Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year

Lentby Christopher Hale

Christians around the world mark the beginning of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. This ancient day and season has a surprising modern appeal. Priests and pastors often tell you that outside of Christmas, more people show up to church on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year—including Easter. But this mystique isn’t reserved for Christians alone. The customs that surround the season have a quality to them that transcend religion.

Perhaps most notable is the act of fasting. While Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during the Lenten season, many people—religious or not—take up this increasingly popular discipline during the year.

Read more at Time magazine…

Finding hope in the winter of discontent

This is a difficult time. I keep thinking of Shakespeare’s phrase, “Now is the winter of our discontent…” I am aware that Richard III does not stop his opening monologue at this point. In fact, he holds up hope as he lifts his tribute to “this sun [son] of York” who has “made glorious summer.” We’ll come back to this glorious sun/son. In spite of his good mood, Richard must have known a winter of real discontent prior to his proclamation of the coming of a glorious summer.

Truly it is hard to hold hope in this winter of discontent, to see any possibility that that glorious sun/son for which we long will ever be seen cresting the horizon of this world gone mad. The horrors of gun violence, mass shootings (352 in this country in the last 334 days), wars and rumors of war, folks who claim to be Christian building walls and issuing edicts to keep the stranger out, masses huddled in refugee camps, political rhetoric that barely rises to the level of trash talk, people arguing over the status of the planet as the earth itself cries out in agony. It is hard to hold hope in such a context, let alone proclaim it. And yet that is exactly what Advent challenges us to do – hold hope when it seems impossible.

I’ve mentioned before my friend, Harold. He’s the younger son of a seminary classmate of my father (back in Kansas in the mid 1930’s). Our fathers were close friends and I’ve known Harold most of my life. Among other things, Harold is a teacher of English, a fine organist and thoughtful agnostic. In his blog postings, he wrestles with his own deep spirituality and a love-hate relationship with organized religion. My sermon from last Sunday, “Hope Bubbles Up,” elicited a response from Harold. I was initially reluctant to read it because I imagined he might call me out for promoting cheap hope.

You see I know that Harold is very passionate about issues of social justice, especially the plight of the people of Palestine. I know this because I receive a daily blog post from Harold reminding me of the injustice and oppression perpetrated on Palestinians by Israel and its allies, chiefly the USA. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of hope for Palestine and Palestinians right now. I know this because Harold just spent 10 days in that part of world and he has told me all about it in his blog postings.

So I wasn’t disappointed when the last line of Harold’s email read, “I hope all of you hopeful people keep preaching even though, having spent 10 days in Palestine two weeks ago, I hardly see much in the world that is hopeful. At least we don’t (YET!) have 19-year-olds patrolling the streets with M-16s.” I get it. It’s a bleak winter, filled with our discontent. Madmen do roam our streets with assault weapons.

Pope Francis chides us for the frivolous festivities of the season that ignore the deep need of a hurting world, a world Christ comes to redeem, to reconcile with its Creator. I read again Thomas Merton’s powerful poem of Advent that begins:

Into this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.

This chaotic world flush with fear and anxiety, full of pain and destruction, this demented in, this bleak winter of discontent is precisely the setting into which Christ enters – uninvited yet determined to bring…hope? peace? joy? love? Merton continues:

But because he cannot be at home in it,
because he is out of place in it,
and yet he must be in it,
His place is with the others for whom
there is no room.

His place is with those who do not belong,
who are rejected by power,
because they are regarded as weak,
those who are discredited
who are denied status of persons,
who are tortured, bombed and exterminated.

With those for whom there is no room,
Christ is present in this world.”

Oddly, these word give me hope. When questioning Harold’s tag under his signature is, “I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me…” (Matthew 25:25-36), I see a flicker of light. There are constant small reminders and occasional larger ones that a better day is possible, that the summer sun might break forth, that the arc of the moral universe, though long, bends inevitably toward justice, that the Love that made us is determined to reclaim us. If we didn’t hold some flicker of hope, how could we continue at all?

An Advent devotional I read this week, puts it this way, “… often hope comes in small doses and flickering images. Signs that are fleeting and brief, and usually seem insignificant. Advent is a season in which we can cultivate a posture of waiting and watching with hope. It is hope that anchors us – it nourishes us, it sustains us, it keeps our eyes up” (d365.org).

One thing that came to me almost immediately in reading Harold’s post is that he helps me hold hope. His insistent reminders of Palestinian pain keep that awful reality before me, along with his other concerns for injustice in this world. He won’t let me forget and for that I am grateful. There are other of you whom I could cite for your faithful witness as well. The more I think about you, the clearer I am that this reflection could run on for a long, long time. Now, in this winter of my own discontent and distress, I give thanks for every one of you who helps me hold hope, even when it’s by my finger-tips. “The Christ in thee meets the Christ in me” and a glimmer of light appears on the horizon.

“O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s deep shadows put to flight.” Amen.

Make Room for the Kids

Rev. Rick MixonA Sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church of Palo Alto
Sunday, October 4 2015

Text: Mark 10:13-16

Observant fellow that he is, when I asked Chip to read the scripture today, he pointed out that I had left out the first part of the reading – and that is true. You see the lectionary actually gives us Mark 10:2-16 as the gospel text for today, but I really didn’t want to deal with this difficult text about divorce om World Communion Sunday, a day in which I hope we can celebrate the joy of being embraced and held by Jesus in the wonder of the Beloved Community of God.

Let me say this word about the verses dealing with divorce. First, there context is first century Palestine, a culture with social structures radically different from our own. One cannot draw easy parallels about the meaning of marriage and divorce from that time to ours. Second, the Pharisees who challenge Jesus with the question about divorce are not interested in having a meaningful discussion about the issue; they are trying to catch him in a heretical statement they can use against him. As usual, he deftly sidesteps their trap.

Third, there is the placement of this discussion in a literary context in which the writer of Mark is trying to show how Jesus’ mission was to include the least and the lost, the broken and needy in God’s Beloved Community. This grouping of teachings begins with Jesus taking a child in his arms and proclaiming, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me” (Mark 9:37). It includes the teaching about divorce, which among other things, lifts up the plight of women in this culture and ends with his rebuke of the disciples for blocking those parents who were trying to bring their little ones to him for a blessing.

He’s trying to show his disciples and anyone else who will listen that there is room for everyone in God’s Beloved Community and he wants them to understand that this is especially true for women and children who were at the very bottom of the social scale in this cultural context. One focal problem is that his own disciples have set themselves up as sort of gatekeepers for the Beloved Community. They are trying to exercise their power to decide who gets in and who doesn’t.

You know how that works, right? You’ve been an outsider, a cast off, a victim of oppression, forced to the bottom of the pile. Then you get a little recognition, a leg up, some enhanced social standing. You’re part of Jesus’ inner circle and suddenly you think you’re in charge of the whole operation. Your little bit of affirmation goes to your head and suddenly you are a very important person. Jesus’ message about being the servant of all is not very appealing. You’re really hoping to sit on his right or left hand when he comes to glory.

But the point is that you haven’t been lifted up, rescued from the pit, affirmed in your brokenness, so that you can put others down. You have been blessed precisely so that you can be a blessing for others. Make room for the kids. They belong as much as you do and you need to make space for them.

It’s difficult to read this passage without thinking about Pope Francis. It may be that he is a sort of Christ figure, even in his very human fallibility. Over and over he tells people not to elevate him to the special status that’s supposed to go with his office. Instead he pleads, “Pray for me.” He must know something about the traps and tragedies of holding a little power on this earth. Making room for the kids is hardly a priority among those around him who have been elevated to positions of authority in the church. Yet there he is, frustrating his security detail and his handlers, delighting the people by leaving his entourage to kiss a boy suffering from cerebral palsy or lift up a little girl dressed in a pope outfit. Isn’t there some delicious irony in that scene? He skips lunch with the power elite of Washington to dine with the poor and he washes the feet of real impoverished prisoners. Unlike those first disciples he seems to have grasped Jesus’ vision of the Beloved Community and he means to live it out as best he can.

“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Unless you learn to make room for the kids, you’ll never find space for yourself. What is it about kids? They can be rascally, unkind, sometimes really mean. Kids are no more perfect than the adults around them. But at their best they possess a quality of innocence and a sense of wonder that time and circumstance has beaten out of so many of us older folk. If we try really hard we may be able to recall the wonder of Disneyland or Christmas or Yosemite or a bicycle or a doll when first encountered. There is something magical in moments like that. Make room for the kids for they help us remember the moments of magic, the ways of wonder, the innocence of feeling love unconditional.

A couple of weeks ago there was a great story in the news about the discovery of a new human subspecies. If you recall, the bones were found in a cave in Africa somewhere. The problem was that access to the cave was narrow and the cave itself very small. From the news footage I saw I’m pretty sure I would not have fit. So in order to do the work of excavating the site the lead scientists put out an appeal for smaller people with backgrounds in spelunking and science to do the work. In the end, there were six small female graduate students who were chosen. They were able to slither through the narrow opening into the small cave to retrieve this wonderful body of evidence.

Is there some sort of object lesson here? You’ve got to be small to get in? It takes a woman to get it done? Sometimes it’s the least likely who lead the way. You’ve got to make room for the kids in order to experience the wonder of discovery. If you let your sense of self-importance become over-inflated, you will never fit through the entrance or stand in the presence. In today’s Words of Preparation, Maggie Ross testifies, “I know the only way to cope with growing up is to become a little child, to choose to evolve with all our complexity toward simplicity; to accept and trust as a little child trusts, only now with the second innocence born of sin and pride transfigured that is more precious than the first, that enables us to walk into dark corridors knowing we will be clobbered, but walking in anyway; to love whole-heartedly with wonder and astonishment and delight; to not be afraid of a child’s self-forgetful absorption in life, approached uncritically and with suspended judgment, so that we may learn true critical discernment” (Maggie Ross, The Fire of Your Life: A Solitude Shared).

To evolve toward simplicity, to accept and trust as a child; to love whole-heartedly with wonder and astonishment and delight – all will help us walk down dark corridors, crawl through the tiniest of spaces, and slip through the thin places into the heart of God’s Beloved Community. We need to make room for the kids who will show us the way, Make room for your own kid, held deep inside your being who, will lead you along the path to that place where we find ourselves delightfully lost in wonder, joy and praise, where Christ takes us up in his arms, lays his hands on us and blesses us. Amen.

Listening As an Act of Love (June 8, 2014)

sermonsLISTENING AS AN ACT OF LOVE

A sermon preached by George V. (Tripp) Hudgins
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Monday, June 8, 2014

Text: Acts 2:1-21

Prayer: Lord, I believe. Help, Thou, my unbelief. Make these words more than words and give us the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

The story of Pentecost always begins with a sound; the gathering of people and a sound. So often we focus on what is being said at the time in the story and ignore all the listening that takes place.

First, there’s a sound.
Second, people hear the sound.
An encounter with the Holy Spirit is predicated on a sound and listening.

I wonder what Peter was thinking that day…with all that noise.

When I read this account from Acts, it’s pretty clear that Peter’s first thought was, “Oh no! Everyone is going to think we’re drunk and it’s only 9:00 in the morning!”

But the Spirit moved and suddenly everyone needed an explanation.
I mean, look at this story.
Look at how many people notice.
Look at the text.
Everyone heard the Spirit.
Not everyone knew what it was, but everyone heard it.
Everyone.

The story of Pentecost is often told as if the most important thing that happened was the speaking in tongues…that people were empowered to speak. Indeed, it’s important. No doubt.

But first, first, they heard something. They listened.

“People will speak!” we cry out.
Language upon language upon language in an ecstatic bubbling proclamation.
Isn’t that cool?!
Yeah. But…no.
Today, I want us to understand that first there was something worth hearing.
The Spirit of God is worth hearing.

In 2010, Rev. James Forbes (former pastor of Riverside Church in New York City) spoke at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary’s commencement service. The famed Baptist preacher stood in the elevated pulpit of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL (a cathedral space just outside of Chicago) and addressed the graduating class and all who had gathered there that day. I was in attendance as a an alum and as local clergy. Dr. Forbes spoke of all the changes in the church but reminded us that it was not just in the church. It was everywhere. He gave us a list of all that was going on, a litany of change and discord. He spoke of it as a time of confusion of languages, of an inability to hear one another, of an inability to be civil and to listen. But, he said, the Holy Spirit is moving.

How do we know? Well, because everything is confusing

The Spirit is doing a new thing.
The Spirit troubles the water.
God’s Spirit is in the world
and it is up us to learn how to listen for it,
and how to listen to one another.

We have to listen to one another, he said, if there is to be positive, lasting change.

At American Baptist Seminary of the West’s commencement service this year, Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson preached to the students, faculty, and families gathered at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland, CA. She spoke of her own discouragement at the present state of affairs in religious vocations. She had a long list of reasons to be discouraged, too. But in a stroke of homiletical skill she turned it all around. Dr. Jackson reminded us that the Spirit is moving, that God is doing a new thing, and that we must have ready hearts and minds to recognize what the Spirit is doing. She has great hope because God does not call people unless God has something for them to do.

We are not alone, O church. We are not alone.

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”

 

All of it.
All flesh.
Not some flesh,
the good looking flesh,
the young flesh,
the tanned, toned, muscular flesh;
or those who aren’t drunk at 9:00am flesh,
but all flesh.

A recent Pew research study states that 95% of Americans claim to make their spiritual lives a priority. Let’s look at that statistic and take it seriously for a second. 95% of Americans claim to be spiritual, in-spirited, inspired, filled with God’s own breath. I have to think that the other five percent simply didn’t understand the question.

One of my favorite things about being Christian is that I get to say things like this: It is the last days, just like it was in Peter’s day.

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”

My friends, it is always the last days.
The Spirit is always poured out.
Praise God for the end times!
Praise God for the Holy Spirit!

She just needs ready hearts to hear her. She needs someone to listen.
She needs someone to take her people seriously.
She needs someone to open their hearts
to the absurd possibility
that God is doing a new thing,
and that this new thing is happening everywhere.

Are we open to the Spirit? Or do we just think everyone is drunk?

The world needs people who are ready to listen. The world needs people who are ready to hear the truth…no matter how challenging the message might be. I believe that we, the church, are being called upon to listen.

Our question about the future of the church needs to change. When we hear “95%,” we need not ask, “How do we get them to listen to us? How do we get them in here?” What the world needs is for us to listen to it, to assume that the Spirit has been poured out upon all people.

What people need is someone who will listen to them as they tell their stories of encountering the divine. We need to listen to them.

Both of the commencement sermons I have mentioned here this morning have been offered in this time of transition and change. Seabury was in the midst of great change. It was graduating its last Masters of Divinity cohort before moving from the campus of Northwestern University to an office park near O’Hare airport, a shared campus in Ohio, and online. Fragmented. Dispersed. And Dr. Forbes asked us to listen, to get out out of our buildings and listen to people in the world. “Join the conversation!” he cried.

Likewise, ABSW as a member school of the Graduate Theological Union is witness to great transition as well. The GTU is increasingly inter-religious in focus. The Christian seminaries are struggling, yes, but the Islamic college is booming and a Hindustani organization has been announced as the newest member of the GTU. They begin teaching classes in the fall. They wanted a place where they too would be heard.

And it’s not only here in California, of course. Pope Francis recently announced that the Vatican will host a prayer service for peace between Christians and Muslims. This will be the first time in history that the Koran will be sung at the vatican. The Pope, I believe, is trying to show us how to listen, how to be open, to take risks, and to hear what others are saying. It very well may be that the pathway to peace assumes a posture of listening to one another.

Listening is an act of love.
It is an activity. You want to do something? Listen.
Do you want to change the world? Open your hearts and minds and listen.

Listen to the Spirit and be unafraid of the new thing that God is doing.

Listening is an act of love, of compassion. The world can feel fragmented. People are lonely…as they always have been. But the need seems more acute these days. Perhaps, you recall the social challenges that were outlined in the book Bowling Alone (2000). A simple example: The number of single-person households is up more than 100% from 1960 to just under 28%.

Think about that. 28% of American households are single-person homes. People live alone.

These are not all young people living alone.
Many of them are our elders.
People do live longer. Many live alone.

Is anyone listening to them?

The invention of social technologies such as Facebook or Snapchat are attempts to address the issue of loneliness. They connect us to one another in surprising ways and people are using these tools to craft new communities, to fashion opportunities to hear and be heard. Social technology is not a youth movement. It’s an attempt to stave off the loneliness, to find new ways of listening to one another.

“and your sons and
daughters shall prophesy,
and your young people shall
see visions
and your old people
dream dreams.”

The Spirit does not usher in a movement for some people.
This is a movement for all people.

Today the world is aflame like that day so long ago.
The Spirit is sounding, the very breath of God is moving out over our own chaos.
And people are talking.
All of them.
All at once.

Tongues of flame leap across the landscape.
They are in twitter feeds and lecture halls.
They are in cafes and along assembly lines.
They are in board meetings and sweatshops.
Young people are casting visions.
Old people are dreaming dreams.

It’s happening all around us.
But is anyone listening?
Are we listening?

I wonder if, like those who challenged Peter that day, we’re more ready to disregard what we hear. We can find any excuse to ignore the holy.

But that is not be our calling.

Open your hearts.
Open your minds.
Rejoice and be glad in what the Spirit is doing in the world around you.
Wisdom shouts in the streets. She stands in the public square.
The Spirit is poured out upon all flesh.

The world is in need of listeners, my friends,
people to offer one another the attention they so desperately need.
People need love, not programs.
People need someone to hear them,
not to tell them what to believe,
not to tell them what to think,
not to tell them anything except,

“I hear you, and I understand.”

Listening is an act of love.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (September 15, 2013)

sermons“The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”
Rev. Tripp Hudgins
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
September 15, 2014

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

Psalm 14, Luke 15:1-10

 Alexander was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

 It’s a children’s story. I know. A no good, very bad day…how do you prepare your kids for that kind of day where nothing seems to go right, where at every turn knobs break and we step in puddles and get gum stuck in our hair?

Maybe, we tell ourselves, that we can move to Australia and everything will be better.

Well, no. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days happen there, too. They happen everywhere. Everywhere. It’s a great book.

So what do we do about them? The classic children’s book doesn’t answer the question for us. Not really. It’s just a little bit of truth telling with fun illustrations. Some days are just terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.

But as we grow older, we learn that though these days do simply happen, that there are attitudes one can have, there are approaches to these days one can take.

We also learn that those days are rarely so kind. Gum in our hair? Mud on our clothes? Life can be much more challenging. There is greater cruelty in the world and we all know it.

I bring this up for us to consider today as we look to our Psalmist. Psalm 14 is a challenging lyric to hear. Fools. Evildoers. They’re everywhere. The whole world has gone to Hell in a hand basket! Don’t you see?! Doesn’t everyone else see? No. Why? Because NONE are good, not one. Not a single one.

Our Psalmist is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

The country is crumbling. The nation is in an uproar. The poor are ignored. The government is careless. The enemies of the state are gaining power.

It was a bad day. Truly. It was an apocalyptic day, the kind of day movies are made about.

Someone needed to write a song about it, it was such a bad day. Heck, the Psalm was so popular that it appears twice in the Psalter. The re-mix or cover is Psalm 53.

It’s not a Psalm about un-belief (a possible contemporary reading), but a Psalm about relentless cruelty in the face of God, about life coming apart at the seams, and one person’s wail of helplessness.

Why do these things happen?

Am I the only one who sees all of it flying apart?

What has happened to the world?

Are there any good people left?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had those days.

I’m not talking about gum-in-your-hair days. I’ve had my share of those, of course, and I cuss when I do. I hate water in my shoes as much as our boy Alexander does. No, I’m talking about the day that the Psalmist is having, the days where despair sets in and you are convinced more than ever, that nothing good could possibly come from anything.

Death. Destruction. Loss…incredible grief about personal and collective loss.

A little testimony, if you will. I’ve had dreams dashed and hopes denied. I’ve wrestled with depression and addiction. In the process I learned that there is nothing at all unusual about wrestling with depression and addiction. One of the key components, however, of addiction is the illusion that somehow you are the only person in the world like you, that you are alone, so very, very special in that loneliness. Then, when you start to recover, to awaken from the nightmare of staring at yourself in the mirror or keeping your head in the sand, you realize that you are just like every other person on the planet.

You are just like everyone else, except that you are really bad at it.

I learned that I was the fool. I’ve hurt people I love and I’ve been hurt. But that’s another story.

It’s a silly title, the title to this children’s book, Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, but we know what it points to. “Terrible” becomes terrifying and “horrible” becomes horrifying.

I’ve been terrified and horrified…sometimes at myself. Sometimes by others.

War. Terrorism. It’s endless. Some of you are old enough that I know you sat at the feet of your parents to talk about the “War to End All Wars.” And here we are a century later on the brink of another war, of another terrifying, horrifying display of human cruelty.

“There is no one who does good, no, not one.”

I am sorely tempted to sing the song of the Psalmist. “There is no one who does good.”

I want to bury my head in the sand. I do. I want to pretend that everything is okay. I want to insulate myself. I want to isolate myself. I want to do whatever it takes to keep “those people,” whoever they are, as far away from me as possible. I want to run. I want to hide.

I want to deny the truth of the world as it has always been and pretend that I can keep the violence and cruelty at bay, that I can somehow, some way…separate myself.

But then God comes like the shepherd from our story today. God comes and scoops me up out of my pit of despair, of my self-imposed isolation. I am the one sheep. I am the lost coin that the woman is looking for.

God, the shepherd, the woman, sometimes comes as a friend who knows me, as a wife who never ever lets me wallow in self-pity as much as I wish she would.

God comes as an encouraging bit of music, as an act of beauty and reverence, and scoops me up.

We are so often the sheep lost in anger, despair, longing for peace, convinced that there is “no one who does good. No, not one.” We have to lament. We need to mourn. We need to grieve. We need to rail in horror and terror.

And then God comes.

God comes. And then we need to surrender it all.

We need to let it go and let God come and scoop us up. We need to surrender and let God carry us.

Sometimes I am the lost sheep. It’s the truth of it. Getting ordained certainly hasn’t protected me from that truth. And being The Church hasn’t protected us from that truth.

It was my first year of seminary. The Twin Towers were destroyed, tumbled to the ground. So many people assumed that everyone would go rushing back to the churches. It was the turn of the millennium and we started counting heads to get a renewed sense of the church in the US. We assumed the crisis would encourage people to return. They would need the church. The exact opposite happened.

Since then my it seems all my conversations have been about church and the place of Christianity in the world. My conversations have been about responding to crisis after crisis. “Save the church,” is the constant cry.

Fix it. Fix. It.

It is like the church fell when the Towers did. That is not the reality of it, of course. Not at all.

Yet, I cannot help but wonder…

Are we lost? Have we forgotten the shepherd? Have we forgotten the woman? Are we so concerned by our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that we have become like the Psalmist? Have we convinced ourselves that everyone is a fool? There’s no one who does good, no, not one.

…how might we claim instead a sense of God’s abundance? Not in possessions. No, that notion won’t serve. But, in humanity.

How might we recover an abundance of compassion and grace, of a sense of shared humanity and the joy that comes from friendship and generosity?

We turned inward so long ago. How might we turn toward one another and the world today? There is so much to give and to share.

I have been seeing signs of hope. Have you? Have you been seeing signs of hope? Have you been seeing the shepherd? The woman? Hope abounds.

This week the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported a statement from Pope Francis urging open dialogue with people who practice or adhere to no faith tradition:

“Since it is born of love,” he wrote, quoting his own encyclical “Lumen Fidei,” “faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others. … Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.” (www.facebook.com/godgirl/posts/10151757770320819)

This sounds like someone who has been scooped up by God.

This sounds like someone who has been found.

And then there’s this from Andrew Slack, Executive Director of the Harry Potter Alliance (Yes, another children’s book):

“Today, on September 11, we send love to children who grew up without parents…We send love to all those who have lost loved ones in the madness that followed the attacks in 2001. We send love also to those in Darfur, in the Congo, and beyond: to those whose suffering has been ignored in part due to this madness. We send hope that those who have been living in fear for over a decade can find safety and healing. We send hope to the children of Syria and hope that all Syrian civilians find peace.” (www.facebook.com/thehpalliance/posts/10151657283638111)

This, too, sounds like someone who has been scooped up by God.

This sounds like someone who has been found.

Tattoo-wearing, and cussing Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber writes,

“God’s grace is not defined as God being forgiving to us even though we sin. Grace is when God is a source of wholeness, which makes up for my failings. My failings hurt me and others and even the planet, and God’s grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word. My selfishness is not the end-all…instead, it’s that God makes beautiful things out of even my own [mess]. Grace isn’t about God creating humans as flawed beings and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us peace—like saying, ‘Oh, it’s OK, I’ll be a good guy and forgive you.’ It’s God saying, ‘I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new.'” (Pastrix, p. 50)

This sounds like someone who has been scooped up by God.

Like someone who has been found.

 

These people give me hope.

Brothers and sisters, are we that one lost sheep?

Are we willing to entertain the idea that it may be we who are lost,

lost in our own fear,

our own insecurity,

our belief that there is no one who does good?

Do we need to surrender?

 

Perhaps.

Perhaps we need to start paying attention to the people who’ve been found because we need finding. We need to let God find and carry us.

And if this is you, I offer you this: Wait for the Lord.

No matter what happens, be gentle with yourself.

God is like a shepherd.

God is like the woman.

Amen.