Monday, June 27, 2016

Turning Your Face Toward Jerusalem: Where is God Calling You?

Readings for Sunday, June 26

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Turn Your Face Toward Jerusalem: Where is God calling you?
A Baseball Player’s Second Calling
Back in 2010 my mother sent me an article she had found online that she thought would interest me. At first I was surprised because I don’t follow sports regularly and the article was about a baseball player with the Oakland A's named Grant Desme. But as I got deeper into the article I found out why my mom sent it my way.
Grant dreamed of being a big leaguer since he was 4 years old and through his hard work and success on the field he played baseball in college and was drafted in the second round in 2007 by the Oakland Athletics. Grant has said that he was on top of the world with a successful baseball career, not having to go to school anymore, and having a big contract – – he had it all and even said that he thought he had everything figured out too.
Unexpectedly, he was hit by a pitch, which broke his right wrist and what was supposed to be a six-week injury ended up taking a year and a half to recover.  It was during this time that Grant admits he had to confront himself without his dream of being a baseball player. He had to look at his life without baseball and he didn't like it. He said, "at first I got angry but after that I decided to start praying and trying to figure out what the meaning of all this was.”
For Grant the source of his anger and frustration was that he had thought he had it all figured out—he had worked hard, met his goals, and done everything he could do to be successful, then it was all taken from him instantly by his injury and it made him wonder—what's the purpose? What am I actually going after?

Because if I can put all my effort into something and not have it be fulfilled, why do it? All reasonable questions I must say and ones I have also asked God and maybe you have asked as well.
Grant began to reflect on his existence on this earth and confront the big questions about life. Through this process of self-reflection and discernment, Grant says he was led to God and realized that maybe God was calling him to something different and something that was not baseball.

After playing baseball for so long it must of been scary for him to even consider making such a drastic career change and to walk away from the only thing that he really knew. In an interview he says that he did not want to feel like he was running away from baseball so he thought that he would try another year and what a successful year it was. Grant had one of the best years of his baseball career almost making his decision to leave baseball that much more difficult.
Yet, after winning MVP of the league and being invited to spring training with the Oakland A's he still felt “this yearning in [his] heart that there was something more."

That something more was God calling Grant to was the priesthood to become a Roman Catholic priest. He was called in particular to join St. Michael’s Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers that live in monastic community in Silverado, California. God called Grant to be baseball player but God also called him to the priesthood.
Initially, you can imagine the media’s response—how could a top baseball prospect leave the sport when he’s not only at the top of his game and has a big contract to go along with it? Money, success, fame-- he was living the dream that most people could only imagine. People were in disbelief that he could leave it all behind when so many other people wanted what he had accomplished? How and why?
Now,  in the Gospel reading today, we are told that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem—he is being called to Jerusalem. We know this because Luke says that the days are drawing near—meaning that time is running out and the only one in control of time is God.

So, Jesus is being called by God to journey to Jerusalem despite knowing what the city had in store for him. And he is continuously faithful and steadfast to fulfill God’s calling.

My question is now all these years later for Grant Desme is: how did he keep his face turned toward Jerusalem? How will we know when we are called by God?
What does it mean to be “called”?
What does it mean to be "called" or to have a calling? Grant is called to the priesthood. Jesus is called to Jerusalem. So, there are many things we can be called to—a new vocation, gaining a relationship or breaking ties with someone, traveling or living somewhere new, a new spiritual awareness or practice, to have kids or not have kids—God calls us many times to many things. Thus, a calling is about the way in which we hear, feel and experience God’s purpose for our lives and what that purpose may be.
We can be called by a sudden awareness, or maybe a gnawing feeling that takes a while for us to recognize something needs to change. A call can be clear and it can be obscure. For Grant it was not instantaneous but a gradual uncovering of his purpose through prayer and how he felt when playing baseball. What did it feel like to be out on the field? Did it provide the same meaning and motivation that it once did?
I read in a book called Listening Hearts, that a call may not be so much a call to “do” as it could be a call to “be.” What we are called to do and who we are called to be is not a once-in-a-lifetime experience but an evolution of communication and connection to God. Our purpose in life evolves and changes and moves as we create relationships or lose them, as we have children or decide not to, as we take on a new jobs or decide to retire, as we lose loved ones and friends and as we gain them.  As the book Listening Hearts explains, “it is our faithfulness to God and not our station in life that honors a call.”

The Complexities of our Calling
Yet faithfulness is not easy. It is not an easy task to accept a call from God especially if it's something that we don't want to do, or if we don't feel ready for it or if we feel we are giving up and running away like Grant felt about his baseball career.  It can be scary and difficult to embrace and take on with ease something that God is calling us to. There have been things that I have felt that God was calling me to become so I worked really hard to get there and it didn't work out. What was God telling me? Was I hearing him right? The complexity of our purpose in life and what God wants from us can also be difficult to hear or to recognize in our lives. But a call from God to be better people, to live the life that honors God, and to live out our purpose is not meant to fulfill our own needs but to transform the lives of those around us.
In the depths of our confusion on whether we are up for the task or whether we are hearing God clearly, I have realized that there is one important thing that must be done – – surrender.  To surrender—let go of control and to not let anything get in the way of that release to God in order to hear, feel and experience God in our lives.
There is a song called "Multiplied" that emphasizes the importance of surrendering to God. I love the chorus and it goes as follows:
God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these hallelujahs be multiplied.
For Jesus, his surrender to the prophetic call was an offering that stretched out his arms on the cross. And it was this surrender that has allowed us to sing hallelujah.
Christ is the ultimate example to us of living out our call in the world. His surrender and faithfulness to God is not deterred or distracted by the unkind Samaritans, or those who want to retaliate, or those who seek to follow him but on their time.  This is why Jesus tells us “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

For if we are truly serious about living out our callings, we need to look forward to the possibilities—new opportunities, service, love, grandchildren, adventure—all that will glorify God. We need to look forward not to be distracted and overwhelmed by the unkindness of others who don't understand what we are trying to do.
Jesus knew that if we look back then we will get caught up in past hurts, failures, insecurities and projections. That turning backward does not let us fully move forward in our journey to live out God's call in our lives. Turning backwards keeps us in the state that does not allow us to hope or dream or listen or just be present.  Looking backwards does not allow us to even look upon God because we will be caught up with what was, instead of what could be.
Not everyone has a calling to the priesthood but everyone at some point in their life has felt like Grant Desme—asking ourselves: what is our purpose? What does God have in store for me now? Embedded in these questions is vulnerability and confusion of what God is calling as to do or be in this world. In a sense we are out of control. We have no control of what life will ask of us. Thus, our calling can be difficult because we have control of what it will be and what it will mean for us.
However, the beauty and greatness of God is that God is present with us on this journey—God is with us in our lack of control—in our unsettled lives. Jesus is on the journey with us toward Jerusalem, holding our hand as we make our way toward our call or calls.

As Jesus is on his journey to bring new life through his death and resurrection in Jerusalem, we too also receive newness and transformation through our ride through life.
What will your journey to Jerusalem look like? Amen.

The Rev. Jessica E. Sexton

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Call on the God who Saves

Readings for Sunday, June 19

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The first thing that comes to mind when I read this gospel story (which also causes me to groan as I think about preaching) –– is a hazy memory of a memorable scene from a movie trailer that was a follow-up to the Exorcist.  This deep, multiplicitous voice crying out – our name is Legion.

Movies portray demonic possession fantastically – scaring us, of course with special effects and unexpected jolts – typically locating evil – within one person, one character – to be annihilated or freed.

Scripture – the New Testament in particular – in both Jesus’ back and forth with Satan – in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – and in the vision of Revelation describe evil differently.  The power and principalities – Paul writes – the cosmic powers of darkness – which are the forces Satan claims to control – and offers to Jesus in exchange for his allegiance.

This is not something we talk about much, in church – evil, Satan and the powers of darkness.  But this morning we have this gospel – and a baptism – where adults on behalf of their child – will be asked if they renounce Satan, the evil powers and all spiritual forces of wickedness.

And in our world – sadly, we see evil and the spiritual forces of wickedness that - in more than one tragedy this week – violently enact hate by terrorizing and cutting short the lives of God’s people.

Where is our good news in our world which has yet to exorcise itself of the powers of violence and death? What can 21st century well-educated Christians learn about their life in God from a 1st century story of exorcism?
Jesus didn’t happen upon this poor guy in his travels.  In fact it looks as though he sailed across the Sea of Galilee specifically to save this person from his illness.  You all remember the story of Jesus calming the storm. Well that just happened.  He and the disciples had been hanging out on the other shore – fishing and talking – I suppose – when Jesus says, he guys, let’s get in a boat and go to the other side of this lake.

The Sea of Galilee is a big lake – about 10 miles across.  And it is also a dividing line – between the Jewish territory of Galilee –– and the Gentile, Greek-speaking territory of Gerasene.  And there’s no reason to believe the disciples had any interest in going over there – but they get into the boat, set sail and Jesus promptly falls asleep.

Until out of nowhere the waters begin to rage against the boat as if the sea itself is possessed.  The terrified disciples wake Jesus up – and without a word – the wind ceases, all is calm.  And they turn to one another saying – who is this that even the winds and the water obey him?

The disciples ask – but can’t answer.  The tormented man, however, does.  Storm ceases, they make it across, and as soon as they step foot on that rocky shore – the man with his demons confronts them saying – What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  He knows exactly who Jesus is – and why he is there.

It is almost as if – the powers and principalities tried to keep Jesus from getting to that guy.  Tried to whip up a storm – stop that crossing – and scare them back.  Because as usual in gospel stories – evil has no trouble naming the saving power that it knows will cast out the darkness – to bring in the light.
When Jesus asks the man his name, however – legion is all he’s got.  It’s not a name – it’s a noun.  Legion means an army of 5-6 thousand Roman soldiers.  Legion conveys a mind that is under siege, occupied by voices that create a delusional reality of torment.  Torment made worse by having been cast out – to live, naked, ashamed and abandoned among the dead.

So – God is revealing something pretty incredible about our worth.  Why did Jesus cross that lake – yes, to get to the other side – but also I believe - because he was called there.  Jesus didn’t just willy-nilly decide to go out on the water.  On the quiet shore of Galilee Jesus heard something and so he deliberately crosses into unfriendly territory – to get to this person.

An unclean man – living in what would be considered the faithless territory of the Greeks – amongst the ritually unclean place of the tombs.  In other words – this is one of the darkest places for a Jewish prophet to be – it is the last place the Son of the Most High God should ever step foot.

And yet, there he is.  The darkest places – the fallen places – can simultaneously be where we find our strongest awareness and connection to God.  They are the places where none of us want to go – in here or out there.  Places of grief, shame and loss.  Places where – like this man – abandonment feels deserved and hiding in secret seems to be our only hope.  When we’re in those places - God hears the deepest parts of us longing for wholeness. And the saving power of God will not be driven back by the wildest of storms.

Last month – I and many of you – listened to a powerful sermon by the Rev. Glenna Huber.  She preached on John’s gospel story when Jesus meets a paralyzed man sitting by a pool, well-known for its healing waters.  Waters that he has not availed himself of.  So Jesus asks a direct – but challenging question – Do you want to be made well? And as she shared, it’s challenging because Jesus knows that healing will change us and it will upend the way we live in the world – it will upset the system we’ve gotten used to – no matter how dysfunctional it may be.  So we have to want help – we have to trust that new life will come and we have to actively participate in casting out the powers of darkness.  We have to work with God to bring in the light.

Not everyone wants to upset the system – not everyone wants to bring in the light – because the devil you know – may be easier than the God you don’t. Notice how the onlookers react to what Jesus has done for this man.  He is restored – clothed – in his right mind – but the people ask Jesus to leave. Why? They hadn’t asked the demon possessed man to leave.  What is it about God’s healing that scares them more than Legion?

That is a question very present in our 21st century world – what is it that scares us from changing what needs to be changed….as one late-night talk show host said this week - “It’s as if there’s a national script that we have learned, and…by accepting the script, we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time, with nothing changing, except for the loved ones and the families of the victims, for whom nothing will ever be the same.”  (Stephen Colbert, NYTimes, 6/14/16)

For the 1st c. people of Gerasene when they experience a power on earth that restores a person to wholeness – it challenges the system they’ve been living in.  A status quo that allowed them to pin all the evil on one person so they can shun and demonize – (Isaiah – Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy) and probably feel better about themselves.  By healing one person, showing change is possible, Jesus upends how they’ve structured their society - which is why they want him to go.  They can’t un-see it – and are going to keep hearing about it.  Jesus says to the man – stay here and tell everyone what God has done for you.  Tell them how God reaches out to those who are at the lowest of the low – finds them – restores them – and says – now go, and tell the world how love saved you.

You all know the hymn – A Mighty Fortress is Our God – Martin Luther (Bach, music)
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed / his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.

That "little word" - Baptizatus sum – I am baptized.  The love that saves us is symbolized in the act of baptism.  For as Paul writes – being baptized in Christ – we are clothed in Christ.  That is with us all the time – God’s claim on us as worthy of being called children of God.  And when you believe you are worthy of that love and belonging – you cannot despair.

That is the basis of hope – of faith in that which is not yet seen – and it is the power that helps us to change – to let in the light.  And in my experience – when you deeply believe that God’s claim of love is real and forever – it’s because you’ve experienced – first-hand – perhaps when you were at the lowest – how love saved you.  We have been clothed with Christ - so let us tell the world – our story of God’s saving good news.  Let us show the world what saving power looks like.  Amen,

The Rev. Arianne R. Weeks

Monday, June 13, 2016

What Do You See?

Readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

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Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is a scholar and author who has spent his life studying Kabbalah – the mystical tradition of the Jewish faith.  As in the mystical tradition of the Christian faith – that word – mystic or mysticism implies a deeper knowing.  More like wisdom than knowledge.   It’s the spiritual side of religion – I guess, simply put.

If religion is what answers the question – what does God want me, want us to do – mysticism concerns itself with knowing God.  I want to know what God knows.  I want to see how God sees. Paul points to it I think when he prays – that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened to know the hope to which we are called. (Eph 1:18).  Many believe we are all mystics – we lose sight of our innate knowing as we grow older.

So Rabbi Kushner tells a story of being in his synagogue in San Francisco and giving a tour to the children of their congregation’s preschool.  He was pleased because he had planned this climatic moment at the end of the tour – getting the class to assemble on the bima or prayer stage where, behind a floor to ceiling curtain there was the ark which held their Torah scroll.  So he gets them up there is about to shout “open the ark” when he sees the teacher at the back of the room tapping on her watch…the universal symbol for – wrap it up!

So he turned to the kids and said – I’m sorry boys and girls – our time is up for today – but next time we see each other – the first thing we will do is open this curtain and I will show you what is behind it.

Momentarily disappointed – off the children went.

The next day the teacher shows up in Rabbi Kushner’s office.  She wanted him to know the fierce debate caused by the hastily concluded lesson – because the kids all thought they knew what was there.  One kid had said – nothing – it’s all a ruse – that’s why he didn’t show us, because there is nothing to see.

Another child thought there was something big and holy, some sort of artifact – and another kid who’d obviously watched some game shows said – behind the curtain there was a brand new car!

But the fourth child, he said – nope, you’re all wrong.  When the rabbi man comes and opens that curtain, behind it – there will be a giant mirror.

From a four year old – Rabbi Kushner said – “Somehow, that little soul knew that through looking at the words of sacred scripture, he would encounter himself in a new and a heightened and revealing way.” (On Being)

That is the deep knowing the bible offers.  I think it would be great if someone made a bible that when you open it – and the first thing you see is a mirror.   A reminder that this isn’t a book filled with stories about other people – it is a stories written by other people to try and understand God.  How God sees, thinks, feels – God’s being.  And the only way to wrestle with “that” is to be honest with what the stories tell you – about you.

We have two stories this morning where someone holds up a mirror and people confront themselves in a new way – invited to see themselves through the eyes of God.

In the first we have David– now king, now anointed – who as the prophet Nathan points out – God has given everything – King David still wants more.  In the person of Bathsheba.  Before this moment he’d seen her sunbathing on her roof one day.  So David sends her husband – Urriah – to the front lines of battle – where he is killed.  Getting David what he wants.

We don’t know how much time has passed before God sends Nathan to confront David.  In just one verse we go from hearing of Urriah’s death – to David and Bathsheba having a son.  In my wonderings – it occurs to me that maybe God thought David would figure it out on his own.  One night, one morning – he’d look at his wife – his son – and see them as people, not property, and realize what he had done and ask forgiveness.

But no.  The prophet appears and with cunning and courage – tells a story to describe someone who abuses their power to take what they want – blind to anyone else.  Through the story – David clearly sees the abuse of power, the rich man destroying what the poor man loves. And once David sees – he immediately recognizes his fault, responsibility, his sin – and he asks God’s forgiveness.

I always find my stomach clench when we all respond “Thanks be to God” after we’ve heard that God “strikes down” the child Bathsheba bore David – in some horrific retribution for David’s sin.  Some scholars wonder even – did Nathan go to David after everyone could see his child was sick?  Believing there had to be divine reasons for his illness?  We can’t know but it is a theological understanding Jesus will refute – in several of his healings – growing people past the belief that suffering is deserved or that the sins of the parents are visited on their children.

It is a difficult ending to their exchange, regardless.  And it’s difficult too because we can relate to that feeling of “ah-ha” – seeing ourselves – our actions – through the eyes of another.  Getting just enough distance – the distance of time – or of place – and we can see past actions in new light. We recognize exactly what we need to ask forgiveness for.

The mirror is held up a bit quicker in Luke’s account of this woman and Jesus’ feet.  Jesus has been invited over by another religious leader – and we can only imagine why he’s extended the invitation – does he want to get to know Jesus better?  Or is it all a set-up to show Jesus as a fraud?  How did this woman – who Simon the Pharisee obviously knows, get into his house at a party if she’s such a source of shame?

We don’t know what Simon was hoping to see – but Jesus sheds light for him – and all of us – on where to fix our gaze – he asks – Do you see this woman?

Simon can’t – because, like King David, at the moment he can’t see past himself.  The woman is not a person – she is one of those people – people like Simon hope to avoid. And like Nathan – Jesus tells a story to try and open the eyes of the heart.  Jesus not only focuses Simon’s attention on all the acts of hospitality this woman performed – which Simon, as host, did not – he also tries to explain forgiveness in terms that Simon will understand.

Jesus wants Simon – and us – to see that we are all that woman.  We all sin – we all break our relationship with God many times throughout the course of our life.  We all judge others – judge ourselves to be unworthy – but God will never turn us away.  Jesus’ story shows that no one can be turned away – whenever we come clean – and let it all out at the feet of Jesus.

No matter the distance between us and the people in scripture – we are in every story.  Where is the mirror being held up for you this morning – which person – a powerful ruler – a grieving mother – a prophetic truth-teller – a judgmental host – a woman who gives thanks through her tears – who do you need to see this morning – to see deeper into yourself.  In both the Old and New Testament we see and hear people reckoning with who they are – seeing themselves for a moment through the eyes of God.

For in seeing deeper into our own hearts – we make room for the overflowing forgiveness God is offering to us – right now.  And in accepting our need for it – we turn towards God. And the eyes of our heart are opened to see ourselves – and to see those around us – as the children of God we all are.
Hopefully leading us to live out our belief that through God – all are worthy – all are accepted – all of us have to opportunity to see the ways in which – we can bring God’s forgiving love into our world.   Amen.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Transformational Effects of Compassion

Readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

To listen to the sermon click the picture

The Rev. Jessica E. Sexton
June 5, 2016

A couple weeks ago I was asked why I was a Christian. I was initially overwhelmed because there are many reasons why I am Christian, and I found myself trying to attempt to perfectly articulate the most compelling answer. As I think back to my conversation with my friend I wish I had given a more simple reply. I wish I had remembered the grieving mom in Luke.

The Gospel reading this week could get lost in the plethora of healing stories and in the uniqueness of Jesus’ Galilean ministry in Luke’s Gospel. It could be considered a simple story that is not complicated or complex but just another one of Jesus’ many miracles. Yet this pericope that is only found in Luke’s Gospel provides us with a foundation of why and how we should be Christians. It’s not just because Jesus raised the woman’s son from the dead or saved her from social and financial ruin but because Jesus had compassion for her. He not only saw her anguish but he felt it. I am a Christian because Christ’s compassion is transformative—for the life of the woman, her son, and also for us. 

Jesus had been traveling from Capernaum, which was about 20 miles to the town of Nain where he and his followers eventually stopped. We can assume that they must have been exhausted and hungry after such a long journey. But before Jesus even steps through the gate of this town for rest he witnesses a funeral procession. He sees the widowed mother surrounded by many people from the town crying and grieving over the loss of her son.

There are many different translations of what happens next. Some scholars have translated the Greek to say that Jesus pitied the woman but most have translated the text as Jesus feeling compassion for her. Aristotle defined pity as one who has experienced the pain of the sufferer but distances himself or herself from that person. Pity involves sympathy but separation. You feel sad for someone’s pain but you don’t engage it.

Compassion is completely different. Compassion is whether or not you have experienced the pain of the sufferer, your sympathy calls you to action. And by action—we feel compelled to care and serve those who are hurting. When we are compassionate we desire not to be separated from those in pain but engaged in their care.

For Jesus his compassion for this woman begins with his recognition that all has been lost for her—her husband, son and most likely her future. During that time a woman’s social and financial well-being was dependent upon the men in her family. Without any men to provide food and shelter the grieving mother is also at risk of dying. 

Therefore, this scene that Jesus and followers come upon is not just one funeral procession but two—the son and his mother. Although she is not dead, the probability of her living long without her family is small. The crowd that is surrounding her as she leaves the city to bury her son provides a haunting image that they are leading her to her own death.

Jesus knows all of this. He knows what will happen to her in his society. He knows the future that she will have being a widow with no male children. Jesus may not have experienced the same suffering as this woman by being neither a spouse nor a parent but he is a son. He has a relationship with his own mother. And he sees the love this woman had for her child that is the same love Mary had for him.

Jesus doesn’t pity her. If he did he would have been respectful as the procession passed by and then been on his way. Jesus has sympathy for this woman because it could and will be his mother standing by his body with tears running down her face. Jesus doesn’t waste time for pity but quickly attempts to comfort her and then raises her son from the dead.

Luke shows us that Christ’s power is not limited to just healing the sick but resurrection. What moved me in this Gospel was that his miracle wasn’t to show his power but to give it. By giving her son new life he gave her back her life and the power in her identity as a mother. His compassion transforms her wellbeing in this world.  It’s not the miracle itself but why he performed the miracle in the first place.

When has someone shown you sympathy and compassion? My most memorable experience was quite recent. This past Halloween I made a big mistake. I went hiking at Gunpowder State Park in Kingsville wearing the wrong shoes. And because I was not wearing appropriate hiking shoes I slipped on a rock while crossing a stream and fell into the water—breaking my leg. Not my finest moment. While at Virginia Theological Seminary a week later in a non-weight bearing caste and on crutches I found myself ironically at the healing service for Thursday Chapel. I crutched my way up to the alter to receive a prayer for healing and a blessing, and after the visiting priest was done with his prayer he leans over and whispers in my ear, “wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just drop your crutches and walk back to your seat? It would be a miracle!” He’s laughing and I’m awkwardly smiling because I’m in so much pain. To be honest, my prayer was for a miracle that I could just get up and walk, and my stupid decision to wear fashion boots on a short stroll through the woods could be taken back.

What I didn’t get then that I do now is that a miracle did happen. I was healed because of the compassion and kindness of others—my family and my peers. Prior to my fall, my first couple months at Virginia Theological were so hectic balancing school, family and church that I found myself not meeting many people on campus. I had vowed during my fall break that I needed to work on that for the rest of the semester. Who would have thought it would take breaking my leg and being pretty much helpless to meet people? Yet I got to experience amazing compassion, kindness and generosity from my classmates to students I didn’t know asking if I needed help or make me lunch or bring me coffee.

I was not healed by a spontaneous miracle, but I was healed slowly by the genuine care of others who by their help I was able to have a smooth recovery.

Therefore, I am a Christian because our God is a compassionate God that does not allow us to believe we are alone in our suffering. We may not have the power of physical resurrection like Christ, but we do have the power through our ability to engage the suffering of others to bring new life to be part of the healing this world needs. Through our kindness and love we have the opportunity to be part of transforming the lives of others just like Jesus.

It is a blessing for me to become a part of your community here at Good Shepherd that is already doing this transformational work. The love and compassion you have to serve others is what I look forward to being a part of. When learning about this church it was wonderful to discover the many ministries, committees and church groups you have here to care for this community and this city of Baltimore. It is a gift for me to come into a community that is actively serving others with compassionate hearts to transform and heal the brokenness of the world. I look forward to partnering with Arianne to be involved with the wonderful ministries she and all of you are engaged in here. As we do ministry together may we always be focused on compassion and not pity as we do God’s work to show Christ’s love in the world. Amen.