with bread and wine. I have met him in searching the Scriptures. I have met him in private prayer and meditation. I have met him in the gathering of his people, as hallowed halls swelled with the rhythms of prayer and praise, of liturgy and song. I have come today, expecting to meet him yet again. I have come, expecting that Christ will transform my heart. I have come, expecting that Christ will transform this heartless world.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Where Was God? - John 9:1-7

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back and was able to see.

When you finished high school physics, did you think you would never have to recite Newton’s laws of motion again? So did I. That’s part of the reason I majored in humanities and not in the sciences. I was never going to balance another equation or determine the velocity of a watermelon seed spit by my cousin. But this morning, I need to review one of those laws with you. Finish Newton’s third law of motion for me: “For every action . . . . there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Whether they knew it or not, the disciples were articulating this law quite well in this morning’s Scripture passage. As they’re walking down the road, they ask Jesus a question. Spotting a man born blind, the wheels in their heads start turning. In their worldview, hardships are the result of sin. In fact, they are the direct result of sin. That is, some specific sin causes each specific hardship. It would be only logical, therefore, that the man’s blindness is the direct result of some specific sin.

The only question that remains, then, is whose sin is the root cause of the man’s blindness. The disciples come up with two plausible sources; either the man’s sin caused his blindness, or his parents’ sin caused his blindness. It’s actually a pretty good question that deals with an important theological issue. We all want to know why bad stuff happens in our lives and in the lives of people we know and love. Do bad things happen to me as the direct result of my own sin? The sin of my parents? The sin of other people? Is it random? Is it purposeful? Is it arbitrarily administered by a sadistic God who wants to watch us dance like so many puppets on a string? Is it karma? Or, maybe it’s some combination of all of these things. The disciples are engaging in theology at a practical, down-and-dirty level. They have made observations about the ways in which the world works, and combined that with their knowledge and experience with the ways in which God interacts with the world, and they’ve come up with some conclusions.

The disciples question represents one end of the spectrum, in which we humans chart the course of our own destiny. Good things happen when we act righteously, bad things happen when we act sinfully. It’s a sort of a “What goes around comes around” flavor of theology. Before we get into too much of a rush to dismiss their question, we have to admit that a whole lot of what happens to us is the natural consequence of decisions and actions we’ve already made. If you choose to tell your significant other they look fat in whatever outfit they’re wearing today, there will be negative consequences directly related to your decision. If you choose to embezzle money from your employer, there will be negative consequences directly related to your decision. If I choose to regularly and excessively exceed the speed limit – now you know we’re dealing in the hypothetical – there will be negative consequences that even the combined legal powers of Four Eggers, PW Glidewell, Don Watson, and Jim Deal can’t get me out of. There are certainly a number of hardships that are the direct result of our own sin.

Before we dismiss the disciples’ question too quickly, the sins of our parents can also have a harmful effect on us. When a mother addicted to crack gives birth to a child, the child suffers the direct consequence of its parents’ sin. When parents spend all their money on their own selfish indulgences and there is nothing left to adequately feed, clothe, and shelter their children, children suffer the direct consequence of their parents’ sin.

At the other end of the spectrum is a theology in which God dictates the results of our lives. That is, God sets forces in motion and orders the world in such a way that only the results God desires actually happen. Indeed, St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” This premise is easily misinterpreted, however. We often hear that all things that happen to us are good, or that all things have a good in them. We can spend our lives trying to find the purpose behind every incident of pain and suffering. In this view, God sadistically places obstacles in our path in order to teach us something or make a point. Remember, according to this view, every instance of pain or suffering is there on purpose because some good is going to be worked out of it.

We see this viewpoint lived out when bad things happen to good people. It’s almost a default mode that we go into when there is unexplainable tragedy. When my mom was first diagnosed with aggressive stage 4 breast cancer in June of 2004, I can’t tell you how many times I saw this lived out. As she kept a daily journal in those first few months and continued to keep it, she toyed with the idea of turning her daily musings into a book. One of the chapters in that book was going to be, “Stupid things people say when someone has cancer.” One of my personal favorites was, “I’m sure God did this for a reason.” I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “God didn’t do this! And if he did, that’s a God I don’t want anything to do with.”

The theologian William Barclay lost his 20-year-old daughter in a horrible boating accident. Years later, he received an anonymous letter. “Dear Dr. Barclay, I know why God killed your daughter. It was to save her from corruption by your heresies.” “I wanted to write a letter back,” said Barclay. “Not in anger and fury, because that came and went in a flash. I wanted to write back in pity telling whomever ‘Your God is my devil. Your God is the God I don’t believe in.’”

Or, think about what gets said around other tragedies in which people specifically make God the author of suffering, always for some divine purpose. When a child dies, someone will inevitably say something like, “I guess God just needed another cherub in heaven.” Theirs is the God I don’t believe in. When the AIDS epidemic broke out 25 years ago, how many Christians rejoiced in what they perceived to be God’s judgment on homosexuals? Theirs is the God I don’t believe in. On September 11, how many Christians announced that God was angry with us for coming loose from our moorings as a nation? Theirs is the God I don’t believe in. How many Christians divide and separate, and sing wonderful songs of praise to God, yet bar from their pews anyone unlike them? Theirs is the God I don’t believe in.

Here’s the reality. We live in a world in which the rain falls upon the just and the unjust alike. There is a great deal of suffering in the world due to sin. Some of that is our sin, some of that is our parents’ sin, and some of it is the sin of people we’ll never know. But there is also a great deal of suffering in the world that is random and senseless. God is not the author of this suffering. God has not caused this suffering. So where is God in all this?

Back in our text today, why was the man born blind? Jesus tells us it was not because of anyone’s sin. Rather, the man was born blind in order that God might be revealed and glorified in him. He was not born blind as an object lesson. He was not born blind in order to teach us something. He was not born blind in order to be given sight. He was born blind in order that God might be revealed and glorified in him.

Where was God? God was being glorified. God was being glorified in the man’s blindness. God was being glorified in the man’s sight. God was being glorified in all the conditions and circumstances of the man’s life. In fact, later in this story, the man is brought before the Pharisees and religious leaders to give an account of his healing. They are concerned with procedure, offended by a healing taking place on the Sabbath. They point out the man’s sin that they believed caused his blindness, and they point out Jesus’ sin for conducting a healing on the Sabbath. Heaven forbid God would actually show up on the day his people gather to worship! The irony is that the religious leaders are shown to be spiritually blind by the end of the story, failing to see God at work because the miracle did not fit within their boundaries of acceptable religious practice. Indeed, God was being glorified, yet they failed to give glory to God and chose to focus on circumstances of little consequence.

Friends, that’s what blindness is. It’s focusing on the wrong things, on insignificant things, on periphery things, and failing to recognize God’s glory. We can be blind, or we can have sight. We can focus on things that exclude, or we can focus on things that show God’s radical hospitality. We can focus on things that hurt and destroy, or we can focus on things that heal. We can focus on things that breed anger and division, or we can focus on things that bring hope.

Perhaps the question to be considered this morning is not, “Where is God?” but rather, “Who is God?” As I wrestled with that very question this week, here’s what I came up with. I cannot believe in the God who loves pain. I shall never believe in the God who does not know how to hope, or the God whom only the wise, the mature, or the comfortably situated can approach, or the God who sometimes regrets having given us free will. I cannot believe in the God who only cares about souls and not people, who is unmoved by human suffering or thinks it’s simply people getting their just desserts. I cannot believe in a God who is incapable of making all things new, who never weeps, who has no mystery, and is nothing more than a little more powerful, vindictive version of ourselves. I cannot believe in a God who is not love and does not transform everything he touches.

I believe in a different God. I believe in the one who rose from the dead for you and me. I believe in one who knows our suffering. I believe in one who calls us ‘friend’ rather than ‘stranger.’ I believe in one who sets a table before us in the presence of our enemies, who calls us to this table, and who promises to strengthen our bonds with him and with each other in the breaking of this bread and the taking of this cup. That is my God and I shall have no other. Amen.