Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, RCL Year B, Proper 19

Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, RCL Year B, Proper 19
September 15, 2012
at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Trussville, Alabama
Beloved sisters and brothers, let us look to the Lord.
May only God’s word be spoken,
May God’s word be heard.
In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

“Crux est Mundi Medicina” is inscribed above the entrance of Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York. It means “the cross is the medicine, the healing, of the world.” The Order of the Holy Cross is Anglican and Benedictine and, some years ago I adopted a Rule of Life and formally associated myself with the Order of the Holy Cross – this cross is a symbol of that – placing my life at the service of God while remaining at home in the world. At the same time I have a particular vocation to be in places where God is present in the world; including here with y’all at Holy Cross Episcopal Church, and at other places where I’ve encountered Jesus among the poor, hurting, and hungry.

So, all of this was on my mind in the midst of this Gospel invitation to “take up your cross and follow me”. And not coincidentally, the day before yesterday was Holy Cross Day, which goes back 1700 years to when the Roman emperor Constantine had a vision of the cross and issued an edict granting tolerance to Christianity. Afterwards, many people became Christians, including the emperor, but it was a mixed blessing. The Emperor wanted all Christians to become soldiers; and he reorganized the church by creating bishops who began to justify their participation in warfare, leading to the so-called “just war” theory. This Gospel, this Feast Day, are important because it seems like maybe we don't talk about the cross enough; and in those days, they talked about it all the time. It feels like I need to ask myself, and perhaps we need to ask ourselves, "Why was Jesus killed? What did the cross mean to Jesus? What does it mean to the early Christians? What does it mean for us?"

If we ask, "Why was Jesus killed?" a common answer would be, "To save us from our sins." Does that mean the Roman soldiers and Pilate said to themselves, "Oh, good, if we crush and kill this innocent person, he'll save us?" Of course not, they killed him because he was a troublemaker, a revolutionary, telling people not to pay taxes, and not to worship the emperor. Does that mean that Jesus wanted to be killed? I don't think so. He prayed in the Garden the night before his death that the cup would be taken away from him.

I think Jesus wanted everyone to welcome the reign of God, to do as he taught. He didn't want to be tortured and killed, but no one would accept the whole of his message. So, Jesus turned toward Jerusalem, walked into the Temple, disrupted the whole corrupt business of buying and selling doves and changing money in the name of God, and the religious authorities were furious and had him arrested, condemned by the empire, tortured and killed. The cross was the form of capital punishment they used then. It is the death penalty. So when he tells his disciples, "If you want to follow me, you have to deny yourself and take up your cross," he's saying you have to oppose the empire, and be willing to be executed and martyred, and they are totally shocked because they know he is serious.

As my friend, a personal hero, Daniel Berrigan says,

"If you want to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood."

What does the cross mean? I don't think, as one theologian said, the cross means having a bad day or a bad relationship or a flat tire. I once heard a sermon suggesting that Jesus' command to deny self, take up the cross, and follow him could involve something as simple as picking up a beer can on the beach and throwing it away. I don't agree. I certainly don't think such a thing could be said in Jesus' time or Mark's. In their time, a cross wasn't a pattern for jewelry, but an instrument of terror as well as torture and death.

For me, I think the cross of Jesus means confronting systemic injustice, like he did, in a spirit of active nonviolent love, insisting on the truth, calling for conversion, and announcing God's reign. It means speaking out against the empire's institutionalized evil, and knowing that there will be consequences for doing the right thing. It means giving your life away for others, as he did.

This is why in the peace and nonviolence ministries I’m involved in speak out against the teaching of kidnaping, torture, and murder to our Latin American and Middle Eastern allies at the former School of the Americas now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation – WHINSEC; and unjust immigration reforms that criminalize and disrupt families; and the immoral lack of healthcare, jobs, education, and housing. And I do it because I'm supposed to be a disciple of Jesus, which means I have to carry the cross, too. As followers of the Way of Jesus Christ, we are each called to carry the cross with Jesus. This is the trademark of our Christian discipleship. The cross makes Christianity serious, authentic, and real. The cross is very painful and it’s not fun; it's not supposed to make us feel good. It disrupts our lives and demands great faith and love.  Maybe that's why it seems we're all trying to avoid it.

But the amazing thing about the cross is that, in the end, Jesus is right. The cross is the best way, the only way, to transform ourselves and the world. Jesus is betrayed and rejected, but he doesn't yell or scream or hit anyone or kill anyone; he is perfectly loving and nonviolent. He trusts in God, forgives everyone, and still insists that the world has to change and welcome God's reign. And as he suffers and dies on the cross, with perfect nonviolent love and forgiveness, scales fall from our eyes, we realize the wrong we have done to this innocent person, we turn back to him, we start to make his reign of peace and nonviolence a reality in the world, and he wins us all over.

That's why he says in another part of the Gospels that eventually he will draw all people to himself. The cross works. Sacrificial love is the only way to change hearts and the world. And he wants us to participate in his redemptive work, to get on with the work of welcoming God's reign.

Now the early Christians understood the cross much better than we do because they faced martyrdom every day, so they wrote a beautiful hymn which Paul quotes in his letter to the Philippians, explaining how Jesus deliberately did not cling to power or being God, how he consciously emptied himself, became a slave, died on a cross, won everyone over, and is the most exalted human being who ever lived.

In that same text there's an important Greek word which is used for the only time in the entirety of the New Testament--"kenosis," which means, "to empty." Jesus "emptied himself," they said, and as his followers, we too have to "empty ourselves." What I think this means is that we have to let go of everything, give ourselves away, and give our lives away for one another and the whole human race. We are not going to put anyone on the cross but ourselves. We are not going to support the crucifixion of anyone, but we are as willing to be crucified as Jesus was. That was their understanding of the cross.

So what does the cross mean for us? I invite you to think about this. How are you accompanying Jesus as he carries his cross today in the world? How are you taking up the cross against injustice and violence? How do you use the power of suffering love, the dynamic and logic of the cross, to overcome problems in your life or at work or to resist violence in the world and welcome God's reign?

In the end, the cross of Jesus offers ultimate meaning and power and even joy. If we side with the crucified one and the crucified peoples; if we refuse to side with the crucifiers or put people on the cross; if we vow never to hurt another human being again; if we take up the way of the cross and give our lives away for others like Jesus; if we speak out against injustice and try to stop the killings in the world, try to stop the crucifixion of the poor; if we even dare to suffer with love for truth, for others; if we try to live well and die well like Jesus – not only will our lives bear good fruit and we will leave the world a better place, we will be exalted with him, and share in his eternal life of resurrection peace.

Thanks be to God!
Amen. Alleluia.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, RCL Year B, Proper 13

Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, RCL Year B, Proper 13
August 5, 2012
at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Trussville, Alabama

Beloved sisters and brothers, let us look to the Lord.
May only God’s word be spoken,
May God’s word be heard.
In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

So, Jesus and the disciples have crossed the lake, and then the crowds hop in their boats to come looking for him when they realize that he’s gone. Of course, crossing the lake is a passage of faith, a passage of faith that we all have to make. It takes place between that glorious picnic where Jesus is present, and the revelation in Capernaum of Jesus as vulnerable friend who will feed them with his presence.

Jesus is calling his disciples, calling the 5,000, calling us to move from a faith based on a very visible miracle that fulfills merely physical needs; to a faith that is total trust in him and in his words, words that can appear foolish, absurd, impossible, even scandalous.

This crossing of the lake can be a difficult passage for us all. It can represent the passage from childhood, where we feel secure with our parents; to adulthood, where we become responsible for our own lives. Jesus leads these men and women from the excitement and enthusiasm of budding discipleship to a mutuality of love and friendship that is more hidden and humble.

We might remember from last week how the disciples were confused and upset in the boat as they made their crossing, which perhaps also tells us something about ourselves. How easily they had seemed to have forgotten the blessedness of the picnic with Jesus! How easily we forget!

We can live blessed moments of the presence of God, in prayer or through an encounter with someone, where we sense God’s presence. Then something happens and we slip into sadness or even despair. We forget the moment of blessedness. Doubt, anger, and anguish rises up within us. We have short memories!

I have heard this from couples: they can live moments of incredible blessedness, and then a conflict arises and all the blessedness seems to evaporate and become a sort of illusion. I don’t know if that’s happened to you, but I know it’s happened to me. What we don’t seem to realize when that feeling of blessedness goes poof in the midst of a conflict, is that the blessedness was to give us strength, in order to deepen our faith and trust in each other, to help us go through the more difficult passages of trust that inevitably come.

So crossing the lake was a physical reality, but it also symbolizes our growth in faith, our passages of faith. We all have to go through those rough parts of our journey; it is all part of the journey of faith. It is not an easy journey since we have to die to ourselves; die to the desire to control situations, to control the Spirit of God, to control Jesus; we have to die to ourselves in order that we can abandon ourselves to be led by the Spirit of Jesus.

So, now, along with those who were present for the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 at that glorious picnic, we have crossed the lake to Capernaum to be with Jesus again and to learn from him.

They asked him,
          “Rabbi, when did you arrive here?”

Jesus answered,
“Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

Remember, the crowds of people who followed Jesus to Capernaum wanted to make him king, which was the reason he took off in the first place. These were the ones who saw the feeding miracle as an end unto itself; rather than as the sign that it was meant to be, something that pointed them to faith in the living God, in the Son whom God had sent.

This is why they ask Jesus for another sign. They have had a sign and still do not believe. Moses, Jesus reminds them, did not give the bread that came from heaven. It was God who gave the bread that satisfied their hunger, for one day only. The same God now gives them bread from heaven, that will satisfy forever. In response to this teaching, they ask him for this bread.

So, what is this food that they have to work for and which will last forever? What must they do?

Jesus answers,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

And he adds,
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Now, this was something that the people who followed him across the sea to Capernaum could understand. For the Jewish people, the word of God, the Torah, was an incredible from of nourishment. It was bread for their hearts and minds.

In the book Ezekiel the Lord had said,
“Son of Man, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll and go, speak to the house of Israel”… Then I ate it and in my mouth it was sweet as honey.

The word of God here is the revelation of the love of God. It is also the revelation of what humankind is about, what our lives are about, what the whole history of the universe and of salvation is about. And it is as sweet as honey. Our intelligence needs and yearns for wisdom. We not only need practical wisdom that shows us how to live, but also an intelligence that seeks an understanding of the meaning of the universe. We need to be nourished by the word of God.

Those who were listening to Jesus could understand that the bread Jesus was talking about was the nourishing bread of the word of God.

So, now, here we find ourselves in the midst of another of those interesting times in our lectionary readings, these readings from the Bible that are appointed for each week, and in this section of John’s Gospel. For the next three Sundays the lectionary follows a whole progression of ideas about Jesus as the bread of life.

This work of trying to wrestle with, to clarify, what this bread of life means, might begin with the frank and honest admission that there is a good chance that whatever we think about it, we just may not get it. It’s an odd thing that as modern people we can sometimes feel that we have an inalienable right to comprehend everything. However, unfortunately, comprehension is not a democratic right.

What if we have a truth here that we are unable to ‘get’? It may be a truth that must be given. We ‘get it’ as a gift, rather than as a result of our intellectual achievement. Encounter and comprehension of the Word made flesh takes time, humility about what we can and cannot know, and a worshipful willingness to be taught by a Savior who does not always come naturally.

But what we do know how to do is to break the bread, and drink from the cup, and bless our work and life together… and take that out into the world!

Thanks be to God!
Amen. Alleluia.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

4th Sunday after Pentecost, RCL Year B, Proper 7

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, RCL Year B, Proper 7,  June 24, 2012 
at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Trussville, Alabama

Beloved sisters and brothers, let us look to the Lord.
May only God’s word be spoken,
May God’s word be heard.
In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

In preparing for this week, some conversations were brought to mind about the nature of God. How sometimes we lean too exclusively toward the transcendence of God – God as mighty and distant and all powerful, and concerned only with judging us. Then at other times we tend to lean too much on the immanence of God. Believing that God is present in a personal way. You know, God as your buddy, your life coach, the one who hooks you up with that sweet parking space. A god more like the parody religious icon of “Buddy Christ” in the film Dogma.

In the midst of this, it might seem that if God walked into the room, the question may no longer be whether anyone would recognize God. The question instead might be whether anyone would stand up.

Maybe we, sometimes, make God so personal that we no longer touch the mystery of God’s holiness. Perhaps, instead, we create a God that is some kind of eccentric, benevolent, wealthy uncle. But if we think that God is so removed and unknowable and arbitrary and disengaged, we miss the reality of how God reveals God’s self in the absolute ordinary.

Today’s Gospel seems to point to the fact that God is immanent: God is actually in the boat and in the storm. But also points to the fact that God is transcendent. God commands the wind and the waves, and… they… stop.

So here we have a great windstorm arising, waves beating into the boat, boat being swamped.

As an aside, being fearful while in a storm at sea is not exactly an irrational fear, especially when compared to something like pogonophobia. In fact it would probably affect attendance here at Holy Cross if there was an outbreak of pogonophobia, (turning and smiling at our bearded rector) which is a fear of beards. So it’s easy to imagine what might have happened if the disciples had awakened Jesus from his exhausted slumber out of a mortal fear of their own beards, then we would be having quite a different conversation.

That being said, I have to admit, this “Jesus asleep in the boat” story has always seemed a bit unfair because they were on the Sea of Galilee which is known for its violent storms. This happens because of differences in temperatures between the seacoast and the mountains beyond; storms come up quickly and can be life-threatening to anyone on its waters. The fact of a storm is not all that unusual, but apparently the ferocity of this particular storm was.

Doesn’t take much imagination for me — if I were in some rickety first century boat in the middle of a terrifying storm, with water rising about my ankles, most everyone else on the boat panicking, and then there’s Jesus… in the back of the boat taking a nap on a pillow — to think that I’d be a little irritated. Though we know that the disciples can bring plenty of grief on themselves, I don’t think that we can blame them on this one. I don’t think that you can blame them for thinking, “Jesus, why don’t you care that we are, like, you know, dying here?!”

If they were freaking out it was not due to neuroses or an anxiety disorder: their boat was about to sink. As human beings we are wired for certain responses when we feel threatened. Adrenalin is released in our brains, our heart rate increases, our pupils dilate, and we become hyperaware of what’s going on around us.

So, here we are with the disciples who have accompanied Jesus in this boat. Granted, some have fished for a living and will be accustomed to storms at sea, but of course we still can’t transcend our animal brain chemistry. Oh, and don’t want to neglect to mention, that they are also not accustomed to having a passenger who might have the power to protect them from harm.

Also, at this point in Mark, Jesus’ identity is still unclear and the disciple’s faith tenuous on a good day. This event, then, has the opportunity to become a moment of clarity in the midst of the chaos of the storm: clarity as to Jesus’ true identity and power, and clarity as to the desperate need of the disciples – and you and me – for the calming, healing power that only Jesus can provide.

So, in their fear and desperation, the disciples wake Jesus and raise what sounds to me, and I don’t know any way to describe it other than, an accusatory plea, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

This is not an unusual cry to hear, then or now, whether or not it’s from people of faith. The hard truth, as we know it, is that fearsome things are very real: isolation, pain, illness, meaninglessness, rejection, losing one’s job, money problems, failure, illness, and death. They often leave us crying out to God, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” As we grow in faith, as we do work together in community, we come to understand that even though such fearsome things are very real, they do not have the last word. And only when we have articulated those feelings – and the anger beneath them – can we be still and listen for a word from God.

Jesus speaks such a word when he rebukes the wind and the waves saying, “Peace! Be still!” After that, the scripture tells us, “the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm”.

Of course this is not the first or only instance of the power of God’s word, here embodied in Jesus, to do great things.

- God spoke and brought into being all creation out of formless void.

- God spoke again, and God’s word became flesh in Jesus Christ.

- In between, God’s word called a nation into being and inspired prophets who guided that nation.

It can also be easy to forget that God’s all powerful word is still being spoken amid the noise and chaos of our lives and world. And like Jesus’ word of peace spoken over the raging storm, God’s word still destroys the forces that threaten to do us harm and still calms our deepest fears. As Martin Luther wrote, “ ‘one little word’, the word, ‘above all earthy powers’, can ‘fell’ whatever darkness threatens to undo us.”

The word spoken by Jesus in this reading from the Gospel of Mark, is a word of peace and stillness. It is a word that I need to hear, perhaps each of us needs to hear, every day. There are always storms large and small, in our lives, in our work, wherever we find ourselves, that call for a word of peace. Like the disciples, we are challenged in the midst of those storms to rediscover our faith in the promise of God’s powerful word. The question that Jesus poses to the disciples, is the question he continues to pose to us in our moments of despair, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” The disciples are rendered speechless in the face of Jesus’ work. They respond with awe and with the glimmer of understanding of the nature and power of Jesus.

Finally, I leave us with Paul, who expresses so eloquently not only the paradox of grace in vulnerability but also the disciple’s vocation:

“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
as unknown, and yet are well known;
as dying, and see—we are alive;
as punished, and yet not killed;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

Thanks be to God!

Amen. Alleluia.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Renewal of Ministry with the Welcoming of a New Deacon

Had an incredible and wonderful liturgy of renewal and welcoming on Sunday, June 10, 2012 at Holy Cross in Trussville. Below are excerpts of the liturgy that was adapted in part from Enriching our Worship 4 and the celebration of new ministry for Deacons in the Diocese of Maryland.


O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

The Covenant of Shared Ministry

The Archdeacon says

Holy Scripture records that when God and God's people enter into a covenant with one another, God creates a sign to mark the new relationship.  When a deacon and people enter into a covenant with one another, the exchange of symbolic gifts is an appropriate way to mark the occasion.

Representatives of the congregation, the deacon, other clergy of the congregation, and representatives of the wider church present appropriate symbols to persons or groups chosen to reflect specific aspects of the ministry of the congregation in the world at large and within the life of the church itself.

A person selected presents a stole to the Deacon, saying:

Steve, receive this stole and be among us as deacon and servant.
People         Amen.

Members of the Altar Guild present Vessels to the deacon, saying

Steve, take this paten, chalice and oil stock and be among us as one who assists the bishop and the priests in public worship and in the ministration of God's healing and reconciling Word and Sacraments.
People         Amen.

Others present a Bible and other appropriate books to the deacon, saying

Steve, receive this Bible and Daily Office Book and be among us as one who studies and seeks nourishment from the Holy Scriptures and who proclaims the Gospel.
People         Amen.

The Deacon gives a Book of Common Prayer and a bible to the laity, saying:

Receive these books to use as you lead the congregation in prayers and readings.
People         Amen.

The Wardens present washing symbols to the deacon, saying

Steve, receive the pitcher, basin and towel and be among us as one who serves the needy and helpless of the world.
People         Amen.

The Deacon presents a loaf of bread or fresh foods to members of the congregation, saying

Fellow Christians, we will work together to share our bounty with the people of the world whom Jesus served as he fed the five thousand.
People         Amen.

The Rector presents a candle lit from the Paschal Candle to the deacon, saying

Steve, accept this Candle and be among us as Christ's Light in the World, making him and his redemptive love known to all by your word and example.
People         Amen.

The Archdeacon then says

Steve, and parishioners of Holy Cross, let all these be signs of the ministry we share in this place, in our diocese and in the church throughout the world.
People         Amen.

Archdeacon  The Lord be with you.
People         And also with you.

Deacon        Let us pray.

The Deacon may then kneel in the midst of the people, and say

O Lord my God, you have called me to a special ministry of servanthood in this place.  To you and to your service I devote myself, body, mind and spirit.  Let me find nourishment and a model for my life in the study of the Holy Scriptures.  Let me find joy in faithfully proclaiming the Gospel.  Help me to serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.  Grant me the grace to make Christ known to those, among whom
I live, and work, and worship.  Give me the insight and courage to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.  Be my constant guide, and let my life and teaching remind Christ's people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.  All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.
People         Amen.

The People may then kneel, and say

Almighty God, we thank you that by the death and resurrection of your son Jesus Christ you have overcome sin and reconciled us to yourself, and by the sealing of your Holy Spirit you have bound us to your service.  Renew In us the covenant you made with us at our Baptism. Send us forth in the power of the Spirit to perform the service you set before us; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Deacon        Amen.

Concluding Prayer

Almighty Father, we thank you for feeding us with the holy food of the Body and Blood of your Son, and for uniting us through him in the fellowship of your Holy Spirit. We thank you for raising up among us faithful servants for the ministry of your Word and Sacraments. We pray that Steve and the people of Holy Cross may be an effective example in word and action, in love and patience, and in holiness of life. Grant that we, with him, may serve you now, and always rejoice in your glory through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dream a New World

This video on the diaconate from the Diocese of North Carolina tells the stories of deacons and their important role in accompanying the people of the church to discover and embrace their ministries in the world. It also offers accounts of “hearing the call” to the diaconate and advice to those persons who may be feeling a similar call.

Hearing a Deacon's Call

Deacons lead people into service by "preaching without words." 

The background music, Michael Curry's passion for the diaconate, the deacons ability to articulate their discernment process and calling seem right on to me in this video.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Lenten Meditation for Tuesday in the Fifth Week in Lent, 2012

Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found…”
from the Collect of the Day

It’s not an easy gospel reading when called to meditate, pray, and reflect on conflict in community, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin…” (9:42 RSV). The Greek word  skandalisē (σκανδαλίσῃ) is usually translated as “cause to stumble” or “cause to sin” and is a term that Mark uses here, and three other times in this reading, to indicate a rejection of God’s message.

So, apparently we have a lot of responsibility when we involve ourselves in the lives of others. If we lead others away from God, then what we hear in this reading is the finality of judgment. That millstone used for grinding grain would have been familiar to the hearers of this parable and would have brought a vivid image to mind. Having a millstone tied around your neck before being thrown into the sea would mean that you’d quickly sink to the bottom, into the muck, where you’d be swallowed up. Doesn’t get much more final than that.

As followers of the Way of Jesus Christ we’re being told that there is no room for half-hearted attempts in our words, our actions, our lives. After beginning this gospel reading with a death/life paradox, we are presented with three parallel statements about what it means to save/lose your hand, eye, and foot. The formulation of each of the sayings is the same:

                If your (hand/eye/foot) skandalisē you, (remove) it…
                … for it is better to enter life (without) it…
                … than be thrown (with it) into Gehenna.

Not a lot of room for negotiation! Perhaps the way to put a ‘positive spin’ on this is to say that we are called to sanctity and to lead others to that same holiness.

Thomas Merton said “We are supposed to be the light of the world. We are supposed to be a light to ourselves and to others. That may well be what accounts for the fact that the world is in darkness!”  We possess the capacity to decide to choose to work on behalf of good or evil. Both Jesus and Merton invite us to believe that who we are and what we do matter.

Jesus’ words to us today are uncompromising but full of hope. “For every one will be salted with fire” (9:49 RSV). Let us encourage one another to touch that fire and live in peace as we pursue God’s rule on this earth.