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.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent 1A

Advent 1A November 27, 2016 Today we celebrate the beginning of a new year in the church calendar. It is the first Sunday of Advent, a season of the church year that is characterized by anticipation and waiting, by expectant hope and longing, by preparation for Jesus’s coming again through his birth at Christmas and by preparation for Jesus’s coming again into this world as he promised. Advent is, perhaps, the most counter-cultural of our seasons because all around us, the stores, the yards, the houses are all decorated for Christmas in a riot of carols and colors. And yet in Advent, we light our single candles week by week and huddle expectantly around the light of those individual flames. In our gospel lesson for today, we see Jesus in what is know as the “little apocalypse” entreating his disciples (and us) to “keep awake!” And that’s really the theme of this season, isn’t it: Keep awake! But how do we do that, we who are not so good at or comfortable with waiting? In Advent, we are invited to dwell for a season with our longing. We sing every week “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee…” We remember for a season that we are a people who are called to wait, to watch expectantly, to hope. Most of the time, we just refuse to wait. We rush or we ignore it or we distract ourselves with our smartphones, but in Advent we are called to embrace the waiting and the longing that comes with it, and we are invited to keep watch while we wait. We are invited to keep watch for the presence of God, who does show up and who will show up. A while back, one of my favorite songs was titled “Awake My Soul” by the British band Mumford and Sons. The refrain of the song goes: “Awake my soul! For you were made to meet your maker.” St. Augustine wrote a long time ago that at the center of each of us is a God-shaped hole. We try to fill it so often with things that aren’t God or of God. But in the end, only God can fill that void. So one way of keeping awake during this season of Advent is to embark upon an examination of our longing. What is it for which we wait? What does our deepest longing reveal about each of us? And what would it be like to kneel before God (perhaps during some extra silence before the confession?) and to name our specific longing before God and ask God for God’s fulfillment? So this Advent, may your soul be awakened: that you may watch with the expectancy and joy of children waiting for their playmates to arrive. May your soul be awakened that you may watch with the purpose of one who waits for water to boil. May your soul be awakened that you may watch with the patience and faithfulness of one who keeps watch with a love one who is near death. May you keep awake and keep watch for the presence of God in your life and in this world. For you were made to meet your maker.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

26th Sunday after Pentecost-Proper 28C

26th Sunday after Pentecost-Proper 28C November 13, 2016 I have a confession to make. And I'm well aware that this confession may make me seem un-American. But, I am not a baseball fan. There are several other sports that I watch or follow (sometimes tangentially), but baseball has never been one of them. I was on retreat last week when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, and so I noted the elation among my friends who are long-time, long-suffering fans, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. And then, I was introduced to a song I had never heard before. It is called All the Way, and it is written and sung by Eddie Vetter—the front-man for the band Pearl Jam. I was struck by this song because it is a love song from a Cubs fan, and it is a song full of hope and expectation and longing (written back in 2008) that has suddenly been fulfilled. The chorus goes: “Someday we’ll go all the way, yeah, someday we’ll go all the way.” And the song includes lines like “We are one with cubs, with the cubs we’re in love. We hold our heads high as the underdog…” And “In a world full of greed, I could never want more… someday we’ll go all the way, yeah, someday we’ll go all the way.” and “Here’s to the men, the legends we’ve known, teaching us faith and giving us hope… “Someday we’ll go all the way, yeah, someday we’ll go all the way.” [It’s funny, don’t you think, how after this crazy week we’ve had, after this crazy season, I keep being drawn to listen over and over again to a baseball love song. I just don't get it.] At first glance, our readings for this week seem to have little connection with love songs, other than the fact that the Bible is the love song of God for God’s people. But upon closer look, perhaps we may see things differently. Luke’s gospel has been written after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Take a moment and imagine the most chaotic, destructive act happening in your lifetime—September 11th on steroids. The central focus of your faith, your worship has been destroyed by an occupying country. That is the community that Luke is writing to. The very ground under their feet feels unstable; nowhere feels safe. There is stress and fighting in the community. And Luke’s Jesus tells them not to put their hope, their faith in institutions, because they will crumble. Luke’s Jesus tells them that really bad things are still going to happen before the end times and they shouldn’t make preparations. They should endure faithfully and Jesus promises them that even if they are executed (which is a distinct possibility for them), that God will ensure that not a hair on any of their heads will be harmed. Then there is the reading from Isaiah. This reading is from the third part of Isaiah and the chronology is important here. In the first part of Isaiah (aka “Angry Isaiah), the children of Israel have forsaken God and as a result they have been taken into exile in Babylon. The second part of Isaiah happens when they are in exile and it is more hopeful. The worst has happened, but God is still with them. The third part of Isaiah seems to be more realistic. The people have returned from exile back to Jerusalem, and it is in ruins. There is no government. The temple has been destroyed and is in ruins, and the people are left with a whole lot of work to do to rebuild everything, including their fractured community. This portion of Isaiah, which is also sometimes called “Isaiah’s prophesy” sings the love song reminding the people that is God who does the work of creating and re-creating and it paints a vision of hope for how God will work to recreate their fractured community and home. And then there is 2nd Thessalonians. This reading is often quoted out of its context to berate people who are being fed without working, but that is not at all what is going on here. The writer of 2nd Thessalonians is addressing a very divided community who has been expecting Jesus’s upcoming and immediate return and who has become frustrated in that expectation (and maybe even fallen under some persecution from the authorities of the day). As a result of their division, some in the Christian community there have continued to faithfully endure and do the work of the beloved community while others have grown idle and are stirring up trouble with gossip. The writer of the letter entreats the community to continue enduring in faithfulness and encourages them to “not be weary in doing what is right.” So where is the love song for us in these readings this morning, after a crazy, divisive election season and a week that has resulted in half of our nation rejoicing and half in mourning? The love song for us is the reminder not to put our hope in institutions because they will crumble. We are not to put our hope in the Church or in the Nation. We are not to put our hope in the bishop or a conflict consultant or even this building and its beloved community. We are not to put our hope in the president or the president-elect, in our military or our justice system or our electoral college. The love song for us is a reminder that God is the one in whom we put our hope, and God promises always to be faithful, to care what happens to each and every one of us, so that not a hair on our heads shall be harmed as long as we remain faithful. God promises that God’s values are not our values and that God creates and re-creates according to God’s purposes not our own. But we are also reminded that we can’t just sit around and leave it all to God (because when we do that, we generally get up to no good). Instead, we are called to “not grow weary in doing what is right” which can be summed up in loving God and loving our neighbor. (I think we can all relate to the difficulty of this work here recently.) Just recently, I listened to a remarkable interview of Jack Leroy Tueller, a decorated World War II veteran. And in this interview Tueller tells of an experience that he had during his service in WW2 that can inspire and challenge us, if we let it. He says, "This is two weeks after D-Day. It was dark, raining, muddy. And I’m stressed so I get my trumpet out. And the commander said, 'Jack, don’t play tonight because there’s one sniper left.' I thought to myself that German sniper is as scared and lonely as I am. So I thought, I’ll play his love song." And just this little act of grace, this message of love played out across the expanse of darkness is so wonderful. If the story ends here, it is still a beautiful love song of human kindness. But it doesn’t end there. The military police approach Tueller the next morning and tell him they have a German prisoner on the beach who keeps asking in broken English, "Who played that trumpet last night?" Truller continues: "I grabbed my trumpet and went down to the beach. There was a 19-year-old German, scared and lonesome. He was dressed like a French peasant to cloak his role as a sniper. And, crying, he said, 'I couldn't fire because I thought of my fiancĂ©. I thought of my mother and father,' and he says, 'My role is finished.' Jack Trueller concludes: “And I stuck out my hand and I shook the hand of the enemy. He was no enemy; he was scared and lonely like me." “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” May God give us the courage to see each other in and through the vision of God and to play for each other a love-song across the dark divide.