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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 27, 2014

Gospel: John 20:19-31
1st Reading: Acts 2:14a, 22-32
2nd Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9

Remember your first bicycle? What color was it? Was it a hand-me-down, or did you get one shiny and new? Who taught you to ride it? How long did it take you to learn? Where did you go on your first bicycle? What adventures did you have?

When Jesus first met the Disciples, they were riding tricycles. There is nothing wrong with tricycles. They are steady and safe, but they don’t go very fast. They are pretty good at helping a person develop muscles, but they are pretty inefficient. Tricycles are preparation before riding a bicycle. They teach the basics about pedaling and stopping and starting. The disciples had been fishermen, and there was a tax collector and a doctor among them. Jesus seemed to see these as tricycle professions, that helped prepare them for their lives of discipleship, following him and doing his ministry.

So Jesus comes along and invites them to be fishers of people and to follow him. Jesus invited them off their tricycles and instead set about leading them on bicycles with training wheels. During this time, the disciples ride alongside Jesus. He pedaled and they pedaled. He used his brakes, they used their brakes. He signaled a right or left turn and they did the same. They were practicing ministry on their bikes with training wheels. Occasionally, Jesus would send them around the block under the buddy system, but asked them to check in after each time around to make sure they were in one piece before they went around again.

Over Holy Week, the Disciples took their training wheels off. They didn’t expect it to be so difficult. They felt ready, reassuring Jesus that they wouldn’t deny him, that they would stay focused on his teaching. Instead, they found themselves covered with scrapes and bumps and bruises. They fall again and again. Judas betrays Jesus and he runs straight into the street without looking. He doesn’t survive the week. The other disciples have their own mishaps. Peter betrays him. They all feel like failures as their friend Jesus lets go of the bicycle seat and they can’t seem to make this work. They can’t seem to get anywhere without his help.

Now we come to the disciples this morning. They have parked their bikes with no intention of ever riding them again. They are so frustrated and afraid that they are ready to go back to their tricycles. They are ready to go back to their everyday lives and forget everything that Jesus taught them, everything they ever experienced with training wheels on or even the brief moments of exhilaration they felt before they went tumbling to the ground. And since Jesus has been killed, their teacher won’t know that they gave up. They will never have to face him and see his disappointment.

Now enter Jesus. If you think they were afraid before, think how they feel now. Jesus comes to them, locked up in that room in fear. They are expecting to get a well-deserved scolding, to be read the riot act. All they get from Jesus is grace. “Peace be with you.” Jesus isn’t going to escalate their fear or point out all their failures and failings. Instead Jesus gives them peace.

Then he breathes on them. You can’t just tell someone to be at peace. It is something you can show and you can share. You can’t give peace unless you are at peace. If you are anxious, peace won’t be communicated. A slow, even breath is one way of communicating peace. Go ahead, try it.

When Sterling was a little baby and he’d cry when he was teething or something, I’d feel frustrated sometimes. But I knew that the best way to give him peace was to be at peace, myself. I’d take a deep breath and relax my tense muscles and I’d just feel him relax in my arms. Sometimes he would even take a deep breath to match mine.

Jesus does that for the disciples. He gives them a gift of his breath, his peace, his forgiveness. He gives them his calm breath to calm their fears and invite them to breathe so their bodies and minds would be ready to get back on the bicycle and try one more time or however many more times it would take until they were experts.

Once Jesus imparted his calm breath to them, he does give them one piece of advice. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” If you are going to ride this bicycle, to share the good news swiftly and effectively, you can’t always be looking backward, blaming, beating yourself up, dwelling in the past. Retaining sins, yours or others, will only hold you back. Forgiveness is the only way forward. He was telling them they would need to learn forgiveness to be disciples and they were going to need to accept his forgiveness.

They had let him down. They had increased his suffering when he needed them most. They had denied his friendship. They had pretended they didn’t even know him. He had died a most horrible, lonely death and they had survived because they had denied him. They had the worst kind of survivor’s guilt. Now here is Jesus standing before them, the one they had abandoned. He offers them peace. He offers them forgiveness. He offers them another chance to do his ministry, to share his love, to be his disciples. He refuses to look back or retain sins. It is all forgiveness for Jesus and he recommends that course to his disciples.
But one disciple wasn’t there that day. Thomas had been away and when he came back the Disciples told him that Jesus was raised and had visited them. Thomas took one look at this cowering group of Disciples and he's not buying it. They are still all locked up in fear. Their bicycles are still parked in the garage. If Jesus had come and breathed peace on them, if Jesus had forgiven them and told them to let go of their grudges and regrets, if Jesus had told them he was sending them out, what were they still doing here? Because of their paralysis, Thomas can't possibly believe. Their actions don't match the story they've told.
Thankfully we know that they eventually did venture from that locked room and found the courage to get back on their bicycles and share their story far and wide even at great risk to themselves, until it reached our ears today.

The Sundays of Easter we proclaim, Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! We say it loud and proud with our voices. Do we show it in our actions or are we still locked up in our fears?

Jesus empowers us in all different ways. In the Gospel, Thomas is away when Jesus comes to the Disciples. Jesus ensures that he is empowered by community--that he is reunited with the witnesses and thereby strengthened to share the Gospel. In the same way, we have this testimony of the witnesses that they touched and saw with their own eyes. We have the generations who have gone before as part of our community that give us strength to live the Gospel, to reach out in love, to forgive, to move forward. And we have the generations who are yet to come, that give us courage to live the truth of the Gospel.

We have Jesus' instructions in the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount reminding us that blessing is more than just what is on the surface, his example of giving his life for the sake of others, his parables making us think deeply about our own participation in God's Kingdom ways now today.

We have Jesus' challenge to stretch ourselves, to look deep within ourselves and face our brokenness from other people and from this beautiful earth that God created. God wants to show us how to be a better team player. God invites us to have a changed life because of him, not just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over. God wants us to have a life that, although quite possibly more difficult than the one we have now, will also be more fulfilling, more life-giving, more balanced. Finally, Jesus offers peace when we are afraid, encouragement to get right back up on that bicycle and get moving forward to do God's work of love.

By this new life, we find ourselves blessed and we become a blessing to others, so that others can meet Jesus in their own way, have their own experience of forgiveness and healing and new life and salvation.

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
You are risen! You are sent by Christ to have new life and share new life! Live in God's love!

Easter 2014

Gospel: Matthew 28:1-10
1st Reading: Acts 10:34-43
2nd Reading: Colossians 3:1-4

Such a mixture this morning of fear and joy! The fear gets us asking, “Am I good enough? Do I believe the right things? Am I doing what God wants me to? Am I where I am supposed to be?” Upon hearing the good news of God’s love, or knowing the unconditional love of another person, then joy becomes the prominent emotion. The joy has us proclaiming, “I am loved. You are loved. There can be peace and new life.”

“Anyone who fears him and does what is right....” This gets us asking if we’re good enough.
“…is acceptable to him.” Now comes the joyful part—we are acceptable.
“They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.” Now we’re afraid again.
“but God raised him on the third day.” Back to joy.
“He is the judge.” Now we’re afraid.
“Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Joy and relief.

Fear and joy are all mixed together in the Gospel, too. The guards are fearful of the earthquake and the angel. They faint from fear, like dead men. The angels tell the two Marys not to be afraid. When they left with their message for the disciples they had both fear and joy. When they meet Jesus on their way, he again tells them not to be afraid.
When I was growing up church was something very serious and communion so mysterious and fearful. God gave God’s only son as a sacrifice. That is Jesus’ own body and blood. He suffered. His own disciples didn’t understand him. The whole world rejected him. We reject him every day. It was all so sad. I used to wonder when I took communion if Jesus could feel me chewing him up. It wasn’t until I got to seminary that I learned that we weren’t crucifying Jesus every time we communed. So many somber faces at the communion railing made me sad and fearful.

And yet in Sunday School, we sang, “If you’re happy and you know it,” and “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” I guess it was ok for kids to be happy, but once you become an adult, it is time for fear and sadness and seriousness. And yet, even for the adults it was a mixed bag. The word “Eucharist” that we use to talk about communion means “celebration.” And communion was about remembering the story of how God saves us, which seems to me a joyful thing, and remembering the body of Christ, putting all the people back together again who were separated by sin and fear.

How many times has fear pushed people away from church and God? How many times do Jesus and the angels have to say, “Do not fear,” before we understand that we don’t have to be afraid and we don’t have to try to scare others.

It really has been children that have taught me true joy at the communion table and at church. This is Easter Joy that God is trying to give us, but we have been too afraid to believe or accept. It began with Bethany, a little girl adopted from Bulgaria, who became a part of my home congregation. She was two when she finally came into her new family, the first child to be adopted out of a particular orphanage. We prayed for her for her pending adoption for over a year. We gathered baby items to be given to the orphanage to win their good favor. And when she came she held the tops of her hands together because she was so used to having her hands slapped that she was protecting them. But when we sang “Now the Feast and Celebration” at church we would dance with her in the pews and now she teaches dance, a college student at OSU. That’s what it is to be joyful in the face of death and to experience resurrection. When I came here and gave communion some of my very first times, there were the expectant hands of Otis and Oliver, reaching up over the communion railings, their expectant faces wanting the bread. There was the time that one of the Hellums boys stuck his whole hand in the communion cup. And the times that children have assisted with communion because, although we may get the seriousness of it all, they get the joy of it. They get the joy of being included. They get the joy of tasting something delicious. They get the joy of community. They are eager to see, hear, touch, smell, taste and experience Jesus, not fearful.

Sometimes those old teachings come back to me, too—the old conversations about what is proper attire for an acolyte and how much understanding is enough to have communion. But I have to remember, those are not from God or the Bible. Those are human conversations from a particular time and place. They are about what may or may not be proper, which is a matter of opinion. They are about what is human, not divine. They cause us to draw lines of partiality and judgment.

The scriptures say it clearly, “God shows no partiality.” Peter is speaking to some Romans. He is finally getting it. Nobody is left out. These Romans are loved by God. They are included. Today, children commune at any age. Those who haven’t been baptized commune. All are truly welcome at God’s table. God shows no partiality. Jesus appears first to the women at the tomb, to those who weren’t even considered fully human. God shows no partiality. For any who have ever been left out, this is reason for joy.

To be left out is a kind of death. Not to be recognized for your gifts is to be rejected, not a full member of the community, not to be fully human, not to be allowed to share your God-given gifts with the community. But to know that God shows no partiality, that God is love, and that we are Christ’s body in this world sent to love all, is a joyful thing. When we include those who haven’t been included, we open ourselves to learning from them. This now is what the children are teaching us if we are willing to set aside our fears and allow the joy of Christ to bring us to new life and hope.

Here is a list of things that children do during communion, written by a United Methodist Pastor Jason Valendy in Saginaw, Texas. These are all things he wished adults did more often:
Run down the aisle. It is okay to run down the aisle for communion. In fact shouldn't we all be running to feast with Christ?

The women at the tomb ran to tell the Disciples the good news and they ran smack into Jesus. They weren’t very dignified—they were excited, they were joyful. They didn’t care how ridiculous they looked. There was an urgency, anticipation, joyful expectation.

Take communion with a stuffed animal. This should be acceptable, as long as the stuff animal is served communion as well. Kids understand that everyone is welcomed to the table. Human and teddy bear alike.

If you are 4 or 5 years old—what does “everyone is welcome” look like to you?
Drink every drop. It is critical that every drop of grape juice and morsel of bread is consumed at communion. Who cares is people are waiting behind you to move back to their pews, you do not leave that table until you have been able to take ever last moment you can with Christ.

Do you see these kids tasting it, experiencing it, enjoying it? We have a lot to learn from them.

Ask for a "big piece". Why settle for just a little bit of Christ? Don't we all want a "big piece" of Christ?

Or two pieces like we’ve got here regularly on Sundays, now! If one is good, then two is twice as good. Who wouldn’t want more!
Dunk the whole piece into the cup. If you get to dip the bread into the juice, soak that bread and be sure to no worry about drips or stains. Don’t hold back. Let your whole hand be immersed in God’s blessing.

Seek out the leftovers. The bread of Life is too good to discard in the trash or fed to the birds. Eat all the bread after worship.

Some congregations pass around the communion bread in the social hall after church. We usually do that at our pastor’s gatherings. Here at King of Kings, come ask for some at the kitchen, if you’d like some more.

Laugh. Partaking in the banquet of God is a joyful event! Smile, laugh and if you need to, put a rubber crocodile on your head and make the pastor laugh with you.

There is nothing that bonds us together like laughter around the dinner table. The same is true of God’s table.

Express thanks. One thumbs up at the meal is something, but two thumbs up is great.
We can all benefit from being more thankful, more aware of our blessings and where they come from.

Save some for later. Putting bread into your pocket seems like a reasonable way to take Christ into the world.

Whether you are planning to eat it yourself or share it with a friend, it is good to remember that God goes with us into our everyday lives. He is always with us and there is always enough of him to share.

We have so much fear in our lives, so much seriousness. God walks with us in our darkest valleys and holds us close. And when we least expect it, Jesus appears before us or sends an angel with a message we don’t always accept or understand, that he is risen and new life is happening.

What we do at church and at communion ought to have something to do with our regular life. How we are at the communion table has much to do with how we love and how we live. Whatever your fears and limitations, run toward life. Run toward love as the two Mary’s did that first Easter and as countless children have toward the bread of life. Share love, share life without partiality. Enjoy life and love. Seek more life and love. Be immersed in life and love. Return to it again and again. Don’t waste any of it—get every last drop that’s coming to you. Smile and laugh as you share it with others. Give thanks for it and take it with you wherever you go.

God meets us at the various tombs of our lives where we stand in disappointment and loneliness, broken, hurting, and somber. God wrestles there in the tomb for three days. And God sees the bigger picture, that the story doesn’t end there. God meets us with a message of hope that God is there with us and that there is more to the story. New life is possible. When all hope seems to be lost, new life is already occurring, not just for Jesus, but for all of us. It isn’t the kind of hope in which we are more put together, but in which we admit we are all unraveled and stand there as helpless as children, trusting, open to miracles, ready to learn and grow and see in new ways and experience wonder and Easter joy.

Homily for Maundy Thursday, 2014

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is preparing the Disciples for something big. It reminded me of the first time I read Homer’s Odyssey, the way Odysseus prepares himself and his comrades before their encounter with the Sirens. Just by the seriousness of their preparation, I knew something big was coming. What could it be that could so lure a group of heroes off track? What kind of monster lurked near the ship on its journey that would be such a threat? Odysseus orders his men to stop their ears with bee’s wax, but he doesn’t want to be protected from that sound. He wants to hear the Siren song and live. So he has the men tie him to the ship’s mast and not release him no matter how he begs. What a surprise it was, then, that these were no monsters, at least outwardly, but only beautiful women with a song so alluring that men would leap into the sea at the sound of it and die.

In the Gospel for this evening, the Disciples are not going to be spared with any bees wax or other protections from what was coming. They were about to have a very troubling week in which their teacher, mentor, and friend would be tortured and killed, their loyalty would fail them, and their entire belief system would be shaken and shattered. They would see and hear it all with no earplugs or blindfolds.

Jesus had been preparing them, though, from the very beginning of his ministry. He prepared them for healing and feeding and casting out demons. He showed them what to do and he sent them out to do it. He gave them illustrations in the form of stories and parables so that they could begin to make sense of what they were seeing and hearing from Jesus and learn to think for themselves. He taught them the scriptures to give them grounding and a bigger context for all that they were seeing and doing.

He told them outright what was going to happen, that he would die and rise again. They were confused by these statements. They didn’t believe Jesus. They might have thought he was speaking metaphorically. They tried to correct him, to tell him he was wrong about all that.
But now Jesus departure is imminent. Jesus has one last chance to wrap it all up, to give them one last lesson to get them through so that his ministry continues after his death. Soon, what Jesus has been telling them will be clear, as he is arrested and tortured and crucified and breathes his last. He knows that they will be so afraid. Their instincts will be to scatter and hide and forget everything they learned. The Sirens of their fears will soon be calling to them to jump ship. The Sirens of the accusations of those who know they are associates of Jesus will be calling to them to scatter. The Sirens of an easier life will be calling them away from all that Jesus has taught them.

What Jesus does is to prepare them by tying them to the mast. The mast I am referring to is God. Jesus ties them with scripture, the stories of God saving the people throughout the ages: The story of the Exodus from slavery into freedom. This ties them, joins them with their past, their ancestors, with God and God’s saving nature from the very beginning. He ties them with service. By washing their feet, by such intimacy and care, they will be linked with him forever. Whatever else happens in the coming week, they have shared this moment with him and can see clearly his love for them. They have built a memory that will ground them when they are afraid. He has tied them by his example. They have a way of reaching out to each other, of caring for and serving one another that tie them to the other Disciples. When Jesus is no longer with them, they will be able to look to each other and care for each other. This will sustain them and hold them secure. Jesus has tied them with love. This is the strongest rope of all. The world will call to them with all kinds of lies, that death is the end of the story, that what is worthwhile in life should not be this hard, that their experience of Jesus isn’t real. But love will hold them to that mast, to God and to each other. It will show them the truth.

This is not just a story that happened a long time ago. Jesus knows that our lives are full of trouble. We will not be spared difficulties and suffering. Loving God doesn’t provide earplugs or blindfolds. But through these stories, we, too are tied to our mast. We are tied to God through the stories handed over to us, of God’s saving action, that aren’t just about other people, but us, too. We are tied through service, the service that we do for each other this night and together in the Pantry and Backpack buddies. We are tied through love. Jesus loves us. We are to love one another. That’s what will help us through troubled times. That’s what will help us see and participate in the Kingdom that God is bringing to this world.

It is easy to be two congregations, independent, self-sufficient, proud to be among the few remaining who can afford a full-time pastor, with beautiful buildings each in their own way, with many ministries that benefit the community. And Jesus washes our feet and tells us that independence isn’t the goal. There will be times of trouble. We will experience times of fear and suffering. God is giving us a gift tonight, the gift of himself, the gift of a strong mast, God, the gift of strong rope which is story, service, and love, the gift of each other and this town to serve. May we accept this gift and ride out the storm together bound and prepared by this love.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March 30, 2014

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
2nd Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14
Gospel: John 9:1-41

This morning I invite you to sit with blindness for a bit and close your eyes. In a little bit I will tell you when to open them.

We all suffer from blindness of many kinds. We see what we expect to see and miss what is right in front of us. Like Samuel, we see value and kingliness in the eldest and strongest son. Like the townspeople in the Gospel, we place blame for an illness or injury and avoid people with different abilities, refusing to see them and treat them as people. Like the Pharisees, we are so attached to our traditions that we are blind to a miracle. Every day, we miss those in need right in front of us as we put our needs and our family’s needs before others. Every day, we refuse to see people for who they are, but instead judge them on previous experience or their reputation or how they dress or where they live. We are blind to what is within people, their story, their pain, their hunger. We are blind to miracles happening around us every day. We take that blessing and question it and refuse to accept it. We are blinded by our expectations and limited imagination. We are blinded by greed and sin.

“The LORD does not see as mortals see,” It says in the first reading for today. “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord,” it says in the second reading.

The message for today is that we’re not seeing too well folks. We haven’t for a long time. At first Samuel, it seems so clear who will become the next king. Saul had been king and he had some sons. However, Saul had disobeyed God and allowed his soldiers to take the spoils of war for themselves. It is only right in the eyes of a human being that this is how you conduct war. God sees it differently and Saul’s family is passed over when it is time to crown the next king. God tells Samuel that he will crown one of the sons of Jesse from Bethlehem—this is where we get the Jesse tree and the Jesse we sing about at Advent. So Samuel reluctantly goes to Jesse’s house. Which son will be king? It will be the oldest son, right? He is big and tall. He is powerful. This is what our eyes see and our minds tell us is right. Samuel has his mind made up—it has to be him. God says, “You don’t see as I see. It isn’t him.” Surely it must be the next son. “Not him either.” Then the next and the next down the line.

“The LORD does not see as mortals see.” “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.”

“Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” That was what people were told by the religious authorities, that it was somebody’s fault. He was kept out of the Temple and Synagogue because of this supposed defect in him. Yet, Jesus was clear. That isn’t what this is about. We may not blame the victim or parents of people with differing abilities, but we definitely have a hard time seeing that they have feelings just like we do. We exclude. We keep our distance. We are afraid. We are the ones who are blind.

Several teachers told a story this week of troubled kids who came into their class. They could choose whether to read the past reports and have their preconceived ideas about who was good and who was bad and what to expect. Most teachers were blinded to the value of these troubled kids and treated them as if they were going to cause trouble. Guess what, they caused trouble in those situations.

We may not be that attached to our Sabbath day, but we don’t see miracles that happen to people with tattoos, with saggy pants, who use language that might be offensive, who don’t go to church. It isn’t that those miracles aren’t happening, but that our minds are blind to see certain people as people at all and to see the value in their lives.

As you sit within this blindness of the eyes, search the blindness in your hearts. What has come between you and others? What might God being trying to show you that you haven’t been able to see yet?

The good news is that God has come into our midst, the light of the world, with a light to illumine the darkness and mud to heal blindness of the spirit. We’re going to have to humble ourselves and allow ourselves to get a little dirty. We’re going to need to admit the mud that is already there that Jesus is planning to wash away with his own saliva. We’re going to have to admit our own blindness enough to allow ourselves to be touched by Jesus. We’re going to have to be open to having new eyes.

So now I invite you to open your eyes. These are new eyes. These are the eyes of God that you have now. They are the eyes of the poor, the imprisoned, the young, the very old, the eyes of a helpless tree, an animal, an insect. God is giving us eyes to see through other perspectives. God is giving us eyes to see beyond our expectations, to be curious about what is within another person or part of creation, what drives them, what gives them life, what gets in the way of abundant life for them, how it is they give glory to God.

Our eyes begin to clear. We see with the eyes of God, kingly qualities in a shepherd, leadership qualities in a small child, that compassion, care, and a tender heart should be the first things we look for in those we admire. We begin to see every situation as an opportunity for blessing and glory for God, so we sit with those who are rejected, we listen to those who suffer addictions, we go to the bedside of the sick and dying. When we see with the eyes of God, we listen to the trees, the animals, the mountain, all those who cannot speak for themselves and we value them and care for them as God asked us to do at the very beginning in the garden when everything was in balance and harmony and God knew that it was good. When we see with the eyes of God, we are ready to see something new that defies our expectations. We give people a chance to be good. The teachers who didn’t choose to prejudge the kids in their class, found those troubled children excelling and growing like never before. When we see with the eyes of God, we give people a chance at a new start, just as Jesus did for us. We see a king born among the animals. We see God willing to give his life for the world. We see ourselves taking a different path that we did when we were blind. We find healing and relationship. We find beauty and truth. We find justice and love.

Jesus brought that healing to the blind man this morning. How do you think it must have felt to be seeing for the first time? Jesus gives him healing so that his flesh will now see as clearly as his heart. He has actually been seeing more clearly than anyone else in the Gospel all along. He has been seeing in his heart as God sees. Unfortunately, he saw a lot of cruelty and blame. But he also saw the fear and pain clearly in those around him, knowing they too could experience this difficult life. He sees so clearly that he doesn’t judge people by their looks or give greater honor to the rich and cultured or even blame those who excluded them. He has seen clearly the hearts of people and now he has physical eyes to match and is free to participate in a life of blessing in which he can be a leader in his community guiding the people in how to see anew with the eyes of the heart, the spirit, of God. Now that he has his sight restored, other people will value him as the leader he always had the potential to be, if others had not been blind to all that he had to offer.

God is opening our eyes to see. God is showing us what it is like to be born where you’re not wanted, as Jesus was, how it feels to go hungry, as we talk to those at our pantry, what it is to see strength in vulnerability as we age and face illness, what it feels to be chopped down as we take compassion on our tree and consider how Christ was taken out in the prime of life, what it feels like to stand up for what is right as we talk to our legislators about the need for food stamps. Through the eyes of God we will see incredible beauty and incredible cruelty, but we will have compassion and hope that the mud and saliva will create us anew as Adam and Eve and that the light will spread and that every day more eyes are opened like the tulips and daffodils this time of year and as each one is opened, more light will shine until the earth becomes the eye of God, full of light, seeing everything clearly, sharing life abundant, and thriving in the grace and love of God.

“The LORD does not see as mortals see.” “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.” Open our eyes Lord and help us to see as you see and to live lives pleasing to you and life-giving to our fellow creatures.