Mary Bea Sullivan

soul stirring stories

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No One Can Do Our Loving For Us

There is no getting around the fact that this has been a week of wildly gyrating emotions in an already emotion—filled year. I want to assure you, I will not be making any political statements in my sermon.  Simply to acknowledge, no matter who you voted for—a lot has been going on.  And, whether you are jubilant about the results, or dismayed—the assumption is, we all love God and we all love this country.  

And if you are wondering how we heal as a nation—I believe with all of my heart that we followers of the Jesus movement have a unique part to play.

And, that believe it or not, those wise bridesmaids who won’t share their oil, help show us the way.

The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids is located in the midst of what are called the “Judgment Discourses.”  Jesus has lamented over Jerusalem, he is nearing his crucifixion, and is urgently imploring his followers to get ready—not only for his betrayal, but also for the time when he will come again. Matthew tells us the bridegroom is delayed. 

We can imagine what ensued between the joyful arrival of the bridesmaids—expectant and excited for the great wedding banquet, and then the grumbling and irritation at the extensive delay.

One of the hardest parts about waiting for something we desire is not knowing when it will be over. Waiting for the healing from cancer—waiting for a vaccine and then mass distribution, waiting for the grief to lift, waiting for the divide to be breached.

If we focus on what we hope for in the future—we risk spending our whole lives waiting, missing the sacrament of the present moment.

And yet the waiting is real,  and the darkness is real. 

Finally, at midnight—the darkest hour of the night, the bridegroom arrives.

All ten of the bridesmaids brought oil lamps with them.  All ten of the bridesmaids fell asleep. Only the wise brought extra oil 

What is this oil that is crucial to getting into the banquet?

Trappist Monk, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis writes that this parable points to the Kingdom of God—which is when we participate fully in the life of God.* 

This is a love story—and the oil is our self-surrendering to God which is set ablaze by Jesus’ love for us.  This love is always present—are we always ready to receive it?  

The oil Jesus is talking about points toward an interior nature, a way of being.  

 We are like the foolish bridesmaids when we intend to offer our lives to God, but find ourselves consistently distracted. The antidote to foolish intention is the wisdom of FAITHFULNESS.  Like the faithfulness of the wise builder who built a house on the rock of the teachings of Jesus Christ. The wise bridesmaids are like the priests in Exodus (27:20-21) who faithfully filled the menorah with oil keeping alive trust that God would provide.

Jesus uses extreme language in this parable because he wants us to stay awake to living lives that cultivate hearts that surrender to love—-

And Jesus knows—no one can do our living for us.

How do we do cultivate hearts that surrender to love? Surely faithfulness in prayer plays a part. There is faithfulness in what you are doing right now—despite the obstacles— worshipping God—online or in person.  

There is faithfulness in serving others—not as one who is bound by obligation, but one who is bound by LOVE—love of God and love of neighbor.…  

WE surrender.  Christ lights the fire.  It is an intimate love story.

And no one can do our loving for us.

Centering prayer is one of the bedrock practices of my connection to Christ.  The primary movement in Centering Prayer is to consent to God’s presence and action within. At its core, Centering Prayer is like Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but thine.”  

I can be inspired by faithful Centering Prayer practitioners, but it is up to me to show up for this sacred time every day.  Full disclosure—I do not bat 1,000.

Surrendering to God’s will and not mine, is preparation for the physical death I will experience one day.  The ultimate surrendering.

No one can do our dying for us.  

When Jesus lifts up of the wise bridesmaids as positive examples, he is speaking of a way of being that informs our doing.  It is a beatitude way of being— resting in the very heart of God—-surrendering our lives to God.

blessed are we as we empty of our own agendas such that we are poor in spirit

blessed as we love so deeply we open ourselves to mourn

blessed as we make peace in a world screaming for division.

blessed as we are meek enough to receive the stories of those who are different than us.  

blessed are you—Jesus tells us….when your lamp is full of surrendering your life to God. 

What fills your lamp so that you can bravely watch until the light comes? Is it calling someone who is lonely and making sure they know they are loved and not alone? Is it receiving Communion and becoming what you receive? Is it praying morning prayer, sitting in silence?

If you have no practice of filling your lamp of love with oil, and you know not where to start, I have a suggestion.  Could you take 5 minutes each day and sit in silence with a candle and lift your heart to God?  Perhaps you might whisper, “Here I am.”

If all you can do is scream one of Ann Lamott’s favorite prayers, “help me help me help me!”  There is ultimate surrender in that—-Let’s face it, sometimes we surrender ourselves to God in the darkest of nights— because we are out of options.

I am here to encourage you—as dark as your night might seem, do not give up.  Pray for the grace to experience this divine union with God…God is already courting us, beckoning us away from our screens and our selfish ways.

It is not enough for us to intend to offer ourselves in love to God.  

That is why the wise bridesmaids don’t even try to fill the foolish ones lamps.  Yes, in community we can encourage one another on the path—that is one of the mainstays of the church.  

But the wise bridesmaids know—no one can do our living for us. No one can do our LOVING for us. No one can do our dying for us.

As dark as these times may feel, they also hold the possibility for great light. We need not wait to offer ourselves in love.  This is our time…this is our place…

We will bring our Christ-infused love into this pandemic-soaked, divisiveness-stained world.  We will be a bridge, listening in love to one another,  reminding others of our shared love of country and our shared humanity.  

And grace upon grace…The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not over come it.  Amen

*I cannot overstate the influence Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis’s commentary Heart of the Word, Volume III on Matthew had on this sermon.

A New Heart and Spirit

For reasons I do not understand, you were re-sent a blog post I wrote nearly a year ago. Travel to Canada is not something we have been doing lately. I apologize for the mailbox clutter.

However, since I have your attention–I want to share passages from two of this morning’s readings in Morning Prayer. This has been a tragic week. We marked over 100,000 Americans who have died of Covid-19. The black community has disproportionally borne the losses. Personally, I know three beautiful souls who have died and my heart breaks for their families. You have suffered losses as well-my heart breaks for you too.

Yes, this has been a tragic week. “I can’t breathe!” George Floyd and an entire oppressed community cries out. We are repulsed and angry and discouraged that yet again we witness the disregard for the sanctity of a black body. Will it ever end? If that were my son, brother, husband…

And now violence did as violence does–it begot more violence. As the rage becomes uncomfortable for many of us, we turn away from the righteous anger of years of substandard schools and health care and employment opportunities and physical torture of black bodies, and we focus on the destruction of the few. I pray we have the courage to be with the righteous anger and trust it is a way for God to speak to us the uncomfortable words we need to hear. The only way to the other side of grief is through it. We have unsuccessfully tried to sweep this anger and pain and loss under the rug of acceptable behavior for so long it has boiled to a point that is incredibly uncomfortable to witness.

In John 14 Jesus says he has prepared a way for us. He has gone ahead of us–can we who claim to be Christians focus our eyes there, on him? What does Jesus know about righteous anger and persecution? What way has he prepared for us?

I pray for peace in our country. Not the peace that is only for the few, but the peace which comes from safety and abundant life for all people. I pray for a new heart and a new spirit–within me and our nation. Words are not enough–we need a conversion–something old has to die to make way for the new. It starts with me–to repent my complicity and listen for a humble way forward to be a part of the restoration that the people of Israel, and so many of our people today, desire. I pray we can ALL inhale and exhale the sacred breath God breathes into each of us.

For what do you pray?

Psalm 107:41-43

He lifted up the poor out of misery *
and multiplied their families like flocks of sheep.

The upright will see this and rejoice, *
but all wickedness will shut its mouth.

Whoever is wise will ponder these things, *
and consider well the mercies of the Lord.

Ezekiel 36: 24-27

I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.

Naming Our Demons

Pyramid Mountain, Jasper, Alberta, Canada

Audio version of sermon

1 Kings 19: 1 – 4 (5 – 7) 8 – 15a, Psalm 42, Galatians 3:23-29, Luke 8:26-39

Malcolm and I just returned from an incredible vacation hiking around the Canadian Rockies. Time in nature was restorative and time together renewing for us as a couple.  I am grateful for the opportunity and the luxury of unfilled space.  I pray that for you as well.  

The natural beauty in Western Canada is astounding— snow-capped mountains, pristine glacier lakes, flowing rivers and waterfalls that emanate an ethereal green/blue glacial silt.  

In the midst of this beauty was the disturbing and sad abundance of ever-GREEN trees which are actually now ever-BROWN.  Apparently, the pine-bark beetle is infesting over 50% of the forests in Alberta, Canada.

There was no escaping the brown-sometimes it presented on just the tips of the trees…an indicator of the devastation to come.  Sometimes acres and acres of brittle brown trees filled our view. 

This imagery of dark, dead pine trees reminds me of the darkness of evil in our own lives.  We might be able to hide its workings in our lives for a while and only a bit of brown shows on the tips of our days

—an occasional outburst of anger, 

a fleeting moment of jealousy,

a hangover that goes relatively unnoticed, 

the credit card balance creeping up bit by bit.   

But overtime, unaddressed, the darkness spreads, the truth bubbles up, and we can’t hide the ramifications the way had before.

Let’s face it—talking about evil, and even more dramatically about demons is not something we contemporary Christians, and perhaps even more so, Episcopalians like to do.  Thankfully, ours is a tradition steeped in God’s grace and mercy as embodied through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

And yet, to ignore the reasons we need God’s grace is like only looking at the green trees while the pine bark beetle runs rampant.  We cannot participate in the healing if we deny there is dis-ease. 

Fantastical first century stories like the demoniac in Luke’s Gospel today can make it easy for us to get distracted by swine running into a lake.  

Today, as we consider the eternal wisdom Jesus offers in this healing encounter, I suggest we focus on three things—

First, Jesus’ boundary-crashing desire to move toward the one in greatest need, 

Second, his example of naming the evil taking hold of our lives, 

and finally—

Jesus’ command to go and tell our healing stories.

That Jesus, he will go anywhere to heal!  In story after story he shines his light in the darkest and most culturally unacceptable places.  There is no person he excludes, and no place where he will not go. 

The Gerasenes were Gentiles—not only were they physically located opposite of Galilee—they were the opposite of the Jewish people. What was a good Jewish man like Jesus doing going over there in the first place?

When Jesus disembarked from the boat, he was met by the most unclean of all of these unclean Gentiles—a naked man, living among the dead, tormented by demons. 

In another story, in John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to the woman at the well—a WOMAN, A SAMARITAN—unclean, unapproachable, unacceptable—yet Jesus’ longest recorded conversation in all of scripture is with her.  

There is no dirty secret, no demon, no darkness in our hearts that Jesus will not enter into with us—shining his light of love and forgiveness, and healing. 

Episcopal priest and theologian Matthew Fox describes evil this way:

“Evil is the shadow of angel. Just as there are angels of light, support, guidance, healing and defense, so we have experiences of shadow angels. And we have names for them… – but they’re not out there.”

They are in here.

So what are the names of these demons inside us?

  • FEAR

Oh the list is legion!

And the more spiritually advanced we are, the more deceptive and crafty the dark forces.  

I imagine, if we each took time, we would know the names of those demons that dog us.  Like the experience of the man from Gerasene—our dark propensities isolate us from others—they negatively impact our relationships—with God, ourselves, one another, and like the pine bark beetle, creation. 

My spiritual director once explained to me, “We don’t name these dark forces in our lives alone.  We let God reveal them for us.”  And, she added,  “To name the demons with Jesus’ help there is healing.”

Elijah’s demons included doubt and despair—he had it in his head, “I am alone.”  In the chapters before the verses read this morning Elijah had many encounters with God—

He had been miraculously fed by ravens, and during a severe famine, he was fed by a widow from a foreign country, he revived her dead son, and then Elijah conquered hundreds of Baal’s prophets.  He faced many challenges and was sustained by God throughout, and yet, even HE suffered doubt.  

AN IMPORTANT QUESTION PRESENTS ITSELF HERE—Do we want to be healed of our demons?  Healing can be scary, something will be lost, we will have to let go of something—Perhaps it is

  • Power
  • or Esteem
  • or the fleeting fun of throwing others under the bus
  • or The buzz—from drugs, or the internet, or feeling superior to others

Do we want to be healed?  

If we do, we CAN bring the darkness we desire to hide, into the light of Jesus’ loving gaze, trusting Jesus already knows what is in our hearts and desires for us to be free.  

Trust the power of naming, trust the many ways through which God heals—through prayer, worship, confession, and study of scripture.  Trust that God works through the medical community, through counselors, and loved ones.  

For reasons I do not know, our healing does not always, or even often, come as quickly as we desire.  If you or someone you love has suffered for years, I am sorry.  I pray the healing will come, and that God’s ever-present  grace will be revealed sooner rather than later.   

I promise you-the light Jesus has to shine into the darkness will not be overcome AND WE ARE NOT ALONE.  Listen with me to the grace in Psalm 139

Where can I go then from your Spirit?*

   where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;*

   if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. 

If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,*

   and the light around me turn to night,” 

Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;*

   darkness and light to you are both alike.  — (Psalm 139: 6-7, 10-11)

Finally I want to address the importance of sharing our healing stories.  Even though most, if not all of us continue to have struggles with darkness within, I hope and pray you have also experienced Jesus’ healing in your life in some way.  If so, please go and tell those stories—be a beacon of hope where the greening of life is turning brown. 

Time and again, Elijah was told to get up and go.  And Elijah traveled far and spoke for God—He was a harbinger of Jesus, the coming Messiah.  

The woman at the well told her story and “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” (John 4:39)

The man healed of the demons was told by Jesus to go home and share his story. He has been referred to by some, as the first missionary to the Gentiles.  

If you have not, or cannot remember any sense of healing in this moment, is there someone you know who has a story to share that may help to sustain you?

One time, when  I was experiencing great doubt, a friend of mine—without judgment, without arrogance, simply shared how it was through Jesus that she had encountered the loving, healing, forgiving, nature of God.  

She spoke about renewed purpose and meaning in her life; about healing from shame.  Knowing this woman and how Jesus had transformed her life, and how she lives a transformed life, I took her account seriously. 

Her words settled in my heart.  In the days and weeks that followed, I noticed flickers of faith rekindled.  There have been times since, that I hear her voice, remember her story, and my faith is again rekindled.  

Sometimes we are to share our healing story with those closest; sometimes those who are quite different or far away. 

God is working through our stories—we obstruct God’s ability to spread God’s  love story when we keep our stories inside.  It is ok to lament, and share our doubts—that is real; 

and we are to proclaim the healing too.  Every Psalm of Lament, save Psalm 88, ends with praise—so should we.  

This morning we will close our service with a hymn written by St. Francis.  He penned it as he was going home to die, experiencing bouts of blindness, and yet what was deepest in his heart was a proclamation of praise which begins:

All creatures of our God and King,

Lift up your voices, let us sing:

Alleluia, Alleluia!


Book Launch in Birmingham

Please join me this Wednesday, February 13th for a reception and launch for the release of Living the Way of Love A 40-Day Devotional. Details below

February 13 Book Launch for Living the Way of Love 5-5:30 pm Reception , 5:30 -6:15 Dinner ($6), 6:15-7pm Author Presentation and Book Signing. Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church 3736 Montrose Road Birmingham, AL $6 Dinner. All are welcome

Book Release and Event Calendar

I am thrilled and grateful to announce that my latest book Living the Way of Love A 40-Day Devotional has been released by Church Publishing and is available through all major book sellers.

This devotional is ideal individuals or small groups for Lent or at anytime. There is an 8-week Facilitator’s Guide for those who wish to gather and share in community.

I will be offering talks and retreats in the next few months. The full schedule is available here. The first event is Monday February 4th 11:45 at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, AL. All are welcome. I will be sharing the story of how this book surprised me and came into being. Lunch is included for $6 Reservations at Books will be available for purchase for $11 each.

Heal Our Blindness; Heal Our Deafness

Sermon for Proper 25B Jermiah 31:7-9, and Mark 10:46-52

Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, Birmingham, AL 

Vigil outside Tree of Life Synagogue

This has been a heartbreaking week—bombs in the mail and guns in the synagogue. I will address these tragic issues in a moment, but first I would like to offer some background on prophetic literature and the prophet Jeremiah. They and our Gospel can point a way forward to us in this gut-wrenching time.  

Prophets are not future-oriented as one might think, they are “oriented toward the present.”  They may point the ramifications in the future based upon today’s behavior, but they are grounded in the now.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel writes,“To be a  prophet is to be in fellowship with the feelings of God, to experience communion with the divine consciousness.  The prophet hears God’s voice and looks at the world from God’s perspective.”

It is as if the divine word is channeled through a human messenger. The prophet’s language and way of being are designed to shock rather than edify. Think John the Baptist in his hairy coat eating grasshoppers.  Their language is shocking because they know the people need “waking up.” 

It is as if the divine word is channeled through a human messenger.  They are isolated because they say things people don’t want to hear. Yet they are so overwhelmed  by the “grandeur of divine presence” they cannot keep silent. (Heschel)

I want to make a distinction between a prophet and an evangelist. An evangelist, like Saint Luke, or Saint Paul, goes out to new communities to spread the Good News.  A prophet speaks to community from within the community. 

You have probably already begun to think of modern-day prophets like Ghandi or Martin Luther King,Jr.  There is a young man in Philadelphia named Shane Claiborne, I hope you’ll check him out.  He wears dreadlocks and lives in a type of contemporary monastic community.  Shane has been jailed for advocating for the  homeless and flown to Iraq and Afghanistan to protest those wars.  I mention Shane so you are aware that prophets lived not only in the past, but also are alive today.

The prophet Jeremiah lived in the 7th century BCE.  He is called the weeping prophet for a few reasons.  The Book of Lamentations is attributed to him—and that is like one big weep.  Also in the book of Jeremiah he is reported to have wept a “fountain of tears.” (9:1).

Jeremiah wept because of the Israelite people’s sins. He lamented their false worship, and their mistreatment of the poor, among other things. Jeremiah called the people to repent. “Return faithless Israel says the Lord.  I will not look you in anger, for I am merciful, says the Lord.” (3:12)

In portions of Jeremiah, he is speaking to a people in Exile—away from their homes, living in Babylon, away from their temple, away from family. 

We know exile too.  In our personal lives when our relationships are fractured, or our health is failing, or finances are low, or children are making dreadful choices.  We too are knocked off-center and feel far from “home.”

We know  communal exile as well.  When we are apathetic toward those living in poverty, disconnected from one another because we are over-connected to technology, and surrounded by enmity of speech.

We are living in a uniquely horrific time in the history of our country, where bombs are mailed to political opponents and bullets fly in places of worship.

This is not who we are at our core.  These actions do not accurately reflect who we are as Christians, who we are as Americans.  I know you.  I know you to be kind and generous and loving.  I know none of you desire for anyone to be persecuted or terrorized because of how they look, or where they worship, or who they love.

Yet we cannot deny that there is a movement in our country in a deeply troubling direction.  According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-semitic incidents in the United States have surged 57% from 2016 to 2017.  This is the largest rise in a single year since they began tracking such crimes in1979.  Other hate crimes are on the rise as well.

I know you lament with me for all of those who are terrorized and persecuted simply for who they are. 

Yet, we can feel paralyzed, numb.  We wonder how we can possibly make a difference. 

Despite the depth of enmity in our world at this time, we are not to despair.  What can we do? 

We can look to the Gospel.  We can follow Jesus. 

In Mark’s Gospel we learn that blind Bartimeus is by the roadside crying for help. The crowd sternly rebukes him, telling him to be quiet. 

But Jesus hears him and asks for Bartimeus to be called to him.  Notice how the crowd changed their stance when they heard Jesus call for Bartimeus?  They went from “shushing” to encouraging, “Take heart; get up.  He is calling to you.” (49)

Not only did Jesus heal Bartimeus’ blindness, he healed the crowd’s deafness.

What can we do?  We can pray for the healing from our blindness and deafness.  We can pray to have the eyes to see and the ears to hear the cries of those who are persecuted. 

We can pray for mercy and forgiveness for those times we have been blind and deaf.  We can pray for the courage to advocate for those who are persecuted for who they are. 

It is not okay to demonize another person—especially in the context of our time, when rhetorical and literal bombs are being thrown and guns are toted in temples.  When we demean any class of people be it by socio-economic status or race or gender or political affiliation we make them less than human. 

All people are made in the image and likeness of God.

What can we do?  We can be mindful of our thoughts, speech and actions. Words are powerful.  How are we using our words?  Do they bear the seeds of hate or love?  If we are to follow Jesus, we are to sow seeds of love.

We are in a time when we need to return to God and cry out like Bartimeus, “Jesus, have mercy on me.”  In a little while we will say the confession as we do every Sunday.  I encourage us to pay attention to when we have sown  seeds of hate.  Also, to be mindful of our communal sin of complicity through silence.  Jesus, have mercy on us.

After confession we are to live as the forgiven people that we are.  We will pray our prayer and give thanks for God’s forgiveness and mercy and live anew. 

We are a people of hope-steeped in the resurrection of Jesus and in the tradition of our Jewish relatives.  The Book of Jeremiah contains oracles of hope.  “You will be my people and I will be your God.

Again, you will take up your tambourines.

Again, you will plant your vineyards.

Yes, they will return home restored, but with the wisdom borne from loss.  For the Israelite people the physical loss from home.  For us, the loss of our shared humanity and decency.  We will return home, but we will bear the bruises of this bitter time of enmity. 

I want us to pay attention to the fact that Jeremiah’s oracle of hope painted a picture of restoration which included the weak, the blind, the lame, and pregnant women being carried home. 

Our restoration is tied to our willingness to listen to the cries of the Bartimeus’ of the world and to respond. 

As inheritors of the Jewish tradition and followers of Jesus we are compelled to listen to the cries of our modern-day Bartimeuses—those who are easily cast aside.

We are a people of hope.  So are our Jewish Brethren. This morning when I woke up at 4:30 to amend my sermon to account for the tragedy at The Tree of Life Synagogue, I sent an email to a friend who is cantor in the Jewish tradition.  I told him our hearts break with him.  I told him I wondered how we at Saint Luke’s could help.  He forwarded me a prayer written last night by a Rabbi for the Tree of a Life Community.  In the email string he forwarded to me, I noticed salutations of hope from one bereaved rabbi to another, “May we speak again in better times.”

I would like to close with us praying this prayer.

A Prayer for the Dead of Tree of Life Congregation

by Rabbi Naomi Levy

We are devastated, God,

Our hearts are breaking

In this time of shock and mourning.

The loss is overwhelming.

Send comfort and strength, God,

To grieving family members.

Send healing to the injured,

Send strength and wisdom to their doctors and nurses.

Bless the courageous police officers who risked their lives

To protect innocent lives.

Shield us from despair, God,

Ease our pain.

Let our fears give way to hope.

Lead us to join together as a nation

To put an end to anti-Semitism,

An end to hatred,

An end to gun violence.

Teach us, God, to honor the souls we have lost

By raising our hands and voices together

In the cause of peace.

Because Torah is a Tree of Life

And all its paths are peaceful.

Work through us, God.

Turn our helplessness into action.

Teach us to believe that we can rise up from this tragedy

And banish the hate that is tearing our world apart.

We must never be indifferent to the plight of any who suffer.

We must learn to care,

To open our hearts and open our hands.

Innocent blood is calling out to us.

God of the brokenhearted,

God of the living, God of the dead,

Gather the souls of the victims

Into Your eternal shelter.

Let them find peace in Your presence, God.

Their lives have ended

But their lights can never be extinguished.

May they shine on us always

And illuminate our way.



Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets (New York: Harper Collins, 1962),

Inspired by Tito Madruza’s commentary in Christian Century blog, “Sunday’s Coming.”

“Listening Devoutly” Women’s Retreat at Camp McDowell

In the midst of our busy days, we can lose focus on that which is most important.  I hope you will join me at Camp McDowell for a Women’s Retreat to explore, renew, and deepen spiritual connections with God, ourselves, and creation.

Fresh fall air, farm to table food, rest, and rejuvenation await.

“Listening Devoutly” will begin on  the evening of October 12th and conclude at lunchtime on October 14th. There will be time to learn, to pray, to speak, and most importantly, to Listen Devoutly.

Space is limited, register here.  Contact me at for more information.



Inner Nature

This sermon was offered on June 10, 2018 at Saint Luke’s, Birmingham, AL

Scripure 2 Cor 4:13-5:1

I love to run. I even ran a marathon once. That was fifteen years ago. One day, these ankles that have been talking to me, and this back that gets tweaked now and then, will going to require me to stop running-something I love to do.

Photo by Malcolm Marler

Paul was spot on when he said that our “outer nature is wasting away.” We can do our best to slow down the process, but we are designed with physical impermanence in mind.

And yet, there is an inner nature that is eternal that can shine brighter day by day, even as our bodies change.

For me, this week has offered many experiences of reflecting on this “inner nature.” On Sunday, I returned home from a one-week writing retreat. The cabin was quiet, the rain restorative, and the time to connect with God and creativity without distraction renewed my love of life, my love for my vocation, my love for you.

Time for renewal reminds us of our connection to that which is unseen. Renewal comes in a variety of ways- prayer, working in the garden, painting, laughing with grandchildren. Sacred, intentional time nurtures our inner nature.

On Tuesday, we celebrated the life of Dr. Albert Tully. Many of you knew him much better than I. From the start, he crawled into my heart and took up residence. It wasn’t just those sparkling blue eyes, or his at times, bawdy, sense of humor, it was something unseen in the essence of the man.

I’m grateful to his family for agreeing to my sharing some of what he taught me in the brief time I knew him. Dr. Tully’s health had been failing. The last time we were together was on Memorial Day. He held my hand the whole time we spoke.

I have been here before, by the bedside of someone who knows what is true for all of us, but acute for them, our bodies don’t last forever. Yet that wasn’t what he wanted to talk about. He reminisced about family and fishing and ball games. He told jokes.

At one point he paused and said, “I believe being a Christian made me a better doctor.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“I hope I was kinder, more patient, more compassionate.” He answered.

Laying in that hospital bed, looking up at me, he told me his life had been a great journey and could not have been any better.

“You’re a grateful man,” I said.

“You have to be,” he said. I thought oh no, gratitude is a choice. For Dr. Tulley it was a way of being.

I have seen this before with those who are dying-Outer nature declining; inner nature ascending.

There is a reason today’s passage from Second Corinthians is suggested for our burial office. It is at funerals we remember the impact of a life-how the inner nature shone through.

Wednesday, I spent time with our children at the 12 tribes Vacation Bible School. Some of you may have heard me say, “I would rather preach to 2,000 adults for an hour, than try to occupy 130 children for 20 minutes.”

My apprehension was unfounded. Your children are amazing and we had fun, and let me give a shout out to Linda, and Kimballee, and all of the staff, and volunteers. This was a creative, joy-filled environment for our children to learn about Jesus. The pavilion and the grove were Christened by children’s laughter. That experience was made possible because of your generosity of financial resources and time.

When Dr. Tully told me, “I think being a Christian made me a better doctor.” It jolted me. This may seem odd to you that I needed reminding of this, but I did. Dr. Tully reminded me WHY we do what we are doing here at St. Luke’s.

Those bandana-covered children will become doctors and lawyers and teachers and politicians. We owe it to God and to them, and to the world, to give them a chance to know Christ. We are all ordained by God in our baptism. We need more priestly doctors, priestly lawyers, priestly teachers, and priestly politicians.

Another important part of our work is for those precious ones to know they belong to us and they belong to God. Those bandana-covered children, all children, need to know they are loved and connected to something bigger than themselves.

This need for connection is laid bare as our country’s heartbreaking mental health crisis has been brought to the fore. We mourn the suicides of two famous, “successful,” well-loved people-Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. We lament the publication of the tragic statistic that our national suicide rate has increased by 30% since 1999.

There is no demographic that is spared the disturbing upward trend in incidence of anxiety and depression. Many, if not all of us are touched by this gut-wrenching issue. Some turn to marijuana (visit to see the kind of products that are available) to help them dispel the dark cloud that forms in their mind. Obviously this doesn’t appeal to all, but there has been a number of studies that prove marijuana can help to alleviate depression symptoms. This is in part due to the CBD in marijuana, which is why other people choose to try CBD oil. This can be highly effective, but it is also important to face the root cause of these feelings.

I personally have experienced clinical depression. Malcolm and I are the primary caregivers for a family member with serious mental illness. Sometimes we aren’t so great at that. There are no “quick fixes” or easy answers, but there is always hope.

St. Luke’s has an important role to play in this crisis. The Guidebook “The Role of Faith Communities in Suicide Prevention” points out that “faith communities are a source of hopefulness for many people, a place to experience sadness and joy, and a place to find and offer forgiveness.” As Christians we believe all life is to be valued and regarded with respect and dignity.

Since we know that feeling isolated negatively impacts one’s sense of well-being, St. Luke’s can make a difference by creating a place where all people are welcome. When we are honest about our vulnerabilities, we break down the walls of isolation. We alleviate suffering.

A few weeks ago the EYC held a special dinner with two brave speakers who spoke about their experiences with depression and addiction. Good for you. We need more of these courageous conversations.

We need to bring the unwarranted shame out of the shadows.

We can make a difference here when our worship and outreach and social gatherings give us a connection to something bigger than ourselves. Participation in these activities can give us a sense purpose. Having a purpose is particularly important when we are struggling with despair.

Social media has blown up with young people pleading with anyone who is struggling and considering endangering their lives to reach out for help. Your clergy echoes their plea. If you are struggling, call us. Call suicide hotlines. If you are concerned about a friend or a family member, reach out, listen, love, and encourage him or her to get help.

Speaking of social media, be mindful-are my posts, my words, the images I project building up, or tearing down? Broadband Search reports that, on average, people spent 144 minutes a day social networking in 2018. This is an extremely long time and might be one of the reasons that so many people are struggling with their mental health. We all have a responsibility here.

Factors involved with mental health are complex and varied. This is a medical, emotional, and spiritual issue. Research tells us that “People who regularly attend…religious services are less likely to suffer from depression and other psychiatric illnesses than those who don’t.”

I want to be clear about two important things.

First, Not all people who are depressed or anxious are suicidal.

Second, I am NOT saying that people who experience mental health disease and/or have suicidal ideation can just “pray” it away.

Being depressed does not mean you are a failure at faith.

What I am saying, is that being a part of a faith community can be a source of strength when we are struggling. Being reminded of our connection to God and one another can create hope. There is much more to say on this topic, I hope we will continue the conversation.

Thursday, I facilitated a planning meeting for the Diocesan Commission on Spirituality. We pondered the definition of “spirituality” and landed on this: Spirituality is the relationship we have with God, ourselves, others, and the created order.

At it’s core, spirituality is relationship. Spirituality speaks to our inner nature-the one that does not waste away, that which is renewed through faith. There are spiritual practices that enhance our ability to strengthen our relationships. They can be a ballast in troubled times, and renew our inner nature.

There are three daily practices I’d like to suggest are:

  • Gratitude-In the spirit of Dr. Tully, list 10 things a day
  • Kindness-Our St. Luke’s moniker, “Be Kind” Imagine the difference we would make with one intentional act of kindness per day
  • Prayer-Turn off technology and be with God for at least 10 minutes each day. Prayer can give us a flicker of hope in times of despair.

Finally, I want to share with you some inner-nature wisdom from the wise sage, Mr. Rogers, the children’s television star. Fred Rogers went into television because he despised what he saw on tv, and wanted children to know they were loved. He knew the transformative power of feeling loved.

In a 2002 commencement address at Dartmouth he said,

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.

Even though I cannot run as fast or as far as I used to; I can, we can, always be deepening our relationship with God, and renewing that inner spirit which is necessary for humankind to survive. Amen.

Messy Hope

Easter Vigil March 31, 2018, Saint Luke’s Birmingham

Mark 16:1-8

Of all the Gospel accounts of the resurrection, Mark’s can feel the least satisfying. It ends with the women at the tomb running away, trembling and bewildered, too frightened to talk. No account of the risen Christ speaking to Mary Magdalene; no risen Christ walking down the road to Emmaus; no fish fry on the beach.

Listen again to how the earliest Gospel account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ ends, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Is it any wonder that centuries later, others tried to tidy things up and amend the ending of this Gospel?

As a reminder, Mark’s was the first Gospel to be recorded. Of course Paul’s letters precede this Gospel account, but for nearly a generation, this was the only Gospel account of the resurrection. Shards of light streaking into an empty tomb, but for a man in a white robe, and women running, seized by terror and amazement.

Recently I spent a week on Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands. What do you think of when you imagine the Virgin Islands? Azure blue/green seas, lush white beaches, yachts filled with champagne flute holding passengers. gliding across the water.

That is still a portion of the Tortola experience, but ever since Hurricane Irma devastated the island last September 6th, there is a pile of twisted metal where a high school used to be, restaurants operating on ground floors, with rebar sticking up where the second floor used to be, gritty dust that sticks to the cars and your skin swirls around from roads that have been ripped up by 200 mph winds.

A hurricane can often leave a trail of destruction in its wake. Although very little can be done in terms of preventing storms, there are steps that people can take to protect their properties from damage. For example, alongside regular maintenance, if you live in an area where extreme weather conditions are likely, it is advantageous to take out an insurance policy that includes cover for personal property and damage to interior structure. This way, in a worst-case scenario, you might be entitled to make a claim towards any repairs. This is true whether you live in a home or a condominium. That being said, if you are contemplating taking out condo insurance to protect your property and its contents, you can find out more today at by comparing different insurance policies.

Back to Tortola now though and most cars still have plastic over where the windows used to be. Luxury villas swamped with water and infested with rats. You see, it is hard to get insurance claims finalized and materials and labor are scarce on the island.

For six months, the people of Tortola have been clawing their way back from the destruction. Everything takes more effort than before. There is electricity in most places, but no land lines. Seven of the fourteen schools in Tortola were either destroyed or made uninhabitable.

Elementary age children who should be snuggling up with their parents at night have been sent far away so they can receive an education. Extended families have packed in together for months.

You would imagine that the people of Tortola would be beleaguered and angry and exhausted. And many of them are— rightly so. Yet, during my time there,

I heard more laughter than lamentation.

I saw my joy than tears.

I heard fervent prayers of thanksgiving.

I experienced community and generosity rather than scarcity and selfishness.


I saw resilience in the octogenarian patriarch of St. Paul’s Mission Church showing up early and staying late for every service—serving as an acolyte and a Lay Eucharistic Minister. Standing in love he was a stalwart symbol of survival for his family and community.

I saw resilience in my host family who generously shared their space with me and another visitor. was relegated to a 2-bedroom apartment below their gorgeous home which remained open to the elements.

I saw resilience in the principals and guidance counselors who showed up in support of the children who had seen their roofs blow off and their toys and clothes sucked out of their homes.

All the while, these very same principals and guidance counselors where struggling to repair their own homes, and managing on an island where the simplest of tasks had been made complex by those violent winds.

I heard resilience in the voices of the participants of the retreat I facilitated as they chanted “be still and know that I am god”

Although I was sent by the diocese to bring them hope—it was I who was renewed. It was my faith that was restored.

I do not want to romanticize the experience of this tragedy—people lost their lives and their homes and the closeness of their children. They are tired and some remain traumatized. Yet, the storm does not get the last say.

Just before I returned home, I toured the Ebeneezer Primary School on the island. My guide was their principal, Ms Sybil Hodge a member of St. Paul’s, the church I went to visit.

The students at Ebeneezer Primary School had been hit hard—in addition to experiencing loss or damage to their homes, portions of their school had to be rebuilt. Half of the roof is still not repaired and their library lost most of its books. By the way—we are going to take care of rebuilding their library. I do hope that the roof gets repaired soon though so the children can regain that bit of normality back into their lives like they had when they went to school. Apparently they’re using a contractor that is similar to Ace Roofing Company so hopefully it shouldn’t be too long now. I can’t wait for the children to see what it looks like when it’s finished.

They miss their classmates who have left the island.

Yet they show up every day. They squeal on the playground running races. They tussle with one another over who gets to help the teacher. Every time we entered a classroom, the children would stand up at their desks and say in unison, “Good morning Ms Hodge. Good Morning Reverend Bea. Welcome to our classroom.”

At the end of my visit, I sat with leaders of the school and asked, “What sustains you?”

One of the woman leaned very close to me, as if she wanted to make sure not a word from her mouth got away on its journey to my ear.

“Hope,” She said, “Hope, that is the secret that gets us through the day. We go to church on Saturday or Sunday to get our fill and it carries us through the week.

We hold on to a hope that is different; one that knows that a better life is coming. We knew how to do that before the storms. Our faith taught us that. How to see that the outer world is one way, but …we know a secret, our secret is the hope that God is preparing a better place for us.

We hope in community coming back together and taking care of one another. We don’t (give up)on Friday, because Sunday is coming to remind us of the hope in Jesus Christ.”

Time and again I heard people refer to their faith in God as a motivating factor to get out of bed, to care for one another, to give THANKS for life and love. And to laugh—there was an abundance of laughter and joy.

That’s a messy kind of hope. All of our resurrections bear the marks of the cross.


There are flowers blooming on the island this spring that have not bloomed there in decades or ever—seeds stirred up from the storms, traveled from surrounding islands or exposed from deep, deep soil, bearing fruit once more.

My friends, we have dedicated ourselves this Lenten season to fasting and prayer and sacrificial generosity to prepare our hearts for the hope of the resurrection; the hope of new life.

Where have the shards of light shown in the tomb of your heart?

Resurrection is not a one-time event, it is a never-ending promise. We are invited to participate in the resurrection with the messy hope that bears the marks of the cross.

We hope in God’s promise to be our God even when we feel abandoned.

We hope that we are forgiven, even when we feel deep shame.

We hope for peace in our hearts, and our homes, and our world even when pundits sound like verbal terrorists

We believe in the hope in things unseen—the hope of restored relationships, the hope of healing—in the deepest sense of that word, the hope of living lives of meaning and purpose.

It’s a messy kind of hope, because the outer manifestation of the world frequently does not support that hope. All of our resurrections bear the marks of the cross

The first funeral I ever officiated was for a beautiful young girl who died tragically. Her mother INSISTED that the Paschal candle be taken from our little Episcopal Church and marched down the center aisle of the large Methodist where the funeral would be held.

“Mary Bea,” she said to me, “I want you to tell everyone what that candle means. I want you to explain that it is the symbol that we are united with Christ in his life, death, and resurrection.” Knowing there would be hundreds of grief-stricken teenagers at the service she compelled me, “Tell those kids about the resurrection!”

That’s a messy kind of hope. All of our resurrections bear the marks of the cross.

Here’s what I love about Mark’s Gospel account—it is so real. We are no different than the women at the tomb, when we experience divine manifestations, we too experience great awe and trembling.

Hope and fear are cousins because it takes such courage to hope when the outer manifestation of the world cries despair.

We are a resurrection people. We are a people of HOPE.

A generation of Christians were satisfied to have no appearance of Jesus in their understanding of the resurrection. It was faith that spread the Gospel like wildfire.

It was hope that kept them running from town to town, ultimately someone must have been spreading that Good News

We want tidy—we want to know they saw Jesus and chatted with him after the resurrection. We want everyone to think like us and act like us and want a world free of divisiveness. We want a sign.

Here’s our sign—it’s you, it’s us sitting in these pews praising, reverencing, and worshipping the risen Christ…we are the hope of the resurrection.

We are the inheritors of fear-filled, awestruck faith. We are the bearers of the Good News. This is our moment, this is our time to ring in the resurrection with awe and trembling to proclaim, “

Alleluia Alleluia Jesus Christ is Risen today . The Lord is Risen Indeed Alleluia Alleluia!


“Great awe and trembling and fear are characteristic of human responses to divine manifestations.” (Harper Collins Study Bible, 1732)

A generation of Christians were satisfied to have no appearance of Jesus in their understanding of the resurrection. (James Tabor Bible History Daily)

Does God Cause Hurricanes

This sermon was delivered to the congregation at Saint Paul’s Church in Tortola on Sunday, March, 18, 2018

Jeremiah 31: 31-34, Psalm 51:1-13, Hebrews 5: 5-10, John 12:20-33

How many here play a musical instrument? 

One of many destroyed homes by Hurricane Irma on the island of Tortola.

Musicians know that tuning is usually based on a fixed reference point.  For example, when tuning a violin, one will play a note on a piano or a tuner to use as the reference point to align with, in order to accurately tighten or loosen the strings.

What if we thought of our heart as an instrument?  What is the fixed reference point to which we tune our hearts? 

Our readings today are filled with heart imagery.  In Jeremiah we get a heart tattooed with God’s law on it; in Psalm 51 our hearts are pulverized by shame and we beg for a clean one. Perhaps it would be helpful to clarify what we mean by heart to better understand our scripture today.

We are not talking about a sentimental, Hallmark greeting card heart.  Throughout scripture we understand the heart to be the seat of our connection to God. 

Spiritually we understand there to be a component of will, of choosing within our hearts. We also associate the heart with love. Those of us who have been in long-term relationships, or cared for difficult people, can attest to the fact that love is not always a feeling, but it is always a choice. 

Love is a verb.

St. Augustine speaks of the heart when he says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Speaking from the truth of his own struggles, St. Augustine is reminding us that if we tune our heart to anything other than God, our hearts will be restless.

We hear this and know it to be true, and yet it is so easy to tune our hearts toward with things we WANT to be God…

we tune our hearts on a desire for affection/esteem from others,

we tune our hearts on a desire for POWER and CONTROL,

we tune our hearts on a desire for safety and security.

These are all natural things to desire, but they are not God. Even when we attain them, our hearts still ache.  That is one of the reasons we fast during Lent, to create a space, an emptiness free from our cravings and allow God into that space. 

In Jeremiah, God writes a new covenant on the very heart of God’s people.  The people to whom Jeremiah was speaking were a people rebuilding Jerusalem after the exile to Babylon. 

At the beginning of the 31st Chapter of Jeremiah we read, “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.  I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.  Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful. Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit….

See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return.  They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble.” (Jeremiah 31:3-9)

Over these past few days I have heard your stories of rebuilding since Irma. I have heard your yearning to be able to return home to repaired roofs and restored windows and renewed livelihoods. I have listened to mothers who long for their children to come home again. 

I am struck by how you have much in common with the exiled people of Israel. You too have known great dislocation.  You too have known a loss of the way things were.  I do not pretend for one moment to know what you have, and  are still going through. I do not pretend to imagine that simply listening for a couple of days, means I understand the complexities of your experiences.

I have however, been deeply moved by you—by your resilience, and your generosity of spirit, and your hospitality, and your love—of God and of one another.

In the ancient times of Jeremiah, the people of Israel made sense of their great loss—of temple and home and culture—as punishment from God because they had worshipped false Gods. They had tuned their hearts on the wrong fixed point.

So, that leads us to wonder, did God cause hurricane Irma to punish the people of Tortola?  Did the God who created the heavens and the earth; the God who swept a wind over the face of the deep; the God who made each of us in God’s own image, cause hurricane Irma for punishment?  I have heard some of you wrestle with this question.

I know enough to know there is much mystery to God and God’s ways about which I do not know.

And I do not believe we have a chess-playing God who might say oh I’m going to move this rook here and give Tortola a monster storm, or I’m move this queen here and not cure this child of cancer.

The truth is, the world God created here is temporal. Our bodies do not last forever—that becomes more apparent to me with each passing birthday. 

And so we will all one day die.  We can speed the process up with unhealthy diets or addictive behavior; or we can do our best to keep it at bay with exercise and other healthy habits—but we are all the same, death is the great equalizer, we ALL have a finite number of days here on earth. 

And our world is created with the possibilities  of storms, and earthquakes and wildfires.  Some is inherent in the natural order and has always been this way. And some is specific to human behavior such as throwing a cigarette out the window onto a parched land and starting a wildfire. 

I do not know what that holy equation is balancing that which God has set in motion in general by creating a temporal world, and that which is touched by the influence of God, post-creation, and  that which we impact with our choices and our prayers.

What I do know is that every adult I have ever met has endured some form of tragedy in their lives. What I do know is that few in the history of the world have seen what you—individually and as a collective body, have endured.  Not only endured, but survived.

As I said, I have heard your stories these last few days. I am forever changed by your stories.  I am honored to be one of the keepers of your stories.  Thank you.

I want to share back with you some of what I have heard these past few days.

I heard that in the middle of the storm, people who had not felt God’s presence much before, prayed fervently to a God they weren’t even sure existed.  It is as if in the storm, God wrote faith on their hearts.

I heard of people walking over downed trees and dangerous power lines to check on family and to share food.  It is as if in the aftermath of the storm, God wrote generosity on their hearts.

I heard you tell me, that after the storm, the island looked so brown-it was as if an atomic bomb had dropped.  And that when you were dazed, and gazed upon it, you felt you had not been grateful enough for the many gifts God had given you. It is as if God wrote gratitude on your hearts.

I heard stories of lost interest in material things and greater interest in relationships.  It is as if God wrote love on those hearts. 

In another storm, Hurricane Sandy up in the Northeast of the United States in 2012 some friends of mine went up to help in the immediate aftermath of the storm.  These men were deeply moved by one story. 

Two brothers who had been estranged for more than 20 years because of some long-forgotten slight, were reunited when one of the brothers, who lived on higher ground, realized that the other brother was in the ward of New York that had been flooded by the Hudson River. 

He walked down to his brother’s home, invited him to take shelter with him, and steps toward reconciliation were taken.  It was as if God wrote humility and the willingness to forgive on their hearts.

Jeremiah is prophesying about a day when the people will obey God’s law not because they are supposed to, but because they WANT to. This sounds like the best impulses you have described to me since the storm.  The generosity, the forgiveness, the hospitality, and the love offered out of grateful hearts. 

And yet it is natural to struggle to maintain the intensity of those initial impulses toward good.  It is natural struggle to always WANT to follow God. God knows this, that is why Jesus humbled himself to become human, so we could know God better. So that we could see, we could have more understandable fixed reference point to tune our hearts to God.

One thing we know about God, thanks to Jesus’ emptying himself, first to become human, and then on the cross, is that God is merciful, God is loving, and by the grace of God, God is forgiving.

It is difficult to reconcile a God who would create storms for punishment with the God we know in Jesus. Jesus teaches us that God is always drawing us toward deeper and deeper love.  In the midst of even our greatest tragedy, God is with us and moving us toward new life.  Sometimes, something needs to die for that new life to bloom.

Anything that gets in the way of our following the great commandment to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves, must die for us to experience the new life that awaits us in Jesus.

It seems to me that some of you, shaken by the winds of the storm, experienced a clarity about that which must die in your lives.  I am so sorry you have gone through this tragedy. I am sorry your homes are damaged, your livelihoods are devastated, and your young children have had to leave you and go far away to attend school.

And, I admire your ability to make meaning from it. I admire your resilience and your willingness to be of good humor in the midst of it all.

And if you have not felt resilient, or of good humor ,or you struggle getting out of bed, be gentle with yourself, very few people in the world have experienced what you have. The progress can be slow and it can be difficult to remain positive. I hope you will find strength in leaning on one another and whatever resources are available. I hope you will find strength in prayer. 

I promise you—you are loved, and you are not alone. God promises that God will be with us in the restoration.  God will gather the people again, and walk alongside as the foliage returns, and the roofs are restored and the island beats with vibrant life once more. 

Whether we are in a time of great joy or a time of great sorrow in our lives, we have the constant presence of a loving God, even when it seems not so.  We worship together in community so that when my faith is failing, my brother or sister can carry me.  As I said yesterday, that is one of the reasons the creed says, “WE” believe.  We carry this together. When I struggle to believe, my brother or sister will carry that for me. 

God wants us lift our hearts in prayer in our joys, and anguish, and even anger. I spend time with many grieving people and sometimes they are angry at God. We can feel ashamed of our anger, but I say—go ahead and express everything to God. The God who knit you in your mother’s womb, the God who knows what is in your hearts before you do, that God can take it.  And the truth is, it doesn’t go away with faking it. It only shifts and moves when we acknowledge it and deal with it in healthy ways. 

We can serve God by serving one another, sometimes sacrificially so. 

This is how we tune our hearts to God—by taking time in prayer, coming together in worship and supporting one another, studying scripture, and serving God. 

When we tune our hearts with God as our reference point, we play the music Christ taught us to play, we know that tune, it is written on our hearts.   Amen.

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