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

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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!

83 ft

83 feet. That is how much water was above my head yesterday morning—83 feet. As I sat there at the very bottom of the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, the panic began to set in just a bit when I realized just how much water was above my head. Looking up, I felt incredibly small and in many ways, completely out of control. If that scuba rig I was wearing malfunctioned, there would have been very few options for how to escape alive. I could feel the pressure of all that water coming down on my shoulders, and I felt small and powerless.

 

I imagine that was something like the feeling that Zaccheus must have had as he climbed that tree overlooking Jesus. The crowds pushing in around him, reminding him of how small he was. Not to mention, the powerful figure of Jesus that he was straining to see. Not only that, but we know that Zaccheus was not well thought of by all those around him, and they looked upon him with disdain. Looked down on him, literally and figuratively.

 

I imagine all of us have had that feeling of being small. I imagine we have all had moments where the world was overwhelming, and we could quite see ahead of ourselves—moments where we seem to fade into the cacophony around us. It is not necessarily a good feeling. Perhaps it is that moment where you have made a foolish mistake, and you know it, and someone is laying in to you for your blunder. Perhaps it is that moment where you see the mountain of things to do in front of you, the small time to do them, and the overwhelming sense of dread that sets in. Perhaps it is in facing the massive problems we see in the world around us, and not having the first clue about where to start. Feeling small is something to which we can all relate.

 

This is where Christ came into the picture for Zaccheus. As he clung to those branches of the sycamore tree, surrounded by the crowds that reminded him of his insignificance, Christ steps forward to remind him that even he has something important to offer. Dinner. Fellowship. A table to share with Jesus himself.

 

As I sat at the bottom of that clear blue spring looking up in panic. I realized that the only real choice I had in that moment was to take a few deep breaths, say a prayer to Jesus, and start my slow journey back to the top.

 

The thing is, when we have felt our smallest, and yet have overcome the trials and tribulations that lay before us, we come out the other side knowing that with God, all things are possible. Notice the gratitude that Zaccheus expresses at after Jesus helps him grow a few inches. Life has changed. When I finally broke the surface of the blue hole, I felt invigorated—and grateful to be alive! It is that feeling that is so very important, and such a great source of power in our lives.

If you look at the story of scripture, God seems to do this again and again. God chooses the little guys, so that on the other side of the massive challenges, there is a feeling of elation. Those little guys are changed, become heroes of the faith, contribute to the great story. This is also something that transforms people into givers. Once we have overcome something tremendous, we usually are filled with a desire to help others do the same.

 

83 feet of water is a lot. However, it is not near as much as I used to think it was, and it is not near as much as some people face. Overcoming the panic that I felt under those 83 feet though, makes me feel alive and grateful in a way that I want to share with others. Where have you felt small? Where has God helped you grow? How have you passed on that gratefulness to God to others?

“Not Giving Away My Shot!”

Last week, as I was in Taos for my pastor’s retreat, I was exposed to something new and powerful. Matthew Miller, the pastor at First Presbyterian ABQ, insisted that we listen to the soundtrack from Hamilton from beginning to end. I was not disappointed. What inspiring and powerful music! Then last Friday, PBS aired it’s documentary on the play and on the person Alexander Hamilton, and needless to say, I have been quite caught up in it ever since. The story is remarkable. The lyrics are mind-blowing. The talent of the performers is off the charts. Of course, it will be 10 years down the road when it finally shows up at Pope Joy, but you can bet that I will be first in line for tickets when that day comes.

 

I mention all of this thinking about our scripture this week, Hebrews 11-12—the great cloud of witnesses. This is a scripture that reminds us of the great faith and heroics of the saints that have come before us and paved the way for our faith today. Do note, however, that most of those lifted up as heroes of the faith were also people who were quite broken as well! In a very real way, the founding fathers and mothers of this country, like Hamilton, have marked similarities to the heroes of our faith. Perhaps the reason that Hamilton has been such a smash hit this year is that it was released amidst the context of our current political climate. And while many of us are concerned that this is the nastiest political climate in history, I don’t foresee either of our current presidential candidates shooting someone in a duel if they lose—just sayin’.

 

I suppose this is all to say, that what truly separates the saints and heroes of the past from the sinners of the present is only death. As Oscar Wilde put it, “The only difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past while every sinner has a future.” Even our great heroes, both of the faith and of politics/history, were just as broken as we are. I love how this passage from Hebrews acknowledges this, “39 All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith. 40 God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us.” In other words, they may have done well, and may be remembered favorably, but they were human. It is dependent upon us to take the next steps in God’s plan, knowing full well that we can’t perfect it either—that is up to the pioneer of faith, Jesus.

 

I see this as a call to grace. All of us fall short, but all of us must keep running the race that is laid before us so that we too, might be a part of the great cloud of witnesses. It also reminds us of the grace that we should be extending to our political opponents as well, lest the fate of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton befall us as well. Part of respecting and celebrating the saints and heroes that came before is not repeating their mistakes, and stepping up to play our own part going forward. Whoever is elected this year is flawed—no doubt about it. Which is even more reason that we are needed to step up and do our part in bringing peace and cooperation within our country. As Soren Kierkegaard put it, “God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” I believe this is the case, as those we remember as heroes and saints, weren’t always so. This time we live in now, may very well be remembered in the same light so many years from now, when we are yet again locked in bitter feud. Stop and take a look at the bigger picture, and take a deep breath. The saints who came before have been through worse than we are seeing right now, and indeed, they were worse than we are right now. So let us all rise up and follow in faith, that the generations years from now might look upon us in favor as those who did our part as a portion of the great cloud of witnesses as well—even though we can see that the sinner title probably fits us all better in the present.