Fish Vomit

So this week we are talking about Darkness and we are talking about the symbols of the wheel and the fish (if you are unfamiliar with the wheel symbol, you will just have to come to worship on Sunday to find out what I am talking about). When Sarah Kotchian and I were planning this, and were thinking about what Scriptures speak to darkness, the idea of Jonah being stuck in the belly of the fish was somehow where our minds wandered.


Needless to say, it didn’t take much convincing for me to get on board because Jonah is my favorite book of the bible. I love the message in Jonah, and more importantly, I love the way that the message is conveyed. Jonah uses humor and satire to poke fun at us religious folk, who far too often take ourselves too seriously.


Let’s start with a quick discussion on a very important key to understanding Jonah—the fish! Have you ever heard people arguing over whether it is a fish or a whale? The answer is…durm roll please…it wasn’t really either, because Jonah was not actually swallowed by anything in real life. Yep, that is your pastor telling you, this story is not a historical event. And if you think it is, let me tell you about a bridge that I am selling in Brooklyn…


Jonah is not an historical account, plain and simple. Jonah is satire. Jonah makes fun of religious people who spend way too much time arguing over things like whether it was a fish or a whale that ate Jonah. You can tell this by how it is written. You can tell this from the original Hebrew. You can tell this because it is a story about a person being eaten by a fish. Unfortunately, we have made ourselves into the butt of the joke by being the very thing that Jonah makes fun of—religious elites.


What is important to learn from this is that scripture has genres. Some scripture is meant to be read seriously with an eye toward historical accuracy (though their definition of history and ours differ widely). Some is poetry and is meant to be read as figurative. Some is philosophical argument, and is meant to force us to ask big questions. Unfortunately, we often approach scripture as though it were just one thing—serious history. Incidentally, this is exactly why I have big problems with Ken Ham and his creationist museum (If you don’t know about that, Google it).

Jonah is satire. Jonah is humor. Jonah is meant to be read like you would read the Sunday morning comics, or like you would watch Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert. It is supposed to be fun and outlandish, and if you don’t read it that way, you are signing up to be the butt of the joke. You are the over-serious Jonah who is just waiting to be chewed up and spit out!


The story features only a few characters—Jonah, God, a handful of Sailors, a few Ninevites, a worm and a fish. Guess who does God’s bidding on the first try in this story—the non-Hebrew sailors and the non-Hebrew Ninevites. The guy called by God fights every step of the way. This points fun at religious people that think they are better than everyone else, but often miss the point. The conversation about Jonah being thrown overboard is funny stuff. Tarshish is quite literally the exact opposite direction from Ninevah. The man of God is quite literally FISH VOMIT. And if that wasn’t enough, the very last sentence of the book is God making a potty-humor joke that is worthy of an 8th grade boy (hint: people in that culture at that time used their right hand to eat and their left hand to wipe themselves).


All of this teaches us something that is extremely important—FAITH NEEDS HUMOR! If humor plays no role in our life of faith then we are not doing it right. We need to be able to laugh—especially at ourselves! We need to be ready to see that God doesn’t just work through prose and boredom—God engages us through any means necessary—even potty humor! That is why this book doesn’t need to be about historical fact at all. Trying to engage the question of historicity with Jonah is a total waste of time. I mean, the book is literally about prophetic fish vomit! It also teaches us that “Truth” with a capital “T” isn’t about historical fact, it is bigger than that. Truth is about how we find meaning in our lives.


If you want to find meaning in your life; if you want to find Truth; take a lesson from Jonah and have a little more fun with your faith. Embrace the absurd and the hilarious and look for God’s hand when you find yourself the butt of a joke.


Holy Troublemakers

It is hard to imagine, that I have been writing this blog for three years now. This Sunday I happen to be preaching on the beatitudes, and being that they were the inspiration for the name of this blog and the image off to the left, it seemed fitting to revive the original post (with a few updates) to remind the readers what this is all about. Enjoy!

It all started about 6 years ago. [cue flashback sequence]. Since the Presbytery youth retreat happened to fall on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, it seemed only logical at the time to run with Dr. Seuss books as our theme. We looked at the Beatitudes through the different lenses of Seuss’ writings and discovered some wonderful meaning. What was especially helpful was The Message version of the Beatitudes and its wonderful ending, “…my prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” Seemed to be the perfect fit, especially given Seussian characters like the Cat in the Hat. In so many ways there is a wonderful connection to the long-standing prophetic tradition in the biblical witness and the idea of being a troublemaker. Who better fits this image than Christ himself, the one who refused to play by the rules of the religious elites, the power brokers and the pol class of his day. A mashed potato of Jesus and the Cat in the Hat seemed to be a good way of summing up this idea. Thus was born the image of the Holy Troublemaker:
This was made into a t-shirt for the retreat to remind the kids to be holy troublemakers in their own day-to-day lives, it became the image on the Covenant Presbyterian bumper stickers, and it has since become the logo for my blog.
Unfortunately, one problem for an institution like the church is that we often are more caught up in maintaining the status quo (since it has long benefited our institution), rather than maintaining a prophetic voice. Needless to say, in this day and age when the status quo is no longer our best buddy, perhaps it is time to re-embrace the prophetic troublemaking voice.
That calling is what I take seriously in my blog, what I take seriously in my role as pastor, and  what you often hear from the pulpit. It should also be mentioned that in no way is the thinking that somehow Covenant or myself are above that kind of critique, but indeed are much in need of such a critical voice to remind us to humbly follow the lead Troublemaker–Jesus. Coming out of the Reformed tradition there is a natural kind of self critique built in to our theology as we remind ourselves of the need for God’s grace. It is always a struggle, but my hope is that my blogging and my preaching continually drive us to a mindset of being reformed, but always in need of more reforming.
Lastly, this world needs our help–all of us. Continuing with the way things are at the moment, just isn’t an option. Again and again, scripture calls us to be involved in this world, and to seek to be a part of God’s transformative and reconciling  kingdom in the midst of this world. Thus the plural in the title of my blog and the Holy Troublemaker image. Though I am doing the writing and preaching, it is my sincere hope it will be more than me causing trouble out there!

Happy Holidays!

This week our story dwells on the Magi. Now, I know that the tradition of the church has the Magi show up after the birth, but let’s face it, I am always on vacation the week after Christmas and never get to spend time on the Magi. So here we are.

I think the tale of the Magi is really important, and has something surprising to teach us. Notice, that I don’t use the name wisemen or kings. In this case, Magi is the word. Magi is the word that is used in the scripture in Greek. Our tradition has been muddied with kings and wisemen and astronomers, and it seems there are two or three possible reasons for this. First, it could simply be a lack of understanding of what a Magi was, and an attempt to explain it using characters from western culture that we understand. We know what a king is, or what a wiseman is, or what an astronomer is, and that can be a simple explanation. Most people don’t actually know what a Magi was.

And that brings us to a second possibility. It could be that Christian tradition has been uncomfortable with the implications of what a Magi was, and so tried to subtly dismiss the title by replacing it with other options. You see, Magi were particular people from a particular place and from a particular religion. The Magi were religious leaders of the Zoroastrian tradition coming out of Persia. Since most of us have been raised in the western educational tradition, we don’t realize that at the time of Jesus, Zoroastrianism was the most dominant religion on the face of the earth. It’s influence had spread everywhere—even Israel.

Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions on the planet. Ahura Mazda is the deity in Zoroastrianism, and there is an ongoing battle between the good Ahura Mazda and the evil Angra Mainyu—images of whom look an awful lot like later Christian depictions of the devil. Traditionally, these two have been represented by light and dark. In fact, ideas about eternal flames probably came out of Zoroastrianism, as there was often a flame at the center of worship spaces. The flame symbolizes Ahura Mazda, and at times, Zoroastrians were thought to simply worship fire because outsiders didn’t realize the flame was a symbol of Ahura Mazda. As you can imagine, light of any kind becomes representative of Ahura Mazda—God—even starlight.

This is where the emphasis on Magi becomes important and potentially challenging. Magi following the light of the star would have been following the lead of Ahura Mazda. This would have been understood as the most powerful religion in the world recognizing Jesus as an important leader, prophet, and potentially even divine. This is why the Magi piece is important—the divine light points to who Jesus is. However, this is also potentially challenging in Christian tradition, because it indicates that there is religious wisdom beyond our own tradition. One reason that we may have moved away from Magi to talk about kings and wisemen was because we weren’t comfortable with the notion that another religion had wisdom about the person of Jesus Christ. The implication would be that there is something to learn from people of other faiths. This has not always been a welcome idea in our tradition.

Of course, the third possibility for why we moved away from Magi is that it doesn’t flow in Christmas carols in quite the same way—“We Three Magi of Orient are…” may not have the same ring to it!

I suppose that what I am suggesting is that the reason the word Magi is important is because it suggests to us that other people and other faiths do have wisdom that we can learn from. That does come as a challenge to us. We must be ready to listen and engage with others who are different from us. After all, they may understand something of the light that we don’t. So as we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ child, be mindful of the fact that there are others out there from different traditions that celebrate different holidays this season. Matthew teaches us that we have been the beneficiaries of the wisdom of other traditions in the past. Perhaps it means that we would all benefit from a less contentious relationship between people of different faiths. I suppose that is why I tend to wish people, “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas.” It is an acknowledgement of the great breadth of wisdom that God has granted to all of God’s Children. It is an acknowledgment of the respect that people of other faiths deserve. So Happy Holidays!

In the same spirit of my reflection today, check out this wonderful commercial from Amazon. Yeah, I know, I usually rail against commercialism, but in this case, I will make an exception. Enjoy!

A Cup of Tea

Great Expectations

This Sunday, I will not be telling you a story, as I have the past couple of weeks. No, it is not because the last one was too long—as was pointed out by one of our cute kiddos last Sunday! Rather, it is because this Sunday, the kiddos will be doing the story telling. This should really be a wonderful treat for us all.


You know what the best thing is about Children’s Christmas Pageants? The mistakes! No really! Be honest with yourself. We don’t want a perfect retelling of the Christmas story. We want a REAL retelling of the story. We want a MESSY retelling of the Christmas story. We want to see the kids shine in all their messy glory because deep down, we know that this is a messy story. It is the story of an unwed teenage mother, and the man that wasn’t scared off. It is the story of the worst timed road trip in history (pregnant, about to deliver, and on a donkey—let’s all thank our lucky stars that we didn’t have to go through that!). It is the story of the last and the least gathering around in what another blogger aptly described as the “Barn animals’ outhouse.”


Perhaps this messiness is why a few years ago we embraced the messy Christmas pageant idea. Rather than having perfectly ironed angel’s robes, and perfectly behaved sheep, we allowed the kids to make their choice about how they wanted to gather round the manger scene. Sometimes that was as shepherds and Magi, sometimes that was as lobsters and parrots. The point was not historical accuracy (given that the gospels conflict on their telling of the story, historical accuracy simply is not possible!). The point instead, was to tell the story in all its messy glory!


I think that this is an incredibly important message this time of year. Embrace the Messiness! Too often, we have images in our heads about what the holidays are supposed to look like. Rarely, if ever, do the holidays look anything like that Norman Rockwell painting dancing through our dreams. In fact, I would argue that the holidays are far less meaningful if they do look anything like our own picture. There is grace in the Messiness!


I am reminded of a Christmas about 10 years ago. Tiff and I were so excited because for Christmas, we would be leaving the snow swept city scape of Chicago for the beaches of Hawaii for Christmas! We are blessed that Tiff has an Uncle that lives in Hilo, and we were planning the perfect Hawaiian Christmas getaway (incidentally, that was one of the worst Chicago winters in the last 20 years or so). The day had finally come for our escape from the blizzards. Of course, the Chicago weather had to get in one last swipe at us. We sat in Midway airport, watching the blowing snow pound the city. The delays in our flight started to mount. First ten minutes. Then thirty minutes. Then an hour. Our worries were mounting that we would not get out. Suddenly, there was a break in the snow, they piled us on the plane, and we were off to Oakland, of all places, to catch our flight to Honolulu. The delays had mounted to such an extent, that when we hit the ground in Oakland, we had to race through the terminals, hoping to make the flight. We rounded a corner and saw our gate just in time to watch them seal the door amidst our screams of, “WAIT!” It didn’t matter. We sat and argued with the attendant as we watched the plane start its engines and pull back from the gate.


We finally set up a later flight, and knew we would at least get in to Honolulu later that night. Of course, there would be no flights from Honolulu to Hilo until morning, but we figured at least we would be in Hawaii that night. Well…if you know anything about the Honolulu airport, you would know that was probably the worst thing that could have happened at that point. You see, the Honolulu airport is open air—it is a tropical island after all, why wouldn’t you want to have it open air? Well, because it is open air, you can’t have any cushions in the airport because they would rot with the humidity. In fact, every sitting service is made of blocks of stone. It is probably the very last airport that you would want to have to sleep in while you wait on the first flight in the morning. What a miserable night!


The rest of the trip had its share of problems as well. As a pastor, you can be guaranteed that you will come down with a cold within 24 hours of your final holiday worship service, and that year didn’t disappoint. That cold was a doozy! Since one of our big plans was to spend time Scuba diving, most of my plans went out the window because you can’t dive with a cold. On top of that, we didn’t realize that December is the middle of the rainy season in Hilo, and so we didn’t see the sun the entire time we were on the island.


Let’s just say, that Christmas did not live up to expectations. In fact, it was one of our messier Christmases ever. However, it is also one of the most memorable. We had so much fun, even in the rain. We snorkeled and saw sea turtles, we climbed through lava tubes, we had some of the best Christmas BBQ ribs ever—with Mangoes on the side. It looked nothing like what our image of the holiday was supposed to look like. I have said it before, and I will say it again, the best holidays are the ones that don’t go according to plan.


So as your expectations for the holiday season mount, let your thirst for adventure mount with them. Just like that children’s Christmas play, you never know what is going to happen, and what is going to come out of the mouths of those around you. Be ready to enjoy it, whatever it is. Just like that story of Mary and Joseph so long ago, when things don’t go according to plan, roll with it and see where it takes you. After all, Mary and Joseph ended up bringing the new light of God’s love into the world with their messy story. What will your messy story bring?

The Advent Wars

Sometimes as clergy, I feel that I live in a bit of a bubble. Perhaps your Facebook feed this time of year is filled with holiday greetings, warm wishes and cat videos with a holiday twist. Mine is filled with angry clergy people griping about how we always skip advent and move right on to Christmas. They look something like this:elsa-and-advent

This is an annual tradition of clergy the world over. The posting of silly memes that essentially amount to complaining about starting Christmas music too early. However, there is some validity to this sentiment. This really is a holy season and it should not be skipped in favor of getting to the birth of the Christ child. Advent is that time of waiting. It reminds us that so much of our life is spent in waiting, and that waiting can be holy time. It reminds us that even through our dark cold waits, the light of Christ beckons us forward.


Here is the problem that I have with the Facebook memes around this—it seems like the real sentiment behind them is, “let’s wait to sing Christmas Carols until after the four weeks of advent.” Okay, but how about some real depth here. This, like the worship wars between contemporary and traditional, is not really about music at all. Music is just the battle ground upon which this is fought. Like so many culture wars, we don’t talk about the heart of the matter, but instead battle about one or two visible issues.


At stake behind the Advent war is not simply music, but commercialization. There really are two Christmases and too often, the fake one wins. What do I mean by that? Well, the biblical story of Christmas is one in which poor shepherds, and animals gather around a baby born into a cruel world surrounded by injustice. It is a world where the false power, glory, and cruelty of Caesar Augustus and Herod are contrasted with the compassion and love in the birth of a lowly carpenter’s son surrounded by farm animals. In the gospel of Matthew, it is the story of a poor family that becomes middle eastern refugees to flee the brutality of an oppressive ruler. It is the story of what we too often sweep aside—haven’t we heard enough of Syrian refugees already? Can’t we just talk about Trump’s latest tweet war instead? (If you can’t tell, that is sarcasm). The parallels should be striking to us.


Instead, we have fought culture wars over whether we say, “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays.” We fight wars at the entrance to Walmart over who will obtain the prized toy of the season. We wrap things in tinsel to tell ourselves that things are okay in the world, and we turn a blind eye to the places where the Christ child is coming into the world—boats fleeing along the Mediterranean Coast. This is the commercialization of Christmas, and not only is it a different Christmas from the one we have in the Biblical witness, but it completely distracts and drives our attention away from what this time of year should be about—Jesus. It is always dangerous to speculate about what Jesus would think or do, but I really don’t think Jesus would honestly care whether you said, “Happy Holidays,” instead of, “Merry Christmas.” As a matter of fact, if you look at the root of the word “Holiday,” you would find, “Holy.” Perhaps that is the real battle ground of this war, we would rather make this season about spending instead of holiness.


So while I think the advent meme war is a bit out of focus, I completely resonate with the sentiment. Christmas isn’t always “Christmas,” and what I mean by that is that Christmas often times has nothing to do with the coming Christ child and everything to do with how much money we should spend on his gifts. It too often has been manipulated by the culture to be about things that have nothing to do with our story; nothing to do with our faith. Christmas has become the shiny bauble that distracts us from the waiting through the cold and dark of winter, and the cold and dark of this world. Perhaps there is something to be said for waiting through the struggles of this world in hopes of finding real light, instead of finding the false glints reflected off the next shiny toy. So while I won’t necessarily change the music selection on Sunday morning to do only Advent hymns (honestly, even with the additions in the new hymnal there are still only a couple of decent ones), I will be intentional about how I act in the world in this advent season. I will be intentional about noticing the struggles of others and doing what I can to respond in compassion.


There is a way for us to be real about Christmas, but it is counter-cultural. It requires that we don’t just go along with the shiny and warm memes of the season, and instead, keep in focus what the original story says to us in the midst of a broken and fearful world. It requires us to stop listening to the Herod’s and Caesar Augustus’ of this world, and remember the voices long silenced that have far more important stories to tell us. This is what Christmas should be about. This is why Advent truly is important. Advent teaches us to stop and listen. Advent teaches us to discern the voices around us and determine whether they speak of the good news of the gospel, or the good news of Holiday ads. Advent requires that we determine whether the happiness of the season around us is simply anesthetic to numb us from the pain of the world, or whether we are preparing ourselves for real joy that is born out of something so much more than piles of cookies.


This season, take the time to listen. Take the time to wait. Take the time to discern. Take the time for Advent. Make this mean something more than  false and fleeting happiness that will dissipate as the torn wrapping paper is cleared from the living room floor. Make this season about preparing for the Christ child to truly transform your heart and mind, that we might be left with something more than extra pounds around our mid sections and more stuff that will break in time for next Christmas.

Beginning Where We End

Now, on to more appropriate conversations in this holiday season, like…the crucifixion! Bet you didn’t see that one coming! That is right, we are reading the story of the crucifixion this Sunday.


As strange as it sounds, it is incredibly important for us to be reading the crucifixion story this Sunday, even if that does seem a bit out of place. As we are preparing for Thanksgiving, and as we bring the torture of the election season to a close, perhaps the last thing you want to be thinking about is the brutal death of our King, Jesus Christ. However, there is a very good reason that the lectionary chooses Luke’s version of the crucifixion story for us to contemplate this week. It is Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of the church calendar year. We begin anew in two weeks with the beginning of advent. So this Sunday, the last Sunday, is the Sunday that we remember where all this is leading us. The end of one story, but the beginning of a new and much more important story.


What is important to keep in mind is what we mean when we talk about Christ as “King.” One easy temptation is to dust off the trumpets, polish the crown, and build up the throne. Frankly, that is what the church has a history of doing on this particular Sunday. We play those big booming organ tunes filled with pomp and grandeur and we celebrate the Lordship of Christ. There is one little problem with that though—Christ’s reign was not ushered in with trumpets, but the moans of dying men who had been tortured to death and the jeers of heartless crowds. Christ’s reign was not ushered in with jewels and finery, but with nails and a crown of thorns. Christ’s reign was not ushered in with a kingly throne, but a cross.


I know, serious downer, but this is so important for us to keep our perspective on what we are actually talking about. On numerous occasions this past year, I have announced from the pulpit that Luke’s understanding of the Kingdom was not some post-earthly plain with harps and halos, but an understanding of a different way for us to live our life in the here and now. When Christ proclaimed the kingdom in Luke’s gospel, he was proclaiming an ever present reality and way of seeing the world, and a way of being in the world that is foreign to most of us. Christ’s kingdom is present in the ways that we give up the pursuits of the misguided desires of this world, and instead embrace loving community. Christ’s kingdom is all around us, but it means giving up our definitions of power, of strength, of meaning, of wealth, of what is important, of how we keep ourselves safe, and even of salvation. Christ’s kingdom is accessible to all, all the time, but it means we have to transform our understanding of what it is to be a part of the Kingdom of God. It is incredibly hard for us to do that—perhaps harder now than ever before, given the relative luxury that we live in. However, the benefits of doing so are unbelievable.


The scene in Luke this week features Christ hanging between two criminals—likely those guilty of treason and sedition against the Roman Empire. As one criminal turns to Jesus and professes a powerful kind of faith, Jesus reassures him that today he is with Jesus in paradise. Really?!? Seriously?!? Paradise on a cross. That is a powerful shift in perspective to be able to see the kingdom from that vantage point. Isn’t that a remarkable promise? That even in the depths of despair; our worst moments; the times where we feel alone and tormented; at our very worst, we can still find ourselves with Christ in paradise. Now that is the kind of King and Reign that I can get behind. That is true power. That is true meaning. That is true love.


This ought to come as quite the contrast to the world that we see around us and the promises therein. As we usher in a new political regime, it might be helpful for us to remember what real power looks like—the vulnerability of the cross. As we usher in a new President, it might be helpful for us to remember who is really in charge, and who indeed, has the promise of what a real kingdom looks like.


That is why it is so utterly important for us to be talking about the crucifixion right now. We, once again, have lost sight of what it is to be a true leader (we certainly lose track of that every four years, but probably more often than that!). Before we begin the advent season of preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ the King, in the form of a child, we must be reminded of where all this is going to lead. Let us also remember something else though—the crucifixion may be the story in which we end the church calendar year, but we know full well that the crucifixion is not the end of the story. The crucifixion leads us to the beginning of a new story. The story of resurrection. The story of new life. The story of a different kind of life to which we are all now called to live. A life with Christ as our King. A life where King Jesus turns the values of the world on their head, and offers us new life through the valley of the shadow of death.

Thank You

We are finally at the end! After all this time, we have finally arrived—the end of Stewardship season! What, did you think I was talking about something else?


This week marks our final Sunday of stewardship and gratitude. If you have been paying even marginal attention, and haven’t been distracted by something else (what else has there been to pay attention to?), you know that our theme this year was “Growing Our Gratitude.” We have spent a lot of time talking about what we are grateful for, and how that translates into generosity and how we give back. We have heard wonderful reflections from some of our Covenant Kin, I found myself emotionally moved on more than one occasion! We have ended each sermon with a prompt to reflect on our own gratitude, and have offered that gratitude up to the world on our Gratitude board. By the way, you won’t believe how many non-church folks have come in the building in the past couple of weeks and commented on being greeted by gratitude.


The fact is, we have spent all of this time on gratitude because it is important for our very souls. Gratefulness has a huge impact on our health, on our emotions, on our ability to cope, and hopefully that in turn has a huge impact on the broken world around us. If we are doing it right, gratefulness transforms us, and we are then prepared to transform the world as Christ’s disciples. This Sunday, we will talk about what that looks like in terms of how we behave as citizens.


Gratitude is also the source of generosity. When we realize how much we have to be grateful for, we can’t help but respond by offering up something for which someone else can be grateful. This is contagious, and once we start that cycle it only grows within us as well. We give because we are thankful, and the experience makes us more grateful, and in turn, happier to give. That is part of the reason why my family’s pledge to the church has continued to grow over the years. I think about where I was 5 years ago, unsure of where we would land, unsure of where we would live, unsure about our future. Today, we are home. We have been home with you since then, and you continue to give us so much for which to be thankful. My little girl calls so many of you Aunt or Uncle, and sees so many of you as surrogate grandparents. I watch my son run around your feet clutching donuts on Sunday while you look on and smile. I feel a constant warmth radiating from this, our Covenant family. We share meals together. We share joy and sorrow together. We share debate and learning together. We share REAL community together. We share in worshipping God together. I give because I am grateful to you.


Last Sunday, you may have noticed that I ran out the back of the sanctuary immediately after presiding at communion. My daughter had fallen and cut her head open. I was terrified. The response was overwhelming from you. We had a gaggle of nurses surround Grace to make sure she was okay. I have had so many texts, and calls, and drop ins in the office. I am blown away by how much you care for me and my family. I hope you know the feeling is mutual, and that not every church has that kind of beloved community going for it! By the way, for the few of you that don’t already know, Gracie is fine.


What a thing to be part of a church family like that! Thank you!


Finally, know this—that kind of community is not normal. Not even in churches is that normal. It takes hard work. It takes going out of your way to care for others. It takes a generosity of spirit that is hard to find elsewhere in this world. Be grateful for that! And more importantly, share it. Especially in the wake of one of the most divisive elections in history, this world could use the hope that is born out of gratitude, now more than ever! People need what you have. Your time. Your talent. Your treasure. But maybe even most of all, your thankfulness and your beloved community. That is how we do stewardship. We let our gratitude to God lead to overwhelming, overflowing, loving, community. Thank You!