Sunday, September 30, 2012

Awkward grace

Psalm 124; Esther 7: 1-6, 9-10; 9: 20-22
First Church of Christ, UCC, Woodbridge, CT
September 30, 2012


A couple had two little boys who were always getting into trouble. Their parents knew that if any mischief occurred in their village, their sons were probably involved.  The boys' mother heard that an elder in town had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her sons. The elder agreed, but asked to see them separately.


So, in the morning, the mother sent her youngest son first. The elder, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the boy down in front of him and asked him sternly, “Where is God?”  The boy's mouth dropped open, but he made no response.


So the elder leaned forward and repeated the question in an even harsher tone, “Where is God?!!”  Again the wide-eyed boy made no attempt to answer.  The elder stood to his full height, raised his voice and bellowed, “WHERE IS GOD?!”  The boy screamed and bolted from the room, ran directly home and dove into a closet, slamming the door behind him.


When his older brother found him hiding, he asked, “What happened?”  Gasping for breath, the younger brother replied, “We are in BIG trouble this time. God is missing, and they think WE did it!”


I like to use this story for two reasons:  one, it’s funny, and funny is good, especially in times like these, when there is tension before a congregational meeting.  And more importantly, so we can think about where is God with a lighter heart so that we might actually find God.  Or be found by God.


There are times on our journey of faith when we are always on the lookout for God, wondering when God will show up and in what way.  It seems that when we need God the most we do not get to see God coming but only recognize the Holy One after the fact.  We see the wake in the water, the clouds moving off in the distance, the sun coming out after rain, and like a point on the map of our lives, we say, “There!  God was there!”


The Book of Esther is a rarity in that not only is it named after its main character, a woman, but it is the only book in the Bible where God is not mentioned.  Not only that, but there is also no real mention of the Laws of Moses nor of their practices.  There is only scant notice of it in Haman’s description of the Jews to the King when he says that they don’t fit in, that “their customs and ways are different from those of everybody else.” [1] 


This morning’s reading from the lectionary comes toward the end of the book of Esther.  But it’s important to know her whole story to make any sense of it.  It all begins with a queen who won’t do the king’s bidding.  In the middle of a huge party Queen Vashti is summoned by the king just so he can show off her beauty to his drunken guests and officials.  Like any self-respecting queen she refuses.  He consults with his advisors and counselors about to handle ‘the situation’, and they tell him that the queen has not only insulted the king but all leaders in the provinces.  Imagine if word got out and women started treating their husbands this way!  So in his anger, the king has Vashti deposed and he has a nationwide beauty pageant to find a new queen.


Enter Esther and Mordecai, her uncle, who are among the thousands of exiled Jews living in Persia.  Mordecai tells Esther that she should enter the contest but tell no one of her Jewish heritage.  And of course Esther pleases the king; he falls in love with her and makes her queen.  Yet unlike a fairy tale, the story isn’t over yet.

Mordecai overhears two guards plotting to overthrow the king.  He tells Queen Esther who, when she tells the King, gives credit to Mordecai.  The event is then entered into the king’s logbook.  Sometime later the king promotes a man named Haman, making him the highest-ranking official in the government.  Whenever Haman passed by the King’s Gate, all the king’s servants would bow down and kneel before Haman.  That’s what being promoted is all about, after all.  But Mordecai wouldn’t kneel before Haman, presumably because he is an observant Jew who bows before no one but God.  Haman predictably becomes outraged. 


Not long after that, the king is reading his logbook and comes across the entry that makes note of Mordecai saving the king.  The king asks Haman how the king should honor a man of great importance.  Haman thinks the king is talking about him, so Haman suggests that this person be dressed in elegant robes and led through the streets on the king’s horse, with a servant proclaiming this is how the king rewards great deeds.  The king says, “Fine.  Go ahead and do this for Mordecai.”  Haman then must lead Mordecai, dressed in elegant robes, riding on the king’s horse through the streets of the city, proclaiming the king’s reward.  When Haman finds out that Mordecai is a Jew, Haman sets about to find a way to get rid of not only Mordecai but all Jews in Persia.  Haman begins his evil plot by having gallows built seventy-five feet high upon which to hang his perceived enemy, Mordecai.


Haman then informs the king about these strangers who live in his kingdom, these people who just don’t fit in.  He gives the king 375 tons of silver, saying that he will pay for the destruction of these people.  The king gives Haman his signet ring and tells him he can do whatever he wants with his money.


When Mordecai hears of the news of his people’s imminent destruction, he pleads with Esther to go to the king and tell him of this murderous plot.  But no one can go to the king without an invitation; to do so would be fatal.  Esther is risking not only her pretty face like Vashti before her; she is putting her life on the line for her people.  Mordecai tells her that perhaps she was made queen for such a time as this.


As love would have it, King Ahasuerus is enamored with his new queen and would give anything for her, even half his kingdom.  Esther desires that Haman and the king dine with her, not once but twice.  As we hear in this morning’s lesson, after the second dinner, Haman’s true colors are revealed to the king, he is hung on his own gallows, and Esther effectively saves her people.


God’s name and presence are strangely absent in a story where God’s people are far from home and in the clutches of apparent disaster.  Yet even though this story ends with violence and bloodshed and the survival of God’s people, even so we witness an awkward grace displayed in the very human characters of Queen Esther, Mordecai, King Ahasuerus, and the deposed Queen Vashti.


In this world where God can sometimes seem as though God’s presence is strangely absent, I wrote a poem about God’s presence and awkward grace in two other queenly figures.  One is a snowy white egret that I saw at a lake near my home:


As the egret stretched out
her neck, throat of
a bendy straw pulled
to its full extension,
I realized her kinship
to the giraffe.
Same disproportionate
neck, body, whose legs
fold like an elbow.


Queen Esther too stretched out her neck, and though some might call her timid, she worked within the system to save her people.  The other queenly figure is a young woman I saw in a crosswalk in Ridgefield:


Then there was
another strange bird,
a young woman
who passed twenty feet
in front of my car,
her awkward grace I thought
had to do with a tattoo
beside her knee,
or was it a decorative pair of hose,
slight limp of her left leg
stretching out from underneath
a brief sundress on a golden September day.

No, it was a prosthesis,
best of its kind,
reaching all the way to her hip,
gamely walking in the matching sandal
gripping her other foot
in a soft embrace.


            Though Queen Esther might not have been used to wearing royal robes and living like a queen, she was regal from the inside out, like this woman and her courageous sundress and sandals, with her prosthetic leg.


            God is always a character in the narrative of life, even if not always visible or apparent.  God is seen in the actions of others, in their quiet bravery, in knowing who they are, or in a bird whose body makes no logical sense but speaks volumes of what embodies true beauty and grace.


            One reason that the author of Esther may not have had God as a character in the story is that the people of God were living in exile, away from the temple in Jerusalem, away from home and all that was familiar.  They were strangers in a strange land.  It was all too appropriate then for the characters themselves to rise up in God’s place and act as God would have acted.  Queen Vashti in her stubborn refusal to be anything other than a royal queen; Mordecai in his steadfast loyalty to Esther and to himself and his people as a Jew; King Ahasuerus, when we hear him say that he will give anything Esther asks, even half of his kingdom; and Queen Esther herself, who gathers her courage about her like a royal robe, remembering that her uncle believes in her and that she is more than just one person—she is one of her people.

 Queen Esther, Hermann Anschuetz, 19th c.
              When this story is told in Jewish communities during the feast of Purim, it is done with sound effects:  “Aaah!” for Queen Esther; “Way to go!” and applause for Mordecai.  And “Boo!” for Haman.  In truth this really is a fairy tale, because in real life neither the bad guys nor the good guys are so easily seen and identified.  We all have a mixture of darkness and light in us and in our motives and intentions. 


We’d like to think we could be Esther, the king, Vashti or Mordecai, but we also have it within us to be like Haman, to be our own worst enemy.  We can all scheme toward our own desires, our own fears, even though it can appear we are serving others. Do we not find it easier to trust that people will behave badly rather than according to their better nature, especially when we are anxious?  And yet love demands that we lose every battle; love insists that we remain close enough to be hurt; love offers no control over others or how events play out.


            In times of tension and anxiety, fear and change, it can seem as though God has left the building, that God is not as easily perceived and seen and heard when the future appears to be uncertain, the present is rocky and tumultuous, the past a longed-for and cherished memory.  But that is precisely the time when we are called to rise up and we become supporting characters not only in our story, but in God’s story as God works through us.  You, the congregation, are the supporting characters in the story of the First Church of Christ, United Church of Christ, God’s story enfleshed in the Body of Christ here and now.  Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.


            Indeed, this is a time when you may feel like you are being asked to stretch out your necks, to walk with each other with a vulnerable, awkward grace.   You may not trust yourself or others around you.   You may not even trust that God is here, working through you and everyone else.  But that is also when God is most alive in us, most visible:  when God reduces us to our essence, strips us of all pretense and false pride, and clothes each one of us and all of us together in royal robes of courage, quiet strength, and a love that never ends.  Amen.

[1] Peterson, Eugene.  The Message (NavPress: Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2002)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yes, it can be this simple

Being the Church was never intended to be a struggle but a way for us to be saved from ourselves, to be transformed and thus, change the world.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The glad game

Psalm 98; Mark 9:30-37
First Church of Christ (UCC), Woodbridge, CT
September 23, 2012



            In the first century of the Common Era, fathers in the Roman Empire had absolute power.  The term ‘paterfamilias’ entailed more than just head of the family.  Only the father could own property; sons would receive an allowance for their own household until their father died.  Fathers could decide whether a child lived or died or was to be sold into slavery, even if the child only angered their father.  When a child was born, the midwife would place the baby on the ground.  If the father picked up the newborn, then the child was formally accepted into the family.  The father could also choose not to pick up the baby for any reason: deformity, female gender, or unwanted children for lack of support.  The child would then be placed outside in a particular place and abandoned.  Some of these children survived as slaves; others died of exposure.


            When Jesus took a little child and placed it amongst his disciples, no doubt they knew of this barbaric practice of the Roman Empire.  The disciples had been arguing over who was the greatest, right after Jesus predicted his death.  Which amounts to no more than a you-know-what contest.  In today’s parlance we might have heard the words “Who’s your Daddy?”  


Jesus pulls the focus off the disciples and places it squarely where it belongs.  In Judaism the purpose of one’s life was (and still is) to pass the Torah and its teachings on to one’s children.  There is no higher calling, no greater pride.  But with Jesus we know it’s not just one’s own children, not just the children of Israel.  By picking up this child and inviting the disciples to welcome such a child and thus Jesus as well, Jesus is doing something really quite radical.  He is telling his disciples that they are to welcome the abandoned, the lost, those that don’t count and to treat them as one of their own; and that when they do so, they welcome him—the slave and servant of all.


During the terrible Hindu/Muslim riots that occurred after India’s independence, Mahatma Gandhi went on a hunger strike to end the violence.  As he lay closer to death than life, a Hindu man stormed into his presence, crazed with anger and grief.  He told Gandhi that a Muslim man had killed his son; he was only about so high.  The Hindu man, the boy’s father, in his anger and grief, killed a Muslim boy in retaliation.  He shouted at Gandhi that he was going to hell.  How could he find a way out of hell?  Gandhi said he knew a way.  He told the Hindu man to find a boy, about so high, the same age as his dead son, but he must be a Muslim boy and he must raise him as a Muslim.  This was how he could find a way out of hell.


Most, if not all, salvation stories have children as agents of change, redemption and peace.  The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”  (Isaiah 11: 6)  Yet children are not only our future but our right now, this minute, can’t wait any longer.  Children have the power to save us each day of our lives. They can save us from being self-absorbed, greedy, depressed, angry, and lonely, just by being themselves.  Children remind us that we are all worthy of love, simply because we draw breath.


Today I wish to place a particular child in your midst.  Her name is Pollyanna.  Over the years I believe Pollyanna has gotten a bad rap.  Her attitude of gladness is dismissed as naïveté, saccharin-sweetened optimism or just plain delusional.  If you really want to know who Pollyanna is, forget Disney and Hayley Mills—read the book.


The character Pollyanna was the child of a missionary minister who raised her by himself after her mother died.  The two were dependent upon the mercy of the Ladies’ Aid Society, donations sent in barrels and God.  Anything and everything could come to Pollyanna and her father in these barrels.  It was like a grab bag from Goodwill or a church rummage sale.  Sometimes there were useful yet damaged things, like a worn carpet or framed pictures with no glass.  But what Pollyanna longed for was a doll to play with and love.  So Pollyanna’s father wrote to those who supported his ministry the request for a doll.


No dolls had been donated.  What came instead was a pair of crutches.  It was then that Pollyanna’s father taught her about the game—the Glad Game.  The game is to find something about everything to be glad about.  At first Pollyanna could not figure out how to be glad about a pair of crutches when what she really wanted was a doll.  So her father gave her the first one of many ways Pollyanna could be glad:  “Goosey!  Why, just be glad because you don’t—need—‘em!


Pollyanna thought it was a lovely game, and the harder it was to play, the more fun it was to think of reasons to be glad.  But there were also times it was not fun, when it was too hard, like when a father dies and goes to heaven and there isn’t anyone but a Ladies’ Aid Society.  Pollyanna discovered, though, that when you’re hunting for the glad things, you sort of forget the other kind.


Her father’s invention of this game began not with Pollyanna but with himself.  Pollyanna asked her father once if he was glad he was a minister.  He replied that he most always was, but he wouldn’t stay a minister a minute if it wasn’t for the rejoicing texts.  These are the scriptures in the Bible that begin with “Be glad in the Lord” or “Rejoice greatly” or “Shout for joy”.  In the book it states that Pollyanna’s father counted these texts and there were eight hundred of them.  Her father then said to Pollyanna, “So if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, he must want us to do it—some.”  Those texts then became a comfort to her father whenever things went wrong or not the way he wished they were or ought to be.


I wondered about that figure: eight hundred texts.  So I went to my online bible browser, complete with concordance.  Using the King James Version (Pollyanna was published in 1913) I typed in the word ‘glad’:  180.  ‘Happy’: 34.  ‘Delight’: 94.  ‘Joy’: 256.  ‘Rejoice’: 275.  All this adds up to 839 texts that tell us to be glad, happy, joyful, and to rejoice and experience delight.  But I was still curious, so I searched some more.  ‘Blessed’: 350.  ‘Mercy’: 356.  ‘Love’: 645. 


And so this morning we read from Psalm 98, reminding us to sing a new song for God has done marvelous things, to make a joyful noise for all that God has done, is doing and will do.  For God has gotten the victory—not by what human beings have done.  It is God who makes vindication known to all the earth.


So I invite you to think of what you can be glad about this church, right now, as things are.  Remember that when it is hardest is when the Glad Game is the most fun.  And being glad that the pastor isn’t here or certain people are not here to witness the way things are do not count.  That’s about the same as praying, “Thank God I’m not like that sinner over there.”  It’s not really gratitude; it’s not really gladness.  We are to serve the Lord with gladness.  Gladness is as contagious as gloom.  Which would we rather spread?  Psalm 122, verse 1 reads “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” 


So let’s start with an example of being glad that has nothing to do with church but will certainly get us in the right mood.  This is a poem by Jack Prelutsky, who was named the first Children’s Poet Laureate in 2006.


Be Glad Your Nose Is On Your Face

Be glad your nose is on your face,
not pasted on some other place,
for if it were where it is not,
you might dislike your nose a lot.

Imagine if your precious nose
were sandwiched in between your toes,
that clearly would not be a treat,
for you'd be forced to smell your feet.

Your nose would be a source of dread
were it attached atop your head,
it soon would drive you to despair,
forever tickled by your hair.

Within your ear, your nose would be
an absolute catastrophe,
for when you were obliged to sneeze,
your brain would rattle from the breeze.

Your nose, instead, through thick and thin,
remains between your eyes and chin,
not pasted on some other place--
be glad your nose is on your face!

          You may think this exercise is silly, even ridiculous.  After all, it’s so Pollyanna. But it also reminds us of something very true:  where you place your focus determines your reality.  If we can’t find anything to be glad about this church, as things are right now when times are tough, then what is our faith really for?


          So what am I glad about this church, right now, as things are?  I’m glad you are here, singing, worshiping, praying, and thinking hard about this church.  I’m glad you have Barbara Marks and teachers and children and youth who are learning about Jesus and showing us what it means to follow Jesus.  I’m glad that Dean Beckert is here, leading the hymns and worship songs, playing beautiful music for us and working with the choir.  I’m glad you have caring, hardworking church officers and lay leaders on your boards.  I’m glad you are making yourselves heard about your feelings.  I’m glad you want to work on these feelings, that you’re not going to just walk away.  I’m glad I’m here to provide some comfort, to listen and to be a presence of calm, fearless joy.  I’m glad that giving continues here, in all sorts of ways.  I’m glad you’re keeping your promises to God and to this church.  I’m glad for all God is doing here, even though we may not be able to see every bit of it.


          Through the end of October and hopefully beyond, I invite you to pick up this child Pollyanna and play her Glad Game.  Teach it to others who are not here.  If you’re not willing to play, ask yourself why.  After all, what do you have to lose but anger, resentment, anxiety, sadness and fear?  Think of all you will gain.  For by welcoming one such as her, you will be welcoming not only Jesus but also the One who sent him.  Amen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fearless losers

Psalm 116: 1-9; Mark 8: 27-38
First Church of Christ, UCC, Woodbridge, CT
Sept. 16, 2012

“Who Is Jesus?

“And Jesus said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’

“They replied, ‘You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities. You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming roughness in the midst of our fraught condition of separation and brokenness, in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships. You are my Oppressed One, my soul’s shalom, the One who was, who is and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom.’

“And Jesus replied, ‘Huh?’”
Listen to all those expectations.  Over the centuries we have heaped upon Jesus all our hopes, our desires, our deepest needs and all our fears.  We have simultaneously made him into Superman, Savior and the Suffering Servant, our greatest hope and the hope of the world; thus, he also has the potential to become the world’s biggest disappointment and ours. 

Peter answered Jesus, “You are the Messiah—the Anointed One”, but he didn’t know that meant suffering, rejection and death.  When we follow him we run the risk of becoming one of the world’s biggest losers.
(reveal front of t-shirt  - “Loser”)      

Sometimes when we heap hope and fear together, we often end up with more fear than hope.  And then it’s the fear that winds our clock, plays the old negative tapes in our heads, holds our focus, and creates the tension we think is a result of living our lives.

Fear is a prison.  It numbs us to joy and gratitude and the possibility that things could be different.  Fear permeates our dreams, the way we think, our emotions, moods, attitudes, motives.  Fear pollutes friendships, relationships and the bonds of community.  Often we are unaware of its hold on us.  It has the power to influence our blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, digestion, eating and sleep habits.

Fear can be the source of perfectionism, wanting to please others and gain their good opinion.  Fear is the source of stress that tells us we have to have it done yesterday.  Fear is the source of scarcity, of not enough, of withholding.  Fear is the source of addiction, that bottomless void we try to fill with behaviors and substances that only leave us feeling even emptier.  Fear is often what is hiding behind our anger.  Fear has the power to take us out of the present and hold us captive.  But fear also tells us that we have something worth losing.

Fear is what blocks our ability to be energized, loving, creative, trusting, giving and forgiving.  We all have it in varying degrees and in a multitude of disguises.  And our fears reveal what we value but in the inverse.  We love people’s good opinion but we fear losing it.  We love our family and friends but we fear losing them and our life as we now know it.  We like to be secure and have enough to enjoy and to share but we fear losing that feeling of security.  We want to move into the future but we fear losing the familiar comfort of the past. 
At our most basic level we fear change.  We haven’t quite figured out how to love change, how to embrace it. When a change is coming, we can become deeply troubled because we are feeling fear.  We’re afraid we might have to change.  We’re anxious that our world as we know it will fall apart because of this change; that all of this is resting squarely on our shoulders or on the shoulders of our leaders, like a cross.

In other gospel versions of this morning’s story from Mark, we get to hear Peter’s rebuke:  “God forbid it, Lord!  This (this death, this tragedy, this failure) must never happen to you.”   We hear Peter’s fear of losing that which he loves most—this Messiah, this Anointed One, who made a community out of poor fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot and other outsiders.

My favorite quote about church is this:  “The gift of community is to be absolved of the burden to be complete.”  We have nothing to lose but our fear when we surrender to community, when we allow the community and God working through it to be what we aren’t capable of at the moment.  Trouble is, we’re not very practiced in communicating our fears, our honest fears, to one another, because we’re afraid of how we might appear to others—weak, incapable, incomplete, imperfect. 

When thoughts start racing, when we begin the cycle of worry and dread, when we project into the future in a negative way—that is when we need to stop and realize that we are setting on minds not on divine things but on human things.  Fear is the source of that horrid feeling in the pit of our stomachs, and that source is not the Source of All That Is, that Ground of All Being in which all of us are found. 

Author Anne Lamott wrote that it would be nice if when grace arrived, it would be announced by a ringing bell.  I wish the same thing were true about fear, when it begins its crazymaking cycle, because often we don’t recognize it until we’re well into it.  One of fear’s weaknesses is that it can be distracted by doing something positive.  It’s a way of rebelling against the fear within us.  The idea is to do something creative, like try a new recipe for dinner or sing a song.  Or go to a peaceful place in our minds.  Or remember something good that we’re looking forward to.  Or pray or meditate or simply pay attention to our breathing.  Or call a friend.  Or give away $100 with no strings attached.  Or remember to be thankful for whatever it is we’re anxious about or fearful of, because usually it’s connected to something we don’t want to lose, something that is of great value to us.

I could be wrong but I am going to out on a limb and venture that you, this church family, did not take enough time to grieve your former pastor.  After a long pastorate, even a very positive one, it is not uncommon for parishioners to feel anxious, fearful, sad, angry—all those emotions that come with grief.  And grief—no matter its cause—has its stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  I have personal experience with this, from the church I grew up in, when our charismatic, compassionate, energizing pastor of 19 years left for another church.  It took that church a number of difficult, painful years and interim pastors before they could let go of the past and embrace new possibilities.

After a pastor leaves, it is a time of the mysterious unknown; to all appearances, a dry spell on the journey of faith.  How the story of a church is going to proceed is a mystery.  How will it resolve, we wonder.  Who is this Jesus and where is he leading us?  We can hear this same question in Peter’s rebuke.  And just like the disciples it can be tempting to attach our fears to this mysterious unknown, placing our focus on our anxiety and on the pain we can experience when we realize we are not in control of the outcome.

There are very few people on this planet who have mastered their fear and are solely focused on love.  But that’s the transformation we’re headed for.  That’s our salvation.  And that’s why we need Jesus, the one whose deep love transforms our fear into a creative force.  If we’re going to master our fear, we need a faithful, loyal Friend, especially one who has been through the fire.  And remember, he did say he would rise again.

Denying ourselves and picking up our cross can mean different things to each one of us.  What would it mean for this church to deny itself, pick up its cross and follow Jesus?  Ultimately, it is about leaving behind fear and shouldering the weight of love and trust and compassion.  The cross is the way of transformation, the way of becoming something altogether beautiful and new, the way of joy, the way of becoming something like Jesus.
And who is this Jesus?  Who do we say that he is?  Who does this church say that Jesus is?  That’s up to each of us and all of you to answer.  The key then is to follow that Jesus wherever he leads, even if it looks like we might lose the life we now have, that we might gain the life of the gospel, the life of the good news of transformation. 

(reveal back of t-shirt)     
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

What are your deepest fears about being in community, in this faith community?  Right now, in your heart and mind, I invite you to transform them into your greatest hope and let that hope be your prayer.  By admitting your fear, its grip has been loosened and it has become a part of the past.  Now, from this day forward, may you be filled with hope. 
We are children of God.
God has made us and we belong to God.
We are disciples and truth-tellers,
Jesters and fools for one whose death set us free.
The Way of Jesus is a blessing we accept.
Our daring blesses others.
Christ is known in our love for each other
and for the stranger, the widow, and the orphan.
By accepting hope, our fear is transformed.
By trusting each other, our faith is strengthened.
By loving when it is most difficult, we see the Christ.
By listening, we witness the Spirit’s unfolding in our lives.
We are the Church, the Body of Christ, that creative force
That dares to lose its life for the sake of finding the gospel.   Amen.

(If you're interested in this t-shirt and other 'one word' shirts like it, click here)

[1] Bob Kaylor, Senior Writer at HomileticsOnline and Senior Minister of the Park City United Methodist Church in Park City, Utah.