“Entitlement” – Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sermon

“Entitlement”

Trinity Church, Newport RI
Sunday October 21 2018

The Reverend Alan Neale

 

So… it seems I was so excited to get to the theme of the sermon that I felt entitled to miss the reading of the Gospel! Suddenly it occurred to me that something was missing and so, until I learn how to edit the recording, for this post you hear Gospel and sermon. There was quite a lot of reaction to the “entitlement” theme… interesting. I should have spent more time working on the text…

 

 

 

 

Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Newport RI; Sunday October 21 2018; The Reverend Alan Neale “Entitlement”

As I grow older I try to grow a little more mellow (day by day), I sometimes regress, but generally it is a positive journey. One way I try to express this newfound “mellowness” is by letting cars out into traffic. I try not to do it so much as to annoy the drivers behind me but generally… I will slow down and let cars into traffic except… (oh dear) except when a car forces itself forward as if… as if… what’s the word?… as if it is somehow entitled and this “entitlement” just sticks in my throat, causing the right leg to stiffen on the accelerator… oh sinful man that I am!
Entitlement is an attitude of “I am owed”, maybe you can hear it in this anecdote?
Martha Grover writes “I ask my father to read an article about male entitlement and emotional labor.
He says, “Can you just tell me what it says?””

Or more clearly… I am a college graduate, I am entitled to a good job; I am a senior citizen, I am entitled to the respect of younger generations; “I’ve been good to my friends, so they owe me their loyalty.… the list is endless.

It seems our culture loves to foster these notions in us. Years ago McDonald’s restaurants built an entire ad campaign around the slogan, “You deserve a break today.” And later, it was “You owe it to yourself to buy a Mercedes Benz.” Society continues to bombard us with the message that we are such fantastic people, we are entitled to an equally fantastic way of living.

To some degree, we all have entitlement feelings. We carry around a sense of being owed for something we have done or for some wonderful trait we have. When we feel entitled, we focus on what we are owed, not what we might need to give to others. It is a “one-way street” mind-set. When these feelings are strong and people don’t meet our expectations, we then find ourselves bitter, resentful, and angry. Relationships can be (and often are) destroyed by feelings of entitlement.

It’s all there in our readings today both from Hebrew Scripture (Job) and the Gospel (Mark).

Job 38… clearly Job is suffering from a serious bout of entitlement, exacerbated by his friends who feel entitled to offer gratuitous, platitudinous and grievous counsel.

The Lord takes Job to ask… “Who in the name of… Heaven do you think are? Were you engaged in the creation of the world… no! Did you get busy with measuring cosmic and global lines… no! Did I see you partying with morning stars and heavenly beings… no!”. The purpose of this vigorous engagement between Creator and Creature was not intended to belittle Job but rather to put him in right perspective, right relationship with his God.

And entitlement rears its ugly head again in Mark 10. The brothers James and John approach Jesus with a marked sense of entitlement… they’re owed for their service, their sacrifice, their loyalty. And their entitlement not only empowers them to approach Jesus privately but then to make ridiculous demands above and beyond their fellows. And look what happens… the others get angry.

I want to take a pause here and underline, stress what I believe to be one of the most challenging words of Jesus (Mark 10:43): “but it shall not be so among you” (literally, “not thus however shall it be among you”).
Beyond the church there may well be a prevalent attitude of building up endless funds of money for the proverbial “rainy day” – “but it shall not be so among you” where trust and faith and generosity are nurtured.
Beyond the church there may be petty jockeying for position and influence – “but it shall not be so among you” where humility and service characterize Christian living.
Beyond the church there may be gossip, palace intrigue and partisanship – “but it shall not be so among you” where the vocation to unity is central, and where confession, forgiveness and restoration is paramount.

Governed, dominated, shaped by a craven sense of entitlement… Jesus cries out, yearning to reach deeply into my heart and yours… “IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU”.

Thank God for the Letter to the Hebrews… chapter 5, for here we discover a functional, healthy, gracious way to live.

The writer prepares us for the sublime as he writes first of the High Priest… a position of singular honor, a function of unique ministry, a vocation of sublime nature.

Listen Hebrews 5:4 (Message Translation) “No one elects himself to this honored position. He is called to it by God”.

And this, my friends, prepares us for the theological, Christological coup-de-grace as the writer then says of Jesus, “Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, “You are my Son; today I celebrate you!”.

Jesus gives us the example of a beautiful life liberated from the thrall of entitlement, the corrosion of self-aggrandizement, the nastiness of self-absorption.

And what Jesus sets as divine example so he enables by divine power… the power to trust God, to surrender to God.

It is central, it is crucial, it is core to the divine nature that God though entitled to everything, demands nothing and so thus we live in a kingdom of grace, we breathe an atmosphere of grace, we labor in a workshop of grace.

And because of Jesus we gain entitlement to be able to say, “We are beloved of God, chosen and precious” – from this primal psychic entitlement healthy living, healthy relationships become possible.

Talk of stewardship of money, time, skill… all such talk challenges our sense of entitlement and urges a commitment to gratitude. “For” as Dr. Brene Brown argues, “what separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”

Steve Maraboli (Behavioural Scientist) writes “A sense of entitlement is a cancerous thought process… void of gratitude and deadly to relationships”.

From this deadly disease, Lord, please set us free… free to give, to serve, to love… free to be! AMEN

“Beware: Gatekeepers of the Lord” – Sunday, October 7 2018

Sermon

“Beware: Gatekeepers of the Lord”

Sunday October 7 2018

Trinity Church, Newport RI

The Reverend Alan Neale

 

So, what is it that makes Jesus irritated, frustrated… even angry? Well, today’s Gospel from Mark 10 gives us an answer because it is when the disciples try to bar people from meeting Jesus that Jesus becomes angry. So… beware, gatekeepers of the Lord. During the sermon I became deeply aware of all those I have encountered who have tried to stop people from meeting Jesus. Lord, have mercy!

The sermon text follows the sermon audio (it approximates, not equates to, the audio!).

 

 

 

Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Newport RI; Sunday October 7th
The Reverend Alan Neale; “Beware the Gatekeepers of the Lord”

I throw my mind back, decades ago, to when I was a schoolboy in a London Grammar School – school blazer, knee-high socks and all! Those were quaint days with, what I say, “eccentric” schoolteachers. The headmaster, Mr. King, required that upon his entrance to a room all the students stood and that the nearest to the door was ready to open the door for his exit. He would ponderously recite words from Psalm 84 (verse 10) “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Only years later did I consider this appropriate response… “well, please may I have the choice…!”

Doorkeepers/Gatekeepers of the Lord and the Lord’s house are positions of honor, respect, distinction – such positions merit our applause as well as thanks. But, sadly… pathetically, over the years “gatekeepers of the Lord” have been traitors to their cause, hypocrites in their calling.

Consider, par excellence, the disciples in today’s Gospel. Mark 10:13ff. Children are being brought to Jesus for blessing – for some unknown, ungodly, peculiar reason the disciples speak sternly, remonstrate strongly and shoo the children away. This infuriates Jesus and He immediately steps in, countermanding, rescinding the negative, the unwelcoming attitude of the disciples.

Of course all this happened long before babies and children became photo opportunities for politicians canvassing votes; we have no idea why the disciples acted in such a manner that would cause Jesus to become indignant, irate, infuriated (not words we readily associate with Jesus!). Maybe the disciples thought the mission was too important, the schedule too tight, the Master too occupied to stop and entertain children; clearly they had forgotten Hebrew teaching about the value of children. But whatever the cause… these gatekeepers were acting in a way that far exceeded their authority and greatly abrogated their purpose.

Perhaps, in a sense, Satan was acting as a sort of theological gatekeeper for God in today’s story from Job (chapter 1). The author of Job succinctly describes the nature of evil all within a few verses… it is restless, knowing nothing of serenity and stability… and it is accusatory, knowing nothing of affirmation and praise. Without demur, Satan tells God he has been “roaming to and fro on the earth, walking up and down on it” or as the Message translation reads, “going here and there, just checking things out on earth”. And as soon as he can, Satan lets rip and tears into Job… in the name of some theological adjudicator, he attacks Job and tries to demean him before God and the heavenly council. And, sadly but also inevitably, this Satanic attitude begins to affect others… including Job’s wife and soon his so-called friends and advisors.

Very recently I talked with a couple about their imminent wedding and marriage; we have come to know each other quite well, we have prayed together and we have shared quite honestly and openly. A recurring theme is the man’s sense of guilt that he is divorced. I shared with him some of my own experienced as a divorced and now exceedingly happily married man… I shared with him Biblical teaching about confession and forgiveness and absolution… but, for him, the struggle remains. Clearly he has encountered some theological gatekeepers of the Lord who have closed gates tightly and firmly at the mention of his divorce. He feels that his mother church (the Roman Catholic Church) has confronted him with a loud, resounding , emphatic “No… you are no longer welcome.” Gatekeepers have to be careful; at the very least they can be solicitous even if they feel they must bar entry! To quote Tyra Banks (!!!) “There’s no excuse for rudeness.”

To those hurt, wounded, scarred by frankly unchristian gatekeepers of the Lord… Jesus offers invitation, embrace, and blessing.

In fact to any one of us hurt today (or someone known to use)… Jesus offers invitation, embrace and blessing.

Mark 10:16 (Message Translation) “Then, gathering the children up in his arms, Jesus laid his hands of blessing on them.”

So (Mr. King, my feared headmaster of long ago)… I agree with you and the Psalmist “It is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of wickedness” but please, Lord, make me, make us, such gatekeepers that of us you will be proud!

AMEN

“Awesome Fear – Transformational” – Sunday, September 23 2018

Sermon

“Awesome Fear – Transformational”

Sunday September 23rd 2018

Trinity Church, Newport RI

The Reverend Alan Neale

Yet another text preached on for the first time in 41 years of parish ministry – this is all getting quite exciting!
Below the sermon audio is the sermon text – the latter is expanded a little in the former!

 

 

 

 

Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Newport RI
Sunday September 23rd 2018
The Reverend Alan Neale
“Awesome Fear – Transformational”

Years ago after my first degree at LSE and one year before my degree and seminary training at Oxford, I worked as a Registrar of Civil Marriages in the London Borough of Islington. That was quite a year… not least because on Saturdays, in the Register Office, we married couples every fifteen minutes… five minutes in, five minutes for the ceremony and five minutes out. Happily church weddings are a little more sedate.

One morning the telephone rang and I began to take details for a proposed wedding… I asked the date of the wedding and received an answer; I asked the name, address and details of the man and received an answer. I then asked the name, address and details of the woman… there was a silence and then the man said, “Oh but I want you to find the woman for me” – clearly a clash of cultural expectations!

Proverbs 31:10 “A capable wife… who can find?” Well, I can… I have! Hello Wendy!

It is not my task this morning to justify this passage within canonical Scripture (though a little bit of me wished the lectionary compilers had been moved to choose another passage). I sympathize (as best as I can) with the woman who feels slighted, belittled, ignored by these sacred words… the woman who is divorced, the woman in an abusive relationship, the woman who through choice or circumstance is single.

And yet in a culture in which women were to be seen but never actually heard nor really valued, in a culture in which women were invisible objects rather than people of praise… even Proverbs 31 is progressive. And in a book in which men are constantly described as cheats, liars, philanderers, idlers and wastrels… the 22 verses of Proverbs 31 (matching the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet) are enlightened.

I believe that God never urges us to feel guilty for not having gifts or for not doing good due to physical incapability; so if this chapter is making anyone here this morning feel guilty… this cannot be the way in which God designs the chapter to be read, understood, received and then acted upon.

This week I received an email from a new friend and in it he wrote:

God’s voice reassures, Satan’s voice frightens you
God’s voice encourages, Satan’s voice discourages you
God’s voice convicts, Satan’s voice condemns you

Every commentator, every essayist that I have read this week… all make one salient and convincing argument… that the whole chapter (every verb) should be read in the light of one verb (v.30) – “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

It is this dynamic, it is this energy that I look for not only in my beloved partner, not only in all those with whom I have to deal (colleagues, parishioners and many more)… but also in my myself.

Proverbs 31:30-31 (Message Translation) “The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-GOD. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!”

Let me read a longish quotation “A woman who trusts in the Lord is finally free to be truly strong. She is not worrying about things over which she has no control. She trusts God to help and care for her and family in all the ways that she cannot… It is a loving God who is sovereign over her family’s future… She honors God, God is responsible for the rest.”

This is transformational… when I stop focusing on the check-list of virtues, gifts, abilities, attitudes that I want for myself and instead… go right to the Source, the divine Source… then in surrender I find abundant life.

Our second reading begins, as does the first, with a question “Who is wise and understanding among you?” The woman of Proverbs gives us the answer… “The one who fears the Lord”.

And even the Gospel contains a fundamental question asked by Jesus of his disciples, “What were you arguing about on the way?” They were arguing among dominance, preeminence, hierarchy… first and last… and all this would have been sweetly redundant if only they paid attention to the woman of Proverbs… “Fear the Lord”.

This “fear/awe/wonder/praise of God” is no breath or vapor (translated as beauty in the text); this is resolute stuff, foundational matter creating a psychic change in our deepest being and a desire to surrender to our Creator God.

In this place, to quote Bill Wilson, “we will comprehend the word serenity and we know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole atti¬tude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises?” – the woman of Proverbs 31 avers “I think not”.

The woman, the man who “fears the Lord” – who strives (sometimes struggles) to put God first,
The woman, the man who “fears the Lord” – who seeks to find God’s presence in their lives,
The woman, the man who “fears the Lord” – who surrenders to God… on a daily basis

This person will be a person of Strength and Dignity and Laughter… Lord work this in me, in us by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen

“Vocation to Nobility” – Sunday, September 2, 2018

Sermon

“Vocation to Nobility”

Trinity Church, Newport RI

Sunday September 2nd 2018

The Reverend Alan Neale

At long last (over four decades) I get to preach on the intriguing and sometimes frustrating Psalm 45, one of the royal psalms. We need our hearts to be stirred by noble things so we can be transformed and then empowered to be noble people and do noble things.

The sermon text follows the sermon audio. As is my occasional wont, I asked for a hymn to replace the Creed and Confession… “God of grace, God of glory… grant us courage for the living of these days” – the hymn provides opportunity both for an affirmation of faith and a confession of sin. Hymn tune and words below the sermon text.

 

 

Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Newport RI; Sunday September 2nd 2018

The Reverend Alan Neale; “The Vocation to Nobility”

Psalm 45:1 “My heart is stirring with a song of nobility.”

Even passing views, or transient auditions, of media in all its myriad forms this week presented the portrayal of life’s events with a noble, truly noble, theme.

The life, dying, death of Senator John McCain has not been presented with a saccharine veneer of goodness; the Senator’s life has been presented vigorously, constantly, thoroughly… and “warts and all” is a largely redundant phrase given the countless flights that speakers, in one breath, made twixt heroism and cantankerousness, spirituality and earthy language, irascibility and yet a readiness to seek resolution.

We have seen the truth of philosopher Kedar Joshi’s words, “He is man whose heart is spirited and eyes are wet each moment on account of the… nobility that decorates this world.”

The whole panoply of this great man’s life interwoven with words and music has caused many a heart to be stirred, a tear to be shed, a regret to be rued but, above all, a prayer made that… a “reset” occur in the standard of behavior in this great country… that a tide of respect will beat down heavily on a shoreline all too often strewn with the flotsam and jetsam, the debris of rudeness, indecency and malicious intent.

For decades I have dreaded a little that day in the church’s month when Psalm 45 is read at Morning Prayer; I remember (I can almost still hear) the groans of female colleagues and laity as they bemoaned the apparent sexism of today’s Psalm.

But today, for me at least, this Psalm is redeemed for it speaks to me of the daring of nobility, of the derivation of nobility and of the designation of nobility.

The Daring of Nobility (vv1-3)
There is something about the noble that ignites our spirits, shapes our behavior.
Friends, our hearts have been constructed to be stirred, inspired, even agitated by songs of nobility.
…our tongues have been created so that with eager readiness, acute alertness and artful skill they narrate stories of nobility.
And though verses 3 & 4 are omitted from today’s Psalm for some peculiar reason, I will refer to them for they speak of how nobility causes our words to be seasoned with grace and our pugnacity to be channeled into causes of truth, clemency and justice.
I am convinced that the regular re-presentation before my mind of the nobility of Jesus and His saints will enable me to dare… to dare for God great and holy things.
I am convinced that the regular re-presentation before my spirit of the nobility of Jesus as he embraces life and death will enable me to dare… to dare for God great and holy things.
Surely we have a vocation to put aside that which is demeaning, petty, small-minded and if we do not… then we dare little and achieve it resoundingly.

The Derivation of Nobility (vv.4-6)
Whether it be the modern edifice of an Arizonan Methodist Mega-Church or the ancient shape of Washington Cathedral – both structures were filled not only with words about Senator McCain but also, as strongly, words about the divine Lord whom the Senator worshipped, considered and did his best to follow – day by day.
Psalm 45, like many a Psalm, is not always clear as to the person being addressed… sometimes it’s the earthly king… at other times it’s God the King… (“the one who endures for ever and ever…”).
A similar uncertainty and confusion sometimes occurs in the minds of earthly leaders – fudging the distinction between the Creator and the Creature.
You will remember that when Oscar Wilde encountered the buffoon who boasted, “I am a self-made man”, Wilde responded, “Well, at least that relieves the Almighty of a terrible responsibility.”
No wonder that Step Two of 12 Step Programs reads, “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Sanity… nobility… we affirm that we are established deep in the being of God… the Creator, not the creature, defines what it is to be noble.

And, the Designation of Nobility (vv.7-10)
It would be a mean, nasty, teasing sort of God that caused our hearts to flicker at the sound, the sight of nobility and yet stopped there.
But we do not have to do with such a God… and that which we are called to be by divine fiat, we are enabled to become by divine grace.
v. 8 “Your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness… creations of garments and compositions of songs bring joy to your heart…”
By God’s abundant goodness we, each of us, are designated as noble daughters and sons of the most high and what God calls us to be, He enables us to be by the powerful love, His transforming grace and the dynamic Holy Spirit.
Please do not be tricked into surrendering this hope of nobility as you consider what at times seems such a slow and troubled progress. Hemingway (perhaps) wrote this, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self” – we look for progress, not for perfection, in ourselves and in others – herein is nobility.

So, these past few days I have watched Honor Guards in an Arizonan Methodist Mega-Church, on an airfield tarmac, in the Gothic majesty of National Cathedral. But also… on Thursday evening in Newport when, at the conclusion of a wedding, I called an Honor Guard to take position and salute the newly-weds with an arch of sabers and… I was surprised, even here I wept.

And I wondered why? Why? Because I hoped and prayed in that moment… that the couple would take equal meticulous care to guard their honor, their respect for each other as did those six marines for them.

Why? Because I dare to hope for a resurrection of honor and nobility in our lives and in our relating… one to another in the name, in the pattern, in the power of God. Oh, yes, my heart aches to be stirred and my lips be moved by stories of nobility in these days, throughout this land… beginning here. AMEN

God of Grace, God of Glory!

1 God of grace and God of glory,
on your people pour your power;
crown your ancient church’s story,
bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.

2 Lo! the hosts of evil round us
scorn the Christ, assail his ways!
From the fears that long have bound us
free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.

3 Cure your children’s warring madness;
bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal.

4 Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of your salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
serving you whom we adore,
serving you whom we adore.

“Over/Under-whelming” – Sunday, August 26

The two texts to which I refer in today’s sermon are texts that have long intrigued and engaged me; I am so joyfully fortunate to have yet another opportunity to preach a sermon on texts… for the first time ever!

The sermon text (basically) follows after the sermon audio.

 

 

Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Newport, Rhode Island; Sunday August 26th 2018 The Reverend Alan Neale; “Over/Under-whelming”

Today I share with you, from our Scripture readings, two very different experiences on the spiritual journey; they seem poles apart and yet I believe they are connected by a common desire to love, serve and know the Lord.

1 Kings 8:11 “The priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.”

Professional Christians, clergy, are a “rum lot”… or they can be.

They deal with holy things as a matter of course and with such familiarity comes the danger of nonchalance if not contempt.

They are privy to personal secrets, incongruous hypocrisy, radical foibles (maybe the Episcopal euphemism for sins)… so much so that sometimes they are near to despair that they will ever enjoy personally or observe vicariously divine grace at its most transformative.

This professional caste can be a jaded, church-weary, cynical lot so I am amazed…

… when I read, in our text, that something so profound happened in the temple that these professionals could not stand to minister, were not able to minister… I am in awe and wonder and, frankly, I want/I covet this experience for myself.

The historian of the Kings writes of that “the glory of the Lord filled the whole house”. And in so doing the writer speaks of the powerful and pervasive presence of God.

Powerful… in using a grammatical circumlocution (the glory of the Lord rather than the Lord) reminds the readers that it is a fearful, awesome thing to stand in the presence of God without intermediary.

Pervasive… every aspect, every corner, every vessel is alive with the divine glory and this is the very nature of glory… it seeks to be pervasive, takes up residence throughout our being and strives to pulsate in every facet of our lives.

I want/I covet this experience for myself… for you… for this church community. That all we are, that all we do throb with the beat of divine glory.

This experience is available… it will enable us to stand with dignity (as did the people 8:14, as did King Solomon 8:22); it will enlarge our perspective, extend our embrace, stretch our acceptance so that (8:43) “all the people of the earth may know Your name.”

This is experience is available… I read on Friday these words written by a doctor to an addict; the doctor was writing of the importance of
“…vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They ap¬pear to be in the nature of huge emotional displace¬ments and rearrangements.
Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of (men and women) are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. In fact, I have been trying to produce some such emotional rearrangement within you.”

I am reminded that a friend recently told me, “Every morning I pray that God will get into my head… before I do.”

So the Lord deals with us… “trying constantly to produce some emotional rearrangement within us” that we may be dominated by the will, the glory of the Lord” instead of our own “self-will, run riot.”

Oh but before, dear listener, you decide that this is not the path for you I have some news… this radical encounter with the Living God, this experience of spectacular transformation though available… is not required.

There is, indeed for some, a “softer, gentler way” that may well suffice… at least for the moment.
Let’s jump centuries ahead to today’s Gospel.

John 6:60 “Many of his disciples found the teaching hard and began to turn back and no longer go about with Jesus”; as some translators wryly comment (given this is all about bread) “many of his disciples found this hard to swallow… and turned away.”

At this point I am fascinated to consider the thinking of Jesus – was he merely concerned, or somewhat alarmed, or rather indifferent that his band of followers was diminishing. Whatever Jesus is thinking, he is prompted to turn to his closest friends, the twelve and he asks them (is this plaintive or not?) (John 6:67 Message Translation) “Do you also want to leave?”

Now at this point it would have been… nice, reassuring, comforting, strengthening to hear a passionate, whole-hearted, unequivocal yes for Jesus… but instead comes this somewhat feeble response from Peter (of all people)… “To whom would we go? What else can we do?”

And St Athanasius observes, “It is the part of true godliness not to compel but to persuade. Our Lord himself does not employ force but offers the choice.”
And this, my friends, is when the more hesitant amongst us can breathe a sigh of relief… sometimes all we can muster on our spiritual journey is this shaky affirmation, “Lord, we’re here… what else can we do? Where else can we go? Whom else can we follow?”

And for some, for a while this is sufficient… as long as we do not lose hope that one day, somehow, we will experience the glory of the Lord that will transform and empower us.

I Kings 8:11 “The priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.”

Available always… required never. Thank you, Lord. Amen

 

Today I awake and God is before me.
At night, as I dreamt, God summoned the day;
For God never sleeps but patterns the morning
with slithers of gold or glory in grey.

Today I arise and Christ is beside me.
He walked through the dark to scatter new light,
Yes, Christ is alive, and beckons his people
to hope and to heal, resist and invite.

Today I affirm the Spirit within me
at worship and work, in struggle and rest.
The Spirit inspires all life which is changing
from fearing to faith, from broken to blest.

Today I enjoy the Trinity round me,
above and beneath, before and behind;
The Maker, the Son, the Spirit together
they called me to life and call me their friend.