Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Tapestry of Life, the Tapestry of Scripture

Life is truly a tapestry, a weaving of shapes and sizes and colors, gifts and talents that proclaim the beauty of God’s people throughout the world. One of my favorite songs, “Weave” by Rosmary Crow says it much better than I can.

We are many textures, we are many colors, Each one different from the other.
But we are entwined with one another in one great tapestry.

Weave, weave, weave us together, Weave us together, in unity and love. 
Weave, weave, weave us together, weave us together, together in love. 

Just think for a moment about the idea of being woven together, being entwined with a rainbow of God’s people, realizing that we depend on one another for the abundant life that God promises to all of us. Not only are we connected by our need for and production of food, clothing and shelter, but we are connected and bound together in our search for beauty, joy and meaning in life.

I want to look at the human tapestry through the lens of another tapestry, a tapestry of scripture and a parable or two both ancient and modern. As the light reflects off the many colors and textures of this tapestry we may see facets of our humanity we have never before seen. So, fasten your seat belts and let’s go for a ride.

I begin with a portion of Psalm 90 (vss. 1-6, 13-17) showing in a powerful way the foundational relationship between God and all of creation, including human beings.
Lord, you have been our refuge *from one generation to another.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.
16 Show your servants your works *and your splendor to their children.
17 May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us; *prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork.

The Psalmist weaves a beautiful tapestry of God and Creation, of land and earth and sky and sea. He weaves in a vision of all the works of creation for all of God’s Children to see, and finally the strand of human creativity and partnership with God in the creation and building of God’s Kingdom.

In and around this strand I now weave the strand of Jesus’ command to us from Matthew 22:34-46:

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered
together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Remember Jesus teaches this lesson in the context of the Parable of the “Good Samaritan.”
The strand puts even more emphasis on the two basic relationships of human life, the relationship between human beings and God and the relationship between each of us and all other people with whom we share this “fragile Earth, our Island home.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 370).

Finally our “friend,” St. Paul wraps a colorful strand around this portion of our tapestry with these beautiful and powerful words.

              As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
              humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a
              complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you
              also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything
              together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which
              indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)

These passages of Holy Scripture, woven together in a bright tapestry truly proclaim that our faith is not just a list of rules and regulations and lines that put some in and others out. Our faith is above all else, Relationships: relationship with God and relationships with all of God’s people, on earth as well as in heaven.

I add one last strand, a modern day parable of relationship and community which brings together the foundations of our faith, Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience.

Long ago and far away I was very much involved in leadership with the Boy Scouts of America. During that time I lead a crew of sixteen scouts and five adult leaders on an adventure trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron New Mexico. On our last day the crew of eight with whom I was hiking was ascending the “Tooth of Time,” by a very steep and narrow trail. About half way up one of the boys, a high school football star fullback, backed up against the rock wall and stated, “I’m not going any farther, I am not going up or down, I am going to stay here the rest of my life.” He was truly paralyzed with fear. I tried to persuade him, his hiking partner tried to encourage him, and he again responded, “I am going to stay here the rest of my life. At this point, his entire crew surrounded him with love, confidence and courage, three in front of him and four behind. They encouraged him to take “one step at a time,” and walked with him, “one step at a time.” The entire crew arrived at the top and all were rewarded, not only by the beautiful views, but by the sense of accomplish and teamwork and renewed confidence in themselves and in the team. And the one who was afraid had renewed his courage.

We are many textures, we are many colors, Each one different from the other.
But we are entwined with one another in one great tapestry.
Weave, weave, weave us together, Weave us together, in unity and love. 
Weave, weave, weave us together, weave us together, together in love. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Give to the Emperor the Things that are the Emperor’s And to God the Things that area God’

(Based on a Sermon Preached at Christ Episcopal Church, Albertville, Alabama on 10/22/17)

In the Gospel of Matthew 22:15-22 we see a group of religious and civic leaders plotting to entrap Jesus, saying,

“Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Certainly Jesus is moving people in the proper direction. He knows that God is higher than the state, but that there are important functions that are proper for the state to carry out. The State is charged with promoting the welfare of all of its citizens, and maintaining law and order and protecting its citizens from dangers, both internal and external. But, when a nation oversteps the mark and puts itself in the place of God, Christians are, in the last resort, absolved from obedience. We must obey God rather than other human beings. (Remember Daniel in the Lions’ Den)

But, when we as God’s people do disobey human laws, we also must be prepared to face the consequences: the law is the law, until it is changed, even if it is unjust. The consequences can include jail, job loss, ridicule, loss of friends and even death. People and groups whose allegiance to God and principle has exceeded their allegiance to state and have paid the price include Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks; and many others who have worked for justice and peace in our world. Oh, and did I mention Jesus.

In light of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22, what is the proper relationship between God and the emperor, what is the proper Biblical attitude toward the State today?

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-36)

And to this I might add, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”(Matthew 7:12) God Calls us to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Based on this foundation, what is the Christian attitude toward war, the death penalty, elections, health insurance, welfare, feeding the hungry and peaceful protests? For Episcopal Christians, which is the group with which I am most familiar, the answer includes both “good news and bad news.” The bad news is that we don’t all agree on these and many other issues, nor do we even agree on what the Bible, and even Jesus, have to say. The good news is that we are committed to Christ and to each other and are willing to live into the tension and ambiguity, with the hope that as we journey together, the Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us into all truth. Having said this let’s look at some of the Biblical reasons for our confusion and disagreement:

“my peace I give to you/I came not to bring peace but a sword, I came to divide families.” “if you don’t work you don’t eat/anyone who gives a cup of water or food in my name shall reap their reward.” “And when did I do this to you?” “Whenever you did it to one of the least of these my brothers or sisters.”

As the Church, the Body of Christ, we must listen to scripture, we must listen to one another, we must find ways to serve together, “doing unto others as we would want others to do unto us.” We must speak out against the evil we see in the world, even if the evil we see is the good our neighbor sees, and the neighbor must have the right to do the same, even if our neighbors’ good is our evil. And then, we must be able to talk about our differences with respect and open ears, open hearts and open souls. God calls me to respect you even if I do not respect the laws you embrace or the people for whom you voted, and God calls you to do the same.

This is not easy. It is always dangerous when we choose God over the Nation, especially when we disagree on what we are seeing. This is why we need each other; this is why God sends us the Holy Spirit daily.

Last week my wife and I were in Charleston, South Carolina, a city of beauty and history. On a boat trip in the harbor we noticed many interesting and beautiful sites, but one particular facet caught my attention. Charleston is a very “short” city: the tallest building is 11 stories and most buildings are three stories or less. There are, however, many tall Church Steeples, which can be seen from all over the city as well as from the water. As it turns out, no building is taller than the tallest church Steeple.

What a perfect metaphor for Jesus’ message in this story: “sure, give the emperor what belongs to him, and give to God what belongs to God. . .but, did I mention, IT ALL BELONGS TO GOD!


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Honor Jesus, Be Like Jesus, Honor Jesus by Being Like Jesus

When I read Philippians 2: 1-13, I usually speed through the prose introduction and then focus on the Poem/Hymn that follows it.

Today I want to hurry through the poem and then focus on the introduction, which just might give us a better idea about what God is calling us to do.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient
to the point of death-- even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly
exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the
name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under
the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the
glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-8)

This is what we normally think of when we hear this scripture, and it is right and appropriate to honor and respect Jesus. Paul is showing us Jesus as our role model: praising him, extolling him, showing us his humanity, and how Jesus gave of himself to serve others. He truly is worthy of our bowing done, of our “taking a knee” in worship and respect of Him. In the Church, in our Nation and in our families we show respect and honor and where appropriate, worship by kneeling or standing.

The Comedian, Robin Williams, himself an Episcopalian, gives a list of ten reasons to be Episcopalian: my three favorites are “no snake handling,” “no matter what you believe there is at least one other Episcopalian who believes the same thing,” and one of my favorites, “Pew Aerobics.”

“Pew Aerobics?” In the Episcopal Church, we make the sign of the cross, with or without Holy Water, we bow when the cross passes, we sometimes lift our hands up in praise. Traditionally, we sat to be instructed, we stood to sing and praise and we knelt to pray, including at the altar as we received communion. Over time, our understanding of prayer and praise has evolved and blended so that some now stand to pray as well as kneel to pray, again including receiving communion at the altar.

Having said all this, I want to now focus on why I believe Paul wrote this poem in the first place. I believe that while Paul was concerned about tradition and order, he was more concerned that we worship Jesus by how we live and how we see and talk about and think about and serve our fellow human beings.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

This is truly a foundation for “honoring Jesus by being like Jesus.” It is important to remember that being of the same mind does not mean that we all agree on exactly how we understand scripture, or politics or the kind of car we drive, or even our preference for Auburn or Alabama football. No. It means that we agree on the essence of the poem, that we agree on serving the world as Jesus served the world. That we approach God and all of God’s people, not with selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, regarding ourselves not as better or worse than others, but equal to one another in the eyes of God.

As we strive to see the interests of others as equal to and as important as our own interests, several examples come to mind: the 2010 and 2011 Tornados in Alabama, and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria which have struck our nation over the past several weeks. We these disasters occurred: friends, neighbors, the Red Cross, the State and Federal Governments, churches and other organizations joined in to care for those affected, to care for one another.

Those who look to the interests of others include all who write laws for safety and protection, all who protest peacefully for the safety and protection of others, and yes, even those who like Jesus, sometimes turn over tables and run the “Money Changers out of the Temple” for the protection and safety of others.

Again, Philippians 2:1-4:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

Honor Jesus, be Like Jesus, honor Jesus by being like Jesus!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

When God Calls Us To Work In The Vineyard

Jesus tells a parable, recorded in Matthew 20:1-16, about a landowner who goes to the town square to hire day laborers to work in his vineyard. The landowner promises those hired at six in the morning the proper day’s wage. Every three hours he employs more workers and promises to pay them “What is right.” Finally, at five in the afternoon he finds more who need work and sends them to the vineyard as well; without promise of specific pay. Most of us know this story:  at the end of the work day, the laborers are called and paid, beginning with the last employed and ending with the first. All are paid the same, and those hired first are unhappy and feel they have been treated unfairly. The landowner reminds them that they received the agreed upon pay and that he has the right to be generous with what is his.

This is a story of Grace and The Kingdom of God. God invites us all into his Kingdom in different ways and at different times. Some of us are invited many times before we accept his invitation to “go into his vineyard.” When we (finally?) accept God’s invitation, we go, and work: without counting the cost and without expecting pay. However, we are paid generously. God pays us all the same, and the pay is much, much better than “a day’s wage!”

Our pay is Eternal Life, membership in the Kingdom of God, a relationship with God and God’s people forever. Oh, and an opportunity to invite others into God’s Kingdom, into the Vineyard. Our work in the Vineyard is to share the Good News and to become Co-Creators with God.

God’s Good News: While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us; it is never too late to enter the Kingdom of God; Jesus came into the world that we (all) might have abundant life. We become Co-Creators with God by: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked; by setting the prisoners free: free from sin, drugs and alcohol addiction, poverty, unjust laws, discrimination, and free from hatred, anger, bitterness and fear.

Hatred, anger, bitterness and fear are a major problem in the world today. This was true in Jesus’ day as well. The workers in his parable were so afraid that others might get more than they received, more than they deserved. It was not fair, it just was not fair. And at times life isn’t fair. But, Jesus is telling a different story, giving the people of his day, and us, a different message. Jesus is preaching about Grace. He is telling and showing us that life is not a “zero sum game, that for me to win, it is not necessary for you to lose.” He is proclaiming a Gospel not of scarcity, but of abundance!

Jesus is proclaiming that your good education does not prevent a good education for me; that your having a living wage will not prevent me from having a living wage; and that my having health insurance will not prevent your having health insurance.

It does mean that we need to plug in to Jesus, that when He asks us to work in his Vineyard that we go! No matter what! That we use our God given gifts and talents to create more good jobs that pay people fairly. That we work to help find ways to insure all people justly and affordably. I know these things are not easy. I know that there are many people wiser than I, who are trying to make these things happen. Yes, it is not easy, but it is important. God cares about our souls, yes, but God also cares about our earthly, physical lives as well.

What can you and I do to make the Master’s Vineyard blossom and grow? We can learn to work together and play together. We can learn not to call people idiots, losers and worse when we disagree with them. We can write and call our Senators, House Members and others in government to thank and encourage them. It is important that we stay informed about the world and what is happening, but, please, let’s not watch and listen to the news all the time! It will make us crazy and angry. Get outside, disconnect: paddle a kayak, buy a pair of boots and find a trail, play a round of golf, go fishing or simply sit on a creek bank and open you mind and heart to the beauty and power of God’s creation.

As we live and move and have our being in God’s Kingdom, let’s give up grumbling, let’s learn to pray to God for guidance and wisdom and peace, and to learn how to talk with and listen to one another with understanding, respect and grace.

“But Jesus replied to one of them, friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Are you envious because I am generous?”

“So the last will be first and the first will be last.” Something to think about. . . .

Friday, September 22, 2017

Forgiving and Being Forgiven

In the Gospel of Matthew 18:21-35, we read the story of the servant who owed his master so large an amount of money that it would have been impossible for him to repay it in his lifetime. The master planned to recoup his money by selling the man, his wife and his children. The man begged forgiveness of the debt and received it. As it turns out, on his way out the servant ran into a fellow servant who owed him a “few dollars.” Servant number one grabbed servant number two and demanded his money. The man begged for mercy and was thrown into prison by his colleague. Most of us know the rest of the story. The first servant was thrown into prison by an angry master who had shown him mercy, forgiveness.

Jesus tells this story in an attempt to show us that forgiveness is a two-way street. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. . .forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.” (Matthew 6:9-13)
Our “hero” apparently did not understand this simple lesson. He certainly understood the wanting to be forgiven part and its importance to him. He seemed to miss or not care about the “as we forgive those who trespass against us” part. I have thought a great deal about this and asked myself why he only acted on the being forgiven part:  Did he simply not understand? Just not care? Want to have his cake and eat it too? Was he just unable to make the connection between being forgiven and forgiving? Or did he, in Jesus Parable, represent “everyman and everywoman, showing us how easy it is to accept forgiveness and yet not understand that we must also forgive.
Remember how Matthew began this passage. He began with his disciple Peter asking Jesus about forgiveness, about how often he should forgive a brother or sister. I do not believe Peter received the answer he hoped for. Peter was hoping for a finite number, “7.” Jesus gave him basically an infinite number, “77.” And, just in case Peter (and the others) missed the point, he answered with a story, as he often did, with the story we just looked at.

So why is it easier to accept forgiveness than to forgive? Perhaps we believe we were correct in the first place and are only receiving what we deserve; or, we are unwilling to accept our part in the conflict, our fault, our sin. Last week I attended a workshop for the Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama entitled “Leadership in Anxious Times.” The leader, a Mennonite, reminded us that in any Church conflict, all parties have played some part and no one is completely free of responsibility. My mind and emotions immediately went back to a conflict in which I was involved and after which I resigned my pastorate. Was I the victim, was the church the victim, could I have done some things differently, could the church have done things differently? The answer to all these questions is yes. Would the results have been different: maybe, maybe not. I might still have resigned from my position, the church might still have been divided, but healing may have come easier to all concerned, and all of us just might have learned a lesson in how to react and function the next time we find ourselves in a similar situation.

The best example of forgiveness I have ever witnessed and the model for most such efforts in the world today is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa which was formed in 1994 at the end of the Apartheid segregation in that nation. Anglican Archbishop, Desmond Tutu headed the commission, and it was designed to give the victims, those who had lost family members, property and homes to tell those who had committed these atrocities how their lives were affected by them. The perpetrators who desired were given the opportunity to respond and ask for forgiveness. This process paved the way for a peaceful transition in South Africa and gave the people and the nation hope for the future. Archbishop Tutu later wrote a book, No Future Without Forgiveness.

I leave you with a prayer and a scripture:

Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see! everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”


Monday, September 11, 2017

Grace and Forgiveness

Thanks to my friend Evan Garner for reminding me how important it is to read a Gospel passage in context with the surrounding verses, in order not to lose or distort the real purpose of the passage. The Gospel recommended in the Common Lectionary for this past Sunday was Matthew 18:15-20 in which Jesus tells his followers how to deal with a person who sins against them.

Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Think about the implications of bringing your offender before the entire church. The mechanics are good, but the act could be awkward, to say the least. If we look at the passages before and after, however, we begin to see a larger story. We see a story not just about “how to confront a sinner,” but, one about how to give as well as receive forgiveness.

In Matthew 18:10-14 we read Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep, in which God searches out the one lost sheep and rejoices in heaven when it is found.

‘What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

“So the purpose of Jesus’ process of confrontation is not just about setting up an elaborate process for seeking reconciliation, or excommunicating the sinner but about showing the great lengths to which one must go for forgiveness.” (Evan Garner, A Long Way From Home) In fact, Matthew moves us quickly to a piece that pulls Jesus’ message together, ‘the question of forgiveness.’ Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’  Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)

Jesus’ message is not about rooting out sin, but about showing forgiveness.

The Amish response to the killing of 10 young girls in 2006 brings Jesus’ message of forgiveness to our day in a very powerful way.

In the hours and days following the tragic Amish school shooting of 10 young schoolgirls in a one-room Amish school in October 2006 , an unexpected story developed.

In the midst of their grief over this shocking loss, the Amish community didn’t cast blame, they didn’t point fingers, they didn’t hold a press conference with attorneys at their sides. Instead, they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer’s family.

The afternoon of the shooting an Amish grandfather of one of the girls who was killed expressed forgiveness toward the killer, Charles Roberts. That same day Amish neighbors visited the Roberts family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain.

Later that week the Roberts family was invited to the funeral of one of the Amish girls who had been killed. And Amish mourners outnumbered the non-Amish at Charles Roberts’ funeral.

It’s ironic that the killer was tormented for nine years by the pre-mature death of his young daughter. He never forgave God for her death. Yet, after he cold-bloodedly shot 10 innocent Amish school girls, the Amish almost immediately forgave him and showed compassion toward his family.

In a world at war and in a society that often points fingers and blames others, this reaction was unheard of.

Me: “How many times must I forgive one who sins against me?” Jesus, “As many as it takes.”

Thursday, September 7, 2017

It Takes a Village to Overcome Disaster: Reflections on Jesus and Hurricanes

Sermons grow out of the interaction of Holy Scripture, prayer, and the life that is going on around us right here and right now. As I reflected on the scriptures this past week in preparation to preach, I also kept track of the news of Hurricane Harvey and the devastation poured upon the people of Houston and Southeast Texas, a place once home for my wife and me. We still have friends in the area, some of whom lost everything they had, and others are working as I write to help those in need. How do the Scriptures and the teachings of Christ inform our lives in situations such as this?

On Sunday, we prayed: “Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works. Amen.”

This prayer was followed by a reading from Exodus 3:1-15 in which Moses encounters God in a burning bush, and is reminded by God that he is standing on Holy Ground. Truly the Earth is the Lord’s for he made it, the whole Earth is Holy Ground, and we, as God’s people, are its stewards. This is especially true during times of devastation such as that experienced by the residents of Texas through the winds and waters of Harvey.

St. Paul (Romans 12:9ff) encourages us to love genuinely, to rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and to persevere in prayer. He encourages us to contribute to the needs of the saints and to extend hospitality to strangers. Finally Jesus challenges us (Matthew 16:21-28): “If any want to become my followers, they must deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow me. Those who want to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives for my sake will find them.”

Twelve years ago, I was involved with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I lived in Beaumont, Texas and am a hurricane survivor. First we welcomed thousands of Katrina refugees into Beaumont. After helping provide food, clothing and shelter to those in need, Rita headed our way and we were forced to join our Louisiana refugees and evacuate to safety. The evacuation and clean up, were difficult physically, mentally and spiritually.

People in Beaumont, many my friends, as well as people in Houston and other coastal towns have had their homes flooded. Water anywhere from a few inches up to eight feet fills some homes. Beaumont was without running water for four days, and even now those who have water must boil it before drinking. Power is slowly being restored, but still some are without. Many have been evacuated, and some of these may never come back to Beaumont, and will begin a new life in a new location.

Those following Jesus’ admonition to “pick up their cross and follow him are making a difference and are bringing life back to a soggy and exhausted community. The Coast Guard, friends and neighbors, the Cajun Navy from Louisiana, FEMA, as well as other people with boats and dump trucks have rescued people and are now helping them get back to their homes to begin the difficult task of rebuilding their lives. Power companies from other states are there, and local churches and synagogues, including my friends at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, are providing food, water, clothing, books for children and even reading to the children. They are providing Bibles and prayers and a listening ear.

These people need our support. We cannot be there with them on the ground at this time, but we can send money through our denominations, The Red Cross, and other organizations on the ground. We who are Christ Episcopal Church are supporting the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, centered in Houston and St. Stephen’s Church in Beaumont with our gifts. I pray that you will find a way through your Church, Denomination, the Red Cross or other reliable organization to partner with in this rebuilding of God’s Kingdom on the Holy Ground in Texas.

I leave you with a prayer from my friend, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, The Right Reverend Andy Doyle:

Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of that holy City where the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea: Behold and visit, we pray, the cities of the earth devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Sustain those displaced by the storm with food, drink, and all other bodily necessities of life. We especially remember before you all poor and neglected persons it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, we may ever be defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.