Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Great Vigil of Easter

The Great Vigil of Easter—2017 I have been haunted this week by a scene from the movie O, Brother Where art thou. If you’ve seen the movie, I feel certain you remember it. Delmer, Everett and Pete are all standing around in the woods trying to figure out their next move, and an unearthly singing breaks out in the woods around them. As they stop talking to notice, they see a multitude of people, robed in white, streaming past them, singing and heading to a muddy looking river. As I went down in the river to pray Studying about that good old way And who shall wear the starry crown Good Lord, show me the way! O sisters, let's go down, Let's go down, come on down O sisters, let's go down Down in the river to pray The other two characters seem curious, but Delmer is enthralled, and all of a sudden, he takes off running into the water to the front of the line where, after a sharing a couple of words with the preacher, he is immediately baptized. When he comes up out of the water, he says to his friends, “Well, that’s it boys! I’ve been redeemed! The preacher done washed away all my sins and transgressions. It’s the straight and narrow from here on out and heaven everlasting is my reward!” Then Everett says, “Delbert, what are you talking about? We got bigger fish to fry.” And Delbert replies, “The preacher said all my sins is washed away, including that Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in Yazoo.” Everett responds, “I though you said you was innocent of those charges.” And Delbert continues without missing a beat: “Well, I was lying, and the preacher said that sin’s been washed away too. Neither God nor man’s got nothin’ on me now. Come on in, boys, the water is fine!” Water permeates our readings for tonight and our liturgy for this triduum—these three holy days. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” The Spirit of God has always moved in and on and through water. In the reading about the Flood, God cleanses the earth of corruption through the waters of the flood while preserving creation in the ark with Noah and his family and all the animals. In the reading from Exodus, God recreates his people Israel in the parting of the waters of the Red Sea. As they pass between the two walls of water unharmed, God strips them of their identity as slaves and renews them as God’s beloved and chosen people who God is willing to fight for and care for and lead home to their promised land. And in the reading from Ezekiel, God tells God’s people, who are once again enslaved and exiled, that God 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.” And they will once again be claimed as God’s people, marked as God’s beloved, restored in God’s heart and in their homeland. I was speaking with someone yesterday (on Good Friday) about the services so far, and she said that she had always appreciated the Triduum services, but this year, they had taken on a new significance for her. This year, she felt as if she was being washed clean. I was stunned in that moment in that seemingly casual conversation, to hear her give name to the stirrings of my own soul these last few days: the sense that we as individuals and we as a whole community are being washed clean by God’s spirit in our walking together and in our holy remembering. God’s cleansing work is about to be finished in us (at least for the time being) as we stand in a couple of moments and reaffirm our baptismal vows. In those moments I invite you to offer to God your heart of stone, so that God may sprinkle it clean and replace it with a heart of flesh that is re-energized by God’s spirit, and reconfirmed as God’s beloved, with whom God is well pleased. As I went down in the river to pray Studying about that good old way And who shall wear the starry crown Good Lord, show me the way! O sinners, let's go down Let's go down, come on down O sinners, let's go down Down in the river to pray

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lent 5A

Lent 5A April 2, 2017 This past week I read a poignant news story about UN Peacekeeper Michael Sharp whose bones were found in a shallow grave in the Democratic Republic of the Congo earlier this week. The writer of the news story reflected on a time when he had met Michael, and Michael had shared with him about the peacekeeping work that Michael and his colleagues were already doing in the Democratic Republic of Congo among the rebels there. Michael’s vocation was to engage in dialogue with the rebels—violent people who perceived the world so differently from how he did. He would sit down with them and listen to their stories, and then he would usually persuade them to surrender. And he believed that his approach could be applied to other violent groups—from ISIS to neo-Nazis—who rely on myths to recruit members and sustain themselves. In a conversation with the reporter back in 2015, Michael explained how he would approach these very violent rebels he worked with. “It starts, he said, with understanding their world view of the past as ‘the good old days and we need to go back to that. And that is the classic narrative of exile.’ The rebels, he said, were nostalgic for a mythical home and aimed to rewind history to a time that never really existed in the first place. For the Congolese rebels, their fantasy was an era when they—in their imagination—ruled neighboring Rwanda and killed their ethnic enemies with impunity.”i The article continues talking about Michael Sharp’s methodology and how he worked within the mythical narrative of the exiled rebels to provide them with reasons to surrender, which had been a very effective model. But this story struck me this week in the ways that it resonates with our reading from Ezekiel today (and even a little bit with the gospel reading). We see the prophet Ezekiel, who has been raised up by God to serve as a prophet to the Children of Israel who have been marched against their will into exile in Babylon, where they live as a conquered people among their conquers. They are longing for home, and they tell stories of the good old days, the way things used to be. Ezekiel continues this exile narrative with the vision of the valley of the dry bones. The people in exile are a people who have lost heart, who are suffering a death of the spirit, a living death in exile in a foreign land. And the explanation given at the end of the reading is that they are, in fact, the dry bones that will be reanimated and re-energized by the breath of the Lord, so that they may be placed once again on their own soil and so that they may once again know Yahweh as their Lord and God. This story of death and resurrection, wandering and displacement and return to home is a central one in the Old and New Testaments, and really, if we think about it, we can all relate at least a little bit. Each of us, if we are truthful, has our stories of exile and loss, wandering and disappointment. Each of us has our own narrative of “the good old days,” “the ways things used to be” before… Before he died. Before she got sick. Before he became addicted to drugs or alcohol. Before she lost her job. Before the divorce. Before all this change… And each of us has our dusty, frustrated hope of all that now will never be. These are our own Valleys of Dry Bones. On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the last before we enter Holy Week with great fanfare, triumph and pageantry on Palm Sunday, we are offered the invitation to walk through a graveyard of our own lost hope and frustrated expectations. We are invited to acknowledge and recognize our own heartbreak. And we are given the gift of freedom when we stand, in the middle of our valley of dry bones, let go of the shreds of the false narratives we tell ourselves, and admit brokenly before our Creator: “This is not how I hoped things would be.” “Can these bones really live?” Because, my friends, in that admission of ours, we offer God space, an invitation—to breathe new life into those valleys of dry bones in our lives, to breath new hope and renewed purpose into our stories, and to restore us more fully in relationship with God and each other. For the breath that fills us with new life is the same breath that created us, claimed us, and marked us as God’s beloved, belonging to Christ forever. So, take a moment and reflect on these questions, and take them with you out into the world and your week beyond this place: 1. Name the valley of dry bones that you are being invited to walk around in during this season. The dry bones can be dead people, dead dreams, lost or hibernating hope, or the promises of God you have forgotten or set aside. 2. How had you hoped things would be different? Name your hurt and your disappointment to yourself and to God. 3. What can you learn about yourself and the world from this painful, difficult path that you have been called to walk? 4. Can you offer to God your valley of dry bones, and when God asks you, “Mortal, can these bones live?” can you answer with faith in the resurrecting breath of God—“O Lord God, you know.”? i. http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/03/29/521962848/remembering-michael-sharp-he-risked-his-life-to-make-peace?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20170330

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lent 3A

Lent 3A_ 2017 March 19, 2017 “Is the Lord among us or not?” You can’t really blame the Children of Israel for asking it. After all, it was God and Moses who brought them out of the security of their enslavement in Egypt. It was God who led them in the wilderness and told them to camp there where there was no water to be found. What do people do when they can’t get the water they need? People get angry. People panic. Even Moses begins to panic as it looks like the people are getting ready to stone him. So Moses cries out to God, and God promises Moses and the people that God is truly with them. God goes ahead of them and stands on the rock at Horeb so that when Moses strikes it the water comes forth. In a place where there is no water, God’s presence causes the water to bubble up from the rock. And yet the place is named after the people’s unbelief, their questioning, and their testing: “Is the Lord among us or not?” And it is used as a cautionary tale in Psalm 95: “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” I had a conversation with someone years ago about this story and he asked “If the parting of the Red Sea was such a powerful event, definitive proof of God’s presence and care for the Israelites, how is it that they can doubt God’s presence among them? How was it that their hearts become hardened? It’s an interesting questions, I think. How is it that our hearts become hardened? If we are truly honest with ourselves, we know the answer to this. We may not understand it, but we certainly have experienced it. We, who have encountered God’s presence in our lives and in our community over and over again, still find our hearts failing and doubting God’s goodness and God’s presence. "Is the Lord among us or not?" We find our hearts hardened, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. We grow thirsty and we panic that we will not have what we need to assuage our thirst. We fear that maybe this one time, God won’t show up, won’t give us what we need. But that is not the nature of God as revealed in Jesus. Jesus reveals for us a God who always shows up, offering living water, “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” Knowing everything that we have ever thought or done and still loving us unconditionally, unerringly. In this season of Lent, perhaps we are being called to tap into this spring of living water that is already bubbling up in our souls. Perhaps we are being called to pay attention to our hardened hearts and to invite God’s love to soften us. One way to do this is through the practice of a daily self-examen. A self-examen is the practice of asking yourself a set of questions every day to both acknowledge our failures and to also tap into God’s presence in our lives through gratitude. In this practice,“by the interweaving of admission and thanksgiving we come to appreciate the love that upholds and guides our decisions, and at the same time we become conscious of our withdrawal from that love”—when and how our hearts grow hardened over the course of a single day. And in this particular self-examen that I am going to share with you today, we can see the connection between acknowledging our failures and our hardness of heart at the same time that it guides us to accepting God’s grace and acknowledging God’s presence in our lives through our gratitude. “To ask these questions of ourselves each day helps us to see patterns in our lives that are easily overlooked, avoided or forgotten. ‘In a sense, it is like a daily shower…It does not necessarily prevent our going back in the grime…but it does help us to know where the grime is found.” In addition to the daily examen, Lent is a good time to engage in one of the most-underused of our seven sacraments: Reconciliation of a Penitent. There are two forms in the BCP that you can look at (on page 447), and Katie and I will be scheduling times for folks who want to come in and partake of this sacrament to do so in the second half of Lent. Reconciliation is a gift from God available to all who desire it, and it is an important part of welcoming God’s healing our hardened hearts when the time is right. 6 Questions for a Daily self-examen: 1. When was I least conscious of God’s love today? 2. When was I most conscious of God’s love today? 3. When did I not act out of love today? 4. When did I act out of love today? 5. What opportunities for thanksgiving did I miss today? 6. For what am I thankful today? I have copies of these questions available in your pews that I invite you to take with you when you leave. One way to begin and end this practice is with the Collect for Purity that we pray here every week. I will close with that today, and invite you to sit and reflect on these questions for a few moments of silence. Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

First Sunday in Lent Year A

Lent 1A March 5, 2017 A few years ago, I was struck when one of my friends told me that she was “giving up fear for Lent.” When I asked her how she was going to do it, she talked about how: during the times when she identified that she felt afraid, she would gently remind herself of her trust in God and her belief that God would give her everything she needs. In reflecting on the practice afterward, she told me, “It was so much harder than it sounds or than I thought it would be. I didn’t realize how much we, even as Christians, allow fear to run our lives and our relationships. But it ended up strengthening my trust in God and my faith so much more than I expected.” On this first Sunday in Lent, we are reminded that Lent is a time when we, like Jesus, are driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for a season of fasting and self-reflection. But this wilderness is not a vacation to the mountains or the beach, a chance to “get away from it all” for a while and unplug and recharge. This wilderness is barren and wild. It is a place that can be lonely and dangerous, stark in its struggle and its solitude. And we’ve seen what happens to people in the wilderness. Just look at all the stories in the Bible about the Children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after the Exodus! Most people, when wandering in the wilderness, become afraid. Afraid of the loneliness. Afraid that they will be hungry. Afraid that we will not have enough—not have what we need. Fear is a powerful motivator, especially in the wilderness. But the wilderness and the solitude it provides can also be a place where we distill and clarify our identity. In it, we can strip away what is not important, what is not really true to who we are and our relationship with God. If we will let it, wilderness can be a time of growth and clarity for us, even in the midst of its demands and hardships. My husband likes to tell a story about this gospel reading and the time that he saw one of the passages from it on an inspirational bible quote of the day calendar. The quote for that day was “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” He tells that story to show that context is important. And it’s true for us today as we think about Jesus’s temptations in the wilderness. It is, in fact, the context of the story that provides the key to how Jesus thrives in the wilderness, and the key to how we thrive when we, too, find ourselves driven into the wilderness. Because what has happened immediately before our story for today? Jesus has emerged, dripping, from his baptism, when he (along with all who are gathered there) hears the voice of God say of him: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” And each of those temptations are designed to chip away at Jesus’s identity—notice how two of the three start with “If you are the Son of God…” Jesus resists the temptations, not because he is some super-human. He resists the temptations, they have no hold over him, because he remains secure in his identity as God’s beloved, with whom God is well pleased. He trusts that God will give him what he needs, so he does not feel the need to take anything the devil is offering him. This past Ash Wednesday, I was struck by a connection that I had never noticed before. When the priest makes the sign of the cross in ash on each of our foreheads and says the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” it is the same gesture that is made in chrism oil at our baptisms with the words: “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism, and marked as Christ’s own forever.” Like Jesus we are sent forth from our baptisms into the wilderness that is life, to face hardship, spiritual hunger and thirst, loneliness, loss of control. The real temptation for us, like Jesus, is whether or not we will let fear overpower us, chip away at our identity and make us less than the one God has created each of us to be. All temptations boil down to a choice: whether we will try to assert our own will, which is always the way of death; or whether we trust in the God of the resurrection who always breathes new life. This season of Lent for us can certainly be a season in the wilderness, if we focus on worship and practices that allow us to be stripped of all that does not support our true identity as God’s beloved--marked as Christ’s own forever--that is given to us from the beginning of time, and if we allow ourselves to be stripped of all that prevents us from living more fully into that belovedness. I think this year, I’m going to take up my friend’s practice of giving up fear for Lent. In those moments I am afraid, I will acknowledge my fear and then say gently to myself, “Remember that you are God’s beloved. Do not be afraid.” I invite you to consider joining me in that practice this year. May God grant us all the clarity of our identity as God’s beloved as an antidote to our fear, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

3rd Sunday after Epiphany Year A

3rd Sunday after the Epiphany Year A January 22, 2017 There have been seasons in my life when I get a certain song stuck in my head so well and thoroughly-for days, weeks, (and one unfortunate time—even months on end)—that I have finally learned to pay attention. These songs can be, for me, a message from God, a message from my own soul. This week, I have been besieged by the song “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” I have listened to so many different singers’ versions of it—Tennessee Ernie Ford, EmmyLou Harris, Johnny Cash, Natalie Merchant, Ed Sheerhan—this week in an effort to loosen its hold on me, and still it goes around and around in my head until it sometimes can no longer be contained and I just start singing it (often startling my family, random strangers in the Madison Kroger, and our church office staff). I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger Traveling through this world of woe Yet there's no sickness, toil nor danger In that fair land to which I go I'm going there to see my father I'm going there no more to roam I am just going o'er Jordan I am just going o'er home It’s essentially a song about longing—longing for heaven, longing for family, longing for God, longing for home. In the gospel reading for today, we see Jesus crossing over the Jordan, but it seems to be the very opposite from which poor wayfaring stranger yearns. When Jesus crosses over the Jordan, he is leaving home, leaving family, leaving familiarity, and crossing to the other side of the river to make his home among strangers, the Gentiles. When he calls his first disciples, he is making new family out of strangers. And something in his call speaks to them—recognizing and knowing them and fulfilling for a moment that place of deep longing, deep homesickness within each of them. And they leave it all behind to follow him—livelihoods, parents, homes, families. They leave home in order to find and follow Jesus who is their true home. They leave home to join Jesus in the work of making strangers family. A few years ago, I was having a conversation with my seminary classmate and friend The Rev. Patrick Skutch. And we were talking about God’s call and the disruptions that often accompany God’s call, for individuals, even for churches. After the conversation, Patrick shared with me something he wrote for his parish at the time, and it struck me: “…In the Scriptures, disruption seems to be one of the symptoms of God's call. Think of Moses (who had made quite a comfortable life for himself), or any of the prophets, or of Andrew and John and Simon Peter. The Kingdom of God, which Jesus proclaimed, was itself disruptive, disruptive of world views, religious assumptions, and the special interests of the ruling powers. The disruptions in our own life (some of them bewildering and incredibly painful) are not themselves necessarily God's doing (God does not, in my view, arrange suffering and pain for God's creatures), but they may be sign posts or the raw material through which God's call might emerge. Disruption does not necessarily mean calling, but call is almost always disruptive.” We see this disruption and division evidenced in the portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians today. (And I think we see it in what is going on here currently, as well.) It is echoed in the words of our sequence hymn today, written by Mississippian William Alexander Percy; the third verse was read aloud to me by a wise priest before I went off to seminary: “The peace of God it is no peace,/ but strife closed in the sod./ yet let us pray for but one thing-/the marvelous peace of God.” When you get to the heart of it, we are all just poor wayfaring strangers. Some of us are so homesick that when we do find home, we make an idol of it. It is so tempting and easy to do. But the call of Jesus to discipleship is the call to cross over the Jordan—to see things from a different place, to make family out of strangers, and to heed the call to follow and find him as our one and only true home. The calling of Jesus to prepare for the Kingdom of God is essentially a call to opening our lives to disruption, so that we may encounter God, who is our true and only home. How might Jesus be calling you these days to cross over the Jordan, to leave comfort and security so that you might find your true home? How might Jesus be calling this church to cross over Jordan—to make family out of strangers and to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom? I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger Traveling through this world of woe Yet there's no sickness, toil nor danger In that fair land to which I go I'm going there to see my father I'm going there no more to roam I am just crossing o'er Jordan I am just going o'er home

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve 2016

Christmas Eve-2016 This season, I’ve been listening to one particular Christmas cd over and over again. It is Yo-Yo Ma and Friends: Songs of Joy and Peace. I had listened to it several times without really thinking about it before something strange about it occurred to me. Out of the 28 Christmas songs that Yo-Yo Ma and his friends have compiled, 8 of them are different versions/ improvisations on one song: Dona Nobis Pacem. Dona nobis pacem. Do you know this song? It’s actually found in our own hymnal on page 712. It goes like this: It means, “grant us peace.” So as I’ve been listening to this Christmas album through this season, I’ve been listening to this one song over and over and over again. Grant us peace. Grant us peace. It is a simple song of both hope and longing. I think it is safe to say that every single one of us longs for peace. And like those different musicians doing different improvisations on the same song, we sing this longing for peace differently in our own lives. Some of us sing it hopefully. Some of us sing it sadly, remembering what peace we have lost. Some of us sing it angrily, as we see the injustice around us or in our own lives. But no matter how each of us sings it, it is the song that is found at the deepest, depths of each of our hearts. Lord, grant us peace. It is what we have come here tonight in search of. It is what we long to experience and encounter here, at least on this one night, if we can’t have it in any other place or time. Lord, grant us peace. So what do we make of the angels’ proclamation to the shepherds? “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” It seems that they are saying that peace comes with Jesus, but if this is so, then how is it that we long so desperately for it all these many years later? One of the deep truths that we are called to remember this night, when we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel--God with us--is this. Jesus doesn’t bring the kingdom of God; he reveals the kingdom of God. Jesus doesn’t bring peace. He reveals that peace is already here, within our grasp and within our hearts. On this night, of all nights, we remember that God takes on human form to reveal to us Godself, to reveal to us just how much God cherishes us. In and through this gift, God shows that God experiences and understands how difficult and dark our days can be, how confused we get about our identity and place, how many painful things we do to each other out of that confusion and insecurity. And through Jesus, God shows us, again and again and again, but also for the first time tonight, that God loves us—deeply, truly, and forever; that God is with us; that God’s kingdom is already here among us; and that God’s peace already dwells deep within us. The message of the angels for us this night is this. You are of infinite value, deeply loved by God. God is with you, and you already have the peace of God within you. So tonight, we sing this song of longing for peace out of place of thanksgiving—that God’s peace is already ours (You can sing it with me if you like…)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent 3A

Advent 3A_2016 December 11, 2016 “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” It’s quite a different picture of John the Baptist that we have this week compared to last. Last week, we saw John in his glory, preaching repentance out in the wilderness, calling people “a brood of vipers” and so certain in his mission, to prepare the way for the Messiah. This week, we have John, imprisoned, alone, abandoned, uncertain: “are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” John is looking for assurance, for fulfillment, for hope, and amazingly enough, even in the midst of extreme persecution for speaking the truth to power, John is prepared to wait and remain true to his purpose—pointing people to the Messiah. Jesus responds (as Jesus often does) without really answering John’s question—but rather telling John’s disciples to “go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them…” Jesus points to the acts of healing, mercy, justice, reconciliation, and joy that are the fruits of his ministry, and he offers those as the answer to John’s question. By answering John’s question in this way, Jesus invites John (and John’s disciples) into visioning the new kingdom of God that is being born in and through Jesus. I imagine that it was incredibly hard work for John, alone in the dark of his jail cell, to vision the new kingdom that God was creating through Jesus. It’s hard for us too, all these many years later. I was talking with a friend from another church not too long ago, and she and another woman were talking about the disappointment in their church and the choices those in power had made. The other woman said to my friend, “Why couldn’t they let the new church be born?” A little over two years ago, your vestry decided that it would utilize the priest in charge process from our diocese as you called your next priest. Your search committee received 8 names of suitable candidates from the bishop, and they went to work---they read all the candidates’ profiles and resumes and cover letters; they read sermons (from the same Sundays so they could be more accurately compared); they composed questions for the candidates to answer and then read and compared all those. Then they interviewed 3 of the candidates, asking each a series of the same questions, and they worshipped with each and listed to each preach. It was the most thorough and well-organized search process I have ever participated in. At the end of that process, you chose me; and I chose you. And together we are St Columb’s. I gave you my heart long ago. I admire and respect from where you have come and I see so much wonderful potential and possibility in you that I am eager to help you engage with. But I have also been deeply disappointed in the ways that we have all recently allowed grumbling, malicious gossip, and lies to tear the fabric of our community, and we have been so quick to believe the worst of each other. In the reading from James today the writer says, “Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged.” He writes this to a community who is being persecuted, and he urges them not to grumble against one another because they need each other, they need that faithful community to help them await the Lord’s coming. Survival over the long haul requires patience, not only with the Lord, who brings fulfillment in God’s own time, but with each other lest we destroy the community that holds us up during the waiting. We can do better. We have the power to name and confront grumbling and malice when we see it (both in our own hearts and in the words and actions of others) and to not allow it to divide us. For we are St. Columb’s. Many years ago, a small faithful group of you acted with great courage as you made the decision to move from West Jackson to Ridgeland, and you committed yourselves to the vision and the dream that a new church would be born. More joined you, and you acted courageously once again to help the new church be born when you built this nave. More have joined us, and it is time for us all once again to call upon the plucky courage that is the foundation of this congregation, that has been stoked and nurtured by those of you who have been here all along and to allow the new church to be born. For we are St. Columb’s. Today is the culmination of our annual giving campaign. We will be turning in our pledge cards that represent our commitment to this parish and to God’s mission and ministry which is being lived and carried out here among us. Now, I know some of you don’t want to pledge until you see which way all this is going to go, and that is certainly your prerogative and is something that is between you and God. But that is not the choice that I am making, nor is that what God is calling me to do. I am making my pledge and my commitment to God in and through this place because I have seen how God’s kingdom is made manifest by our common life—people are transformed by the love of God in and through the people of this parish; acts of mercy and kindness are shared with those who are in need or are suffering; and we still have an abundance of joy, even in the midst of hardship, which is the product of hope and our trust in God and God’s love for us. So I make my pledge, my commitment to God and the new church that is being born in this place, and I invite you to join me in that hope. For it is only together that We are St. Columb’s.