Yesterday, January 21, 2023, The Rev. Carrie Hirdes was ordained a priest at St. Luke the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Houston’s Third Ward. I begin with that news, because Grace played a big part in Carrie’s formation when she was an Iona School for Formation intern with us in 2021. The Rector of St. Luke the Evangelist is The Rev. Marcia Sadberry, who herself was an Iona School intern at Grace in 2019. Last week, Jonathan Maresca was with us in worship as our preacher. Jonathan is currently Grace’s sponsored seminarian studying at Yale Divinity School for formation to the Priesthood. God willing, Jonathan’s ordination will take place in 2024. In November, Liam Barr was with us in worship as our preacher. In the summer of 2019, Liam was preparing for his final year of undergraduate studies at Davidson College in North Carolina. Thanks to a connection made by Bishop Monterroso, Liam accepted my invitation to serve as a summer intern at Grace, to be immersed in the life of this renewing parish as Liam engaged discernment for his future call. Now studying at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, God willing Liam will be ordained in the Diocese of North Carolina in 2024. Fabian Berrios, our former Children’s Ministry intern (2018-2019), is married to Maria Bautista, who is currently studying for the priesthood at Virginia Theological Seminary. God willing, Maria will be ordained in 2024.
I haven’t even mentioned Grace’s honor and privilege to have welcomed The Rev. Leah Wise as our Curate in July of 2022. Rev. Leah is with us for a two-year assignment to take first steps into ordained life as a new member of the clergy. She is here to learn and grow in her ministry, while simultaneously sharing her gifts with us so that we might continue to learn and grow as God’s people served by a second full time priest. (I should also mention the fact of Grace calling me in 2018. I was a new , very green priest who had never led a congregation before. You called me as your vicar, you have loved and supported me, and you have given me the grace to continue growing in my own ministry as we all grow together.)
Nor until now have I mentioned the growing “chaplain corps” at Grace. While The Rev. Dawn gives generously of her time and talents to serve the Grace community, Dawn’s full time job is to work as a chaplain at the Harris County Psychiatric Center. Brian Rockhold and Thomas Borowski have recently completed full years, respectively, of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in preparation to enter fully into the vocation of chaplain. Both Thomas and Brian are working currently as chaplains in the Texas Medical Center. Sara Bushell recently completed a first unit of CPE and is now engaged in her second of four units, also having now begun studies at Fuller Theological Seminary for a Master in Divinity degree.
I hope all will recognize how absolutely remarkable it is for this not-as-little-as-we-used-to-be church to have such a significant role in raising up a new generation of leaders for the Church.
Grace has continued to grow in health, strength and vitality. Fruit happens when the tree is healthy.
Every single member of this congregation is an essential part of what God is doing in and through Grace. We enjoy the company of elder leaders and clergy, who minister and share their own hard-earned wisdom and insight with all of us.
God is using Grace to bless the whole church and the world, and this is a part of our identity that we must all continue to embrace and cultivate as we move into God’s future for us.
In 2022, we began to step into the new reality of being a full parish. Our first Vestry built community together, explored how leaders share responsibilities of care for the congregation, and started the work of visioning for the next season in Grace’s life. This year, we will continue that work and strategize for continued growth.
Our Strategic Mission Grant for Music Outreach allowed us to bless dozens of local musicians throughout the year, facilitating performances, community concerts, and networking events according to the grant’s parameters. Our Hope for Mass, produced and directed by Paul English, drew over two hundred people for worship over two days in October. The music was inspiring, and the witness to hope made a lasting impact on all involved. The funding and programming made possible by the SGM grant will continue through the middle of 2024, with a possibility for renewal.
In 2022, we made significant improvements to our worship space. The improvements enhance the beauty and the functional use of the space. I pray that in the year ahead, we will find new ways to faithfully steward the resource of our spaces for community building, worship, and outreach.
We have said goodbye to so many loved ones in 2022. We miss our friends and family, with gratitude for all the love, laughter and care we shared with them in this world. There is a legacy of faithfulness and a heritage of ministry left by those who have gone on. All that Grace is today is built on the gifts of those who came before us. We must always remember this.
I pray that we will continue to bless one another as we are blessed, and celebrate the gifts that each brings into our community. I pray that we will continue the holy work of breaking down every barrier that can keep us from God and from one another, reaching and embracing across diversity of race, culture, gender, generation, sexual orientation, ability, politics, and interests.
Thanks be to God for the wonderful gifts of this community!
The Rev. Scott Painter, Rector
But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’ Ruth 1.16-17
The beautiful poetry we hear tonight conveys Ruth’s resolution, her steadfast devotion, to Naomi. “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God.”
As the story goes, this woman named Ruth had left her family of origin, her home country, the religious tradition of her childhood, to marry one of Naomi’s children. But that son, Ruth’s husband, has now died. And, so Naomi tries to get Ruth to go home. The old woman has nothing of value, nothing of a future, to offer her daughter-in-law now.
But for some reason, Ruth won’t go away; she won’t leave Naomi. For anything in the past.
We could wonder why…
That oft-told interpretation says that Ruth’s staunch resolve is all about her true and fervent commitment to Naomi’s God. She’s had a religious conversion and will not return to the gods of her homeland. “No turning back, no turning back…”
But there could be other explanations…
Perhaps, Ruth knows that there is nothing waiting for her back there. We don’t know her experiences in that home country, what freedoms she gained in moving away from home; we do not know the expectations of her family and the demands that may await should she choose to return.
It is also possible that Ruth has just found her own freedom and power in this moment, where the patriarchy literally has died off. No dudes around. (Not entirely relevant to our gathering here tonight, but I’m pretty sure many of us are ok with a bit less patriarchy in general!)
And of course Ruth could also be staying for love: in this case, for love of Naomi. Maybe Ruth’s heart has been actually turned toward the old woman, turned into the sort of selfless, sacrificial, self-giving affection for another that brings a flood of meaning, connection and hope that we all long for in some way….
My preferred interpretation is an all-of-the above approach.
Yes, to love of the God of Naomi, something compellingly meaning-making in Ruth’s conversion to a new way of knowing the Divine presence in her life...
Yes, to not turning back. We grow, we move forward, and we break free of the constraints that try to keep us in the same places we were stuck for too long. (Why would we return to less than the life and light we’ve found along our life’s journey up to now?)
YES, to the power to be one’s truest self, coming into new relationships as a whole person, bringing the completely-enough-you and the completely-enough-me into new relationships…
And, YES for love. Yes, for finding it in giving of self and not just seeking out someone to make up for all the things I think I lack, all my perceived defiencies.
You are good enough for this. And it can be as good as you dream it might.
Brady and Colin: what you are doing here tonight, in the midst of friends and all kinds of family, is a bold and beautiful act of faith.
This isn’t all new:
What you are today as you make these sacred promises to one another is not what you’ll be in a week or a month or in ten years.
And so to make your vows here, now, is to grasp hands and to boldly forge ahead into a shared future, come what may.
You have your person, and together the two of you will have a life, a home, an “us”.
"Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. And be thankful.”
In today’s era of global communication and a 24-hour-news cycle, difficult reports and horrific images from far away can easily overwhelm our senses before we even come to know about pain and loss in our own local communities and circles of relationship. I am often asked during times of global conflict, national violence, and extreme weather events: “What can we do?” My responses to those inquiries are often similar, across the spectrum of needs: pray, vote your conscience, give to reputed relief organizations, and-when appropriate-stand up and speak out in protest.
Many times, the list of possible responses to tragedy becomes as generalized and desensitizing as does the steady barrage of bad news. But somehow through it all, my friends, we must stay soft and empathetic toward pain and sorrow. This is an essential part of our humanness, and an elemental part of what it means to engage in meaningful community.
As I have reflected this week on the above words from 1 Peter, I’ve been drawn back to the focus on caring for those closest to us: loving each other deeply, offering hospitality to one another, using our unique gifts to serve others. It seems to me, that especially when the world feels like it’s going increasingly mad, it becomes even more important to stay alert and responsive to the physical presence of needs right in our own communities.
This weekend, we will celebrate, memorialize, and commend to God’s keeping two members of the Grace family: Bob Keller and Lory Garrett. Both of these services will take place on this Saturday at 10 AM and 2 PM, respectively. I am already in awe at folks organizing and mobilizing to host two family receptions (one after each service), others stepping forward to serve in a marathon day of worship, and still more reaching out to the families with love and care in their grief. Additionally, I know that folks are praying and checking in on our siblings who are ill, and others who have lost loved ones in the last few days. This dynamic is not new or unusual for Grace; it is just more striking and pronounced with multiple events on the same weekend!
I believe this work of caring for one another “as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” is the first answer to “what can we do,” whatever news may come from further afield. This is not ignoring the larger global challenges, but it is exercising our ability to feel compassion and to activate that compassion in our lives through works of love and mercy.
Thank you for showing up this weekend for our loved ones in the Grace Family. Please keep doing this work of loving one another and taking care of each other so well.
June 5th is Pentecost Sunday. I love Pentecost, that feast day when the Church annually celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the fledgling church (Acts 2), bridging divisions of language and culture to bring people together in the good news of Jesus Christ.
A while back on Maundy Thursday we recalled Jesus’ new commandment to his followers: “Love each other.” (John 13:34)
Here we are now, at the conclusion of the Great Fifty Days of Easter, lifting up our pentecostal prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit.” We pray the Spirit may continue to fall fresh on us, to inspire us to continue and grow in the love that Jesus showed us and calls us to share with one another.
I can’t think of a more fitting local church family to celebrate Pentecost than Grace. The signs of the Holy Spirit’s work are everywhere in our parish. People from all over the world call Grace home. We are regularly inspired to be open to the change that comes from including more and more folks among us. We boldly try new things in order to step deeper into God’s future for us. And, most importantly, we keep growing in our love for one another: learning from our mistakes, making amends when we have offended someone, reaching to those unable to be present with us, and sticking together with little regard for our differences or disagreements.
God is doing in us what God dreams for the whole world: building a community on the foundation of God’s eternal, unconditional and redemptive love shown by Jesus. I do not waver in my conviction that local churches built up as outposts of the Love of Jesus Christ in this world are the front lines of God’s work to save the world from all sin. The Holy Spirit—God’s very life flowing through us—is what makes it all possible.
You know, Grace does church the hard way. Lots of local churches allow themselves to get divided off into “right and left” or “voted this way or voted that way” or “this kind of music or that kind of music” or “this color or that color” or “rich or poor” or a myriad other categories that can be used to slice and dice the Body of Christ to look more like the sin-sick world.
We don’t do that. We stay together, with God’s help. We keep loving one another when someone says something we disagree with or that makes us uncomfortable, or maybe even says something that hurts us a little. We lean into our relationships with one another and allow loving Christian community to form us for living lovingly in the wide world. With God’s grace, we find loving ways to speak our truth to each other so that we can help one another grow. And we go out these red doors to love and serve the Lord, seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Is this pollyannish? Yes. It’s too good to be true, too good to last, and too far fetched to build a church on. EXCEPT: the promise of Pentecost is that God comes and does among us what we cannot imagine or create or sustain for ourselves. If God dreams it—and God does—then God will make it happen in and through us.
THIS is the miracle of Pentecost!
GRACE is a miracle of Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit is at work among us, we are bound together in mutual affection, sticking together through thick and thin. The Spirit helps us stay together in spite of all the worldly forces trying to pull people apart.
I look forward to celebrating this miracle with you on Pentecost Sunday. And in the season after Pentecost, I can’t wait to see how God continues to build us into a people of Love’s way, for the sake of the world.
In peace, Scott+
As a pianist, I play music almost only by ear. (I can read notes, but have an impossible time translating the information to my fingers!) And I love playing improvisationally more than playing anything already written down or recorded somewhere else. Through this approach to music-making, I've found a unique relationship with the word "yes," because there is great creative energy in listening closely, feeling deeply, and playing courageously (even when not knowing exactly where it all will go).
As I look back over the last four years of our life together as priest and people, I see that we have learned some of these same lessons again on the road we've traveled. (cont. p. 3)
The Rev. Sam Wells, a theologian, writer, and priest in the Church of England, has said a great deal about the role of improvisation, primarily in theater, relating to theology, ethics and church. Wells says, “The heart of improvisation is the ability to keep the story going. Accepting refers to any response that accepts the premise of another actor’s “offer” — whether that offer be physical or verbal. Actors have to learn to say “yes” even when to do so seems impossible, improper, or dangerous” (Originally a sermon preached by Wells on Oct. 1, 2006, in Duke University Chapel).
Together with God and one another, we have kept the story of Grace going by saying “yes” a LOT of times. We’ve tried many new things, and we’ve become a safer place to try even more into the future. We’ve learned that some experiments stick for a long time, some for a short time, and some fall flat.
We’ve said yes, even when the offer might not be exactly what we imagine or think we want. We’ve said yes to welcoming online worshipers, even though it feels different than community used to. We’ve said yes to new music and musicians, even though we miss old friends and the informality of our pre-pandemic music team. We’ve said yes to new chairs, even though they might not be as comfortable as we wish or the color we like or as traditional as we prefer. And, we’ve said yes to new groups using our inside and outside spaces, even though it can be inconvenient and unsettling to share.
Each of these “yesses” – and so many more – have brought us new opportunities and gifts, even as they also represent change and loss of what used to be.
I love the idea of “accepting” whatever comes to us as an opportunity or an “offer.” I love the idea of working together to become people who say yes as much as possible, because “yes” can lead us to more growth, joy, and anticipation for what may come next. I know our culture of accepting offers is largely responsible for the growth and return to parish status we’ve recently celebrated as Grace.
As we draw near to the season of Easter, we are reminded that an extreme example of acceptance—our Lord Jesus accepting suffering and death in solidarity with human sin and sickness—leads to the brilliant new possibility of abundant and everlasting life for all of creation. The glorious resurrection of Jesus makes a way for God’s yes to come to all of us – we are never turned away, never thwarted by the brokenness we know in ourselves and the world around us, never blocked from entering into the life for which we have been made and has now been made possible for everyone.
I pray that as we move forward into Easter as the parish of Grace, God will increase our openness and generosity and our YES. In this, may we become people who are always open to opportunities and offers to serve God, one another, and our neighbors.
It was Advent of 2017 when I first began discerning God’s call to serve as the next Vicar of Grace. There is no hint of hyperbole in me saying that I knew immediately I wanted to come and be in community with this congregation. The process of discernment had more to do with my asking the question of whether God’s will and my desire actually aligned. I am so grateful that I, and the people of Grace, and Bishop Doyle all agreed God was calling me to this people and place.
As I was talking with your Bishop’s Committee during that time of discernment, they shared with me many of the hard things that Grace had endured (and survived!) up to that point. There had been multiple financial hardships, loss of dedicated members, conflict, the departure of a beloved priest, a hurricane, and deferred maintenance on the building. In the retelling of it all, I noticed something in the voice and tone of those who spoke: a faithful resolve. There was, for sure, disappointment, discouragement, a worry for the future. But it was all seasoned with faith and resolution that God’s future included the continuing life and ministry of Grace Episcopal Church in Southwest Houston.
Since 2010, this congregation has been a mission of the Diocese of Texas called “Grace.” Prior to that, it was a parish in the diocese called “St. George and St. Patrick Episcopal Church” (often known as “Two Saints”). Even further back to the late-1950’s, there were two congregations —one on W. Bellfort called St. George and another in Westbury called St. Patrick.
When the decision was made to become Grace and a mission of the diocese, both actions signified a deeper commitment to doing whatever it would take to survive. As a mission, Grace had access to generous financial support from the Diocese of Texas. We also received a new vicar at that time, The Rev. Gena Davis, who led us through some difficult decision-making and the hard work of laying a foundation for renewal and growth. Of course, we also lost some of the autonomy and power for self-determination that a parish enjoys. As a mission, we have been directly under the supervision of the Bishop and at times have been reminded of the limits of that status — our representation at Diocesan Council has been 1 delegate instead of the 4 a parish gets; our congregational leaders are elected only with the Bishop’s approval, and our future is more immanently in the hands of the Bishop than is the case for a parish.
These eleven years a mission have given us the breathing room to get many aspects of our life and ministry back on a sustainable path. Our congregation is growing with new members and new vision; our finances have stabilized, our building and campus have been improved with major issues of deferred maintenance addressed, our staff has solidified as a team, and our people are inspired with hope for service.
Now we are celebrating one of our most successful pledge campaigns in recent history. We exceeded our 2022 pledge goal on DECEMBER 1 ! More than 20 increased pledges and 6 new pledges show that we are growing both in commitment and new members of our community. I want to thank Doward Hudlow for his energizing and able leadership of the campaign this year, along with all those on the Stewardship Committee. And—thank YOU for giving!
Now is the time for Grace to become a parish. The Bishop has approved our request to go for a vote before Diocesan Council on February 26, 2022. If/when it passes, we will immediately be seated as a parish for the remainder of business at Council. In January, we will provisionally elect a vestry at our annual meeting that will go into office upon our return to parish status. And, your priest in charge will be called a “rector” instead of a “vicar.”
Many of these changes may feel like window dressing, but I assure you they signify a big step into a new season where we will all explore creative ways of sharing leadership, expanding capacity, growing ministry and moving forward together into God’s dreams for us.
In the coming weeks, we will take time to reflect, celebrate, imagine and plan for future of the Parish of Grace. (Who wants to plan the PARTY?!)
I am in awe of all that God is doing in and through us, and I am full of faith in the God who is calling us forward. As we move through Advent and into the Christmas and Epiphany seasons, let us be mindful that God can and does bring new life into desperate and desolate place. Our own existence as the Parish of Grace will be a sign of this.
“We get to give to get to give to get to give.” – John Wimber
I love to give things away. Personally, I find so much freedom in my life by holding onto “the stuff” very loosely. I think I’ve always been wired this way, even when I didn’t have much. Do I like nice stuff? Oh, you know that I do. Count me in for rich food, close up seats at concerts, high thread count in my sheets, and getting extra legroom on flights to new faraway places. I like the good life better, probably, than I should. It wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit it.
I have discovered a really important component of my truly enjoying life. It’s a truth that has held up in times of plenty and in leaner seasons, too. The only way I can really take pleasure in having stuff is to hold it very loosely, share liberally, and give thanks.
I know that not everyone is wired this way. And that’s a good thing. My tendency to “give away the farm” has led to more than one conversation in my marriage when more prudence was warranted. Thankfully, I have family and friends who are wise and sensible managers, good savers, more strategic in the allocation of resources. We give balance to each other’s tendencies and are all better for it. When we share a value of generosity, and live out that value according to each of our unique talents, personalities, and insights, then resources can go even further to meet needs and touch lives.
I am a huge fan of Stewardship season in the church (or, may I say, parish!). It is a time for each of us to assess our unique relationships with money and with stuff. It is a time for each of us to challenge ourselves in generosity: to give toward causes and communities that matter to us and help us multiply our own commitments to sowing seeds of good in the world.
I truly hope that you will count your church community among those causes worthy of faithful generosity next year. Honestly, I think it would be awesome if every single household or family who calls Grace home would pledge to give something in support of our wonderful church parish in 2022. Annual pledges at Grace always range in dollar amounts from $50 into the thousands. There is room in that spread for each of us, according to our resources, or other commitments, and our dedication to the mission and values of Grace. We are grateful for every pledge, whatever size, because they support our life together and service to neighbors throughout Southwest Houston! I think it’s important to start somewhere and make an investment that is part of saying “yes” to Grace and belonging in this loving community.
Please join me in holding stuff loosely. Please join me in a commitment to living generously. Please join me in supporting Grace with a pledge for 2022.
“You must be doers of the word and not only hearers...” James 1.22
“How much longer are we stuck with this Bible translation?!”
Last week, I fielded another strongly-worded version of the question that comes up many times these days. If you’ve had your own questions or experienced visceral reactions (negative, even) amidst our three-year lectionary journey through the Common English Bible translation, rest assured that your perspective on the CEB has likely been well-represented!
I admit, the critiques are received loud and clear. In fact, I often agree with them. It can be jarring to hear some of our most familiar and beloved passages from Holy Scripture translated using different words or phrases from the familiar translations, like the New Revised Standard or even the King James/Authorized.
(A couple weeks ago, I remember it was the overly vernacular phrase, “Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers,” translated from Ephesians, that really got this person’s goat. Others have noted in the past that the familiar phrase “Son of Man” is always translated in the CEB as “The Human One.” This is troubling to some, perhaps feeling that it reduces Jesus’ divine nature just a little too much.)
On August 29, we read in Mark’s Gospel that when the religious leaders confront Jesus that his disciples aren’t following their ritual practices, he responds by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “Isaiah really knew what he was talking about, when he prophesied about you hypocrites!”
These sorts of colloquial translations include casual phrases, informal style with lots of contractions, and speech patterns that can come off as truly anachronistic when reading back into 1st or 2nd century texts, or even further back to Before the Common Era (BCE).
Besides all that, I think we just tend to find comfort in the steadiness of words from a single translation, washing over us, undergirding us, reassuring us in trying, unsteady, uncertain times. (We Episcopalians are, after all, kind of known for our ritual forms and repetitive practices!)
You may not be aware that we have a few Bible translations authorized for use in the Episcopal Church. Some of them are more historic or traditional translations, like the King James and the Revised Standard versions, now rendered less reliable by more recent archeologic discoveries, scholarship, and emerging dynamics in an evolving modern society. The most common translation currently in use, is the one we are used to reading here at Grace – the New Revised Standard Version. It has been available since 1989. The NRSV drew newly discovered ancient manuscripts for its basis, and sought to render as much of the text as possible in gender-inclusive language.
The Common English Bible is a very recent translation, being released just a decade ago. It was written to be accessible to more people, to be read, heard and understood by a wider audience. The language choices of the CEB were geared toward a 7th grade reading level. Hence, the contractions and casual phrases, and more common word choices.
I doubt at this point I have won many doubters over to the side of the CEB. And don’t worry, we are getting closer and closer to the end of “Year B” and will soon begin our final year in this translation before returning to the well-worn grooves of the NRSV.
But I also need to say this about our experiment. The fact that we are noticing things we don’t like and hearing the words of the Bible in new ways; the fact that folks are speaking up and pointing things out; the experience of our stuttering and stumbling over the unfamiliar or grating words or phrases in this different translation is really kind of the point! And your responses show us that we are right on track with this endeavor.
Because we hear in Scripture, and especially in the letter of James *from which we’ll be reading over the next several Sundays) that there is an essential, inextricable relationship between faith, action, and words. What we hear and what we say matter, but how much they matter to US shows up in how we act toward others. And that’s where our true faith is revealed – in how we live out our lives, in what we do.
And James goes on in Chapter 1 to offer examples of the kind of actions that look like what we hear from Jesus/what we often SAY about Jesus: being good listeners, holding back our opinions and our own indignation so that we can better understand and empathize others; being humble and doing right; taking care of those who are vulnerable and alone.
These are the kinds of matters we are called to care about. These are the priorities that would inspire faithful activity by followers of Jesus. These are the ways that our words and intentions to follow Jesus can work themselves out in our lives.
I want to say something else, too, about a dynamic showing up in our culture these days: something very dangerous is happening, turning the words&actions relationship on its head. Some folks are using words to dismiss, diminish, or discredit well-intentioned actions for goodness and justice by faithful people.
We hear a lot in the news and commentary about “ woke “ culture. The term didn’t originate as a derogatory thing, but it sure has been co-opted as a weapon – often against folks trying to do the right things and work to move society toward righteousness for all: those fighting for equal rights for queer and trans people, or for voting rights (especially in marginalized communities), or for economic justice for those hardest hit by the pandemic; or for those who advocate for love of neighbor by getting vaccinated or masking up; or for those who fight against drug culture and advocate for those in addiction, or for those who need food to eat and a safe place to lay their heads tonight (no matter where they are from or what they look like or how they believe or what choices may have led to their not having a home).
Friends, we say as Christians that we follow Jesus. And in saying that we follow Jesus we make a commitment to do things like Jesus would do—to work for a good and just world like Jesus did, and like he calls us to.
When we hear the words of Scripture in new and surprising ways, my prayer is that we ingest and digest God’s Word to activate our faith in this world. It can make our word count for more, because we’ll be doing things that look like the faith we profess.
When we do move from our words of faith into action, I pray that we’ll keep going forward, committed to the cause of love in all we do, no matter what the cost.
Meanwhile, let’s keep reading the CEB. Let’s keep getting hung up on words and phrases we don’t like. Let’s keep talking to each other about it—complaining, even! Because the fact that we are talking about what we’re hearing means that we might have a better chance to be transformed by it and to become doers and not only hearers of the word.
“Love is the Stuff of God”
On May 30, the church celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. It is the annual Christian festival dedicated to the deepest mystery of who God is: one God, Three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The operative word is “mystery.” No one can explain it or even fathom this distinctness of persons within the unity of God. The best we can do is consider it, ponder it, try to name it, seek to understand why it even matters in Christian theology.
Over the years, I have meditated on St. John’s truth in his First letter, saying that “God is love” (1 John 4.7). I believe that somehow the Love that is God is the stuff of God. For sure, it must be a love that is purer, deeper, more expansive and beyond encompassing any human experience or conception of love in this mortal life. The mystery of the Trinity invites us to believe this is possible--that God is bigger than we are, and not one made in our own image; that God’s love is bigger, too. So much beyond our experience and reason and even imagination.
In God’s wondrous and mystical love, there is a unity of persons. A constant, self-giving, generative love that must have been active when all things came to be. This love calls to us, calls us to be swept up into it and to be drawn closer and closer to God, and to one another.
St. John: “Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love.”
Out of the mystery of who God is, flows the heart of what it means to be Christians in community. Our movement into the love of God is the only thing that can form and transform us into people who love.
As we are moving back into physical presence with one another in worship and fellowship, this word to us, “lets love one another,” is in God’s call back together. I know we are missing our rituals and songs and the physical house of our congregation. But, even more, I’m hearing that we are missing ONE ANOTHER. And this is at the center of what we must be about in these coming days of our regathering. Let’s be looking for new ways to get together, so share common life, to learn about one another and grow in love for each other. During the summer, I urge and encourage each of us to:
God is love. And God calls us to share together in that love, to be formed into a people who are known by their loving.