Tuesday, May 22, 2018


"Dreams and Visions"

Rev. Paul Mitchell

Vashon United Methodist Church

May 20, 2018  

Ezekiel 37:1-14  Acts 2:1-8, 14-18

Sadao Watanabe

Pentecost is a big dream and a bold vision that is contrary to the seeming disintegration of creation. Things fall apart – or at least it seems that way. Both in the history of our faith and in our current public life – things seem to fall apart.

Last week I spoke about the dreams of God – specifically the dreams of the Mothering God, who we come to know better through ways in which ordinary mothers emulate the qualities of forgiveness, generosity, hospitality, inclusion, and justice. I trust that God is dreaming health, meaning, and peace for us. But she doesn’t simply dream for us and then walk away. Nor does she dismiss us and do it all for us. Yes, God is present for us. Yes, God heals us. Yes, God redeems us from the pit. And…, she empowers us. The Holy Spirit conveys the empowering aspect of God. We tend to focus our understanding of that aspect of the triune God - ruah in Hebrew, pneuma in Greek – both feminine words in those gendered languages – on a handful of festival days in the cycle of the church year: All Saints Day, The Annunciation, The Baptism of Jesus, the Transfiguration, … and Pentecost.
Since we are not a doctrinally or creedally focused denomination, many United Methodists are a little tepid on the Trinity in general, and the Holy Spirit in particular. Understanding of the Spirit has been a matter of division rather than unity from the very early days of the Jesus movement.
What is this Holy Spirit thing?
How can there be one and three?
Who is in charge, anyway?
We tend to try not to think about it too much, since the interior life of God is purely a matter of speculation from our human perspective. And yet, the universal transpiritual experience of the Divine bears witness to something fundamentally interdependent. The Trinity offers a window into possibilities that transcend a monocular view of God. Perhaps, we might legitimately speculate that there is an internal Divine conversation in which one proposes, one responds, and one listens. And might not that exchange swirl and spin, generating and emanating the continuing energy and life of creation?
In Ezekiel we have before us a vision of dry bones – of a people exhausted and hopeless, having been overrun and trampled by the forces of exploitation, violence, and empire. God’s covenant people found themselves time and again facing overwhelming powers that divide and manipulate – leveraging the entropy that seems to determine the fate of creation. Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones is both a snapshot and a metaphor – both a documentary and an interpretation – of the circumstances of his people. They are breathless and eviscerated. They have no spirit and no power. They have no dream and no vision. They are, perhaps, at peace in a way. They have expended themselves. There is a kind of peace in no longer being expected to bear the burdens of love and justice. “Let things lie” – so they seem to say – “leave well enough alone. We are tired and have left behind our vigor and our youth.”
But, the Spirit does not comply with their resignation. The Spirit disturbs their remains, inflates their lungs, enfleshes their frames.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we have before us a vision of wary and yet hopeful witnesses to the resurrection. They are not quite as desiccated as those in the valley of dry bones – they have witnessed rising from death. But they are undoubtedly and rightfully anxious. They too find themselves disempowered, dispirited, and disembodied. In just a few short weeks they have moved far beyond the timid, cowering few gathered in a locked room. Miraculously, the good news of God’s unconditional love and expectation of justice have spread like wildfire beyond the eleven to encompass God-fearers of many cultures and languages. As divided as they appear, as diverse and in as much disagreement as they must be, given their diversity and their local contexts, the wind/breath/spirit fills their sails with a common breath and ignites in them a common tongue – a tongue of fire – a zeal and warmth that is dangerous to those who would divide and conquer. They felt their hearts strangely warmed. Suddenly they can understand one another’s speech – but only because it is the speech of love and justice. Only because it is the breath of the Mothering God who dreams of health, meaning, and peace for all her children.
Into this gathering from all the known world, she moves Peter to speak – to invoke another prophetic vision – that of the prophet Joel. We know little about Joel. Scholars cannot definitively date his time and place. He refers to no specific crisis of the covenant people. But the imagery is vivid. The people have experienced a swarm of locusts that have descended upon them and devoured everything. Their livelihood, their crops, their flocks have been decimated. Perhaps even their children have been snatched away by inhuman forces of greed and consumption. Nothing is more evil that to take children from the arms of their parents. And yet, just as God will redeem and restore crops and fields from the mindless forces of nature, so Joel testifies that God will redeem and restore health, meaning, and peace to the people from the callous forces of evil and empire. And as the Mothering God, YHWH will not abandon her children. She gives us dreams and visions, and she empowers us with her Spirit to live into those dreams and visions.
Hebrew poetry – which constitutes much of the speech of the prophets – does not “rhyme” phonically as we often expect poetry to do in English. Instead, Hebrew poets prefer to rhyme visually and metaphorically. In the prophecy from Joel that Peter paraphrases, YHWH declares,
“I will pour out my Spirit on all humankind. Your offspring will prophesy, your young people will see visions, and your elders will dream dreams.”
Joel is proclaiming an equivalency between youth and age. We might gather from this that God will call upon both young and old to foresee and imagine what could be, together. The passage from Joel imagines dire and foreboding circumstances – omens and portents – but also affirms that God is more powerful and present than the forces of destruction and division. What might we construe from all of this? There is danger in conflating the individual witnesses from their various contexts. Trying to construct a perfect image is idolatrous. It imagines that we are somehow more able to convey God’s dreams and visions for us than millennia of prophets, psalmists, apostles, and evangelists. But we can faithfully construct a harmony – a song sung in different languages, but conveying a message that is clear and compelling and consistent with the forerunner and foundation of our faith.
This seems more than a little overwhelming, doesn’t it? Sometimes it makes me feel exhausted and hopeless, breathless, and eviscerated. I’m feeling especially defeated by the venomous and divisive political climate of our time. We can only do what we can do – but we must do what we can do. And I think there is something we can do. We can find someone with whom we disagree, and together seek common ground. Much of our language of division and debate is a matter of perspective – of people earnestly and genuinely seeking to find health, meaning, and peace in their disparate contexts. I was recently reminded of the intentional friendship that developed between Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. There could not be a more polar pairing in the political world. And yet, because of their shared commitment to the common good, they knew they must seek to understand one another – not to gain a personal or partisan advantage, but to become more human – to seek the common good.
I’m not suggesting that we seek unity above all else or at any cost. Unity can easily become uniformity – which is tyrannical and idolatrous. Diversity and difference are valuable assets in a fallible world. With only one point of view, we would most certainly be tragically wrong at some critical point. With a broad and inclusive field of vision we can collaboratively scan and correct for error – but not if we never even try to see the world from another point of view. Perhaps we can only see the world as God intends when we focus on the common good.
Beloved, that is a dream and vision worth pursuing with every breath. Find someone with whom you genuinely disagree – who “speaks a different language” – and befriend them. Engage them in civil discourse – not to gain a personal or partisan advantage, but to become more human – to seek the common good. That’s a first step. A further step is a dream and vision that has been tugging at me recently. What if we were to build circles of relationship with Christ at the center that intersect our community around significant issues for the common good? In that, the grace of God will go before us, connect between us, and move beyond us to bring about a more beloved community. Start small. Start here. Expand your circle. Embrace difference. Include a stranger. Make a friend. Become love. Let your heart be strangely warmed.
Step by step, let’s put the world back together again.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Mother's Dream

    Resurrection and Justification                                                                                                                                                                         Eastertide 2018

"A Mother's Dream"

Rev. Paul Mitchell

Vashon United Methodist Church

May 13, 2018  

Isaiah 42:5-10, 14-16    Luke 13:34-35


Ann Reeves Jarvis, a Methodist preacher’s kid, was a social activist. Born in 1832, she experienced firsthand how the devastating effects of the Civil War fell disproportionately on the poor. Eight of her thirteen children died before they reached adulthood. These losses inspired Jarvis to take action to help her community combat childhood diseases and unsanitary conditions. According to some accounts, she was a peace activist, and refused to take sides in the war. After she died in 1903, her daughter Anna Jarvis started a “Mother's Memorial Day” in their Methodist congregation around 1905 to observe and preserve her mother’s passions and her memory. It was a mother's dream to heal and protect her children. And she saw all children as her children.
There are some problems with making Mother's Day, especially the kind of Hallmark greeting card version of Mother's Day, the central feature of our worship on Mother's Day. Instead, on the second Sunday of May, in church at least, let us focus on the Mother of us all – the Mother that we all share, the Mother that we share with all of creation – the Mothering God. Our images of God shape the ways we imagine each other. This week it was announced by our United Methodist bishops that a constitutional amendment to our Book of Discipline, declaring that women should be fully included in the life and order of the church was… rejected. I suspect this was in part because the theological “whereas” stated:
As the Holy Scripture reveals, both men and women are made in the image of God and, therefore, men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God. The United Methodist Church recognizes it is contrary to Scripture and to logic to say that God is male or female, as maleness and femaleness are characteristics of human bodies and cultures, not characteristics of the divine.”
…. Words are important, and they can enhance or obscure our search for compassion and justice….
Metaphors and imagery evoke truth. But, we've lost out on the rich metaphor and imagery of the Bible and our Christian tradition when we only think of God as Father. Think of the range of imagery that informs our understanding of the divine.
Mother, Father, Rock, Fount, Eagle, Son, Brother, Vine, Wind, Breath, Spirit.
All of these are equally valid metaphors about the nature and the identity of God…, who is beyond our capacity to fully know and to name. Thus, the Hebrew tradition of an unpronounceable personal name for God. Some scholars even believe that that unpronounceable name, which we Christians are allowed to try to pronounce something like YHWH, is a feminine word in Hebrew. It's a metaphor, and so when we use a metaphor, I'm not suggesting we should say God is like a mother, but that mothers are like God in some specific, particular way, and when we're talking about God, it's the ideal case of the mother.
In the beginning, there's an image of the Wind/Breath/Spirit brooding over the surface of the waters. Brooding. It's also the word that the Bible uses to describe God as a mother worrying about her children. This image of God as the Womb of creation recurs again and again throughout the Psalms and the Prophets. It’s like a mother brooding over her newborn child. One of those prophets, Hosea, attributes to God the ferocity of a mother bear. He says, quoting God,
“I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs and will tear open the covering of their heart.”
The ferocity of a mother bear. That's how deeply God cares for us and for creation, just like a mother bear. Somewhat contemporaneous to Hosea was Isaiah, probably our best known prophetic voice. There are several divine speeches in Isaiah in which God describes God's self as a mother. In the one we heard today God says,
“For a long time, I've held my peace. I have kept still and restrained myself. Now I will cry out like a woman in labor. I will gasp and pant.”
The labor of bringing peace and justice to the world, of sight to the blind, of illumining the world with light of love, is just like God giving birth…. We are called to be midwives in the project of bringing about the Kin-dom, of the Shalom of God's dream for creation.
The Gospel Luke draws deeply on these images – images and metaphors from the Prophet Isaiah. Luke values women more highly than any of the other Gospels, often depicting them as exemplars of faithfulness and responsibility…, of unique leadership within the early church. Luke depicted the motherly aspect of Christ when Jesus reflected upon the apostasy – the wandering and standing away – of God's children in Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings? And you were not willing.”
Jesus the mother hen.
These images of God as Mother don't end, of course, with the Bible. The Holy Spirit has moved theologians and Prophets and mystics to understand God as Mother again and again throughout history. Clement of Alexandria, one of the earliest theological leaders of Christianity, who lived from 150 to 215, described the Eucharist – that is communion – as milk from the breast – of God – which he understood as Christ. Communion is milk from the breast of God. Hildegard of Bingen – whose writings inspired our closing hymn today also wrote of her visions of the Mothering God.

So what are some of the qualities of God that can be found in this metaphor of God as Mother?
Long-suffering, abiding patience. Any mother here who knows that? Long suffering abiding patience. This is forgiveness at its deepest level, isn't it?
What about life-giving, giving out of the very stuff of yourself. It doesn't matter if you're the birth mother or not. You, as a mother, give of your very self. And it's not limited to the mothers who are women, is it? The mothers who are men also give of their very selves. Generosity, unconditional love, absolutely unconditional love – that's the love of a mother. She may be tearing her hair out. She may be wanting to kick her kid out onto the street…. But love is there. And it may even be love that's motivating that desire to kick the kid out onto the street. That time comes for every child doesn't it?
Unconditional love is also like hospitality. God sets a table before us.
Inclusion – concern for the common good: the mother doesn't only care about her own child. The Mother cares about all children everywhere….
The fierce protective impulse. I read that as justice. The Mother is fiercely motivated to protect her children.
These are the qualities of God, when we think of God as mother, aren’t they? Also, dreaming and yearning and aching for the best for her children. This is what God does as the Mother. She dreams and she yearns and she aches for the best for us, for her children. And sometimes dreaming for her children is almost too painful. And sometimes it's the only thing that keeps hope alive – dreaming for her children.
So, let's imagine for a moment the Mother-God's dream for her offspring. She wants health for us. Doesn't she? Just like any mother that we know. She wants health for her children, physical health, emotional health, spiritual health. First and foremost, she wants her children to thrive.
She wants meaning for her children. She wants her children's lives to have meaning. It may not be the meaning that she desired for them. They may not follow the path that she had laid out for them. But if they have meaning in their lives, she is gratified. Respect and gratitude for her: this is what the Mothering God wants from us, her children – respect and gratitude for her who has given us birth.
She wants real peace, deep peace that comes with interdependence. She doesn't want to have warring children. She wants us to be in peace with each other – despite, and maybe even because of, our differences, sometimes, she wants peace for us through interdependence.
Last fall I described my experience at one of the first gatherings in preparation for the New Poor People’s Campaign, which launches today. It aspires to continue the work that Martin Luther King said when he launched the original Poor People’s Campaign,
“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A civilization can flounder as readily in the face of moral bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s road side, but that will only be an initial act. One day the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar, it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth, … and say, this is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, this way of settling differences is not just. This business of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of sending men home from dark and bloodied battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.”[i]
It was no accident that the original launch of the Poor People’s Campaign was on Mother’s Day, and it is not merely coincidence that it is being relaunched today. With the ferocity of a mother bear, in the activist spirit of Ann Reeves Jarvis, a movement is arising again that speaks truth to power through grass-roots acts of non-violent civil disobedience and resistance. Tomorrow, rallies will be staged in state capitols across the nation, including ours in Olympia. Forty days of action recall forty weeks of gestation, after which the hope is to give birth to health, respect, and peace for all – but especially for those who live in poverty. Over the next forty days, I invite you to join me in a fast from all that encourages and supports racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. It may simply be in the language we speak, with metaphors for God that subtly devalue women, humor that ridicules the “other” – such as calling something “crazy,” idioms based in violence or militarism – such as being “on target” or “shooting from the hip,” or dismissing someone as a “bum.”
Our fast may be in forgoing the convenience of Amazon Prime second day delivery or purchasing the latest upgrade from Apple.
Or it may be in uttering the simple prayer,
“Mothering God, to what are you giving birth through me? Amen.”

[i] Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam” (April 1967), https://kairoscenter.org/quotes-from-rev-dr-kings-last-years/

A New Creation

    Resurrection and Justification                                                                                                                                                                         Eastertide 2018

"A New Creation"

Rev. Paul Mitchell

Vashon United Methodist Church

May 6, 2018                                           

Acts 4:32-35; John 20:19-31

As I reviewed my notes before starting to prepare for this sermon, on first glance my summary of the text appeared to start, “On the evening of the first Easter, Jesus entered a locker room.” Still, there may be something similar between a team huddled in the locker room and the team huddled in the locked room on that first Easter evening. The game appeared to be over. The enemy had triumphed. Despair had demobilized the team.

In quick succession, John paints two pictures a week apart. In the first, a few of Jesus’ followers, possibly mostly the men, because the women for some reason have already figured it out and are waiting for the men to catch up – typical – are gathered behind closed doors – their hopes for the messiah in a chaotic mess. Fear and anxiety are palpable. Conversations are whispered. Lights are low. Their limbic systems are on high alert. Vision is narrowed. Hope is lost. Into this dungeon of chaos and despair Jesus breathes the Spirit of peace, discernment, and empowerment. It was the first Easter evening, and it turns out the women were right as usual – death could not contain the Lord of life.
And yet, still, a week later, the disciples were still there, in the same house, behind the same closed doors, still unable to move ahead in their mission. Nothing worth mentioning had happened in a week. Jesus’ overwhelming gift of the Spirit was not enough to create durable peace, purpose, or persistence. Thomas has historically borne the brunt of criticism for his doubt – but after all, he had missed the team huddle the week before, and nothing the other disciples had done in the meantime had convinced him to believe – that is to live as though – new life had begun.
At the time that the Gospel of John was written, Gnosticism and Docetism were concepts         being considered by some in the Christian community. Gnosticism claims, among other things, that some persons are endowed with special spiritual knowledge – either preordained or by divine intervention. Docetism claimed that Jesus only appeared to be human, and that, being purely divine, he could not have died. Today we assume that Thomas’ distrust – a better translation than doubt – was regarding the resurrection. Equally probable was that some did not believe that the crucifixion could have occurred, and Thomas’ insistence that he see and touch the risen Jesus was more John’s way of affirming Jesus’ humanity than questioning Thomas’ faith. That the marks of his suffering would persist beyond his death has profound implications for us, implications that would be moot if Jesus was not profoundly human.
In some ways, there was nothing new about God becoming human. The gods of Olympus did so regularly, perhaps giving their worshippers the hope that they too could achieve divine status through an individual relationship or an achievement that merited such a reward. These gods were often depicted as capricious and oppressive – though also fallible and compromised. But there is little to suggest that the people of the first century actually believed that Zeus and family existed in any concrete or even spiritual way. The more salient concerns were the capricious and powerful humans who claimed to be gods to be worshipped by their subjects. These gods, the Caesars and Herods, and their minions, were all too real, seeming to hold sway over all creation through violence, oppression, and manipulation. Somehow these gods had conspired to bring down the bearer of a different way. To put it in the words of teens today, “That’s messed up!”
There are infinite examples of what’s messed up right here and now. One indicator of our messed-up-ness is that there are two months in the year designated to raise awareness of sexual violence in our culture. October is “Domestic Violence Awareness Month” and April is “Sexual Assault Awareness Month.” In the context of our own huddled secrecy, our breathless silence in spite of receiving the breath of the Holy Spirit, and our reluctance to carry out Christ’s message of peace and discernment, it is clear that sexual violence is a spiritual crisis. In our Easter celebration of the exoneration of Jesus – of God’s embrace of the human body – calling it very good – we must remember that in the United States, one in four women have suffered domestic abuse. Worldwide it’s more like one in three. In the United States, domestic violence has been reported in 28% of households – just a fraction of the estimated unreported total. In the United States, domestic violence is the leading cause of death in women – more than the next three causes combined.
And it’s not just women who suffer, but also men, children, the elderly, and persons with different abilities can be victims of domestic abuse. Abuse cuts across all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic categories. Abuse is not only physical, but can be financial, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. The perpetrators can be men or women, children or parents, whoever has the advantage, seeming to hold sway through violence, oppression, and manipulation…. That’s messed up.
Part of what allows this mess to persist is that we do not see sexual coercion or violence as a significant stain on the new creation that we are called to live into as Easter people filled with the breath of the Spirit. We are disciples, huddling behind locked doors, nursing the fears induced by a mind-set of tribalism, vulnerability, and privilege…. That’s messed up.
Perhaps the mess of sexual assault seems too remote or too overwhelming, but in light of the few statistics I have mentioned, we cannot deny that it is near at hand, in our midst, and more prevalent than we want to admit. Victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence carry an enormous load of fear and shame – and will work to hide it. Perpetrators are clever and controlling, often charming and even helpful in their public lives. Chances are you know a victim or an abuser. I’m not an expert on domestic abuse or intervention. But I do know that sexual abuse has a profoundly spiritual dimension. I encourage you, if you are or know a victim or abuser, find someone to listen. Find someone who will say “How are you hurting? Tell me about your pain.”
Every act of violence, every abuse of power, starts with personal decisions – decisions to withhold peace, decisions to withhold forgiveness, decisions to withhold power. Like it or not, it’s in our nature to slide back into our former ways, to worship the old gods in whatever forms they now take, to overlook the good news of Easter – that we are not alone or abandoned even when all seems lost. What have we done to change the world in the weeks since Easter?
But there is grace. Jesus does not condemn the disciples who for the second week in a row are sequestered behind the safety of closed doors. Instead he returns again and again with peace, discernment, and empowerment. The story of the disciples in the locked room is actually a creation story. The fact is that the bible is filled with creation stories – not one, not two, but dozens of them. In fact, you could say that the Gospel of John begins and ends with creation narrative. Here is how. Remember the great opening prologue of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
It was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through it, and without it not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in it was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
It was in the world, and the world came into being through it….
From its fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
Many scholars believe that the twentieth chapter of John was originally the final chapter. Chapter twenty ends definitively:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Anointed, the One who shares in God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Think back to the story that we commonly refer to as the creation story:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Chaotic and directionless, dark and roiling – perhaps even without sound until the breath of the Spirit moves. Or remember the second creation story – part two, but probably the older of the two:
At the time when YHWH made the heavens and the earth, … YHWH fashioned an earth creature out of the clay of the earth, and blew into its nostrils the breath of life. And the earth creature became a living being.
In the locked room, Jesus does what God did to unlock the power of creation; he brings order to chaos and bestows the breath of life. So John begins and ends with creation. The incarnational perspective on creation in John is a way of saying that creation is not just an act of God, but an incarnation of God’s very being. The breath of God is an awakening of the image of God that is inherent in everything that has the breath of life. And in John, this awakening spirit conveys three messages to the disciples: peace, discernment, and empowerment. “The peace Jesus announces is not one that can allow the disciples to remain behind locked doors. They are no longer merely disciples. Now they are apostles as well, sent into the world, just as God has sent Jesus himself.”[i]
We, who are followers becoming disciples becoming apostles, who have been invited, are now being called, and – if we choose to accept the mission – will be sent, have a role to play in the new creation. The vision of that new creation that Jesus has bestowed upon us, huddled here in our locked room, is characterized by three dimensions: peace, discernment, and empowerment. Jesus greets us with peace – but it may as easily be a command as an assurance. The new creation Jesus expects of us is one of peace.          This peace is not merely an absence of violence, but a robust wholeness of right relationship with God and each other. This peace means not merely silence, but a sacred quiet in which we truly hear one another, in which we listen carefully, being fully present to one another. This peace means the yielding of privilege and power by those who possess them.
But this is not a rosy-colored-glasses kind of peace. The second gift Jesus bestows is that of discernment. In this new creation, forgiving sin and retaining sin are the two trees in the new garden. Their shared fruit is that of discernment. There will be evil and there will be malice just as there will be error and misjudgment. In the new creation, we will encounter messy things like sexual violence. There are no easy, universal answers. We cannot afford to rush to judgment. Each victim of sexual violence has a different set of circumstances, a different cultural context. And while we bear a responsibility to notice each other’s circumstances and to create a world in which violence is not an option, any intervention must not contribute to worse circumstances.
All of us have power – some more than others. Even victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence have power, but for one or many reasons have not been able to exercise it. Thus the new creation we are called and sent to participate in is one in which mountains of power are laid low and valleys are filled. We can choose to participate in God’s new creation of peace, discernment, and empowerment every moment of every day, from the youngest of us to the oldest, in large ways and in small. We often overlook the impact of the small. This week, make peace with a neighbor; forgive a parent, spouse, or child; empower a stranger or a friend. The more often you practice – the easier it will be to see. In another week, we may be able to step through the closed, locked door ourselves – “As my Abba has sent me, so I send you,” - and boldly proclaim a new creation of peace, discernment, and power. May it be so.

[i] Feasting on the Word; Year B, Volume 2 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008) 402.