LOVE Story: Remembering the LOVE born from Grandma’s nativity

It was the day before the day before Christmas and Angela had just about finished decorating her band new swanky apartment on the West-side. Everything was just perfect; each of the decorations had been chosen with such care. Just like all the furniture in her apartment each and every one of the Christmas decorations was brand spanking new. In a couple of hours Angela expected that her apartment would be full of guests. Her guests had been as carefully chosen as each of the items that adorned her apartment. It was all designed to show everyone how very well Angela was doing.

This Christmas, unlike so many other Christmases that Angela had endured, this Christmas everything was going to be perfect. Angela planned to lavishly entertain her guests. The evening’s entertainment was guaranteed to get Angela’s Christmas off to the best of starts. At least here in her lovely new home, Angela would be in control. Unlike the chaos of her family’s Christmas gatherings.

All her life, Angela had endured the trials and tribulations of her family’s dysfunctional yuletide gatherings; gatherings that always ended up with various family members arguing over some perceived slight. Tonight, things would be different. Tonight, Angela hadn’t invited a single member of her outrageous family to come to dine. Tonight, Angela’s guests were made up of the great and the good, new friends and work colleagues; people Angela could count on to behave admirably. Tonight, everything would be perfect.

All she needed to do to finish off the room, was to assemble the new nativity set which she had just purchased up on her beautiful fireplace mantle. She hadn’t planned to purchase a nativity set, but when she saw the hand-carved, olive- wood nativity set in the window of the swanky gift shop, she just knew that it was perfect. As she carefully unpacked her perfect nativity, Angela’s mind wandered back over the years to the very first Christmas that she could remember.

Angela was just four years old. She and her brother, together with her parents were living in her Grandma’s house in England. Above the coal fireplace, high on the mantle, out of reach from Angela or her brother’s tiny hands there was a small nativity set. It had been Angela’s Grandma’s when she was a little girl, and it was the focal point of all the Christmas decorations in her their small sitting room.

Angela remembered wondering on that long-ago Christmas Eve, if Father Christmas would bring her a new doll. She remembered her Grandma reaching for the big black book while Angela, her brother, and even her Mom and Dad assembled themselves in front of the fire to listen to her Grandmother read the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of the baby Jesus. When the story was over, her Grandma picked Angela up so that she could reach the nativity set and she handed her a tiny little baby Jesus. Grandma told Angela to put the baby Jesus in the little bed in the stable. Everyone watched as Angela carefully placed the baby Jesus ever so gently in his tiny little bed. Angela remembered sitting on her father’s lap as everyone began to sing.

It wasn’t long after that Christmas that Angela and her family left her Grandma behind and moved to Ireland. Angela missed her Grandma terribly. But in Ireland she had new grandparents to get to know.

Angela’s Irish grandparents, they lived in a very fancy house. Angela remembered Christmas in their home, a large box was brought down from the attic out of which all sorts of beautiful Christmas ornaments were unpacked. Neither Angela nor her brother were allowed to touch any of the ornaments. Over and over again they heard the words, “Look but do not touch!”

Angela missed her Grandma’s little sitting room and wondered who was going to put the baby Jesus to bed on his birthday. A few days before Christmas a package arrived for Angela. It was the very first package she had ever received. She was so excited that her mother had to help her unwrap it. Inside the package they discovered the nativity set from Grandma’s sitting room. Angela remembered the fuss she made when her Irish grandparents insisted that the nativity set would look better up in her bedroom. Angela threw a temper tantrum, as only a five-year-old can, until Grandma’s nativity set was arranged in a place of honour above the fireplace. Angela hid the baby Jesus in her room until Christmas Eve. After dinner on Christmas Eve, Angela waited and waited, but no one read the story. Finally, no longer willing to wait, she asked her Dad if he had a big black book. 
It took a while for the adults to catch on. But eventually a Bible was found, and the story was read. Angela’s father lifted her up and together they tucked the baby Jesus into his tiny little bed.

Eventually, Angela and her family moved out of her Irish grandparents’ home, and into a shabby little place of their own. Each year Grandma’s nativity set occupied a place of honour on her family’s mantle. When Angela was ten, her family began to prepare for yet another move. Her father explained to Angela and her brother that they were moving very far away, and they wouldn’t be able to take all their stuff with them. So, Angela secured a place in one of the big steamer trunks for her favorite doll. She didn’t mind leaving most of her toys behind because the house they moved into was grand and glorious.

As Christmas approached, her parents brought all sorts of packages from the stores and decorations were hung everywhere. One afternoon Angela’s mother asked her to go with her to pick out a new nativity set, and for the first time, Angela realized that her Grandmother’s nativity set had not made the journey to their new home. When Angela stopped crying her mother explained that she had sent the nativity set back to her Grandma’s for safe keeping. Her Mother told her how happy her Grandma would be to have it back in her sitting room. Angela told her mother that she didn’t want a new nativity set, but her Mom went out and bought one anyway. It was really a dumb set.
 The baby Jesus was stuck to his bed. How could anybody stick a baby to its bed.  How can you appreciate being tucked in on his birthday when you’re stuck to the bed all the time? Nevertheless, the new nativity set was placed on a coffee table because there was no fireplace in the new house. That first Christmas in the new house they forgot to read the story about the baby Jesus. Angela remembers silently wishing Jesus a happy birthday before she went to sleep.

Over the years the beauty of Grandma’s nativity set grew in Angela’s memory. It became the most beautiful nativity set that she or anyone else had ever seen. Angela never saw a nativity set which could match the wonder of her Grandma’s fabulous nativity. Each year, Angela would remind her father about how they used to celebrate Christmas. She would go on and on about that beautiful nativity set.

When Angela was twenty, she returned to England and got a job in London. Each weekend Angela would travel two hours by train to visit her Grandma. She vividly remembers that Christmas Eve, when she arrived at her Grandma’s. Angela went straight into the sitting room and there on the mantel she saw the strangest thing. Grandma’s nativity set stood in its rightful place, but it was not as Angela had remembered it. It was so very tacky.
 It was made of rubber.
 The shepherds were not made to the same scale as Mary and Joseph. 
They were so large they dwarfed the stable. One of the wise guys had lost his gift.
 The donkey’s ear had been glued back on. Mary’s face was all smudged and Joseph’s right hand was badly chewed up and mangled.
 The angel on the stable roof was positively ugly.

Convinced that a pack of rotten children must have descended upon the nativity and destroyed its former glory, Angela asked her Grandma what had happened to her beautiful nativity. How did it get into such bad shape? Her Grandma explained that it had been like that since she was a little girl. It had been one of her favorite toys and she had played with it so much that she had almost worn it out.  Then there was Angela’s Father and her uncles who had bashed it about as they played with it. By the time Angela was born, the set was so battered that they kept it up on the mantle so that it wouldn’t be completely destroyed by Angela and her brother’s tiny hands.

Angela went over to the bookshelf and got out the big black bible. Her Grandmother handed Angela the tiny baby Jesus and she tucked him safely into his little bed in the stable. As her Grandma read the familiar tale of Jesus’ birth, Angela began to wonder about that first Christmas. She couldn’t help imagining the rag tag couple travelling to Bethlehem, and she imagined the messy accommodations in the stable, the scruffy looking shepherds, and the smell that must have filled the air. 
Not a very auspicious place for the LOVE to become flesh and dwell among them.
 As her Grandmother closed the big black bible, Angela remembered her own inauspicious surroundings. LOVE had come to Angela in a beaten up old ugly nativity set.

As Angela remembered her Grandmother serving up their Christmas feast, she realized that the years had not been kind to her Grandma. She was old and tired; this would be one of her last Christmases. Angela remembered all the stories her Grandma had told her over the years and all the wisdom which this wise woman had imparted. When her Grandma kissed Angela goodnight, Angela gently reminded her Grandma to say her prayers.

Remembering her Grandma in her swanky new west end apartment, Angela couldn’t help herself, she just had to say happy birthday to Jesus. Angela carefully packed her hand-carved, olive-wood nativity set back into its box. She retrieved her Grandma’s old, ugly, nativity set from the farthest reaches of her storage locker. Angela carefully arranged Grandma’s old, ugly, nativity upon her beautiful new mantle. She dug out the big old black Bible and placed it ready and waiting for guests to arrive.

Once the tiny baby Jesus was tucked in and her guests were well fed and entertained, Angela packed up her Grandma’s old, ugly nativity set and the big old black bible to make the long journey to her family’s home.  She wanted to be sure to get there early on Christmas Eve so that she could help her nieces set up their Great-Grandma’s nativity set in time to read the story and tuck the little baby Jesus into his tiny little bed in the stable, so that together they could wish Jesus a very happy birthday. Angela couldn’t contain herself at the prospect of those little girls seeing the beauty of her Grandma’s nativity. Her heart was full to bursting with the LOVE that is the HOLY ONE, at the very thought of her nieces tucking in the baby Jesus.

May the HOLY ONE who is LOVE bring you hope, peace, and joy as LOVE is born again, and again in you.

LOVE Story: Keep Watch! LOVE has many disguises!

When I was a young woman, I lived in an apartment, in a very rough neighbourhood. Many of the people who lived in this neighbourhood survived on government assistance, while others earned their living any way they could. I moved into the apartment because the rent was cheap and quite frankly, I was young and foolish. Despite all the warnings my family and friends were all too willing to issue against, what they saw as the unsavoury characters who inhabited the neighbourhood, I was convinced that I would be able to handle anything which came my way.

The office where I worked was just down the street from my apartment and every morning as I walked to work, I would meet some of my neighbours returning from an evening of plying their trade on the streets and in the alleys. Each morning, I would be met at the entrance to my office by an old man named Ed. Ed was a wild character. He’d had been living on the streets for years. He was extremely hairy, very dirty, and he tended to rant and shout a great deal. I suspect that Ed slept on the doorstep of the building which housed my office because it was somewhat protected from the winter weather. 

Even though Ed made the me nervous, I eventually got used to seeing him. Ed always gave me a warm welcome when I arrived at my office. He knew that when I got inside, I would brew a fresh cup of coffee. He used to tease me that I was a sucker for a sad face, as he waited patiently for me to bring him a cup of coffee. We never talked much, though, at least not about anything personal. Ed would just rant and rave about the injustices of the world.  I never did find out how Ed ended up on the streets. Nor did I ever know how he spent his days.

As Christmas approached, I became very busy with my elaborate preparations for the holiday. This was the first year that I had earned enough, so that I actually had more money than I needed to celebrate. So, I decorated my apartment lavishly, I bought all sorts of gifts and I spent hours wrapping each one of them. That year, I was determined that this was the year I wasn’t going to be rushed. I wasn’t going to miss out on anything. Christmas wasn’t going to come and go without finding the Christmas SPIRIT.

That year, I had drawn the short straw and I had to work on Christmas Eve. So, before I left her apartment, I wrapped up a small package of goodies for Ed. I was delighted that I was so well prepared that I could take time out for others. But when I got to the office, Ed was nowhere in sight. I asked some of the women who worked the streets if they had seen old Ed.  But no one knew where he was. I got busy with work and I soon forgot all about old Ed. 

I finished work early and went off to celebrate Christmas Eve with my friends. I had been looking forward to Christmas for weeks and was eager to begin the celebrations. And sure enough, together, my friends and I, we shared a fine Christmas goose with all the trimmings and then together, we all went off to church for a worship service by candlelight. The service was beautiful. They really pulled out all the stops. There was great music, the choir was wonderful, and there was lots of activity. The preacher even managed to keep her sermon brief. But somehow, I was left feeling like there was something missing. The next morning, I celebrated with my family. My little nieces eagerly unpacked dozens of presents and on the whole we all managed to set aside all our longstanding family grievances long enough to get along for a day. But something wasn’t quite right. I felt detached, like I was just going through the motions. Despite all the elaborate trimmings, I felt like I had missed out on my share of the Christmas SPIRIT. On Boxing Day, as I drove back to my apartment in the city, I found myself wondering if this was all there was to it. Christmas had come and gone, and I didn’t feel like anything had changed at all. 

By the time I had parked my car, I was feeling a little depressed. I had those post-Christmas blues. Christmas was over and nothing much had changed. When I got to the entrance of my apartment, I saw Ed standing there. I had never before seen him anywhere near my apartment before and it made me more than a little nervous. I wondered how he had found out where I lived. It frightened me to think that Ed had taken the trouble to find my apartment. What’s more, he looked very agitated. Nervously, I greeted Ed and asked him why he was at my doorstep. Ed explained to me that he needed my help. Well, this made every uneasy. I mean the odd cup of coffee at work was one thing, but this old man showing up on my doorstep was something altogether different. Clearly, he wanted something. 

Ed asked me if I would come with him to the park and I was kind of caught off guard, I reluctantly agreed. When we arrived in the park, Ed introduced me to Karen. Karen was a very scared looking teenager. She couldn’t have been more than about fourteen years old. Ed explained to me that Karen had run away from home on Christmas Eve. He said that lots of kids ended up on the streets at this time of year and there were usually lots of unsavoury characters to meet them when they arrived in the big city. When Karen arrived at the city bus depot, Ed had spotted her. From the moment she arrived, Ed had carefully watched over Karen, making sure that she came to no harm in the city. Karen’s two days on the streets and Ed’s gentle persuasion had convinced her that she should really go back home to try to work things out with her parents. Ed explained to me that Karen needed money for a bus ticket back home.

After we had called Karen’s parents and safely loaded her onto a bus, I asked Ed if he would come with and to share a meal. Ed refused the offer of a meal but agreed to share a cup of coffee with me. In the coffee shop, I took a long hard look at old Ed. That night in the coffee shop, I looked into the eyes of a wild man. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now, in his own way, Ed had helped me to prepare the way for LOVE to be born. Ed was the prophet, a modern-day John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness, who pointed to the CHRIST, the LOVE which lives in all of us. 

I had almost missed it.  CHRIST had come. I was so busy looking up to the heavens, that I forgot to look around me. CHRIST came to me in the guise of Karen and LOVE was born. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”  CHRIST, like LOVE, comes to us, again and again, and again, each and every day, in the most unlikely of places wearing the most unlikely of faces. Just as Advent moves us toward the remembrance of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, in the first century, we would do well to remember that most of the world was too preoccupied and utterly unprepared for that first Advent and so very many people missed the whole thing. The question is:  Will we miss the whole thing again?” For we do not know the day or hour, no one knows. Therefore, keep awake, for CHRIST, like LOVE, may come suddenly and find you asleep.  Be prepared. Keep awake! Watch for we know not when CHRIST or where LOVE will come. Keep watch, so that whenever and wherever the LOVE which we call, “God” comes, it may find a home in you. Prepare the way for LOVE to arrive.

LOVE Stories for Advent & Christmas

What about those raging anti-maskers, pandemic-denying, conspiracy-theory-loving, in your face, right-wing nut-jobs?

Bless me, folks, for I have sinned. It has been far too long since my last confession. But what with COVID and all, I haven’t been too eager to look into the mirror. But we have arrived at the end of the church year, and with this comes a parable attributed to Jesus, about the sheep and the goats, and I must confess my goatyness has become all too apparent. It has been sneaking up on me for weeks now. I blame the media. Why not, everyone else does? Over and over again, the news media has delivered reports about various prominent, what shall we call them, Trumpsters? who are testing positive for the coronavirus. The news of raging anti-maskers, pandemic-denying, conspiracy-theory-loving, in your face right-wing nut-jobs who, are making fun of science one minute only to test positive the next, well, forgive me but I can no longer stop my lips from twitching and breaking out in a self-righteous smile. Not that I wish them harm, but a few weeks on a ventilator might just be the medicine they need to convert them to my way of thinking.

I know. I know it’s wrong. This is after all a confession. But admit it. Go on. Tell me you don’t smirk even a little when “those people,” you know the ones who rant and rave, in that self-righteous way of theirs, ridiculing, or denying, or objecting to all the stuff that we care about. You know the stuff “we” progressive, forward-thinking, smart people, us, the ones who know better, all the stuff “they,” “them,” “those,” “others,” well let’s face it, they just don’t have a clue about.

Forgive me. I confess that I am in bondage to sin and cannot free myself from judging “them,” those others, whether they’re Trumpsters, or those science-denying, greed-inspired, racist, ignorant, card-carrying nut-jobs. Why shouldn’t we take some delight that when they get what they deserve? After all good christian folk like us, have been judging people for centuries! You’ve got your sheep and you’ve got your goats. And the good shepherd knows enough to separate one from another: sheep to the right, goats to the left. Yay sheep! Boo goats! The parable is clear!  Yay us! Boo them!

According to the parable, judgement falls upon the sheep who are praised as “blessed” and rewarded with the promise of inheriting a kin-dom, prepared from them since the creation of the world. As for the goats, well there’s an ever-lasting fire fit for the Devil and the fallen angels, where they will receive “eternal punishment” while the lambs “go off to eternal life.” Blessed are those who wear a mask, for you shall be rewarded with good health. Cursed are those who refuse to wear a mask, for you shall be rewarded with a positive test for COVID! Here endeth the lesson. Or does it.

Now, clearly, I’m over-simplifying to make a point. But parables do have a way of turning our perceptions upside-down and inside-out, and they do so not just to make a point but to radically change our perception of reality. The point of this parable couldn’t be clearer:  the basis on which judgement hinges is in the response to “the least of these”. Whether you’re a sheep or a goat, did you reach out to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, the prisoner? Did you give to the “least of these” the very thing they needed most? If you did, the paradise of your dreams, well congratulations, you’re in it. If you failed to reach out to the least of these then, woe is me, for the hell of your worst nightmare, well look around for it is yours.

Now if this was simply a moral tale, the point would be clear. But a parable is more than simply a moral tale. Parables are designed to turn everything upside-down and inside-out for the sole purpose (pun intended) for the soul purpose of radically changing our perceptions of reality. The turning point of this parable of the sheep and the goats is when we see who Jesus is. “For I was hungry, and you fed me; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me; in prison and you came to visit me.” 

When?  When? When” Ah, there’s the rub. “The truth is, every time you did this for the least of my sisters or brothers, you did it for me.” Jesus not only identifies with the hungry, the thirsty, the poor, the needy of every kind; Jesus identifies himself as one of “them”.

Now. Not so fast, we’ve turned it upside-down. Now let’s see how it looks when you see it inside-out. Imagine the needy for just a moment. Think about what it would be like to be hungry, thirsty, a stranger, a prisoner, poor and needy. Sounds like hell to me, perhaps even the kind of torment which feels like eternal punishment. The problem with categorizing “them,” “those people,” you know who I mean, the problem with labeling or judging “them” as “other” is that the ONE we profess to follow, this Jesus of Nazareth, not only identifies with “them,” he doesn’t just sympathize with “them,” this Jesus fellow, he sees himself as one of them. We are, all of us, both sheep and goats.  We all have the power to give and to withhold.

Now as clear as this parable may have sounded to our ancient ancestors, some of us may not fully hear it, so let me be clear. “Those people,” substitute your particular goat of choice, “those people” they too are just as capable as “us,” substitute your particular sheep of choice; “those people” are just as capable as “our people” of giving and withholding. The question is not whether or not we can identify or sympathize with those we have judged to be “others”. The question is can we see CHRIST in them? And before we go seeing CHRIST as “other than” remember, this CHRIST is the same ONE who lives, in, with, through, and beyond us.

So, what this parable is also asking us to see is ourselves in “the least of these.” For until we can see our own humanity in the humanity of those in need, we will not see eternal life. This parable is not a cautionary tale about how to avoid judgement at the end of it all. This parable invites us to see the CHRIST in, with, through, and beyond, the least of these of whom we are ONE. Our ancient ancestors spoke about the vast realities of the cosmos in language so plain and ordinary that even, “the least of these” could see themselves as part of extra-ordinary reality of a life which has eternal dimensions. 

We are indeed all sheep and goats. We are also embodiments, incarnations, of the ONE Jesus embodied; we are the Body of CHRIST; a CHRIST which is so much more than we can begin to imagine, a CHRIST of COSMIC dimensions. As for “them,” you know, “those people” the “others,” well surely, we too have the power to see beyond our labels, beyond our categories, beyond our judgements, to see the HUMAN ONE, the CHRIST who lives, in, with, through, and beyond even “them.”

Let us take no pleasure in the misfortunes of others, whether they be sheep or goats. Let us be CHRISTs to one another, giving and receiving, LOVEing and being LOVEd, so that together we can create the heavens of our dreams and let us live life, in all its eternal glory, here and now.  Let it be so among us. Let it be so. Amen.

Watch the full COSMIC CHRIST Worship Video below

DOWNLOAD the Order of Service – click here

Turning It All Upside-down and Inside-out! – Parable of the Talents

Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, questioning, queer, pansexual, two-spirited androgynous and asexual lives matter. Asian lives matter. The lives of the poor matter. The lives of the oppressed matter. Now, I’m making a deliberate choice here not to include the phrase, “white lives matter” or the phrase, “All lives matter.”  Yes, I know, if you are white, if you are wealthy, if you are successful, if you are heterosexual, your life matters. But I believe that there are moments in time when it is vital that we stand in solidarity with particular lives which are being devalued in particular ways. During these days, when those of us who have benefited all our lives from white privilege, we are beginning to learn the true cost brought to bear on so many lives by systems which by design ensure that some lives in particular matter more than other lives. White, heterosexual, and dare I say it, male lives, for generations have benefited from systems created to preserve their place in the “matters more” column of the way things are, simply because that’s the way it’s always been.

This week two stories collided in my being, leaving me to grapple with my own white privilege. As a preacher, the first story is to be expected. Every three years, the story known as the Parable of the Talents rolls around and I must do my level best to sort through generations of interpretations which often fail to sound anything like Gospel to me. According to the Parable, a slave-master gave talents, which represent a huge amount of money, to his slaves; that’s right we are talking about a slave master and his slaves. This particular slave-master has a reputation for being both harsh and greedy.

Now, at the time, making money at the expense of others was frowned upon, so slaves were often used to extort money on behalf of their masters. The first two slaves managed to more than double the master’s investment and the third slave managed to keep the master’s initial investment intact but couldn’t quite manage to earn any interest at all.

Let’s do the math. A talent represents about 15 years of a good salary. Scholars suggest we use a figure of $50,000 per year, times 15, that’s $750,000.00 per talent; three quarters of a million dollars per talent. So, to the first slave the master gave 5 talents, that would be about three million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. To the second slave, the master gave two talents, that’s about a million and a half dollars today. To the third slave, the master gave, one talent. Remember that’s about $750,000.00; three quarters of a million dollars. When all was said and done, the first two slaves managed to give back to the slave-master an additional 7 talents, that’s a whopping great profit of about five and a quarter million dollars. The slave-master doesn’t seem to care just what kind of methods his two slaves needed to employ in order to make a 75% profit on his initial investment.

He complements each of the profit-making slaves with a, “Well don good and faithful slave!” and moves them up on the ladder of success in his carefully crafted system. As for the third slave, who refused to play the masters game and hid the talent for safekeeping and then returned it without having used it to earn further profits for the master, well he might as well have thrown a monkey wrench into the master’s system. True to form the slave-master condemns the third slave, calling him, “evil and lazy slave”, some translations read, “lazy and worthless slave.” Just in case there is any doubt the slave-master declares how the system works: “take the talent from the lazy worthless slave and give it to the ones who know how to work the system. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough.  But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” Ain’t that the truth? But wait there’s more. The slave-master orders his slaves to dish out the consequences the system demands, “throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

As I sifted through interpretation after interpretation of this text, I began to see exactly how for generations this parable has been used to perpetuate the very system, I believe, Jesus was calling out, as corrupt. I can’t tell you how many theologians and preachers were quick to insist that good and faithful “servants” ought to use their talents in the service of the church, or in service to Jesus, or in service to God. They simply swapped out the slave-master and substituted Jesus or God, and suddenly slaves become servants, and ipso facto, work hard, put your talents to good use, don’t worry that it seems like the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, just give some of the profits to the church and the master, whether it be Jesus, or God, will be well pleased and you will earn your reward in heaven.  Well done good and faithful servant!  You worked the system.

I said that two stories collided in my life this week. I say collided, because it felt like two atoms coming together, or being forced together, life-forces, if you will, were smashed together to create an explosion which will continue to reverberate in my being forever. The second story blows the traditional interpretations of the Parable of the Talents into smithereens. It’s an all-too-common Canadian story which plays itself out in various different ways all over the world. It is the story of those who have very little and even the little they do have is taken away from them. All too often, this is done to benefit those who have more than enough. It is a story about the consequences of an economic system which is designed to profit those who have more than enough, folks who don’t have to get their hands dirty in order to make a profit.

This week members of the Neskantaga First Nation came out in the midst of a pandemic to protest. For 25 years their community, which is 400 kilometres north of Thunder Bay has been under a boil water order. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a couple of months ago the source of the water they were boiling before it was safe to use developed an oily sheen, forcing the powers that be to evacuate the Neskantaga Frist Nation’s most vulnerable residents out of their community. To those who have so very little, even that was taken away from them as the elderly, infants, chronically ill, and school age children were forced from their homes. I cannot express the kind of wailing and gnashing of teeth, which I heard in their cries.

But one little boy can. Please watch and listen to young Lyndon Sakanee. (cut to the video) “Children deliver their own message. ‘We’re not animals. We’re not things. We’re human, just like you guys. We, we need your help.'”

Lindon, you and your neighbours are not animals, you are not things, you are human. Your lives matter.

The consequences of systems driven by greed and the hunger for profits are all too often taken for granted by far too many of us who participate in the system and benefit from the system. I do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth, whose life and death bear witness to the cries of the oppressed, the poor, the persecuted and the suffering, told this parable so that we could use it to encourage people to work the system. I believe that Jesus told this story to help us understand the kind of courage it takes to refuse to participate in a system as evil as slavery, a system where greed and profits are more important that people’s lives. I believe that Jesus told this parable to encourage his followers to be as courageous as the third slave, the one who refused to participate in the system to please the powers that be, the one who was prepared to be condemned as lazy, and worthless, who was willing to run the risk of being cast out into the darkness. I believe that it is in the darkness where we will meet Christ amongst those who are wailing, tending those who have been judged worthless. I believe that the third slave, like Jesus, like young Lindon, who is challenging us to examine our own participation in corrupt and abusive economic systems which fail to honour the dignity of human life.

Yes, refusing to participate in systemic injustice, may bring down the judgement of the powers that be.But there are other stories to tell; stories about light, stories about joy, stories about feasts and celebrations; Jesus didn’t earn a reputation as a glutton and drunkard for nothing. Lord knows the Neskantaga Nation longs for the day when they can join the celebrations. But in order for the light to shine in the darkness, we must follow Christ to tend the wounds of those whose lives have been tossed aside for they are not worthless. Their lives matter. Lindon’s life matters. Indigenous lives matter.

We all know there are others who are wailing and many who are gnashing their teeth. Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, questioning, queer, pansexual, two-spirited androgynous and asexual lives matter. Asian lives matter. The lives of the poor matter. The lives of the oppressed matter. Yes, your life matters. Our privilege comes at great cost.

The thing about parables is that they are designed to turn our perceptions upside down and inside out. Do we have the courage to turn our privilege upside down and inside out? Do we have the courage to refuse to participate in systemic corruption? Do we have the courage to be judged, to be cast out, to venture into the darkness where we will hear the cries of lives which matter? Do we have the courage to make our own lives matter, to embody the LOVE which the world so desperately needs? The thing about courage is that it is born out of vulnerability. May the LOVE which is the DIVNE MYSTERY open us all so that we might be vulnerable to the cries of those whose lives matter.  Let it be so, dear ones, let it be so.

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A Peace Remembered: Lest We Forget

The young woman can still remember one particular Remembrance Day when her words and actions did nothing more than offend someone she loved so very much. It was the one and only argument she ever had with her Grandmother and it happened over Remembrance Day. At the time, the young woman was living and working in London. She remembers noticing that Londoners take Remembrance Day very seriously indeed. More so, she thought, than in her native Canada. She wondered if the blitz had something to do with this.

While most of the poppies people wore were red, she began to see white poppies appear on the lapels of more than just a few people. She read in the newspaper that those who were committed to peace and believed that, for the most part, Remembrance Day only serves to glorify war, were donning white poppies. You could pretty well draw a dividing line between the generations using the colours of poppies as your guide. Young people, who had never experienced war tended to wear white poppies, while those who were older and who still had vivid memories of war, they tended to wear red poppies. In many homes poppies in and of themselves managed to create wars. The idealistic young woman was just twenty and her commitment to peace determined her choice.

She was wearing a white poppy the day she traveled up to the Midlands to visit her Grandmother. It was the day before Remembrance Day when she arrived on her Gran’s doorstep. She’d forgotten all about the white poppy which adorned her lapel. She couldn’t help thinking that there was something odd about the reception she received from her Gran. It wasn’t exactly what you would call a warm welcome. Her Gran was upset about something. But the young woman couldn’t quite figure out what, because her Gran appeared to be giving her the silent treatment.

Her Grandmother just served dinner and listened quietly as the young woman chatted on about her week in London. After dinner, the young woman suggested that they pop down to the pub for a chat with her Gran’s neighbors. Usually, her Gran would have jumped at the chance to show off her granddaughter to her friends. But she seemed more than a little reluctant on this occasion. She so rarely refused her granddaughter anything, but it still took a great deal of cajoling before the young woman managed to talk her Gran into venturing out into the world. As they were putting on their coats to leave, the Grandmother asked her granddaughter to remove the white poppy from her coat. The young woman looked at her Gran’s red poppy and refused. She began to lecture in that pompous way that only young people, who don’t know any better can, about the horrors of war and the need to stand up for peace. Her Grandmother insisted that she could stand up anywhere that she wanted to for peace but not in her local, not in front of her friends, not tonight or all nights.

It was then that their battle began in earnest. They started calmly, but firmly arguing over the damn poppies. Before long, they were shouting and eventually the Grandmother, stormed out of the house and went to the pub without her granddaughter. The young woman discretely went to bed before her Grandmother came home. Each woman slept fitfully, bemoaning the fact that they had declared their own kind of war. 

Early the next morning the young woman rose quietly, hoping to dash off to London before her Grandmother awoke. She was just about to make a clean get away, when her Gran came into the living room. She was carrying a uniform; a uniform the young woman had never seen before; a uniform which stopped the young woman cold in her tracks.

Over breakfast, the old woman explained that during the Second World War, she had joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. The men were all off fighting and so the government had consented to letting the women, “do their bit.”  Her job in the WAAFs was carried out on the home front. Every evening after she had fed her kid, she would send them off to the air-raid shelter with a neighbour. Then she would put on her uniform and head off to the hills over Birmingham, where she would “man” an anti-aircraft gun.

After telling the young woman stories which she had rarely told anyone before, the old woman invited her granddaughter to come with her to British Legion, later that morning. Stunned by all she had been told, the young woman changed her plans and agreed to meet her Gran down at the Legion hall in about an hour. On her way to the Legion hall, the young woman bought a red poppy and timidly pinned it to her lapel.

When she finally caught up with her Grandmother, the old woman couldn’t help but smile when she saw the red poppy pinned to her beloved granddaughter’s lapel. The young woman couldn’t manage a smile. Not threw her tears. You see, the young woman was overcome by the sight of the white poppy which was pinned to her Gran’s lapel. The two women fell into one another’s arms and for a moment, just a moment, the two held one another other in the presence of a peace beyond words; a peace which surpasses all our understanding. The peace which only LOVE can achieve. The peace which the world is dying to experience. 

As the last post was trumpeted on that cold November, the 11th day, of the 11th hour, separated by generations, perspectives, opinions, and commitments, two women stood united in LOVE and remembered. Together, they stood hoping against hope for peace.

Keep Me Trucking! – Sermon: Matthew 25:1-13

Earlier, while on a Zoom meeting, I was complaining about this parable about the “Ten Bridesmaids.” I mean, what is a progressive preacher supposed to do with this parable? A friend and colleague who was also on the call, began reminiscing about how this parable always reminds him of church camp songs, and he proceeded to sing a few bars of, “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning!  Give me oil in my lamp, I pray.”  Anyway, he put that into my brain with just those few bars and it’s firmly planted there, this ear-worm, all day long and I’ve been singing it over and over again my head. Only I haven’t been singing the verse which my friend planted in my brain. No “oil in my lamp for me” Oh No!  Over and over again, I’ve been singing in my head: Give gas in ford keep trucking for the Lord. Give me gas in my ford I pray!”

I don’t know about you, but I’m running out of gas. I don’t have much oil left and my light is beginning to dim. It’s been more than 9 months since we first began worrying about the coronavirus, and the numbers are all going in the wrong direction. As if a world-wide pandemic isn’t enough to dim the lamps which used to burn bright in our psyches, there’s the endless turmoil of the never-ending election in the United States. If anxiety could fuel a lamp, or fire up a car, not even the prospect of winter’s cold and darkness could stop me from singing. Forget oil, or gas, right about now, I’d settle for another verse of that earworm which better describes my sorry state: Give me umption in my gumption, help me function, function, give me up umption in my gumption, I pray.

The enormity of the anxiety, fear, and genuine hardships which have been inflicted upon us, I’m wondering why should we even try to wrangle some meaning out of this obscure parable? My lovely Nanny used to say, “you gotta laugh, or you’re gonna end up crying.” So, have you heard the one about the “Ten Bridesmaids”? “Ten bridesmaids” were waiting for a bridegroom, they waited so long that they fell asleep! What a joke? But where’s the laugh?

I know I’m not much of a joke-teller. Joke’s require punchlines, and I can never remember punchlines. Besides, if this parable has a punchline, I simply don’t get it. There were these ten bridesmaids waiting for a bridegroom. Five of the bridesmaids were wise and five of the bridesmaids were foolish.

The wise bridesmaids brought along some extra oil for their lamps, the foolish bridesmaids did not. Long before the bridegroom arrived all ten of the bridesmaids fell asleep. Yada yada yada! A little detail here, a little detail there and lo and behold we’re at the punch line.  Turns out the bridegroom doesn’t know five of the bridesmaids, so he shuts the door and says: “Truly I tell you, I do not know you. Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” 

Ha, ha, ha, very funny. I’m sorry, I simply don’t get it.  For years and years, generation upon generation, people have been telling this particular parable, and leaving people hanging with that punch line. Ha, ha, too bad, so sad, you just don’t get it. You don’t get to come into the party! Or as the traditional preacher said to the congregation, “Keep awake! Don’t fall asleep! And for heaven’s sake be prepared! Cause if you’re not, CHRIST will bar the door and you won’t get into heaven! So, keep awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  CHRIST could come back at any moment and if you are not ready! That’s it! Boom! CHRIST will deny you; the door will be shut and you’re not getting in. Oh, and by the way, you’re going to burn in hell for all eternity. So, remember keep awake, be afraid be very afraid.  Cause your gonna die! And if you haven’t brought along some extra oil for your lamp, well it ain’t gonna be pretty!” Ha, ha, ha, the joke will be on you. 

I don’t know about you, but why don’t we just forget about the ten bridesmaids or as they are sometimes called the ten virgins. I’d much rather hear the joke about the priest and the rabbi who walk into bar! Now I know that I’m a preacher and my job is to take these old jokes and breathe new life into them. But hell, fire, and damnation, some old jokes simply aren’t funny anymore!

Look, I could tell you all the things that I’ve learned about this joke. I could unravel ancient wedding traditions for you. I could tell you that the Greek word “parthenoi,” doesn’t mean bridesmaids or virgins, as so many interpretations are wont to translate it. Like we think of bridesmaids or virgins, I mean the fact that these girls haven’t had sex before is not the point…a “parthenoi” is simply a young woman; well a young girl really probably about 12.

So, there are these 12-year-old girls who are invited to this wedding! I could tell you that a more accurate translation, would divide these girls up as 5 wise girls and 5 naïve girls. I could say that oil is necessary for shedding light and that we are all expected to be the light of the world. But then the story takes a nasty shift and the wise girls won’t share their oil with the naïve girls and that kinda goes against the grain, cause aren’t we supposed to share with those in need? Then there’s the bridegroom; I could do what most preachers do and tell you that the bridegroom is really Jesus, who shows up late to his own wedding, only to discover that half the wedding party is unprepared and so, he simply denies that he even knows them and then shuts the door and leaves them out there in the darkness. But where’s the good news in that? What good does it do to portray Jesus as the kind of jerk who would exclude 5 young girls, children, from the party simply because they are naïve? I suspect that someone somewhere along the way, forgot the punchline of this parable and left us without any hope of finding anything to provide the nourishment we need to: Give us joy in our heart, keep us going. Keep us going till the COVID goes away.

What do say, we just forget about the punchline? What do you say we stop trying to turn Jesus into the bridegroom? Everything we know about the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth ought to prove to us that Jesus was not the type of person who would exclude 5 naïve young girls from the very party, that he was too inconsiderate to show up on time for. Whenever ancient Hebrew storytellers mention oil and lamps, we ought to be able to make the connection our ancestors would have been expecting. I know that there is much to dread about the coming of winter, but there is also much to look forward to. In just about a month from now, December 10th to be exact, Hanukkah begins. Hanukkah, the wonderous celebration of the LIGHT; not just any LIGHT, but the LIGHT which against all odds did not go out. When all was just about lost, during the darkest of times, when there was scarcely any oil left in the lamp, the lamp continued to burn for eight days and nights. For our ancestors, LIGHT represented the presence of the DIVINE ONE, the HOLY MYSTERY who IS the CREATOR not just of light, but the CREATOR of ALL that IS, the ONE who IS present even in the darkness.

The anonymous gospel-storytellers point us to the presence of the DIVINE MYSTERY in the LIGHT which burns brightly in the lamps of our wanna-be party-goers. Metaphors abound in all parables, and we would do well to remember that the anonymous gospel-storytellers were fond of using weddings as metaphors for the ultimate union with the DIVINE.  Weddings are symbols celebrating the union of the LOVER with the BELOVED; celebrations of the reality that we are ONE with the DIVINE.

We dear ONEs, we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves, so much bigger than our fears and our anxieties, bigger than any pandemic. You and I, we are ONE with the DIVINE MYSTERY, which IS BEYOND the BEYOND, and BEYOND that also. The good news dear ones, is that our lamps will not be extinguished for we are nourished, grounded and sustained by the ONE who is our LOVER, BELOVED, and LOVE Itself. But we do need to be prepared, for those moments when we feel empty and afraid. And no one else can do this for us. We must prepare ourselves by going back to our SOURCE, being present to the ONE who IS. Opening ourselves to our LOVER.

Listen to what the 13th century, German mystic, Saint Mechthild of Magdeburg wrote about the nature of the LOVE we call God: “God Said to the Soul:

‘I desired you before the world began.
I desire you now
As you desire me.
And where the desires of two come together There LOVE is perfected.

… It is my nature that makes me love you often, For I AM LOVE itself.
It is my longing
that makes me LOVE you intensely,
For I yearn to be loved from the heart.
It is my eternity that makes me LOVE you long, For I have no end.”

Dear friends, the winter is coming. Anxieties are running high. It may feel like we have precious little oil in our lamps. We will need to prepare ourselves, no one can do this for us. We must stop, and we must breathe deeply of the ONE who is the SOURCE of all light, trusting that in the presence of the DIVINE MYSTERY, we are ONE with the LOVE which will empower us to BE.

As for that ear-worm, well:

Give me peace in my heart, keep me LOVE-in, LOVE-in, LOVE-in
Give me peace in my heart, I pray
Give me peace in my heart, keep me LOVE-in
Keep me LOVE-in  I pray,

Keep me LOVE-in till the break of day.

May the LOVE which is our BEYOND the BEYOND and BEYOND that Also, continue to burn brightly in, with, through, and beyond, you. Now and forever. Let it be so, dear ONEs. Let it be so.

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Blest Are Those Who Mourn In a Pandemic – All Saints’ – Matthew 5:1-10

Since this pandemic began, more than 1.2 million people around the world have died from COVID-19. In Canada, the death toll exceeds 10,000 people. In Ontario, more than 3,100, and here in York region 267 people have died from COVID-19. Sadly, millions more people have died alone of the regular stuff which causes our bodies to perish. This year as a result of public health restrictions, death has been a lonely endeavour, for both the dying and for the grieving. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. But how do we mourn and how shall we be comforted in the midst of a pandemic?

So much of what I would call popular, cultural, Christianity imagines the DIVINE MYSTERY which is the SOURCE of ALL that IS, the SOURCE of ALL life as a kindly, old, gentleman in the sky from whom we should seek comfort from the pain of death. This image of the DIVINE MYSTERY is readily offered to the dying and to those who mourn as a kind of talisman, who alone can provide the necessary comfort, all we need is just have faith in the various visions offered to us by the faithful of an afterlife. So, it doesn’t surprise me that those of us who have given up worshipping personifications of the MYSTERY which IS the DIVINE LOVE in which we are all ONE, we are left longing for a way to mourn and to comfort which does not require that we worship the idol of the all too small sky-god, which we once worshipped.

Today, as we remember ALL the SAINTS who have gone before us, together with ALL the SAINTS who dwell among us, my heart goes back to the WISDOM imparted to me by a particular saint, who taught me so much about the ways in which the DIVINE MYSTERY works, in, with, through, and beyond us to comfort those who mourn. This particular saint had no family.  She lived alone. For the purposes of this sermon, I will call her Sophia; Sophia, the Greek word for WISDOM. I became her pastor because she knew somebody who used to be a member of the congregation which I serve. When the doctors told her that she was dying she thought that she ought to have a pastor. So, via, a friend of a friend, I was summoned to her bedside.

I was afraid. I had been told that she only had a few weeks before the cancer would, and I quote, “take her,” not die, but that “the cancer would take her.” No one used the word death or said that she was going to die. To be present to a stranger when they are so close to death is a daunting task.  No time for gentle hello’s, or warming up to one another, just a long, painful and sometimes awkward good-bye.

I went to Sophia’s bedside every day for weeks. Some days, when she was able, the questions just tumbled out of her. She wanted to know what I believed. Not any pat answers. She didn’t want those. She didn’t want trite platitudes. Just the facts. She would say, “Just give me the facts!” I liked her no-nonsense approach even though I knew that the meager facts which I possessed, might not sustain us on our journey.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that she’d spent a great deal of time in the church. Her parents saw to it that she was raised in the church, but a lifetime of tragedy and heartache had led her far away from the faith she had grown up with. But as death drew near, she longed for the certainty of her youth. She’d like to believe. It would be nice to think that there would be a place for her, not exactly heaven per se, but someplace heavenly.  Like Paris in the springtime. She so loved Paris in the springtime. If only heaven were full of cafés, or patisseries where she could while away the hours talking with others who, like her appreciated the finer things of life. Life? Would there be life beyond death? She’d like to believe so.

One morning, I stopped by the bakery and picked up some of the most Parisian looking pastries I could find. Then I swung by a coffee shop and had them grind some fresh beans. As I brewed the coffee in Sophia’s kitchen, the aroma wafted up the stairs and she shouted down to me that I should heat up some milk so that we could have lattes. It was as heavenly a breakfast as we could muster.

Our conversation took us back to Paris and a springtime before I was born when Sophia was young and beautiful, and the men all fell at her feet. Some of her stories actually made me blush. We laughed and laughed and laughed until we cried.

After Paris, we travelled to London by way of some excellent fish n’ chips and a few glasses of cider. London was wet and cold. Sophia managed to complete her nursing studies even though a certain young man begged her to give up work and come to be his love. Over sausages and beer, we travelled to Hamburg, where Sophia fell in love with an orphanage full of refugee children.  

By the time our conversations took us to India, Sophia was too ill for a curry, so we sipped tea as we wept over her stories of poverty and disease. One afternoon, I arrived to find Sophia’s care-worker crushing ice for mint juleps. It took me a while to figure out that we were going deep into the southern states, where Sophia had worked long and hard to help establish a medical center among the poorest Americans.  By the time our travels led us back to Newmarket, Sophia was growing weak and I had gone from being a suspected bible-thumper to a trusted travelling companion. The most difficult part of our journey lay before us.

“What will become of me?” Sophia pleaded. I told her that the doctors would see to it that there would be no pain. That wasn’t what she was talking about. “What will become of me? Will there just be darkness? or, Will I see a bright light?”

“I don’t know?” was all I could honestly say. Sophia was patient with me. She asked me if I thought there was more to life or if death was the end. “No religious platitudes, if you please. Just the facts.”

“I don’t know Sophia. I believe that we live and die in God, and that God is LOVE, and in LOVE we have nothing to fear. All will be well? I trust that in death we fall into the LOVE that IS God.”

Sophia took my hand firmly and confessed, “I’m afraid.”

I did not know how to comfort her, so I asked, “What are you afraid of Sophia?”

“Not of dying! Good God no! I’m not afraid of dying.” Sophia insisted, “I’m afraid of being forgotten. Who will remember me?”

Who will remember the hundreds, the thousands, the millions who have died this year?How shall we be comforted. Like most deaths, those who have died from the coronavirus, have done so out of sight, removed from the public eye, and they have been mourned out of sight. In addition to those who have perished of the virus, there have been those countless deaths of loved ones, we have been unable to mourn in our usual ways. No gatherings at all, or if we could manage it, just tiny, physically distant funerals scarcely able to do justice to our grief. Ever so faintly, Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount echo down through the generations: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Some translations say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be consoled. Mourning is scarcely possible during these challenging times. It is as if we have been robbed of mourning’s blessings.

Blessed, “bless-ed,” what does it mean to say “blessed.” The Greek word “makarios” which is often translated as “blessed” is also sometimes translated as “happy”. But “happy are those who are mourning” is not a translation that makes much sense to me. Fortunately, there is another meaning to “makarios” which does make sense, “Makarios” can also mean,  “honoured.” “Honoured are those who mourn, for they shall be consoled.”

“Honoured are those who mourn.”  To mourn is to grieve, to lament, to show sorrow for the death of someone, or the loss of something. And haven’t we all lost so much this year? There is much in this life to mourn, losses of all kinds. For life is change, and in change there are losses. As I look around this beautiful cemetery, there is a chill in the air. Last night, the temperatures dipped below freezing a sure sign that the autumn is almost over, and winter is coming. All the signs, together with the medical experts are telling us that this will be a very dark winter. In the midst of the sadness and grief which this pandemic has spread around the world, my attention is drawn to the leaves which are tenaciously hanging onto these trees.

As I marvel at their tenacity, I can’t help but remember Sophia hanging on for dear life. I remember how I wept each time that I left her bedside. I also remember other griefs. Losses which I have been privileged, honoured to mourn. I say privileged because LOVE is a prerequisite for mourning. We do not mourn unless we have loved or have been loved.  Honoured are those who mourn, for we shall be comforted, because every tear is pregnant with new life. Like fallen leaves which will provide the nourishment for new life, all that we are is not lost at our death. What we are forever impacts the WHOLE, in whom we live and move and have our being. Death is a transformation point into the MYSTERY who is, was, and ever more shall be the SOURCE  of our being. For those of us who mourn, grief is a narrow passage through which we pass from death to new life. Without tears and dreams there is no healing. Without laughter and singing there is no savoring of what is, and what is to come. LOVE is the tender lifeforce which transcends even death. Honoured are those who mourn for it is LOVE who consoles; the LOVE which IS the SOURCE of ALL BEING.

Over and over again, Sophia’s desperate plea, “Who will remember me?” punctuated our conversations with fear which went beyond belief. No theological words or phrases about believing would suffice or comfort. Only the promise to remember her could bring any comfort at all. But who was I to make such a promise?  So, I hesitated. I tried to calm her fears with words. I tried to explain her fear away. And then one afternoon, Sophia took my hand and she asked me about my travels, about my loves, my hopes, my dreams, and my fears. She said she wanted to be able to remember me.

I was reluctant. This wasn’t supposed to be about me.  I was after all the pastor, the caregiver, there were lines which the books say should not be crossed. Sophia didn’t care to be cautious; time was of the essence. She wanted to remember me, and to do that she needed to know me. So, I came out from under the protection of my clerical office and together we travelled back to the places which had shaped and molded me. Sophia and I became friends, if only for a brief moment in time, we were kin, each embodying LOVE for the other.

A few days before she died, a panic came over her as she feared what might become of her. Once more, holding tightly to my hand, she begged me, “Who will remember me?”

With all my heart I promised, “I will remember you Sophia. Those men in Paris who fell at your feet all those years ago, the young man who fell in love with you in London, the children in Hamburg and the people in Kentucky, they will remember you. Your friends will remember you.” And then I took a long deep breath and I said, “I will remember you.” Her breathing calmed and her grip loosened, and she began to smile. And then I asked her. “Sophia remember me!” “I will remember you.” Sophia promised.

Over the course of next few days as her death drew ever near, Sophia and I were kin for one another. Embodying the DIVINE for one another. LOVE-ing one another. Remembering one another. I remember you my dear. It is an honour to remember you. You are part of me.

It is in our remembering that the HOLY ONE consoles us. This may indeed be a dark winter, but the light which is the LOVE which we call “God” shines in, with, through, and beyond us, as LOVE empowers us to comfort those who mourn, by being LOVE to one another. Spring will come. The sap will rise.  New leaves from buds will transform all our grief into hope. Blessed are we. All that we are is not lost at our death. What we are forever impacts the WHOLE, the ONE who IS LOVE, the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being.

Blessed are we as we remember those we have loved and who have loved us. Blessed are we as we remember the saints who have walked among us and those who continue to dwell among us. Thanks be to the ONE, who makes us WHOLE, ONE with our LOVER, BELOVED, and LOVE Itself who IS BEYOND, the BEYOND and BEYOND that Also, LOVE.  Now and always. Amen.

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