Prayers of the People – Andrea Arsene

As we await the fulfillment of the ancient promises, let us offer our prayers and petitions to our God whose will it is that none should perish responding: We await you,

O Come Emmanuel.

For the Church: especially Michael our Presiding Bishop, Marc our Diocesan Bishop, and for all Bishops, Priests and Deacons, that they may proclaim the good tidings of God’s coming to gather and comfort all people, We await you…

O Come Emmanuel.

For Government leaders and all those in authority, that they may serve with wisdom, integrity and kindness. For first-responders and all those who risk their lives for others, that your watchful eye would be upon them. We await you…

O Come Emmanuel.

For this seminary and community, that God will renew the gift of the Holy Spirit within us, enabling us to be willing and active disciples, We await you…

O Come Emmanuel.

For peace in the hearts of all people, between nations and within nations, that God will open new paths for loving communication and just resolution of disputes, giving wisdom, strength and courage to speak truth to power, We await you…

O Come Emmanuel.

For those in discernment, transition and all who are waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises, that they may have patience and courage, and never lose hope, We await you…

O Come Emmanuel.

For the oppressed and the downtrodden, the victims of war, violence, and systemic exploitation, that justice would soon roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream, We await you…

O Come Emmanuel.

For the sick, the suffering, those who find this season difficult, for those affected by the fires and other disasters, natural and man-made, and all those who call upon you in their days of trouble, remembering especially, ________________


And those we now name aloud or in the silence of our hearts………….

that the uneven ground of their lives may be leveled to become a highway for God’s comfort We await you…

O Come Emmanuel.

For all the departed, remembering especially _________________________

that they may find rest and peace in the arms of the Great Shepherd, We await you…

O Come Emmanuel.

With hearts of gratitude for your loving-kindness, we lift our voices with all creation, with Mary the God-bearer, Joseph, and all the saints, let us offer ourselves and one another to the living God through Christ.

To you, O Lord our God.

Hasten, O Father, the coming of your kingdom; and grant that we your servants, who now live by faith, may with joy behold your Son at his coming in glorious majesty; even Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate.  Amen   


Sunday, December 10 – Mia Benjamin

This sermon was preached on Sunday, December 10 at St. Aidan’s in San Francisco by middler Mia Benjamin. The readings for this sermon are: Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8. 

Therefore, beloved, while we are waiting for these things, may we strive to be found by God at peace. Amen.

Last year, my very pregnant neighbor decided it was time for her overdue baby to come. She tried everything: bouncing on yoga balls in the courtyard, taking long walks, even eating super spicy pizza at a pizzeria that my classmate swore by.

Of course, nothing my neighbor did made the baby come any faster.

Little Samara came on her own time, in her own way, overturning her parents’ lives with beautiful chaos, as all babies do.

Like Samara’s new family, the early Christian church was shot through with ill-disguised impatience for a long-awaited arrival. The author of the Second Letter of Peter from our epistle today is writing to a Christian community waddling in the weight of an overdue promise. Before the passage we just read, the writer acknowledges scoffers who’ve been pointing out for some time now that Jesus promised to return generations ago.

In God’s own time, the writer reminds them and us. This Christian’s advice is to trust in God’s promise and, in the meantime, shape ourselves into the kind of people we’d like God to find us to be.

In the meantime, we might as well confront one of the terrifying truths of Advent: Nothing we do or say can make the kingdom come any faster. Nothing the world does can stop it from coming.

It is simply just not up to us.

Thank. God.

The knowledge that it is not up to me to save or damn the world is both liberating and downright terrifying, as most things of faith seem to be.

Sometimes, I feel paralyzed when I contemplate the enormity of my human responsibility. Especially in this society in this moment. Other times, I’m overwhelmed my desperate fear that everything will fall apart without my help. Especially in the hectic panic of the Christmas season. Maybe you feel that way, too, to varying degrees.  

That’s what I am grateful this Advent perspective forces me to stare into my own insignificance. And it calls out my own need to be important and necessary for the completion of God’s mission in the world.

All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field, announces the Prophet Isaiah. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand for ever.

And yet, from that Word, a voice says, “Cry out!” A prophet proclaims, “Prepare!”

So how do we, the withering grass and the wilting flowers that we are, live out the eternal word of God in our lives?

By doing the same things we are doing now, those things we promised to do in our Baptismal Covenant. It’s a subtle theological distinction, but it matters. We feed the hungry, resist that the forces oppress our siblings, and speak love to the unloved. Not out of fear, not out of pride, but out of faith and hope in God.

We do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Not because we are afraid it is all down to us. Not because some part of ourselves believes God can’t do it without our help.

When I find myself doubting this—and God knows I do often enough—here’s what I come back to. I know that I feel God’s grace most when I move out of hope and when I rest in love. God’s movement in the world is here when I act out of my desire to find God. Or when I strive to be found by God right where God has promised to be.

The in-breaking of God’s kingdom is present when, and where, I love and hope, and act like it. Not because I act. Not if I act.

The terrifying truth of Advent is that to prepare is to respond to and proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, not to bring about.  

It occurs to me that there is another familiar Christmas fable that warns us about the folly of believing we can either stop or cause Christmas to come. In Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, none of the Grinch’s stealing, destroying, or complaining prevents the advent of Christmas. On the flip side, nothing the Whos do—not their gift buying, house decorating, and Roast Beast basting makes Christmas come either. It is in their joyful singing, in their assenting to the promises of old, that the truth of Christmas is heard and seen and believed.

Scene from the 1966 cartoon version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss.

Lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up and do not fear.

In today’s urgent political climate, surrounded by injustice after injustice, we can be forgiven for seeing the world as little more than a battle between the Grinches and the Whos, the ones who are building the kingdom and the ones who are tearing it down. All the more reason, then, to remind ourselves that our faith tells us something much more profound.

It is God who builds the kingdom, not us. Yes, we can choose to participate with glad, hope-filled hearts, and yes, we can choose to screw up our ears to its singing.

But Christmas, you see, comes without ribbons, and it comes without tags.
It comes without Amazon packages, jewelry boxes, or reusable bags.

He comes without protests, he comes without prayer,
He comes regardless of donations, petitions, or churches that care.

The world cannot stop Jesus from coming, he came.
Somehow or other, Jesus will come just the same.



Sunday, November 26 – Alison Fischer

This sermon was preached on Sunday, November 26 at All Souls’ in Berkeley by middler Ali Fischer. The readings for this sermon are: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 100, Ephesians 1:15-23,, and Matthew 25:31-46.  

Five years ago, I was emerging from a season where I was very ill and my partner, Jason, and I joined the Episcopal community in Bakersfield, California seeking the wholeness and healing in the Body of Christ.

Shortly after we joined, we received a request and apprehensively uttered three letter word that would change the course of our lives. This blessed request was our Priest in Charge calling to see if Jason and I would be interested in starting a food outreach ministry and oh, perhaps serve as the youth ministers as well? We thought “what in the world is Rev. Tim thinking?” But we said “yes” and were excited to dive right in.

St. Paul’s had this opportunity to develop these ministries because our diocese, San Joaquin, is one that endured a recent theological schism and the courts awarded our congregation a property in downtown Bakersfield. Now that we had a building, it was time to facilitate the ministry that our Gospel instructs us to do and we began discernment for the best way to serve our Brothers and Sisters in the community.

At this time, I was building my strength to go back to work and both Jason and I had been praying for direction of where to focus my time. Prior to getting sick, I worked in politics and the oil and gas industry and knew that those seasons were over so I thought that the food outreach and youth group would be a productive way to gain my strength as I waited for God to answer my prayers. I may have been a bit dense in hearing the Holy Spirit at this time. However, these ministries are what allowed me the opportunity to acknowledge and discern my Call to serve the Church and are what led me here to Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

At St. Paul’s, we discerned that a Food Pantry CO-OP would be how our congregation could best serve “the least of these” in our community. Our CO-OP model offered a reciprocal relationship rather than one way giving and our membership was available to anyone who was willing to pay a small fee of $1, 3, or 5 into our grocery fund or work 30, 60, or 90 minutes for the CO-OP. We strived to offer a hand up rather than a hand out. We had a humble set up in the back of the stage area in our parish hall where we offered a lunch, groceries, unlimited fresh organic produce from local farmers markets, diapers and other baby items, toiletries, clothing, and household items. The food was the icebreaker for the ministry Jesus calls us to do. If members worked with us on a consistent basis then we offered to be references for their job applications, job search resources, and an interview ensemble. We worked as a congregation to get several individuals into rehab programs and did what we could to help them understand that they were valued children of God who were worth sobriety. Half of our members were unhoused and we offered resources to those seeking to get off the streets. In the CO-OP, everyone is an equal and it is a community of broken people trying to experience the wholeness of Christ together. We became a family. At times, the ministry was heartbreaking or frustrating, but the beauty, love, and joy made it all worthwhile.

In 2015 this joy came crashing down when I experienced the death of a loved one who I continue to struggle living without and their death was partially caused by alcoholism. After nearly a month away, I returned to the CO-OP and my phone, with precious photos and videos that had yet to be uploaded, was stolen and later traced to what was a known hub for heroin addicts; never to be seen again. Almost every person in our CO-OP either struggled with addiction of some sort or was strongly affected by it and my anger, judgement, and grief boiled to a point where it prevented me from having any compassion and love for “the least of these” in my community. I excused myself from working with the people and spent all of my time on the behind the scenes logistics. Life in Christ, life in ministry, life in relationships are difficult because of human ego and sin and my ego and sin were just as much in the way as those who were blinded by the demons of addiction.

Six months passed and I was deep in the anger stage of the grief cycle with self-imposed walls between me and God. One night I had a vision, and my deceased loved one came to me as a messenger to encourage me to recognize my sin and God’s Grace and refocus my energy to the work that God was calling me to do. They were fully healed and whole in Christ and I needed to allow that for myself. This vision allowed me to experience reconciliation, find peace, and to return and serve my Christian family.

Today’s Gospel message teaches one of the core tenants of our faith and it presents a challenging command for the human ego. Our Ezekiel scripture conveys that human beings are naturally selfish, protective, and slow to forgive and forget in our quest for survival and prosperity. Our Gospel is difficult because living like Christ requires vulnerability to serve our collective brokenness of this world. It is hard, uncomfortable, and sometimes feels like the trenches rather than the love and fulfillment we are seeking.

It is naïve to consider that our actions that are freely given out of love and generosity will always be received with the gratitude and good will that reflects our own. In our calls to serve and live as Jesus instructed, we are agreeing to live in community with those who are struggling and often cause contention. We will have our hearts broken by those who are not capable of recognizing their worth and continue on their destructive paths. We are committing to have our spiritual and physical well-being challenged by the sin of this world.

Yet, here is Jesus commanding us to provide love, hospitality, generosity, forgiveness, and inclusiveness to all whom we encounter; especially the “least of these” among us. And if we aren’t in with “the least of these”, then we are missing Jesus. But the reality is that we are all in the role of being “the least of these” at points in our lives. We will all be in situations that need the service of others to help us endure our pain and struggles.

This “yes” to Jesus, although it is hard and messy, allows us to serve as vessels for the Holy Trinity to facilitate wholeness, healing, and community that enables us to endure the brokenness in life.

What makes life in ministry to be sustainable is complete reliance on our Holy Trinity and our trust in doing God’s work rather than our own. Our call is to love others and this requires consistent forgiveness, responsible generosity, and appropriate boundaries. And most importantly, Grace for ourselves and others, so that others may receive a glimpse of Christ’s Light.

However, our intentions and behaviors of generosity and righteousness need to be carefully and continually examined. Scripture teaches of punishment and judgement but if our motivation is derived from fear of Christ’s judgement and eternal damnation, our efforts are going to continually fail and fall short of what God is needing from us.

It is a complicated and continual discernment of where are we allowing Grace in our lives and actions. Where we are called to serve Christ through serving others. And where we are called to say “yes” to the Holy Trinity.

Saying “yes” can be a ministry such as serving at food outreaches like St. Paul’s CO-OP or the Open Door Dinner, being Eucharistic Ministers to those who are not able to come to church, attending the Detention Center Vigils and praying for or visiting the incarcerated, and All Soul’s Call to the development of the affordable senior housing ministry. But it can also be simple like being generous with water and protein bars or meals to those living on the streets. Or calling and checking in on someone who is enduring an illness or grief. Greeting strangers by looking them in the eye with a friendly smile; a simple act to acknowledge their holiness.

Today’s feast of Christ the King reminds us that our allegiance is to be with our Heavenly authority and not to the sins and human ego of this world. As we approach Advent and the season of Christ’s coming, where are you being called to say “yes” and serve God’s Kingdom as a vessel for Christ? Does it include radical compassion, generosity, and hospitality as Jesus instructed?

Sunday, November 26 – Br. Kevin Gore

This sermon was preached on Sunday, November 26 at Holy Innocent’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco by senior Kevin Gore. The readings for this sermon are: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 100, Ephesians 1:15-23,, and Matthew 25:31-46.  

Today is the Feast of the Reign of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the Season after Pentecost.  I find this Sunday to be one of those days that carry with it so much richness in terms of subjects that I could preach on that it’s a struggle to commit to just one. Take for example, just the name of today.  The Reign of Christ the King sounds like a grand, medieval tradition that one observes in concert with countless throngs of Christians for centuries before us.  Well, a quick search on the internet will show you that in fact the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe as it was first called, was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius the eleventh.  Not so much the ancient observance one would think.  It was instituted at a time when the world was changing, and in the eyes of the Roman Church, not for the better.  Post World War I there was an increase in secularism, communism was even more prolific, and Benito Mussolini had been ruling as Prime Minister of Italy for three years.  This feast was instituted with the hope that it would encourage people to turn more towards seeing Jesus Christ as their supreme head, the one to whom they were to be most obedient above all others.

While I think we could certainly go down the road of comparing the values of the Kingdom of God and following Jesus Christ to our own current political climate, and which path we should probably be choosing, it occurs to me that there is something far deeper here to reflect on.  Something that can help us think about how we approach (or whether we approach at all) calling this the Feast of Christ the King, and what we do with the reading from Matthew we heard proclaimed.  I can also guarantee you that if I don’t talk about the end of that Gospel, separating out the goats, and the phrase, ‘eternal punishment’, there will be at least a few of you ready to address that at coffee hour.  

I think it’s a fair guess to say that the bulk of this reading from Matthew is easy to digest; certainly in line with what we generally hold to be Kingdom values, things we do or at least espouse to do in following Christ.  Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, even visit those in prison.  But where most Episcopalians today might start to stare at their feet or shift uncomfortably is when we talk about the so-called ‘goats’ being sent into the eternal fire, or at the end of the verse, eternal punishment.  We generally gloss over these parts of the reading because it’s complicated when it comes to our understanding of God’s judgment.  What I want to suggest to you is this.  It’s not actually as complicated if we stop trying to make sense of God as one who punishes, and embrace an understanding of God as one who heals and loves.  This section of Matthew is not meant to be a test to decide who’s headed where, it’s a metaphysical check up to make sure you’re reflecting the love that God already has for you.  If we believe in a God who judges and punishes, then that is what we will reflect back out to the world.  If we believe in a God who loves, who heals, who acts like a sheep themself in this particular context, then that is what we will reflect back out to the world.  

Let’s stop for a minute to really think about the way we live.  How many times have you done what Jesus says here?  We’ve all done something, we’ve fed the hungry, we’ve donated clothing, and we’ve reached out to those in need and tried to help as best we could.  We are sheep.  But I suspect we’ve also walked past the person on the street and not offered our kindness.  I suspect many of us haven’t spent a lot of time visiting those in prisons.  We are also goats.  What matters is how we try to live our lives, not a final judgment that sends us one direction or another.  The point here is that if you want to live like a goat all the time, if you are going to consistently turn your back on those in need, then you will build up for yourself a place that feels separated from the Love of God.  And I’ll let you in on something.  I personally do not believe for a minute that we are ever actually separated from or beyond the Love of God.  We are only unable to experience that which we turn ourselves from.  It is turning ourselves away from sharing that love with others, it is disconnecting ourselves from our human condition with each other that brings us to a punishment, albeit self imposed.  God is always there ready to extend the Love which is asked of us, when we are ready to embrace it, whether that is now or in some unimaginable future.  

This passage allows us the open door to ponder what our image of God is, especially when coupled with the idea of ‘Christ the King’.  Do we see God as Christ the King?  What even is a king to us?  Do we see God as Queen?  Do we see God as punisher, as healer, as parent, or perhaps as a feeling or an emotion? I want to invite you to take this question and spend some time, perhaps this week, really thinking about how you see God.  What is God to you?  Because I promise you that whatever you come up with for God will be in some way what you either want to or are reflecting out into the world as your best self.  I am not fond of a lot of Greek exegesis in sermons, but I do want to share something interesting with you.  When looking at this text in the Greek, the word that is used for ‘eternal’ in relation to punishment and life has an emphasis on the idea of something that has no real beginning or end.  I would see that as cyclical.  We are never fully sheep or fully goat because we are never fully realizing the true Love of God.  Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fall short, but as long as we hold fast to that Love of God that is never changing, and shine it back out to the world, then we are doing all that we can to break the cycle of suffering that far too often can be the world in which we live.  

What is God to you and how do you live into that truth?  That is your work.  It is neither helpful or our place to fret about a final judgment when the Love of God truly knows no bounds.  Do not squander the knowledge of that Love, or forget to remind the world to what we are all called.  Some days you will be a sheep.  Some days you will be a goat.  But every single day for the rest of eternity you are held in the Love of a God that has already come to cast down the power of eternal punishment and invites you into their embrace.

Sunday, November 26 — Kathleen Moore

This sermon was preached on Sunday, November 26 at St. John’s in Oakland by middler Kathleen Moore. The readings for this sermon are: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 100, Ephesians 1:15-23,, and Matthew 25:31-46. 

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus is on the Mount of Olives, telling his disciples about the blessed sheep who serve Christ in others and the accursed goats who do not. Of the blessed sheep he says, “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Do you notice something about where Christ places himself? He puts himself in the position of least of these. Christ is hungry, Christ is thirsty, Christ is the stranger, Christ is naked, Christ is sick, Christ is imprisoned … And Christ is king. This is the kind of king we are talking about when we talk about Christ the King. This king identifies with those exploited by earthly powers, by human kings. This king is asking us to be in relationship. Not to be in power.

This is the king we serve.

And it’s funny — every time I hear this story, it has been my custom to want to sit right down and properly categorize myself in the picture. Am I a goat? Well, of course I’m a goat. I miss opportunities to care for Christ in others most days … probably every day. Am I a sheep? Sometimes, sure — and those days are the best days. But here’s the thing – I’ve never, until now, considered a third option of placing myself in this story. Am I the “least of these” as well? What a place of privilege to never have considered I might be she who is fed, welcomed, clothed, tended to and visited. And what a place of pride to think I haven’t in my life been ministered to in all those ways. That I don’t depend on those gifts. You see – I assume that I have power and control – that I can somehow avoid being in the position of the “least of these.” What does it say that I don’t identify myself with the least of these when Christ the King so clearly does?

I recently read the memoir of Khizr Khan, the father of United States Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed while serving in Iraq, and awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart. Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala immigrated to the United States from Pakistan. Khizr is man of deep faith and deep patriotism. And I was blown away by his willingness, throughout his life, to be vulnerable, to embrace his powerlessness … to be the least of these. He allowed a professor to pay his fee to take Pakistan’s equivalent of the Bar Exam. He accepted help from a cab driver, who offered him shelter when he arrived two days early for a job in a foreign country, not having enough money for a hotel room. He embraced his first boss as a mentor, letting him teach him to drive, help him buy him a car, and make sure he and his growing family had suitable housing. He gladly accepted the gift of a kid-friendly bag of groceries from a new next-door neighbor after his wife and small children arrived home from a long journey.

I found it so humbling and inspiring that Khan never thought for a moment of any of these gestures as belittling or patronizing, and he never questioned the motives behind them. He didn’t let his pride take him to those places. He accepted these gifts with true thanks, and noted the Creator’s presence in them. I wondered in each instance if I would do the same. It was a sobering exercise. Khizr and Ghazala Khan instilled in their children the value of helping people, including strangers, as they had been helped, and in staying ever-humble, aware of where real power lies, and willing to accept help themselves. Just one example – the family has sheltered recently-arrived immigrants in their own home – a practice that started when Khizr pulled his car over in concern for a woman (a total stranger) who seemed to be in distress.

This morning, Christ is telling his disciples that we are, quite simply, to care for one another. And we are to be cared for. That we are to be in relationship. Because in doing so, we recognize the power does not really lie with any earthly ruler, it does not lie with us. It lies with God. Jesus is saying this two days before the Passover, before the drama leading to the cross begins. He knows that this work of caring for one another may be simple to understand. But it will be hard, and sometimes dangerous, to live out.

The Khans’ son Humayun died demonstrating what he had learned from his parents – recognizing the real power of the Creator as revealed in love for the stranger and not hollow earthly power. In the moment of his death, Humayun held the potential of all the earthly power in the world, he represented the might of the United States military, and one word or motion from him would have spelled instant and well-within-protocol death for the man who, it turned out, was there to set off a suicide bomb.

When he was killed, Humayun had been trying to get close enough to the car to be absolutely certain the man was not, by some chance, simply a lost stranger, a confused or panicked civilian who didn’t understand the language and gestures of the American soldiers telling him to turn around. That was Humayun’s deeply engrained priority. He did not understand himself as holding any real power. He understood himself as vulnerable, the least of these. And he understood the driver in the same way. His priority was to be in relationship. Not to be in power.

This morning, Christ’s vision is for us to be in relationship. Not to be in power. This story does not portray a “top-down” approach to ministry. It doesn’t imagine privileged people reaching “down” or “out” to the other, to the poor, to the needy, to the least of these. It imagines sheep. All of us. Sheep. Doing the best we can – being in relationship with one another. So I invite us all to, yes, spend some time considering when we have been “sheep,” or “goats” (because, I venture to guess, we have all been and will be both). But also, to think about times we have been the “least of these.” When we have been willing to be the least of these. And how Christ was present in those moments. When we care for someone or allow ourselves to be cared for as the “least of these” we are proclaiming that we recognize real power – and that it doesn’t lie with us. We are proclaiming that truth: “Christ is King.”


Sunday, November 26 — Aaron Klinefelter

This sermon was preached on Sunday, November 26 at Trinity Church in Menlo Park by senior Aaron Klinefelter. The readings for this sermon are: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 100, Ephesians 1:15-23,, and Matthew 25:31-46. 

I love street art.
It reveals and uncovers something true about the world around us. Which is a paradox, right? Street art and graffiti is often accused of defacing and defaming public space. And admittedly, sometimes it does. But sometimes, sometimes, street art does what all good art and all good liturgy does – it shines a light on the cracks and crevices of life. It is precisely in these cracks and crevices, these chinks in the armor of order and uniformity, that beauty, grace, truth and the glory of God flow in.

Shepard Fairey, the street artist behind the OBEY and Andre the Giant sticker campaigns and Obama’s iconic 2008 poster, talks about how street art helps uncover what is right before our eyes, but somehow is obscured. Too often we move through our world with mindless repetition… not really noticing the world around us.

Street art wakes us up from the predictable pattern of sameness and conformity. Too often we, all of us – myself included, march to the relentless beat of consume, consume, consume. Or fear, fear, fear. Or shame, shame, shame.

Shepard Fairey grew up skateboarding and as a skateboarder he had to learn to read the urban environment. What ledge was good, what rail would work, what parking lot or pool would they not get kick out of. And street art too is an essentially urban art form. The artist has to see – really see – the urban landscape. And then the artist can up-end and subvert that landscape with something novel, fresh and new.

Visual art does this. When I’m riding the train to and from Berkeley I see amazing examples of street art along otherwise nondescript stretches of track. It makes me notice. It makes me think… what story is this telling? Who was the artist behind this and why did they choose to paint this?

Yarn bombing does this too. How many trees or lampposts or bike racks have you walked by and completely ignored? But if someone, in the middle of the night, yarn bombed that particular location you suddenly notice and pay attention anew.

But visual art isn’t the only medium for this up-ending, uncovering, re-awakening work. Street theatre can do this as well. The Embarcadero would be just any re-purposed industrial area turned shopping mall…. but the street performers make it a magical place.

This morning gospel reading from Matthew is a kind of street theatre.

Retell the story as street theatre….

At the end of all things. When all is said and done of all that can be done or said. When Jesus, the Son of Man, is on the throne. He will gather everybody from everywhere. All the nations and people and tribes and communities and cities and families. Everybody. And he’ll separate the sheep from the goats.

The sheep he’ll put on his right. And the goats he’ll put on his left.

Then he’ll say to the sheep on the right: “Welcome! You are inheriting my kingdom. You are IN! Everything that is mine is yours!”

“Because I was …

hungry and you fed me
thirst and you gave me a drink
stranger and you welcomed me
naked and you gave me some clothes
sick and in
prison and you visited me.”

But the sheep will be confused. They’ll look at the King and say, “um. what? when …


Likewise the goats…. but…

This story disrupts and disturbs. It messes with our categories and our tally systems.

Where do we find God at the end of all things, when all is said and done of all that could be done or said? We find God in the least the last and the lost and the lonely.

This is true in the largest corporate, cosmic sense but it is also true in the deeply personal and spiritual sense.

God shows up in the cracks and crevices of life.

God is in the messy middle. Hiding amongst the dirty laundry and at the bottom of the junk drawer.

We are invited to notice God there. But more. We are invited to go there. To be there with God as God is with us …. revealing and uncovering the truest things about us.

In the end, this passage is less about a job description or a way to induce guilt – or self-righteousness. This is not a litmus test.

Jesus didn’t tell his disciples the story so they could feel guilty about not visiting more prisoners or feeding more hungry people.

He told the story so that his disciples would know that even at the end Jesus was still there with them. And if we want to find him, if we want to be with him, it is as we identify and live life with the least, the last, the lost, and the lonely.

Where do we find Jesus? He’s with the kid who doesn’t fit in at the party. He’s with the mom who is at her wits end. He’s with the folks in the nursing home who didn’t get a visit this past week and those who did.

And he’s with you. He’s there when Life goes sideways, he’s there when you choose to do the hard, costly thing instead of taking the easy way out. He’s there when your marriage or relationship is on the rocks or ends. He’s there whenever we realize we too are the least the last and the lost and the lonely.

Yes. If you are looking for a job description as a Christian then Matthew 25 is a fine place to pick up some tips. Yes, if you want to know what it means to actually follow Jesus you should do these things: make sure people have clothes to wear, feed the hungry, tend the wounded, visit those in prison, and make sure every has clean, safe, abundant water to drink.

And yes, there are political and social implications for all of those. Our public life would look a lot more like the kingdom of heaven if more folks did those things.

But, here’s the rub, we’re not going to do any of these things unless we experience Jesus in our least moments. Until we know, deeply know, that we are all broken, messy humans who need each other. Until we know that we too are the least and the last and the lost and the lonely.

Then we’ll extend the cup of cold water to the thirsty soul – not because we’ve got the best water, not because we are sitting on our white horse of privilege – ready to swoop in and save the day. We’ll do it because we know that we are thirsty too. And there – right there – is where we will find Jesus.

This is the radical uncovering that we need. This is the apocalyptic reveal that our souls and our society is longing for – to discover the divine when human truly touches human. When we meet one another without pretense or pomp. When our souls commune in the mystery that is life. This is where to kingdom of heaven is made manifest.

You are God’s street art. And the glory of God oozes out of every crack and crevice in your life. And you, You are invited to meet God there… on earth as it is in heaven.

Thursday, April 27 – The Rev. Dr. Randal Gardner

This sermon was preached for the Feast of Christina Rossetti on Thursday, April 27 by the Rev. Dr. Randal Gardner. The readings for this sermon were: Exodus 3:1-6, Psalm 84, Revelation 21:1-4, and Matthew 6:19-23.

What do we know about young Moses, the Moses we meet before this encounter with a burning bush? We know that he was:

  • Born to Hebrew woman
  • Rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter
  • Raised in Pharaoh’s home
  • Aware of his Hebrew heritage and saw the oppression of his people

We know that he:

  • Murders Egyptian
  • Flees from Egypt to Midian
  • Meets the priest of Midian
The Rev. Dr. Randal Gardner

Perhaps we can imagine the confusion Moses would have been dealing with in his flight from Egypt.  Given the privileges of a royal upbringing, aware of his own Hebrew heritage, so troubled by the discovery that the good fortune of his own life rested on the oppression of his own family. When he enters Midian, he is recognized by the women he meets as an Egyptian, not a Hebrew.  When he names his firstborn child, he gives the baby a cry of lamentation for his name – I have been an alien living in a foreign land.  Moses does not know himself.  He does not know what is true.

The scripture is often frugal with words, conveying powerful meaning in such shorthand that it slips by us.  With whose household does Moses join while he is in Midian?  — The priest of Midian, named as Reuel or Jethro.  The priest of Midian.

Three times Jethro is called the priest of Midian, just so we are sure to see it.  When Moses meets his father-in-law years later, after the exodus from Egypt, we can recognize tenderness and affection between them.  We can imagine that Jethro was a guide for Moses, teaching him the patience needed for watching sheep – such a different occupation than that of a prince.  We can imagine that Jethro would have offered insights into the ways of the spirit, insights into the wisdom of God.  Perhaps Jethro taught Moses to pray so that, like Patrick of Ireland, Moses used those long hours of solitude with the sheep to deepen his spiritual life and attunement with God.

It may have been essential for Moses, born with a purpose from God to be the deliverer, also to have these years of exile in the company of the priest of Midian.  It may have been essential for Moses to have this deep friendship and guidance from a holy man to be ready to see the burning bush, in order to have the curiosity to investigate this strange phenomenon.

To be in seminary is also to be a stranger in a foreign land.  Those of you who are here for a while to study and prepare have left behind the familiar, and perhaps the comfortable, for the sake of a burning bush you have seen.  Those who are here for a seminary career as teachers and staff support can also feel like strangers in a strange land, working to interpret afresh a church that is changing year by year, and often chaotically.  Together we are all engaged in a conversation about the church and ministry that has become much more fluid than structured, much more complex than simple.

For those of you almost finished with seminary, who will soon be accorded titles as professional holy women and holy men, some of whom will sit down at the family dinner wearing a black shirt and white collar for the first time, you may do your best to imply that nothing has really changed.  I predict that there will be a season when this new role can feel alien, foreign.  I pray that it will always feel so.

The faithful news is that we are not alone, that our strangeness in the church and world is not a fruitless exile.  Have your eyes open for the possibility to meet your own Jethro.  The world abounds with those who are priests of Midian, many of whom are not officially leaders of the church.  Watch for those who can teach you the way of the spirit and steady you for the work of self-risking ministry.  The most important gift of a true priest of Midian will be the encouragement and companionship that will enable you to lose yourself, to venture beyond what is manageable, comfortable and successful into the realm where there is only Christ.  Let your treasure be in heaven, Jesus teaches.

It is not enough, however, to reflect only on our own experience of strangeness and transience.  We live in a relatively rare period in history when levels of human migration are creating political and economic upheaval.  There are all kinds of reasons that people are leaving their homelands today, and the majority are moving because of relatively easy travel to take advantage of opportunity or to expand the influence of one culture in others.  By far the greatest migration in the past ten years has been from India into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

What we see in the news are the millions who are all but driven from their homelands by war, violence, oppression, poverty, natural disaster and famine.  As these refugees flee toward safe and stable nations, the host nations experience a groundswell of resentment, fear and antipathy toward the immigrants.  Marie Le Pen is tapping that resentment in France, just as Donald Trump tapped into it here.

While Moses rose above his own distress at being displaced and uprooted, he also embedded that experience into the center of the faith and justice culture we inherit.  To be a true participant in the faith story of Moses, Elijah and Jesus requires an identification with, rather than a disdain for, the immigrant and alien among us.

For the faith and the belief system that flows from Moses to our own time celebrates that alien status.  The scripture reminds us over and over that we were once aliens and slaves living in the land of Egypt.  We are one with Jesus of Nazareth, who exclaimed that he was no longer welcome in his own home.  Jesus reminds us that our treasure is not the treasure of this earth, but that it is to be invested in that which transcends the transient.

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee” – many of us have exclaimed that on the Sundays of our lives.  But the scripture quoted 1st Chronicles 29:14 rolls on into verse 15 – “For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on earth are like a shadow, and in them there is no hope.”

As we strive to be faithful ministers of God’s Good News, our goal is not to become happily settled or comfortably familiar.  If we are not occasionally lost or uprooted, we are probably missing out on relationships with the priests of Midian; we have probably stopped leaving the path to hear the voice of God in the burning bushes we pass.  When we find that there are blessings in the times when we are lost and uprooted, our sense of connection with those who are aliens, strangers, and immigrants will be transformed.  No longer merely advocates for the immigrant, no longer merely workers for justice on their behalf, the immigrant and alien will become companions and kin.  Then we will not speak for them, we will speak with them.  As David cried out on the temple mount, “For we are all aliens and transients in the eyes of God, as were all our ancestors.”


Image: Moses Stands at the Burning Bush BY YORAM RAANAN

Thursday, April 20 – the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers

This sermon was preached for Easter Thursday, April 20 by the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers. The readings for this sermon are: Acts 3:11-26 and Luke 24:36b-48.

Tonight’s Gospel picks up in the middle of a story, so a little context is in order. It’s evening on the first day of the week, and the disciples are gathered somewhere in Jerusalem, comparing notes about the events of the day.

First, early in the morning, a group of women had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. But instead of a body, they found two men in dazzling clothes who announced that Jesus had risen. When the women reported this, the disciples found it to be an idle tale.

Then two of them, walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, had met a mysterious stranger on the road. The stranger had used the Hebrew Scriptures to explain to them all that had happened. When they invited this stranger to dinner, they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

The two disciples had returned to Jerusalem to share the news. There, they found the eleven and their companions gathered with news of their own: Jesus had risen and had appeared to Simon!

This is where we begin tonight, in the hubbub of that room, disciples repeating their stories, trying to make sense of their experiences – an empty tomb, a vision of angels, Jesus appearing in the breaking of bread and then disappearing.

In the midst of the chaos, Jesus appears. “Peace. Shalom,” he says, offering well-being, wholeness, harmony, divine grace and blessing. But the disciples are terrified! How could one who had died be standing before them? Despite reports that Jesus had risen, the disciples think that they are seeing a ghost.

So Jesus offers his crucified body, showing them the wounds in his hands and his feet. The risen Jesus who stands before the disciples is the same Jesus who had lived among them, who taught and healed and fed the multitudes, who was tortured and nailed to a cross. As further proof of his bodily resurrection, the risen Jesus asks for food, and right before their eyes he eats the piece of fish that they provide.

In a similar way, at Emmaus earlier that evening, the stranger had taken bread and blessed it, then broke it and gave it to the disciples. At that moment the disciples recognized Jesus.

In “Supper at Emmaus,” painted by the Italian artist Caravaggio at the beginning of the seventeenth century, we see Jesus seated at a table, his right hand stretched out over a meal that includes bread and wine as well as fruit and a roasted chicken. The two disciples are seated at the table. The one on the left is at the edge of his seat, his hands gripping the arms of his chair, leaning forward in astonishment. On the right, the other disciple’s arms are outstretched, and he, too, leans forward. The energy is palpable. The artist has brought us into the scene at the moment that the disciples’ eyes are opened to the true identity of the stranger they met on the road.

There is another person in this scene: the innkeeper. He stands next to Jesus, his head tilted slightly to one side. In contrast to the astounded expressions of the disciples, the innkeeper seems unaffected, attentive yet oblivious to the revelation right in front of him.

We gather at this table, where bread is taken and blessed, broken and given. What do we see in the breaking of the bread?

Back in Jerusalem, Luke doesn’t tell us how the disciples responded to Jesus’s crucified and risen body, or his ability to eat in their presence. Did they recognize Jesus? Or were they still terrified and disbelieving?

The encounter with the crucified-and-risen Jesus continues. As he had done earlier in the day, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus turns to scripture, interpreting his life and his passion, death, and resurrection in light of the law and the prophets. The disciples on the road to Emmaus later recalled that their hearts were burning within them when Jesus opened the scriptures to them. I wonder whether the disciples gathered in Jerusalem also felt their hearts burning within as Jesus taught them.

For the disciples in Jerusalem, Jesus does more than teach. He commissions them. They are to be witnesses, telling the world about Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection; proclaiming repentance, forgiveness, and new life to all nations.

In tonight’s reading from Acts, we find the disciples doing just that, bearing witness and calling people to repentance. This reading, like tonight’s Gospel, drops us into the middle of the story. It takes place at the temple in Jerusalem, where Peter and John had gone for afternoon prayer. At the gate of the temple, they encountered a beggar, a man who had been lame, unable to walk for his entire life. Instead of money, Peter offered healing. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” Peter said, “rise up and walk.” Then Peter took the man’s hand and raised him up. Acts tells us that the man entered the temple with Peter and John, walking and leaping and praising God. We enter the story here, as the crowd gathers, abuzz with wonder, staring at Peter and John, trying to figure out what power they have.

It’s a preach-able moment. Peter bears witness, right there in the temple. Everything he says emphasizes continuity with the faith of Israel. Invoking the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of their ancestors, Peter attributes the healing to Jesus, the crucified-and-risen one. Jesus, says Peter, is the prophet like Moses, the servant who fulfills the servant songs of Isaiah. The suffering that Jesus experienced was predicted by the prophets. Now, God is doing something new, raising Jesus from the dead and calling people to repentance and new life.

“You are witnesses,” the risen Jesus had told the disciples. Not, “you will be,” or “you ought to be.” “You are witnesses.”

The Book of Common Prayer appoints readings for the Eucharist for each day of Easter Week. Each of the appointed Gospels is a resurrection story, culminating on Sunday with the story of doubting Thomas, who insisted that he needed to touch the wounds of Christ, to see and feel for himself. The same Gospel passages are appointed year after year. The fact of resurrection – and I use that term advisedly, in this age of alternative facts – the fact of resurrection is so astounding that we need to hear and remember the accounts of those eyewitnesses who walked on earth with Jesus, who ran away when Jesus was crucified, who struggled to believe when the risen Christ appeared in their midst. Without those eyewitness accounts, told from many perspectives, we might think that the resurrection – the resurrection of the body, as we say in the creed – is but an idle tale. By immersing ourselves in the stories of the resurrection, we remember who God is and what God has done for us, most especially in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

During Lent, at my parish, All Souls in Berkeley, I helped lead an adult formation series on the Baptismal Covenant. Each week, we rehearsed the Apostles’ Creed, our affirmation of what God has done for us in Christ, and then we dug into one of the promises, asking how we live that out not only individually but also as a parish. Our promise to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ” is specifically about witness.

As we explored each commitment, I became newly aware of the ways these promises are intertwined. We proclaim the Good News as we participate in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship. Our worship, the breaking of bread in which Christ becomes present among us, the offering of prayer for the world and the church: all of this bears witness to the crucified-and-risen one. Loving our neighbor, striving for justice and peace, respecting the dignity of every human being: these acts, too, bear witness to God’s love made known in Jesus. We persevere in resisting evil as we work for justice and peace, all of it a witness to the Good News of God in Christ.

Here, today, Christ is risen. In the midst of a sinful and broken world, with saber-rattling over North Korea, catastrophic climate change, and increasing hostility toward immigrants and refugees; in a world in which fear and anxiety so often rule, we proclaim that Christ is here with us, calling us to repentance and offering new life. Here, tonight, in this place, among this seminary community, we celebrate the crucified-and-risen one, and we are witnesses to the Good News of resurrection life.

Image: “Supper at Emmaus” by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Prayers of the People, Tuesday, March 14

Each week student lay assistants compose original Prayers of the People for our Eucharist services. The following was written for Tuesday Eucharist, March 14 by first-year student, Phil Hooper. 

In humility and in love, let us offer our intercessions to the Exalted One in Whom all things are reconciled and renewed, responding to “God, in Your Mercy” with “Hear our Prayer”.

Bless your Body, the church, O God.  Animate us with your Spirit, that the breath of life and truth may emanate from our lips.  Sustain us with the Blood of your Son, that it may course through our limbs and bleed joyfully in Your service.  Illuminate us with Your loving power, that our eyes may be lamps dispelling all darkness.  

God, in Your Mercy, Hear our Prayer

Guide this nation, and all nations, ever closer to the justice and peace of Your heavenly kingdom.  Inspire our leaders, that they may walk hand in hand with Wisdom and in so doing, tread the pathways of the righteous.

God, in Your Mercy, Hear our Prayer

Look lovingly upon Your creation, O God.  Where there is degradation, show us the way toward restoration.  Where there is division, grant us the courage to seek understanding.  Where there is apathy, wound us with the tender painfulness of feeling, that we may live again in Your presence.

God, in Your Mercy, Hear our Prayer

Be with this community, O God, as it grows, flourishes, and becomes rooted, ever deeper, in the mission to which you have called us.  Show us how to care for one another, how to inspire one another, and how to walk alongside one another in humility.

God, in Your Mercy, Hear our Prayer

Bestow your consolation on those who need it most, O God: those who tremble alone in the darkness, those who fear the light of a new day, those who, in their pain, are blind to the quiet yet insistent beauty of the ordinary.  We pray especially for those who are sick, suffering, or otherwise in need, especially: ________ and those we now name.

God, in Your Mercy, Hear our Prayer

Run gladly, O God, with joyful abandon, to embrace all those who have departed this life.  Welcome them as sojourners, arriving home at long last, and grant them a seat alongside all Your saints at the eternal heavenly banquet.  We commend to you especially ______ and those we now name.

God, in Your Mercy, Hear our Prayer


Tuesday, March 7 – Keith Howard

This sermon was preached for the First Tuesday in Lent by Keith Howard. The readings for the sermon are: Isaiah 55:6-11, Psalm 34:15-22, and Matthew 6:7-15.

In today’s lesson from Second Isaiah, we are taught that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.  We are also taught that we may never understand the mechanism by which God operates.  “Nor are your ways, my ways.”  God’s actions and thoughts differ from our own.  I suppose we should give God the benefit of the doubt and accept what God says.

If we are at seminary with the hope that we might lead people toward God, this lesson should give us all pause.  It suggests that what we think we know and what we think will be helpful in guiding others to God may be wrong.  How then, can we have confidence, stepping forward to the front of the line to lead and guide God’s church?

Today’s New Testament lesson gives us the essential equipment we need.  The lesson today is the Lord’s Prayer.  This prayer is located in Chapter 6 of book of Matthew (there is a shorter version in Luke).  It follows the Sermon on the Mount in Chapter 5.  In that passage, Jesus teaches his followers that much of what the world values is a mistake.  It is all upside down.  Jesus teaches that the meek shall inherit the earth; that peacemakers are blessed and that those who have pure hearts are blessed and they may see God. The Sermon on the Mount gives us insight into how the ways and thoughts of humans may differ from those of God.

After that sermon, he teaches us, his disciples, how to pray.

In today’s lesson, Jesus suggests that we focus on the Kingdom by praying secretly, in the way He instructs us.  The Greek word in the text translated as “secretly” could also mean “inwardly”.  These prayers, then, are for the inward journey.  He teaches his disciples a way to pray that helps us purify and turn our hearts to God.

Think about the structure of the prayer.  It has three parts.  First, we are to sacredly recall our source and creator, and ask for the divine presence to be in our lives here on earth.  Then we ask God to join into earthly time.  We seek Daily bread – spiritual and physical nourishment, today.   We ask for forgiveness for yesterday’s wrongs and release from future temptations.  We ask for this because we see the ultimate reality:  the Kingdom of God, power and glory forever.

By praying the Lord’s Prayer, we take the inward journey, we acknowledge our creator, we ask for support and forgiveness and we affirm the power of God.  Through this prayer, we strengthen our relationship with God.  We speak to God and God speaks to us.  The contemplative process opens our hearts and allows us to discern God’s direction for our actions.

Having prayed as we are commanded, we are strengthened and ready to take the next step, which is to act, in accordance with God’s commandments:  to love God and to love your neighbor, as yourself.

So as a leader, can you weigh the sacrifice and benefit of stepping to the front of the line?

Consider this: In the summer of 1964, a young man was ordained as a deacon by the Baptist church. Before the end of winter, he would be dead.  Beaten, shot, and beaten again all in the same night, by police after he had participated in an action related to the Alabama Civil Rights voter registration drive.  His name was Jimmie Lee Jackson.  Deacon Jackson had been working in Selma on the voting rights campaign, but on the night he was beaten, he was protesting in Perry County, about 30 miles to the north of Selma.

Since starting seminary at CDSP, I have spoken with people who grew up in Selma.  They told me that after Deacon Jackson was beaten, he was denied medical help in Perry County, because no hospitals in that county would treat African-Americans. Instead, he had to be driven the 30 miles back to Selma, where the Catholic Church had built a medical center to serve all races. Deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson succumbed to his injuries on February 26, 1965.

In response to his death, Civil Rights leaders in Selma organized a march from Selma to Montgomery, the Alabama state capital – about 55 miles away.  The march would symbolically lay Deacon Jackson’s body on the capitol steps and at the feet of Governor George Wallace.

Fifty-two years ago today, Sunday March the 7th, about 600 unarmed residents of the area started walking across the Edmund Pettis Bridge.  They were met by armed authorities and were beaten back, in a violent clash of city police, county sheriffs and deputized local citizens against the protestors.  Today is the anniversary of what we know as “Bloody Sunday”.

After two and one-half weeks of court battles, 25,000 marchers arrived in Montgomery.  On March 24th, on the capitol steps that Dr. King is remembered for speaking about Justice – and when it would be realized:

How long? He called. (How long?) Not long: the crowd responded (Not long).

Deacon Jackson and Dr. King, were Christian men of faith – a deacon and a pastor who took action in the world, standing up to civil authority that was violating the human rights of their fellows.  That action led to a chain of events that changed the course of modern American history – but also led to their deaths.

How could Deacon Jackson and Dr. King have confidence that it would be worth it?

How can we be confident that our actions in the world will result in a better world for all people?  “Our ways are not God’s ways.  Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts.”

The reading from Psalms 34, gives us hope.  That reading comes from a lesson taught by a sage to the children…… “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Psalm 34:11.

The teacher explains that righteousness is rewarded by God and that evil collapses of its own weight.

Listen to the end of the lesson again.

“Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.” (Psalms 34: 21-22)

“Evil will slay the wicked.” This passage grounds our Christian actions in hope, in the knowledge that in the end, God’s will prevails.

It is this hope for the efficacy of our actions to bring about the Kingdom that empowered Dr. King, as he said: “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. (Yes, sir)

How long? Not long, (Not long) because:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; (Yes, sir).”

It is in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Christ that we know – that we are assured — that the order of the world is not as it seems and righteousness will overcome evil.  Blessed are the peacemakers.  The meek will inherit the earth. Blessed are the pure on heart.  As evil is all which is opposed to God, it collapses because it is not grounded in the foundation of God.

Deacon Jackson could not have known what was to follow as a result of his actions.  The 600 protestors on Bloody Sunday could not have known where the journey would lead.  Dr. King, standing on the steps of the Alabama capital could not have realized the reach of their protests.  And we will not know in the moment how our leadership will shape Christ’s followers and the world.  Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts and our ways are not God’s ways. But we can join with all who have preceded us and sacrificed their own agendas to God, by taking a confident first step on the bridge of faith which leads God’s people toward the kingdom.

Let their lives inspire us in faith and hope as we move ahead to lead others.