Sunday, December 09, 2018

Wilderness Places and Wilderness Times


St. Paul’s Church in Bergen & Church of the Incarnation, Jersey City NJ
December 9, 2018

Year C: The Second Sunday of Advent
Baruch 5:1-9
Canticle 16
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

Wilderness Places and Wilderness Times
            If you were here last week and remember my sermon, you may recall that I showed off a little bit about how far I go back in Jersey City. I talked about how different the Hudson Mall was back when I was a kid, bustling with big crowds and many different stores, including, surprisingly enough, a Catholic bookstore and chapel run by nuns.
            Well, the problem with showing off is that there’s usually someone who can show off a little bit more and, sure enough, after last week’s 8:00 service our parishioner Mike Rems shared with me some of his Hudson Mall memories which go farther back then mine – so far back that he remembers when there were no stores there at all – just marshland – just empty wilderness where as a kid he and his pals went hunting for small creatures – unsuccessfully, he says.
            By the time I was a kid in the 1970s, most of our city and county had been paved over and built up, though I remember there was a little patch of wilderness along the railroad tracks back behind Country Village, a little wilderness with a footpath running through, a little wilderness where I was warned never to go.
            Today a house sits on that land, and if you’re looking for wilderness around here, I guess you have to go over to Lincoln Park West or Liberty Park and look in just the right direction and squint a little bit – and then you can almost imagine you’re in the wilderness.
            Now, there may not be much natural wilderness left around here, but in many other ways, our city is very much a wilderness.
            There’s the wilderness along some of our major avenues and along many of our side streets where danger seems to lurk on nearly every corner and so many houses and buildings sit looking forlorn, neglected, abandoned.
            There’s the wilderness of people living in shockingly poor conditions – crumbling walls – infestation of vermin – no heat – and the fear that they will lose even that to landlords who want as much rent as they can get.
            And, on the other hand, there’s the wilderness of the good landlords, the good supers, and the good homeowners, who do their best to keep up their buildings and sidewalks, but challenged every single day by the neglect and abuse of tenants and neighbors.
            There’s the wilderness of too many of our schools, where there’s no running water, not enough supplies, not enough family support, and teachers are demoralized and exhausted by low pay, a crushing amount of paperwork, and very little respect.
            And, finally, and most important, there’s the wilderness in the hearts of so many of our people – loneliness, regret, fear, anger – and the disorientation caused by our rapidly changing society and economy that seems to be leaving us behind.
            So, yes, Jersey City is a paved-over place, but we don’t have to travel very far at all to find wilderness places and wilderness times.
            There’s a funny thing about wilderness places and wilderness times, though, that ancient people understood and that maybe we’ve forgotten.
            In the wilderness places and wilderness times, we recognize only too well our weakness and dependence, so it’s there – in the wilderness - that we can most clearly experience God’s presence and God’s power.

            On this second Sunday of preparation, we turn our attention to one of the central characters of Advent, John the Baptist.
            It’s only Luke the Evangelist who gives us some of the Baptist’s back story – only Luke who tells us that John and Jesus were family, related through their mothers – only Luke who tells us that John was the son of Zechariah the priest, who sings to his son the song we just said together:
            “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way…”
            And, Luke tells us that John and Jesus - and all of the others that we are about to hear about in the Gospel – they all lived in the wilderness of the Roman Empire, under the rule of a particularly grotesque and depraved emperor named Tiberius.
All of the people we’re about to hear about in the Gospel – they all lived under lesser but still bad news officials like Pontius Pilate, and also the Jewish priests who had sold out to the Romans to save their people, or maybe just to save themselves.
            The Gospel itself takes place in a wilderness place and a wilderness time.

            Luke doesn’t tell us anything about John the Baptist from his birth until what we heard today: we’re told that the word of God came to him in the wilderness and then he traveled in the area around the Jordan River and began calling people – began calling people living in the wilderness of a brutal empire – people living in the wilderness of their own sin and despair.
John called people to be baptized – to repent - to change their hearts – to change their ways – to prepare for the salvation of God.

            God comes to us in wilderness places and wilderness times.

            This all happened a long time ago, right?
 But, I’ve talked to enough of you - and I’ve experienced it myself in my own life – to know that God is still at work – God is still coming to us in our wilderness places and wilderness times.
            And then, just as God used John the Baptist, God sends us to people who are in their own wilderness places and wilderness times.
            I think of one of our parishioners who calls a friend who is in the wilderness of illness and depression – calls her every single day - to make sure she’s hanging in there - in his own quiet way, offering her encouragement, support, and love.
            I think of someone who called me the other day concerned about a mutual friend of ours who is in the wilderness of alcoholism, quite literally drinking himself to death – saying to me that we have to do something – we have to try our best to save him because we love him and his life is worth living.
            And, yes, I think of the hospitality we offered to our Family Promise guests – talk about people in a wilderness time and place – sharing God’s love with them right here in our spiritual home.
            And, I think of the monthly feasts we serve at the homeless drop-in center – and the now the sandwiches that we also make – and the socks and blankets that we’re collecting – and Mia’s beautiful vision (which we have surpassed, by the way!) - all to feed and warm people who are living in the wilderness of the streets or in the shelters.
            And, I also think of Jersey City Together – this remarkable organization that is just a few years old but has already made such a difference in our own lives and in the lives of so many of our neighbors – bringing hope and power to people living in the wilderness of unsafe neighborhoods – the wilderness of dilapidated apartments – the wilderness of substandard schools.
I think of Jersey City Together, which has called on the leaders of our city to, in a way, repent – to change their ways.
And now this afternoon we’ll continue this good and holy work and I hope you’ll be there.

So, yes, we live in a paved-over place, but we don’t have to travel far at all to find wilderness places and wilderness times.
Fortunately, God comes to us in the wilderness – and then, God sends us out to our brothers and sisters in the wilderness, sometimes calling on them to change their ways – but most of all, offering them – offering one another - the overflowing love of Jesus Christ.
Amen.


Sunday, December 02, 2018

Memento Mori


St. Paul’s Church in Bergen & Church of the Incarnation, Jersey City NJ
December 2, 2018

Year C: The First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-9
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

Memento Mori
            If you go back in Jersey City at least as far as I go back, you’ll probably remember that there used to be a whole lot more going on at the Hudson Mall than there is today.
            Before the construction of the Newport Mall in the late 1980s, the Hudson Mall was pretty much the only game in town – and so it was often packed with people who were there to see a movie or eat at the Rodeo Steakhouse or to shop at the many different stores that lined both sides of the mall.
            When I was a kid, my mother would sometimes take my sister and me down to “the mall” (there was only one) and when I was old enough I was allowed to wander around on my own while she shopped.
            I can remember spending a lot of time browsing the shelves at the Coles Bookstore – and, in fact, I think I still have a couple of books that I bought there so many years ago.
            And, there was another store that I would sometimes wander into: the Catholic bookstore and gift shop.
            Maybe some of you remember it.
            The store was run by a Roman Catholic order of nuns called the Daughters of St. Paul – and they were always there in their very traditional-looking habits: long dark dresses and long veils and a crucifix around their necks.
            I can’t remember ever interacting with them, which is surprising because I doubt that there were too many ten year-old boys coming into their store looking at their merchandise and sometimes even wandering into the back where there was, if you can believe it, a small chapel!
            Of course, along with all of the other stores from those days, the nuns with their little shop and chapel are all long gone.
            But, for whatever reason, a couple of months ago I thought about them and I wondered whatever happened to the Daughters of St. Paul.
            So, through the wonders of modern technology, I simply googled them and discovered that the nuns are very much still around – they still operate bookstores across the country including in Manhattan and Staten Island – and, on top of that, they have some young nuns who’ve brought their ministry into the 21st Century through the use of social media – they’ve even created their own hashtag: #MediaNuns.
            One of these “Media Nuns” is a young sister named Theresa Alethia who has an interesting life story of having previously been an atheist who loved punk rock but who eventually was felt drawn back to the Church and then to the convent.
            And, at some point she learned about a very ancient Christian spiritual practice called Memento Mori – a Latin phrase, which basically translates as “remember your death.”
            For more than a year she has kept a plastic skull on her desk and just a few weeks ago she published a very punk- or goth-looking journal decorated with skulls, a journal with a lot of blank lines providing people with the opportunity to reflect on and write about their own – our own – inevitable death.
            Now, let’s be honest, most of us do everything possible to avoid thinking about this stuff so, even for an order of nuns, it’s a pretty crazy, a pretty wild counter-cultural move, to publish a book encouraging people to think and pray about their own deaths - and yet, believe it or not, it seems to have struck a chord with people. This skull-covered journal seems to be flying off the shelves.
            Memento Mori: remember your death.

            Speaking of counter-cultural, today is the first Sunday of the new church year, the first Sunday of Advent.
            And, Advent – these four Sundays before Christmas – Advent is definitely the most counter-cultural time of the Christian year.
            In fact, Sue had to reassure the florist and the tree people that, yes, we really know what we’re doing – we really don’t want our Christmas tree and the poinsettias until December 22.
            Because, while out there in the world they think it’s already Christmas – I’m sure the Hudson Mall has already been decorated for many weeks – here in church we’re focused on Advent – we’re focused on preparation – preparation for Jesus’ birth - and also preparation for the last day – the last day when we will be judged on how we have lived our lives.
            Memento Mori: remember your death.

            So, please accept my apology if by same chance you came here today hoping for some Christmas cheer! In fact, if you came here looking for a little Christmas, you may have been more than a little startled by today’s very un-Christmassy gospel lesson.
 Jesus offers what sounds at first like a pretty scary vision of the end – a time of signs in the sun and moon and stars and people fainting from fright – a time when even "the powers of the heavens will be shaken".
But, even now, especially now, Jesus sticks to one of his main and most important messages which is, “do not be afraid.”
            When the end comes, rather than be terrified, Jesus tells us to stand up and raise our heads because our liberation has arrived.
            But, here’s the thing: we can only face our last day – we can only face the last day – we can only face the end with courage if we’ve prepared for it – if we’ve been alert – if we’ve been praying – we can only face the end with courage if we’re ready.
            Memento Mori: remember your death.

            As you would probably guess, as a priest it’s been my privilege to be with a lot of people as their lives draw to a close.
            In some cases, people have been at peace – they’ve reconciled what needed to be reconciled – said what needed to be said – accepted what needed to be accepted - held the hands that needed to be held – kissed those they loved.
            I’m reminded of my grandmother who, just a few days before she died, turned to me and said, “I’ve know where I’ve come from and I know where I’m going.”
            (Whether she knew it or not, she was quoting Jesus in John 8:14)
            And, it sounds like President Bush was blessed with that kind of death on Friday night.
            But, in other cases, much harder situations, it’s been like people never considered that this day would actually come for them – they hadn’t prepared – they had managed to push the idea of death out of their minds – and so they hadn’t said or done what was needed – and instead of peace there was bewilderment, fear…and not enough time.
            Memento Mori: remember your death.

            It really is counter-cultural to talk about death, I know. We’d probably prefer to talk about just about anything else.
            But, we Christians are meant to be counter-cultural.
            And this most counter-cultural season of Advent – this season of preparation – is the perfect time to remember that we really don’t have all the time in the world.
            Advent is the perfect time to ask for - and to offer - forgiveness.
            Advent is the perfect time to say what we’ve always meant to say – to say what needs to be said.
            Advent is the perfect time to hold tight to the ones we love most.
            And, Advent is the perfect time to pray even just a little bit – to spend time with the God who is pure love and mercy – the God who tells us to be not afraid – the God who longs to spend all of eternity – forever and ever – together with us.
            Memento Mori: remember your death.

            Amen.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Otherworldly Kingdom of Christ


St. Paul’s Church in Bergen & Church of the Incarnation
November 25, 2018

Year B: The Last Sunday after Pentecost / Christ the King
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-13
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

The Otherworldly Kingdom of Christ
            You may have seen in the news the other day that, while talking about Saudi Arabia, our Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said,
            “It’s a mean, nasty world out there…”
            And, whatever we may think about our Secretary of State and the administration he serves, I think we can all agree that he has given a pretty fair and accurate assessment of our situation.
            Very often it really is “a mean, nasty world out there.”
            We’re reminded of this terrible truth every time we turn on the news and see stories of war and cruelty and violence.
            We’re reminded of this terrible truth when we see stories of disasters probably caused at least in part by climate change - like the wildfires in California, which have killed and displaced so many people and destroyed so much property, in many cases all that people had.
            We’re reminded of it every time we walk down Bergen Avenue or through Journal Square, where we see so much poverty, addiction, so many people with grim expressions looking like they’re just trying to get through the day, so much suffering.
            On Thanksgiving night as Sue and I drove down the ramp off the Turnpike extension and were stopped at the Montgomery Street traffic light, there they were as usual – a couple of guys braving the bitterly cold temperatures begging for change from drivers like us stopped at the light.
            It’s a mean, nasty world out there.
            And then, think of the everyday, casual cruelty directed at people who are somehow different – who look different, act different, speak different, love different – think about how mean and nasty the world can be for them – for some of us.
            Of course, fortunately, there are many beautiful and inspiring things in the world, too. But, as our Secretary of State said, all too often, it’s a mean and nasty world out there.
I trust that this isn’t exactly news to you.
            No, of course we all know this. And, the truth is the world has often been - has long been - mean and nasty.
            Just look at first century Palestine, when and where Jesus walked among us.
First century Palestine was a time and place when and where the Romans ruled with an iron fist, willing to quickly crush any sign of rebellion with huge numbers of crucifixions – including, of course, the crucifixion of one troublesome rabbi from Nazareth.

            Today is the Last Sunday after Pentecost – it’s the last Sunday of the church year – what we call the Feast of Christ the King.
            And, it’s appropriate on this last Sunday of the year when we celebrate the kingship of Christ that our gospel lesson takes to nearly the end of Jesus’ earthly life – takes us to when Christ the King comes face to face with Pontius Pilate, the local representative of a very different kind of king, the ruler of the mean and nasty Roman Empire.
            A few weeks ago we talked about how Jesus’ closest followers and friends – the people who had front-row seats for his teaching and healing – we’ve had several examples of the apostles just not “getting” Jesus.
            Remember the brother apostles James and John asking Jesus for the best seats in the kingdom?
            In fact, it’s a consistent theme of the gospels that the apostles so often miss the boat, just don’t “get” Jesus.
            It’s probably historically true and was well known – known so well that the gospel writers couldn’t have cleaned up the story, even if they had wanted to.
 And, the fact that the apostles so often didn’t get it serves as a kind of encouragement to us today, we who so often don’t get Jesus, either – we who are, so often, of little faith.
            Anyway, if the apostles in the front row don’t get Jesus, we should not be at all surprised that Pontius Pilate – a notoriously mean and nasty official of a notoriously mean and nasty empire – he doesn’t “get” Jesus, either.
            Imagine the scene:
            There’s Jesus of Nazareth, all alone and probably looking worse for wear after his arrest – there’s Jesus of Nazareth rejected by the leaders of his own people -there’s Jesus of Nazareth with no crown and no army and no government and, seemingly, no friends – there’s Jesus of Nazareth who, Pilate has been told, despite all of that, somehow claims to be – or some people believe him to be – a king.
            Let’s be honest. We wouldn’t get it either.
            Despite this bizarre and unlikely scene, Pilate asks Jesus directly:
            “Are you the king of the Jews?”
            And, Jesus, in his usual Jesus-like way, doesn’t answer him directly but finally tells Pilate a great truth:
            “My kingdom is not from this world.”

            The otherworldly kingdom of Christ.

            And, for two thousand years we Christians have faced a choice – a choice between the mean and nasty worldly kingdoms or the otherworldly kingdom of Christ.
            Unfortunately, but not so surprisingly, all too often Christians past and present have chosen the mean and nasty worldly kingdoms – the kingdoms of people like Pontius Pilate and the Roman Emperor.
All too often, Christians have chosen power and influence in the mean and nasty world – have chosen to sit in the seats of honor – have shared the prejudices and cruelties of their time – have chosen to amass as much wealth as they can while others go hungry - have chosen to bless hatred and sprinkle Holy Water on the tools of war and destruction.
It’s no surprise that so many Christians past and present have so often chosen the worldly kingdoms – it’s just a whole lot easier to just get along with the powers that seem to be, and, let’s face it, the rewards are immediate and satisfying, at least for a time.

But.
But, that’s not who we are meant to be.
When we were baptized we became citizens of the otherworldly kingdom of Christ.
That doesn’t mean we spend our lives staring up at the stars or with our heads in the clouds.
No, dwelling in the otherworldly kingdom of Christ means living in such a way right here and now so that when other people look at us – when they look at how we live our lives – they just don’t “get” us.
I bet you’ve already gotten a taste of that.
A few decades ago, going to church on Sunday – every Sunday – was still pretty much the thing that people did. No one would look twice or think twice about it.
But, not so much anymore, right?
So, if and when you mention to family members and friends or even co-workers and neighbors that you go to church, I bet least some of them raise their eyebrows in surprise that you would still give up so much precious time – not to mention the money you might give to the church – not to mention if you participate in other ways.
If we’re doing this right, people just won’t “get” us.
Another, more specific example:
As many of you know, I’ve been bragging about our two weeks hosting Family Promise.
Maybe some of you are even starting to get a little tired of hearing about Family Promise, but, I don’t care because it was such an extraordinary effort and I’m really proud of it!
The other day I was trying to explain to someone from outside the church what Family Promise is and how it works.
I explained how, yeah, we had eleven homeless people – four families – living here for two weeks – and we had to provide all of the meals and spend time hanging out with them and two of us had to sleep over every night.
I explained that we had seventy-eight different people help out in lots of different ways.
And, this person I was talking to was too polite to say so, but I could see in his facial expressions – I could see his eyebrows go higher and higher – and I could almost read his mind:
“Wait, you had homeless people – people you didn’t know – living in your space for two weeks?”
“You had to feed all of those people for two weeks – people who aren’t even members of your church – people you’ll probably never see again?”
“You had to sleep over with those same people – sleeping on a less than comfortable air mattress in a chilly parish hall when you could have just slept at home, warm and comfortable?”
I could sense that, on one level, this guy was impressed by what we had done but he couldn’t really imagine doing the same thing himself, and perhaps even thought that if only these homeless people just worked harder they wouldn’t be in this situation.
I could see in his face that he didn’t quite “get” it.
And, of course he didn’t get it, because it was like nothing that we usually see in the world.
There was nothing mean and nasty about the hospitality we offered.
Actually, it was just the opposite: kind and loving.
By opening our doors to strangers in need, we showed ourselves to be who we were baptized to be – who we are meant to be.
So, a good “new church year resolution” would be less mean and nasty and more kind and loving.
Let’s live and serve together in the otherworldly kingdom of Christ.
Amen.

           
            

Sunday, November 18, 2018

There is No End to God


St. Paul’s Church in Bergen & Church of the Incarnation, Jersey City NJ
November 18, 2018

Year B, Proper 28: The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hebrews 10:11-25
Mark 13:1-8

There is No End to God
            I suppose by now nothing much should surprise me, but I admit that I really am surprised that there are still Christian preachers out there – including some very popular and successful (well, by the world’s standards, at least) – some big-time preachers out there who still push the message that if we believe the right things and do the right things and, yes, give to the church the right amount of money, then God will surely bless us with health, wealth, and happiness.
            I suppose that message still finds a big audience because so many of us are discouraged and frightened, desperately looking for hope, searching for a way out of our present troubles.
            The problem is that this idea that if we just believe and say and pay the right things God will bless us with health, wealth, and happiness, it’s just not the message of Jesus.
            No, Jesus is quite clear that his way is the way of the Cross – it’s the way of love and sacrifice – and, it’s often the way of real suffering, too.
            The promise is not that God will make all of our problems go away.
            No, the promise is that God is with us through it all, through all the good stuff and especially through all of the bad stuff of our lives.
            The promise is that Jesus is with us even unto the end of the age.
            And, the promise is that even when things seem hopeless and we seem to have reached the end – well, the promise is that no matter how bad things are, God is still at work.
Because there is no end to God.

            In today’s gospel lesson, we pick up right where we left off last week.
            You may remember Jesus and his disciples have been in the Jerusalem Temple – the center of Jewish religious and political life.
            And, while there, Jesus let the scribes have it, criticizing them for walking around in their long robes, saying lengthy prayers just for show, sitting in the prominent seats, and for devouring the houses of widows.
            And, while in the Temple, Jesus also observed the poor widow dropping her two small copper coins – all that she had – into the Temple treasury. Jesus points out, not necessarily approvingly, that this poor woman has given far more than the others who merely give out of their abundance.
            Now in today’s lesson, Jesus and his followers walk out of the Temple and one of the disciples - sounding very much like a country bumpkin making his first trip to the big city – admires the magnificence of God’s house and exclaims, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”
            I suppose the disciple must have expected Jesus to reply by saying something like, “Yeah, I know. Pretty impressive, right?”
            But, instead, Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple – “not one stone will be left here upon another, all will be thrown down.”
            And after hearing this shocking and grim prophecy, the disciples understandably want to know when all of this is going to happen, but instead of giving a straight answer, Jesus warns the disciples – warns us – that other bad things will come and some will be so bad that we’ll think it must be the end.
            For the first readers and hearers of the Gospel of Mark – and for us today – Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of the Temple isn’t a prophecy – it’s history.
            The Temple was, in fact, destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 and not much was left, just a retaining wall that still stands – known today as the Wailing Wall or the Western Wall.
            The destruction of the Temple was a cataclysmic event for the people of Israel, so crushing that many Jews thought that this must be the end – they thought that there was no way for the people of Israel to survive – no way for the people of Israel to remain in relationship with God - without the Temple and the sacrifices that took place there.
            But, God was still at work, inspiring the rabbis to reshape the Jewish faith, a faith that has gone on without the Temple for two thousand years – through lots of hard times.
            There is no end to God.

            And, when you think about it, for the first disciples that first Good Friday must have really seemed like the end.
            The One that they had known as friend, teacher, and healer – the one they had recognized as the long-awaited Messiah – Jesus had died the shameful death of a criminal on a cross.
            This must have been a cataclysmic event for the disciples – for those who watched from a safe distance and those who had completely abandoned him in his greatest moment of need.
            They must have thought that this was the end.
But, God was still at work, raising Jesus on the third day, inspiring the disciples to begin spreading the Good News, spreading the Gospel far and wide, until it reached all the way to Jersey City, and farther even than that.
There is no end to God.

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that some on the St. Paul’s side of our family wondered if maybe we were approaching the end.
Although we had remained a diverse and faithful congregation, attendance and giving had shrunk and the best-case scenario was that we could limp along for a while, drawing more and more from our investments, hanging in there for as long as we could.
And, over on the Incarnation side of our family, it was just last year that you faced a big decision about the future.
And, I don’t know, when you made the choice to unite with your brothers and sisters on Duncan Avenue, maybe for some of you that felt like the end, too.
But, we don’t have to look very hard to see that it was most definitely not the end.
We don’t have to look far to see that God was and is still very much at work, taking two sides of the family and knitting together a stronger, even more beautiful and vibrant congregation – a congregation increasingly free from worrying about survival and much more focused on serving the community.
Look at the Sandwich Squad.
Look at the Lighthouse. Yes, the last residents have left 68 Storms and maybe at the moment it feels like the end but God is still at work, putting together new and even bigger pieces and I’m convinced that rather than the end we’re just at the very beginning of a ministry to some of the most despised people in our community.
Look at Family Promise, where by the latest count, seventy-eight people – our parishioners, Grace Van Vorst parishioners, neighbors, friends – seventy-eight people contributed to the success of our hospitality to people who for two weeks had no other home but ours – a ministry that, I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it has changed us – made us more joyful – somehow, I don’t know how, made us freer than we were before.
There is no end to God.

            So, like, I’m sure, all of you, I sometimes get discouraged and frightened by what I see going on around us and in our country and world.
            I get discouraged and frightened watching California burn and the tides rise and species go extinct.
            I get discouraged and frightened when I see the foundations of our democracy wobble and crack.
            I get discouraged and frightened when I see our young men hanging out on the corner with no real future and with so little sense of life’s value.
            I get discouraged and frightened when I see the desperate financial crisis facing our public schools.
            I get discouraged and frightened when I see how easily things and people get broken – one wrong move, one careless turn, one thoughtless word, one day everything’s fine and the next day it’s not and there’s no going back to the way things used to be.
            Like the disciples on Good Friday and like the Jews watching the Temple burn and collapse, for us sometimes it seems like this is the end.
            But, then I come here with all of you and I see with my own eyes - and I remember - that God is still very much at work.
            There is no end to God.
            Amen.