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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March 26, 2017

Gospel: John 9:1-41 
 1st Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 
Psalm 23
2nd Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14

I have terrible eyesight, but I wear contact lenses, so you wouldn't know it. Before I came here, I worked at an optometry office for a year and a half and I there were only maybe 5 or 10 patients in the whole practice who had worse eyesight than I have. I give thanks that I wasn't born before vision correction was available, because there is very little I can do without my glasses or contacts. I remember the first time I got glasses, maybe you do, too. I knew I was missing a lot, but I had no idea what I was missing until I put them on and walked out of the optometrist's office into the sunshine and saw all those trees in the parking lot with actual leaves. I could see every last one. Who knew a tree had so many leaves!

God does not see as mortals see, our Old Testament reading from today tells us. No kidding! Blindness is not just a condition of the eyes. It is about our perspective and where we are seeing from. We see a lot better from the balcony than on the dance floor. It is a matter of the time of day, how light it is out and what direction the shadows are cast. In other words, the time of our life will affect how we see and what we can see, depending on context and experience and expectation. Sight is shaped by our culture and situation. I know that I am still astounded at what Sterling notices that I never even paid any attention to, probably since I was 5. He hasn't learned what society says is worthy of his attention. Now thanks to him, I see every fan in every film I watch and building I enter. And now I've started to see robots everywhere I go. I have selective sight and now this kid is teaching me to see again.

In the Old Testament reading, God is looking for a new king for Israel. Saul hasn't worked out so well. I wonder if God couldn't see what the problems would be with Saul, but then I remembered how God tried, over and over, to talk the Israelites out of it, saying a king would only serve himself. Every king was a compromise. After Saul, maybe the people are more open to God's suggestions. Ok, so they are trembling at the thought of going in an entirely different direction from Saul. Rather than to choose his successor from his sons or relatives, they are going with an entirely different family. People are just getting used to that idea of going with an entirely different family, when Samuel starts looking at each of Jesse's sons and he isn't finding the one he is looking for. The people have their view. They think they see what they need in a leader and that is age and experience and size and power. I love the suspense in this story as Samuel examines each one! His heart is sinking with each one. He's wondering if God is going to deliver on this promise of a good king or not. Jesse, the father, is probably getting twitchy. The older brothers are looking at the one younger than them with disgust, jealous of the power that is about to be given away, that was rightfully theirs—they deserve it, they've earned it. Jesse gets to the end of the sons. He doesn't ask God, “What's wrong with you?” Smart guy. Instead he says to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” There is one—one so unassuming, so unqualified, so small and powerless, so young and inexperienced, that we never even thought of him. He may as well be a baby in the crib—I guess we do get that with the baby Jesus, don't we? Here is one last son, a shepherd, a humble one, a caring one. The LORD looks on the heart. The heart reveals the heart of a shepherd, loyal, caring, guiding, watching, healing, protecting, with a wide perspective. And it doesn't hurt that he's easy on the eyes.

The Psalm backs up the view of the shepherd leader. That is how God is with us. This is a view of the peaceable Kingdom, what the Kingdom of God is like, what the world can look like if we let God's vision come to be. When God is our shepherd, we don't have any needs that aren't met. He leads us to places that are life-giving. He guides us, but he doesn't force us to go in a particular direction. Some scholars say the word lead is better translated, “supervised wandering.” When we are in his care, we won't be free from danger or suffering or pain—we will go through the valley of the shadow of death. But we will have God as our companion in that dark, terrifying place. Throughout this beautiful poem, we find a fierce but gentle companion, who gives us rest and direction, who protects us and brings us home. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies—some scholars have said this enemy is death. That was new to me in this reading of it. And some scholars say the last line may be, “And I shall return to the house of the LORD for the rest of my days.” The psalm seems to allow us to wander, but never alone, it shows we have freedom, but that God is always close by and that there is a return and a reunion and a reconciliation and a warmth.

What does this have to do with seeing? I think we see God as either being with us and directing everything, or as absent, but maybe God is like a parent, walking nearby, available and vigilant, there if anything goes wrong, but also trying to give us the space to explore, experience, and see for ourselves. 

The reading from Ephesians is a before and after demonstration. “You were then darkness, but now light in the Lord.” God has the wider perspective and sees the before and after—how dark it was and hard to see, how far away we were, how dead asleep we were, how powerless and blind. But then God gave us the light to reveal what was really true, a free gift we didn't earn and didn't deserve, but that we needed to see clearly. God gave us Jesus, the light of the world, exposing all our flaws, but also exposing how we weren't alone and that others are also on this path toward light and recipients of this grace with us, and how we are part of a community of practicing Christians who need all the practice we can get. We get to use this light for good, to reveal the broken systems in our world, to shed light on people our society tends to ignore, to see more clearly what is good and loving. One of the risks of this reading is that it may make us smug, that we have the light, as Christians, and others don't. But as soon as we try to say we deserve it and you don't, or we have the light and you don't, it becomes darkness and is not of God.

The Disciples have internalized this viewpoint that people get what they deserve. That's why they ask Jesus if this man was born blind because he deserved it or his parents. But Jesus says it isn't about deserving. We are all disciples, really. We are constantly trying to make sense of our world by blaming people for their situation or thinking people earned the good life they live. It makes us feel safe from poverty and suffering. It encourages us not to do anything to help people who are hurting. We believe the homeless person is lazy or addicted. We believe the car accident was because of speed or alcohol. We believe the person is sick because they didn't exercise or eat right. Especially when we don't know what we can possibly do to help, we blame, because it helps us to justify our lack of help.

But God doesn't see as we see. The God who saw a king in a young shepherd boy, sees a brother or sister of Jesus in a person on a street corner, sees a community leader in a homeless person, sees value and vitality and life in someone who is sick—sees someone worth knowing, worth healing, not because of anything they have done or haven't done, but because of who they are, God's beloved child. 

The Pharisees couldn't see because they already thought they knew. They decide right away that Jesus can't come from God. They know what the sabbath is for. Resting. But what about rest for a man born blind. He has struggled every day. Today, Jesus gives him his sight. Jesus reveals that the sabbath is for healing, restoring, for drawing closer to God's kingdom reality, for the shepherd to care for the flock, for barriers between us to be broken down, for us to see with the eyes of God, to see as God sees, for worshiping and thanking God as this man does. God can heal the blind man in an instant, which had never been done before. But if the Pharisees didn't know they were blind and didn't want to see, would he heal someone against their will? It is like when you open the cage of a creature that doesn't know it has been caged. It will may stay in there. The same goes for the Pharisees.

The parents of the man born blind, couldn't get to the point of praising Jesus like their son does, of fully seeing him, because they were afraid of being rejected by the community and the religious leaders. They couldn't embrace the new life Jesus was offering because they thought it was more important to hold on to what they already had than to let go and take hold of what was entirely new and unexpected and ridiculous and Godly.

The question for us is what are our blind spots? Will we ever be able to see them or let go of everything we have ever known in order to take hold of the life that really is life?

This congregation has done this over the years. I would say that must have been what it was like at the very beginning of the congregation. Everything was new. Each step was a risk and a possibility. Each time you called a pastor, you took a risk, and you even risked losing members when you called Pastor Solveig, a female pastor. Each time we receive new members at this church, we risk being changed. And the council is excited to help us to take some new risks, especially engaging in the community, getting out there in groups in a visible way, maybe wearing matching t-shirts, and working on projects out there in the neighborhood. We have a blind spot, or a weak spot in putting ourselves out there. We have seen the church as in here. But maybe there is more to it than that. Maybe we will meet people we never would have. Maybe we'll get perspectives we never expected. Maybe we'll be strengthened. Maybe we need the community. Maybe the community needs us.
The man born blind received his sight immediately, but it was only when he was challenged by the neighbors and pharisees that he started to really see. He first says Jesus must be a prophet. When they tell him to give glory to God, rather than a human being, he uses one of the Pharisees own arguments against them, that “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” So he is starting to see that Jesus is from God. Finally, he stands with Jesus, having been driven out and rejected, and all he's got is Jesus, and he says, “Lord, I believe!” and falls down to worship him. 

May we become aware of our blind spots and go to the one who sees clearly and who can help us see. When we put on those glasses of our faith, may we find light and hope and share light and hope until all can see and until all are seen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March 19, 2017

Gospel: John 4:5-42 
1st Reading: Exodus 17:1-7
2nd Reading: Romans 5:1-11

Before I went to seminary I worked at National Frozen Foods Factory in Albany testing and grading vegetables. One of my favorite co-workers was a woman named Lenora. She had a dry sense of humor. Hilarious. She was a Seventh Day Adventist, and asked her pastor once about whether women could be pastors, because she knew I was going in to the ministry. She reported back to me that her pastor told her, “Women can't be pastors because no one will listen to them.” My first thought was, “Ok, so if someone will listen to them and accept their authority, then could they be pastors?” And I knew people who would listen to female pastors, including myself, so that argument didn't hold any water. I know we can't help who will listen to us and who won't, but that doesn't mean we don't have the Holy Spirit or gifts to share from God. That someone doesn't listen, seems to me, is their problem. They are the ones missing out and the only ones who can incline their ear. Even God was ignored in the wilderness of the Exodus. The Israelites often didn't listen to God. It wasn't a comment on God, but on the heard-heartedness of people. 

Very few people would listen to the Samaritan woman because they perceived barriers between her and them. It always seemed to me that the barriers we put are up are so random and artificial and have nothing to do with anything that is permanent or good. Most women would have gone to the well at daybreak to draw water. That she is here at noon, means she is probably not welcome amongst the other women. There are barriers keeping them apart. That she has had five husbands and now may be “living in sin” means that she was probably an outcast. Even if we know better, we start to wonder what's wrong with her that she can't seem to stay in a good relationship.

So when Jesus came to the well, and the Samaritan woman approached, there should have been a number of barriers keeping them from talking to each other. He is a single guy, there at the well. In the Bible, wells are places where the patriarchs like Jacob met their wives to be. They are the singles' bars of Bible times. However, Jews and Samaritans don't date, so that is clearly not Jesus' motive in speaking to her. He as a man should not be talking to her as a woman. He as a Jew should not be talking to her as a Samaritan. He, as God's son, the Creator of water, should not need to ask for water from her. He, a man, should not be talking to her, a woman, about important topics like their ancestor or about where people worship and how they worship. 

There are even more barriers between them and she doesn't shy away from telling him the key one, that she doesn't have a husband. She has no man to mediate her life in a world where she is not considered a full person. Maybe she know's Jesus is different from others who have judged her, since he already is talking to her when there are so many boundaries. Maybe she told him this to test him and see if this will be the place where the conversation is ended. Where does this man draw the line? Is he willing to ignore even this great barrier in order to have this conversation? 

As the conversation between Jesus went on, I couldn't help but think of an egg hatching. Inside that egg, the chick is safe, but the shell is a barrier. It keeps the chick from seeing and hearing and touching and feeling this world. It keeps out danger and infection. But the chick can't stay in the shell forever. The woman has been living this life inside the egg, but Jesus lives in another universe, one of freedom and danger and hope and new life, one of broken barriers. I hear the first crack of the barriers between Jesus and this woman when Jesus first speaks to her and asks her for help. The barrier is beginning to come apart. I hear a few more cracks when Jesus doesn't run away when she admits she has no husband. In fact when he begins telling her everything she's ever done, and it isn't all good, and he's still not scared, she is starting to see some daylight through the shell. And finally when he says, “I am he,” (meaning the Messiah) the pieces of shell are laying all around her and she's standing there stunned in the full light of day.

In this world that Jesus lives in, the barriers are nothing, the egg shells are getting in the way. Jesus goes around the area, ignoring the shells and inviting people to come out where they can see the fuller picture, the way God does. Maybe this woman even showed some readiness to come out of the shell when she pointed out Jacob's well, that Jews and Samaritans have a common ancestor in Jacob. She is ready to hatch, ready to dispose of these barriers between people that are not serving her or anyone else.

She is standing there stunned in the daylight, this Spirit reality that Jesus has been telling her about. And she experiences joy and freedom. She leaves her water jar behind. To me, this means, her needs were met. She didn't carry around this empty vessel, this symbol of all that was lacking in her as far as society was concerned. She left it there, because she was filled—she was filled with that living water Jesus had been talking about. And to prove it, she becomes a spring. Everyone she was avoiding, she goes to them and behaves the same way Jesus does with her. There are no boundaries in this new spirit reality. Nothing is going to stop her telling that he told her everything she had ever done, just as she knew the Messiah would. In verse 25 she says, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” This “all things” is the same word she uses later when she says, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done.” The word for “everything” is the same “all things” that the Messiah will tell us. She knows because of how he treats her even when he sees all things about her that he is someone different and maybe just maybe different enough to be the Messiah.

So now the woman begins the fulfillment of what Jesus was saying at the well, that those who drink the water that Jesus gives will become a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. She went back to her people who had rejected her, and began gushing. There was no stopping her. As a result many Samaritans from that city believed in Jesus because of the woman's testimony and came to see for themselves whether Jesus was Messiah, the Savior of the world. Jesus did not choose her for abundant life because she was deserving or a good person. Jesus was there and she was open to it because she knew the pain of all those barriers. She had suffered. But her suffering did not beat her down. She persisted. Through her suffering, she continued to have hope. And hope does not disappoint us. It was not her good works, but her faith, a free gift of God's grace, that gave her hope in her suffering and made her the first that Jesus admitted to that he is the Messiah.

Jesus comes to us at the well, at the bar, at the water cooler, at the park, on the street corner, every single day, in the people that we meet who are in need. They may say, “Give me some food,” or “Give me a drink.” We are invited by the scriptures to see Christ there within them—If you remember in Matthew 25 Jesus says, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” In that way, Jesus promises to come to us in the people in need all around us. And people are longing for more than just food and drink. They are longing for connection and respect and honest conversation. They want to break down the barriers that aren't serving us or them and be people together with a common ancestor and story, without judgment and shaming. They want to be seen. And we want to be seen. And we all want to hatch into the real world that God has made where there aren't barriers between us. 

Jesus was thirsty and tired. He asked for help from someone that others would never have accepted help from. He never got that drink of water as far as we know. Hopefully, while she was gone gushing to everyone that she found the Messiah, he dipped in that water jar and got his own drink of water. We know the Samaritan woman was fed by this encounter. Her soul was fed. She was reborn. But it wasn't a one-way street. Jesus, too, was fed by this encounter. He told the disciples he had food no one knew about that nourished him and that was this interaction. The Savior of the world was nourished, fed, and saved by a disgraced woman as she was nourished, fed, and saved by him and their conversation, as well. 

Several of us joked this week about putting on the church sign the quote, “Sir, you have no bucket.” We got lots of laughs every time we imagined what people would think driving by. But when I imagine the lack of a bucket, I see empty hands held out and how courageous that is. It is courageous to admit we can't meet our own needs. It is courageous to show a willingness to trust someone else to help. It is courageous to allow ourselves to be connected to others, to risk being hurt or misunderstood, in order to open ourselves to joy and fulfillment. Even Jesus held out his hands for help, here at the well, and many other times in his ministry. This year, when I read this story, I wondered about something, so I looked it up. Sure enough, it is also in the Gospel of John that Jesus, on the cross, says the words, “I thirst.” In fact these are his last words—words of need, seeking help and connection, courageous openness to others, breaking down barriers, still shattering egg shells on the cross and waking people up to Spirit reality that is way more real than these artificial barriers we keep up, these shells of protection between us that actually harm us.

Jesus is tap, tap, tapping on our barriers and egg shells, calling us to be born, to truly live, to step out into the light. It could be something scary tapping out there so maybe we should try to stay here forever. But this cramped space isn't doing it for us anymore and there is a longing in our hearts to connect and explore and gush forth.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March 12, 201

Gospel: John 3:1-17 
1st Reading: Genesis 12:1-4a
2nd Reading: Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Earlier this week, we were at the coast, and I actually remembered to bring my kite. I got my kite for Christmas when I was a teenager. Every once in a while part of the frame breaks. That's when I go get a dowel from the craft store and fix it up again. From the moment we got out of the car, the wind was trying to catch it. We got out to the beach and it went right up. Sterling kept wanting to let it out more and more, so we let it go pretty high. Of course, then someone has to reel it back in!

Kites are some of the best toys for kids, fun and inexpensive to make, interesting to design, and a joy to fly. Kids around the world fly kites, wherever there is wind enough to fly them. I made this kite 11 or 12 years ago. After church during the summer, we had an all-church activity and one of the days we made kites. The paint is faded now, as you can see, but I have such good memories of the generations coming together that Sunday to make kites.

Abraham didn't know about kites. He was living a flat kind of life, one-dimensional. He was getting older—the scriptures say he was about 75 years old. He was preparing to enter retirement and spend his later years puttering in the garden, volunteering, and watching Dancing with the Stars with his wife.

And then he heard a voice. It was a voice telling him that in some ways his life was just beginning. The voice told him that he would leave his extended family and his country and start over in a new land. The voice told him that a great nation would come from him. The voice told him that his name would be great and that people would be blessed through him—in fact all the families of the earth would be blessed. 

The voice did not offer assurance that the trip would be easy. The voice did not give Abraham money for the trip. The voice didn't even tell him what direction he would be going. However, whether it was a miracle or what, Abraham went as the LORD had told him. Abraham believed. He had faith. Faith is letting our life be shaped by the promise of God.

Abraham had been like a kite laying on the sand, a bit of wood and paper, limp and lifeless. This scrap of fabric has no reason to believe that it can fly, but the wind picks up and the fabric ripples. God attaches the string and the kite is off. It doesn't know where it is going. It doesn't know how this will end, but it soars and dips and dives and climbs, blown by the Holy Spirit, receptive to God's grip. 

Nicodemus was like a kite laying on the sand. He was a religious leader, so he was a self-important scrap. He was living a one-dimensional life, but it was a pretty good one. People looked up to him. He was comfortable. We don't quite know why he came to Jesus. He certainly heard from others about their experience with Jesus taking them from a one-dimensional life of laying there on the sand to being attached to the string and soaring on the wind of the Holy Spirit. Maybe he, too, felt a little of that breeze rippling him. Maybe he found that rippling disturbing. Maybe he was fearful that the comfortable life he had was about to change. Maybe he was excited about that rippling wind. Maybe he was hopeful that that comfortable life he had was about to change.

Nicodemus was a religious leader. We religious leaders definitely feel the rippling wind. We open the scriptures and we read about God's bold, healing, loving action, and we want to soar, but we are also very comfortable here on the ground. The situation we are in is working for us. We make excuses—our people aren't ready, we don't want to disrupt our family, maybe God is better served by being realistic. We don't always have faith to let go of what we know and fully trust God. We're just the same as the rest of you.

Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. He was tentative, cautious, hesitant, careful. Those might even be some of the qualities the temple was looking for in priests. Maybe Nicodemus came by night because he didn't want to be seen. Maybe he didn't want to upset his colleagues or people in his family. Maybe he didn't want the pressure of people who knew he had come to see Jesus telling him to follow Jesus or not to follow Jesus. Maybe he wanted to ponder what he learned in peace. 

He said to Jesus, “No one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” He was talking about Jesus' miracles. Nicodemus is different than Abraham. Abraham based his faith on God's promises, alone, without any proof. Nicodemus is basing his faith on what can be proven and maybe even looking for what Jesus can do for him in the form of a miracle. However, it says right there in Romans, that God justifies the ungodly, so even Nicodemus, even one-dimensional thinkers, even sinners, are invited into relationship and conversation with Jesus.

Jesus says, “No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.” Jesus perceives that Nicodemus wants to see the Kingdom of God. He's seeing the signs, the miracles that point to the Kingdom of God and is interested in seeing more of them and maybe even the Kingdom itself. The word “born” shows that something new is beginning. “From above” can also mean “again” and “anew.” Jesus knew that Nicodemus may not be there, yet, but he knows that God brings new life, so all he could do was plant a seed about what God might have in mind for Nicodemus and maybe someday it would start to grow and even produce new life in someone like him.

Nicodemus takes this literally and doesn't understand how anyone can be born twice. Jesus says that there are different kinds of birth. Nicodemus is looking at it one-dimensionally—that it is about the flesh. For Nicodemus it is about what we can see and touch and feel, here on earth. For him there is one birth. But we can look at it this way, is the kite only born when the fabric is sewn or when the frame is made? Or maybe the kite is born on its maiden flight. Or maybe it is reborn each time the frame is repaired. In the same way, we are born once into this world, but there are many births. We may be reborn when we leave home or when we first fall in love. We may be reborn when we go to therapy or Spiritual Direction, when we become a parent, when we become a grandparent, and when we die. Certainly we say we are reborn when we are baptized, and that we are invited to remember our baptism and be reborn each day.

Jesus was born fully human and fully divine, fully flesh and blood, and fully Holy Spirit, Creator wind blowing, breathing life into him. During his ministry, Jesus opened his sail and flew. He flew to the poor and rejected. He flew to the lepers and 5 times divorced. He flew to the children and the widows and the blind. He flew to you and me. There was nowhere he would not or could not fly. But such beauty and freedom is threatening to those who have lain on the ground year after year and wanted to keep others from getting up and flying with the Holy Spirit in all kinds of unpredictable directions and to all kinds of heights. So they cut his string and he came back down to earth, landed just like this, pointing straight into the earth, making a cross. He was lifted up on a cross to humiliate him and kill him, to prove he was powerless. But God truly lifted him up into glory when God raised him from the dead, and not only him, but he is the first born of the new creation. Because of him we can all fly high, not knowing which way the Holy Spirit might lead us or what kind of people we might meet, never promised an easy path or given any extra spending money for the trip, but we have the joy of flying, even though we know we will dive, too, and crash, but that freedom and new life are ours because of the free gift of God's grace.

Even Nicodemus' one-dimensional thinking could not get in the way of Jesus' saving power. Even priests, with our own self-interest and complacency and comfort, cannot keep the Spirit's power from taking God's people to soar in new life. Nicodemus appears once more in the Gospels. John 19:38-42 “38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” Certainly this conversation with Jesus must have been echoing through Nicodemus' mind the whole time he was preparing Jesus' body. That is a very intimate act. Was he wondering where were Jesus' miracles when it came to saving his own life? Touching Jesus' flesh must have reminded him of his questions about flesh and spirit. He may have wondered about the ascending to heaven and descending from heaven that Jesus mentioned before. And maybe he even thought of Jesus lifted up on the cross and what he said about those believing having eternal life. He must have wondered was there more than this life?

Certainly he looked at Jesus' death as an end. But as he anointed Jesus' body, was it the beginning of a stirring of his Spirit to let his life be changed, to soar with the Holy Spirit, to have faith, to be born anew? Did he start to dream of more than what this world has to offer? Did he start to see God's dream?

So what are we going to do? We are kites and the Holy Spirit is blowing! Will we let it take us to soar? Will we risk flying? Or will we lay here on the shore? Can you feel the rippling breeze? It is calling you to new life. God gives us a dream of a better world, where there is abundant life, where everyone has enough to eat, where everyone is clothed, where no one has too much and no one has too little, where every tear is dried, where the sick are tended to, where widows and orphans are part of community, where everyone's gifts are needed, where all are forgiven. God gives us the courage, the faith, to open ourselves to the blowing of the Holy Spirit, not knowing by what paths it will take us or how many crash landings we will have, but only that God is with us lifting us and loving us.

One problem that I have with the kite metaphor is that maybe we think we are each individual kites and that we make a decision to accept Christ and then he lifts us each one, unrelated to the other. So here is my revision. Maybe we are all the tail of the kite, Jesus at the head, and not only people, but all the world, all the cosmos, all Creation. As he rises, so do we, collectively part of something bigger, the body of Christ, God's vision being realized for our world, God's Kingdom. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. God's love ties us together with Jesus our brother and together we soar and dive and respond to the Holy Spirit.