Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wind and Fire—God on the Move

May 24, 2015
Acts 2:1-21
John 15:26-27;16:4b-15

It’s time for summer blockbusters in the theaters.  The key to success in the summer is lots of action and plenty of fire power.  Last weekend’s big money maker was Mad Max and only a few weeks ago it was Avengers: Age of Ultron.  The characters have a multitude of super powers and everything explodes. 

American audiences are obsessed with super powers and fire and the cosmic battle between good and evil.  And we bring that very human obsession into church with us.  It’s easy for us to get confused because the Christian story has some of those same elements.  Jesus worked signs and miracles as he preached and taught, he was tortured and executed on a cross, but three days later his tomb was empty and he appeared to his disciples.  Those same disciples, amid great confusion, experienced “a sound like the rush of a violent wind.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”  Fire and power and a hero that can’t be defeated and the cosmic battle rages on with holy wars and inquisitions until the earth is scorched in the name of righteousness.  Look at what’s left at the end of the summer blockbuster.  Everything is torched, but at least the heroes have won.  But there is nothing holy about it.  Is that how we tolerate the images of war and terrorism that we see daily?  Is that why we believe destructive violence somehow wins?

When I wrote the title for this sermon, which I do on Monday or Tuesday so that Gaye can put it on the reader board at her convenience, I was caught by the wind and fire images as God’s movement in the world.  But the more I worked with those images, the less sense they made.  Here in the northwest, fire and wind are a deadly combination.  They are powerful, but they are terribly destructive.  If you hear me say nothing else today, hear this:  The Spirit of God is holy, beautiful, and true.  And if God is love and light, then the Holy Spirit is also love and light.  There is no cosmic battle—all battle language is deceptive.  It implies that God is threatened in some way—that God could lose.  It implies that God is not the sole Creator of all that is and the Sustainer of creation.  It implies that God’s love is not adequate to win every human heart.  It implies that the God who created such rich diversity is limited to one right way.  

There are plenty of people who use fear as a weapon, even in church.  I remember a teenager in youth group who had seen one of those Armageddon films at his cousin’s church.  He came to youth group clearly frightened.  He knew that God could send him to hell in a heartbeat if he did something really wrong.  But he wasn’t sure what that might be.  Imagine being a teenager and believing that a wrong move could doom you to a lake of fire and not knowing which move that might be.  It’s like living in a mine field.  There is not a parent in this room, as imperfect as we are, that would threaten our children with death—we remove children from those kinds of homes.  The Holy Spirit tells the truth about God’s love and God’s perfect love casts out fear.  

I think we may be ambivalent about the Holy Spirit because it has been the cause of division in so many churches.  Even in the early Church, Paul had to admonish the members of the church in Corinth not to squabble over the gifts of the Holy Spirit—who had gifts, which gifts were more important, who was spiritually mature and who was not—these questions threatened to divide the church.  What was Paul’s answer?  “Let me show you a better way,” Paul wrote, and then he wrote about love, faith, and hope, but, Paul said, “The greatest of these is love.”  God’s Holy Spirit is the essence of love.  If it truly is God’s Spirit, it does not divide, destroy, of kill.  The Holy Spirit unites, creates, and heals.

I’m intrigued by a couple of verses in the gospel reading.  Jesus says that when the Spirit comes he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.  I’m wondering who Jesus means by the world.  I’m guessing it’s everyone.  This is the same gospel that says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”  So everyone is wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.  I have this image of this clear bright flame the size of a candle flame illuminating my sin and my sense of righteousness and judgment of others.  What happens when we turn down the lights and the sound and focus on that small flame?  What do you see?  Do you see yourself differently?  Can you sense your own frailty and see the frailty of others?  What do you hear?  Can you hear your own longings and sense the longings of others?  What rises within us that is holy, that is of the divine?  What is that generative spark, that holy warmth that creates new possibilities for us and for our relationships?  One of the most powerful verses of scripture for me whenever I become angry and self-righteous, when there is a fire storm raging within me, and those times are more frequent than I would like to admit, comes from the Psalms: “Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me (Ps 51:11).”

It reminds me that the firestorm is not some outside force, but within me.  Others may be dealing with their own firestorms, but mine is the only one I can control.  So I pray with the psalmist:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
   and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Not fire and wind, but spirit. The word in Greek for spirit is the same as for breath (ruah).  God’s breathing warmth and love in the depths of our being.  Turn down the lights and the sound and listen for that breath.  Feel it moving within you.  Let God’s breath set things right within you and restore your joy.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

In Tough Times

Isaiah 40:27-31
2 Corinthians 6:1-10; 11:22-33
Matthew 8:23-27

A few weeks ago I opened the sermon time up for your questions.  One of the questions that still sits with me came from Carol Butler:  What rationale can we give our children for going to church?  You might ask yourself why you come to church.  What is the value for you?  What makes you get out of bed and get dressed on a Sunday morning?  I heard the story of a mother who went in to wake her son up for church on Sunday morning.  He mumbled and pulled the covers over his head.  She tried to cajole him, “It’s Sunday.  Let’s go to church!”  But he just grumbled and rolled over.  Finally she pulled the covers off and exclaimed, “Tom, get up!  You’re 50 years old and you’re the pastor.”  Believe it or not, there are days even pastors don’t want to go to church. 
So why do you come?  I think the reason is always personal.  I can’t guess what motivates you, but let me tell you why I went to church long before I became clergy.  My relationship with God is what grounds me.  Paul Tillich, the great theologian, wrote that God is the ground of our being.  I have experienced that as true long before I read Tillich.  There have been times in my life when it feels like the bottom has fallen out and I can’t find my footing.  Until I pray.  Until I worship.  Until I have a chance to talk with members of my church.  It’s really easy for me to think that God thinks what I think, likes who I like, hates who I hate, until I come to church and that’s where I meet the God who will only be love, no matter how I argue or whine.  And I have to anchor myself again in this God of love.  Anchor is not a bad analogy.  I probably shouldn’t try a nautical metaphor since I don’t know anything about sailing, but going to church anchors my personal faith.  So even when the sea gets rough, I don’t get washed away or lost.  It has been drilled into me that I belong to God and God’s people won’t let go of me. 
Being a practicing Christian doesn’t protect me from storms, from harm or danger.  It’s not an insurance policy.  Paul is a perfect example.  Being a practicing Christian actually put Paul in harm’s way.  Because of his evangelizing, Paul was hunted and beaten, he survived shipwrecks and persecution.  God didn’t keep bad things from happening to Paul, but Paul managed to get through by trusting God.  Paul could keep going because he believed God was with him and because he had God’s work to do.  Paul had a mission in life and a partner in that mission.  Paul found purpose in his faith.  So even in really tough times, Paul had a reason to keep going.  The shipwreck or beating didn’t define him.  Persecution didn’t define him.  His belief in God’s love defined him.  Others could hate him, but he believed he was loved by God and that sustained him and gave him courage.
That may not seem like a big deal reason to go to church, but it works for me.  The assurance I banked in good times has anchored me in tough times.  Jesus’ teachings have guided me out of bad decisions.  They’ve made my character stronger, hopefully not just for my own life, but also in the way I live in the larger community—economically and politically.  We struggle together here over what justice looks like, and what makes for peace and the common good.  We learn compassion from sharing our stories and our lives.  And I tell you what, trying to do justice and live compassionately can wear you down.  It is so much easier to only be interested in myself, to do what makes me happy and not care about other people (and that comes back to bite us personally and socially as Marie Antoinette could tell you).  Going the distance takes constant inspiration and good partners.  We encourage each other and inspire each other.  And when one of us hits a rough patch, we hold each other up.  We are the hands of Christ for one another.  You can’t count on that from your co-workers or neighbors.  I heard one of the doctors at a Philadelphia hospital this week attribute the medical community’s ability to respond so well to the train derailment because they routinely practice disaster drills.  Churches are small communities that have experience in dealing with disasters large and small, in comforting and putting life in perspective and helping us to make meaning and find purpose.  That’s how we can run and not be weary—because the community of the faithful holds us up.
I wrote this before we saw the high school musical The Drowsy Chaperone which says pretty much the same thing.  When we are blue, we need a song for our heart.  The play says you get that from musicals.  I love theater and I love musicals, but on a gaping wound that’s like a Band-Aid.  I need the songs of the faith in tough times.  I need the songs of lament and the songs of assurance.  I need the songs that remind me that even in my darkest hours, the love of God is a fire that never dies.  I need the song of God’s passion in my heart.  I need to hear how deeply I am loved.  This is where we sing those songs to each other, where we sing them for each other.
In the tough times, I need a framework on which to build meaning and I get that from my faith community.  It’s like going to school.  We learn to read and write and do math and understand science for what is coming.  We learn to think for ourselves by thinking through story problems in math.  That’s why we read the Bible—to learn to think theologically for ourselves.  We don’t need someone else to tell us what the stories and teachings mean.  We need to learn to figure them out for ourselves because today and tomorrow and the next day, we are going to be faced with decisions that matter in parenting, relationships, business, and politics.  We do that best in community so that we are not fooled by our own conceit or despair.
I think the Christian faith is invaluable in learning how to become more beautifully human.  There are too many ways to become inhuman.  I think about guitars and violins and other instruments that need to be constantly tuned, our souls need to be tuned frequently so that we hear God and not just ourselves and the noise of the world.  Just like professional basketball players practice every day in order to play well, just like concert pianists practice every day to perform beautifully, we need to be practiced and ready to deal with tough times—when we lose a job, or a loved one dies, or a relationship crumbles, or we receive a dire diagnosis, or the bottom falls out and we feel ourselves falling, it helps to know from experience that God is there—that God’s people are there—that we can sing “It is Well with My Soul.”  You know the story of that hymn don’t you? 
This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the 1871 Great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago which was decimated by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873 at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone …". Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.[1]
This is the first verse in Stafford’s original lyrics:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Practicing our faith teaches us to know in the toughest of times that God’s love continues to hold us and claim us—that we have a home and it is well with our souls.

[1] “It Is Well with My Soul,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Is_Well_with_My_Soul, accessed May 16, 2015.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Chosen for Love

Psalm 98
John 15:9-17

     Jesus commands us to love one another.  And we don’t bat an eye.  Maybe we’ve heard it so many times that we’re immune to it.  Jesus’ command is hard!  Love one another as I have loved you.  How can Jesus command us to love someone?  My mother couldn’t make me love stewed tomatoes on a bed of saltine crackers—did your mother serve that, or was it just mine?  It didn’t matter how many times that appeared on the table, I couldn’t like it, much less love it.  Can you command children to love Brussels sprouts or beets?  Can you command your children to love each other?  Really, no.  I can remember my father telling my sister and me that we had to say we were sorry to each other after a fight.  What a travesty that was.  Neither one of us was sorry.  But we were obedient.  “Sorry,” we’d each say and we’d skulk off.  We were obedient for a long time before we really did care about each other.  Being obedient helped us to grow up safely.  And now we are more than willing to make sacrifices for each other.  Our parents cared that we loved each other, because they loved both of us.  It took us awhile to learn to love each other.  I’ll bet it took the disciples a couple of years to learn to love each other.  I’m not talking about warm, fuzzy emotion-based love, but respectful, honoring, agape love—the kind of love that desires only good for the other person and thinks only the best, even when there is not an emotional connection—especially when there is not an emotional connection.  
     When we’re new at this spiritual stuff, God commands us to respect and honor each other.  That’s the basis of the law and the prophets.  Respect, fairness, honoring the person and property of the other, justice, hospitality, care for the alien among you, and the widow and the orphan.  But as we mature through obedience, our love for God should grow as well, until God’s desires become our desires.  At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.  For Jesus, there is a connection between mature love for God and sharing that kind of love with one’s neighbor.  Mature love propelled Jesus into his community with a desire to love others as he experienced God’s love.  God’s desires became his desires.
     Immature faith is really kind of nice.  I like living in God’s love.  I like the one-way street of God loving me.  It’s very comfortable there.  I prefer it when all the love comes my way.  But mature faith requires that I grow beyond my childhood faith, and become faithful.  Jesus calls his disciples to a two-way street where they have as much responsibility for him as he has for them.  They were chosen to be in the kind of mature, nurturing, transformative relationship that makes compassion and love for others possible.  The author of the gospel uses the word “chosen,” a deeply meaningful word to Jewish disciples that he graciously extends to Samaritan Christians who had become a part of the Johannine community.  But the truth is that all human beings are not only chosen for love, we are created for love.  We are created needing love to thrive.  And we are created to love others so that they may thrive and so that the community reflects God’s very character.   
     Several years ago, I gave a training session in adult advocacy and good boundaries for helping professions to the staff of Deaconess Children’s Services.  One of the staff members recited her rule of thumb:  she works on a one-way street.  The care for her clients goes one way.  Everything that she does is intended for the benefit of the children or families that she is working with.  That’s an excellent illustration of Jesus’ care for his disciples and his ministry within his community.  It was a one-way street.  But in this passage, Jesus asks his disciples to step up to a more mature faith and participate in ministry alongside him, to be his friends and colleagues instead of students.  The ministry is no longer only for their benefit.  Now, they are to do ministry that benefits others; to do for others what has been done for them; loving others as they have been loved.  Jesus calls us to be partners with him in the saving work of love.  It starts with obedience to a commandment and grows into partnership with God and genuine caring.  At this time of year, we say something similar to graduates:  Up until this time, it’s all been about you.  Now it’s your turn.  You’re grown up now.  You have been nurtured to make a difference in the world.  
Can’t you just see the disciples looking at each other saying, “I’m not ready.  Shouldn’t we have had more training?”  The truth is that we learn by being obedient and doing the work.  The students in my Ministerial and Theological Integration course often complain in the fall that they’ve been thrown into ministry in their internships without enough training.  They ask, “Who am I to walk into someone’s hospital room?”  But at the end of spring quarter, they shine in their ministries.  They love the people they serve and can’t imagine not continuing in their internships in some way.   I want to share a poem with you.  Sherry Castro served as an intern at the Washington Correctional Center for Women at Purdy in 2001.  “At the beginning of the internship she wanted to simply go off by herself and write religious stories.  She was reluctant to find a context that would be with other persons.”  But listen to the poem she wrote after obediently following Jesus into the women’s prison.

“For the Women”
If I had known how deeply you would wound my soul,
Would I have come?
If I had known that coming would alter the rest of my life,
Would I have come?
If I had known how profoundly you would touch me and change me,
Would I have come?
I don’t know – I really don’t know.
Rapid transformation can be frightening –
    but slow transformation is deep,
         soul-binding and irreversible.
I’d never seen your eyes before, held your hand,
    sung your music,
         heard your story, seen your bruises and
              scars, prayed your pain,
                   cried your poetry—
No, I didn’t have to come here –
I could have gone on with my life as it was –
    happy to be in the pew –
         happy to think I was doing ministry –
              happy not know you were here.

You and I were created for love.  How will you let yourself be changed by sharing God’s love?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Planting Seeds

May 3, 2015
Psalm 146
Matthew 10:16-20; 11:28-30; 28:16-20

         I had the most exciting conversation this week with the director for liturgy for the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, Andrew Casad (I’m not sure that’s his exact title, but its close).  He lives here on Vashon.  His young children participated in our ecumenical Vacation Bible School last year and had a wonderful time.  Andrew is the on-site supervisor for one of my students this year, so every quarter I check in to see how things are going at the internship site.  This week, Andrew asked me if I had a minute at the end of our conversation.  He wanted to run an idea past me—just something he’d begun to think about, a totally unformed idea.  He wondered if I’d heard of Alpha, a small group Bible study designed to introduce people to Christianity.  I have heard of it.  Andrew had heard some good things about it from a priest in another part of the country and wondered if it might be a way, now listen to this, “For the faith communities of Vashon to let people know about this Jesus that we love.”  He thought we could work together to introduce people to Jesus and then invite people to attend our churches to find their best home.  I almost cried.  Of course I’m interested!  Alpha wouldn’t be my first choice for curriculum, but the chance to be a part of the Church with a capital C working together is nothing short of a miracle.  The opportunity to partner with other churches to plant seeds of faith fills me with joy.  That’s exactly what the first disciples did.  
If we could do this thing, we would have to get beyond our critique of other churches.  I don’t know about you, but it is so easy for me to be critical of other expressions of the Christian faith:  the folks in that church are too emotional and the folks in that other church are so cold they might as well be dead.  Or the criticisms I’ve heard (and maybe even said) about worship:  I’m not going if there’s an organ; praise music is not adequate to hold the glory of God; not another new song—why can’t we sing the old songs; we read too many scriptures; the service went over an hour—again!  And we miss it.   We miss the face of Christ on each other.  We miss the One who reveals the presence of God in our midst.  It’s so easy to become disconnected from Christ and from each other.  But you know what?  That doesn’t stop Jesus.  The discord in his time didn’t stop him then and it doesn’t stop him now.  He simply moves on to someone who is weary and carrying a heavy burden, and he offers them a connection to the divine.  “Take my yoke,” he says, “and I will give you rest for your souls.”
     Jesus invites us to reconnect.  “Take my yoke,” he says.  A yoke is that harness that goes across the shoulders of two oxen, connecting them as they plow.  Two oxen yoked together see the same thing ahead of them.  “Take my yoke,” Jesus says, “and learn from me.  Reconnect to the Holy One through me and we will share each other’s burden.”  But, oh, being connected is so frightening.  It means we have to care—that we have to share Christ’s passion.  Jesus doesn’t let us sit safely on the sidelines, critiquing the human parade.  He wades right in, with us attached, simply looking with compassion into the eyes of the weary and those carrying heavy burdens, and he picks up half the load so they can rest and catch their breath.  
     Let me give you an example.  The first church that I served was in Rainier Beach, a part of Seattle where the distance between the expensive lake shore houses and the projects is about ten blocks.  Rainier Beach sits halfway in-between.  About a year after I got to the church we sent a mailing to 10,000 of our neighbors, inviting them to worship with us.  I drew a circle around the church and included all houses and apartments in a two mile radius.  Several weeks later, a woman called the church asking for assistance with her rent in senior subsidized housing.  On my way to deliver the check to the housing authority, I wondered if I was being scammed—churches get a lot of scams along with genuine requests.  It was a rough neighborhood and I was a little nervous.  And then I saw a street sign and realized that I had just invited all these people to church!  This was my parish—at least I had hoped it would be when I prayed over the brochures.  These were the people to whom I’d been sent in ministry, the ones Jesus was inviting me to see as his beloved—weary and burdened with poverty, addictions, discrimination, temptations to crime, fear, and loneliness.  Suddenly I wasn’t concerned about scams or my own safety.  I was with Jesus, the source of compassion and love—among my neighbors.
     Every Sunday morning I place a stole across my shoulders.  It is a representation of the yoke the Jesus invites us to share.  I am reminded of that yoke every time I robe for worship and I hope that when you see my stole, you will remember Jesus’ invitation to take his yoke.  It is not for clergy alone, the yoke is for every believer.  Jesus invites us to reconnect—with him and with each other.  He invites us to wade into the human drama with him as he shares the burdens we’re carrying and we share his burden for the weary and heavy laden.  “Come to me,” Jesus says, “all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
We do Christ’s work with him and we do it in partnership with other Christians.  Too often we divide over issues, sometimes significant and sometimes petty.  In Ephesians, the church claims, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
So we are called to work together to ease burdens.  John Wesley wrote a sermon entitled “A Catholic Spirit” sometime around 1771.  His sermons are very long, but let me share just a short bit that I have cobbled together out of this powerful sermon.  He starts by quoting 1 John 4: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God. He that does not love, does not know God; for God is love" (4:7, 8). "Not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another (verses 10, 11).  Wesley preached:
All men approve of this; but do all men practice it? Daily experience shows the contrary. Where are even the Christians who "love one another as he has given us commandment?" How many hindrances lie in the way! The two grand, general hindrances are, first, that they cannot all think alike and, in consequence of this, secondly, they cannot all walk alike. However, in several smaller points their practice must differ as their opinions differ.

But even though a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without doubt, we may. In this all the children of God may unite, even though they retain these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may help one another increase in love and in good works. . . .
I dare not, therefore, presume to impose my mode of worship on any other. I believe it is truly primitive and apostolic. But my belief is no rule for another. . . . My only question at present is this, "Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?"
Is your heart right with God?  Is the Lord Jesus Christ revealed in your soul? Is your faith filled with the energy of love? Do you love God  "with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul, and with all your strength?"  Is your heart right toward your neighbor? Do you love as yourself, all mankind without exception?  Do you show your love by your works?  As you have time and opportunity, do you in fact "do good to all men," neighbors or strangers, friends or enemies, good or bad? Do you do them all the good you can, endeavoring to supply all their needs, assisting them both in body and soul, to the uttermost of your power? If you are thus minded (may every Christian say, yes), if you are but sincerely desirous of it, and following on until you attain, then "your heart is right, as my heart is with your heart."
"If it be, give me your hand." I do not mean, "Be of my opinion." You need not. I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, "I will be of your opinion" . . . . Leave all opinions alone on one side and the other: only "give me your hand."
I do not mean, "Embrace my modes of worship," or, "I will embrace yours." This also is a thing which does not depend either on your choice or mine. We must both act as each is fully persuaded in his own mind. Hold fast to that which you believe is most acceptable to God, and I will do the same.

Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into sight. "If your heart is as my heart," if you love God and all mankind, I ask no more: "give me your hand."

I mean, first, love me.  And that is not only as you love all mankind, not only as you love your enemies or the enemies of God, those that hate you, that "despitefully use you and persecute you," not only as a stranger, as one of whom you know neither good nor evil. I am not satisfied with this. No, "if your heart is right, as mine with your heart," then love me with a very tender affection, as a friend that is closer than a brother, as a brother in Christ, a fellow citizen of the New Jerusalem. Love me as a companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus, and a joint heir of his glory.
Love me so as to think no evil of me, to put away all jealousy and evil-surmising. Love me with the love that covers all things, that never reveals either my faults or infirmities. Love me with the love that believes all things, is always willing to think the best, to put the fairest construction on all my words and actions. Love me with the love that hopes all things. And hope to the end, that whatever is amiss will, by the grace of God, be corrected, and whatever is lacking will be supplied through the riches of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus.
Commend me to God in all your prayers.  Provoke me to love and to good works.  Love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth. So far as in conscience you can (retaining still your own opinions, and your own manner of worshipping God), join with me in the work of God, and let us go on hand in hand.
Can you imagine planting seeds of faith as partners on this island?  Can you imagine working together with other faith communities to reach those who are weary and carrying heavy burdens—to share and lift those burdens?  Let’s take this to prayer and ask God’s guidance.