Saturday, September 26, 2015

Honor One Another - Sermon

As many of you know, I spent part of my vacation last week with my 83-year-old dad, canoeing in Canada.  My dad is a great storyteller, and last week he was full of stories about his years in business.  The family business was a grain business in a small town in southwest Ohio, a business founded by my great-grandfather in the early 20th century.    Do you know what a grain dealer is?  You’ve seen these business, with their silos and tall grain elevators, out in the country and in small towns.  Essentially, grain dealers are middlemen between farmers and big grain merchants, selling seed and fertilizer to farmers in the spring, and buying their crops in the fall to sell them to larger buyers.  When I was a child, there were four prosperous grain dealerships in my small hometown of a few thousand people.
One of my dad’s stories this past week involved his grandfather’s dealings with two customers one morning.  The first came in with his truck full of corn and said to my great-grandfather, “Well, Bert, I might as well let you cheat me as anyone else! What’ll you give me for my corn?”  So my great-grandfather made an offer, and the farmer countered, and the haggling began.  Eventually they reached a price.

Awhile later, a second customer arrived with a truck full of corn and approached my grandfather.  “Well, Bert,” he said, “I’ve got a load of corn for you, and I trust that you’ll do the best you can for me.”  They talked for a few minutes and, again, a price was agreed upon. 
After that customer left, my dad said, “Grandfather, it seems to me that you paid that first man a little less than his corn was worth, and the second a little more than his was worth.  Why is that?”

“You could be right,” said my great-grandfather. “I’ll tell you: That first fellow came in here filled with suspicion.  He insulted me right of the bat, and it was clear that we were going to bargain over the price, no holds barred.  So he set the tone, and my task was to bargain him down. And maybe I did get the price down a bit lower than I might have otherwise.
“But the second fellow, he came in here and said, ‘I trust you to do the best you can for me.’ He kind of put me on my honor, didn’t he?  And so I probably did pay him a little more than I should have, because I was bending over backwards to make sure I did the right thing.”
Just a couple of transactions, a couple of out hundreds that took place that fall.  But they say a lot about the different ways in which we approach one another, don’t they?
How do we as people of faith approach one another?  How do we respond to one another?  Which farmer are we?  Which version of my great-grandfather are we? 
This is one of the great subjects of the Christian faith: How do we treat one another?  How do we care for one another?  If you watched any of the pope’s speeches or listened to any of his homilies, you know that we’ve been hearing about this subject all week.  Perhaps it says something about us as a country and about Christianity as a faith, that our newscasters and commentators have been so surprised and made so much of his openness to others and his insistence that we all extend ourselves to others, whether the topic be immigration, or the death penalty, or poverty, or interfaith relationships.  Maybe we continue to struggle with this sort of openness, of extending ourselves to others, just as Jesus’ original disciples did.

In Bible study on Thursday, we addressed the same topic.  We’re reading a book by Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity, and this week we were invited to think about how we respond to reality and to others.  Borg says that we tend to respond in one of three ways: fearfully, indifferently, or openly.  The disciples and Jesus in our story today certainly exemplify two of those ways: the response of fear, and the response of openness.                        
The disciples have, in a very short time, come to think of themselves as the elite, as Jesus’ special followers.[1]  They want to think of themselves as an exclusive group, as the group  which understands Jesus’ teachings, which has found favor with Jesus, and which has the sole right to act on his behalf.[2]  And so they respond with fear, as adversaries, to others, who have been healing in Jesus’ name.  They sound like little kids: they shouldn’t be doing that!  They shouldn’t be healing people! We’re the ones who get to do that!

They draw lines: we’re in, you’re out.  We’re in separate groups, on opposite sides, with different interests. They are not unlike my great-grandfather’s first customer: I’ve got to stand up for myself, because I can’t trust you to do that.  The great theologian Walter Bruggemann refers to this as an attitude emerging from a conviction that we live in a universe of scarcity.  There isn’t enough to go around.  If people are going to be healed through the power of Jesus, we are the only ones who can do that.  If there’s a harvest to be sold, I need to make sure that I get my share if the proceeds, because no one else is looking out for me.   This is a scary world filled with limitations; it’s a threatening kind of place, and I need to be sure to defend what’s mine
Jesus has some harsh words for those whose actions are motivated by fear – some of his harshest words in the Bible: If you place a stumbling block before people, if your hand or your foot or your eye causes you to stumble – better that disaster befall you, or your body parts, than that you in some way block others from the deepening of life that I have to offer.  Jesus in this passage is actually a lot harsher than Pope Francis has been this past week.  Pope Francis has been emphasizing a “culture of care,” but Jesus goes right to the consequences of a culture of fear, of suspicion, of self-protection and self-defense -- and they are not positive consequences!    Better that you get out of the way than that you limit the prospects of others for new life – whether those others be prisoners on death row, immigrants to a new country, the poor and disenfranchised, or those whose beliefs differ from yours.

If we are not going to be people trapped by a vision of scarcity, limited by our fears and barricade against what we see as threats in this world, than who are we going to be?  How are we going to be FOR Jesus – who says to his disciples, those followers so confused about their role and so convinced that they should come out on top – Jesus who says, “Those who are not against us are for us.”  Look for possibility; look for hope. Align yourself with a conviction that we are a people of abundance, not scarcity – that there is enough love, enough healing, enough care, enough life – for all.  In  fact, there is more than enough – there is an abundance! 
Wasn’t that the approach of my great-grandfather’s second customer?  “Do the best you can for me.” He came to work that day in a spirit of openness and trust, prepared to think the best of his customer, prepared to see grain business and famer as allies.  And didn’t that in turn bring out the best in my great-grandfather toward his customer?  Both men saw this as an opportunity for life – for profit, of course, because it was a business transaction, but also for kindness and fairness and dignity,

Isn’t that what the Pope has been talking about all week?  The Catholic St. Ignatius, founder and father of the Pope’s Jesuit order, tells us always to presume the best in the other. Marcus Borg, author of our study, tells us always to anticipate and pursue what is life-giving. 
And Jesus tells us today: Have salt.  Be at peace with one another.  Preserve the best in and for one another. Season and flavor your relationships with life, with hope, with caring – with possibility at its very best.  Do the best you can for one another. Amen.               

[1] Micah D. Keil’s Commentary in Working Preacher for September 27, 2015.
[2] Amy Oden’s Commentary in Working Preacher for September 30, 2012.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Five: Push or Pull

Today's Friday Five comes from Deb:
"I am fortunate to have some great encouragers in my life. The ones who know me the best are great at knowing when to challenge me, and when to just chill and let me figure it out myself. SO… think about the encouragers and challenges in YOUR life and tell us…"
1. After achieving a goal, do you set the bar higher, or rest on your laurels?
I usually set the bar higher.  But I've got nothing against taking a break.
2, Which is better: a kick in the pants or a hug and a cuppa?
Oh, definitely the hug.  I am not particularly responsive to criticism.  I mean, I make mid-course corrections all the time in response to feedback, but you can make it a lot easier on both of it if you have something positive to say.
3. What’s your baseline motivation? Fear? Competition? Not getting caught? ;)
I am pretty damn competitive.  But that driving force has little place in my life these days.
4. When you’re facing a big challenge, do you need to talk it out, or puzzle it out yourself?
I need to talk it out, at length and with anyone who might have something to contribute.
5. Who is in your corner – always? Who helps you achieve more than you imagined you could?  (You don’t have to give names)
I have a couple of mentors and colleagues who are always hugely supportive.  And my kids ~ they're amazing.  My daughter at 28 is insightful, compassionate, and articulate ~ often my go-to person whether I'm moving forward or completely stuck.
I don't have a bonus piece of art of music.  Just the number . . .

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Spiritual Direction: Preparation

At the Jesuit University at which I teach as an adjunct, the students are offered an opportunity at the end of winter break to make a weeklong silent retreat at the nearby Jesuit Retreat House. A week of 24/7 silence, broken only by the daily liturgies and daily reflective, one-on-one meetings with spiritual directors. During the fall semester, the students are expected to attend a few meetings and complete some reading in preparation for the undertaking ahead of them.  That sort of a week is a challenge for the most experienced of adults.  For an 18-year-old?!
Some years ago, I was speaking with a young woman about her retreat experience, and asked her how she had done with the required preparation.
"I didn't get to any of it," she laughed.
"And how did your retreat director respond?" I wondered.
"Father G was my director," she responded. 
Ah.  Mine, too, once a week, as I was making the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises that year.  I didn't mention that to her, but I did ask if she'd told him the truth.
"Yep," she said, "and he told me not to worry about it.  He said that my whole life up to that point has been a preparation for the retreat."
I've had formal training and lots of continuing education as a spiritual director.  But I learned the most about it from HG, my own first director, and a lot of what I learned can be found in that one sentence. Our whole lives are the subject of our prayer, however it is that we find ourselves praying.  Our whole lives are fodder for growth in our relationship with God, no matter how casually or ineptly we approach it.
Now . . . if I could just remember that for myself.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Life with Nuns

My friends are sometimes startled to learn that I spent three years in a Catholic school.  A Catholic girls' school.  A Catholic girls' boarding school.
I was only twelve when I was deposited with the nuns, in a pre-Vatican II environment of fully habited nuns, Latin masses, saints' days, required daily religion classes, and words like refectory and collation.

It's a long story, one which I won't relate here.  But it might reflect a thread of grace, one that began to unwind in the 1890s when my very Methodist great-grandmother drove her buggy ten miles through the country to the convent for piano lessons, and was most recently in evidence when I went to our reunion last Saturday.
As I visited with the hundred or some women there for lunch, reports, hugs, and laughter, I mused on the experiences we had shared, so different from those of most of our contemporaries.  
The navy blue skirts, white blouses, and saddle shoes.  The little alcoves, beds and side tables lining the length of long, third-floor dormitories and separated from one another by white curtains.  The midnight conversations as we curled up in our nightgowns in wide window wells overlooking well-maintained grounds. 
The many efforts we made to break into the off-limits cloistered hallways secreted behind closed, unmarked doors. The evening study groups, radios blaring and books strewn across desks as we tried to unravel the mysteries of algebra and dreamed of encounters with Paul McCartney. The Saturday afternoon sewing classes, from which some of us routinely escaped to undisclosed locations. 
The alternating mystery and boredom of the Latin mass.  The glowing woodwork and high windows and ceilings we took for granted.  The very, very distinct personalities of the nuns, brilliant and highly educated women who presumed that we would, too, would grow into forces to be reckoned with. 
Thanks to modern technology, we are all re-connected,  30 and 40 and 50 years after we shared convent school life.  A couple of the nuns attended my ordination four years ago.  They really love us.  We really love them. 
Real, true, amazing, grace.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fragments of Grace: New Blog Name

So many permutations over the years.
Midlife Matters ~ yes, a play on words ~ begun over eleven years ago, in the hope of exploring the adventures of a midlife wife, mother, lawyer-turned-teacher, spiritual explorer, traveler, and photographer.  An AOL journal enmeshed in a hesitant but hopeful community of writers suddenly offered a public platform.
Search the Sea ~ the blog that emerged from the AOL crash. By that time, the spiritual search had become paramount in my life, and at first I imagined myself as a gannet (my screen name back in those days of online anonymity was Gannet Girl), a seabird soaring across the waters of the ocean, always seeking and never landing for good.
Desert Year ~ the place in which I began to deposit the writing pertaining to my son Josh's death by suicide, writing too dark to be supported by any gannet sailing through the sky.
Metanoia ~ the name upon which I settled when I concluded that, like it or not I was in the throes of  Deep Change, and might as well try to embrace reality.
Beautiful and Terrible ~ that's been the name of this blog for quite a while.  It comes from a Frederick Buechner quote, and represented a form of hope: that I would somehow manage to see both, even when the terrible seemed to overtake all else.  Buechner is a Presbyterian pastor who lost his father to suicide, so we share a couple of experiences in common, albeit no doubt also differently.
Fragments of Grace is my take on the title of Mary Doria Russell's novel A Thread of Grace (about the Italian resistance during World War II, not about Jesuits in space), one of my very favorite books.  Her title comes from an old Jewish quote: No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there's always a thread of grace.
I am willing to admit that it takes a better, or at least a different sort, of person than I to see a thread of grace.  I belong to a faith tradition in which people are comfortable talking about "God's plan."  I hear it all the time from elderly Presbyterians in hospital rooms and from young Catholic college students responding to life crises.  I am a good deal less sanguine than most of them are about the details of this plan.
But I am willing to acknowledge fragments of grace.  I am even willing to celebrate fragments of grace. 
For seven years now, I have lived the experience of walking across a sea of fragments of glass, of metal, of ice.  Sharp, jagged, shifting fragments.  These days, it seems that they glisten with light from above more than they reflect the darkness of the depths below.  
Who knows?  Perhaps they are connected by a glowing filament invisible to me.

For now, though: Fragments of Grace.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Yes, It Gets Easier.

I am just back from a few days in Algonquin Park, in Ontario, a place which my son Josh loved.  I went with my dad, who in the past took my boys and me, and once our entire family, and eventually just the two boys, canoeing in the backcountry up there, several days at a time.  We weren't so ambitious this year ~ we stayed in a lodge where the food was prepared for us and the beds were comfortable, and took day trips across the lake and down the rivers in the canoe ~ the canoe supplied with our cabin and its plumbing and hot water.

I had a lot of time to think about my Josh, about his 24 years, and about the last seven.  And I realized, as I have over the past few months, that the terrible weight of his death has indeed lessened. No more an enormous slab of iron crushing the breath out of my chest, it has become something more like a sheer, gossamer web that envelops me, tangling me up sometimes, but mostly surrounding me in a memory of grace and horror: delicate, shimmering, hopeful and anguished.

In the first couple of years after Josh died, I used to fall asleep crying and wake up crying.  I'm not sure that I ever stopped crying, except when I had to go out in public.  Two, three, fours years later, I would still sometimes look at a full day's schedule lying before me, say "Nope," and curl up in a blanket to wait out the wave of sorrow that threatened to engulf everything in its path.
I once read that it takes somewhere between four to seven years for the grief that follows the death of a child to abate.  It seems that I am right on schedule -- from a detached, clinical point-of-view, I would guess that the suicidal death of a child would push a mother right up against and right on past that seven year edge.  Of course, nothing about grief can be genuinely measured or assessed in clinical terms.
What helps?  Love and work, I guess Freud would say.  Prayer and work, St. Benedict would have offered, centuries earlier.
I'm grateful, so grateful, for the work I plowed through ~ the seminary years  I barely remember, the suicide prevention advocacy which brought out my latent lawyer, the ministry I have been, oddly, able to share with others. I'm grateful for the people who really hung in there with me ~ those amazing Jesuit priests and the spiritual director colleagues who kept on listening and then did it some more, the readers of all these blogs of mine, a couple of fearless professors and a couple of even more fearless friends, and all the people who allowed me to enter their lives as pastor and confidant, preacher and teacher, liturgist and floor scrubber, even as I was crumbling inside.  I'm grateful that I learned how to pray, and not pray, into the cavernous darkness of unfathomable loss.
Yes, I look at the world differently now.  I have seen and read and heard and pondered things so distressing and heartbreaking that I cannot help but see the most ordinary facets of life in a slanted light.  I used to think that that light had transformed me into a much worse person than I could ever have imagined being: angry, self-absorbed, brittle ~ suicidal, myself.  And maybe it did, at least for awhile.  Now I think: it provides an angle into a depth of darkness seldom acknowledged, but always there, here, as a persistent backdrop to our lives.  It's a penetrating source of illumination, a kind of darkroom light, the light from a sort of space in which Josh and I used to work intently together.
Maybe we still do.
Image: Lake Between Two Rivers, Algonquin Park

Friday Firsts (Friday Five)

"I'm on a vacation week and in between trips, so it's a good time for a Friday Five from Julie:

This is my very first Friday Five!

Well, actually, that’s not entirely true, I did a guest spot a couple years ago. But, I’m going to be the new third Friday Gal for the next wee while.

 So, I thought we could talk about some firsts this Friday. I have just returned from my annual holiday, and this year’s was very much family oriented. My beloved’s older son lives in Boston, my middle son lives in North Vancouver (between us we have 7 grown up children) so we travelled all the way from Scotland to visit with them, and each was a first time visit. While in Boston we spent some quality time with our granddaughter… Our first!

Play here in the comments, or on your blog, five of your firsts, here are some ideas to get you started. Don’t forget to post a link when you play!"

1. Can you remember the first time you travelled a long way to meet someone special?

I can't!  My extended family and their friends all lived in the same general area when I was growing up, so when we traveled, it was to visit other places, not other people, and to go far away to school.

 2. Share a memory of a first visit to a new country, state or place that was unexpected or unusual.

My grandmother took me on a number of marvelous trips, the first one being to Williamsburg for a week when I was ten and in fifth grade.  It was a great surprise to stop by her house on the way home from school, as I did every afternoon, and discover a large white invitation awaiting me, inviting me to accompany her on an overnight train trip and then for a week visiting the sites of the history that so fascinated me!

 3. What is the first thing you do on waking each day? Is it always the same?

Other than the necessities of life . . . I try to get out and walk first thing every day.  If it's a relaxed kind of day, I indulge myself in reading before I'm even out of bed.

 4. Have you met up with other RevGals? Maybe at an event?

The first RevGal I met was a seminary classmate ~ back when we were all anonymous, she heard me talking over lunch about a blog post, and said "You're on RevGals!" Yikes!  Since then, I have met many others, most recently a group at Fthe estival of Homiletics in Denver  in May and then a group of UCC RGs at their annual meeting here in Cleveland this past summer.

 5. Is this your first Friday Five? If not, can you remember the first time you played?

No IDEA when the first one was.  I'm a pretty erratic player . . .

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Wisdom Calls (Sermon)

The first thing I want you to do this morning is to look at the first banner up here to your right – the banner that proclaims “Light.” I don’t know whether or not you know – I didn’t until a couple of weeks ago – that these banners were created by a very young man, the young man who was to become SA’s son-in-law.  I often pray with these banners, using them to imagine God’s calling and our response, but I did not know how they had come to hang here.  And I think it’s quite remarkable that such a young person should have so beautifully captured the words, and most especially the word “light.”  If you walk up to the banner, you’ll see that the light is varying shades of white and pink against a background of different hues of blue – just wonderful.
The word “light” today comes to us first in how we are invited to understand Wisdom.  Wisdom in the Bible is characterized as a woman, as Lady Wisdom, who is a mysterious extension or part of God.[1] In the Book of Proverbs, we hear her claim to have been present with God at the creation of the world.  The Book of Proverbs is where we usually learn about her, and where the words of the cover of our bulletin come from.  Those words are from one of today’s official readings, and they tell us that Wisdom calls out in the streets.  She is, in other words, a public figure, out among the people, reaching to us in community.
But there’s another place in which we learn about Wisdom – in a book called Wisdom of Solomon, which is found in the Catholic Bible, but not in the Protestant version.  And it’s in this wisdom book that we hear about Wisdom as more dazzling even than light.  Listen again:
For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of God’s goodness. . . .  She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every  constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it issucceeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

So Wisdom reflects and mirrors and images light and the goodness of God, and is superior to light itself.  As beautiful as our banner is, as powerful and bright as light is, they are only reflections of Wisdom herself, that all-encompassing, deeply-pervading source of knowledge and of discernment, and that grace-filled companion to God.   

We see Wisdom in another form today as well – in the form of Jesus himself.  We know that Jesus identifies himself as light – “I am the light of the world” he says in the Gospel of John – and is also identified with wisdom. In Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians, we are told that “he is the source of [our lives] in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God . . .”.  So Jesus is light, and more than light – Jesus is wisdom.
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is.  And it is Peter who answers clearly and without equivocation, “You are the Messiah.”  You are the anointed one. You are the one who has come to restore us to life.  You are the one.
Jesus goes on to provide something of a job description for the Messiah.  The Messiah will suffer, he says, and be killed.  And rise again – but it’s too late – Peter is already protesting.  And Jesus, who needs support, not dissent, at this point, become angry, and tells Peter that he has his mind set on human things rather than divine things.  “Get behind me, Satan!”  And then Jesus tells his disciples, and thus us, “For those who want to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save them.”
The Christian life – the life of light and wisdom -- is about recognizing and following Jesus – even into difficult places.  Into place where we lose that which we think of as our lives.
Light, and wisdom are not all about Easy Street.  The light shines, and the darkness does not overcome it, but the light shines on some pretty tough spots, on some rugged roads and in some dark places. 
Places not unlike the one in which we find ourselves today.
Today, we are called to vote to close our church, to bring our congregational life to an end.
Today, we are called to be a community of wisdom and discernment.  A community which listens to Wisdom call and which follows Jesus, Light of the World and Wisdom of God.
In the wisdom of our Presbyterian forbears, we look for wisdom in community.  We are not a church which places its reliance in bishops or in councils of elders far removed from us.  Although it is the Presbytery which officially plants and which closes congregations, it is we, the congregation, who bear the weight of the responsibility for this decision, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Under the guidance of Wisdom herself.  Under the guidance of Jesus himself.
And that is as it should be.  We believe that each one of us can hear and trust in what God has to say to us.  We believe that God speaks through community – that what we understand of God, we can test in the community of faith, in the historical community which speaks through Scripture, and in the contemporary community – us, speaking though our prayer and our conversation and our love for God and for one another. 

It might be easier to let someone else carry the weight.  It might be easier to turn to some sort of hierarchy, and let the decision be made elsewhere, by others.  But that is not what Presbyterians do. 

And so I urge you today: Let your voice be heard.  Let your vote be counted.  Several of you have told me that you’re not sure that you can cast your vote today.  But it is a great privilege, a great gift from God, to be a member of a congregation which makes its decisions in community, by voting.  It is also a great call to faithfulness: to understand what it means to be stewards of all that God has given us. 
And so: what wisdom do we bring to our discernment?  What light can be shed upon our decision-making this afternoon?  I want to suggest three qualities needed for discernment[2] which we have tried to exercise for the past year and which we are called to bring to our vote today:

The first is openness.  “We must approach our decision with an open mind and open heart.”  I do believe that many hearts here have softened and opened in the months just behind us, as we have come to understand that the old ways no longer suffice and that God is asking us to be willing to trust in something new.  Remember that unfolding trust we talked about last week in the form of that wet origami that unfolds, that OPENS, into graceful and surprising curves?  That’s what we are called to emulate.  We cannot discern for the future if we insist on closing our doors around the past and on locking ourselves in to a season whose purpose has expired. We are called to open our hearts and minds to the reality that what God has in store for us is not what we have known, to the consistent truth of our faith that God is always preparing us for new life – for resurrection life.

The second quality of wisdom to which we are called at a time of discernment is generosity.  “To enter into a decision-making process with . . .  openness requires a generous spirit with which we, with a largeness of heart, put no conditions on what God might call us to. God is asking us to give ourselves away to God with . . . no strings.  God is asking us to consider both present and future in the most generous way possible.  We in this congregation have many gifts to share, gifts which have been honed and which have flourished right here at Boulevard.  And now we are called to be good and generous stewards, of both a building that we ourselves can no longer afford, and of the gifts which God is calling us to take and share elsewhere.  If we are open to God in discernment, then we can also be generous with God in discernment, as God is generous with us.

And the third, the third quality of wisdom for decision-making is courage.  The openness and generosity we are talking about demands courage, for God is asking something difficult, challenging, and risky of us. It takes courage to give up control and in trust in God’s plans.  It takes courage to open ourselves to the future, to be generous when we do not know the outcome, and to act when the cost is high.  It takes courage to follow Jesus, who tells us that his path involves a cross – that to journey with him is to know sadness and uncertainty, suffering and sorrow.   To give up even our lives.  Even our lives at Boulevard.

But you, my friends, are up to this task.  You are up to the call to respond with wisdom and to follow Jesus into unknown territory because you – we – are a resurrection people.  We are an Easter people.

The Christian faith does not end at the cross.  Our lives as Christians will not end with Boulevard’s closing.  The Christian faith, and our lives – as the people of Boulevard, as Presbyterians, as Christians – our faith and our lives are about resurrection.    Unlikely as it may seem to us, those events which look like endings to us are steps on the path toward God’s new creation.

We have a difficult congregational meeting and a hard vote ahead of us.  We cannot deny that.  But let us also not deny – let us remember – that when we vote to close our church, we are voting for life and for resurrection.  We are voting with openness and generosity and courage for a new future, for an Easter future. 

Yes, this looks and feels like the end.    Our experience must be something like that of the the disciples after the crucifixion, when all seemed lost. 
But let us remember: Wisdom is calling.  We are followers of Jesus, Light of the World and Wisdom from God.  Let us respond in wisdom ourselves, and “let [Jesus] Easter in us.”[3]  Amen.

[1] See Wil Gafney, Working Preacher, 9/16/12.

[2] Warren Sazama, S.J., “Ignatian Principles for Decision Making.”


Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” 1918.