Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Peacemaking, Forgiving, Hopeful Community

Text: John 20: 19-31    

Before beginning the sermon, let me acknowledge a troubling phrase in today’s Gospel reading. We’re told that on the evening after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples were hiding in a locked room “for fear of the Jews,” words that have caused much harm over the centuries.  More damaging is an earlier passage in John 8:44 “in which Jesus declares to [the Jews]: ‘You are from your father the devil” (Levine and Brettler 156).[i]  The Gospel of John has been used to justify anti-Semitism.  Of course we know that Jesus and his disciples were themselves Jews. Jesus himself would not have spoken against “the Jews” as a religious group.  But by the time John’s gospel was composed, an irreparable rift had gradually developed between the traditional Jews and the small sect of Jews who were being shaped by the teachings of Jesus. We should understand this hostile rhetoric in the context of infighting and “a process by which Christianity became a separate religion” (Levine and Brettler 156) from Judaism. But that language remains dangerous.  So before starting the sermon, I am slapping a warning label on that unfortunate phrase.

“A Peacemaking, Forgiving, Hopeful Community”
On this second Sunday in the Easter season, we turn from last week’s focus on Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Jesus to the male disciples’ encounter with the risen Jesus: from an individual’s experience with resurrection to a small community’s engagement in the Christ event. 

On this Sunday when our community celebrates two new members and others are invited to renew our covenant in this community, I’ll interpret John’s extended Easter story as instructional for our own faith community. This is a story for and about a new community of faith. 

I’ll make this connection by highlighting Jesus’s final instructions[ii] to the remaining disciples—and applying these teachings to our situation.  You might underline in your worship bulletin now the following words in today’s Gospel reading:
·      “Peace be with you” is the first phrase Jesus speaks in verse 19.  He repeats it in verses 21 and 26.
·        “Forgive” is the operative word in verse 23.
·        “Believe” is the command in verse 27—but the word “believe” may mean something different than you think it means here.

According to John’s account, Jesus leaves his followers with three simple instructions: 1) Be at peace within yourself.  2) Forgive others.  3) Trust God.  Maybe a prescription for a healthy faith community continues to be: live in peace, offer forgiveness, and trust.
Consider how we at Open Table might take these instructions to heart:

1)    Being at peace, in this particular Gospel story, is mainly about letting go of fear.  In this story Jesus’s reentry into his community terrified the already terrified disciples. They were traumatized by the crucifixion, hiding out for fear they would be arrested, maybe weirded out by Mary Magdalene’s report of Jesus’s reappearance, and then, well, you can imagine their fright at the sight of a dead man suddenly appearing in a locked room, the very friend they abandoned in his hour of need.  When Jesus spoke peace to them, he was calming their fears.  I imagine a long silence followed his every utterance of “peace". . . as their heart rates returned to normal . . .  as their breathing slowed.  John’s Jesus had said this at the Last Supper: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”[iii]  

Inner peace and fearlessness is our vocation, too. You exhibited courage yesterday by going against the grain and extending yourself to others as part of Mobile’s Gay Pride Fest. For some of you it might have felt like a fun Saturday activity.  For others it might have required a bit of bravery to attend your first Pride Fest—in Mobile, Alabama. But you were able to do so because you were at peace about your own commitments and you could turn loose of anxieties and come alongside others so we all could be boldly honest about who we are.  Developing that capacity for peace within often requires spiritual practices: meditation and prayer, for instance. And trustworthy companions.  And then it requires public action: like yesterday’s public demonstration of God’s love.  I am proud and humbled to be your pastor.

But, ironically, we often are most challenged as peacemakers within the everyday life of a family—or faith community—when minor differences of opinion divide us, when fatigue and stress make us susceptible to bickering and blaming, when we take each other for granted, when we have unrealistic expectations of one another. The church is the very place to learn peacemaking and to practice it—because within a faith community we meet with interpersonal challenges. Unfortunately, church folks often mistake politeness for peace. Real peacemaking honestly acknowledges conflict and works through it.  Tough stuff.

Taking a cue from today’s scripture, let me offer one simple spiritual discipline for peacemakers. Imagine what a powerful effect there might be on a faith community if we were literally to speak Jesus’ phrase “Peace be with you” each time we approach one another.  “Peace be with you” might quiet my jangled spirit before I start my conversation with you. “Peace be with you” might be an ideal way to begin a church council meeting. I doubt we’d really speak this greeting aloud as our Jewish and Muslim friends do in their respective Hebrew and Arabic greetings: Shalom.  Salaam.  But “peace be with you” is certainly a phrase we can say silently and offer prayerfully to one another over and over.  We can allow "Peace be with you” to seep into us through Christian liturgy.

2) Jesus also called his first disciples—and us—to a ministry of forgiveness.  
According to John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit and its attendant gift of forgiveness     were breathed into the disciples on Easter Night.  Jesus explains the gift this way in verse 23:  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  Some have interpreted Jesus to be promising that the original disciples and those who follow in their direct line have the power to judge who should be forgiven. Which has meant that Church authorities have sometimes claimed this power over others. 

But I understand this verse differently. Jesus is describing the simple reality that others cannot FEEL forgiven, cannot feel the EFFECTS of God’s forgiveness, if we do not live toward them as if they have really been forgiven.  And we cannot let go of the burden of our mistakes and live into our own resurrections until we sense forgiveness.  We must forgive people of the tiny slights and major offenses against us, real and imagined, so that others experience forgiveness. Which is not “I forgive you and now I have a handy thing to hold over your head” forgiveness.  Not “I forgive you and now I feel superior.”  Not “I forgive. Sort of.” If the power of God’s forgiving spirit is going to be known in this world, it’s going to be known only as human beings bestow real forgiveness on one another.  And if we do not—if we do not let one another off the hook and believe human lives can be transformed—then WE are “retaining sins” and brokenness.  Friends, you do indeed have the POWER to help someone experience the mercy of God—or to keep another person trapped in the anguish of disapproval, contempt, and shame. 

I invite you to join me for a 30-day Forgiveness Challenge[iv] being issued by Desmond Tutu, who speaks about incredible forgiveness he witnessed after the collapse of South African apartheid.  His online invitation includes these words: “Each of us is broken, and out of that brokenness we hurt one another.  Forgiveness is the journey we take toward healing ourselves and our world.  You may be thinking, ‘I could never forgive’ or ‘I could never be forgiven.’ From what I have witnessed, I can tell you, there is no one who is beyond hope and nothing that is unforgiveable.  Forgiveness will change your life and change our world.”

3)    Finally, we are called to believe.  “Do not doubt but believe,” Jesus told Thomas. But the word translated into English as “believe” is the Greek word pisteuein, which should be translated as “faith”—except that faith doesn’t have a verb form in English. As we’ve heard Marcus Borg and others explain, this New Testament meaning of “believe” is to set one’s heart toward, to trust, to commit to. Jesus does not scold Thomas for seeking empirical evidence. Jesus does not demand from Thomas a recitation of the Nicene Creed, which would not be written for nearly 300 years. Thomas and you and I are not discouraged from questioning. We are encouraged to trust in the ways of Jesus, to have the faith of Jesus, to rest in the love of God. 

     We are Open Table: A Community of Faith.  Not a community of belief.  Not a community of a creed.  Not a community of doctrine.  Not a community of uniform thinking.  Not a community of intellectual assent.

We do share some beliefs.  The chief of which is we do not have to think alike, read scripture alike, understand God alike.  And right up there at the top of our shared beliefs is the belief that love trumps all. If we love—we will be peacemakers; we will be world class forgivers; we will be followers in Jesus’ hopeful ways.  This orientation toward hope is best facilitated and practiced in community—which takes commitment. 

This may be the closest I ever come to offering a Southern Baptist-y altar call—I get the heebie jeebies just recalling some of those—but I believe making a commitment to a faith community can focus your spiritual, moral, relational commitments and strengthen the faith community.  It’s true we don’t pay much attention to who’s an official member of Open Table and who is not. At Open Table, membership does not have its privileges.  You’ll be treated no differently after you become a member of Open Table.  But you may feel differently by declaring your commitment to a faith community, which is a commitment to God’s peace, forgiveness, and a sacred orientation toward hope.

It will be my joy to talk with you about what it might mean for you to live out your commitment to the ways of Jesus as a member of Open Table.

Peace be with you.

[i] Levine, Amy-Jill and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds.  The Jewish Annotated New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2011.
[ii] Some believe the Gospel of John originally ended with this chapter.
[iii] John 19:27

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Gardener

Text:  John 20: 1-18

This year Earth Day heralded Easter Day. The conjoined celebrations may help us pay closer attention to the holiness of the earth, the earthiness of Easter. The resurrection story from John’s Gospel announces this very earthy theme—with its setting in a garden and its image of Jesus as the gardener.

You’ll recall that last Sunday’s Gospel story was also set in a garden.  It focused on Jesus’s agonizing prayer in the garden of Gethsemane and his arrest there. Jesus’s body was, a day later, buried in a garden tomb.  So it is to that garden Mary Magdalene returns on the first day of the week.

Because Jesus reappears as a new creation on “the first day,” the story puts us in mind of the first day of creation.  The resurrection garden may remind us of yet another garden--called Eden. Our Hebrew Bible reading today, part of the very first story in the Bible, teaches us that our purpose is to care for the earth’s garden. Genesis 2:15 says, “God put people in the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.”   

If you think I’m giving you some kind of peculiarly modern, left-wing, hippy-dippy environmentalist take on Easter, then you may not be familiar with early Christian artistic renderings of Jesus.  The book Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire[i] provides overwhelming evidence that the early Christians portrayed Christ in a garden, not on a cross. In fact, depicting Jesus on the cross would have been abhorrent in the first centuries of the church. The most ancient strain of Christianity joyously affirmed the earth and worked for justice and compassion. They would not have recognized a Christianity glorifying the crucifixion or longing for a paradise after death.  In fact, it was not until the 10th century that churches began to depict Jesus on a cross—a shift connected to an increasingly militant church that launched the Crusades and began to sacralize violence with the Crusader’s cross, that incited soldiers with vengeance for Christ’s suffering, and that promised a post-death paradise to soldiers who died for their religion.

The authors of Saving Paradise, Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, at first didn’t believe what art historians had been asserting--that Jesus’s suffering and death were absent from early church art.  Until they made their own 5-year search. Which revealed that in the catacombs and in the oldest art of the oldest churches in Rome and Istanbul, in monasteries in northeast Turkey, and in the Ravenna mosaics and elsewhere—there were no images of Jesus on the cross (xii). But there were depictions of Jesus as a child, Jesus as a youthful shepherd, a healer of the sick, a teacher (xi). Most typical and startling—to the writers of Saving Paradise—were the images of Jesus tending a verdant garden paradise in a world marked by familiar rivers which identified the garden as existing in the here and now.  “Paradise was THE dominant image of early Christian sanctuaries” (XIV).  Church walls were covered with pastoral landscapes, orchards, sparkling rivers filled with fish, lush meadows, sheep, birds, flowers, vines. 

So how did the cross become THE symbol for the Church of Jesus?  Some believe that Christianity abandoned its vocation of loving and caring for the earth and her people when it adjusted its theology to justify war and domination.  Initially Christian converts had to foreswear participation in warfare. But by the time Christianity became the religion of the empire--an empire maintained through violence and which sometimes even forced conversions to Christianity at sword point--the Church had to swap its emphasis on acts of charity, love of neighbor, and spiritual practices for a set of beliefs that needed to be defended and promoted and used to justify oppression and violence. 

If we could recover our love and responsibility for creation, perhaps we could renounce Empire and return to an Eden with a commitment to compassion.  Perhaps we should become gardeners again.

Imagine, if you can, that a great head gardener hired us to care for our little planet. What kind of performance review do you think 21st Century humanity would receive? What would the head gardener say about the BP oil spill into our Gulf waters, or the tar sands oil chugging alongside our fresh water supply?

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut gives humanity this severe evaluation in Good Friday language: “The crucified Planet Earth, should it find a voice and a sense of irony, might now well say of our abuse of it, ‘Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.’ The irony would be that we know what we are doing. When the last living thing has died on account of us, how poetical it would be if Earth could say, in a voice perhaps floating up from the floor of the Grand Canyon, ‘It is finished.’”

When we harm our planet, we are continuing to crucify the Christ.  When we care for our planet, we are gardening in the God's garden.

An earthy Easter celebration might be a way for us to see the centrality of earth care as a deep and ancient Christian commitment and spiritual practice.  To follow Jesus—to the garden and then to the cross and then to the garden that is Eden—is to help Christ tend the garden.

In John’s resurrection story, Mary mistakes Jesus for a gardener. But maybe she is NOT mistaken.  Resurrection, according to this story about a Gardener in a Garden, is a possibility for all creation. 

Consider this: the writer of John’s Gospel COULD have selected a different metaphor for the risen Jesus.  In fact, there are far more obvious images of Jesus if the writer’s intention had been to impress hearers with the magical power of the Christ. Hollywood would have presented the resurrected Jesus exploding out of the tomb—or dashing out in spandex and a cape like the original Superman exiting a phone booth. If I had written the resurrection story to convince people of Jesus’s power in my life, I’d have said that Mary mistook him for . . .  I'm not sure for what but something more dramatic than the humble gardener.  Put yourself in the writer’s position.  You have been transformed by the risen Christ—and you want to impress your readers with the way Jesus is continuing to live on in your life and in your community.  You experience his love as enduring, his lessons continuing, his connection to the Divine still compelling.  Wouldn’t you at least say his countenance was glowing with an unearthly light?  His garments radiant?  His voice thunderous?  I mean, why tell this death-defying story with such an ordinary-looking hero? 

Maybe because the Easter message is not about the creation of a Superhero.  It’s not about the ability of one man to defy death.  It’s a story about humanity's divine capacity to transcend death.  To go beyond what we know for sure.

To admit there is much we don’t know about death, about life, or about God preserves mystery. Easter is deeper than a set of facts and more mysterious than a simplistic metaphor about a butterfly emerging from its cocoon or about the dead seed bringing forth new life.  Those are beautiful metaphors rooted in the natural world.

But resurrection is more than a biological process.

We are yearning for spiritual meaning, purpose, connection.  We are DYING for RESURRECTION in our hearts and spirits.  Yes, even we progressives, we jaded former church folks who have stumbled back into a church setting but this time with our doubts and rationalizations displayed on us like merit badges—we, too, hunger for  transcendence. It’s in the Jesus Story and with the Jesus community that I find ways to experience the spiritual dimensions of life.

After all, even the highly rational ones will miss something that’s potentially life altering if Jesus is simply an archetype and not a flesh-and-blood human being who walked this earth and lived and DIED.  And then . . . and then . . . and then we don’t know for sure.  Resurrection and recognition happened “while it was still dark”—says today’s story. Resurrection happened in the murky pre-dawn of day about which so much is uncertain.  But life-changing, world-altering stories sprang up like wildflowers in spring, and those stories said the one some called Rabbi, or Lord, or Son of Man, or Son of God--this crucified Nazarene--was somehow seen/experienced again by his followers.  This experience was so stunningly inexplicable that a defeated sect, the dispirited disciples, became revitalized because they not only retold these stories but lived into the Resurrection Story. 

And that story acts upon our imaginations to revive us, to recreate us in his image, to resurrect us and all creation together. 

We as a faith community, people who faith into the future, do not have evidence for our hope, nor can we even name exactly what it is for which we hope. We simply try to enter the stories.  And remain humbly uncertain.

Poet Mary Oliver cautions me, even on Easter, with these words:
Let me keep my distance, always,
from those who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
Don’t curb your Easter enthusiasm!  But a good dose of uncertainty might keep us appropriately humble before the biggest mystery of life: death. Here’s the good news: We can belt out an “alleluia” with faith only the size of a mustard seed. We can practice resurrection hope simply by saying “Look!” when we peer into darkness, and laughing in astonishment in the garden, and bowing with humility if we catch a glimpse of the elusive gardener.

God, let us sing alleluia to celebrate any joyful thing. Let us not hold back gladness or gratitude until we figure out the gift.  Let us appreciate the darkness for that which might yet be revealed in it. Easter in us, O God, and in our earth. Amen

[i] Brock, Rita Nakashima and Rebecca Ann Parker, Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Crossroad before the Cross

TEXT:   LUKE 22: 39-54

Before he came to the cross, Jesus came to a crossroad: a decisive moment, a tipping point, a choice.

Before Jesus hung from a tree, the future of God’s kingdom hung in the balance in a garden of olive trees.

Before he suffered and died at Calvary, Jesus suffered as he prayed in Gethsemane.

Luke’s Gospel tells us that “in his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:44).

The bloody crucifixion may seem the hardest test Jesus faced. But maybe what happened in Gethsemane was harder.  Certainly it was not Jesus’ first test. Remember his ministry began with Satan’s testing in the wilderness. Don’t forget the relentless testing by scribes and Pharisees wanting to trap him into saying words that would warrant arrest. But Jesus’ final test was in a prayer garden. After that, he was out of options.  Jesus was mainly silent during his trial.  He endured torture.  He met his death.  But in Gethsemane he was still playing out possibilities before making a decision, a choice. He prayed, he discerned, he sought God’s will. And that process was agonizing.

We don’t know all the options Jesus agonized over once he realized his arrest was imminent. One option would have been to rouse the crowds for bloody insurrection. But his previous choices had prepared him to choose the path of peace at this critical juncture.

Now some scientists and philosophers may question if humans have real choice, so “programmed” are we by genetic codes and cultural conditioning and environmental influences. They think we may THINK we’re choosing when we in fact are responding predictably to other influences.  But evolution requires the role of chance.  This dance between chance and choice, predictable laws and randomness, may mean our lives follow some kind of trajectory, but we’re not confined to a script.

Have you seen the movie The Adjustment Bureau? Matt Damon plays a budding politician who falls in love with a beautiful woman through a chance encounter on a city bus. But their meeting was not meant to happen.  Because the “Bureau” that secretly determines all major human decisions on our planet and has been positioning Matt Damon’s character to gain political power-- hadn’t mapped out the possibility of love for him. The “Bureau” fears the young woman will distract the aspiring politician from achieving his political potential. So they make course corrections on the young politician’s map which prevent him from seeing her again. “The Bureau” of men in business suits and hats has that kind of power. They literally pull out maps to chart the lives of human beings—mainly with the benign intention of exerting some control over our tendency to blow up the planet.  Maybe the “Adjustment Bureau” represents God in a fedora, or fate, or simply the succession of choices that seem like choices but really aren’t.  The film calls into question how much choice we really have. But it also suggests that love is always a possibility.

If our choices are more limited than we like to think, it may be because our previous choices have narrowed our current options. As Robert Frost said, “way leads on to way.” We can think of our lives as the sum of our many choices which test our convictions and shape our souls and prepare us for the bigger tests in life.  You responded today—to someone else’s comment or to the lure of some habit or to an opportunity to act with kindness—because of earlier responses to life’s tests. You’ll act tomorrow because of some choice you made today. Surgeons and airline pilots and soldiers and astronauts are trained to make life-and-death decisions instantaneously.

You and I make seemingly minor decisions—not the big Gethsemane choices—every day.  In doing so, we are wiring our minds and hearts for future actions.  Each choice—for steamed broccoli instead of French fries, for kindness rather than criticism—each choice paves the way for the next.  And thus a life is made.

Now some tell the Jesus Story as if there were no choices.  As if God’s inexorable plan of salvation was to implant in a human child a suicide directive.  They believe Jesus’s purpose was to be executed—as if Jesus were an ancient version of the Manchurian Candidate, groomed for leadership and programmed to “self-destruct” in the service of a bigger cause.

I do not believe God mapped out Jesus’s life so that it ended on a cross. As I’ve said, I believe that Jesus, his culture, the authorities, and the crowd made all sorts of choices that resulted in his crucifixion.  I do not believe that violence was God’s choice or plan. We may justify our hate or make a tragedy comprehensible by ascribing such events to the will of God. But a god of love does not cause suffering.
As we enter Holy Week again, I repeat from this pulpit a statement contrary to what some of us were taught: God’s “plan of salvation” did not require violence. You may believe otherwise. That’s okay. We don’t require theological uniformity among us.  But I stress this point because harm can come from the idea that Father God sent his son into the world to die as a sacrifice so that God could finally forgive the sins of the other children. This theology reinforces the pernicious falsehood that violence can end violence. It makes God either cruel or stupid. Did we not hear Jesus shout, “No more of this” to the disciple who pulled his sword in the garden?  Have we not known God best through Jesus who died rather than harm another?  How could God, creator of the universe’s laws, build into that universe an equation that one man must suffer before forgiveness can be offered to the others?  The cross is a consequence of a violent humanity, not the intention of a loving God. If we worship a violent God, then we will justify our own violence.  Jesus risked the possibility of his own violent death in order to live fully into the way of nonviolence.

As we enter Holy Week, I imagine Christ continuing to experience agony when we trust in violence rather than love. I imagine that we perpetuate Jesus’ suffering on the cross by worshiping a God who requires a sacrificial death in order to forgive her beloved children. 
When Jesus learned Judas had betrayed him, he could have fled or gathered revolutionaries. One of his followers chose the Empire’s way and drew his sword in the garden of prayer.  And the sword drew blood.  And you can imagine what normally would have happened next.  Instead of arresting and executing one man, the temple police would have drawn their swords, and soon the garden where Jesus went to pray would have been a battlefield.
Instead, Jesus practiced what he’d preached.  He refused to be drawn into violence.  In fact, he did the opposite.  He reflexively healed the man his disciple wounded.

If he’d been a fanatical martyr, Jesus would likely have rushed headlong into that death with some ferocity of resolve, some exultation about his mission, some shout of triumph in the name of his God.
Instead, Jesus sounded more like Martin Luther King, Jr., (who sounded a bit like Jesus, of course) both of whom recognized what their witness to God’s love might cost. He/they might have hoped that, if death came, it would serve to illustrate God’s love more powerfully than their sermons about peace ever had. But Jesus truly had a choice. Over and over he had chosen how to live and love, how to seek God’s way rather than the Empire’s way--long before his cruel death exposed the vileness of the Empire in the most decisive contrast between God’s way of love and the Empire’s way of domination.

I have given up the God who requires violence and suffering. But I’ve also given up the God who removes suffering.  Because it’s plain to see that suffering still exists.  I’ve forsaken the God who uses the suffering of one poor soul for the salvation of another—and the God who intervenes to make sure I won’t ever suffer.  I turn instead to the God who suffers with us. Who stands by us if we suffer.  As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, there are some creative ways to return good for evil that do NOT require our very lives.  But when all the creative nonviolent options were gone, Jesus’s choice to die rather than to kill, to feel hurt rather than to wound, is a hopeful choice.  To choose to suffer rather than to perpetuate the cycle of violence is a choice that NO ONE HAS TO MAKE---if we ALL make that choice. Hear that paradox again:  If we ALL choose to suffer from violence rather than commit violence, then NO ONE ever has to suffer from violence again.
Next Sunday we’ll return to another garden setting.  Our Hebrew Bible reading will take us to Eden, brimming with first life.  Our Gospel reading will take us to the garden where Jesus was raised to new life.
But this evening we have read of a Garden that could have become a battlefield, that did become a testing place, a dark place, but an oddly victorious place where Jesus, despite death threats and darkness, lived into the way of light.  Shouting to his followers, he cried, “No more of this violence!” Shouting to those arresting him, he accused: “This is YOUR hour, and the power of darkness!”  He exposed the injustice. He named the darkness.  He named it.  He did not deepen the darkness by adopting their tactics. He diverted from their script.

Jesus had been tested long before the cross.  By the time of his arrest, he was clear eyed and focused. He knew who he was and what he must do.  His reflex was healing.  He would not fight. He would not flee. As the temple police pressed forward, Jesus had to trust the God whose power is love.  Without knowing if or how someone might tell the end of his story, he walked to the cross ready to commend his spirit to a loving God. 

Before Jesus came to the cross, he came to a crossroad.  We will make a thousand choices tomorrow, most of them seemingly insignificant.  This is not a call to overthink, to be anxious about minor decisions, to feel overly responsible.  This is a call to appreciate that all of life is bound up together—and that love is the direction Jesus always took—to the cross and beyond.

PRAYER: Loving One, in our darkness, call us to the Light.  In our quandaries, lead us to peace.   In our hurting, stay beside us until Easter dawns.