Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Take Up Your Cross...

Christ Church, St. Michael's Parish
14 Pentecost
Mark 8:27-38

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Today marks the beginning of yet another church year. We have returned to the 8AM and 10:15AM Sunday service schedule, and the clergy have changed into “winter greens.” This coming week we will see the beginning of several new church programs, and various committees will initiate planning sessions for upcoming fall and winter events.  Volunteer recruitment for ongoing ministries will occur at today’s Ministry Fair, and Sunday school registration begins. And, of course, we are anticipating the return of our wonderful choir and the many parishioners who spent their summer months traveling or vacationing in summer homes.

Today also marks, just another day…not the beginning day… but just another day in world situations that bear our immediate and undivided attention.

The Global Refugee Crisis

 In the Balkans tens of thousands of migrants and refugees are working their way north. In Syria about 12 million people have been displaced since 2011. In Southeast Asia over 137,000  Bangladeshis and Rohingya, an ethnic minority from Myanmar, have fled from poverty and persecution. In Eastern Europe 1.3 million people have been displaced within the Ukraine; 867,000 have moved to Russia. Since 2013 brutal conflict in South Sudan has claimed thousands of innocent lives and driven well over a million of people from their homes.  And, here at home according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection 68,541 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the southwest border between October 1, 2013, and September 30, 2014. These children were fleeing from the violence of the drug cartels in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—a region of Central America known as the “Northern Triangle.”


The number of people living in extreme poverty globally remains unacceptably high. According to the most recent estimates, in 2011, just over one billion people lived on less than $1.25 a day.

In a survey conducted by the United Nations in 2005 – an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide and as many as 1 billion people lacked adequate housing. In January 2014, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.


The target set at the 1996 World Food Summit was to halve the number of undernourished people by 2015. Since then, the number of hungry people in developing regions has fallen by over 200 million, from 991 million to 790.7 million. Clearly, the 1996 the target will not be reached.

There are other big challenges, as well – The Global Economy, Gun Violence, Racism, Prison Reform, The Israeli-Palestinian situation, and more…many more.

Many, if not most of these world situations, are present in one way or another right here – right on our front door. They are right here in Maryland and they are right here on the Eastern Shore. Wherever they occur, all of these world situations – all of them – have resulted in the discrimination against, and disenfranchisement, oppression and all too frequently death of millions of God’s children. People. People whose place of birth may be different than ours; people whose skin color and language may be different than ours – but, people who are all created in God’s image, all created equal in God’s eyes and who are all loved without question by God – always and forever, no matter what their life situation.

As we launch into our fall and winter programs here at Christ Church, we say that we are looking forward, setting forth as it were on a new and lively course of activities and events designed to enhance opportunities for spiritual growth and formation - activities and events that will bring us closer to God.  With that goal as a given, my question, to all of us, is this – in these newly energized plans have we left adequate time and space to examine these many challenging world events through the eyes of Jesus. In our various spiritual formation journeys do we hear today’s gospel words, ‘He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” ’ and do we consider how these “follow me” words define the “now what” for those of us who are moving forward in our spiritual journey – for those of us who are experiencing a new and thrilling closeness to God.

What exactly is Jesus talking about when he addresses his disciples today?

In today’s passage from Mark, Jesus, for the first time discloses that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering…and be killed. Jesus is rebuked by Peter who does not want to believe that the messiah will be subject to such an ignominious fate. But Jesus reprimands Peter and commands not only the disciples but the whole crowd to come and listen to his teaching.
In this, and subsequent passages, Jesus discloses more and more about his identity and fate. He also describes, without mincing words, what it means to participate with him when he says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Jesus instructs those who would call themselves his followers to journey with him. Not behind him, not following in his shadow – but with him – alongside him – embracing him as the one to follow.  Following Jesus is not a wandering voyage, each man on his own. Following Jesus is a “oneness” with Jesus. It is a journey in solidarity that points in a particular direction, ending up at death and re-birth.
Jesus’ instruction to deny oneself and to take up one’s cross reveals a thoroughly forward-looking orientation— one that points ahead to the future and calls its hearers to assess their lives, securities, and ambitions in accordance with their association with Jesus and their participation in God’s kingdom. The forward moving orientation described in Mark is absolute, summoning Jesus’ followers away from inclinations to personal aggrandizement and away from loyalty to the world of status, power, and achievement.

In this gospel passage, self-denial and cross-bearing clearly appear as key elements of a person’s identity if they are truly to be a follower of Jesus. The cross that followers are to bear according to Mark is not Jesus’ cross. Mark’s language makes clear that everyone is to take up his or her own cross, each declaring the forfeiture of one’s life and turning one’s back on self-preservation. Cross-bearers bravely embrace a way of life that threatens the existence of world ideologies that perpetuate the oppression of human souls.

Tomorrow evening at the event celebrating the inauguration of our membership in the Bondeau Partnership you will meet some amazing people who have responded to the incredible needs of Bondeau, a fragile Haitian community, by coming together in a collaborative effort to build sustainable capacity in a desolate and impoverished area that has frequently been called, not a Third World Country, but a Fifth World Country.

Over the past eight years, partnership members have donated time and treasure beyond imagination to build programs that provide education, food, healthcare, clean water, solar power, and an incredibly beautiful place to worship. The way has never been without conflict, concern, and great hardship when in Haiti. The way has been fraught with danger of all sorts. However, the way has been always focused on the needs and concerns of the Bondeau residents, not the needs and concerns of the partnership members. The Bondeau partners have each taken up their cross as they embraced, and continue to embrace, Jesus as their model for compassion, love, and justice. The goal is to be one among the people of Bondeau, as work to build their community progresses.

I believe that the Bondeau Partnership is an excellent model for how we might collaborate in this diocese and throughout the church to address the many challenges that face our world today. I believe that if we lay self aside and utilize our refreshed sense of spirituality as fuel that sparks the courage needed to take up our various crosses – if we embrace Christ - together we can and we will successfully seek and find ways to bring justice, love and compassion to the world.

The way is not easy. Sometimes the way appears defeating. Some days we will want to give up. Indeed some will give up. But as one young woman involved in rescuing Syrians in the Aegean Sea said last Sunday, “How can you not save someone who is drowning. How can you turn away?”

And remember, it is only we who falter. Jesus is always the same – the same yesterday, as today, and as he will be tomorrow. And he is with us always, to the end of time.  AMEN

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Is the Teaching Too Difficult?

13 Pentecost – August 23, 2015
John 6:56-69

Last Saturday in the courtyard of the Griffin Park apartments, the first St. Michaels Unity Day Picnic kicked off promptly at 11AM as scheduled. The mouthwatering aroma of barbecuing hamburgers and hot dogs and squeals of childish delight were evident for at least a two-block radius. I arrived at five past 11. The bounce house was already filled to capacity, and Rev. William Wallace, pastor of Union United Methodist Church, was getting the drip hose positioned for maximum water flow in the water slide. Children of all ages waited impatiently in line. It was hot and they wanted to get into that cool water as quickly as possible.

Under the picnic tent and scattered around the central lawn area were people from throughout the St. Michaels community – getting to know you conversations abounded. The Town Manager and two County Commissioners mingled with guests, and the Director of the Housing Authority was on hand to discuss the challenges of affordable housing in Talbot County.  DJ Randy had set up his audio system under a small tent and Christian Rock blasted through the air proclaiming the greatness of Jesus. At the very fringes of all of this activity a few residents sat in chairs just outside their doorways observing the festivities with wide grins on their faces. When I asked one lady what she thought of all that was going on, she said, “it is fine…most fine.”

At the center of the day’s activities was St. Michaels Police Chief Anthony Smith. Unity Day was Chief Smith’s idea, and it was Chief Smith who was the glue that held the day together…Truly, we could not have done it without Chief Smith.

The “Chief” is one of the forerunners in national law enforcement efforts to build and reinforce trust between communities and their police departments. Chief Smith’s key goal is the building of trust and mutual respect between all of the various community groups in St Michaels.

Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organized strategies to support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques. Techniques that proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and disention among community groups. Community policing has three key components: Community partnerships; organizational transformation; and problem solving. The intelligent and resourceful use of all of these assets culminates in a process of proactively identifying and prioritizing problems; researching what is known about the problem; developing solutions to bring about lasting reductions in the number and extent of the problems; and evaluating the success of the responses.

In essence community policing strives to integrate the police department into the community in a partnership that, at all levels, is dedicated to furthering the “good of the neighborhood” – or, the common good.

I sat in Griffin Park last Saturday and observed Chief Smith as he orchestrated all of the activities of the day, and I was truly humbled. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. He respected everyone and everyone respected him. He had time for everyone and everyone wanted time with him.

The Chief was hot, mopping his brow continually without ever pausing in his unceasing activity of orchestrating the days’ events. He was probably tired, and most certainly he must have had lots of other situations on his mind. Maybe he even had some aches and pains like most of us. Whatever was going on in the private world of Chief Smith, he never let it show. There was no doubt that without the Chief Unity Day would not have been just that – a glorious day when members of so many different community groups came together to have fun, to eat hotdogs and hamburgers, and to learn a little about each other. A day in which there was unity in the community.

Soon after Reverend Wallace started up the water slide and children were plunging through screaming with joy and excitement, Chief Smith called the crowd to silence and asked us all to have a seat. In a brief introductory ceremony the Chief asked all of the local clergy and the Director of the Community Center to stand beside him and to affirm their commitment to an interdependent partnership. A partnership in which we are all bound together as key community resources for safety, compassion, healing, and love. He asked us all to be his partners in community building, and we all said, “yes.” We all made the commitment to follow his lead in the task of furthering the good of the neighborhood – the common good.

“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it? (John 6:60)

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus’ disciples continue to scratch their heads, still confused about the significance of the bread of life and mystified by what eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus means. Over the past five weeks, Jesus’ focus on bread has moved from the feeding of the 5,000 with five loaves of barley bread and two fishes to a long discourse in which Jesus defines himself as the Bread of Life without which one cannot attain eternal life.

The disciples are puzzled by this. After all, Jesus is a carpenter’s son, a common man, and yet he performs miracles and implies that he is God’s spokesperson – the one through whom they must pass if they are to enter God’s Kingdom. How can this be – who is this man?

The disciples want answers that they can understand. They want answers that will tell them who Jesus really is. They want straightforward answers and easy solutions to entering God’s Eternal Kingdom – they want the whole story and in plain language.

But Jesus tells them that there are no easy answers. In fact, he challenges them even further when he says, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe…For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the father.”

Jesus challenges the disciples and confronts them with the hard truth, “this teaching is difficult.” There are no easy answers – there is no quick fix. It takes faith – faith in what cannot be seen – faith in what cannot be explained in everyday terms – faith in the act of giving oneself up to be one with Jesus – to follow him both literally and figuratively. Giving oneself over to being with and in Jesus, in every way, is the only way – the only way to freedom; the only way to peace; the only way to eternal life.

In this passage from John, the gauntlet has been thrown down – the message is a hard one to hear -  and because of this, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” Simon Peter and a few others elected to stay, but even they encountered severe misgivings and challenges as they followed their lord on the remainder of his journey to the cross.

The gauntlet has been thrown down…who will meet the challenge? I believe that this is how Chief Smith experiences his work in establishing a community policing program. I believe that the Chief has picked up that gauntlet, and I believe that he is going forward, just like Simon Peter and the others, in faith, knowing that if he follows in the footsteps of Jesus – if he keeps going forward despite challenges and hardships – despite the setbacks – if he follows in the footsteps of Jesus, he, in concert with those who choose to partner with him, will make a difference. The neighborhood will be more peaceful, more loving. The common good will be served and we will all be closer to living in a world that pleases God and is therefore pleasing to us.

A gauntlet has also been thrown down for us here at Christ Church.

Just about this time last year, under the leadership of the Renewal Works Committee, Christ Church committed to focusing on spiritual growth and spiritual vitality. Christ Church committed to rediscovering who Jesus is, and what it means to follow him. Christ Church intentionally picked up the gauntlet and embarked on a journey of spiritual growth and identifying ways that God is calling us to grow.

The journey is in progress. Classes, conversations, forums, and sermons have helped in focusing our hearts and minds on spiritual issues – our relationship with Jesus. Talk is bubbling up around potential social justice conversations and mission activities. Involvement with community service organizations has increased. We are sitting - just as the disciples sat listening carefully to their Lord - we are sitting – listening to words in the classes, conversations, forums, and sermons – the words - that bring us as close as possible to the Jesus of 2000 years ago. Sitting and listening, scratching our heads about what does it mean for us to follow Jesus.

As we listen – if we listen with open hearts and with open minds – or, as Paul would say, with the eyes of our hearts – as we listen to Jesus, as we grow spiritually, and draw ever so close to him – what do we hear him say to us? What is the gauntlet that he has thrown down for us, both personally and as members of Christ Church?

Will the teaching be too difficult to accept? Or, like Simon Peter, will we say, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Will we, like Chief Smith, pick up our gauntlet and meet the challenge?

As we follow Jesus, weathering the hardships and the challenges – the setbacks, will the neighborhood of our personal, parish and community lives grow to be a more peaceful, more loving place? Will the common good be served? Will we be closer to living in a world that pleases God and is therefore pleasing to us?

Will we “…be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power?” Will we “put on the whole armor of God” and follow Jesus – all the way, down that long road that the challenge takes us and into God’s Eternal Kingdom. AMEN

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Bread of Life...

Christ Church, St. Michaels Parish
10 Pentecost
John 6:35, 41-51

It seems difficult to believe, but I have now been with you here at Christ church for nine months….and what a nine months!

Arriving the day before Thanksgiving in 32 degree freezing rain fresh from our poolside condo in 90 degree Delray Beach….

Jumping into a new church family during the busiest seasons of the year…Advent and then Christmas…

Launching one of my favorite projects, the Bible Challenge….

Journeying to Cleveland with my husband for what turned out to be an incredibly complex surgical procedure requiring four months of recuperation and one additional surgical procedure….

And, three mission trips to Haiti – one in late January; one in May; and one just a few weeks ago in mid-July….

As of this moment, I think my head has stopped spinning, but I am not quite sure that my life will slow down all that much. There is a great deal going on here at Christ Church and in Bondeau, Haiti. New  fall and winter Christian education and formation classes; an incredibly rich Adult Forum program; Outreach Sundays, a new 2nd Sunday of the month program to be launched just after Labor Day; new partnerships in the Bay 100 community intended to bring Christ Church into closer communion and collaboration with multiple organizations in our neighborhood, and an ever proliferating set of partners and projects in our newly adopted mission site Bondeau, Haiti.

Clearly, the coming year is an incredibly important time in the life of Christ Church as well as in the majority of churches in the United States. Nationwide congregations are shrinking, pledges diminishing accordingly, Sunday schools are being disbanded for alternative mid-week programs that bring families together into conversation about basic Christian beliefs and behaviors, and those committed to bringing the Gospel into the world are scratching their heads – struggling with the challenges of bringing church to the un-churched, or the “nones” as they are so often called.

The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church is a committee that spent two years in discussions with thousands of Episcopalians about their hopes, dreams, ideas and concerns for the church and about the Church’s collective mission to serve Christ. They also studied how other churches and non-religious organizations have developed innovative approaches to pursuing their missions in a changing world.

At this year’s General Convention the Task Force presented their recommendations for changes in the Church’s structures, governance and administration to advance our Five Marks of Mission:

·        To Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
·        To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
·        To respond to human needs by loving service
·        To transform unjust structures, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation
·        To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

This excellent and extensive report – far too lengthy to discuss in detail –concludes, “Jesus sends us together into the places where ordinary life unfolds. We are sent to testify to God’s reign as we form and restore community by sharing in God’s peacemaking and healing. This begins with deep listening to neighbors, relying upon their hospitality rather than expecting them to find us on their terms. In today’s increasingly diverse world, we must learn how to “bear witness” to, and receive from those of different cultures, faiths and beliefs, “eating what is set before us.” For many churches now disconnected from neighbors, this will mean attempting small experiments in sharing God’s peace as we learn how to form Christian community and witness with those neighbors.” (TREC Report)

The Task Force endorses the overall goal of “renewing ways not only of speaking to the world, but also of being together, driven by the commitment to collaborate across structures that may have no connectivity today,” and with three specific objectives designed to meet that goal: 1) Restructuring the spiritual encounter; 2) Reimagining dioceses, Bishops, and General Convention; and 3) Restructuring assets in service of God’s mission in the future.

Challenging goals… very challenging.

So, yes, I believe with all my heart – that this is an incredibly important year – an incredibly important year for Christ Church and for the Church as a whole - a year in which we must continually renew our commitment to our Baptismal vows -  A year in which we must, with renewed courage, creativity, discipline and faith, engage in our role as Disciples of Christ – A year in which we must, in partnership with our community, reach out, go beyond our doors if we are to achieve our dream of bringing the compassion and love made manifest to us in Christ, to our neighbors here in the Bay Hundred area and any other places in the nation and the world to which we may be called.

If we are to be a vibrant and lively church we must work at it – work hard with energy and with discipline and in community - in partnership - with good will and with hearts that are filled with courage, compassion, forgiveness and love.

As the Apostle Paul said in his Letter to the Ephesians,  “…be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:10, 14-17)

Yes, it is a lot of hard and courageous work that we are called to do– especially with Paul’s exhortations ringing in our ears and egging us on.

Some people ask me, “How do you do it – how do you do so much and always seem so calm?”

My response is always the same, “I don’t even think about what is happening. Jesus is always in me and with me. I know that I will be fine.”

And this, of course, brings me to today’s Good News.  “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ ” (John 6:35)

A powerful statement made by Jesus to his followers so many years ago. A statement that transcends time and is as relevant today as it was then. A statement that provides us with the food - the peace, the love, the compassion, the strength and the faith - that we need to support us in our  work of re-imagining the Church, both here in St. Michaels and throughout the world. A fortifying statement as we put on the armor of God and go about the task of “renewing ways not only of speaking to the world, but also of being together, driven by the commitment to collaborate across structures that may have no connectivity today.”

Jesus is indeed the bread of life. He is our definitive disclosure of God in the world. He is the definitive model for our behavior. He is the definitive guidepost for our emotions. The sustenance, the nourishment, needed to keep us alive, spiritually and emotionally, as we traverse these challenging times of keeping our church alive and well – these challenging times of forming and restoring community by sharing in God’s peacemaking and healing.

Although I speak for myself only, in faith, I know that if we allow ourselves to feed on the bread that comes down from heaven, the true bread of life, we will be fed eternally – now and forever. We will be filled with faith and courage and love and we will be peaceful, effective and passionate disciples of Christ, who bring the Good News, the Gospel, to our community and to the world. 

We will become the bread of life for others - for the world. AMEN

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Jesus - always with us

July 19, 2015
Christ Church, St. Michaels, MD

In the fall of 2012 I visited Bondeau, a small and remote community in rural Haiti. I was accompanied by three nurses, a teacher and his college-age daughter and a good friend who wanted to learn more about Haiti. We had a definite goal for ourselves. We would meet as many men, women and children as possible and we would visit for an extended period of time with community leaders and learn from them what they saw as their most immediate needs.

Let me take a moment to paint a picture of the Bondeau community. Bondeau is situated on the eastern shore of Haiti about 100 miles south of Port au Prince. It is about 8 miles from the nearest town, the port city of Miragoane. Bondeau consists of a school building, a rather large guesthouse, another large house that is home to children whose parents cannot afford to keep them at home, and multiple one-room concrete dwellings where the school teachers and their families live.

The residents of Bondeau live in huts that are strategically placed in the shade and scattered around the surrounding countryside. These dwellings have no sanitation, no running water, no windows and no floors. Residents of the Bondeau community live on approximately $1.00 a day, or less. This area of Haiti is unusually arid. Agriculture is not a viable way of life. There are no stores or other businesses within a 6 mile area. Several people own small motorcycles, but aside from that community residents must walk everywhere. Some children walk up to two hours to get to school each day.

During that fall visit to Bondeau; our little group was welcomed with open arms. The hospitality of the community residents, a key value in Haiti, was so very touching. Those who had literally nothing went to extremes to ensure that we had sufficient food and comfort in a setting where food and chairs and other such amenities are far and few between.

The morning before we were scheduled to leave, the priest in charge of the church and school arranged for us to meet with about 18 community leaders. He also served as our translator, although I am happy to say that as garbled as my French is, most people understood what I was trying to say.

We talked about a lot of things and we touched on many community needs - big needs like clean water, better education for the children, reading classes for adults, ways to start small businesses but, again and again, both men and women came back to their perceived biggest need. Healthcare. We need a clinic here, they all said. We have many people who are sick, many children who die. We have no way to get to the town. We need a clinic here, they said.

Moved, but also cautious, we all replied, We understand. We will try to make this happen for you.

Six months later, in March of 2013, I returned to Bondeau with a medical team of ten doctors and nurses - that was the first of now six fully staffed medical missions, with a seventh planned for this October. To date, we have treated over 1500 unduplicated patients for a wide range of diseases and we have established a school nurse program that provides basic nursing care and medications to the men, women and children of Bondeau five days a week, year round. The people of Bondeau have a clinic.

It is on the first medical mission trip - way back in March of 2013 - that I want to focus. Naturally, we were all very nervous and totally unprepared for almost everything that happened. We were thinking America where people have had healthcare everyday of their lives; but, we were in Haiti where people had had no healthcare whatsoever.

Our biggest fear was that no one would show up. Let me just say that as we arrived at the clinic site early the first morning, there were over 100 people waiting for us, with more people arriving, on foot, from every direction.

After managing our initial shock, we attempted to strategize. Our biggest question, how would we manage patient flow? Our second biggest question, how could our pharmacy team of two possibly fill prescriptions fast enough to get everyone home by the end of the day?

Those were important questions for us to consider, but we were still totally unprepared for the desperation of the crowd. The minute we opened our doors to see patients, the crowding and the pleas for help were completely overwhelming, and at two points during the day the crowd became completely unmanageable. I found myself in the middle of at least 100 people attempting to calm them and to assure them that we would not leave until every person had seen a doctor.

I know for certain, the Holy Spirit was with me as I entered that crowd absolutely scared to death and yet able to remain calm, and to calm them.

Of course, there is a point to this story - and, that is, that the moment a frantic, pushing, pleading community member entered the doctors room and sat down, that person calmed down completely. The compassion and caring of each doctor and nurse was uniform, the care with which they examined each patient was so very gentle. A few compassionate words, a gentle touch and the anxious and frightened were healed.

When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:54-56)

When I read todays Gospel passage, I thought immediately of that first medical clinic in Bondeau. I can just imagine the anxiety and the passion of the crowd as they see Jesus approaching them. In my minds eye I can see them rushing, crowding, pushing and pulling each other every which way. I am sure it would have been a noisy crowd with lots of shouting and angry outbursts. The children would have been frightened and started crying; the dogs and sheep, barking and bleating.

Total chaos and confusion.

Jesus, tired, ready for some respite with his disciples - some time to pray and reflect after an aggressive journey of always moving, moving forward to preach, to heal, to amaze and to bring hope Jesus is desperately needed. The people need him; to be healed; to be saved from oppression and slavery. Saved from the brutality of the Roman Empire. Saved from the greed of the high priests and the wealthy Jews. The people clamored for Jesus demanded to hear his words; yearned for his healing touch.  

And then, Jesus was among them. He was with them in every way - his compassionate gaze and the authority with which he proclaimed the Kingdom of God, together with simply touching the fringe of his cloak was enough to heal them. To be one with Jesus was to be healed. To be one with Jesus is to be healed.

The other piece of Good News is, of course, that Jesus does not work to the beat of a time clock. He is not a 9-5 person who takes vacations. No, Jesus, and by extension God, is always with us - never too tired; never too busy for us.

Jesus made his presence in us and with us absolutely clear when he said in Matthew, And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

However, it is up to us to reach out for the fringe of his cloak - it is up to us to cry out we need to be healed. Jesus will always respond always be in us; always be with us; always be among us, compassionately healing our worries and

our anxieties but, we need to reach out. We need to be with Jesus just as he is with us.

I am with you always to the end of the age…”

A couple of weeks ago I assisted at a memorial service here at Christ Church. The second reading was from the Book of Revelations, and as I read it I marveled once again at the powerful images of God with us set forth by the author of this
controversial last book of Scripture:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
See, the home* of God is among mortals.
He will dwell* with them;
they will be his peoples,*
and God himself will be with them;*
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.

And the one who was seated on the throne said, See, I am making all things new. Also he said, Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true. Then he said to me, It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the

end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Rev. 21:1-7)

Powerful words from an all-loving God.  A God who gave his Son to be with us always, to the end of the age.

Just as the crowds pushed and pulled to touch Jesus, to be healed by him - Just as the residents of the Bondeau community pushed and pulled to get to the head of the long line of patients waiting to see one of our doctors - So, you and I who weep and worry in our own stress-filled lives need push and pull - to actively reach out - to touch the fringe on Jesus cloak - if we are to be healed - if we are to be one with him and to allow him to be one with us.  If we are to be truly children of God.   AMEN